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Time to mix things up

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So, I’m back from the floods in Fargo, the image of the boneless chicken wings at Buffalo Wild Wings stilled burned into my memory.

(It’s not my fault – they closed all the nice restaurants and BWW had free wifi.)
 
So much has happened in the interim, so many things I wanted to touch on that I can’t think of exactly where to begin.
 
So, in no particular order, here are my ‘if-I-had-blogged-over-the-past-two-weeks-this-is-what-I-would-have-blogged’ blog.
 
 
Heh, heh, heh, heh – just kidding.
 
Just as the river crest bore down on Fargo on the last week of March, the Free Press was contacted by a city communications officer to let us know that despite all appearances to the contrary, Fargo was open for spring break visitors.
 
"We're hoping visitors will continue to come," Dean said. "Absolutely -- this is not a situation like '97 where we saw businesses closing and people being let off work to sandbag... Not even a shadow of what we saw in 1997."
 
Dean’s comments were published in the Free Press, and in the Fargo Forum. By the time I arrived on the 26th, many businesses were already closed, residents were being told to stay home and off roadways, the highway north of Fargo was closed by flooding and the city was bracing for a crest well in excess of the 1997 levels. In fact, Mayor Dennis Walaker had to chastise many businesses from trying to re-open before the worst of the crest threat was over.
 
Let’s just say that when Dean’s comments were brought up with other flood fighting officials, there were more than a few "WTF’s" being thrown around by other city officials.
 
Dean was nowhere to be seen by this reporter during my eight days in the flood zone. Word had it he had been giving a job on the front-line – on the wet side of the dikes.
 
 
Don’t worry everyone! I’m from CNN and I’m here to help!
 
I was pleased to see that upon my return, our good friend Jon Stewart had taken the time to discuss the North Dakota floods on The Daily Show.
 
In particular, Stewart was occupied with a CNN reporter who did a stand-up while passing sandbags along a line of volunteers who were toiling in the Fargodome.  At the end of the stand up, the camera lingers just long enough to see the reporter stop handling sandbags as soon as the she thought the camera was off, and start wiping her hands. "Can a girl get a wet-wiiiiiiiiiiiiipe?" a howling Stewart asked.
 
Although not as dramatic, I did witness "The Most Trusted Name in News" in action on my second day in Fargo.
 
My photographer, Joe Bryksa, and I had gone to the Oak Grove neighbourhood of central Fargo to watch urgent sandbagging along a particularly flood-prone area. Standing on top of a massive earthen dike that was being extended by another three feet by sandbags, we were joined by a CNN crew fresh from Atlanta. The reporter was typical of CNN types – steely jaw, slight tan, deep, dreamy, cigarette-stained voice. He was wearing about $10,000 worth of Gortex that appeared to have been purchased the night before.
 
Anyway, as he scrambled to the top of the dike, he was overheard to say in a quite a loud voice: "Wow, this is something. Do you guys have trouble with floods every year?"
 
You could hear the sphincter on the Fargo media liason guy tighten at that remark. Fortunately, by the time he got his story on the air, he sounded like an old Red River Valley pro. Such is the magic of television.
 
 
Oh God, why have those Canadians forsaken us?
 
Finally, our good, good friends at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas took the time last Thursday to issue a news release reminding us that if Canada is completely overwhelmed by flood waters, it’s our own damn fault because of our pro-Gay laws and other policies.
 
"God sent the flood waters to cover the evil people of Canada, where you flipped off God and raised your hands against HIS anointed by criminalising WBC’s gospel preaching against fags and fag-enablers."
 
You might remember the WBC crowd as the folks who wanted to come up and disrupt the funeral of the young man who was beheaded on the Greyhound bus last year. They wanted to do this because ..... oh, who am I kidding? I couldn’t possibly find a rational excuse for that bit of psychotic performance art.
 
Anyway, to top off their latest hateful tour de force, the worshipers at the WBC felt compelled to write new lyrics for that old ditty, Red River Valley. I won’t reprint the entire text of lyrics, cause I’m already feeling bad about having written about these nutters at all, but it’s just too special to ignore completely. Remember the tune when you read this nugget:
 
"Now that the Red River’s raging and flooding 
 
So your food and your homes are all gone
 
Simple sluts and the whores who have raised them
 
Need to learn from the words of this song."
 
I couldn’t find any indication the good folks at the WBC have figured out why the people of Fargo deserved to be threatened by flood waters this year. North Dakota doesn’t embrace gay marriage, but there’s a rumour going around that they let their kids go trick-or-treating at Halloween, and several children were allowed into neighbouring Minnesota to see the latest Harry Potter movie.
 
It’s hard to imagine why leadership of this fine organization has been barred from entering Canada.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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