Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's The Time Of The Season

Our recent trip to visit the Ambassadors took us to several rural-type spots, as well as the more metropolitan haunts of the Twin Cities. One particular spot, Aamodt's Apple Farm, in Stillwater, was a festival of apples of many kinds. We couldn't help but bring back sacks full of Honeycrisp and (Monkey's new favorite) Keepsake apples, and we also loaded up with new candidates for pie-making, the Haralson.

This evening, Monkey and I sampled a fresh Haralson pie. It was awesome. I usually mix two apples together in my pies, one sweet and one tart. Haralson's are mostly tart, but this single apple pie is a winner.

We have enough apples for at least one more pie, which I may make next week. I might try a sweeter crust recipe. You know me...always experimenting.

Stay tuned for the results.
(Apple photo courtesy of Ms. Huntington's Webpage.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tires, Fowl, and Taxidermy

As I am on Fall break, it was a better idea for me to take the Civic in for new tires than for Monkey to do it. After all, when I checked my calendar, today yawned with a galactic emptiness. When Monkey checked her calendar, she had an eye doctor's appointment (and some other stuff). Of course, that all changed when a co-worker invited me out to lunch with a crew. Mind you, this was no ordinary lunch, either, we were all bound for Unadilla (home of Unadilla Bill), for a chicken dinner at The Bar. I would meet my lunch mates at a local restaurant parking lot, from which we would make the not-too-long drive out to the east.

So, I drove up to the tire place to have four new tires (that Monkey had already ordered and paid for) put on the car. Lo and behold (I am still not completely clear on directions and locations around here) the tire place is right next to the restaurant where I was to meet up with everybody. I figured I could just roll the car from one little parking lot to the restaurant's big parking lot with little fanfare and be off when the time came. I dropped off the car and walked over to a coffee shop/bakery for a croissant, some coffee, and an hour of reading.

Two pages into my reading material, Monkey called me. The tire place had ordered the wrong tires. I'd have to come back some other time. I finished my coffee, marked my page, and picked up the car.

In hindsight, I could have stayed in the coffee shop for a half hour and then went to get the car. Then, I could have simply rolled over to the restaurant. But I didn't do that. I drove home, sat around for twenty minutes, and then drove back out to the restaurant. Stupid and wasteful, I know.

At the parking lot, I piled in with five other teachers and we rolled over to Unadilla (pop. 350ish). The Bar (the actual name of the bar where we had the chicken) was hopping for lunch. And we were by far the youngest patrons on this bright and breezy Tuesday. And the food was good and cheap. Where else are you going to get three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, lemonade, lemon meringue pie (not awesome) and a cup of coffee for $8.50? That's right, some other small town in Nebraska. But, today, we got it in Unadilla.

And, in a touching (for me) extra to the day's journey, as I paid my tab at the cash register, I saw, above me on a shelf of honor, the preserved carcass of Unadilla Bill, the most famous groundhog in all of Nebraska. It was a beautiful moment, I must say.

Photo from The Omaha World Herald, accessed at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time Flies Like an Arrow (Fruit Flies Like a Banana)

The title of today's post is attributed to a master of linguistic humor, Groucho Marx. Another favorite of mine from him: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Funny, huh?

This is the last week of term one. Finals begin on Thursday. It has been a whirlwind start to the school year, some of which has been documented here. I will be glad to have a full quarter of the school year behind me, and I look forward to a week-long break (which includes a short trip to Minneapolis this weekend!).

As well, Sunday next brings us All Hallows Eve, the night before, yes, that's right, my friends, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. I will be playing along, again this year. I invite all three of you to join me. It really is a wonderful thing to just zone out and write...try it!

That's all I got for now. Dinner time is upon us, and I am in need of some grub.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

O Captain, My Captain!

This is not the kind of news to start a day with, but I must make note of the passing of 80s wrestling icon (and video actor) "Captain" Lou Albano. Growing up, I don't think I ever saw Albano actually wrestle, he just barked into the mike and made wierd faces at the camera, but he was a huge personality in that world. In addition, he forever linked himself with 80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, appearing in her video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Just add Lou to the list of pop culture icons heading to the big mansion in the sky, lately.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Grover Day

I can't help but feel like this some days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Psychedelic Presence Shining in the Park

In the chill of an early October morning, dark except for the glow of streetlights and their reflections on the low-hanging clouds spitting rain above, a vehicle navigates its way through the desolate streets. Its headlights peel back the night before it, as it passes a hedgerow on one side and a burnt out lamp on the other. Suddenly (as is always the case) a small brown rabbit leaps from the hedge, looking to make it safely to the other side of the street. It swiftly penetrates the cone of light before the vehicle, and, in that moment, frightened and naturally skittish, it realizes that the large black tires of the vehicle are about to crush it. In a split second, it redirects its course just enough to avoid being pancaked, but its back leg has been caught. The momentum of the wheel spins the rabbit up and over, around at a blink-of-an-eye speed. It lands flat on its chest and rolls away from the car. It hops, at first, back toward the hedge, then, realizing that is not its intended destination, it again turns abruptly and zigzags across the street. Safely in the grass, it surveys the damage: a broken leg, broken ribs, probably some internal damage. The prognosis is not good.

Is the moral of this story that we should stay committed to our intentions, even if it means getting crushed under the balding treads of fate? After all, the rabbit’s end is the same—perhaps quicker under the tire than panting in the grass. Or is the moral that we should look both ways before we cross? Is it that speed kills, or that a five pound rabbit has little chance to survive an encounter with a 1000 pound vehicle?

Whatever the metaphor, Matt Bauer might not only see it for what it is, but he’d most likely turn it into an atmospheric song for voice and free time banjo.

Opening for Jolie Holland last night at the Waiting room, Bauer and banjo (or guitar) lulled the audience into attentiveness with an achingly earnest voice and minimalist fingering that sketched metaphor after metaphor involving buffalo, horse, fox, and mouse, alike. Joined for three numbers by Holland and her musical partner Grey Gerston, Bauer’s fleshed out compositions were no less starkly beautiful. And Holland got into the animal act by regaling the small crowd with an amusing joke about two whales sitting in a bar.

Bauer finished his set solo, then thanked the crowd for listening. Unlike many openers, he’d captured the attention of the crowd for his entire set (except for the sloppily drunk quartet in the corner who had lost the ability to modulate their voices at all); this may have been a function of his imposingly shaved head or his fiercely long beard, but, most likely, it was his heartfelt songs, his dancing cascades (or soporific drones) of notes , and his Bonnie Prince Billy-like ability to tell a story of rending from which we can not turn our ears.

After a brief pause for Gerston to tune a few instruments and stock the stage with water and wine, the headliner took the stage—just she and her musical mate—to play a languid and low-key set. The musicians had driven themselves from Denver, where they played the night before, and they looked a bit road weary, but the endearingly partisan crowd was full of encouragement. The set list, about an hour-long, included “Littlest Birds,” “Goodbye California,” “Old-fashioned Morphine,” “Alley Flowers,” and a few others, old and new. In addition, Holland played a cover of David Dondero’s “Real Tina Turner,” and a pair from Michael Hurley (one of which Gerston took the vocal lead on).

While Grey Gerston moved easily from solid-body to hollow-body to bass guitars, Holland was doing the same, as she occasionally laid her beautiful flat black Epiphone down to scratch beautifully on a uniquely-shaped fiddle. The instrumental variation aside, the key instrument to the evening was Holland’s voice, a slurry, sultry, trembling trademark that sounds less like it comes from her lungs than directly from her heart. And last night, despite the bone- and road-weariness, Holland’s voice sounded flawless. She has a sweet gift.

As well, she seems a sweet human being. In between songs, as she tuned her guitar, Holland mentioned that last time she was through town someone had given her a bracelet. “Kim?” she asked to the crowd. There, two rows back, Kim raised her hand. Holland was still wearing the bracelet. And, as can happen at some shows, this sweet exchange stayed a constant.

As Holland stumbled twice through the beginning bars of “The Future,” a song she clearly doesn’t play often live (and is played originally on piano—not guitar), but was, she said, “A request,” the crowd was at its most snuggly sweet. Holland apologized, only to be greeted from a shout from the crowd.

“That’s okay—just more show for us!”

Holland finished up her set and thanked the crowd for being “so freaking sweet.” After whale jokes, smoked-honey-dripping melodies, and earnest musical gaffes, the crowd had the same to say about her.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Free Breakfast!

Monkey and I are off to local restaurant, Venue, to sample their new breakfast menu...for free. Our reservations are for 10:30, so I gotta go. I'll give you a review later, perhaps.

Hooray for free breakfast!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

This was the view from our back porch this morning (notice the white stuff covering the grass).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bad Sports

A rough day for Missouri sports fans yesterday, as Matt Holiday booted the game-ending out, giving the Trolley Dodgers a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Being down 0-2 with your best pitchers waiting their next turn is not a good position for the Redbirds to find themselves in. Let's hope they can mine Busch Stadium for some comeback magic of their own.

As that game was coming to a drastic close, the Tigers were taking on the Huskers in a deluge of biblical proportions. The conditions, perhaps, led to one of the worst three quarters of football I have ever seen, albeit three quarters at the end of which the Tigers held a seemingly solid 12 point lead.

Then, the game took a turn the likes of which I may have only witnessed one other time in my life (2000 NFL season--Jets comeback from 30-7 4th quarter deficit to win in OT over Dolphins), as the Huskers scored three times in three and a half minutes to take the game from a Mizzou team that played really good defense for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, they were playing a team that played really good defense for 60 minutes.

The baseball result is hurtful, but, I must say that the football result really made my life easier. There was a moment, during the 3rd quarter, with Nebraska playing terribly on offense and trailing 12-0, when I thought about calling in sick today, since I didn't want to be around a bunch of miserable people. A Nebraska victory, even one preceded by 45 minutes of ineptitude, really put a spring in my co-workers' steps. So, I hope that my friends in CoMO can be magnanimous enough to see the positives in last night's stunning loss.

And, as I have said before, Sunday, I am going to see Jolie Holland!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Arts and Humanities and Man's Inhumanity to Man (In the Form of a Sporting Event)

A big weekend is brewing here at Central Standard. After navigating another week of shepherding the churlen through the world of critical thinking, close reading, and developed writing, Monkey and I will be heading to a local book store to hear former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser read from his latest. Monkey is especially excited about this, since she has been desultorily stalking the diminutive Mr. Kooser since we landed in this burgh. Since it is Friday, this reading will most likely be followed by an 8pm "lights out" call and some fitful sleep.'s so tragic (for us, not Kooser...although it might be tragic for him, I don't know).

Sunday will take us to Omaha, where we will see the unique-voiced Jolie Holland at the always intimate Waiting Room. It will be our first opportunity to see Ms. Holland live. She came through last year at about this time, but previous travel plans made it near to impossible to see her. I anticipate this show with the same eagerness that I might await Okkervil River...yes, I like her that much.

Of course before all of this, there is the big showdown tomorrow night, as the Huskers travel to CoMO to take on the alma mater in a little American football contest. I am sort of torn about this game. Obviously, for reasons of personal pride, I'd like to see the Tigers continue their winning ways against the scarlet and cream of Nebraska. However, the devastation that such a loss might cause among the Husker faithful in these parts makes me kind of hope that Nebraska prevails. It will make dealing with my co-workers a much less maudlin experience.

But, either way, I am seeing Jolie Holland on Sunday, so it's all good!

Jolie Holland photo from: One Way Magazine
Ted Kooser photo from: Writing Time

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Most Brilliant Plan!

Another long week (and it's only Tuesday) got me to thinking about alternate plans...