Interview with Elizabeth Burke

Having moved away, I have only had the chance to see good Minnesotan friend Elizabeth Burke for a couple hours one December day in the past year. But after reading this latest interview, it sounds like the way things are going over at that Burke-Assmann house, chances are I wouldn’t be seeing a lot of Liz if we were still in Minneapolis! From new babies to new houses, I should be thankful Liz managed to find time to answer this silly blog interview!

1. Hello Elizabeth, how are you today?

I am doing very well. Feeling very honored your readers have requested an update on my life. Hopefully this puts an end to all the letters you’ve been getting.

2. Congratulations on the purchase of your new house! Tell us about your new abode and why it’s an improvement over the Eagan house.

It’s so great. The house itself is such a huge improvement from a townhouse. We have more space, a deck, a big yard and a secret room behind a revolving bookshelf. Living on the west side of the cities has been a great improvement as well. With a baby who still cries in the car it’s so much better to be 30 minutes closer to most family and friends. I’m just in heaven.

3. How is motherhood going? Are things becoming easier?

Motherhood is finally getting better. It was miserable at first. I wished I was Leah’s aunt instead of her mom. I mean, I loved her like crazy but I really didn’t want to have to take full responsibility of her. But now that she’s done being nasty, I enjoy being her mom. I’m still getting used to the shock of not being able to do anything for myself (go to the gym, go to target, take a shower) without asking someone else for help with Leah, but it is much better. When I look at parenthood minute by minute its really hard and I wonder why anyone chooses to put themselves through it. But then when I step back and look at the big picture it’s amazing and worth every second.

4. How are you enjoying being a stay-at-home mom instead of the 9-to-5 grind at an office job?

Grind. I didn’t know grind until I had a baby. I am thankful for the opportunity to be the one to raise Leah every day, but working full time is a joke compared to being a stay at home mom. I had no idea. I am still convinced it will get to be much easier when she is a little older, but maybe I’ll look back in two years and laugh at this comment. Probably.

5. Have you picked up on any good daytime TV now that you’re usually home during the day?

Unfortunately, I don’t get to watch too much TV but I have learned that ABC Family has ridiculously inappropriate shows for a family. Leah will not be allowed to watch that channel.

6. What are the funniest or weirdest things Leah does?


7. Do you miss the Metrodome?

Just the Hormel Row of Fame. I never got to be a weiner winner.

8. After my debut at Valleyfair in 2002, we have now known each other for over ten years. Who from the Valleyfair days surprises you the most that you both are and are not in contact with anymore?

Great question. I am surprised that Casey and I are not in touch anymore. He is one of my favorite people and we did stay in touch until about 2004. But after he moved to New York and the days of Omaha road trips came to an end, we fell out of touch. It’s his birthday on the 4th of July!

I am surprised to be back in touch with Rose Reynolds! I always loved Rose but we never did much outside of work. And her living in New Mexico makes it even less likely we would be in touch. But babies bring people together! It’s been great catching up with her.

9. What do you think are the chances you’ll ever make it to Austin to visit the Glanzers?

Chances before I had a baby: 100%. Chances after I had a baby: 6%. Again, it’s all about having to ask someone else for help with your baby to do anything for yourself. The longer you stay in Austin and the older Leah gets, the higher that percentage gets. I want to visit!

10. I just overheard a co-worker say he was driving his family from Texas to Tennessee and then Florida and back to visit different aunts over 4th of July in the family station wagon. If you were forced to make this road trip with him and his family, what would you do to pass the time?

I thought you might ask me this. I’d probably ask you to make me a long list of “would you rather”s and spend hours rattling them off to your coworker and his family and insist we discuss each one thoroughly. Starting with one involving mopping floors of arcades with naked valleyfair employees.

11. Do you think there will be any additions to the Burke-Assmann family anytime soon, whether it is humans or felines?

Definitely no felines. Or canines. I can’t imagine anyone else needing one second of my time right now. And humans are on hold now, too. The idea of having another baby isn’t as crazy as it felt a few months ago, but I’m still not taking any maternity clothes out of storage.

12. Well thanks for joining us today, Liz! Any closing remarks?

Screw Celine Dion!

Meat Loaf, Running, Baxter Injuries

  • Last Friday Lauren and I went to the Meat Loaf “Mad Mad World” concert at the brand new Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Meat Loaf is now 64 years old, but still puts on a hell of a show! Being in the fourth row center stage was a cool experience. Sorry to whoever had to sit behind me, since I was standing most of the show. 
  • Next week our dear friend Hot Lunch will be in Austin for five days. Poor Lauren has to work on the 4th of July, but I get that day off and took PTO days the next two days, so who knows what shenanigans Mr. Lunch and I will get into. 
  • I achieved a great goal last night in physical fitness by running 1.52 miles non-stop. Given that four years ago I couldn’t run two blocks without stopping, that is quite an achievement for me. A teeny baby deer ran alongside me for a while. 
  • This running is in preparation for November’s Central Texas Warrior Dash. It will be the first ever race I’ve signed up for. A very large number of co-workers are doing this together and it’s being sponsored by the company.
  • Baxter finally recovered from his bout with papilloma, only to then injure himself on his first day back at daycare. No one’s sure how it happened, but the poor pooch tore the pads off his feet. Maybe it was the scalding hot asphalt, or maybe he was so excited to be back that he overexerted himself, but he can barely walk. I have been carrying him around outside and setting him down to pee. Now I think he’s playing me for a fool, walking when he wants, then faking it so he can be held.
  • Our good friends the Bartholics invited us out to “Water Tankin’ Tuesday” for $1 tacos and karaoke. Much like the previous week, there were only 3-4 singers, meaning I was able to do another dozen songs in front of a scattered crowd.
  • Should have some updates soon on our much-anticipated trip back to the Midwest in August. Hope no one went and etched our arrival date in stone, because that may be changed… also, etching things in stone is really dumb and time-consuming. I just use paper.
  • We finally made it through the fifth season of Desperate Housewives. Oh, that Dave Williams was a sneaky one! 

One Year Ago…

One whole year has passed since I arrived in Austin! A year ago from right now, I was settling into Mark Addison’s house and starting to explore the city. I still had two days before my first day of work at Callaway.

I guess it seems like a whole year has passed, but time really flies by faster when there’s no snow or winter to speak of. Both Lauren and I think that our concept of seasons is way off; it’s all just running together. And now it’s full-force summer again with temps nearing 110 this week.

I miss the city of Minneapolis quite a bit. I’d have to say Minneapolis is my favorite city I’ve ever been to, even ahead of Austin, Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Huron, and San Francisco. Even though we have lived in Texas for a whole year, I still find myself reading the Star Tribune more than I do our new local paper, The Statesman. I am still just as big of a Twins and Timberwolves fan as I was before, and haven’t yet been to any Longhorns games. Maybe it will take another year to feel like more of a Texan.

For me, it was a combination of several different things that led to our decision to move: the winter, my inability to find a better job, and wanting to have an adventure. The winter sucked and yes, we wanted to try something new and fun, but without question the driving force for me was the work situation. I doubt I made it very clear to everyone just how hard I looked, but I had applied for roughly 200 jobs over the span of my last four years at MB and found nothing in the Twin Cities. Okay, I found one job, but then MB gave me that five-figure raise to stay. With Austin the third fastest-growing city in the country, I of course was offered several good jobs after applying for eight jobs in one morning that I found on Craigslist.

If Minneapolis had a better job market for someone in my field, and I didn’t have to drive to work in the snow, I probably would never have jumped on board with Lauren’s idea of moving somewhere fun. But those things weren’t going to work out, and now we are here and I find myself considerably happier overall than I was a year ago.

This job at Callaway is way more fun than I thought a job could be… I actually converse with my co-workers, and we do things together outside the office. Very Valleyfair-esque in that sense. The weather is pretty hot most of the year, but it’s not humid, and I have learned to adapt pretty well. The mild winter of 50-degree weather and rain was amazing. The city is jam-packed with fun things to do. There are so many other couples like us who are new here that it was ridiculously easy to make new friends. And of course, we enjoy having guests visit and showing them our city.

Perhaps most amazingly, I am still doing my old MB job–literally everything that I used to do before–and condensing it down to several hours per week, not 40+. I can sit at home and drink a scotch while hammering out e-mail blasts. It is a good gig and almost makes me forget why I was so unhappy there. I was very, very unhappy at that job. And then I went and gave up my weekends to DJ which I don’t miss at all either.

All in all, Year One was a great success. I am not sure either of us really had any idea how long we planned to stay here, but we are now getting our feet wet with house-hunting, so the answer is probably at least a few more years.

Meat Loaf, Visitor, AC, Pickup

  • Tonight is the Meat Loaf concert at the ACL Live Moody Theater in downtown Austin. We have fourth row tickets, and I plan to take off work early and get downtown early to meet up with Lauren for dinner and drinks beforehand. In tantalizing Meat Loaf news, I learned he and his wife moved to Austin! This is the first time I’ve lived in the same city as one of my favorite celebrities since I shared Minneapolis with many Twins players, and shared Carpenter with fighting phenom Josh Madsen!
  • As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, I think air conditioning tops my list of greatest inventions outside of things like electricity and the individual components that comprise the air conditioner. Although as Liz Burke pointed out, I did in fact once trick my Art History teacher into believing the flux capacitor was a real invention because, as I explained it to her, without it, time travel wouldn’t be possible.
  • One of my good friends from the 2003-2005 seasons of Valleyfair, Alison Garcia, was in Austin this week on her way to San Antonio and she was thoughtful enough to stop by Callaway and say hi. Alison, her mom, and me went out for coffee and had a nice chat. And, as such, Alison’s photo has been added to my Austin Wall of Fame.
  • You’ll all be happy to know that Baxter’s mouth papilloma warts have been surgically crushed and removed by the vets. In two weeks after his follow-up appointment, he will be permitted to return to doggy daycare. The vets sedated Baxter, who was so groggy when I picked him up that he couldn’t stand, forcing me to carry him home in the 100-degree heat (we live in walking distance of the vet).
  • I was very stressed out when I finally received my pickup back from the shop. It was seven whole days. I did receive an apology, but nothing like any future credit or refund. I’m not really a confrontational person and part of me just wants to let this one go and just not return to that shop, but Lauren is very insistent I call and rip them a new one before it’s too late. I sent them an e-mail complaining, but so far no response.
  • Remember that one stop light near Jordan, MN on Hwy 41 that stays red for over 10 minutes? Does anyone know if it’s still like that? I heard a report that the longest red light in the world is in New Jersey, and I think that one in rural MN is easily the longest. 

No Perfect Burger

As a former restaurant critic and frequent Yelp reviewer, and as someone with a very good memory, I have been thinking recently that I am yet to stumble upon the perfect hamburger. I have eaten some very good ones and I have some that I consider my favorites, but there isn’t one that I’ve eaten and exclaimed “Wowie, this is everything I could have asked for from ground-up cow meat!”

In fact, I have exclaimed many times that I still have never eaten a burger in a restaurant that was better than one I could make myself. To this day, I maintain the best burger I ever ate was one I made myself back in college–seasoned to perfection and cooked just right. I remember thinking to myself as I ate it how good it was. And that is a feeling that I have not rediscovered since that day.

The closest a restaurant has ever come to perfection is Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis near the University. The Seven Corners Burger is doused with their house BBQ sauce.

Town Hall Brewery - Seven Corners Burger

Town Hall Brewery – Seven Corners Burger

Here’s my list of favorites that I can easily recall:

  1. Town Hall Brewery – Minneapolis, MN
  2. Blue Door Pub – St. Paul, MN
  3. Green Mill – Minneapolis, MN
  4. The Hideout – Austin, TX
  5. Hopdoddy – Austin, TX
  6. Matt’s – Minneapolis, MN

But why would I like a burger from a restaurant better than one that I made myself that I know came directly from the Glanzer family farm! Along with proximity to a trusted mechanic, that’s another thing we miss about being in Texas–no more stocking up on a freezer full of beef from the Glanzers! Maybe they can ship some to us on dry ice.

We Miss Dick’s Garage

Never again! Never, ever again will I let a mechanic that I’m not related to by blood talk me in to making additional repairs when I take my car or pickup in for a simple oil change, or an AC tune-up. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now, but I continue to be pressured or persuaded into getting what are probably unnecessary repairs.

I have taken my car in for an oil change recently and had the mechanic tell me something that sounded like, “oh, you really need to get this rotator blade cap delubricated before you drive outta here. See how it’s all yellow like that? Mmm-mmm. Supposed to be bright green. Nope, if you don’t get that fixed now, I’d say you better get it taken care of in the next five days or so or your car might explode into a giant fireball and kill you.” In my head I am guessing what the worst-case price is for this repair, and it inevitably is always at least twice as expensive. “Yep, that cap runs $85.98, and with labor you’re looking at $161.39. I can get that started right now for ya.” If they just list one item that needs fixing I usually ignore, but if they give me a list of items, then I’m likely to choose one that they feel is the most critically important.

Which is just what happened this week.

Lauren is now driving to work virtually every day. First because she was taking Baxter with her after he was banished from day care, and now for the next week because of a store opening in far south Austin. That left me to take the trusty pickup. But it’s so stinking hot out now and there was no AC in the pickup, so I figured I’d better take it into my local repair shop to get it charged up. They had just done the same to the Impala last week and within an hour and $50, they had it fixed. So naturally I expected that same quick, high level of service.

On Tuesday morning I drove the pickup to the shop and left it for the day, catching a ride to the office with a co-worker. When I hadn’t heard back from them by 4:30, I grew worried. “Sorry, we were slammed today, didn’t have time to get to your truck. You can either leave it overnight or bring it back in the morning, it will be first in the queue!” they told me.

Okay, fine. I drove it home and brought it back the next morning, bright and early. The repairman was true to his word, and within the hour had the AC and wipers both fixed and ready to go. However, he came and sat next to me in the waiting area and ran down a list of observations about the pickup. There were a dozen items on his list, and he said there was a lot of work that needed to be done. I asked if any of them were truly critical, if my pickup was in danger of breaking down in the very near future if they weren’t tended to, and he said yes, something about a bad leak in the intake manifold. It sounded bad, and they had never steered me wrong before, so I said sure, go ahead and make the fix, and then had the same co-worker drive me to work. When I hadn’t heard back from them by 4:30, I grew worried. “Sorry, we were slammed today, we are just now getting to your truck, and it’s really old and rusty and these bolts will not come off. But it’s already all taken apart and the day’s almost over. Can we leave it here overnight? We promise we’ll fix it up first thing  in the morning.” I reluctantly agreed, then had to find a co-worker to drive me all the way home.

Thursday morning rolled around, and Lauren drove me to work, way out of her way. Sure enough, by 9:30 I had heard from the lead technician, and the pickup was all fixed and good to go! I happily dropped by the shop at lunch break and was shocked to see the bill was about $200 more than I expected. Well, whatever, the pickup would be in great shape now and ready to roll for the rest of the summer. I got out on the road and immediately felt sick to my stomach as I noticed the pickup was really struggling to shift gears. I could hear a grinding noise as it slowed way down as I tried to accelerate. Then I noticed the oil pressure gauge was well beyond the maximum line. And then the Service Engine Soon light came on. I was fuming.

I called Dad and got some quick advice, him being the expert mechanic, and decided to call the shop and make them aware of the problem. They asked me to make a new appointment to bring it back in, and I told them no, I needed to speak to the mechanic, because maybe for some weird reason this shifting issue was an expected result of the repair. They called back and were very courteous and even agreed to come out to Callaway and pick up the pickup and leave me with their loaner Camry.

When 4:30 rolled around and I had’t heard back from them, I grew worried. I never did hear back from them this evening. I drove the Camry home and there the pickup sits at the shop for the fourth day. Who knows how long this will go on. I may only be at the very beginning of the drama. I would assume that they are going to make these new repairs for free. And honestly, I would hope for something in addition to the repairs. I am a loyal customer and a simple AC recharge has already turned into a 4-day ordeal and counting.

It’s just comical how bad of luck I have with car repairs. Everyone has car issues and things breaking down. I have a co-worker with a brand new car already in the shop for brake repairs, and an intern who was rammed into in a parking lot. But when I go in for repairs, it’s almost never a simple in-and-out stress-free job. I almost always end up having to take it back for additional repairs, or the car ends up running worse than before, or sketchy mechanics try to fleece us, or something else.

This disaster in Chicago certainly comes to mind.

Oh, and this one in a Cub Foods parking lot.

Ha, and who could forget the Texas state inspection.

And new parts gone bad very quickly.

Or this time.

Or this time, with the brand new car.

Okay, those were the first ones I could find after some quick research. You get the idea.

All I want is for tomorrow morning, first thing, a call from the shop telling me the pickup is finished and working, to come and pick it up, there are no additional charges, and an apology.

Apartment Musings; Baxter’s Wart

Apartment Pool a Redneck Haven
The apartment complex we live at has turned out to be a fairly pleasant surprise. It’s cool, quiet, convenient, and reasonably priced. But when the sun comes out, the community shows its true colors at the pool.

I have often walked by our apartment pool while out with the dog, and there are some seedy characters who basically live there during the summer. There’s a petite neighbor woman named Kimmy who’s always very drunk, and she seems to have several non-resident guests with her who are also very drunk and recently released from jail. “Oh it’s Baaaaaaxter, hey come here Baaaaaxter! I’m going to be getting my own beagle soon!” she always says. There is this 13-year-old boy who thinks he’s the king of the pool, calling me “man” all the time. “Hey man, what’s up man? My dad’s friend used to live here, so it’s all good man.” Clearly he doesn’t live here and is receiving minimal parenting.

There is inevitably a group of glistening bros who go to great lengths to hook up their stereo by unplugging a nearby pop machine and running a 50-foot extension cord through the pool area, then play some summer techno mixes as they think about getting in the water but never really go through with it. They are always just sticking their toes in and kicking around to test the temp. They are always bronzed and slicked up with suntan lotion, and really like Bud Light and shaving their chests and arms.

There is also typically a big Spanish-speaking birthday party going on with lots of kids screaming. During the weekends there is a non-stop thumping of bass and an occasional accordion-sounding instrument coming from their parties. Someone else is usually grilling way more meat than their group can possibly consume, complete with an overpowering stench of charcoal saturated in lighter fluid. They have gone to great lengths to purchase four buns for every piece of meat, 90% of which never get opened, and every condiment known to man in bulk sizes.

Last week someone set up a couple of canopy tents, threw down some patches of astroturf, and brought an additional grill for the party of the century. The mega-party consisted of five people, one being a baby. And they left everything behind… it’s still sitting there four days later!

During the off-hours, or between 6 and 8am, there is usually an older resident trying to get in a morning swim and complains to me about the lack of attention to the pool. “This water shouldn’t be so green, should it? Those damn maintenance workers, I’ve never seen them over here once!”

It’s pretty nice that there’s no supervision. The couple times we’ve gone down there everyone has been very cool with us bringing banned items like dogs, glass, and alcohol. In fact it seems to be encouraged.

Yes, the High Oaks community pool is the place to be this summer, for residents, non-residents, unsupervised children, underage drinkers, and beagles alike.

Josie the Neighbor Dog and Her Kid Owner
Every time I have ever seen this one particular girl, probably 8 to 10 years old, at our apartment complex, it is under the exact same circumstances, and I find it terribly annoying. This chubby little girl is always seen opening the door to her apartment, and out full-speed runs this small wiener-type dog, yipping as it bolts across the parking lot. The girl then waddles after it with her arms reached straight out, screaming “Josie, nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!” to little avail. I’m usually walking Baxter when this happens and Baxter and this dog start playing. Who knows how far Josie would run otherwise. I have never figured out if this dog is just escaping every time the door opens, or if she’s letting it off without a leash in hopes she’ll stay nearby, but either way it isn’t working out for her.

“Hmm… I’m fricking dying out here in the heat, but if I go in I may not be let back out for a while… better give it a couple more minutes.”

Baxter’s Wart Lands Him at Work
Baxter has had himself quite the week. First, he was diagnosed with some sort of canine papilloma wart on his lip by the daycare staff and was isolated from the other pups on Tuesday. I was told not to allow him to return until the wart had been cleared up. So, Lauren decided to take him to work the rest of the week to keep him from further destroying our apartment.

He is also really struggling with coming when called. Every morning when I wake up and try to take him out, he wants to go, but cautiously resists. I’ll stand by the door calling his name, and he’ll peek out the bedroom door at me, tail wagging, but refuses to come any closer! I’ll pick up his leash and wave it at him, continuing to call, and he still just cocks his head back and forth. “Whatever are you trying to tell me, papa?” he asks. I wind up going over and attaching his leash and dragging his ass out the door every time. The same thing happens when he’s out on the balcony in the scorching sun. He’ll stand by the door panting, clearly overheated and wanting back inside, but when I open the door he’ll just stand and stare at me. I’ll close the door and let him bake for another minute and try again… still won’t come in. What is his deal?