When you're a newspaper columnist, sometimes topics seem to effortlessly fall right into your lap, and on these rare and wonderful occasions you waste no time grabbing the nearest pen and piece of scratch paper to giddily scribble down three or four potential topics.

    When you're a newspaper columnist, sometimes topics seem to effortlessly fall right into your lap, and on these rare and wonderful occasions you waste no time grabbing the nearest pen and piece of scratch paper to giddily scribble down three or four potential topics.

    But those occasions are outnumbered by worthy topics briefly appearing and then vanishing like a mirage in the desert. The other day I found myself wondering in all seriousness if I could churn out 600 words detailing my favorite snack crackers.

    Which is why a New Year's weekend trip to the Twin Cities to catch a little Minnesota Wild hockey and help our oldest son's girlfriend celebrate her 18th birthday came so very much in handy.

    The drive down alone bordered on priceless, as I reluctantly relinquished control of the musical selections to our sons and the aforementioned girlfriend, who controlled the radio with their phones' playlists of songs, and only required my services to crank the volume when certain songs absolutely had to be played LOUD. I must say, some of those songs...they were pretty darn...well, wait a minute. I don't know if I'm willing at this point to acknowledge that they were pretty darn good, so let's just say they were...catchy?

    But, yikes, the patience of kids today, their attention spans....each shortened to maybe a few seconds longer than the time it takes a firework to be launched into the sky from the dock at the lake in early July after the match successfully sparks the fuse. During the entire drive from Crookston to Minneapolis, I would say we heard maybe two songs in their entirety. The rest? Halfway through a song, the kids started scrolling through their massive song libraries until they found the next one they simply had to hear at that moment, and they'd click on it. It's life lived in a blink, with constantly changing stimuli, and it's all they know. As a music lover, by the time we started to roll through the northwest suburbs, I found myself consumed by the dreaded fear that in 10 years, it'll be hard to find a new, original song that exceeds 90 seconds in length. Your average 2 1/2 minute Beatles song will at that point seem like Peter Frampton’s live version of “Do You Feel Like I Do.”

    The historic game between the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets? Memorable, obviously, even though the Wild's franchise-record winning streak came to an end. Late at night, as 2016 gave way to 2017 and the incredible sights and sounds and songs my wife and I witnessed in the Minneapolis Warehouse District? Just beautiful people doing beautiful things to beautiful beats, and Caucasian people in one club in particular struggling mightily to capture any semblance of rhythm. But, hey, at least they had the guts to give it a go, right? As Ricky says in the film American Beauty, “Never underestimate the power of denial.”

    But my biggest takeaway from the weekend might be summed up in three words: quality of life.

    Everyone’s talking about it. We all want it, and, apparently, when we move to a new community, practically before housing and employment we examine what level of quality of life that city’s going to offer.

    Minnesota is known far and wide for its high quality of life. Maybe that’s a reason we’re seen as a highly intelligent state, too.

    And, yet, in the November presidential election, Minnesota barely stayed blue, and around these parts, we’re not just red, we’re a deep crimson.

   Which is why the metro area’s Light Rail Transit system is largely vilified by those who call this area home, and why so many rural, Republican legislators would rather cut off their pinky toe than let Gov. Dayton spend big bucks on any new LRT lines.

    But, guess what? It’s an amazing thing. Our crew rode LRT trains back and forth from Minneapolis to St. Paul and downtown and back multiple times on New Year’s Eve, and the system was elementary to navigate, every ride was enjoyable, and, some of the clientele proved to be educational and, especially after midnight, quite entertaining.

    On the way back to our hotel, I started thinking there might be a column topic lurking somewhere in our weekend adventures. But where, exactly?

    Then, as the young redhead in the cocktail dress seated nearby embarked on an epic battle with a stubborn case of the hiccups, and as the passengers around her started giggling louder with each passing hiccup and then started pitching to her every remedy in the books to rid her of them, my potential topic started to come into focus. And when her own laughter become so uproarious that it did the trick on its own, I knew another one had fallen into my lap.

    Yes, life is good here in Minnesota. On LRT, especially.