We were in Louisville! My father-in-law was attending a "green-industry" conference (lawn care, landscaping, arborculture, etc) and receiving a major award from Lawn & Landscape Magazine, so we (and a bunch of other folks) decided to make a family weekend of it. MBH's mom, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins drove or flew in, including the Kentucky arm of her family (based in Lexington).
On Friday, after flying in and attending the award ceremony, we went out to eat with a huge group at Vincenzo's, an Italian place that was fantastic. I think half the table (including myself) had veal in one form or another, and there was virtually no food left on any plates by the time they were cleared. Dessert was a little show of its own: strawberries foster, prepared tableside (of course), accompanied by constant patter from the ebullient serving captain, Garry.
The next day MBH and i got to hang out for the afternoon with our pals Temple and Lucie and their one-year-old Kemp ("Kempie"). T&L used to live in the Boston area, but decided that it was too crazy expensive, and moved to Louisville (Temple's original stomping ground) in time for Kempie's arrival. Lucie works from home (or a coffeeshop), doing publication design and whatnot. Temple's an architect, currently at Tucker Booker Donhoff + Partners; TBD primarily does shopping centers and stuff, but their main office (which we got to see) is a LEED-certified building that the firm designed.
We had a very good time in Louisville. My only gripe is that the people who live there say the city's name funny.
Our friend Brian is a printmaker/publisher over on the little island. Last night was the print release for a piece Brian did with artist Todd Hebert: Todd, it turns out, grew up in North Dakota, as did i. Brian asked whether we had lived anywhere near each other -- not really.
The New York Supper Club met again last night. Well, OK, it's really just My Better Half and myself, and friends Jess & Mike and Keren & Adam. This month Keren and Adam selected Curry Leaf, which was yummy, inexpensive (for Manhattan), and relaxed.
Last night My Better Half and i met up with friends Abby and Josh at Empanada Mama before heading over to Terminal 5 to see the Shins. Once again Josh picked a winner on the restaurant front: we all enjoyed our deeleeshos empanadas.
Terminal 5 is (i think) a new venue in New York, a bit larger than the old ballrooms that are my favorites. The sound quality is a little sub-par, especially when it gets loud (though still much better than, say, the Middle East). The Shins put on a fun show as always. Highlights: a slow(er) version of "New Slang"; an encore cover of Pink Floyd's "Breathe".
My Better Half gave me two great birthday presents. First, a Monda sculpture and photograph ("From a Silk Purse") that i've loved since i first saw it at Keith's first New York show. Second, knowing that i love Indian food and that we don't eat it as often as i might like, MBH did some legwork and found Spicy Mina in Flushing, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal with Keith & Beth, Karin & Alex, and Josh and Abby. I took home a good birthday haul, too, including one of the first bottles of rye whiskey made in New York state since Prohibition.
Our friends Eling and Dane were in town last night, so My Better Half and i met them for dinner on the little island. We foolishly had never eaten anywhere in the Korean strip on West 32nd Street, so we popped into a place called Pho32 & Shabu, which (as its name and location imply) serves up Vietnamese pho and Japanese shabu-shabu for a primarily Korean crowd. Thankfully the menu is in both Korean and English.
Now, i know that many of my faithful readers have been eating shabu-shabu since they wore swaddling clothes, but this was my first time, so i was pretty excited. It's got some of the same make-your-own-meal appeal (or lack thereof, i suppose, for some) as Korean barbecue: you get a bowl of broth simmering on a hotplate, some very thinly sliced raw meat, and a big plate of veggies, bean curd, and fish cakes to play with. It's a very fun thing to do with a small table-full of friends -- an "interactive meal" as Eling described it -- and a bit easier on the stomach than, say, an enormous fondue.
I've been enjoying the old-timey photo-blog "Shorpy" for a while now. They often feature photos of New York City from the early 20th century, and it's amusing to check out what's changed and what hasn't.
Wednesday: My Better Half and i flew to Los Angeles, arriving around noon. She headed to the Galerie, while i finished a day's work by the hotel pool. Later i swung by the new gallery space myself for a sneak peek at the show, and MBH and i joined Eric and Rob (the gallery's tech guy and general fixer) for dinner at Sky Bar (meh).
Thursday: Another day of work and another visit to the gallery, this time for the inaugural opening of Galerie Mourlot Los Angeles! The gallery space is very nice (and very large, compared to the New York location), including some nicely landscaped outdoor space. Keith's work looked great as usual, especially the four-panel "Double Crossing Yourself" (about half-way down this page).
The customary post-opening dinner took place next door at Il Piccolino, an Italian restaurant run by a French-speaking Belgian that serves a fantastic steak frite -- as if the restaurant were made specifically for Eric.
Friday: After more pool-side work, MBH and i hooked up with friends Ivan and Sarah for dinner at Hugo's, which Ivan had billed (correctly) as "healthy food that tastes good". Then we headed back to their place to hang out with them and Twiggy the pug, and play some games on the Wii; MBH struck me several times with the Wii controller, but i didn't take it personally.
Saturday: MBH and i met Ivan at the poured-concrete studio where he's working (and becoming a partner), making counter tops and an ever-increasing assortment of other things. (Some cool concrete vases of Ivan's were on display at Keith's opening.) It's amazing to see what all can be done with that stuff, and great to see Ivan excited about what directions the studio might go.
For lunch we met up with Sarah at one of LA's crazy shopping malls and ate in the food court, which puts most American fast food to shame. A bowl of brown rice, chicken, and vegetable curry, with vegetables that are actually fresh -- mmmmmm.
Back at Ivan & Sarah's, Ivan beat me at Scrabble (barely), while MBH and Sarah went shopping. We watched the Red Sox start winning game 2 of the ALCS... Then Ivan & Sarah went to see Morrissey's "last" performance, while MBH & I returned to our hotel to ...watch the Red Sox lose game 2. Then to bed.
Sunday: We met Ivan and Sarah for brunch at Frank's Coffee Shop, which proves that even a greasy eggs and corned-beef hash breakfast can be made healthier on the west coast without compromising deliciousness. Then they dropped us off at the airport, where we met up with Keith and Beth and flew back home.
Where it finally feels like October, thank goodness.
Monday: first day on the new job. Lots of introductions, admin stuff, getting set up on the tool chain. Lunch: Indian buffet! Lunch may be the only redeeming factor for an office physically located in Silicon Valley.
Tuesday: second day of work. More paperwork. Getting into the rhythm of things. Lunch: Vietnamese (pho). Dinner: burritos in the Mission with friends Dave & Marlene. Mmmmm... California burritos...
Wednesday: day three. Finally ditch the part of the tool chain that's been giving me the most grief and is not strictly necessary. Lunch: more pho (different place).
Wednesday night: dinner with friend Phil at Kitsho in Cupertino. Sushi chef and owner Howard serves up better sushi than i've ever had before. Also: real grated wasabi, which i'd never tasted before. Wow. If you like sushi and you're ever in that area, sit at the counter and take whatever the chef gives you.
Then, the red-eye back home.
Thursday: stopped by the gallery for the Anthony Fisher opening. Still exhausted from the red-eye, so My Better Half had to attend Eric's customary post-show dinner alone.
Saturday: MBH & i saw "Love Sucks", a "punk-rock musical" co-written by friend Matt's brother Stephen. Kind of a cross between Hedwig and Grease. Lighthearted and fun. Visited briefly with Matt & Amy (down for the weekend from the Boston area) and some of Matt's/Stephen's family.
Sunday: MBH & i visited a couple Open House New York sites with friends Josh & Abby; i wish i had been paying better attention sooner, there were some very interesting things we could have seen, including the substation at our subway stop in Brooklyn.
We met up with Matt & Amy & Harry the welsh terrier for an early dinner, and then called it a night.
Saturday night we made dinner and Keith and Beth came over. Last week's kaddo was so good i decided to make it again, along with a new biryani recipe. My Better Half decided to break out the china, just for fun. And this time, i got pitchas!
The pumpkin, all covered in sugar: The pumpkin, fresh from the oven: A big bowl of vegetable biryani (much better than last week's): A place of delicious food (my culinary skills are surpassing my photographic capabilities): And, MBH made cupcakes for dessert!
If you live in the vicinity of Cambridge or San Francisco (or maybe Baltimore?) and you don't know the Helmand restaurant, then you should familiarize yourself with it immediately. Helmand makes Afghan food that is unbelievably good. It's one of the things i miss most from my time in the Boston area; there's good Afghan food to be had in New York, but so far i haven't found anything like Helmand.
Whenever i visit Helmand, i make sure to have at least a little bit of kaddo ("kadoo"), a sweet pumpkin dish served with a yogurt sauce and optionally a meat sauce. It is a strong candidate for Most Delicious Thing There Is To Eat. (After all, it is orange in color, and we all know the simple rule that Orange Food Tastes Good.)
My Better Half got it into her head that i should try to make kaddo at home, which proposal immediately was seconded by myself. It didn't take much searching to find this recipe, which claims to have originated at Helmand itself. I stopped at Whole Foods to get some sugar pie pumpkins, filled a couple holes in our spice collection, and got to work.
The hardest part was peeling the pumpkin pieces, but it's the kind of task i'll get a lot better at with practice. (I used a vegetable peeler; i'm not deft enough with a knife to do that kind of work without losing too much delicious pumpkin.) Covering the pumpkin with oil and then a small mountain of sugar feels somewhat silly the first time (as the linked recipe implies), but if you've ever eaten kaddo you know it'll be worth it.
We didn't have any dried mint (even after the Whole Foods trip), so i used dried basil in the yogurt sauce, figuring that Fage is good enough to accommodate substitutions. Olive oil worked fine instead of the corn oil the linked recipe calls for, though i wouldn't necessarily use one that smells/tastes overpoweringly of olives. MBH strongly prefers ground turkey to ground beef, so i used that in the meat sauce.
(I paired the kaddo with a biryani recipe that wasn't very good, so i'm not even going to link it here.)
Everything came together incredibly well, and on the dinner table the pumpkin, yogurt, and meat sauce looked, smelled, and tasted like heaven. Not quite as good as Helmand's, but easily the most delectable thing i myself have cooked so far. I was going to take a picture to see if i could capture the visible waves of pure deliciousness for this blog, but the camera's battery was dead, and i sure wasn't going to wait.
Hey, do you like pickled beets? What? "No"? What do you mean, "no"? Go climb a tree, you communist. Mr. D and i will eat 'em.
Anyway, did you know you can make delicious pickled beets in just a few hours? Me neither, until recently. While looking up zucchini bread in the Bittman, my eye happened on something called "Quick Pickled Beets", which of course i filed away for immediate follow-up. On the 17th, it was time to boil some beets. They aren't quite the same as actual canned/jarred picked beets, but they are indeed tasty.
Even if you don't like beets, you should boil some up at least once. Once they've boiled for a while, the water is a beautiful, natural red, absolutely spectacular. And of course you can make dye from it, if you're so inclined. Not me, i'm just in it for the food.
On the 16th, My Better Half and i returned to the land of enormous street numbers to visit friends Ann and Frank, who live near Columbia. (Ann is studying urban planning at Columbia, and Frank is a chemist there.) We walked around their neighborhood for a bit, and saw that Columbia has a very nice campus -- a respite from the metropolis, but not apart from it.
Dinner was at a friendly neighborhood place that Ann and Frank like: Pisticci. Figs stuffed with goat cheese and roasted -- uff-da, that's good eating.
Our friends Brian and Lindsay lived in our Brooklyn neighborhood for a while, but then moved back to Washington Heights, where they had lived previously. On the 13th, My Better Half and i finally hopped into Keith and Beth's car to head up there, and the six of us had dinner in B&L's new apartment up near four hundred eleventy-ninth street. Their new place is nice and roomy, and they're well on their way to having it fully furnished. A good night was had by all!
On the twelfth day of Christmas unemployment, a simple-looking recipe caught my eye on a local blog, so i whipped up some pasta with red lentils and spinach when My Better Half got home from work. Our sketchy neighborhood grocery store didn't have any red lentils, so i used yellow split peas, figuring that a little color was more interesting that any specific beany flavor. We both liked it a lot, though MBH pointed out it could use more spinach. (Also, i made it with half butter and half olive oil, which was just fine, rather than an entire stick of butter.)
Then, i whipped up some zucchini bread, using the recipe from How to Cook Everything. Delicious! MBH pointed out it could use more zucchini, so we'll use at least half again as much next time. Thanks again, Mr. Bittman! (And Dorilona and Michael, who gave us that book.)
Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've had a sort-of-job-interview-slash-business-meeting at an airport. This fellow Dmitry, who is the Vice President of Something at the Silicon Valley outfit, wasn't there on the 7th and wanted to meet me face-to-face. He had a layover at John F Kennedy International Airport, so we met there and talked over lunch in the food court. Dmitry's a nice guy.
I'm a little concerned, though, that willingly visiting JFK three times in the span of a week may be a sign of mental instability.
A period of unemployment, however blissful, raises an important question: when will it end? Rather than put it off too long, i decided to go to California to investigate the Silicon Valley outfit that several former colleagues have signed onto.
Forty hours on the ground makes the two transcontinental flights seem even longer. (I'm sure my friend Phil has flown longer for shorter stays, though.)
Anyway, i came back with the feeling that this gig will work for me.
On Thursday the 6th i finally went to see the Richard Serra show at MoMA, first thing in the morning. Early on a weekday morning is the ideal time to visit the museum, which is great if you're unemployed. (Though not if you're broke -- $20, ouch!)
The focus of the show of course is the main gallery of gigantic steel sculptures, which are amazing. I'd seen several of Serra's sculptures in this vein at Dia Beacon and Gagosian, but it's always a pleasure to see them again and again -- especially in a museum setting, where even the teenagers who normally wear "i could do that" sneers are enthralled.
For me (and, i assume, for most of us) the materials and curves evoke naval vessels -- but i feel like these pieces can be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, without requiring any awareness of the history or vocabulary of contemporary art. Some of the spaces created by the works feel like temples or grottoes of steel rust.
Another gallery held a retrospective of the massive (but smaller-scale) sculptures Serra created throughout his career, largely made of big lead plates. I hadn't seen any of these in person before, but i was less enamored of them -- probably one should start here and move on to the ginormous steel pieces after.
The one piece in this section that completely blew me away was the 1967 "To Lift". I kept coming back to it on several passes through the gallery, and each time it almost made me laugh out loud at how much it packs into the pure simplicity of its presence. It really is the immediate physical evidence of a single bodily action of the artist, a raw artifact that is its own description, an object that is exactly how-it-was-made and nothing else. It melds the aesthetics of both mathematical curves and the human body and its scale in a way that i, at least, have never noticed before. It must have been an awesome thing to see in '67.
Friday, the 31st of August was my last day at the old job. This had been in the cards for a while, though without meaning to i managed to celebrate Labor Dabor by being newly unemployed. It's been a while since i've been without a job, so i couldn't pass up the opportunity to kick back and do a whole lot of nothing for a few weeks.
I headed up to the Boston area at the end of August to wrap up the job thing. Spent a couple nights with friends Fargo and Caroline, which was a pleasure as always. Also found the time to spend a night out with Fargo and our old pal Matt, which doesn't happen often enough any more. Had some drinks with my old office-mates, said my good-byes, and closed that chapter.
By sheer coincidence (seems to be happening a lot this year), My Better Half had reason to be in the Boston area for her job. This segued nicely into a Labor Day plan, which was mainly hanging out with friends Geech and Maggie and their two chilluns. The six of us headed over to friends Bill Mr. Swanky and Robin's awesome house for a cookout with them and their son. A good time was had by all.
Of course, no visit to the Boston area is complete without meeting up with lots of old friends, so we saw as many folks as we could without turning the weekend into a stress-fest. And, we ate at the Watertown Diner not once, but twice. Mmmmmmmm.
My Better Half and i visited Pittsburgh for the first time (for either of us) last weekend.
Someone once described Pittsburgh to me as the Iceland to Philadelphia's Greenland: in our national mythology, Philly is the beatiful "City of Brotherly Love", one of the templates by which all modern American cities are to be judged, while Pittsburgh is the grimy industrial center whose steady decline tracks our economy's shift away from manufacturing. The aforementioned Someone indicated that in reality Pittsburgh was the nice town, Philly the dump.
As i can now say with the authority that comes with fantastically limited experience, Someone was at least partly right. Philadelphia's got a lot going for it, but Pittsburgh has a nicer feel. Of course, my opinion of both cities is colored by the places i've visited and the people who have shown me around, but i'll be darned if i'm going to back down from a first impression. My opinion of Pittsburgh also is colored by its many yellow-painted bridges. Yellow is a good color for bridges. It's also nice to have a city with accessible views of itself: the hills around town provide for a lot of beautiful vistas. Our raison d'visit was MBH's college friend Laurie, who not too long ago bought a house with her boyfriend Jeff. More of MBH's college friends (Dorilona, Michael, Ann) came in from the Philadelphia and Boston areas, as well, so it was kind of a housewarming sleepover weekend. Highlights were a trip to "The Warhol" and brunch at Zenith, a junkshop and vegetarian & vegan restaurant, which satisfied even the omnivores in our party.
One section of Pittsburgh is called the Mexican War Streets, for reasons that were explained to me but which i never quite understood. Anyways, in that neighborhood of nice brick row houses and community gardens, we came across a nifty peephole/door-knocker combination that MBH insisted be photographed: On our way back to Beautiful Brooklyn, Pittsburgh gave us one last wink -- a Calder mobile in the airport titled, appropriately enough, "Pittsburgh".
This last weekend My Better Half and i joined friends Jess and Mike and Keren and Adam for a couple of nights at Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires. We rented a little condo in the ski-resort and visited a few of the small towns in the area.
Our main activities took place on Saturday. First thing after breakfast we hiked part of Mount Grayskull, which was a very nice time. I hadn't paid attention to the tabloid comings and goings of He-Man and Skeletor since... well, ever, so i was somewhat surprised to learn they've been married for more than a year now. (Go, Massachusetts!) Apparently the sturm and drang orchestrated by their publicists evolved into a real, caring relationship they finally had to acknowledge, rom-com style. They're running a cute little B&B out of what remains of the Castle, along with a lively weekend brunch scene; we'd already eaten so we just had some cappuccinos and shared a few scones, which were delicious.
At lunchtime, MBH held true to her sworn oath to eat only fish and chips for the rest of her natural life -- a promise she was later to break, with tragic consequences.
Mini Golf reared its ugly head and was defeated by six knights-errant, wielding putters forged in the fires of distant China, who obediently split into two groups of three when instructed by the Mistress of the Course.
The cornerstone of our weekend was a visit to Tanglewood, where we enjoyed a picnic on the lawn while Yo-Yo Ma played along with some Dvořák. The weather was perfect -- it was like being in an ad for the BSO.
Now, orchestral music isn't really my cup of tea, so i daydreamed a bit. I created an impressively elaborate railroad museum in my imagination, then visited it with Tom Waits and a drunken James Woods. Tom made up amusing, ridiculous stories about the origin and purpose of various railroady equipment; James was a nuisance.
That didn't exhaust the allotted time, so i tried to remember the word lagomorph, a task at which i eventually succeeded.
There still was music playing, so i pretended we were on the Isle of Wight, about which i know pretty much nothing, which gave me carteblanche. As it turns out, there are cotton-candy trees on the Isle, which delighted MBH; i myself was smitten by the gin fountains. The Isle of Wight has neither humid days nor Republicans, and there are no mosquitoes. MBH and i invested in a time share on the southern shore.
My Better Half and i went to Oregon last month for more than a week.
One reason for our trip was to celebrate a wedding: MBH's college friend Hillary married a swell guy named Jim in Eugene. MBH left Brooklyn a few days before me to help with wedding prep and participate in some bachelorette fun. When i got to PDX, i was met by my mom, who had relocated from Brooklyn to Portland just days before. We hopped in her new car and motored down to Eugene...
The wedding was very nice -- outdoors (my favorite), next to the Willamette River, in Jasper state park. An osprey circled overhead while the celebrant married Hillary and Jim in front of a stately bamboo arch. (MBH and i had cut down the bamboo that morning, though we did not get a chance to flex our arch-making skillz.) The reception was held in the back yard of Hillary's folks' house, which had been transformed by judicious application of the many-hands/light-work principle into an outdoor function space par excellence. There was much partying. For a while i sat listening to a young, weirdly exuberant right-winger spew horse droppings from his mouth; then i went back to partying. MBH and i spent part of the next day with my mom, aunt Judy and uncle Fred (Mom's brother), cousin Greg and his wife Tris and daughter Semilla, and cousin Lisa and her husband Glen and son Aidan. Other than seeing Fred and Judy a few days before, i hadn't seen any of these people for, i think, two decades (or ever). Unfortunately, it was the day after the wedding reception, and neither MBH nor i were playing our A-game. We should have many opportunities in the future to correct (or confirm) that we are the zombie arm of the family, though.
From Eugene we two headed to Cannon Beach for a few days of sea-side vacation. The Oregon coastal destination towns (at least from what i've seen) are a lot like the towns along Cape Cod and the islands, only less irritating.
We took a little hike in Ecola State Park to Crescent Beach, but didn't make it all the way -- MBH wanted to get back to Haystack Rock at low tide to see all the squirmy sea creatures. For whatever reason, low tide didn't seem low enough that day. (Or, we were misinformed when low tide actually occurred...) Ecola is pretty nice considering it's only one letter away from bothebola and e. coli.
The remainder of our vacation was spent in Portland, hanging out again with my mom (why is she everwhere i'm going?) and with some of MBH's family: Portlanders Anne Marie (aunt), Todd (cousin), Amanda (cousin), Amanda (wife of cousin Todd); Kentuckians Leyda (aunt), Monica (cousin), Jesse (husband of cousin Monica), Cameron (son of cousin Monica), Liset (cousin); and Brian (cousin, formerly of Kentucky, currently of Portland). Todd and Amanda had everyone over for a backyard cookout the evening MBH and i were leaving town, so we got to eat well and even got in a few licks of Guitar Hero before heading to the airport to catch the red-eye back to hot, humid beautiful Brooklyn.
MBH spent her childhood in Portland and always has wanted to move back there, and this trip only added fuel to the fire. So it looks like a coast transplant is in store for us, some time in the next few years. At least i'll still be able to complain about hipsters. (And no, when the time comes i will not be poking out my eyes or killing my wife. I would consider burning down my home, but it's made of stone.)
I lost my camera at some point, so i don't have any pictures of Portland. But then i found it again.
A couple weeks ago My Better Half and i spent a couple nights at Niagara Falls along with most of her immediate family and my mom. The falls are an amazing sight. And there are rainbows pretty much all the time.
A couple weeks ago My Better Half and i went to Paris for a long weekend. MBH's boss hooked us up with his parents, Jacques and Liliane, who very graciously showed us some of Paris's sights and culinary delights.
Almost immediately we discovered where the French pirates hang out -- the Rue St. Placide, in the 6th ARRRondissement: We didn't hit the Louvre, but we did get to the Centre Georges Pompidou for a couple hours (not nearly long enough). I spent a while in the room dedicated to Joan Miró and one of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder.Not only did we visit the Pompidou, we ate there too -- with Jacques and Liliane at Georges, featuring dramatic views of Paris and delicious food.
While in Paris, we of course had to hit some standard destinations, such as Notre Dame, the Grand Palais with its striking glass ceiling,and Montmartre (where someone had recently splashed red paint on the basilica). Now, you may not be aware of this, but no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Place Fernand Mourlot (dedicated to the master lithographer, Jacques's father, Eric's grandfather). After the Place Mourlot we had some time to kill, so we decided we could fit in a visit to the Eiffel Tower. From the postcard photographs i had seen, i was expecting it to have something of an ephemeral feel to it, but its massive presence is actually quite impressive up close.And, it sparkles at night!
Until our recent trip to Montana i had heard people rave about "beer butt chicken" (also called "beer bottom chicken" by the too-polite), but had not experienced it for myself. When we got to Havre, my dad let on that he had purchased a Contraption specifically designed to prepare the delicacy -- a metal stand, basically, to hold two beer cans inside two chickens. The Contraption addresses the only difficulty i can imagine in beer-butt chicken preparation, namely, keeping the chicken from falling over on the grill.
While i was lax in my responsibilities during the Havre Underground tour, i did document the more important occasion -- the Contraption's maiden voyage. The verdict: delicious.
After our hike back from Avalanche Lake, My Better Half and i drove east (through a late-May snow storm) from the mountains down to the plains to spend a few days in Havre, where my father and grandfather live. My sister also drove west from Fargo (and brought along more eyeballs!), so it was a little family get-together. For as long as i can remember my dad has painted and sculpted, and there are a lot of his pieces in the house and yard. Keith has become a fan of my dad's work, specifically small sculptures he's been making recently from Russian Olive wood; we brought some pieces back for him. While in Havre we took an excursion (in Dad and Grandpa's fancy new pickup truck) down to the Bearpaw Mountains south of town. Grandpa used to have a cabin down there, and related a lot of fond memories during our trip. The most interesting (to me) attraction in Havre -- besides family -- is the "Havre Underground", which i only became aware of a couple years ago. In the winter of 1904 a fire destroyed a large portion of downtown Havre; the locals responded by moving their businesses into the basements, connecting them with tunnels, and living partially "beneath the streets" until they could rebuild. MBH and i took my sister on the tour (it's the second time for the two of us), which is a fun mixture of random old-timey whatnot and local history. (I didn't get any photos, sorry.)
Last week, My Better Half and i spent some time in Montana. Our first two nights were in Whitefish, just west of Glacier National Park. If you haven't visited Glacier, you should: i consider it a strong candidate for Most Beautiful Place In The World. But then, i'm partial to the Rockies, and haven't yet seen Kashmir.
On our first full day, we slept late and puttered around Whitefish long enough that we only had time for a short walk near Lake McDonald in the late afternoon. It's a nice lake, but more of a lazing-away-summer-vacation-with-the-family kind of place than a holy-crap-these-mountains-are-amazing kind of place.
The next morning we went on a proper (though still not very difficult) five-mile hike starting through the Trail of the Cedars and then along Avalanche Creek to Avalanche Lake, which is somewhat more dramatic.
We also saw a couple deer on the trail, who took virtually no notice of us.
Last weekend My Better Half had a short vacation in Ann Arbor with her sister Julie and Julie's husband Jesse. We wanted to see them at home before they move to Pennsylvania (planned for this fall or winter), and also take an opportunity to get out of the city for a few days. It was nice and relaxing.
We visited Greenfield Village, an outdoor hodgepodge of American history with old farmhouses and working farms, glass blowers and blacksmiths, textile weaving and the like -- including Edison's laboratory buildings from Menlo Park, an old courthouse in which Abraham Lincoln practiced law, and some Wright Brothers originalia. The whole thing is part of "The Henry Ford", a kind of history Disneyland started by everyone's favorite anti-semitic industrialist. (I didn't make a single Nazi joke the entire time we were on the premises.)
Our visit coincided with an appearance by Thomas the Tank Engine (sorry for the crap photo):
To be simultaneously awful and boring sounds like no mean feat, but it's accomplished by the overwhelming majority of the "Christian" pop music i've ever encountered. Aside from the insipid quality of the music and lyrics, there's often a belittling or threatening attitude toward non-Christians.
Not so Daniel Smith, whose various musical incarnations (most notably DanielsonFamile) take the exhortation to create a joyful noise farther than most. The music is decidedly joyful, even ecstatic -- and to many ears it certainly qualifies as "noise". What really sets Danielson apart, though, is attitude: everyone is welcome. Daniel Smith makes invitations, and doesn't sneer at those who don't accept.
Friday evening, My Better Half and i enjoyed the documentary "Danielson: A Family Movie", which chronicles the musical life of Daniel smith and his family and friends from 1995 up to a year or two ago. One thing neither of us had known was that Sufjan Stevens was part of the band for a while, before storming the indie-folkie scene on his own.
OK, so there's a cute little blog entry; right on, 15.
But then, Saturday afternoon MBH and i are wandering around the Slope, she's power-shopping, i'm mainly bored. We stop by Bonnie's for a late-lunch burger (mmm) and on our way out, who should be walking in? Sufjan Stevens! Normally i wouldn't have recognized him, but having just seen the movie the night before, i did.
OK OK OK, i know, nobody cares. But i thought it was funny.
I got back from a bidness trip to Boston to find one of these crouching over our neighborhood. (Thanks to neighborhood blog across the park for the pic and some info.) This is pretty disconcerting; our little part of Flatbush Ave is by no means a festival of peace & love, but it's not exactly a war zone, either.
(These pictures are great because they make the thing look like a mech, which it doesn't so much in person.)
(Actually, we got back a week ago; i've just been procrastinating putting up an entry. I s'pose when this happens one should reexamine one's blogging motivations and practices. Think i'll procrastinate that one, too.)
They sure have got the nice weather out there, at least in March. While we were there i was still healing a blister i got shoveling snow on the mean streets of Brooklyn.
What did we do?
Eating! As many of you know, i am a champ-een eater and still have my eye on the Fattest Man in the World prize, if i can just find the time to train. Korean fast food in a shopping mall food court, fourteen times nicer than any food court i'd ever seen! All-you-can-eat sushi! Danish pastries! (Really? Yes!) Ivan's world-famous snack-mix! Pinkberry! PINKBERRY! You can't beat Cocoa Crispies and banana at Pinkberry.
Visiting! Friends Ivan and Sarah and their pug Twiggy are back in action in Sunny CA, and you'd never know they had left. You would definitely know that Ivan's not from there, though. He's Ipswitch through and through.
Solvanging! Sarah had to work, but Ivan tagged along with My Better Half and myself to visit Solvang, the quaint Dutch Danish town in CA wine country that apparently was featured in "Sideways" (which i have yet to see). Anyway, it was fun. We ate at a Dutch Danish smorgaasbord, which was quite enjoyable but drove home the point that the Dutch Danish aren't known for their cuisine, so much as their pastries. And speaking of pastries -- we had some. They were yummy.
Trespassing! Well not really, we had permission; but i like to jazz it up by pretending. We four (plus pug) spent a day at someone else's rented house in Malibu while they weren't around, which was just like you imagine only the hot tub didn't work.
Museuming! This time around we hit up LACMA. Unfortunately, their modern/contemporary building was closed, apparently out of spite. (Also their outdoor Calder is teh lame.) But, we had a good time.
Scrabbling! 2007 is looking to be a good year for Yours Truly in the Me-vs-Ivan Scrabblympithon. He crushed me at Scattergories though, the impudent... guy. Ivan and i teamed up and trounced the ladies in Trivial Pursuit and Taboo, to keep up appearances.
Movieing! I looove going to the movies, but for whatever reason (laziness? poor planning skills?) it's not the twice-weekly event i would like it to be. On this trip, though, we convinced Ivan and Sarah to go see The Host, which we all enjoyed immensely. It was ironic, too, since Sarah is Korean. (Well, maybe not ironic ironic, but at least AlanisMorissette ironic. That is to say, unremarkably coincidental.)
Shopping!MBH is a champ-een shopper, and i am not. We went to the unholy outlet-shopping town of Camarillo, and she shopped until i thought i would lose my mind. I had to get out of the shopping complex, so i took a walk, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and took a picture of some dirt; still had time for a good nap before it was time to go.
Tomorrow morning My Better Half and i will be flying to Los Angeles to spend a few vacation days hanging out with friends Ivan and Sarah and Twiggy. Yay! MBH probably is looking forward to driving. Me, i'm looking forward to doing nothing... at... all...
The Ides of March was My Better Half's birthday, which we celebrated with friends Keith and Beth, Brian and Lindsay, Karin and Alex, and Abby and Josh; the fun started at Kasadela, and then we moved the party to Ben & Jerry's to sample Stephen Colbert's new ice cream, "Americone Dream". MBH brought in a good haul this year, but the winner (in my opinion) was this gigantic, crocheted eyeball made by my sister: Friday was a quiet dinner at home.
Saturday i made MBH a birthday breakfast, featuring Eggs in the Basket (which a nearby brunch spot calls "Toad in the Hole" -- wikipedia disagrees), accompanied by one of MBH's favorite brunchy cocktails, Bellinis! Proper Bellinis, too, not some stank mix with peach schnapps.
MBH's parents came to town Saturday afternoon (with a birthday poundcake), and we went back to the little island (which i like to call Lisland) for the evening. Dinner was at Steak Frites, which was OK. (You'd think a place that called itself "Steak Frites" would build its menu around a streak frites to wow a schlub from North Dakota, but as Sharmila says, you'd waste a thought. The tuna tartare was very good, though.) Then we traipsed across Union Square to see "Be by Mayumana", a percussive/musical dance/acrobatic performance along the lines of Stomp and Blue Man Group (or so i've been told; i haven't seen either of the latter). We all had a good time and were quite impressed with the crazy stuff those dancing kids can do onstage.
Sunday afternoon we all took a short tour through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (just around the corner from our house), then MBH and i saw her folks off and went back to Manhattan to meet friends Jess and Mike. We had a nice dinner at Palacinka (a pressed sammich with merguez, goat cheese, tomato, and olive tapenade -- mmm!), then MBH and i had a drink and listened to some music at Toad Hall before heading home. We both wish Toad Hall was closer to home, but you couldn't pay us to live in Soho.
For some time now i've been consternated by the incredible regard many right-wing Christians hold for unfettered markets (excluding drugs and pornography, of course). Back in the day, when they were deathly afraid of the Godless Communists, it was kind of, you know, cute. But as it becomes increasingly obvious that our market-driven approaches to some problems just aren't working, this fanatical devotion to The Market starts to look like idolatry.