Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bumpkin goes to the Big City

Earlier this week I had to go to Duluth for some medical checks and follow ups. All is well in that department, but there were so many things to do I had to stay overnight. Between appointments, including one for the car, I had a  little time to enjoy the nicer parts of the city. I stayed on the Duluth side of the mini metro area which also includes Superior (or "Soup Town"), Wisconsin.

After my Monday morning appointment I decided to go to the beach. Now this is not an ocean beach as there is little in the way of tides and the water isn't salty, but it has sand and water which is good enough when you're a thousand miles in from an ocean. So I took a walk on the beach. As always, click on the pic to embiggen.

It was nice to have the beach mostly to myself as I would expect on a Monday morning.

I had an appointment early in the afternoon and after that I went over to Canal Park where the St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior and wandered around. There were more people, but it was still very relaxing and uncrowded and the clouds had gone away.

The cormorant didn't care if I was looking at him and the lift bridge was going up.

The harbor is large with room for lots of commercial and private ships and boats. It is a main terminal for shipping products from the Midwestern grain fields and iron ore mines as well as other bulk goods. It is also a great place to hang around and see the history of the area which, thanks to the native population, goes back thousands of years.

The Lakewalk begins at Canal Park and follows the shore for several miles. It is used by walkers, gawkers, bikers, runners, and anyone else that wants a nice place to get out and about in the city.

Even young moms trying to help their kids negotiate rocks. That concrete thing behind them showed up after a rather large storm a few years ago. That might give you an idea of the power of this calm looking body of water.

Since the Lift Bridge fascinates me as well as others, I thought I'd take a walk up to it and get a close up. Just before the bridge was my post dinner destination, the Vikre Distillery. I stopped there after dinner and had their vodka, one of their gins, and two of their Aquavits, just to see what a craft distillery was like. I was not disappointed and came home with a bottle of one of the Aquavits.  I will save it for special occasions. Of course, those special occasions can come around quite frequently and are sometimes called "evenings." A funny thing happened while I was at the distillery (that sounds like the beginning of a joke). I went upstairs to enjoy my samples and my neighbors from across the street are sitting on the sofa enjoying hors d'oeuvres and a drink at 8:30 on a Monday night 120 miles from home. What a coincidence!

After a good nights rest at my hotel I had a nice breakfast and went on the the next appointment. When that was over it was time to come home, but I had one more scenic stop. It was time to stop and smell the roses at the Rose Garden of Leif Erikson Park. The Lakewalk passes by this park about two miles from where the walk starts.
That's the North Shore Scenic Railway on the right.

The roses are fading a little as we all do in time, but they are still beautiful and will bring joy to many before the seasons change.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's Falling

The nights are cooling down and getting longer, but at this latitude we get a long dusk and dawn. It must be Nature's way of consoling us. All the critters are either fattening up for winter or fattening up to make the trip south.
This is probably one of the last hummingbirds to leave. Most of the others left at least a week ago.

The ships heading in and out of Lake Superior are starting to stay closer to shore for protection from potential intense storms.

Our farrier was here this morning for as few hours getting all the horses hooves trimmed and putting shoes on a couple of them.

The leaves are starting to turn color to what I hope will be a colorful season. It only lasts a few weeks so I hope the days are sunny and the colors vibrant. Here is an Aspen in the front yard.
I had to go to town this morning for a short trip to work to take care of something without being interrupted. It only takes an hour this way instead of a day or more during regular hours. I decided to take the other scenic route home through the maple forest to see if the changes had begun. They had.

It happens every year about this time. Eventually, the trees will be bare and the snow will come. This year I bought a new pair of skis so when I am not working and can see what I'm doing I plan on enjoying the cold and snow. Otherwise, I'll just sit around waiting for Spring and that is a long wait. Might as well laugh in the face of climactic adversity.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Living vicariously

Fifteen years ago today I lost a classmate in one of the World Trade Center towers and had another classmate, a firefighter, respond. I know it's September 11th and it will be more than mentioned a few times everywhere else, so I'll opt for diversion.

I have some friends and family who get around in this world. I have stolen some pictures from them that have been posted on Facebook mostly, and am posting them here without permission from them. I hope they aren't embarrassed or that they don't sue me for defamation of character or anything like that. They shouldn't be as I have used my great abilities of judgement to post some of what I think are cool photos. If anyone is offended I apologize. Not everyone is included here because that would take more time than anyone might want to spend here. Almost all of these are close family.

Besides, I couldn't think of anything else to write about today. Well, that's not entirely true either, but that's my reasoning and I'm sticking to it. Here goes.

From top to bottom we have Anders and Gunhild Iren at the Vatican, Bente and her dog in the mountains, Eyglo in the wilds of Iceland, Suzanne, Knut, Karla, Anne, and Truls at the hytte, Giske and Pia in the mountains, Gro, Felicia, and daughter at breakfast, beautiful Heidi (on the right) with friends.

Gro in Cuba, Suzanne (Heidi's sister) doing some modeling, Laurie on the beach where I spent my childhood summers, Webjorn's bike in the Italian Alps, Stein Kåre' s bike followed by him, Sverrir bathing in Iceland, Tigerlilje (Kristin) hiking with friends, and Webjorn skiing.
Lars is always fishing.

One last one from yesterday of my favorite local Librarian, Ann, as she climbs the mast on Lake Superior.
When you add up all the fun available in the world it must be amazing. This is just a small group of people and just one fun thing they have done recently. Most of them are still young enough to do a whole lot more. Heck, even I can still do a whole lot of things. So with all the tragedy and nasty crap going on in the world, there are still some mighty fine diversions available for those who seek them out. So don't forget to take the time to smell the roses in your own back yard, your neighbor's, or some stranger's halfway around the planet. There is plenty of joy to be had.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Decisions , decisions

It started raining about five o'clock this morning. It wasn't a gentle rain, either.I noticed the cirrus clouds moving in Saturday evening and by yesterday evening the clouds and wind were out of the South. I could tell the wind was southerly, even with my eyes closed, because of its drawl. All the signs were there and so far we have gotten over an inch (2.54cm) of rain.

"Big deal," you are thinking. Yeah, it's not. I put off going out to feed the horses and letting the chickens out of their coop until I could see better because of the fog and sun not giving off much noticeable light. The Big Question du jour was what should I do for the rest of the morning? Being a National holiday and me not having to show up at work left me with some options. Some of you may remember that I like to read, mostly Nordic mysteries, and in summer I don't read as much because I am outdoors more, etc. Should I reread something or get something new? I don't often read something I already read (unless it is for a discussion or test or something) so I opted for new. I have been reading Swedish stuff lately, mostly Mari Jungstedt, which is set on Gotland, a beautiful island south of Stockholm in the Baltic sea.

I wanted to start reading Ragnar Jonasson's (Icelandic) books in order ( I just have to read books in order), but the first one isn't available on Kindle yet and the libraries in Minnesota don't have them yet. That's why Kindle was my choice, but here's the rub. It won't be available in the U.S. until the first of the new year. However, it is available on Kindle in the U.K.!  I almost did the address change on my Amazon account and try to convince them that I was a U.K. resident (maybe using my uncle's address) and that they should send me the book immediately. If that didn't work I thought I might try pleading:

My Dearest Honourable Sir or Madame, 
I am draughting this from the colonies to beseech thee to post a book forthwith upon which my very life depends! I shan't be able to go on without. I have a tumour of the brain, and possibly haemophilia, and wouldst appreciate thy assistance.
God save the Queen!

Not sure they would swallow that, so I opted to shop for a few minutes and decided to swallow my pride and dig deeply into my wallet for a Jussi Adler-Olsen book, The Hanging Girl. It has been a while since I read the first five in the series and I figured I might as well continue that. It turns out after 3 chapters that it is mostly set on the Danish Island of Bornholm, which is also in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland. Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish writer.

Maybe I should consider a trip to the Baltic Sea on one of my future trips to Europe. All I need is time and money, both of which may be growing short. There is always virtual or vicarious travel which may be as good as it gets.

I better go read a few more chapters before I head outside. Happy Labour Day to all mah  fellah Merkins!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The next exciting installment

I'll  bet you are just waiting for the next exciting installment of this blog, aren't you? As you probably already guessed excitement is not my middle name. It's not that I don't get excited about things now and then, or that nothing ever happens, but for the most part I'm just trying to get by on a day to day basis.

This past week was busy at work, which left me more tired than usual, although I only needed one after work nap. I got new cross country skis with bindings, boots, and poles yesterday in hopes to get out when the snow starts to ease my S.A.D. issues. They have come a long way since my wooden skis and three pin bindings. At the pre-season deal they were 50% off and maybe I can not gain weight through the winter. Of course, I can only use them on weekends until the days get longer because, you know, the job thing. My knee Doc said it was okay to do this.

Today I was mowing one of the ungrazed pastures mostly to keep the forest at bay. Almost everything (grasses) has gone to seed and clouds of seeds were all around me. I came to a section that had a lot of goldenrod and other flowering plants as well as some deer beds and decided not to mow that part. Besides, there were bees there and I don't need to add to their troubles. I've had to let that section go before because it had bee activity.

Speaking of pollinators, I have been wearing a red bandana on my head while my scalp heals.  If I stand in one place for more than five seconds I get hummingbirds hovering around my head deciding whether or not to shove their beaks into my ears looking for nectar and insects. I would be embarrassed if they found either. Well, wouldn't you? Of course it might tickle as long as they don't puncture my ear drum or something silly. Try to explain THAT to the ER personnel.

This week's "Music in my Head" have been story songs. The Red Clay Ramblers song When the Goldenrod is Blooming Once Again is about a young couple who have to part when the guy has to go off and "seek his fortune in some foreign land." He said he would be back in September (but not which year) and she promised to wait for him and whispered  "I will be yours dear when the golden rod is blooming once again." Years passed by and still she waited for him until one bright September day he came home and they lived happily ever after. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but it's on the Hard Times album.

The other story song is from my favorite Canadian singer, Stan Rogers.  This is a story of the Mary Ellen Carter, a sunken ship that her crew decides to salvage. They feel they owe it to her and do everything possible in the face of adversity to bring her back to the surface. I have loved Stan and his voice since I first heard him back in the late 70's. He started before that, but being south of the border we get things a little late here in the States.  The last verses kind of give you the courage to fight when everything is against you and they go like this:
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again—though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Here is the whole thing introduced by a shipwrecked sailor who sang it to stay alive.
 The story is in this article in Wikipedia under this:

Connection to the sinking of the Marine Electric


Sunday, August 21, 2016

I've got the music in me

Music is something I need to survive. Maybe not physically, but mentally for sure. I need to hear it and hum it and feel it. It is nearly constant inside my head even if it is far in the background. Almost like a soundtrack. Sometimes I don't recognize the tunes because they probably don't exist, but mostly it seems familiar.

When I was about 10 years old and in 4th grade I started learning to play trombone and was in school bands for the next six years. I wasn't the best or the worst trombone player in the band, but I enjoyed it mostly. When I was playing in Junior High School we had a band director that always pushed us to compete for a higher chair in our section. I moved up a notch or two, but was never going to make first chair, first trombone (there were third, second, and first trombones and a couple of chairs in each). I was okay with that as I enjoyed playing. The director still pushed us anyway when he wasn't busy yelling at the band for other things. I started to resent all the pressure and yelling and it took the enjoyment out of it for me. I hated to disappoint my parents, but eventually I just couldn't take it anymore and quit.

Fortunately, I had taken up guitar a couple of years earlier with a $30 Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar. It wasn't much of a guitar, but I slowly taught myself a few things with the aid of a couple of Mel Bay guitar books. After I quit trombone I still had a way to make some pretty sounds. The guitar started to fall apart, but my father could see I had a real interest in continuing to play. Even though he occasionally said, as do many parents, "How can you listen to that crap?" he still encouraged me to play. At least he didn't say, "Stop making that racket."

In 1966 he took me to the local musical instrument store and let me pick out the guitar I wanted. I had to have a twelve string because that's what the Byrds and some other folk rock bands played. I had to choose between the Gibson and the Framus. I played both and the Framus sounded better to my ear. They were within $10 of each other in price.

Here it is today.

I loved that guitar and kept learning more stuff, usually playing by ear while listening to the radio. Eventually I could play along with a fair amount of popular songs. I took the guitar to college where I met my best friend Mark who also played. We played together, even in front of audiences (where I am never comfortable) and usually just for ourselves until Mark died in 1995.

When Mark and I were roommates back in the late 70s I went with him to the Homestead Pickin' Parlor where we often shopped for records, music, and instrument accessories. He had saved his money and bought a new 1974 Martin 000-28 which was a sweet sounding guitar. When Eric Clapton went acoustic many years later that was the exact year and model he recorded with. Mark was way ahead of Clapton.

Mark played that guitar for our wedding when the Cooker and I got married and again at another close friend's wedding. When he died he left it to me and I have loved and played and cared for it ever since. I played it at a friend's wedding a few years ago to keep going with the tradition. It needs a new pickguard which I will get for it when I ever get to the Twin Cities again. There is a highly respected luthier there who will do the replacement.

I have a few more guitars, but these two will never leave my possession. While neither is of great monetary value I am a much more sentimental guy than I ought to be and will have them until I die or thereabouts. I need to figure out who to leave them to when the day comes, but until then I still have to keep playing.

The quality of my playing is a lot like the trombone. I'll never be really good, but I'm good enough for me and I still enjoy the hell out of playing. I doubt that will ever change.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grand Portage

The Powwow and Rendezvous is going on at Grand Portage and Over The Waterfall (the band I play in) got to play for the public in the afternoon and the reenactors in the evening. Dancing is encouraged and one of our long time callers and sometimes musician, Barb, called the evening dances for kids and adults. It was on the lawn of the of the fort while we played from the porch. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but other people did and I will post them as soon as I get them.

The kind folks at the National Monument gave us tickets to go out and see the tall ship Mist of Avalon out of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. It will be one of the ships sailing to Duluth next weekend for the Tall Ships festival.
Because the bay at Grand Portage is shallow we were shuttled out to the ship for  a closer view. The Coast Guard, however, decided the general public should not board due to safety concerns. While you see some brave kids swimming in the warmer bay the deeper water is very cold. I would personally be happy to risk my safety, but I'm not the one stuck with scooping out clumsy tourists.

The Voyageurs were regularly canoeing out to the ship with their packs of fur gained from the winter's trapping activities, re-enacting the trade that was going on in the late 1700's.

Here is the some of the voyageur encampment that can be seen from the lake. Must have been well over one hundred tents.

It was a misty, moisty day with a few light showers, but in the end it cleared up for the evening dance opening with a rainbow over the bay and later illuminated by candle lanterns reminiscent of the time. We, the band, were also in period clothing provided for us if we didn't have our own. I always seem to have troubles with the provided pants, however. They always seem to have strange button configurations that take me a while to figure out which is really annoying when I have to pee, but with practice I get pretty good at it by the end of the day. Hopefully, I will have more pictures soon.

As always, click to embiggen.