Hot flashes are usually a private matter. Alison Teal shares hers.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

June 13, 2004

It’ been eight months -- eight months with our car as the home base. For six of those months we’ve been volunteering for Kerry and, as far as I know, I’m not on the short list for Vice President.

When we pulled into the Hampton Inn in North Platte, Nebraska, and the receptionist said: “Hey, you’re back! Wow. Four times. Where you headed this time? Why, we may just put your names on that room’s door.”

I turned to Sam. “It’s time to go home,” I said.

“And where would that be?” Sam asked.

We headed for our summer cabin on a lake near Deer River, Minnesota, “where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average.” Summer doesn’t come easily to northern Minnesota. But. like Mary Tyler Moore, I’m hoping the cold will preserve me.

Big and Little Dave, the guy who looks after the place in the winter and his son, met us with our dog, Dylan, in tow. The dog greeted us with frenzied enthusiasm, racing from one to the other and jumping three-feet in the air trying to lick our faces. I would say he has forgiven us for abandoning him all winter but it’s difficult to interpret the emotions of an animal that chases parked cars with a similar fervor. Really. He circles them, barking fiercely, occasionally plunging headlong into a tire.

Actually it’s pretty difficult to interpret anyone’s emotions up here. Scandinavians are not chatty people. We bought this Portuguese Water dog five years ago when we lived in California. Naturally the only breeder we could find lived out here in the land-locked Midwest. After our application for ownership was approved – no small feat in the Portuguese-Water-dog world where having an adolescent boy in the family was grounds for denial – we agreed that I would drive out and pick up the dog on my way to Deer River. I told her I would call when I got close, but that I would be leaving San Francisco on Monday and hoped to meet her around noon on Wednesday at a designated highway turnoff. To my absolute delight, I reached the turn off at exactly 12:15 on Wednesday. The breeder hadn’t waited for my call. She was standing there with the puppy in her arms. “You’re late,” she said.

I thought she was kidding. “It’s incredible isn’t it?” I continued gleefully, “I just drove 1900 miles from San Francisco and I told you I thought I could be here around noon on Wednesday and – I mean, I can hardly believe it -- but here I am on Wednesday and it’s 12:15!”

“Yeah,” she said. “You’re late.”

Anyway, we’ve been up here in Deer River for the last couple of weeks squabbling with the bats and weasels who feel they have squatter’s rights to the house. I don’t really have a quarrel with the weasel. He does have a sly way of popping up in unexpected places as the old children’s song suggests, but he’s really cute and he kept the mice in tow all winter so I guess he’s earned his keep. Bats are another thing altogether. The law protects them, so they don’t need me. I’ve read all the existing literature on how to get rid of bats. I’ve ordered bat-repelling sound generators from Hammacher Schlemer. I hired people from the local log-home store to rechink the house. I even hired a bat psychologist from Wisconsin who came to advise us on alternative accommodations for them. Our land is now littered with bat houses. “There are too many of them,” Sam says. “No one likes overcrowding. We look like slum landlords. “ Even the birds are abandoning our trees and moving to more upscale neighborhoods. But through the years I‘ve continued to build and hope. The houses all face east. They are all no more than 100 feet from the lake. Some are modest. Some could house large extended families of bats. Some could house whole villages. Some have honey-soaked netting inside. Some have enticing wooden sculptures of mosquitoes over the entrances. What none of them has is bats.

The big news here is not the campaign. It’s not even Reagan’s funeral. The big news is the cost of the fishing and boat (pronounced “boot”) licenses and the late arrival of the Mayflies. The talk on the call-in radio shows is about the Finnish-owned paper mill lay offs. The coffee shop is filled with people grumbling over the amount of rain and how it’s likely to produce a bumper crop of mosquitoes. And the wonderful women at Curves are discussing the size of the Walleye and Northern Pike populations.

We have arrived at Lake Wobegone. And it’s in a swing state.

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