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Woodworking column: Divesting myself of the primordial scales

Another 365 days have passed so it's time for columnists to make New Year's resolutions. Ah, dear me! My Beautiful Wife has occasionally commented over the past 49 years that I am covered with "primordial scales." In case you don't remember, that's how novelist Kurt Vonnegut described his anti-hero Elliot Rosewater's father, a description which suggests that the old Indiana senator was hopelessly conservative, a stick in the mud and a devotee of the old adage that all change is bad.

Perhaps B.W. is right. Almost every day one person or another will ask me to email something to him. My answer? "I don't know how." I can type on my word processor and that's about it. I guess I'm a Luddite. In case you don't remember the Luddites, it was part of an 18th century movement in which Luddites destroyed weaving machines in order to preserve their jobs as weavers. Me? I don't know whose jobs I'm preserving, but, by God, I'm a Luddite. I eschew all examples of scientific progress-mails, faxes, ordering groceries online, except for color TV. And so maybe I should resolve to be more tolerant of the advances made by civilization since I was in swaddling clothes back in 1936.


Of course, resolutions are made to be broken and guess what? I finished typing that last paragraph and the mailman arrived with the January issue of New York magazine, which is a magazine much trendier than the good old New Yorker. Each year New York publishes a feature called "100 reasons to love New York."

I love New York because my job took me to that exciting metropolis many times a year. It was heaven, thanks to my expense account. I stayed in historic hotels like the Algonquin, ate in iconic places like the Four Seasons, drank beer in grubby dives like McSorley's, saw plays like the premiere of "Ma Rainy's Black Bottom" and looked up to marvelous edifices like the Chrysler building.

Unfortunately, retired journalists don't have expense accounts, so I can only reminisce about those glory days—and read New York magazine. But sad to say the news this January is pretty bad on the I Love New York Index. It threatens to grow me new primordial scales because of all the progress that seems to be going on.

Item #1 The Four Seasons restaurant, where I dined a table away from my idol Kurt Vonnegut has finally reopened following a $30 million remodeling, which has resulted in $25 for a mixed drink, one crab cake goes for $54 a filet of bison costs $75 and for dessert? A Baba au Rhum that one critic said reminded him of a dessert that might have been served on the Titanic. Me? I'll take the bison served for considerably less at Shady Grove.

Item #2 One of the hot new desserts in Gotham is kacamak, a cornmeal mush dosed mixed with kaymak,a Balkan clotted cream. Me? I'll opt for rommegrot at one of our own highly overrated restaurants, namely the Norske Nook in Osseo.

Item #3 New York is blossoming with tiny new movie theatres where you order dinner when buying your ticket and being served during previews of coming attractions, like the New York Strip with Bone Marrow ($45). Me/ I'll try the small popcorn at the Falls Theatre with a Rush River tap on the side.

Item #4 Need a gift for a loved one? Shop at Fredericks and Mae for a tissue box cover for her Kleenex and buy a Dusen Dusen tissue boxes for a mere $275. (River Falls area has nothing to match that!)

Item #5 Seeking adventure? Corey Schneider CEO of the New York Adventure Club, calls the basement of the Museum of the American Gangster one of the better sites in town. It features the bar of a famous prohibition joint, serves absinthe and displays a half-eaten plate of oysters from a bygone era.

Go figure.