Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Story about Story, Wyoming

I promised more details about my family reunion in Story, Wyoming, so here goes. The trip out and back was a big deal, my first big trip on a motorcycle, which I haven't yet climbed back on. Our trip took me out to Whitewood, SD, where other family members were gathering, and while they headed straight for Story, I headed north through Aladdin, Alva, and Hulett to Devil's Tower, a beautiful drive that ended with cruising up to the gigantic rock formation that I first visited years ago with a couple of juvenile delinquent hitchhikers. There I met my brother and his wife, and we ate at a place that offered such a deal (Come on in and eat before we both starve!) and cruised from there to Gillette, where we turned north and zipped along through desolate country at ramming speed, passed through construction projects and over gravel to finally appear in Story, a beautiful town on the edge of the mountains.
There the Moodys and the Nelsons told stories, played crazy golf, horseshoes and golf, fished in the streams, and enjoyed each others' company until Sunday afternoon when we all headed home again, some sticking around to celebrate my aunt Peggy's 80th birthday.
The golfing turned out to be more enjoyable than many people thought, with players making their own primitive clubs, then drawing for one of the many to use in the game.
Story's a beautiful place, and it was good to see my crazy redneck cousins and my siblings (all but three), but I was very glad to get home again, just in time for school to start.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Long and (Not Always) Winding Road

My long Wyoming journey ended today after having ridden all the way from Gillette, WY, to Madison, SD, in the rain, some of it with my brother Jess and his wife Rena, who turned for home at Moorcroft, WY. The area needed the moisture; I didn't. This pic is of the crossing at the Cheyenne River out in western SD. Call it "Landscape with Motorcycle." I'll say more about the journey later. I need to dry my boots. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 25, 2006

Motorcycle Diaries: Ain't That a Shane

Those who are looking to South Dakota as an alternative power source had a good example of the potential yesterday as the wind came howling out of the north all evening just as I was making my motorcycle debut as a traveler. It wasn't pretty, as I spent much of the last 60 miles leaned into the wind all along the highway, cruising north along the white-capped river. I came west on 34 across central SD and crossed the river at Ft. Thompson, then up 1806, which was under construction, so I got to try the bike on rutted dirt and gravel.
My short-range tank had me worried, since I didn't gas up in Ft. Thompson and was burning through fuel heading straight into the wind. I didn't think I'd make it, so I stopped at the Goose Camp near Durkin's to try and scavenge some gas, and though the tribe's shop was open, nobody was there, but minutes later Big Shane Durkin cruised in and we got a chance to talk until Mike Ludemann pulled up. They got me topped off and I headed out.
Big Shane found great humor in the state of my saddlebags, since they had settled down on to the tailpipes and burned through the plastic bottom and burned some of the baggage. I had noticed this earlier and stopped and put out my smoldering socks and a pair of jeans that the pipe had burned through, but it took Shane to notice the comic hilarity in the situation. Thanks, Shane!
I will try to keep my sense of humor intact as I continue westward.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Student Who Made My Day

After meetings this morning and a good lunch with colleagues, working our way into the semester's beginning gradually, I met with a student, one of my advisees, whose progress toward a degree has been spotty and lacking direction, but sometimes marked with notable success. He's trying to get enrolled and on track for completing his degree, but he's not sure about what direction to point himself. I encouraged him, working through some of the possibilities and opportunities he has before him, the promise of more money and a better life that any bachelor's degree will give him. We looked for some time at options and talked about his goals, and he seemed bouyed by the options he had before him. When he left, he told me, "You made my day."
That was enough. I had reached him in the place where he was, drew him out of that, and showed him a better way. And, with that, he had completed the circle, offering me something I wanted too. I'm ready for my next student visitor!

The Presence of Grace in Platte, South Dakota

Night came on to Platte, SD, as those of us in the back of the library, sipping coffee and savoring the novel Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, shared our views and compared versions of our reading. We talked about grace, and forgiveness, and the parable of the prodigal son. We considered the implications of predestination, or the lack of it, and how the characters in the story seek each others' aid and their understanding.
On the drive down to Platte I considered the discussion to come and therefore called my brother to wish him well as he considers returning to school at 48.
After the talk we shared some delicious peach kuchen and apple tart and I learned that one participant's daughter had been my student a few years ago, one whose essay about her drill sargeant has stayed with me. And on the way home I listened for the first time to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, playing "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" over again as I neared home, the spattered remains of insects decorating my windshield.
I'm left with the kindness of those who stopped on their way out of the discussion to thank me for coming, one elderly woman's graceful gesture lingering all the way home.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Summer's Last Days

Here we are on a Sunday night, just before the school year begins--not classes yet, but workshops and get-togethers, updates and new arrivals, changes and more of the same. Tomorrow begins with a breakfast for faculty and staff, then meetings.
But the weather this time of the year is my favorite--warm days and cool nights, crickets at night and cicadas during the day, the smell of harvest, the end of summer overlapping with the anticipation and hope that the new year offers. Add to that the harvest of other people's gardens, and you've got a real delight, not only fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and melons, but also a possiblity that a beauty like this might come along, the world's most beautiful eggplant, being set in a place of honor by the beautful hands of the wife.

Tomorrow we face the new school year, and I take a trip down to Platte for an evening with the Platte Latte Book Club to discuss Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gettin' with Junior Brown's Guit-Steel

Junior Brown, who's playing at the Bob Dylan concert on Sept. 8 (for which I have tickets) has been the headlights in my nighttime mirror all day. Here's a video I found of him playing with Redd Voelkert and Jimmy Vaughan live at Antone's in Austin on July 26, 2006. This was the encore, where Junior invited friends who were there to play and they joined him onstage for a 10 minute jam. Lucky lucky me!

Nothing Like Feeling Appreciated

At first we thought the perk was just free tickets to the Canaries game, and we were happy to get that, but LO! we enjoyed far more than that. First, the packet with tickets included free beer coupons, two per ticket, a coupon for a free baseball for each person, and another coupon for a program. That's not all. We also enjoyed free brats, pork sandwiches, and hot dogs and all the fixin's, including chips and drinks. Finally, since it was JB's birthday (close enough), and his daughter informed the Canaries crew, we enjoyed the singing condiments you see pictured here, accompanied by Cagey. We got birthday cake served to us from Cold Stone Creamery. Game recap is here.
It was also "Two Dead Fat Guys" day at the park, commemorating the demise of Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley on this date in history, and many Elvis impersonators were in attendance. The concession stands featured a deep-fried mashed-banana/peanut butter sandwich honoring Elvis. That's a sorry excuse for a Babe impersonator next to Cagey in the photo.
If you've never been to a minor league game, you're missing some of the most fun you can have at a game. The major leagues, college, high-school, children's and even amateur baseball take the game far more seriously than the minors do. The Canaries slogan "Fun is Good" sums up their attitude, and it shows. Antics abound, and activities run through the night. On this night, there were barrel races on bouncy stuffed ponies, dizzy-guy barrel rolling, chase the chicken (a young woman caught him and won two tickets for the Dylan concert), a kid homerun contest (hitting wiffle balls into the stands), trivia contests, and a "catch this chicken in your pants" contest. You had to be there; I've mentioned only a sampling. They played a snippet from an appropriate song for each opposing player ("Brian's Song" for Brian, "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" for Nick). But the big event was giving away a 1995 Dodge Intrepid. A woman came to the game for the fun and drove home in a new (to her) car.
And this is all during the game. It was too bad that the Canaries lost 6-2 to the St. Paul Saints, but we had a good time anyway. Thank you, First Premier Bank, for hosting DSU employees and their guests! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Summer with Baseball

During my high school days the summers were filled with work, either on a ranch where I rode horses, fixed fence, or drove a tractor, or in town where I helped build the Stanley County Fairgrounds or did some other job. Meanwhile, many of my classmates spent a lot of time on the ballfield. Baseball has never had a great appeal to me, although one fall in Rapid City, I had a roommate, Keith Stern, from Chamberlain, who loved it, and his commentary during the game helped nurture some appreciation. But I did little other than try to catch a game in the World Series and a few games by the college teams. I did see the Royals play once in Kansas City, until this last weekend the only professional sporting event that I had been to. But this summer I've been to several softball games, this weekend's Twins game, and tonight a game at the Birdcage in Sioux Falls to see the Canaries play. What's the world coming to?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bob at the Birdcage

Here's the skinny. I just ordered tickets for the wife and me to see Bob Dylan in Sioux Falls at the Canaries Birdcage on September 8. Come with us! But get your own tickets. Jimmie Vaughan, Junior Brown, Elana James & The Continental Two are also playing. Cool!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mainlining the Mall

After long proclaiming that I had no desire to go to the Mall of America and truthfully stating that I had never been there, and then, after last year, saying I'd only been there once, now I have to shut my trap. I've been there three times. I've also been to a Twins game, though I've never seen them win, and I've been to an event in the Metrodome, where, apparently, the feature attraction is Joe Mauer's butt. All that, and with my first time playing Extreme Bocce, it's like I'm spinning in place with the novelty of life. Even the trip home was novel, with a big question mark hovering over the Maxima as we followed 42 west until we found 169 south, where we shopped for apples and bought fudge instead, then detoured into Minnesota Harvest territory on the trail of peaches (only to be disappointed) and emerged in St. Peter, where we cruised the campus at Gustavus Adolphus. We drove through the dark listening to MPR and finally arrived home where over two inches of rain had fallen in our absence.
I also earned the right to be called, briefly, Lord and Master, reigning supreme in the bowling category with daughter, CA, and sontwo. The former Lord and Master was reluctant to forego his title.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Apple Valley Update

Bocci ball has never seen its like with the extreme version played by some of those who claim Apple Valley as residence. Some there wait until dark, fling the little yellow ball as far as they can, over picnic tables, roadways, and trees, up hills and down ravines, and then strain their muscles to score points by heaving and miraculously having your ball land near, or even hit, the target ball (sometimes only to face confrontational discussion over which ball is nearer). I don't think the rules are exactly those proposed by the World Bocce League.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

That First Taste of Sand

The new sandbox at the 4H grounds in Howard gave a few toddlers a chance to try out fun in the sand. This little guy might not have minded the flavor, but the grit in his new teeth was a shock to his system. Watching these kids struggle with their earth-moving chores was more fun than any of the scheduled events, even though there was a rodeo component to the showmanship events. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lapping Up Profits the Talladega Way

In my last post I mentioned that we'd been to see "Talladega Nights," the new movie with Will Ferrell, and since my daughter, probably most faithful of my blog readers, asked what I'd thought of it, I told her, or tried to, and will do so here perhaps more successfully.
My problem is that I'd hoped it would successfully lampoon some of the extreme points of view taken by those we've begun to associate with the Nascar crowd (not that I think it's fair to do so). Throw in some commentary on homophobia, hard-headed religious beliefs, commercialism, declining family values, and international relations, and see how it mixes with the back-slapping, lead-foot, drinkin' and drivin', my country right or wrong crowd. But I don't think it was successfully connecting this lampooning with its audience.
Some of it I liked. Will Ferrell is a funny guy, and he's willing to go the extra mile for the laughs, putting himself and any dignity aside, as in a scene where he runs around the track clad only in his whitey tighteys and his helmet after a wreck. I laughed right along with all the little kids, just like I did when in "Elf" he similarly was silly and innocent. I've seen the "Saturday Night Live" episodes too where Ferrell plays an excellent and hilarious George Bush, and I suspect he's got some critical views of the president's stands.
But if the film is satire, that is, if it means to illustrate the weaknesses of the behaviors depicted, then I'm not sure it works. I need an example here. In one scene a gay Frenchman says he's going to break Ricky Bobby's arm if Ricky doesn't say he likes crepes, or at least thin pancakes--a reasonable compromise, says Cal, Ricky's lifelong "Shake and Bake" buddy and fellow driver. Ricky refuses, partly because the Frenchman is gay, and Jean breaks Ricky's arm. As Ricky is about to faint, he comments on how homosexuality is wrong, ending with a word to Cal: "I love you, buddy." Or words to that effect.
Get it? If it's satire, then you need to get it. You need to hear the enjambment of one kind of love and the other. But I don't think viewers did get it. It's like someone not realizing you're being sarcastic. You've got to explain, or they think you're a fool.
Anyway, I wanted this to be brief. But there were other troubles. Watching Ricky's sons badmouth their grandfather early in the movie was painful in a funny kind of way.
The wife says Ferrell was more often going for the quick and easy laugh, rather than crafting a scene that was funny and telling. I agree. But I do think there's some commentary on contemporary American culture, and I think it's worth seeing, noticing where the film complicates the issues, and yet still keeps the viewer interested.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Walk in the Woods

It's easy to love a day like today, a cool morning, a gradually appearing sun warming into the afternoon to make all things possible, including a walk at the lake, where I brought my trusty pocket camera and took a few more pictures before the thing destructs like the cheap piece of crap it is. In the meantime, I like having a pocket camera.
The day also included church services, where PW reminded us to shake off the grudges we all bear and open our arms to our fellow strugglers. Then lunch with J, M, and DB to celebrate D's birthday tomorrow and try out M's smokin' new guitar and amp.
Then some lounging about, talking, and a walk at the lake that included some young adults poking at a dead mammal on the road for fun. Otherwise very nice, and I got a chance to show the wife the tree that didn't try to kill me after all.
Finally, we went out and saw the new Will Ferrell movie, about which I will probably have more to say later. Right now I'm trying to think more about Marilynne Robinson's book Gilead, which is incompatible with the kind of crude humor, violence, and commercialism in the film. So I'll return to that novel and let the commentary on the Nascar whoopee sit on the back burner.
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Humping It Through the Week

The Smith-Zimmermann Museum, of which yours truly stands as board member, vice president of the Lake County Historical Society, had an excellent day today as a couple hundred people showed up for our annual auction, raising about $20,000 for our endowment. Hoo-rah! Most of the items came from Charles Wiedeman, who donated his household goods and two vehicles. Excellent weather and quality items brought out the folks who paid generously for the stuff we'd hauled out of his house and collected from area contributors.
With that done, the Society members breathed a sigh of relief, as the Chautauqua and this auction have kept us hopping recently.
What did I buy? After intense bidding, I managed to snag this cool statue of DSU's fearless leader, General William Henry Harrison Beadle. So what if it needs my crafty attention? I can now return the bust of the General to his old office, now mine.
So what else has been going on? TQ and LS came for beverages last evening, I sent off some Ebay goods that I sold, I got books ordered for classes, I sent off thank-you letters for Chautauqua volunteers and contributors, the wife and I took a trip to Sioux Falls for shopping purposes, I gave some rides on the Magna to three Japanese young men from Tamagawa University (none of whom had ridden on a motorcycle before and one of whom couldn't help squealing like a girl every time I hit the throttle), I got a couple of runs in, I visited with JS after a long day working on the auction, and I visited EJ who showed me what was new with his hot rods. Busy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Take My Camera Running

Okay, so they aren't great pictures. But I can stuff the camera in my shorts and nobody notices. Today the heat wave broke and it rained and everyone backed away from the knife drawers and gun cabinets and sighed in relief, happy with the long rain, the cool evening, and the crickets. And running in the rain is a treat after so much heat. I took my new little camera on my run with me this morning and snapped a few shots. In some ways the photos have a strange kind of war-zone quality, as though I were smuggling them through the mullahs in the cavity of a camel tooth, hoping the west would soon learn of the tragedy of truck wheels in the creek bed, a newly discarded TV face down in the pool of water.
How, I wonder, does someone decide, "I have this TV. I think I will throw it into the bed of the creek!" Maybe they've seen other TV's in other creeks and appreciated the concept. Maybe they'd seen other household appliances and considered, "What this creek could really use now is a TV!" So they load up their TV in the trunk of their car, bring is specially to this creek, and heave it over the fence into the water.
Maybe they've watched Letterman's crew throwing appliances off the roof of a tall building, so they hit the back alley with a satisfying smash, glass and fragments of plastic flying. So they drag this old TV out to the creek, hoist it over their heads thinking of that satisfying whollop, and then heave it over the barbed wire, only to have it plop into the muck. Maybe that's satisfying enough.
More satisfying, I suspect, than watching the corn turn brown, way too early, with the recent rain too late to save it.

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