Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bjorklundosophy, volume II.

You may recall from this post that my family has a very special way of communicating: primarily through sarcasm and catchphrases. I gave you ten of our catchphrases and the oh-so-charming (that was sarcasm) stories behind them.

Amazingly, we've come up with ten more. Prepare to be Bjorklund-ized.

Or as we like to call it...


(a note: this is written in the third person because I put it all together in a hardcover book for my family. third person seemed totally appropriate for a book called Bjorklundosophy.)

Who wouldn't?
Of the many words one might use to describe the Bjorklunds, there is one in particular that comes to mind. “Kind?” you say. “Glorious? Humble? Spectacular?” Actually, no. “Cocky” is the word you’re looking for. Bjorklunds believe that they are God’s gift to humanity, and they are quick to tell you so. They do this with one special phrase: “Who wouldn’t?” Allow me to demonstrate. Should someone say, "I wish I could be as fantastic as a Bjorklund," a Bjorklund would respond, "Who wouldn't?" The "who wouldn't" reply is used primarily when something even slightly positive is said about a Bjorklund - and a Bjorklund goes ahead and takes it to the next level of narcissism. Bjorklunds are also allowed to "who wouldn't" themselves: they don't need to wait around for someone to say something flattering about them (but really, who wouldn't?).

Do you really want to know?
Bjorklunds, by nature, collect great stories like some people collect stamps or fine wines. Bjorklunds have myriad tales that would rank in the "best story ever" category, and this is easily one of them. When the youngest Bjorklund, Mitch, was just a teeny tiny first grader, he picked up a book in the school library. Sounds innocent enough, right? Oh no: the book was about serial killers. Innocent little Mitch was reading his book - specifically, the chapter about Jeffrey Dahmer - when he came across a word he didn't know. Mitch did what any intrepid reader would do: he asked his teacher what the word meant. The word? Sodomy. Mitch's teacher gave the best answer she could: "Go ask your dad." Mitch came home that day and did just that. Tim looked Mitch dead in the eye and said, "Do you really want to know?" Mitch nodded eagerly: yes, he did really want to know. So Tim explained sodomy. Mitch, wide-eyed, said matter-of- factly: "I didn't really want to know." From that day on, when Tim answered a question with "do you really want to know?" it meant that whatever the answer was, the Bjorklund children sure as hell didn't want to hear about it from their parents.

I should've fished the gene pool a little deeper.
I owe you an apology.
We know who the mother is.
Tim uses these delightful phrases whenever he wishes to eschew genetic responsibility for any flaws apparent in his children. It's important to note that Tim only voices these phrases when Brenda is within earshot. Poor Brenda has heard any and all of these sentences innumerable times over the nearly thirty years that they've been parents: poor eyesight, unruly hair, and large noses have all been blamed on Brenda. However, these phrases are not exclusive to whatever is wrong with the kids. If Brenda starts to (gasp!) show traits similar to those of her own mother (GASP!), Tim feels the need to ask for forgiveness from his children, as this will most certainly be their fate as well. This goes over really well with Brenda. The Bjorklund children all wonder why Brenda never apologizes for choosing their father – especially Mitch, who hears the terrible “you look just like your father” more often than anyone should have to.

Your sister... (passive ownership)
When Bjorklunds cannot apologize/explain away the imperfections (read: batshit craziness) of their family members, they resort to not claiming them at all. This delightful loophole is known to the Bjorklunds as passive ownership. For example, let’s say that Calla does something stupid… like date a studio art major in college. When Brenda is telling Darrah and Mitch about what a dumbass Calla is, she will say, “Guess who your sister is dating.” The ownership of dumbass Calla is placed squarely on Darrah and Mitch. This method spreads well into extended family… Tim will tell his children about “your mother’s brother's nephew” when the person in reference is his own son, or Calla may refer to “your husband’s son-in-law” when telling her mother about James’s obsession with yellow Subarus. The more convoluted the ownership, the better.

the faaaaather
In the great cache of favorite Bjorklund movies, Home Alone stands near the top. However, this favorite Bjorklund- ism comes not from Home Alone, but from Home Alone 2: a film inferior to its predecessor, but still possessing some fine moments of its own. The moment in question comes shortly after Kevin McCallister arrives in New York City. He records his voice on a Talkboy, slows it down, and plays it into a phone to make a hotel reservation under his father’s name. Kevin introduces himself as Peter McCallister, the father. However, on the playback, it becomes “the faaaaather.” Tim, the faaaaather of the Bjorklund clan, now leaves voicemails that all begin with “this is the faaaaather.”

Choose wisely.
Tim has issued this warning over the course of many years. It originated when one of his misbehaving children was given a choice: the right thing versus the wrong thing. The children were encouraged to choose wisely, an admonition that didn’t always stick. Over the years, this caveat became less applicable to behavior and was more commonly used in regards to the choosing of significant others. Amazingly, the Bjorklund children didn’t always heed that warning. Which brings us to…

It's not that we don't LIKE him...
You can say one thing for Tim and Brenda: no matter what kind of loser their children drag home, they’ll give said loser a chance. This Bjorklund catchphrase first came into being on the greatest day of Calla’s life: April 1, 2007. You may recall that was the day that Calla coerced her art-major boyfriend (whom her dad wasn’t particularly fond of, which was well known to Calla) into calling Tim and asking for Calla’s hand in marriage. Against all odds, Tim took the bait and spluttered through one of the most stressful phone calls of his life. Calla was listening in, and she heard him utter the now- immortal phrase: “It’s not that we don’t LIKE you… we just don’t KNOW you.” So if you ever hear a Bjorklund say this about you, it’s not that they don’t KNOW you… they’re just trying to get out of saying that they don’t LIKE you.

Poor James.
Only one of Calla's significant others has escaped the “it’s not that we don’t LIKE you” treatment, and that would be James. Everyone (Calla included) is still a little bit stunned that kind- hearted James would choose to join the rough-around-the-edges Bjorklund family… but then again, who wouldn’t? James is the opposite of a Bjorklund – he has a hard time saying a mean word about anybody, and sarcasm doesn’t come naturally to him. The Bjorklunds, as you may recall, are quick to point out his flaws: motion sickness and lactose intolerance being two that come quickly to mind. However, after mocking him for a minute or two, they will follow up with “Poor James.” Whether “poor James” is in reference to his maladies or in regards to his poor judgement in marrying a Bjorklund remains to be seen. My money is on the latter.

Anyone? Bueller?
As you know, Bjorklunds love a good movie quote – especially when it can be consistently interjected into real-life conversations. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, like Home Alone, holds a place in the Bjorklund Cinema Hall of Fame. And this particular Ferris Bueller quote is astonishingly easy to sneak into everyday use. Any time you ask a question and are met with a delayed reply, the best possible response is to slip immediately into Ben Stein mode and say "Anyone? Bueller?" It never gets old.

SIGH. I miss Mexico.
The Bjorklunds took a trip to Cancun in January 2013, and it was one of the best family vacations ever. A week of white sandy beaches and blue waters + mojitos all day, every day + sunshine in January + Mom's drunk again (see volume one) + did I mention the mojitos? The Bjorklunds long for their days in Mexico like some people long for the good old days. To the Bjorklunds, the good old days = that week in January that they spent in Mexico. Whenever they have a sub-par mojito at a bar (and let's face it: any mojito not consumed on a beach in Mexico is a sub-par mojito), or the weather is less than absolute perfection, they heave a mighty sigh and say, "I miss Mexico." Who wouldn't?
(editor's note: after Bjorklundosophy was written, we Bjorklunds took a trip to Jamaica, which was completely and totally amazing. I would imagine that this phrase will soon become "SIGH. I miss Jamaica.")

Assburger/Trojan smile.
Tim and Mitch have a habit of smirking in pictures, and the remaining smiley Bjorklunds are forced to say ridiculous things in order to get Tim and Mitch to crack real smiles. "Assburger" and "Trojan smile" are two of those things. "Assburger" originated on a family trip to Arizona. The Bjorklunds were in a restaurant contemplating lunch, and Darrah left to check out the gift shop. She returned to find them discussing Asperger's Syndrome. "Assburgers?!" she exclaimed. "I thought we were having hamburgers!" The Trojan smile came about one Christmas Eve when Mitch received Trojan condoms in his Christmas stocking. Allow me to give you a makeshift flow chart for the long journey of these condoms. Mitch finds condoms in the basement -> confronts Tim -> Tim says they could be his from a birthday card prank several years ago -> the condoms show up in Mitch's stocking months later  -> Calla claims ownership from an ill-fated high school movie -> but wait, Bob bought them, so they're Bob's. Everyone promptly died of laughter, and every Bjorklund is more than happy to demonstrate a big Trojan smile.


My family is obviously not a normal family. This is exactly how we communicate, and I can honestly tell you that I wouldn't have it any other way. 

That, my friends, is Bjorklundosophy.

(if you've been paying attention, you'll know that there are actually eleven catchphrases here instead of ten. consider it a bonus.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

let's talk about my record player.

I have been told - more than once - that I am an old soul.

This is either a great compliment, or it's a roundabout way of telling me that I am boring... but in a sweet way.

I'm choosing to go with the former.

You may recall that I have had a powerful love for Simon and Garfunkel since I was approximately twelve. I was twelve in 1999. What 1999 twelve-year-old disregards N'Sync and Britney Spears for a folk duo from the 1960s?

THIS 1999 twelve-year-old.

I saved my allowance and bought all of Simon and Garfunkel's albums on CD. One Christmas, I asked for a record player... and got it.

That record player is what this story is all about.

If I had to guess - and for the purposes of this story, I do - I would say that I was around fifteen when I asked for a record player for Christmas. It was 2002.

It is important to note that record players are totally trendy right now. Hipsters the world over have been buying new record players to play their vinyl, and they will tell you that the sound from an LP is just not the same as a CD. And they're right.

But do you know what I'm about to say?

I was listening to records before it was cool.

But also after it was cool. 2002 was a no-man's time for vinyl, but I desperately wanted it. I wanted to listen to Simon and Garfunkel in the way that they were meant to be listened to, and that meant getting a record player.

My mom had a bunch of old records in our basement, and it was there that I discovered an original copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water. This was Simon and Garfunkel's final - and best-selling - album. It won a ton of Grammys, and the title track stayed at #1 for ages. This was even the best selling album of all time... until a little album called Thriller overturned it in 1982.

I HAD to hear this album on vinyl.

I did indeed get my record player for Christmas, and Bridge Over Troubled Water sounded absolutely glorious. I would hole myself up in my room, listening to it over and over. I began hunting for the rest of Simon and Garfunkel's albums on vinyl - haunting secondhand stores and sifting carefully through their holdings. This was not before the internet, but it was before online shopping was as easy and safe as it is today. Besides, I didn't even have a checking account, let alone a credit card. Buying online was out of the question.

But I was fine with it. The thrill of the case made finally locating the album so much sweeter. Once I had completed my Simon and Garfunkel collection, I gathered quite an amalgamation of music. From My Fair Lady to Wayne Newton, I had a strange catalog. But I loved it.

I listened to my records nearly nonstop until I went to college. My record player and record collection would take up too much space in my dorm room, so they stayed behind.

Regretfully, it took me ten years to make room for my record player again.

My living situations after college were undoubtedly temporary. I moved from Morris to Denver to New Orleans to Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, all in small rooms or apartments (or storage sheds in someone's backyard): no place for a record player. James and I bought our house in Luverne two years ago, and still, my record player wasn't there. However, it was in use: James took my record player to school with him to use in his music class.

Alas, that was to end in tragedy. James had the record player propped open with its little metal arm, and one of his students closed it without unhooking that arm. The arm broke, and the record player's lid would no longer stay open. Fixing the arm went on the backburner, but James did finally fix it a couple of months ago. Elated, I brought my old records back from my parents' house, and they sound just as beautiful and sonorous as they did when I first played them thirteen years ago.

And the best part is? Now that buying vinyl is cool, you can get nearly EVERYTHING on LP - even albums that were released long after the golden days of vinyl. I bought two Mumford and Sons albums on vinyl, and the sound you get from them is worlds above the CD.

Thanks to Amazon, finding records is as easy as freaking pie. No more do I have to make my way to record stores and dig hopefully through rows and rows of LPs. Not to say that I don't enjoy that: I do. But when there's an album that I so desire that I need it RIGHT NOW otherwise I MAY DIE, I can Amazon Prime it and have it in two days.

Another unexpected benefit of my record player? I can use records as a payment system. I have a list of records about a mile long that I want, but I really shouldn't be spending all my money on vinyl. James and I usually trade off buying household stuff - he buys hardware, I buy groceries, etc. Recently, we bought a new vacuum. I paid for the whole thing, and James bought me records to even it out. Probably not your typical marital financial arrangement, but it works for us. (In case you're curious, he bought me The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and Abbey Road. AWESOME.)

I'm telling you: if you get the chance to pick up a record player, DO IT. No matter what you like to listen to, you can find it on LP. And you won't be sorry that you did.
the newest addition to my record collection. SO GOOD.
(Also, you get to be cooler than everyone else and say hipster-y things like "the album sounds SO MUCH BETTER on vinyl. And you know what? 99% of the time, it does.)