All posts by austindufault


It’s easy for me to talk about issues in my life. I am a complainer by nature. Shit, I’m downright gifted at the fine art of complaining. It’s a weakness. Cool, I understand that. What I am so selfishly fixated on right now is drivers. Those that I share the road with and terrify me on a daily basis.

I am a cyclist. (I really wish motorcycle riders/drivers hadn’t stolen the term bikers because “cyclist” sounds so lame.) I commute a mere 6 miles to and from work everyday. This past winter, I jumped all the way in. I biked in blistering cold feeling the most alive I’ve ever felt. I will get into the idea of biking in further blogs, because it has truly changed my life, but not now. This is a brief idea, really. What scarred me wasn’t the cold, it was those who hate cyclists and drive aggressively to show us cyclists just that.

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My stupid face after biking last winter.

Alright, the meat what I’m getting at about drivers is that I want a small signifier for their past. You get me? We do this in many states connoting those who have been detained for driving under the influence. They get license plates that start with a W colloquially referred to as whiskey plates. I want this everywhere.

What I want are license plates that start with an A to let you know that the driver is aggressive. Not even a law really, but perhaps a social idea that people come together on and based on a certain number of complaints, they get the dreaded scarlet A for aggressor. Perhaps a C to begin their plate to suggest carelessness, an S for habitual speeding, etc. I would love for society to police itself and those crazy angry drivers that will never be held accountable to, if anything, be distinguished by the average passers-by in cars and on bikes.

I know this is pie-in-the-sky thinking, but in my neighborhood a cyclist was hit in the face with a cinderblock last month. For real. I know this aggression won’t stop with stupid license plates, but I guarantee he has been the aggressor on the road in the past. Sometimes even policing can’t do what a society of finger-pointers can do. If not by society, then fine, let’s do it by law. Honestly habitual speeders, aggressors, accident perpetrators and the like perhaps deserve insignias until they prove that they’ve learned better. I expect your vote on the ballot when I run for Great-Idea-Maker 2015.


Be it Death or Be it Mercy, Just Let it Be

My aunt died. She died a couple of days ago and it’s okay. I’m okay, or at least I will be. She had been such an unconscious influence in my life that it’s the moments that came today that gave me the freedom to think about her unencumbered by all else except, of course, her death. These things happen; the life and death of loved ones. It is trite and admittedly cliched to mention that I have begun the reflecting process. Death does this. It was the was the moments of discussions regarding funeral planning that opened me up to drift.

She was always different. I remember only a few times ever asking what was wrong with her. My family is not the best with being open, so I was usually scolded or simply told that there was nothing wrong with her hidden by a smiles of those explaining. The question went away easily as a child. A thing I forgot to ask about again later until I got older. She had one of those awful neurologically debilitating disorders. It doesn’t matter what or which, that’s not the point. She limped as long as I knew her the left side of her body never quite worked. Her left hand was in a perpetually crooked, slung fashion. With all this I probably remember her aggressively Canadian accent over everything. It’s funny how that works as a kid, the truly odd weight of little things and the ignorance of the grand.

It’s made me think a bit about the bigger things in life. There are so many things for which I am ill equipped. There are even some things for which I am well prepared. Above all else, I am open to the knowledge that I truly don’t know. I am wholly aware of the vastness of the things that I don’t know. This is not to pontificate on the unknown, it is merely a constant that we all ebb and flow with and against.

On my birthday this year, a friend of mine asked me to go on a bike ride and he hit me with the huge, “So, what do you think it’s all about,” and I clarified asking if he was talking about life. He said, “Yes, what do think we’re here for? That sort of thing.” The odd thing is that he didn’t know it was my birthday, it just never came up, so it hit me rather poignantly. We rode quietly for a while and I told him that I have thought about this plenty, as anyone does, and that I didn’t have an answer. What I had was what we do here. The time we fill, or better, the hole. The deep pit inside us trying to find out what everything is about. It’s the great unknown and I am awful with unknowns. (You should see me with something as innocuous as misplacing my keys.) We fill the question-marked hole with physical things, clothes, food, money, sex, maybe even crafting. Hopefully, if anything we glean from the act of filling the hole, it would be smiles and true shared human experience.

My aunt lost her ability to fully smile and walk about 10 years ago. A few years after this, she was brought to a family wedding. She did what she could to ask if my wife and I were having a baby. We told her not yet, and she said that practicing to have a baby is more fun anyway and made me look in her eyes until I cried with laughter. She showed me her smile. She joked with me as an adult for the first time and held the eye-to-eye gaze until we really connected. We were never particularly close, but by no means distant. This was the moment when I noticed real connection and loss before she was gone. I knew that she was losing these interactions quickly. She was losing what it was to really have true human connection. That stuff can be lost too easily when people are feeding mashed food to you.
I don’t pretend to know what it’s all about. I still have the same massive hole that I try to fill with fleeting hobbies and culled laughter. What I do know is that real human interaction is the highest form of currency for the soul. Those moments where you can feel everything about a person with prolonged eye contact can not be replicated with any purchase or something manufactured. I will forget this soon and avoid people at work or out in the world, but for now I feel the fleeting importance of true indomitable spirit taking proper hold. I just hope that it is not so fleeting. I hope that I won’t merely think this way when near to death. I don’t want to fight my way out of eye contact for the fear of something real, but I think I do so because I’m afraid of what I see in myself when I see the humanity in others.

Brief Musings on the Island of the Twin Cities

The Twin Cities is a curious place. It is filled with culture. Not the kind of culture of a collective ethos, look, or specific type of food in which we specialize, but culture that of art, plays and music. While we certainly have the midwest comfort food built on hot dish and potato-based everything and there is always something to do or see, which can be equally tantalizing and easy to ignore. There may be a show you want to see tonight, but you can always talk yourself out of it to go to the show tomorrow. The Twin Cities are second only to New York for most exhilitable art per capita. Whatever the hell that means. I gather that essentially, we have a lot of places to look at art and see actors or musicians perform. It had to happen, really. Or rather, it was bound to.

The Cities, as it is more colloquially referred to by anyone in a smaller Minnesotan town, is an island. Every other single metropolis has a back-up city nearby, an escape plan. That, or the city in question is simply big enough not to warrant the need and it is the back-up plan. The coasts are riddled with options for day trips to another burg, some less than an hour. Each of which are unique opportunities for the traveller. Even other parts of the Midwest have their options: Denver to Boulder, Omaha to Kansas City, St. Louis to Indianapolis, Detroit to Columbus etc. We may have expansive scenic vantage points and more shoreline than the entire state of California, but not a single damnable city within less than a 5 hour drive. Not here. Not in The Cities. Minneapolis has St. Paul and St. Paul has Minneapolis. Most won’t even cross the Mississippi to venture to it’s sibling city anyhow. Milwaukee is our only viable option with that five-hour journey to boot. At that point why not go to Chicago? At that rate, why not make a bigger trip out of it? Why not stay a while? This can be daunting and it may be easier to stay in, which most do.

Because of this metropolitan island in which we live, art was bound to grow. A cultural scene must be developed and curated. This is why we have so much exhibitable art. Which perhaps means anyone with a loft in Northeast Minneapolis has to have it double as a makeshift art studio or you get ostracized and evicted. Why, what would happen on the the bi-annual art crawl if you just lived in your living space? Or the Art-A-Whirl? Or Art Crank? Or what ever momentary art movement is going on? We’ll never know. We cling to it. We need it. We are the penguins of our beloved tundra clinging together for warmth and camaraderie.

Everyone is an artist, was an artist, friends with an artist, is related to an artist, dated or is dating an artist. (I’ve lost count of my art-based relationships.) It’s just that no one buys the art. It’s just a place to be seen at the scene. We go to all of these yearly, mostly with friends to see friends. We are a part of the problem and yet part of the preservation of exhibitable art without buying more than $25 print here and there. No one gets famous; you get known. “You are known in The Cities for…” You are only anointed true fame. Fame, by which you get by earning your chops in another city that we can’t get to, so you have to truly leave. But they all come back to show the scene just how big their britches have gotten. And good for them, truly. No cynicism. It’s good for the Twin Cities. We need it in this island. 

I love the Twin Cities. I love Minneapolis. I love Saint Paul. I enjoy the solitude of forests and the expansive calm of the lakes provided. I bike everywhere and we are noted worldwide for this very enthusiasm. I have now become that guy that bikes in the all winter. I soak up all the art shows I can, every open street, every farmer’s market, go to a lake twice a week in the summer, I camp, I canoe, I go to the state fair multiple times a year, and I smile at folks when I walk by them like The Cities’ legend implies. With all this, I still wish for a sister city that we weren’t touching. One with a noticeably different vibe. If not for anything else, those living here to be able to say with true affirmation that they’ve chosen this place rather than those outside feeling that we are merely stuck on this island. We’re all penguins in this together.

Life as an Uhdult Pt. 1

There are stepping stones that confirm that you’ve aged with a fair amount of certainty. Sometimes that’s all it is though: aging. These signifiers don’t always allow credence to the brushstroke versus the splatter. We all notice the splatter. We notice the graduations, the first home purchase, the marriage(s), the kid(s). The nuanced steps are the gradients that slide us into who we are, sometimes without ever noticing. There’s a slippery slope that, for better or worse, we’ve all attempted to tread. We tread with the slope, against it, or simply let the act of sliding occur with varying levels of awareness. You don’t realize just how much of life is mere preamble until the paragraph ends.

It was my first real apartment in “the city” and it was moving day. I had lived in nearby apartments that were simply of the moving-in-with-friends-out-of-necessity ilk throughout college and just a bit beyond. This was the one I allowed myself to choose. I am a proven-terrible decision maker because of endless dread stemming from the concept of making the wrong decision and it haunting me Ebenezer Scrooge style. By that point I had come to terms being truly anxiety ridden. I granted myself cold-sweat clemency. Anxiety asylum. I allowed the worry, the unavoidable buyer’s remorse when signing contracts, and constant questions about locale. I made a choice and to it I stuck.

I was not in the city. I was in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was on a busy corner and it certainly bustled. It was one with affluent gift shops festooned with ornate flower pots. There were linen dresses here and there with sun hats that mixed with noisey youth. The aging hippies with money were the common ground between. I was across the street from and upscale grocery store with a noteworthy cheese and olive oil selection. What this corner did have that made me feel justifiable sense of urban living was a bus stop. This bus stop was on my busy street directly in front of my apartment. This is where I chose to park when moving this day–at the damned bus stop.

I had driven around the block prior and had surmised that there were only two options: park in a renter’s personal parking space, or the bus stop. I clearly chose the latter. Something like the  heft of a hypothetical argument with a neighbor over their parking space got to me. I thought briefly, my brain shrugged it’s shoulders, and the decision seemed easy. I mean I had to move, right? This must just be what happens. Limited anxiety somehow, just an abundance of specious reasoning, my other damnable quality surrounding decision making.

I parked, turned on my hazard lights with a cavalier flip of the switch, probably put my hands on my hips and gave a self-assured nod and began moving. I moved for the better part of a day. I moved without help for the most part. I was terrible about asking for help. I sweat, I lugged, and I schlepped. Two-and-a-half flights were climbed and descended innumerable times. Not a grand climb, but worth mentioning when done alone. I think that was the inherited martyr in my blood talking. Some sort of bleeding strand of DNA dramatically yelling, “Look what I did for you!” handed down from my mother that is better left for any other time than now.

The onset of metropolitan summer dusk had begun to take hold. A friend called to offer assistance with the last of my larger effects to which I acquiesced. I may not ask for help, but I don’t have any reason to turn it down at this stage. We made the trips. We moved the furniture and even at the barely-ripe age of 21 I knew to offer a beer to my friend helping me. Jobs well done and libations well deserved. A few sips into the beer I looked out the front windows of my new apartment to see a police car parked next to my car with an officer scrawling on a pad.

I hustled down the stairs in a manner only true youth are able. I flew through the door and the cop looked at me knowingly but asked, “Is this your car?” I told him I was moving. I told him that I couldn’t find a place to park. I told him that I tried to leave room for the bus. He said nothing causing me to be more impetuous and I began to lie. I told him that I had only been there for a short time and that I wasn’t very familiar with “the city” and asked for mercy. He slowly looked up at me from his ticketbook. He leaned his head back so as to be able to look down at me more and said that I should move my car immediately. He did it so with his eyebrows raised as high as the muscles in his face would allow granting him ultimate dad gaze. I yelled my thanks as I ran to my car. After the encounter with my new local law enforcement I went back in drink more and regale my friend about how I got away with one.

I didn’t learn from this. There could have been a lesson. There should have been a lesson. I did not come of age. This was not the memorable splat on my canvas. This was a forgettable brushstroke. I simply should not have gotten away with it because it was not a situation worthy of a mere warning. Perhaps the cop saw something in my eyes. Perhaps he saw the true naivete tumbling out of my mouth between my fumbling words. I want to round this out with a bow on top because of lessons learned but I can’t.

This is one the small insignificant things that make me the adult that I am. I was on my bike this morning with my solitude and my anxiety set in fostering rehashing of this memory. I don’t know why as I can’t really recall the impetus of the thought coming on during a beautiful bike ride. What I can recall is the wash of embarrassment that came over me. I can recall how stupid the whole thing felt. What a dumb kid.

I remember getting married. I remember buying my first house. I remember the birth of my baby girl and take stock of every subsequent smile. I can’t remember why I changed or when. I know it wasn’t one of these life moments or maybe even all of them combined. Maybe it is the little stupid things like thinking I should park in a bus stop while moving, only to have a police officer wag his finger at me, that makes me better about the decisions I make with my daughter. Her existence certainly made me better but perhaps only by virtue of allowing me to dig into the wealth of stupidity that I harbored prior to her existence. She may have just blinked into existence in my life recently, but I have been making questionable decisions for the majority of my life. These poor decisions mixed with near-crippling anxiety regarding most decisions yet to be made will certainly give me a fair amount of building blocks betterment.
Sure, buying a house forces a certain degree of responsibility. But there’s something to be said about the nuances that slip by on the slippery slope to becoming yourself. Looking back on it all, there had to had to have been less-than-desireable parking spots. As a multi-modal traveler, I couldn’t imagine parking at a bus stop. I took the cops warning for granted. All of this meant nothing until my bike ride this morning. But I still remembered it, recalled it, and only now did I extract something good out of something long since covered up. The lessons yet to be learned may still be buried within by examining those little brush strokes surrounding the splatter sometimes. I didn’t take note of this stroke as it occurred but I notice now as evidence of my canvas changed.