Monday, September 03, 2007

Woolly Rock

We rarely travel on the Monday Holidays because I so crave the free short week that I prefer to plop on the ol' La-Z-Boy and watch whatever marathons the genre-specific networks are offering (today it was Beach Patrol on Court TV). I specify the niche networks (ie Sci-Fi, Court TV, etc) because there is that other marathon to contend with on Labor Day. But this holiday, owing to some family rough spots, we decided to get away for a little bit. Our newly arrived art museum newsletter prompted YHWH to suggest the Price Tower in Bartlesville and so it was decided.

On the trip up to B'ville we had stopped in Owasso and had lunch with my sister and her family. Despite our tenuous estrangement, we had a great time together over Greek food and made promises to do it more often. Then on to B'ville. The girls had never been and were delightfully surprised to find hi-rise buildings in our state outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Of course it has the hi-rise, the only one ever built by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Price Tower. We did pay the five-star guidebook rates to stay in the tower, but as Super Giant Killer said, "It's not every night you get to spend the night in a museum." It was pretty cool I have to admit. Of course, I do have to admit it, otherwise I'd be a damn fool to spend that much money to stay the night somewhere.

So, we went to Kiddie Park and SGK rode some vintage 1960s amusement rides and then we took Sonic up to the room for the genuine Okie experience. The trip home the next day began with a tour of the art museum on the first floor, lunch at the famous Murphy's Steak House and an excursion out to Woolaroc. Ehh... Finally we wended our way through Osage County and the Tall Grass Prairie and on home. I just adore the TGP. It's my second-favorite place in the state next to my ancestral grounds in Dewey County (although they are quite similar).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Moon is Blue

I actually picked up the needles again after a four month hiatus. I'm making Super Giant Killer a pair of legwarmers. They'll be pastel purple and blue stripes. I'd post a pic of the early-eighties-aerobics-craze pattern (oversize sweater and wide belt optional) but I'm way too lazy for that.

Speaking of Jane Fonda, she was featured on TCM's Summer of the Stars (also too lazy to look and see if that's the actual title of the series) the other night. That's where they play almost a whole day of a particualr star's films. First of all, I find that idea to be exceedingly annoying. Once in a while it's ok -- say when a star has just died or something -- but come on, 18 hours of Broderick Crawford? Ok, so ambivalence reigned the other night when it was Jane Fonda's turn. She has always annoyed me. Much like Nicole Kidman does today. And no, it has nothing to do with Vietnam. One thing is that both actresses' mouths bother me (and not in the Gable-Lombard sense). But with Jane I'm pretty sure it's the bleating. The point is, though, that I DVR'ed most of them because I love a lot of her characters in the pre-Barbarella. Haven't sorted that part out yet. Here are the possibilities: a) I've always been fascinated by what was going on in the world during the time that I was alive, but can't remember anything -- the unquenchable thirst of the historian; 2) similarly, I'm fascinated by the roles of women in that period between the late 50s and the women's and free love movements and try and figure out how my mom and aunts fit into those roles; and d) when I was a kid and I watched Jane Fonda movies, I always thought that (since she often played whores and kept women) it must have been weird doing those things with her father's friends. By the way, where are all the kept women these days? Anybody know why there are no kept-women movies anymore? Maybe there are and I don't see them (Flatulus?). Those are some of my faves from the era: Butterfield 8, The Apartment, Boeing Boeing, Any Wednesday. Maybe there aren't anymore kept women?

Still with me? C. F. Kats let me cruise around with her last night after Chinese food and thrifting. That was nice of her and I had a great time.

Today we are going to attempt to make some Cute Dolls from the new Aronzi Aranzo books. Here's a sample:

Personally, I like the Bad Book.

Do you not love the early evenings lately? I would love to have a decibel meter to determine just how loud those cicadas are. YHWH and I got out the car the other night and realized we had to yell at each other five feet apart to be heard.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Almost. Always. Again.

OK, I guess it’s safe to come back. Based on recent retributive actions at the Last Public Place in America, I had a quasi-panicky reaction to posting until I could review my previous posts. But I did not give out any specifics and I only mentioned how much I simply adore the job. In fact, I think the only negative thing work-related was the cowardly anonymous hate comment I got a few months ago. So I think Gary has blown the all-clear sireen. Famous last words, huh?

I‘ve toyed with the idea of keeping this thing subscription-only, but where’s the risk in that? Between open access blogging and unsafe sex with dirty needle users, I guess I’ll take the blogging. Consorting with heroin addicts and trips to Africa will land you on the banned list at the blood institute and I’d hate to give up my only charitable outlet.

Still, I can’t promise it’ll be interesting anymore (if it ever was) with the Last Public Place and C. F. Kats off limits; they’re the most catalytic post-generators out there. And the most universally interesting. You’d think that since my friends make up the largest readership, there’d be plenty to talk about, but I realized the other day that I must be the weird friend or the charity friend of all my friends because I have very few common interests with pretty much everybody. Let’s run it down:

Baseball…maaaybe Purple Bunny
Knitting…Tex and Ste. Rose
Football….Guy and Tex sorta
Music… hmmm… cue Jeopardy theme …
Civilization … absolutely nobody
Politics… I always get the feeling I’m the token centrist or (relative) right-winger
History … hmmm … maybe everyone, but probably no one

That leaves out a lot of regular readers…
(And, no, I do not know why I have all these ellipses here)

Anyway with this nascent book career going – one on the shelf, one on the presses, one under consideration – and my three regular writing gigs at work, I’m running pretty low on creative energy. One thing I’ve been doing a lot lately is thinking about me and Kats. I decided to try and write a poem about us after I interviewed a couple of poets for a work project. I have never understood poetry, but some of the things they said made me want to try to write some for the 35,000th time. It’s not going very well, so don’t worry you won’t have to read it! One thing I did was try and think of who would write the novelization of our relationship and I decided it would be Thomas Hardy. YHWH quickly agreed. The movie would be directed by M. Night Shaymalan, mainly because of the many Sixth Sense correlations.

So who would write the novelizations of your big relationships? Or movie, if you're not a reader.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hypnotized At Seventeen

Yes, we are back from our trip. We extended it one more day by staying the night in Wichita at one of our favorite hotels -- the Hotel at Old Town. Highly recommended if you're ever up that way.

The highlight of the day in Wichita belonged to SGK. I hunted up a rock shop for her - or as it is known in the trade, a lapidary supply - and she nearly went into hysteria. She found real-life speicmens of all the minerals she had been reading about and they were 90% off to boot as the store was closing after 25 years. Overwhelmed, she could hardly contain herself as she browsed shelf after shelf of rocks and gems of varying sizes, shapes, and lusters. And, she would add, striations and cleavages. I'm not sure what those are, but she was rattling off the Mohs scales numbers and alternate names of everything. Oh, and toxicity. Yeah, she really wanted this glass-encased orange and yellow stone called orpiment. I've never heard of it, but it apparently emits a cyanide residue if you handle it. So, of course I bought it. What kind of father would I be if I didn't buy my ardent little petrologist (geologists study the earth, dad!) a poisonous rock? As long as she discovers a gold mine, diamond vein, or huge deposit of oil, I'll consider it money well spent.

One downer for the trip is that I learned Quik Trip is in a collusion deal as I suspected. A clerk at one of the stores told us. It's with Love's Country Store of all the g**amn places. Which would you rather have: a cheerful, friendly staff offering an exponential range of delicious refreshing beverages in a glowing red and white building beckoning you like your favorite grandmother telling you to, "come into the light..." or a rundown, dirty yellow and red hole-in-the wall with overpriced bottles of Coke sold to you by a haggard clerk who obviously resents having to work there? Quik Trip has been one of the Top 100 Places to Work in America for six years in a row; Love's has a tacky 1970's hand-drawn-by-the-founder's-three-year-old-granddaughter logo of cascading red, yellow, and orange hearts.

I'll bet I find out that Culver's is in collusion with Braum's. Why else would a quick check of their locations map reveal a crescent-shaped arc around the Oklahoma City market? Once again, we lose out. Braum's hasn't updated its stores or image in, what, 20 years? The stores all look tired and beat and they haven't had a new item on the menu since Reagan was in office. Culver's has 10 kinds of frozen custard, reubens, Philly cheesesteaks, something called a Butterburger (aka Myocardial Infarction In A Sack), turkey melts, and their kid's meals actually have a character, Scoopie, associated with them. Oh, and free wifi. Braum's has hamburgers and fries, ice cream and yogurt. I don't hate Braum's - it's just 'OK' - but it's not Culver's. This is probably unfair because I don't know for a fact that there is a deal there, but it's obvious something is up.

Why do I care about this? Why should you care about this? See, this is what the founding fathers meant when they forbade collusion -- inevitably, people in a certain market will be oppressed by a lousy c-store chain, a lack of Mr. Pibb, and grungy dairy stores and that violates their right to the pursuit of happiness.

Other random facts, observations, and reflections from the trip:

When we went into Cero's Candies in Wichita, we did meet a bubbly and friendly person who seemed to rise in defiance of my opinion of personality-deprived Kansans. You get someone like that in a room with YHWH and you will get 'the story'. We did. She's from Tulsa. The streak continues. The candy is really good by the way and you get to see the production line.

The drive through that northwest corner of Missouri on I-35 is one of my most-despised routes. You see it on the map and you think it'll be easy; you zip right in, you zip right out. Like a Love's Country Store, only cleaner. But no, it's not like that. Like it's big ugly step sister, I-44 between Tulsa and St. Louis, that drive is a trip-killer.

I can't drive after lunch anymore. It has nothing to do with eating lunch because I rarely eat lunch on the road, it's just that the warm afternoon sun conks me out now that I'm old. Thank God for rumble strips. Of course since our travel day does not begin until 11:30am and everything closes at 5:00pm, I'm left with little choice but to exceed the speed limit with one eye, while the other eye gets a little, well, shuteye.

Next time I travel north of the 40th Parallel, I have to remember to bring a black eye mask. The sun comes up at like 4:30am up there and once I wake up, I can't get back to sleep. Since we don't start activities until 11:30, that's seven freakin' hours - practically a whole work day - I have to find something to do in a motel room.

I've always heard Wal-mart had for some reason singled us (ie Oklahoma) out for Anschluss decades ago when they began their aim of world domination. And while it's still debated whether they destroyed small-town America, my observations upon rolling through the upper midwest like we just did reveals that they have not been successful at destroying everything. There are still small downtowns wholly intact all across that region that have not been relegated to antique shops and crafters' malls. Not so our little state.

Despite my distrust of corporations, I really enjoyed the Spam Museum in Austin, MN and was reminded of how much I love Kellogg's Cereal City in Battle Crick, MI. Now, if the Oklahoma City revered its past as much as these corps do their products...

That's enough. Thanks for reading this far...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That's the Fare From Gothenburg to Barcelona

Today was low-key reentry day as we got back on the interstate and ate a big chunk out of the return trip. Our only sidetrack was a stop at the Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education National Memorial in, well, Topeka. We could have made it home tonight, but the car was already late and we're having so much fun we decided to stretch it out one more day and stay in Wichita. So we'll be home tomorrow.

The Brown v. Board site was well done and I'd recommend it to anyone going through Topeka or looking for a day trip. It's in the actual school where it all happened and has a great mix of video, interactive, and documentary displays and a very friendly staff. Rather than being just devoted to the Brown v Board case, it works as a museum to the education aspect of the Civil Rights movement.

While I'm on the subject of National Parks, I would like to mention what a great place they must be to work. Obviously, I would love to work in a park; but I can't tell you what an oasis of friendliness the rangers are when you're traveling. I'll go ahead and indict whole states by saying that all the states we have visited with the exception of Iowa are not quite friendly and most of the hospitality and travel personnel we have encountered have been metaphorical bandits -- in effect they sit behind the counter with grim faces and say, "Hand it over." That didn't happen once in Iowa. I'm not whining, it's just that when you travel to places unfamiliar you are by nature in an unsettling position and feel somewhat out of sorts or blind in a way. A little hand-holding or a smile goes a long way for weary travelers. I try to remember that when I'm behind the desk. Kansas we noticed was not really unfriendly, but they just have a flat affect, like no personality at all. Of course, I realize I come from a perfect state... But, seriously, you can't say we don''t have personality. Even if you call us all hicks, that's something.

But the park rangers always seem to be courteous and friendly and chatty no matter which park you go to. That's why the guy at Effigy Mounds the other day was remarkable. It has to be the first time I've ever had a less than favorable response from a ranger. And even at that he wasn't rude, just brusque. And of course I'll be the first to tell you everyone can have a bad day, so I just blew it off. But how is it the Parks can maintain such high standards? Is it the training? Are they highly motivated? I'd love to know why. I always love going to the parks because you know you will be consistently treated well.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Papa Zulu

Today was spent all in Iowa. We got off to our usual half-day start and left Decorah for the Effigy Mounds National Monument where we encountered a brusque and cranky ranger -- a very rare thing indeed. We went on a nice one hour nature walk to the top of the bluffs along the Mississippi. So far all the girls love Iowa and want to move here. The young'ns think everyone is nice and the big'n loves how neat and tidy everything is.

Next stop was Dyersville, Iowa home of The Original Field of Dreams Movie Site, Inc. I say that to differentiate The Left and Center Fields of Dreams. Sad to say, there are two competing tourist attractions at the site of the filming of the great Kevin Costner opus. One owned by the family who owns the house and the infield, the other by an investment banking firm which bought left and center fields and has a fancy souvenir stand. At first I was upset about the inestment souvenir stand, but then I thought, it's actually pretty cool because if you really love the movie, getting to make a choice between the field cleared of corn or a corporate enterprise allows you to become part of the ethos of the movie.

Every great road trip has to have discovery of a great restaurant. On this trip we have discovered a chain called Culver's. We think they are in collusion with Braum's because they have locations all around Oklahoma, but none within. It's mainly a frozen custard stand with great sandwiches and burgers.

Every great road trip also has a new catch phrase that cracks everyone up. On this trip ours is: She's got agates in her bra.

We wrapped up the day with visits to Amana Colonies and C.F. Kats' college potentials: Cornell College and Grinnell College (or as we call them, The 'Nells) and finally landed in Newton, home of Maytag.


Quality Chicks

We've been incommunicado with no internet and spotty cell phone service for the last few days. It's been pretty nice, actually.

Wednesday we went up to Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior and then we swung east over to the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin where we stayed in the fishing cum tourist village of Bayfield. Our last morning there we ferried over to Madeline Island (the only remaining inhabited Apostle) and rented some bicycles to cruise around the island. It was actually pretty fun, but it was the one crisis point on the trip thus far. SGK wanted to try riding her own bike even though she hasn't ever quite mastered it and when we tried her out the poor thing was gripped with fear and couldn't get going. That was fine as they have the little tagalong bikes you can attach to the back and have the little ones pedal along with you. But she was crushed and had to pout which started me on a slow boil. Then she didn't want to get on the tagalong bike. Then we had to go through the whole, "I can't..." and "I'm scared" routine. You know how it is when you have someone going into hysterics. The only guide we really have for that is the classic TV/Movie scenario where someone goes into hysterics and their loved one gives them a hard slap across the face. No, I didn't do that but I did loose a few mild expletives in a low tone. It's where I fail with girls. As a boy all I know that work are the bullying things we grow up with like accusations of cowardice, girliness, and sissiness. Those don't work here obviously. But refusing to give in and coddle, I just ignored her, put her on the bike and took off. She was fine after that and we cruised around the wooded island for an hour and a half. She really loved it and I paid for my persistence with an hour of running commentary on a range of arcane topics.

YHWH absolutely fell in love with the whole of the Lake, though and SGK has rekindled her geologic passion, having discovered the Lake Superior Agate and rock shops. Our swanky auto now cruises a bit more sluggishly and the tires have a little less bounce owing to her rock haul. Thanks to Tex's gift of a mineral handbook, she now regales us with the Mohs scale hardness, luster, and classification of each rock.

We have all enjoyed our time on the trip so far, but the one shared opinion we have is that the people in the North Woods are not very friendly. We've discussed it a lot and we can't decided whether they are "unfriendly" or "not friendly" or whether we have too-high standards because of our own state's legendary friendliness. So far we have shrugged it off and figured it must be a Scandinavian thing owing to the stereotype of the taciturn Northern European.

So, signing out from somewhere on the Mississippi River...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's Not A Problem

Day Four

We got off to another slow start to day. I can't seem to get through to everyone that when you start the day at 11:00 am you only get to do half as much stuff, but I refuse to be a vacation Nazi, so I just bide my time.

Our first stop was downtown Minneapolis with the stated goal of visting the Mary Tyler Moore statue. We found it easily enough and it was very tastefully done, including go-go boots and little Jackie-O purse. She's just flinging her beret in the air.

We strolled around Downtown Minneapolis awhile and visited some of the big department stores since the girls haven't ever really been in one of those grand old style stores (when didn't shop much at all in NYC last fall). They weren't much wowed by it.

Finally, as we walked back to the parking lot, I felt like I had to turn around and go to the new Minneapolis Public Library even though I had been trying to avoid it. They spent $125 million on their new building and I wanted to see what they got for the money, but I was afraid of becoming envious. Thankfully, the building is really ugly and industrial looking so that helped soften blow. And from the outside it looks like one of the villainous craft stalking Kevin Costner in Waterworld.

Somehow, while SGK and I were in the Children's area, my amazing wife struck up a conversation with the librarian in the special collections room and we all got to get a special tour of the room and see some of the treasures including one of Audubon's gorgeous elephant folios. I also talked shop with a couple of the librarians and swapped a couple of war stories.

The rest of the day, we spent looking at college campuses for C. F. Kats, including Macalester and Hamline.

Finally, we went with Drew's family to a Minnesota Twins interleague game vs. the Braves. We had nice seats and it was half off. It was great fun even though the venue is horrible for baseball. I still refuse to side with owners, but not having ever been to a game in the Metrodome, I have always taken the side of the taxpayer in the notorious stadium squabble in MSP, but I have to say they really do need a new place to play. Actually, that doesn't mean I agree with the corporate thieves who want the city to build it. If they want it bad enough, they should build it.