Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flogging The Christmas Dog Blog...

Oh my goodness, it's Christmas?! Oh sure, it happens every Winter, right about now, yet this year time has just become so compressed for me... and just why is this a surprise you ask? Yeah... it really shouldn't be, huh? I guess I just want to have the entire planet ratchet down, take a few breaths, and smile for a change. Not too much to ask is it? Oh, and it wouldn't hurt you to sing a few carols either. Why it just might put a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and some joy in your heart! Probably be good for your blood pressure and cholesterol as well.

Ever since I was a kid, Christmas has been my favorite holiday of them all. Truth be told, it still is. In other words, I am a big softy, and especially at Christmas! So, of course everyone else should be too, right? Sure, there's still lots of unresolved problems, big and small, across the planet, and even in your very own home.  Yes, we still have troops across the globe, in what seems to be a pointless exercise of never ending hostility. And I know that none of us have the money we had last year, much less the year before. Point of fact, there's a fewer with a job now, much less a career. Sure, we have lost some very good people as well, some close to us, some not. And the list could go and on, couldn't it?

Well, that list stops right here! Why? Because, quite simply put, I  believe in Christmas. Period. I love to decorate the house, and string up enuff lights to make the Power Meter think it's a Frisbee in flight. Barb and I team up and send out cards to our family. What's that? What about friends you ask? If you receive a card from me, then in my little pea picking brain, you are a part of my Family, don't ever doubt it! Yes, I believe in the Magic of Christmas! Yes, this is a special time of year, and it's up to all of us to make certain of it! We owe not just to ourselves, but (most especially) our children, and our planet. We make it so. Don't ever doubt your individual power to give love. And Love is the very showcase of Christmas. And yes, Hanukkah,  and Ramadan, and Ashura, and Bodhi Day, and especially Boxing Day! Go ahead, look them up, interesting reading there...

My all time most favorite Christmas memory comes from way back, when I was about 8 years old or so.  My family drove from Lincoln NE to a tiny town in Georgia where my folks were from. We stayed with my grand parents, in a small farmhouse, in a very rural community. There was so many family in from out of town, that I was bedded in the living room, on the couch. Back then, as a small fry, I could fit quite comfortably on the sofa for a good night's sleep. Well, Christmas morning comes, and I wake up, to see the lovingly decorated tree, with what had to be a gazillion presents underneath and all around. The adults that were up were loudly singing carols, and some wonderful breakfast aromas filled the house. Eating breakfast, unwrapping presents with all my extended family all around, singing all the while. Brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, grands and parents, all together to simply share love. Yes, there was joy in that little house in the corn field. Any wonder I'm a total sap for Christmas?

Flash forward to the present, and you'll find me at a couple of different locations being Santa Claus.  I think I was invited since I don't need additional padding? Or maybe it's cause I have a hearty belly laugh, and really do love children. Whatever the reason, it is indeed a privilege to take part in those activities. Just look at the pic up top and you'll see why. And each locale has some interesting differences as well. In Onekama, the children are usually quite well behaved, and would never think of being put on the Naughty List. In Thompsonville, the kids are generally well behaved, if a bit pushy, and some of them are quite proud to be on the Naughty List! Wha? Huh? I suppose that since quite a few of the parents probably grew up on the Naughty List, it's a comfortable fit for their children? But each child is such a unique treasure, and you can believe that Santa shows each one love. Santa may only have half a minute with each little gem, but every hug is a crown jewel!

No, you don't hafta be religious to celebrate this holiday, and yes there is far too much crass commercialism ongoing. I mean, when I see Christmas stuff on sale in a drug store in the middle of October, well I really grit my teeth! For Heaven's sake, it's not even Halloween yet?! Arrgg... Of course everyone knows that Christmas is a holiday rooted in Pagan Traditions, that was subverted by the Church. Wise move, if you ask me. Since the early Christians didn't have a fun Soltice party, they co-opted one. And the celebration of Christmas has not always been so welcomed, even in the short history of America. There was time when both the Church, and the Politicians tried to ban it outright, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Well, happily, that never worked either. Guess you could say that the Spirit of Christmas outshone all of it's detractors.

Nowadays, we seem to have a movement afoot to trivialize Christmas. This is brought to you by the same fascist thinking groups that use Political Correctness s a means to negate the possibility that God exists, or that we should ever think about God, much less be permitted to speak about it. No, I'm not a Thumper, but I am concerned when some supposedly well intentioned group tells me that every opinion about our society, and culture, is to be valued. Every opinion, that is, except the one they don't like. So, I, for one, refuse to enjoy a "Mid Winter" School Break, and I don't send out "Happy Holiday" cards. And yes, I do cheerfully attend Christmas Eve Service, and enjoy it. Mid Winter? Really? At least they could have called it Beginning of Blizzard Season Break, and been honest about it?

And I certainly respect anyone with a differing opinion than mine, and a different set of beliefs. It's the quasi intellectual types that constantly have an axe to grind, and deliberately take away any, and every thing that could be special to us that I can't stomach. Christmas is more than just a religious holiday. It is a special time of year. A Season that brings the darkest day of the year, and so reaffirms our faith in many things. A time of year when people lighten up a bit, and do silly things and even wear silly clothes. But best of all, Christmas is a time when it's acceptable to show everyone around you, that yes, you do love them. And that, my friends, is why there will always be the Magic of Christmas!

As usual, all the photos are mine, except for the top one. That was snapped by Digitally Loco, she's a wonderful personal friend, and abso awesome photog. If you need any great pics, tell her I sent ya!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TuckSun AZ

When I made the flight reservations for my trip to Tucson AZ, the gal at the other end of the fone kept pronouncing it as "Tuck-Sun, Air-ee-zonia".  No matter, I got to where I need to go, and a rose by any other name and all that.
This trip came up a bit unexpectedly, and was not a vacation, nor a holiday. I have a wonderful cousin there, whose health is flagging, and so she decided to move back home to Michigan., and be closer to her family. So, after a one day layover at home (aye yup, just one day after returning from Charleston SC, really!) I was in the air and went Westward Ho!
So from a hot, wet climate, to a cool, comfy climate, to a warm, very dry climate, in the space of about three days. Yeah. Boy howdy did my body ever scream at me! I actually had laryngitis for the next four weeks! It was so dry in Tucson, that I drank over a gallon of water in two days, and hardly ever seemed to need to go to the bathroom. Every morning when I woke up, my throat was feeling burnt and parched!
Ah well, all in a week's worth of Life. My fave Aunt, Lynne had flown there separately, and she and I would pack up cousin Laurie's stuff into boxes. Then, Laurie's sis and hubby would fly out, we'd all pack up the rental truck, and Paul would drive that, as Laurie's sis , Kim, would drive Laurie and her car back.
So, you see, I don't have a lot of memories of wonderful touristy adventures during my time there. I do, however, have some fond memories of talking, and joking with Auntie Lynne, and Cousin Laurie. Laurie and I never really knew each other well at all, having only met one time prior. But hey, family is family, and you do what you can. Laurie is a woman of no indeterminate opinion, and has a very direct view of Life, and no problem sharing. So we all enjoyed the company quite well!
Nor was my trip all work and no play. for one lovely late afternoon, Auntie Lynne and I drove thru the Sagauro National Park. They have an amazing 7+ mile loop you can toddle thru, and get an idea of the landscape there. We were graced by not only a wild boar that walked across the road, but later a dramatic sunset over the mountains!
Tucson is on the floor of a valley, surrounded by five mountain ranges, at about 3,000 feet above sea level! This creates a rather unique environment, and a scene of stark beauty, and dramatic detail all around. One particular morning, as I was leaving my hotel, I saw, and HEARD two Stealth Fighters (from the nearby Air Force Base) scooting around the inside rim of the mountain ranges. It sounded like a rock concert when they make the sound go around in circles, and it was LOUD!!
I enjoyed the people of Tucson, everyone was quite friendly to me, and somehow could just tell that I was an "Out of Towner"? Especially in the Circkle K, where English was clearly not their Mother Tongue *chuckle* But I still received good, if a bit cool, service. Everyone at the hotel was very friendly and helpful, and also the restaurants seemed to have good help.
And speaking of eateries (you just knew I was gonna talk about food, didn't ya?) anytime you go to Tucson, I would highly recommend El Charro Cafe!  They have been awarded as "One of the Top 50 Plates in the Country", and I believe it! We were at the Broadway location, but heard many good things about the others, especially downtown. This, my friends is what authentic Mexican Cuisine (yes, you can put those two words together in the same sentence) is all about! Oh, and while you're either reading the link, or at the table, make sure to scan thru the history of the place! It's as amazing as the food. So our intrepid little party of Michiganders dined there on our last night together. A very enjoyable time with family that all got along (miracle) and a great eatery. The next day we all took off for the return to home trip. My aunt and I flew home to the arms of our waiting, and muchly missed spouses. And the rest of the gang toddled their way across the States, and also arrived safely.
Sometimes a trip is not really a holiday, but there's nothing that says you can't enjoy it anyways! We did some good for a family member, and in a real, physical way. Plus we all got to get to know each other a bit better, and enjoy the company as well. And so what if Tucson has no humidity? It's not like I'm ever gonna hafta live there *chuckle*

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Brief History of Charleston...

A long time ago, a bunch of white guys from Europe came over in smelly boats, stole the land from the native people, and then largely killed them off. Then the white guys imported a different bunch of native people from another continent, and made those people do all the really hard work. No, you won't read that in the real history books, but that pretty much sums it up. Happily, Charles Towne has never stopped trying to improve upon itself, and grown to be a true Grand Old Lady of the South.
It is impossible to walk or drive around town without bumping into some fascinating history along the way.
Barb and I always make it a point to get to know some local history wherever we journey to, and let me tell you there's plenty of it here! Just about each and every building has some historic significance. The Bureau of Architectural Review was established in 1931, and decreed that any building that is 75 years or older, cannot be torn down. So, yes, each year more buildings are added, but far more importantly, these buildings are also being restored to show their beautiful heritage.
everyone knows of the great earthquake in San Francisco, but did you know that before that, in 1886, Charleston had it's own earthquake and fire? The locals here had a clever idea to help strengthen the remaining buildings. In between the floors, they would attach bolts thru the length, and width, and secure them with nuts to tighten them up. So you see a lot of these black discs in between the floors of a lot of the property here. But in the oh oops category, years after some engineer type realized that they had all tightened the screws too much! So now, if another tembler rolls thru town, those are the buildings you really, really don't want to be in. Oh, oops.
And if you're the sort that enjoys Churches and Cathedrals, you will be in heaven here (all puns included). With about 90 different churches in Charleston, there is a wide variety of faith, and also history. You will also want to look at the link for Churches of Charleston, simply breathtaking.
But I suppose that were wondering when I would get around to the War Between the States, or the War of Aggression by the North? Yup, that's what they call the Civil War down here. And yes, they do have a rather different opinion as to it's causes than do the folks that live North of the Mason Dixon Line. Be that as it may, the opening volley of that conflict was right here in the harbor. Then towards the end of the war, when Charlestin was under seige by the Union, the very first submarine successful attack was performed by the CSS HL Hunley. It was to be a "one and done" however, as shortly after the submarine sank a war sloop, it too sunk under mysterious circumstance.
But going back before the war, you probably didn't know that Charleston was one of the most affluent cities in the State. In fact, there was far more wealth accumulated here than in New York city! This was largely due to rice plantations, and the back breaking labor done by slaves. Ironically, the slaves on the Rice Plantations were actually treated better than on other plantations, which could tend towards brutality of punishment. On a rice growing and producing facility, if you worked towards a certain daily quota, then you could even get a day off! Unheard of really. but after the end oof the war, and the slaves were freed, no one could operate the rice paddies at any where near a profit. Somehow I think that the former slaves were just fine with that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good Eats... Charleston Style!

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite hobbies (no, not that one), a hobby I happily indulge in as much as two, or three times a day! Really! If you know me at all, you know that I love to cook, and especially to eat. And I abso luv southern cooking, and fresh, local Seafood.
Happily for me, Charleston SC has plenty of both! In fact, if you Google "Restaurants Charleston SC" you will get "about 688,000 results". Wow! Talk about a town that just loves it's food,and this one has to make anybody's short list. Forget any of the fast foodss, and don't bother with any chains, and you still could eat at a different restaurant, for every meal, for quite a few years. And we have certainly had some of the best dining in our careers.
In no particular order (what, you think I really can remember any particular day?) I'll share some our more memorable times when we gathered around the table and had a good nosh. Let;s start with Hanks a premiere Seafood Restaurant with an unassuming name. Go ahead and nose around that previous link, especially the photos. They will show you a bit about the decor and the food. It's ok, I'll still be here when you get back. This is the one meal where our entire family somehow managed to assemble, and what a joy it was! Yes, Hanks is also the most expensive eatery we've been to, but every once in awhile, you just hafta give yourself a treat. Even more of a treat was that Barb's sis and hubby graciously picked up the entire tab! The waiters all wore white jackets, the atmosphere was top class without being snobby, and every dish was superb. Our waiter was from Connecticut (is anyone here a native?) and had some wonderful wine, and food suggestions. But far more impressive than any wine, was a perfect Martini, and perfectly served! Vodka for me (none of that bum Gin belongs in a Martini glass) with no more than 2 drops of Vermouth, served up (never on the rocks, that would be an insult) and teeth cracking cold. Ah, civilization at it's finest! And yes, fresh, local Seafood certainly is the order of the day. And today this order is done Southern style, which means interesting ingredients and a rich taste. All around the table our family was ooohing and awwwing and sharing and smiling. Really rather amazing that eight people as diverse as my family, with far ranging views on anything, could all agree that this is simply the best seafood any of us have had in an age. But such is the delight that is Hanks. And if you are thinking that you don't like Seafood, you simply haven't had it done properly. I seriously doubt that anyone could walk away from here without a full tummy, and a smile.

And at the other end of the spectrum would be the Voodoo Tikibar. fun and funky, and a low impact on the wallet. They feature such exotic items as Lobster corn dogs, Tater Tots with truffle, and even  Duck Sliders!? Yes, Duck Sliders, and they are yummee! Go ahead and look around the link, it's definitely drool worthy. And yes, the Martini's are great here too. Best of all, it's a five minute drive from our condo. Of course, downtown is only a ten minute drive, so we're in an ideal location.
Well kids, Charleston is famous for fresh, local seafood, especially She Crab Soup, and Shrimp and Grits. What, you say, in the world, is a She Crab Soup? Simple really, you use the roe, or eggs, from Ms. Crab and put into a very rich, creamy chowder, and use sherry to finish it off. It's not really yummee, it is incredible! After having sampled this delish delicacy all over town, we have firmly decided that the best of the best is to found at Toast. And about those Shrimp and Grits, well, here's what the menu says, "Sauteed shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and sausage with garlic, deglazed with white wine and served with thyme cream sauce over grits". Again an item not to be missed!
Think I'll end this blog (I saw you nodding off back there) with a last review, of Vickery's Shem Creek, a casual dining eatery on the wharf with an open air deck, and an intimate interior. The service was prompt, the food delish, and we enjoyed muchly!
On a sadder footnote to this particular blog, we just found out that one of our extended family just had to put their Yellow Lab to sleep. GoodBoy Ben suffered from an injury, and simply couldn't recover. Since I do know that Ben enjoyed shrimp, and eating in general, I am dedicating this post to his memory.  Ben, you are now happily woofing in the Elysium Fields and merrily bouncing along...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Wedding and well that's really it....

Hi kids! We're still in the Deep South of Charleston SC, and I thought to share some of the wedding we came for, and a few other bits of magic as well. So kick back, put on your fave wedding moozik, and enjoy the ride. Just in case you need something to set the tone, click on this over played link.
One of our fave nieces, Staci, was thoughtful enuff to invite her old Aunt and Uncle to come share in the nuptials and festivities, and we were honored to have been asked. Staci is a wonderful young lady, and has always been quite beautiful, and very loving. Her fiance, David, was raised here, and this is indeed an extraordinary city in which to wed. As a "destination wedding" Charleston lacks for nothing. It has all the history, romance, and attractions to keep even the most jaded of travelers wonderfully entertained and engaged. The dining *anywhere* is top shelf, (very fresh, very local seafood, yummee) and so are the people.
Staci and David had both the small ceremony, and reception that followed at the Harbour Club. This is true Southern sophisticate hospitality at it's finest! The vows were exchanged up on the third floor, open air deck. With the sun at our backs for an early evening wedding, it was quite beautiful. Even if the Groomsmen did squint quite a bit at the direct sunlight! But no matter, Staci was truly one of the most radiant brides ever to grace a pavilion. And David was obligatorily nervous,  altho he still did his bit quite well. (good thing the Reverend gave him his lines) This particular deck on the third floor actually looked out at another open air eatery, on the fourth floor, just across the alley. So there a few more "guests" present at the wedding than were invited. Happily as the loving Bride kissed the Groom, everyone on both decks broke out in applause. I was concerned that some wag over there might be tempted to shout over the wrong kind of "encouragement" and put a damper on the affair.
So nuptials were performed, and down a level for a fantastic dinner, and dancing. Food, drink and laughter all flowed easily as old friends got reacquainted, and new friendships were forged. At our table, my own dear Barb was lucky (?) enuff to be the Captain of Fun, and her job was to ensure each of us had a good time. {Just so many bad jokes there that I can't even start}
So, Barb and I had an enjoyable dinner, some fun (and free) drinks, and a great time dancing together. At one point the DJ even played our song, Truly, Madly, Deeply. And yes, each and every time we dance, especially to this song, we fall in love all over again. See, that's us over to the right...
So maybe this is the place to finish off this post. I know I promised you some voodoo Magic, and I'll get to it later, but for now just know that the absolute bestest thing in the world is to be in love with the one that is in love with you!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Soiree in the South

Heya kids, once again, (or should I say as usual), this crazy concept known as Life, has been treating me to another delightful whirlwind of family, traveling, and more misadventures. This time we have had a lovely driving tour from The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea all the way past the Mason Dixon Line to the true Deep South of Charleston SC.

We split the journey into two long days, with a stop at Barb's parents in the dreaded town of Columbus OH. Of course, this year those never-to-be-sufficiently-damned  Buckeyes don't seem to be the devils of old, do they? That was the short day with only about 9 hours on the road. After a wonderful dinner by JoanMom, and a nice visit with them both, we're fast asleep and then up just way too early for even the cows, roosters and Sun. But we clamber into the car by 6am (shudder) and off we go. This was indeed a minor miracle, but honestly (don't tell Barb I enjoyed it, I have a reputation to protect) the vivid teals and turquoise that glowed thru the morning fog was breathtaking. And so was some the driving, as the locals didn't appear to care for my cautious approach, and thought that it would be fun to show me how to play Bumper Car at 70mph..

We peel thru the Columbus area during those dark hours before Dawn, and then surreptitiously stole thru West Virginia, and Virginia as morning turned into a brilliant Fall day. The leaves just couldn't make up their minds about the correct wardrobe choices of color. So we drove thru sections that had some, or a lot, or no color at all? But each passing scene was welcome, and the scenery truly beautiful.
At one point as we wend our way thru the switchback, and up thru the Appalachians, Barb and I comment on this seems so familiar? Very similar to a trip we had taken with my folks a few years ago. Just when we decide that it was about time to take a break, OMG! We drive into the very Lookout that we had stopped at so long ago! And we even approached it from the other direction! Must be the TravelGawdz smiling on us for having made it thru the Purgatory like state of Ohio. Well, we simply had to stop and take a nice leg stretcher to see all around the valleys before, and behind us. Ace delightedly led the way, scrambling over mossy rocks, and finding the obligatory cockle burr bush. the view was astounding, with the low flying clouds that floated their jigsaw like shadows below, it seemed out of a movie, just so special.
Other highlights include Tudor's Biscuit World just outside of Charleston WV (just how many Charlestons are there anyways?). If you have never had the incredible, light, flaky delight (yeah, sounds like an old girlfriend of mine) that a true Southern Biscuit is, then your life has not been fulfilled. For you mates in the Yew Kay, or Oz, Enn Zee, over here in America, we take our biscuits very seriously! Not the sweet type of treats that we refer to as cookies, oh no, these wantonly sensual pastries are their own statement that life is good! and really, if you live North of the Mason Dixon Line, you simply cannot get a good biscuit. Family grudges and feuds have been volleyed across generations for the "proper" making of a good biscuit.
As we toddle across West Virginia, then Virginia (the two parted company during the War Of Aggression By The North) the scenery changed from gently rolling hills and pastures to a much more mountainous route. Yes, the Appalachians were under foot and over head! Driving here was both pleasurable, if sometimes a wee bit intense. Barb was rather quick to point out that we were dricing by a hundred foot gorge, and there was minimal guard rail. I shrug and continue on in the best tradition of an Ice Road Trucker, and put the hammer down! Well, not too far down. But hey, what a beautiful drive!

So onward ho! As we approach the border from Virginia into North Carolina, Ace the DufusDog, and my body, both make a request for a Bio Break. Oh look, there's a nifty rest stop on the side of the highway now, we are saved! So in we toddle merrily, and while Ace takes Barb for a walk, I go in to find some ballast relief. Well... okay... my goodness me... as I attempt to enter a stall to allow my intestinal tract to divest itself of all those light, flaky biscuits, I notice that the stalls are so narrow that both of my shoulders are squeezed to the point where if I breathe in, the stall will collapse outward?! Huh? Wha? Are all the men in this state extremely skinny? Do they never have a tourist of full figured proportions? fuggedaboudit... I decide to travel on and hope for the best. So across the State Line we go, and (oh thank gawd) find what turns out to be the abso bestest rest stop of the trip! The floors are inlaid stone with geometric patterns, and a gentleman of my obviously over rated shoulder width, could sit comfortably.... ahhh.... relief at last!

So a long day is closing into late afternoon, and we cross the border into South Carolilna, soon my dears, soon to be done! But also as we cross that same border, I notice that oh my gosh, each and every car on the road suddenly speeds up to well past 20mph over the speed limit! Yup, we're in South Carolina!

The rest of the trip was dedicated to putting miles under our tires, some food and gas in our bellies, and enjoying the trip. Going from the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea, all the way down and across to the Deep South was a transformational journey. The land itself changed as we journeyed thru various geological regions, and our souls were refreshed and restored as we surveyed new lands, new opportunities, and new friends.

Well, my young friends, about 16 hours later, we pull into the parking lot of our condo, and it's just as dark as when we left! But boy howdy we made it, and all in one piece, even if a bit stiff and achy.
So the *real* reason of our journey is to attend the wedding of a fave niece, and we will be joined by both sons and their wives (hurray) and later Barb's sis and hubby (another yay).
So yes kids, another adventure to be had, more Love to be shared, and more Life to be thankful for! Love, Laugh Live...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Grand Rapids Art Prize is Grrrrrrrrrrrrreat!

Tony the tiger couldn't have said it better! An unassuming, mid-sized city, in the Midwest has turned itself into an Art Gallery Extraordinaire. And what a show it is! Everywhere you walk, thru the entire city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, you will discover a tremendous outpouring of talent and enthusiasm for the Arts. Sculptures, paintings, mixed media, performance art, and some stuff just too esoteric for categorization all abound.

Art Prize (yes you should click on that link, I can wait) is a sheer genius idea come to fruition. In a day where many small, and mid-sized towns and cities are experiencing  a crumbling decline in numbers of residents and quality of life, Grand Rapids is showing that you should never give up on a dream! This is the second year for Art Prize, and it looks to be a long term party for the city. Here is a happenstance that provides for a lot of wins, for everyone involved (no mean feat these days).

Sure it got off the ground with help from a Mover And Shaker, but what grand vision doesn't? As the web site says: "On a brisk, clear morning in April 2009, Rick DeVos announced a new “social experiment.” He was going to give away the world’s largest art prize based solely on a public vote. DeVos said the event would take over downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan that fall. As it turned out, that was just the beginning." Social Experiment? Wha? Huh? Why that almost sounds like a commie! *chuckle* But it's true, and an experiment that successfully demonstrates that people of all walks, ages, faiths (or lack of faiths), race, creed, colors, sexual identity, or whatever... well simply put all of us is Human, and surprise (!) you enjoy Art too!

That's the unique aspect of this particular showing. The really Grand Prize of a cool quarter million bucks is decided on not by an esteemed panel of judges and critics, but rather by ordinary folks like you and me. Aye yup, the public votes (via Interwebby, or SMS, or even at a station - in person) and whomever collects the most votes wins. I love the simplicity of it! And yes I admire that it us that chooses what we want!

Entries are from all over the world, and the Event is up and running! You can go the website and register (free!), then look at the various works and vote. But in order to Vote you do have to go to Grand Rapids and complete the Registration process. Last year they had 200,000 visitors come to town and do just that. And when we were there, each and every venue welcomed us warmly and not one soul seemed put out by the influx of Art, Artists, or Visitors. 

So you see, and hear, some of the best Art ever, and yes of course there's some clunkers and some I Don't Get It pieces. But that's the real beauty of such a large event as this, you can take in some wonderful Art, and simply ignore what you don't care for. There was one piece in particular that I voted a thumbs down for, because of it's particular political voice, that I don't like. But much more often I voted a thumbs up for some artists whose work captivated me. You know, the stuff that you want to stand in front of for awhile, just to soak in it's beauty.

So, yes last Monday was a long day with the 2hr drive each way, but the journey was so delightful, and of course the small group of us that went down (from our Church) either were, or became, good friends, that day. That's one (of many) reasons I love our little Church, it invests itself in our community, in a lot of ways. And taking this trip, with these people, to the Largest Art Show in the World, well, that was a treat not be forgotten soon. And the larger community of Grand Rapids that is bold enough to host a "Social Experiment", is getting paid back handsomely, and deservedly so! I do hope that you will take part in this Social Experiment, it is worth participating in.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September's Magic... Splendiferous!

Well as my beard grows and the day shortens, the Season is still sneaking thru September. Yes, it's true, in anticipation of a successful Deer Hunt, I usually do grow a beard. It's not that I'm particularly superstitious, but every time I have harvested a deer, I also have sported some facial hair. The true reason for this is a combination of just plain lazy, combined with an element of disguise. You see, if I wear a beard then the deer won't recognize me. They still point and laugh, but they don't know it's me.

Another wonderful aspect of this fair and lovely month is the venerated tradition that is College Football. To my foreign readers I must say now that I use the term Football in the Stateside sense of the word, and not in your Footy meaning. I intend no disrespect for your Footy, and do enjoy watching a good match. But, as a red blooded Uhmerrycan, there is no rival to College Football! Oh sure, you can go on about the NFL, and the level of play in the Big Show... but I, and many tens of other loyal Northern Michiganders, frankly wouldn't give a spit for those over paid, whiny, petulant babies. That might be because, unlike Wisconsin and Minnesota, we really don't have much of a pro team to follow here in Michigan. Point of fact, it wasn't that many years ago when the Lions lost each and every game during the season. I prefer to think that it is because we Northern 'Ganders are a much more pure, and therefore honest folk. And so we eschew too much professional success of anything. I assure you that Gordon Gecko could never have been a Northerner!

But as the cider mills open their doors in the morning for warm apple cider, and fresh donuts, and as sure as the Monarch butterflies have already beat their tiny wings away, we live for College Football! These young men are not in it for the money to be made, and most of them won't be seen in the Pro's. No sir, these student athletes play for the pure passion of the sport! And yes, that's my own, rather naive outlook, but then this my blog, and those are my opinions.

Saturday is Game Day, and you dress in your finest school of choice colors. Including skivvies and socks. Women who normally will be seen in a Sunday morning classroom teaching our children about Moses, or the Golden Rule and the like, will don panties emblazoned with their favorite mascot, and warpaint that would surely frighten Sitting Bull.  A few years the kids gave me a Big Ten t shirt as gift (probably Father's Day, since I no longer hafta wear a tie to work) and yes, we are a Big Ten family. Big Ten being one of several College Football leagues around the country, and of course we think the best. But this family is truly a Big Ten family, and we have connections to both teams in Michigan, as well as teams in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. You could say that Saturdays in our family can get rather competitive! The bets usually will involve such massive amounts as loser buys winner dinner and the like. After all, it wouldn't do to actually be so crass as to bet money on a game!

So yes, prepping for the coming Deer Season (which typically includes moving a Game Camera around to see when and where the varmints could be had) and rooting for your fave College Football team, yes, those truly are what stirs the passions of us in the North. Why just looking at  a picture of a fine buck a mere 25 yards away from your favorite blind has been known to make some otherwise taciturn folk weep with joy as this year, yes, this year he knows he'll finally bag the buck. And when the weekend rolls off another dreary Friday, then everyone cheers up as they just know in their of heart of hearts, that this week, oh yes this week, our team will be prevail against the Goliath of an opponent that we have no idea why we are playing? So we drink some beer, and snack on some munchies, and wear our school colors, and dream of deer, and then for a moment, just one small, bright moment of time, we are truly ecstatic in our hearts, and we forget to be dour, and we yell like we were really there in the stands... so for a brief time we are transported away, back to a gentler time, or just a different place. But time and a place where it doesn't matter that my beard is white (?!), and that you're overweight, and the car needs a repair, and so does the fence. For one afternoon, we all come together and share in our mutual victories and defeats, and that, my friends, is the true magic of College Football!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Suddenly September!

Yes, it's true! Suddenly it's September, and the air is fresher, the grass greener, and we're back to wearing jeans instead of shorts. Our days are a bit shorter to go along with the much more pleasant temps, and generally everybody up here is happier as a result.

You see, we rather tend to not like really beautiful weather. Especially days, or even weeks of it! All those hot, sunny days just mean that something bad is likely to happen because we're enjoying ourselves too much. Something bad can usually be translated as Blizzards, Ice Storms and Power Failures. Now those we cheerfully endure because we know that something better is coming. It's not easy living up here.

But living at the 45th Parallel does have some advantages. One of the more pleasant activities that we do to ward off the evil spirits of melancholy and despair (which really only serve to remind us of our true plight as humans) is the venerated tradition of Date Night.  My WonderLuv Wife, Barb, suggested that we go to a nightclub that featured dinner and dancing just a couple of weeks past. So we actually do a "dress up" date, and trundle up to the big city. Traverse City is an actual city, but nearly as large as they would have you believe. None the less, to Stephens Place Night Club we trod, and we were delighted! From being greeted at the door by John (everybody's favorite old, Italian uncle) to the wonderful server, Chris (she knew all about the place and it's history), including Chef Harry (who came out and had a lovely chat with us, explaining how he created such mouth watering dishes without fat, or butter) all the way thru to the entertainment of Doc Woodward who tickled the ivories at just the right volume, this date night was a sterling success!

Go ahead and click on the link above, but it really doesn't do the place justice! Barb and I were treated to some of the best food we'd happily noshed on in an age. There was no rushing thru dinner just to start tapping out toes either. Chris the cute waitress simply would bring out each wave of our Topas for Two (we both highly recommend) while allowing us to have a turn on the dance floor in between. No hurrying, just a relaxing evening being truly pampered. Also, I must give kudos to the bartender (sorry, I never got his name) who serves an ice cold Martini, straight up, and made with perfection! I am rather a Martini snob, and his were the equal of my own. No higher compliment can I give.

And yes, Doc Woodard, in between sets would come and sit and gab with us as well. He would ask about our musical preferences, and could play almost anything from the 50's to the 80's. (Except for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" -Wha?). Barb occasionally labors under the misguided delusion that she can't dance. Oh contraire, my darling! You can, and you will... and you will enjoy it a well. She actually moves rather well on the floor, all I need to do was supply a bit of a lead, and off we went to traverse the white pines floor, and swaying in time to the beat. At first, we were the only couple there, but soon enough we were joined by another couple, then more people started drifting in. By far, the couple with the most polish, and that seemed to just flow together naturally as they would Tango to almost any song was a nice surprise. Seems the gentleman in question was completely vision impaired! Watching the two of them was a treat for our vision, I assure you!

The genuine warmth of all who worked there was a charm. At one point, as I was heading out for a breath of fresh air, I opened the door for a man who entering and  pushing a wheelchair occupied by his handicapped son, with wife (dressed to the nines) in tow. As Barb and I finally were leaving, he approached us and introduced himself as the owner, and thanked us for coming. What a delightful evening! We will be back, and next time we'll bring friends. And as for the Cosmic Balance of enjoying ourselves too much, later that week we had a Power Failure, so it all works out in the end... 

As a small post script to this adventure, today when I started writing this blog a gentle soaking rain was blessing my lawn. Soon enough, as I was paying more attention to the words on my screen, and not to the pretty twinkling lights on my Satellite modem,  yes, my ISP was out! So you see, Life does balance out rather nicely! 
Oh, and the pictures of the Pileated Woodpecker were taken from my deck this morning. He's a regular customer at our fine eatery!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can You Hear It?

Shhhh... listen very closely.... can you hear it yet? There, ever so faintly, like the fog creeping in on kitty cat paws, it's the end of Summer. Oh yes, Miss Autumn is approaching, inching closer by the not-as-beastly-hot days and cooler nights. Not that Old Man Summer is completely gone yet, but his gnarled grip is loosening like a sailor's hand on the rope when his ship comes to dock.

Right now my lawn is drinking up a much needed gentle rain, and the air is a cool 75 degrees. Yes, cool compared to what it's been here of late. All of us in the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea agree that this has been the swelteringest Summer ever! Due to our Northern proscriptions of living, we are really constitutionally unable to handle many days above 80 degrees. (ok, for you fans that are metricificated, 82F = 28C, take it from there...) My lovely, and loved, and loving wife turns the most endearing shade of corpulent green after a couple of "daze" in the heat. As for me, my usually adroit, and sometimes clever, articulation rapidly degrades to that of a snarling animal caught in a trap, that is in the process of chewing it's own leg off. Really, we do much better with cold than heat out there.

As loyal Northern Michiganders, we eschew certain modern contrivances, such as central air conditioning, in our homes. Our pioneering spirit barely allows the use of indoor plumbing (only for sanitary reasons, not because we enjoy it) and we'll probably be asked to leave the neighborhood when the scandal of having a bedroom ac unit is discovered. At the very least we should be shunned by all polite, and sweaty, company as befits our particular sin. But we have also discovered that now, in our slightly-after-prime years, if we don't sleep well then we function at a level comparable to, at best, an amoebae.

Another portent from the Autumnal Goddess is the behavior of our favorite bird species of all, the charming and vociferous Hummingbird! When they first arrive in late Spring, cheerfully announcing their presence by flying right to where uh hum the feeders are supposed to be, our little ADHD driven buddies happily consume the nectar we provide. As the season progresses, and more flowers bloom, our hovering hummers tend to be rather more picky customers at the feeders. Just a week ago you would see a single male or female perch on the little feeder and sip quietly and contentedly. But now, they greedily perform acrobatic dog fights worthy of Snoopy and the Red Baron!  With the shift in time, each hummer has his, or her, own fave spot, and woe to the intruder that thinks to steal that sweet solution of life. And especially just before a storm, the antics really escalate! We have espied as many as seven hummers all juking and dodging each other just to make sure that someone else doesn't get "my" spot!

Other changes include watching the juvenile male Cardinal get his sinister, black mask and proud, red chest. Now if only his wings would turn all the way from brown, he would have it made. Also our beloved family of Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are no where in sight? Nor are the sporty Gold Finch family much evident now. Oh, and the In Laws have come and gone, another sure sign that Autumn is approaching. Our trees are just starting contemplate turning a new leaf, and the corn is sweet. 

So listen very carefully... hear it? Our delicious planet is grooving around the Sun, and Life once again goes thru the complete cycle. How we love each other is truly the sweet part of Autumn.

 Oh, the sunset picture is one I took, the top bit of art is from the Interwebby, and the three wonderful Hummingbird shots are from my dear friend Diane Land Cooper. She's a treasure!