Sunday, December 24, 2017

My grandfather's car

My Grandpa John was the grandfather I knew best as he was alive and on this side of the ocean when I was a youngster. He was my grandmother's third husband (unheard of except in Hollywood) and they had gotten married in the late 1940s. He was a good man, kind and generous and I don't ever remember an angry word coming from him. He was retired the whole time I knew him so he was always around when I would jump on the train and head for Baltimore. Sometimes I would go with my younger brother and sometimes my parents would drive down for the weekend, but we went there often. It was only a couple of hours drive from Wilmington.

Grandpa John was an avid gardener/landscaper and it showed around the property. The house was modern colonial, but modeled after the actual colonial era homes in the neighborhood. Some of them were nearly 200 years old at that time. I spent time there playing with the neighborhood kids, building model cars, playing chopsticks on the baby grand piano, and playing with my grandfather's old U.S. Navy radio that had been salvaged from a ship after WW2.

One of the most fun things I would do with my grandfather was to go the bakery (Silber's for the world's best cheesecake, but I think it's gone now) or take a drive down to the Baltimore harbor or Washington D.C. for the day and hang out at the Smithsonian. I would look at the dinosaurs, geology displays, aviation displays in the various museums there. It was easy to spend days in awe at all the wonders that were on display there. We went there in style, too.

We would take my Grandpa John's Mercedes down there and put the top down if it was nice. It was just a two seater from the early 50s and way cool even for a 10 year old kid. The interior was leather and the radio had at least twelve bands, I'm pretty sure. I do remember picking up Radio Moscow when I was allowed to play with it. That car had so much class that it even smelled classy. I think it was the leather which was the only leather auto interior I had experienced at that point. The dashboard was walnut. Not a stick on woodgrain decal, but real, polished walnut. It was gorgeous! The door handles were on the front of the doors and they were hinged at the back. The fenders curved like Marilyn Monroe's hips and when we went zooming by we did get some looks. Grandpa John would have it gone through and repainted every couple of years and it was always clean and pristine.

As I turned into a teenager I started to have daydreams about that car. The kind of unrealistic fantasies that a teenage boy might have about automobiles. Surfing music had brought songs about cars to the top of the heap of popular music at the time. They never replaced love songs, but they came close. My fantasy was that my grandfather would give me the car when I turned sixteen. By this time my hormones had kicked in causing all the usual angst and confusion about life and my grandparents were talking about moving to Florida permanently. They had a place down at Pompano beach that I had been to a couple of times and were likely to make the move pretty soon. When I was fifteen Grandpa John sold it. I was crushed, but of course I couldn't show that because if I had told anyone about my fantasy they would have fallen over laughing. I kept it to myself, but it was worse than any girl could have done to me at that stage of my life. I was crushed on the inside, but went on as if my teenage dreams had never happened.

I am not sure anymore, but I believe it was an early 1950s Mercedes 220 cabriolet. It was gorgeous and was one of my first loves. 

Here we are in 1961, surf fishing in Florida. I was ten and my grandfather was a bit over 60.
And once more, just because.
These are very rare, but I found a few out there on the interwebs, just to see if I could. In pristine and restored condition they are valued at between $140,000 and $240,000 if you can find one for sale. At least I got to experience such a classic at one time in my life, both my grandfather and his car.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter mornings and pottery

The long light lingers in the early morning and in the evening, too. Sometimes it is colorful and sometimes not, but it is always interesting to me. It often lasts only a few minutes and it is difficult to capture unless you are ready for it. Sometimes it is red. The bumps on the horizon are the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They are about 70 miles away. Fortunately, we are high enough and they are high enough to get over the curvature issue of living on a sphere. I'm not sure how the flat-earthers interpret that. Click to embiggen.
When the morning temperatures are around zero (-17C) the mist rises from the warmer-than-air water. When the air gets much colder and the water hasn't frozen the steam can look like small tornadoes rising from the sea. So far we haven't had any extremely cold temperatures. This was from a day or two after the first picture.
Evening light can also be dramatic, but usually it is something like this:
Pottery is over for the season (my season, anyway) and I thought I did more pieces. Then I remember tossing quite a few in the clay recycling bin so I guess it's all okay. It is always fun and I learned a few new techniques and refinements and how to salvage mistakes. I'll do some more next year.
I didn't realize I had used so much blue glaze. It is a shade of red when applied.
My fellow "student", Ann, had some commissioned work, the saucers, for an upcoming wedding somewhere around the Twin Cities. Underneath they have the names of all the people who will receive them. Ann has done things professionally and can turn out amazing quality at volumes I can't imagine. I ask her how she does it. She said after a thousand or so it gets pretty automatic. Like riding a bicycle. I still have my training wheels on. I learned a few things from her and some of the other potters that just rent space in the studio. Here is some of Ann's work. Damn, she's good!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today's news

I don't want to gloat because it is generally bad karma, yet I was and still am delighted that the people of Alabama did not choose a smarmy, constitution-denying, sexual predator/pedophile to send to the U.S. Senate.

While I try to stay away from politics and religion here for purposes of civility, I do have strong convictions. At my workplace I have to deal with people from all parts of the political and religious spectrum and getting a regular paycheck is still critical. So I keep my mouth shut. Mostly.

Lest I be accused of being a wide-eyed optimist I really do think we are making a some progress. It is always slower than we would like and it often stalls or is put on the back burner, but I think we are finally taking a few steps forward. Let's keep the momentum going and maybe we can regain some lost ground.

To quote one of the great modern philosophers, Red Green, I leave you with this:
"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Trapped and Trippers

The Cooker signed up for Netflix and since we got broadband hooked up it seems time to move into the 21st century, albeit kicking and screaming. I just went along for the ride until I was alone and took a look for the things that might interest me. While I read mostly for entertainment I latched on to a genre a number of years ago that came from my first trip to Iceland. After reading most of the translated works of Halldór Kiljan Laxness, with guidance from Professor Batty and a few others, I needed more Iceland in my life. I started reading Arnaldur Indriðason's Detective Erlendur series and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's crime novels. I was hooked. I had appreciated an occasional mystery, but now I was onto something more exotic and continued my quest into Nordic Noir which has included the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic Sea area and islands of the North Atlantic.

In real life Iceland's murder rate is practically zero, but these books have killed off a few more than that. Maybe it's the settings or the darkness that comes this time of year that adds to the mystery, I just don't know. It seems that most of the mysteries are in the harshest times, the worst winter storms, or the darkness that pervades in the winter. I digress.

I decided to watch a show that I found called Trapped. It looked interesting and was only about an hour long. I had heard of Baltasar Kormakur, the director, and recognized some of the actors from watching some things on Icelandic Cinema Online. What I didn't realize until the end of the first episode was that there were nine more 50 minute episodes to follow. Too late! I was hooked!

Set in a coastal town in East Iceland in February, The story takes place over about 5 days. A fishing boat coming into the harbor nets a plastic bag with a male torso in it, just after the ferry from Denmark passes by. This is a larger town so it has three police officers who all seem quite competent. However, they will need forensic help from Reykjavik and the police in Reykjavik want to run the investigation. Of course there is a huge blizzard that isolates the town for a few days. This isolation by weather is not unusual for towns in Iceland. This had everything in it, from human trafficking, to revenge, hate, love, mafia, arson, and more murder. It was a nightmare for this sleepy little village and it plays out beautifully. There are subtitles when the characters speak Icelandic or Danish, but there is some English spoken, as well.

The protagonist, Andri, is living with his ex in-laws and his daughters and awaits the arrival of his ex who is coming to visit with her new boyfriend. Andri hasn't let go of her yet, but he must, although his work is very intense and demanding at this time. The majestic mountains that surround the port have their own part to play in this series that had it's debut in Toronto two years ago. It looks like there will be a second season in 2018. Woohoo! I can't wait!

Here's the trailer (I hope).
If you like this kind of thing or if you're willing to give it a try, please do. You won't be disappointed. I watched it all in less than 48 hours. Guess I binged.

And now for something completely different.

If you need a little energy and can get it from a toe tapper. Here is a jig called Tripper's or Tripper's Jig. It is short and intense. Piano on the first part before the fiddle and the rest of the band kick in. It is difficult to sit still for this.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Let's go for a walk

I am currently living on a ice sheet. Being just the right elevation and distance away from The Big Lake I am in an in-between climate zone. It is a typical autumn day by the lake and a few miles farther inland and higher up there is ski-able snow in some areas. Walking is treacherous at home and I miss walking so as long I have daylight I'll head out to Croftville. It is a road that dips down off of Highway 61 just a few miles out of town and hugs the Lake Superior Shore. The Croftville Road is about a mile and a half long and is a mix of residential and Mom and Pop resort cabins. It is currently a dry and snow and ice free zone.

I parked my vehicle and started out on the blacktop (one of only a handful of paved roads in the county).
I walked past some of the nicer homes.

Some of the cabins.
Some of the yards and features.

There are still a few old sheds or, as the realtors sometimes refer to them, cozy rustic cabins.
It really is a nice place to take a walk, though, with a few nice places to look at the lake and a calm and peaceful place to take a walk, especially this time of year. Daylight is a rare commodity as it is getting light by the time I leave for work and dark when I come home. Weekends and days off are the only chance to really enjoy it, but always at the mercy of the weather. Today was cloudy, but lovely.
Even though the sky was mostly gray the drab colors of late fall didn't look too bad. Of course, Croftville is in its own "banana belt" where the lake moderates the temperature and humidity. It always tends toward cool and damp, but the lake is still warmer than the air and the humidity is offsetting the dryness of the coming winter. I was joking with one of the residents there a week or two ago telling her that I heard it only snows a couple of times per winter there which is a good thing as she drives a Prius with highway tires.

 That is the Coast Guard station in town in the distance.
The surprising thing that I had never noticed before while just taking a leisurely drive down the Croftville Road were these.

The speed limit on this road is only 20mph, but walking gives you a much better chance  to see what you have been missing. I think I'll take advantage of this road on weekends if I have to go to town or maybe after work when the days start getting longer. That may be the end of February, but at least the mosquitoes won't be an issue then and besides, I can walk faster than they can fly.
As always, click the pic to embiggen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Small Town News

News from our local "fishwrap" comes out weekly so most of the news is at least a few days old, but it is still news to most of us unless you hang out with the morning coffee guys at Buck's Hardware or the Superamerica station. Here is a brief synopsis (is that redundant?) of some stories from the Cook County News Herald.

There is a front page story this week about a meeting at the Hovland (population 272) town hall. The story starts out with, " The inside of a Siberian snowball is warmer than the Hovland town hall was on Thursday, November 9th." The blower on the furnace of the uninsulated structure had to be shut down because the blower was too loud to hear the speakers. It was 8F outside and the building cooled rapidly. The main topic of discussion was to determine what, if anything, should be done to save the crumbling Hovland dock. The dock was a hub of community activity after it was built in 1905. The general consensus was to leave it alone rather than gussy it up as a potential tourist attraction which may in turn become an attractive nuisance.

The Grand Marais Municipal Liquor store was quite profitable in 2016 with total sales of $344.4 million. How could a county of just over 5000 people drink so much? That is over $67,000 for every man, woman, and child that reside here and the average income is less than $37,000 per year. We must have a hell of an influx of summer residents and tourists and all they must do for entertainment is drink!

*Dateline: Later. The 344 million is for the entire state of Minnesota. Out local muni did 2.1 million with a $300 and some thousand profit. No wonder the numbers seemed impossible! That is only $420 for every man, woman, and child. Still, a $420 per year booze allowance for a child is a bad sign.  I stand self-corrected.

The Down Memory Lane column is one of my favorites. Since I remember some of the news from 10 and 20 years ago the more interesting perspectives are from 50 and 90 years ago. From 50 years ago, "A color television disappeared from the lobby at the Lutsen Resort last Friday evening. It was the evening before hunting season and there were a considerable number of people about. A night watchman was also on duty." It is my recollection that color television sets of that era were pretty big and hefty and I'll bet that the municipal liquor store was probably having a good year.

From 90 years ago we have these tidbits. "Helen Hedstrom sprained her thumb in physical education last Tuesday morning." Also, " H.O. Toftey has resigned his position as highway maintenance man at Tofte and is now fishing." Finally, "A man from Creech's camp was examined today before Judge A.V. Johnson as to his sanity and found to be insane." Was it the judge's turn to be examined next?

The leader in Buck's Big Buck contest turned in a deer that weighed 275 pounds dressed. That is a very large dead deer. Typically up here there are as many deer taken with vehicles as there are with guns and bows.

Not much of interest in the "Law Enforcement briefs." Mostly dead deer in the road, cell phone misdials, traffic stop warnings given, and lost hunters.

It looks like Joyne's Ben Franklin is having a 20% off sale for Black Friday. Hopefully, more than last summer's leftover clothing will be on sale.

It is early winter now and the skies have taken on "that look" they get as the days shorten. Click to embiggen.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pottery and Ice

I am back in the potter's studio again this fall. Just got started a couple of weeks ago and while I have 24 hour access to the studio I am unable to get in there more than twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. It is too bad, but that's the way the croissant crumbles. There is a fair amount of activity going on in there as there are several active potters going at it as well as the local food shelf event, Empty Bowls. There were 380 bowls made for that event that are for sale for, I believe, about $10 each. There will be lunch and dinner served (soups, stews, etc.) and bowls for sale tomorrow. All of this happening at one of the local churches. Turnout is expected to be about 450 people which is pretty impressive in a town of 1150 and the additional surrounding area.

Here are some samples of what is laying around the studio now. There are a few pieces of mine in there, but I am hard pressed to pick them out. Most of them are by people with more skill than I have at this time which is fairly awesome. I learn so much from everyone. Just a hint here and there really adds up after a while.

Here are some that are glazed and waiting to be fired.

 Here are some post-firing.
The big lake made for some interesting sculpture a few days ago. The air temperature was well below freezing for a few days, most of the week actually, and thew wind picked up for a while.

If you look closely you may notice some little red things in there. Those are mountain ash berries. Many birds eat those during the winter as they tend to stay on the trees sometimes. Here is a closer shot.
If it should get warm enough for this ice to melt it will be back later for the duration.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

It's Here!

The transition was abrupt. There were still colorful things to see and in a day or two it all changed to monochrome. Last weekend was the first significant snowfall and while it melted along the lakeshore for a few days, the snow has continued a little at a time and accumulated slowly. Once you get a half mile from the lake it doesn't melt.

I left town for a day or two last weekend and waited until later in the morning to leave. I didn't trust the road conditions. Fortunately, the main highway by the lake was only wet and driving wasn't bad although there had already been a couple of storm-related highway fatalities to the south of us.

There is (was) a railroad bridge toward the west end of the county. Over the years several trucks had been just a little too tall to get through it. A couple of months ago it was hit particularly hard. The decision from the Highway Department was to remove the offending section. It hadn't been used for about fifteen years for an actual train, so they shut down the highway for a day or two and with a very long, dirt road detour removed it. It looks different now, like a bridge to nowhere.

I got down to Duluth and while there were still some leaves on some of the trees they were being discouraged by the snow from trying to hold on to autumn.

Two days later I drove back up the shore and found that most of the snow had melted. I could still look up the hill away from the lake to see that there was still snow in the higher elevations. I just had to stop for one quick look at the Split Rock Lighthouse, though.

The snow is supposed to continue today and tomorrow so I guess it is officially winter now. I started wearing my fleece-lined jeans a couple of days ago. Here is what it is like today.

 The good news is that in about seven weeks the days will start getting longer! Woohoo!


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Projects

About 12 or 14 years ago I built a 24 x 16 pole shed out of used utility poles. It was mostly for hay storage when we were boarding horses in a more serious way and needed additional covered storage. It was built on a budget with many expenses spared. It wasn't pretty, but it was functional. You can never have too much storage space on a farm until you get older and need to thin out your stuff. I added a shed roof to the north side of the building and a short while after Stitch moved in It was determined that a small greenhouse was needed on the south side. Again, every expense was spared. There was very little actual money spent for materials and it showed, but at least it was functional and you could grow food in it for longer than you could if it was outside trying to survive on its own. The door was salvaged from a friend's remodeling project, windows were from old houses and remodel projects around the area. I bought some of the lumber new, but much was salvaged.
It ain't pretty, but it is functional. Then winter happens every year and the snow and ice fall off the roof onto the salvaged storm windows which don't use tempered glass. They break.
Here are the windows that we removed last weekend. Pretty sad.
So I was left with no south wall. A triple wide glass entry door that was being replaced by a local  homeowner came up a couple of months ago on our local ISP site. It was free for the taking, but moving a 106" x 80" door took some doing. My neighbor loaned us himself and his snowmobile trailer (he doesn't actually own any snowmobiles) and we hitched it to our truck and away we went. It was a monster to move, but we did it and brought it home.
Basically, it is three 3' wide insulated glass doors in one large frame. After the removal of the old windows and reframing for the "new" glass we were ready to install it.
Using the tractor to lift it over to where it need to be and with the help of my neighbors, Rich and Heather, and my friend Yvonne, we managed to get it in. No, it didn't go smoothly and we had to raise the top part of the frame because someone (guess who?) measured incorrectly. It was a quick fix and with the strength, determination, and wisdom (thank you friends and neighbors) we got it installed!
I'll seal it up against the weather, put some snowguards on the roof to keep the snow and ice up there until I can remove it safely, and wait until spring to put it back in service. I am really tired now.

In other news, Dakota is back for the winter while his owners  go off to suffer in Arizona until about May. He is an easy horse to deal with and he has spent a lot of time here, so he knows the routines. Yes, his eyes are blue.
Remember the maple tree in the backyard and all its beautiful colored leaves? Here it is today, nearly naked with its leaves on the ground. We know what comes next.