Monday, August 30, 2010

Love a-Fair

So, I went to the MN State Fair twice last weekend. Not once, but twice.

Friday I took the Fair Express bus from downtown with my son, aged 6-going-on-7; who is the perfect Fair companion, since he's interested in most things, game to try almost everything else, and will happily tolerate ten minutes of any large exhibit before reminding me that where he'd really like to go is the Fun House.

We were there for about 6 hours, and had a blast.

I went back on Saturday, unbeknownst to the boy (though with his father's permission) to join the Second Annual State Fair Sketchout, an event organized by Roz Stendahl, local artist and instructor, and all-around paper-arts enthusiast. I took lots of photos for later reference, did just few on-the-spot drawings (I'm not as fast as I used to be), and generally had a nice time. Once every few years I manage to hit the Fair alone, for a third time. We'll eventually go with my husband too, on Labor Day.

Here's what I love about the State Fair, in no particular order:

1. People from every (and I mean every) walk of life, a representative sampling of the state in all its surprising diversity.
2. An incredible array of exotic, disgusting, wonderful foods -- everything from down-home Midwest church dining hall breakfasts, complete with bad coffee; up to chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick, crepes, funnel cakes, caramel-apple sundaes (a favorite of mine) and all manner of fruit smoothies; and onward to things like Alligator On A Stick, deep-fried candy bars, scotch eggs, fried green tomatoes, and the piece-de-la-resistance, the Pronto Pup. I must eat at least one at every visit, no substitute corndog will do. End of story.
3. Midway art. From early on I've been fascinated and entranced by the art of the Midway -- the painted carousels, the lurid sideshow-type banners, the neon flashing and the flapping pennants; the beautifully illustrated facades of the funhouses, the incredible backdrop murals behind older rides like the Matterhorn (though the one shown via the link is not the one at our Fair), and the painted cars of the Tilt-A-Whirl. It is a visual feast, a sumptuous junk food smorgasbord of eye-candy, and I love the nameless laborers and craftsmen who create and maintain these dinosaur contraptions (the rides and the games), with a passion.
4. The smells: Caramel, roasted corn, fried everything, manure, grill smoke, wood chips, diesel exhaust, cotton candy, sweat, grease, paint, beer, cigarettes and livestock; it's appalling, it's incredible. It's everything worth smelling, really, except maybe the cigarettes. And the porta-potties.
5. The tradition. Everybody loves the Fair, and it's the second largest, second-most-successful, not-quite-longest-running Fair in the nation. Everything from the Midway to Machinery Hill and points in between -- it's an annual pilgrimage, one I've known nearly as long as I've been alive. I remember when you could still park right on the Fair grounds, and my stepdad would yank us out of bed at 5am so we could arrive at 6am, and get the best spot. We'd have to sleep in the station wagon (all five of us) for another two hours until the church dining halls opened for breakfast. Back then, you could have a great day at the Fair for as little as $20. These days you can still have fun on $50, though you have to be in love with it in the first place, to be so easily pleased. After all, it costs $11 just to get in.

And the great thing about going there alone is that I am free to meander; to want everything and nothing, to browse, to let myself be pulled into the swarming high tide of Fair-goers at 6 o'clock pm and just flow downhill with the rest of them, held fast in the arms of a thousand strangers per half-block, headed for the Midway, waiting for the sun to go down.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love. This.

Ripped from here.

New Shoes

That my son picked out. Because he loves high heels. Yes, that's him on the left.

UPDATED TO ADD: These are Aerosoles btw. Not your sexy brand but surprisingly comfortable, since they are in fact the highest heels I've worn this decade.

Friday, August 27, 2010

a week in review

Well, the sermon last Sunday was very well-received, even to the point of getting paid -- for the first time! And the week has had varying color, varying other successes and failures (including one rather catastrophic.)

First, it's apparent that I need to cut back on the wine consumption. My tummy is starting to take a particularly edgy tone, a sort of "I'm not going to tolerate much more of this" tone, reminding me of the bad old days in my twenties when I would wake in the morning with such a stomach ache that all I could consume was milk, and dry toast. It has every right, I've been overdoing things. Wine at lunch as well as dinner. Wine after the kid goes to bed. Wine to reduce the number of thoughts in my head.

None of this wine seems to have affected my ability to dream, however, and after enjoying some hard-earned time off here and there, I find myself filling the nights with vivid, odd, sometimes humorous dreams about coworkers, family, old bosses, old boyfriends. Bizarre plots and obscure circumstances. Crazy outfits. Off-color scenarios. (And if any grumpy, racist ex-members of my organization are reading this, why don't you just go play in traffic now.)

Meanwhile, I afforded myself a luxurious massage this week (and if I had one of those every week I doubt I'd need wine to get to sleep.) I always like myself so much more as I'm walking away from my therapist's office. Got stood up by the same friend who always has some last-minute conflict, whom I always forgive because he's so darned charming; and called in the reinforcements, another friend with whom I've meant to make a date, because I refused to slink away from the bar in shame. It was a very nice bar, the kind I love, with lots of woodwork and old leather seats, and old leathery gentlemen behind the bar. Mature waitresses with too much eye makeup and black aprons over crisp white shirts; and a tank of lobsters off in one corner, awaiting their fate. So we paid too much and had a nice time (2 Sidecars.)

Monday I took the kid shopping for back-to-school clothes, and we enjoyed a nice day together out at the mall. Today, I took him to the State Fair, where we rocked the place by going on all the rides that go waaaayyyy up in the sky (except for the stupid Slingshot which is undoubtedly going to kill someone sooner or later.) We ate with restraint, spent more of that money on waters and lemonades; won a few prizes, played lots of free games in the educational buildings, and generally took things as easy as we liked. Plenty of good Mommy time this week; school starts next week, and we'll be back to a much more rigid schedule after that.

Oh, and while I was making dinner on Wednesday night a Pyrex roasting pan full of yummy vegetables totally exploded when I opened the oven, damned near taking me off at the knees. I snitched a couple of unafflicted onions off the top and ate them anyway, at which time my husband casually inquired as to whether I was interested in a perforated bowel. Hey, there was nothing crunchy in those onions, and I chewed carefully. But now I'm anxiously watching for signs of peritonitis. Dammit. Doesn't help that I'm getting my period.

More things in-between happened this week as well. But a day at the Fair is solid treatment for the blues, especially when I'm with my kid (who has grown pretty game in his old age.) Tomorrow I'm hoping to sneak away by myself for a while and draw...Sunday night we are going out as a family to celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary. Lucky 13, the worst year yet in some ways, but no matter. We're having sushi and tempura, and dressing up. My kid helped me pick out a pair of high heels on Monday (which I seldom wear, since I'm already five foot ten and my husband is five-eight.) He promised to make Daddy dress up if I would wear my new heels. We'll see how that goes. (My husband rarely shifts past cargo pants and untucked button-down cotton shirts. It's the tenured prerogative.)

Yep, in spite of everything, summer seems to be winding up on a positive note. Thank you God.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's been an incredibly confusing and sometimes painful couple of weeks. Consequently, I haven't been posting much. The thing that has me twisted up in knots is simply not for public consumption, and so I shall refrain -- good friends take note, it's not worth asking, because in truth the circumstances are so personal as to be obscure in their particulars. Or in other words, I can't quite explain it all.

So, we'll lay that aside -- we'll let that one wait on the telephone table -- and instead I'll just say that I have a sermon gig tomorrow night at the Mercy Seat (and I hope I nail it because I wouldn't mind a few more opportunities like this one, even though I know they won't pay me.) And as much wine as I've had, you'd think I'd be hammered -- but apparently the huevos rancheros I had for breakfast has made me immune. So -- I'll tweak the sermon one last time, tomorrow, and all positive vibes will be greatly appreciated right around 5:30pm Central Standard time. This week's lectionary of Bible readings can be found here; and I will once again have to thank Sara Miles, for helping me focus on the blessings found right in front of me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It is dark, dark outside, the last night on the lake. Doors and window open, everyone in bed. Wind cool (for a change -- hooray!) and rain possibly moving away... quiet, quiet. This is it, the last night, and I'm typing in the dark (bad for the eyes) because that's the considerate thing to do. I've had one too many glasses of wine to be sharp, so there are undoubtedly important insights to be mined from this moment that I'll overlook. Still. The silence --- Ah! the silence! -- is a beautiful thing. I love my family, I do, but they talk talk talk. My son because he's six, and my husband because that's just how he is, constantly verbalizing.

OK - husband asleep. I close his door and turn on the overhead light. I wish for a floor lamp but you can't expect everything in a cabin by the lake. I'm easily seen from outside, I know, but it shouldn't worry me. It's a reasonably friendly environment after all.

Last night there were some pre-teen boys running around the neighborhood, making noise, goofing off, at around 2am. I was slightly annoyed, but mostly I smiled, remembering what it was like to be that in-between age and turned loose of a night. They were apparently picking on some girls in the area...maybe a family here for the week, extended family, girl cousins, the kind you might be attracted to as a young boy though there's no real danger of relational tension since you're family and you lovingly loathe one another. Pranks, and the innocent vulnerability of kids finding their way, being alone at night (scary! exhilerating!) and being "naughty," that primitive walkabout period in a young person's life. I miss those days. We were trapped, of course, thinking the answer would be to finally move away from our parents. Later, you realize that the sense of enclosure you feel is your connection to other human beings. And that you need them, even though there are times you'd rather not.

I have just eaten my second Pearson's Salted Nut Roll of the day. A wholly vacation-oriented choice. Ordinarily I don't touch the things.

So... I feel some pressure here. It's the last day of vacation, and I wonder how much revitalization I've stored away -- wonder if I'm ready to go back. Wishing I had a plan of attack, wishing I had a wall behind my back and a clear direction forward.

I hear an anguished groaning cry in the distance, which gives an air of Halloween to this night, though really it's just one of those dumb kids playing dramatis personae.

My lips are salty.

I want to say I've recovered fully from the past year and more, though it's not altogether likely. Want to be able to say that the exhaustion, demoralization, struggle, confusion, anger, longing, shame, sorrow have all materialized into something certain and destined and reconciled. Want to say that the great glorious wonder of all that is beautiful and found in my life and work is clearly present in my mind to balance those other feelings. Want to say that my questions have been answered. In a mere four nights at the lake it's damned unlikely, I'll admit, and it wouldn't make sense to stay here and wait for enlightenment even if I had the luxury.

It will have to be enough to say I walked in the sand...

last day at the lake

Drip, drip, drip. It's our last day at the lake and once again, just like last year -- rain! But that's not such a disappointment, since in fact we came here with a VERY short list of things to do -- sit on the beach, check. Walk through the woods, check. Hit the local fabric store, check. Watch our son have lots of fun, check. Drink a good wine every night, check.

Poor R's allergies are giving him the business, which is sad. And the vinyl chairs at the kitchen table are making my thighs sweat. Apart from that... no real complaints.

And it should be noted that I'm wearing my favorite synthetic-blend knee-length skirt with the big flowers on a black background, a skirt that had been hemmed and taken in several times by its previous owner before it came into my possession. Synthetic blends don't breathe terribly well (and I can't be more specific about the fabric, in part because the tag has faded and blurred to an utter blank). But it's durable, can be worn with either a blouse or a tshirt, and is the former property of a lovely, lovely old woman named Dorothy who died my second year working for the church, at the age of 94. She decided to die. She stopped eating, stopped drinking. It still took two weeks, because she walked everywhere in every kind of weather and she was TOUGH. But no one forced her to go to the hospital, because her friends understood that she wanted to die. Her final days were spent under the tender watch of a much-younger ex-con and truckdriver, a single man who lived across the hall from Dorothy, in the apartment above the furniture store. He was a recovering alcoholic. She had never been married. He cleaned her and changed her and tried not to panic, for days, while she gradually left this world. Theirs was a simple, incredible relationship.

And afterward, because she had no immediate family, I came into possession of some of her sewing supplies, and this skirt.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, the rain continues and the swimming outfits are still draped over adirondack chairs on the patio. "What would it be like to come here in the second or third week of May?" R wonders.

Monday, August 9, 2010


IN spite of the fact that my spouse is huffing and puffing around the cabin, trying to get me into the shower so we can get moving for the day... a quick post mid-vacation.

Radiation fog: What you get when the lake temperature is much colder than the air temperature. It starts some time after midnight and lasts until perhaps 8:30am. A thick mist rolls over the lakeshore and obscures the distant boats and the islands, thins the shapes of the trees to something made of organza and silk. The birds call echoingly from the dripping branches -- orioles, robins, jays, warblers -- and out in the distance the gulls complain about the fog while mergansers cluck through the shallows in search of minnows. It's beautiful, peaceful, and I wish I could get myself out of bed early enough to go for a walk before the boys awake.

I haven't had the time to myself I've been hoping for yet...still hopeful.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Because my innocent, lovely son can't remember that Mommy just said "ass-over-tea-kettle" a second ago, so he's hitting the approximation.

He is sitting on the heavy wooden arm of the rustic futon frame (pardon the contradiction in terms) here in Cabin Number One, at lovely Appeldoorn's Sunset Bay Resort. The futon is folded down in the "bed" position (because he thinks that's just delightful), and he's winding down after an exciting day by watching a Backyardigans video and tipping himself backwards off the arm of the futon onto the mattress. Back-over-teacup.

We arrived and checked in at around 3pm, after a leisurely morning of getting it together, and a leisurely drive (including detours) up 65 to Mille Lacs. And now, there's thunder. The owners are driving their old tractor down into the water, trip after rattling trip past Cabin Number One, pulling up the floating dock with the water slide and the various boats and whatnot anchored nearby. It's supposed to storm tonight. Better safe than sorry. I'm surfing the wireless surprisingly available hereabouts and wondering whether I'll have a headache in the morning. Given the wine I've consumed.

Vacation has begun. Thank the Lord.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

weather, and bitching about it

Dewpoint Daze continues. Nobody won an Armpit Award at my workplace today, let me tell you. All you had to do was step outside for five or ten minutes, and the egg timer in your armpit went DING! "Deodorant, done!" No Secret, no Speedstick (and yes, I do occasionally wear my husband's pit-stick when I run out because he invariably has five or six new Speedsticks in the closet), no fancy all-natural no-aluminum smells-like-a-sunny-spring-meadow spray -- NOTHING -- stands up to this weather we're having. My office is so cold I'm getting ice cream headaches, and still -- by Noon, I'm schtinkin'. And you know what? So is EVERYBODY else. In my case, it's because I had to carry boxes and boxes of canned goods for the food shelf today, and then haul supplies from my old office to the new one. This necessitated some time outdoors in the festering heat. And in my best friend's car, which has weak air condo (and is regularly used to transport rescued dogs across state lines).

It should be noted however that body odors on others aren't generally a cause for alarm as far as I'm concerned. Exceptions include my kid needing a bath (because he's my kid); and maybe Mike Z, an especially ripe and frequently inebriated homeless guy of whom I am nevertheless fond. No, what worries me is bad breath, but that's a post for another time.

I might also add here that while normal schtinkin' is okay with me, I do NOT appreciate being sweated upon by random strangers. Or not-so-strangers. I make exception when the source of precipitation is someone I'm attracted to, otherwise....not so much.

The guy that repaired our ancient Risograph at church the other day is a good case in point. While plainly a respectable goombah in real life, this guy, we'll call him Paulie, sweat buckets all over my carpet. It's a crappy, nasty, never-shampooed office rug, I'll admit -- but it had several extra dark splotches after Paulie left, EACH time he left. It got worse each time, and I kept turning up the air conditioner for him...a little more...a little more...because the fucking Risograph was giving him such a hard time that he was literally shedding gallons of water-weight before my very eyes. One thing after another went wrong -- he fixed the first problem, only to see another appear, and then another, and then another, and five newly-installed parts later he's still dripping with bewilderment. And muttering curses under his breath. Not very under his breath, because he can see I'm not a nun, just a church secretary. He was a big galoot, and I felt badly for him, hunched over the tiny early-fifties plumbing in our restroom trying to splash a little freshness on himself and just leaving more splotches everywhere. I should have bought him a beer when he finally fixed that sucker. I'm sure he needed one. I found precipitation on the machine, on the counter, on the doorknob...oy.

I have a friend who shall remain nameless here who also sweats copiously, and likes to sweat, and works out a lot as well. The other day we jumped in his car to go get some Dairy Queen, and as I was climbing in I saw what looked like discarded clothing laying on the curbstone, wet as though it had been out in the rain the night before. In our neighborhood this is not so unusual, and I wouldn't have said anything. A needless train of thought altogether, though, since my friend said "yes, that's my clothing drying on the curb, sorry." And I said, "Dude..." I couldn't blame him for not wanting to keep that stuff in his car in a plastic bag, since it was a million degrees outside. He smelled fine, incidentally. His car though...oh, the upholstery odors, when it's a million degrees.

Please note: cigarette smoke NEVER smells good on a person. Ever. Just thought I'd throw that in, appropos of almost nothing. My friend isn't a smoker. My husband is, but there again, post for another time.

Tomorrow's forecast? More schtinkin'.

Monday, August 2, 2010

weather and wondering

The dewpoint was a bitch today. I don't altogether mind such weather under certain circumstances; though lately those situations seem well beyond my reach, and at any rate the life of the flesh is mostly denied me the past two years and more. Who needs humidity, when nudity is so rare? We've traded laziness for air conditioning, another menace of mechanization in some ways. But the broken-down A/C was no abstract concern this morning -- with temps varying so widely from space to space at work, and some of the kids at the charter school having seizure disorders which can be triggered by something as subtle as the air-temp changes from a cooled room to an muggy one. Resolved, hours later and thank God. After two glasses of wine (3?) and a third of a beer, I can honestly say that the natural world went on without me this afternoon. I had to wear a sweater, in the office.

Do birds moan? Little birds? By this I mean to say that I wonder if they express frustration or longing, or grief. I'm not just talking about some noise that pigeons make. God knows birds get upset -- I've heard the indignant alarms in the backyard trees when our cats are out, as the robins with nests high above in the pines raise their pitch to warning cries -- needless, since our cats are either too old or too timid to climb after baby birds. I've heard the helpless, anguished desperation of songbirds in futile battle against a marauding jay, pecking uselessly at the much-larger bird as it murders the sparrow young. And finches always sound kind of anxious, calling out to one another. So grief, yes. Frustration, probably -- bitching at juvenile offspring who still trail after parenting pairs complaining of hunger when they're quite capable of fending for themselves. Longing? Maybe, in the calls of male cardinals or white-throated sparrows in search of a mate. But I'm anthropomorphizing.

I wonder if birds really notice the dewpoint.