Burned Shell

Burned Shell

It was the first blue sky day in what seemed like a very long time.  As the man in his thirties sat down on the bench on the porch in front of his house, he knew it was going to be a good day.  He knew that she was going to finally show up and come see him.  He could feel it in the very pit of his soul. He knew it was true. He watched as fluffy clouds slowly drifted across the sky destined to wherever they were going to.  A smile came across his face as a memory drifted into the forefront of his mind. “That one looks like a rabbit.  That one is a turkey!” Said the squeaky voice before the small child erupted into giggles. He smiles again as he remembers that perfect day with his daughter.  That was long before the fighting and the shouting, before he found himself in one his “funks”. The cold wind of fall is starting to kick up as he hears leaves rustling across his front yard.  The hair on his neck bristles with the chill.  He goes back to the warm memories of his daughter.  Her first word, her first step, the first conversation she had with him.  The smile fades as one of the last memories he has of her comes into view. “I hate you!” Snarled his teenage daughter. “Wait a second now.  There is no reason for that.” He can remember how calm he was at the time. “You don’t even realize how horrible you are!  You make our lives hell with your “funks”!  You...
Only kids keep neighborhood secrets

Only kids keep neighborhood secrets

The neighborhood My feet are soaked from the rain. My socks are no protection from the hole in the sole of my shoe. I should have had it fixed. A bearded figure in a long overcoat is sloped crossing the street ahead of me, walking with an awkward gait that sways him in my direction. The man’s gloved hand reaches out at me, “Buddy you got a quarter?” His coat has the name Franklin sewn onto the breast. “Is that all you want?” I ask him back. “A quarter?” He coughs into his fist. “See,” he says, “if I ask for a quarter people usually gimme a dollar. And if I ask for a dollar they don’t give me nothing at all. So I ask for a quarter and I see what happens.”  “Why not ask for five?” “Shit,” he coughs again. The coat doesn’t fit right. Franklin. “Shit. Nobody carries cash around anyway. All I can do to buy a sandwich. So you got a quarter or what?” I have a quarter. A tip. Running an errand for Mama Yea. I dig into my pocket and drop the silver coin into his hand. I keep walking down the sidewalk, and his voice follows me through the rain. He says, “Hey buddy!” Says, “You got a dollar?” My neighborhood is an old neighborhood. Storefronts sit vacant with For Sale signs in broken windows. Buildings that once housed business and industry alive are hollowed out now, dead and empty. Looming over dusty lots and streets so potholed they look like Swiss cheese. The ghost of Old Man Tate haunts this block of Empire...
A Minnesotan in Freiburg

A Minnesotan in Freiburg

Germany is not the tropical getaway normally associated with winter vacations. But here we are (and 40° is certainly better than -21). And those who enjoy St. Paul’s Winter Carnival, Minneapolis’ Holidazzle, and the holiday celebrations around the rest of the state will certainly appreciate the beauty and enthusiasm of Xmas in Germany. Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkts) are a staple of the holiday season, filling the streets with roasted chestnuts and candied almonds, hot plates of food passed over counters, warm, mulled wine (Glühwein) steaming into the cold air, toys, gifts, and so much more. But they aren’t the only reason to visit. Frieburg, Germany German efficiency is a real thing. The apartment in Frieburg is 350 sq. ft. and yet is comfortable, with plenty of space for all basic needs. Bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, shopping are all within walking distance. The narrow streets make way for pedestrian, bike, car, bus, and streetcar traffic. The city is old, ancient by U.S. standards (founded in 1120), and yet has integrated into modernity almost seamlessly – the city feels more forward than almost every American city of similar size. The biggest difference, perhaps, is that the city is not built for cars. It couldn’t be, of course, as this and most other German cities were designed long, long before Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were a twinkle in anyone’s eye. But the adage of “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places,” certainly holds true. It’s a dense and lively cityscape, walkable the whole way through,...
Things to avoid when traveling: BBG Communications

Things to avoid when traveling: BBG Communications

You’re in the airport of a country not your own. People in a hurry all around you are speaking a language you don’t recognize. You’re jet-lagged, tired beyond belief. You need to make a phone call, to hear a familiar, friendly voice. But your cell phone doesn’t work here, or it died sometime during the plane, train, or automobile ride. What do you do? TiltMN is here to help fellow explorers avoid the pitfalls of traveling to new lands. There are countless companies, people, and places looking to take advantage of a traveler’s wants, needs and emergencies. In this installment, we talk about one company in particular: BBG Communications. BBG Communications BBG Communications is a telecommunications company that preys on tourists lost in foreign airports and hotels. Take Sam**, for example, who used a payphone at the international airport in Frankfurt Germany after the airline lost her luggage on the flight over. She used the payphone twice using her credit card to call the person she was supposed to meet, with no answer. The calls lasted less than thirty seconds apiece. **name changed due to ongoing litigation with the company. Charges from BBG Luxembourg for the two calls appeared on her bank statement the next day. Ridiculous rates vary, but BBG Luxembourg was more than happy to connect those less-than-a-minute phone calls for $30 each. That’s $60, and the calls weren’t even completed. You won’t have any idea of what you’re paying; no price quote or options are given beforehand. There is no option to accept or decline the charges, either. You simply swipe your card, make your call, and...
The Future

The Future

We spent the summers out on the island, and our winters we spent in the city. In the city we were packed in together like sardines (sardines come from Sardinia, I know this because I went to Italy once long ago with my mom) in an apartment building that smelled like onions. But on the island we stayed with grandpa and it was nothing but air and wide open spaces. The sky and the water met somewhere far, far away. The sand on the beach was all we knew. Grandpa stayed inside the hut pretty much all the time, taking pain pills for his back, sleeping until he needed to eat or shit. We were pretty much on our own. The old man in the hut next to Grandpa’s was so wrinkled by the sun he looked like a raisin. He was the same color as a raisin too. He didn’t have many teeth, so it was hard to understand him.  He drank rum and he gave us some, even before we were old enough. “No rules here,” he would say to us. “You can drink anything on the cay.” My brother Ty drank too much one time. He started stumbling down the beach singing to himself. He stripped down to his bare bottom and went swimming. He was whooping and hollering from the water, but then his head disappeared beneath the waves and he didn’t pop up again. I was starting to get worried, but before I could jump into the water to save him the old man was already there, swimming like a fish (but not a...