Showing posts from August, 2010

On the road again

The vacation ends but the travel doesn't - at least for one of us.

Fall is often a busy time for me, work wise, and I am always grateful to be working.
And I still very much enjoy the going to some place new. Yes, I joke about the glamour spots I go to, like Mattoon, Illinois and Albany, Georgia, but for me, new is good.

This time, it is Mankato, Minnesota, in the heart of the corn and soybeans belt - I assume crop rotation - and it is tidy as can be in that earnest Midwestern way that I find so endearing. And the petunias! Every cold-climed place I've been in recent years bursts fourth with a profusion of petunias - along the highways, in enormous hanging baskets, in medians and window boxes.
Summers that are short are all the sweeter.

South Dakota - trying to carve out an identity beyond the giant president heads.
Iowa - Pork. They serve a thing called pork wings. I say, when pig fly.
But they let same gendered people get married there as well. An enigma.

But I miss my travel buddy…

laws of attraction

The bats beneath the Congress Street Bridge have been a popular attraction in
Austin for many years; indeed, bat watching has become a mini-industry there. We have seen them - all 3/4 million of them - head for the hills at dusk a number of times. One evening was spectacular, as long spiral formations of bats, black corkscrew clouds, poured out from under the bridge for at least half an hour.

Well, not this summer. They emerge in dribs and drabs about an hour after sunset - when it is too dark out to see them.

Theory is that the bugs are so plentiful this year, they feed less often and head out later.

I wonder if they aren't simply sick of the tourists. Maybe, like Garbo, they just want to be "let alone."

We headed back to our car, wondering what conversations the bat tour boat operators have with their customers who expect nature on demand.

still weird

Got home from vacation not wanting to be home from vacation and as the heat crept toward 100, I proposed to Mark we spend some more points and head to the hills and seek out some cool water to soothe our post-vacation blues. He readily agreed.

Have not been to Austin in...can't remember. Eight year? Perhaps. And I had totally forgotten how much fun this city is and how the lower humidity makes the heat ever so much more bearable.

We plunged into the green water at Deep Eddy and I felt nothing but happy.

Austin has gone food truck carayzee! It is estimated that there are about 1200 at this point and they expect another 400 next year. Mark had a fat torta with some of the best deeply brown fries I have ever eaten and I got the vegan 'chicken' that tasted more like egg salad, but it was swell. Lovely seating under trees by a creek on South Congress street.

It was not Ann Arbor 1969, as I was recently reminiscing about, but it certainly has much of what made that a good time -…

What's YOUR soundtrack?

Working title: “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

[In a sort of Andy Rooney whine] Do you ever wonder why anyone would waste their natural soundtrack by walking around with earbuds stuck in their head? For the most part I love my ambient sonic environment. Birds, of course. Conversations heard above the rhythm of the rails on the subway. I like the random bits of music you get in public spaces. (ASIDE: I stepped into the coffee shop on High Street during a morning stroll with Ribsy in Southampton to get a cup o’ joe, and while I was waiting for some passive/aggressive politeness and apology to play out – a young man ordered a small chocolate milk and after seemingly endless machinations, settles for a LARGE white milk…Sooorry! – I heard what I thought was an en fran├žais cover of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. I leaned over the lad sucking discontentedly on his white milk to listen closely to a ceiling speaker and realized that it was Bob’s original version, but damn, he really does ha…

The Final Countdown

Countries - 2
States - 19
Provinces - 1
Both Michigan peninsulas
Great Lakes seen -- 4 out of 5, plus Georgian Bay, Ontario
NY Boroughs entered (if only briefly) 4 out of 5
Museums - 4
Plays - 3
Ferries - 3
Relatives seen - 16
Arguments with yelling - 1
Days when laundry was done - 6
Days with a beach visit - 6
Times pulled over by a cop - 1
Tickets issued - 0
Gas tank fill ups - 12
Time away from home - 27 days 10 hours

This does not mean the end of posting, as many things take time to gestate. Expect further anecdotes and philosophical musings, as well as loose end tied and a few more photos.

How to make it work

So there we are, having decided we needed a little more beach time, on a Saturday night in August and there are no rooms at ANY of the inns. We head inland and spot a humble fishing camp and score the last place- a two bedroom cabin.

The owner was just returning from picking up the canoes he had rented that day. He also raises chickens and has a huge garden. Sells hanging baskets and walking sticks he carves with morel mushrooms as a common stick top carving.

Cabins are heated for hunting season and there are ski holders in the cabins as well.

In short, like people all over the world, especially in small towns, the man does a LOT of things for a living.

Do you only have one job? If I recall correctly, a line from the movie Local Hero, said by a village Scotsman to the oil exec from Houston.

Knife throwing: A handy skill

Some people serve appetizers before dinner. Great Uncle Mike gives knife throwing lessons.

Let's play 2...

Before moving on to another (inevitable) baseball-related post, allow me, in reference to the previous DIA post, and with a wink and a nod in the general direction of the movie “High Fidelity”, to pose the following question: What are YOUR Top 5 favorite places in the Whole Wide World?

For me, Rivera Court is on that short list, and as I was standing there (again, and on this day) in the midst of its sun-streaked brilliance, I realized it’s HIGH on that short list. Yo, Sistine Chapel, take a hike…

Tiger Stadium used to be on that list. I visited the corner of Michigan & Trumbull last fall as the dust was still settling on the demolition site…this before my understanding of touching the past by “sharing space” had matured. I nearly got sucked in to some kind of emotional Black Hole.

So, on to Comerica Park (where folks like to be in the picture, and come AT you for the privilege), a place I’ve been trying to figure out for the better part of a decade. ASIDE: I’m fanatic (some mi…

Obama Bucks

Did you ever ask yourself, "What happened to all that American Reinvestment and Recovery Act money, all those shovel ready projects that were supposed to take place?"

I have the answer.


It seems we never could drive more than 50 miles without a serious slowdown and the biggest traffic jam we were in was on a Sunday afternoon in Nowheresville, Michigan.

I add this only because the single most frequent sight on our trip were the signs telling you how much time you would spend in jail for killing a road worker.

Magical History Tour, Part 2

Back story - Mark's mother moved last month to live near her daughter in Wisconsin, thus we were left with, not only a lack of accommodations in the Detroit area, but lack of a reason to return to MI. Small kids and grandparents was a big driver. Now we have adult kids and few relations left in Michigan. So Mark and I took this opportunity to visit old haunts and say goodbye to places.

One actually occurred in July, when I spent an hour in Stamford, CT and saw the place where I lived for about 15 months where a portion of my brief college marriage took place. The building had been very poorly remodeled and thus looked completely different, as did the house across the street, and it was strange and I felt almost nothing and was surprised at how little I remembered.

Compare this to Ann Arbor, where I lived almost the exact same amount of time. (I left home after 11th grade and left A2 to go to college in East Lansing.)

This was the A2 of The Weathermen, The White Panthers. It was a …

If you seek a beautiful peninsula, Part 2

But we did have fun and the weather was good in the mighty mitten.

Any temperature over 85 gets them groaning about how hot it is. HA HA HA HA HA!

We spent our anniversary (28!) in Friendly Ferndale. Went to a comedy club for a short play about three dudes who live on a lake and think their lives were saved by Rock and Roll, specifically Bob Seger. There was even a reference to our old station, WRIF, which is where Mark and I met and it remains a rocker in The Motor to this day. It was perfectly appropriate.

The following day we went to the Detroit Institute of Arts. It is one of America's great art museums (and it also has an excellent cafe in the basement with killer mac and cheese). This was corny romantic for us, as our early days together included quite a few trips to the DIA, especially for their Bruch with Bach on Sunday mornings. We was young and crazy and happy.

But the Rivera Court never fails to amaze. Though I have been there a zillion times, I see something new each time.

Oh How I Wish Again

I was in Michigan and have been many time since I left in 1981 and my impressions are as they have been -it is a very beautiful. Yes, Detroit is blighted and we took no photos of that blight NOT through any agreement or plan and we have not even talked about it but I think we both thought it too cliche, too easy.

And then, on the cover of the USA Today today was this story about states trying to create a brand for themselves, like Pure Michigan, an ad campaign that has been very successful in a way they may not have anticipated; making Michiganders feel better about their state.

We have always loved the place. I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that we spent the first nearly three decades of our lives here. After all, I do know people who are glad to have left their home city, state or even country and have never looked back. I just know that my favorite beach in the world is there.

Now, I have been to some good beaches: Cape Cod, both sides of Florida, California, Jamaic…

Mike, Mario and Max - Top Cats in TC

We arrived in Traverse City the last day of the extremely successful Traverse City Film Festival, created by Michael Moore and now in its third year. He claims it has brought so much money into the area, even Republicans are stopping him on the street to give him a hug.

We were a week early for the 6th annual Mario Batali Auction for the Leelenau Conservatory, wherein you can bid to get Mario to make you and 11 guests lunch. (Mario's summer home is in TC - Take that, Hamptons!) Mario has raised a sweet quarter mil this way. The Conservatory works to keep agricultural lands from becoming swankienda subdivisions. Happy to see that growing fruit is still a big business up here, though wine grapes have taken the lead in some areas.

But this is all prelude to saying that this is not the TC of my youth, the town best know for its Cherry Festival. This town has money and lots of it and it is hip. Who knew? In fact, in our travels around this water wonderland, we find the small towns have …

You Would Think...

a full decade into the 21st century that quick and available internet access would be a given.

And you would be wrong.

1. Hotels have access but it is often slow. Very slow. And it can be unreliable and intermittent.

2. Chain restaurants also have access, and it is often slower than hotels. Perhaps it is dial-up nostalgia.

3. Getting on line in the homes of friends and relatives is difficult to impossible because NOBODY knows the password to their router. Do you know yours? I rest my case.

4. Mobile posting from phones shows up on the blog only sometimes and even then can be overlapping another post, making it unreadable.

We have already said that this is not a chronologically or even prompt blog. That is still true.

West-bound I-94 (moments later...)

And I don't know how many times I've driven this stretch of I-94, but a significant landmark for me in years long past was a little restaurant on a bluff overlooking the Parma exit just west of Jackson. It's now the Velvet Touch...a whore house, surely serving as NO LESS a beacon for my fellow night riders!

West-bound I-94

Driving to Detroit. Mark at the wheel and me with the paper. " Ford is selling Volvo to the Chinese.". Then a moment later, "That is a sentence I never imagined I would say."

Strong to the Finnish

My, but there is so much room for puns!

Finn Grand Fest, Sault Saint Marie, Ontario. Met up with sister Sandi and her 100% Finn friend, Ruthann in this neighborly place, with 1/4 Finn Alexanrda and not at all Finn Mark in tow.

What's not to like about a guy with a grey pony tail beat boxing the Doobie Brothers in Finnish? Or a bunch of yoopers doing reagge tunes like "Me and Eino Down by da Trapline."

The amazing thing was how much Finnish we heard all around us - something that Sis and I had not experienced since we were small and hanging out at Finn Camp. Our Dad was fluent of course, though he claimed he was not, and Sandi and I never learned the language but the sounds have an almost genetic quality.

We learned that there are actually several Finnish retirement homes; a huge one in Sudbury, Ontario.

Mix that with the bad puns and dopey humor, plus a lot of accordion in the background and its a fest alright.

Please note the fun run medal winners in the photo. They were sho…

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on...

See that box at the edge of the table? It contains probably 100+ letters from my Dad to his mother & father, brother Mike, and sister Joan, written over a period of about 2 ½ years, from mid-1943 to the end of 1945, chronicling his WWII experience. When I was growing up, he never talked about the War. I knew he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge (I overheard one brief story about hiding face-down in a snow drift for hours as a Panzer group rumbled by), but beyond that, I knew almost nothing about this period of his life. I had not seen the letters before this visit. There is nothing fancy about them. They are simple and direct, but they evolve from relatively light and informative (during training in the US) to a bit vague and repetitive upon arriving in Europe (owing to the censors), and finally into darker and resentful pleadings while cooling his heels during the last half of 1945 waiting to be sent back home after the War. They are emotionally vivid, incredibly movin…

Grannies Gems

While the classic cars were being admired in Southampton, there was up the block, a sale of previously owned costume jewelry - hundreds and hundreds of pieces, sponsored by the Saugeen Grannies. They raise money to send to the grandmothers in Africa who are having to raise their grandkids because the parents have died of AIDS. The sign said there are over 200 groups of grannies doing the same thing.

A lovely reminder that EVERY one can do something.

Below, more photos from the Saugeen area of Ontario, Canada.

No need for comment...

On the roof of the Met/On the bridge between Ontario and Michigan at The Soo.