Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2008

the eye in you, Divine Eye from a temple, symbol of the Cao Dai religion of south Vietnam, August 30, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I swear to God, there were times when I really did think of Mary of the Grains and thank QuoinMonkey of the Fair for the haiku she sent out to me before I left for the Mekong Delta.

Thank you, Mary. Thank you, QM.

Thank you, God.

First, thank you for getting me through the harrowing three-hour drive on mostly two lanes shared equally by throngs of cars, semi-trucks, tourist buses, tourist vans, motorcycles, bicycles, tricycles carrying baskets and grains and everything else, and even children and chickens on foot. (A three-hour tour, a three-hour tour…the weather started getting rough…) My God. All I could think was, I will never do this again, at least not on a holiday weekend.

Second, once you delivered me safely to the drop-off point at the boat, I began my own little private silent retreat, except better. A beautiful, 24-passenger capacity boat shared by me and a respectful Japanese couple who knew very little English. Three passengers and the crew who took care of us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Third, dreading the return drive home, I discovered it was only half the distance (the boat made up the other half) and as soon as my driver started speeding off into the mayhem, I leaned forward, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Mr. Chin, no fast, please.” And you know what? He didn’t. (Yes, I will do it again some day, leaving an hour earlier the morning of, so that we’re not nearly so rushed.)

QM, many moments over the weekend I was reminded of life and death, beauty and humanity. More than one of those moments I thought of you and Mary. I truly and really did. Again, thank you.

Oh, and a full description to come. Soon. With photos.

Read Full Post »

Electric Snow Cone, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Electric Snow Cone, Minnesota State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s Labor Day weekend and we’re recovering from our second day at the Minnesota State Fair. For me, the Fair is about photography, food, and history. On Wednesday, we checked out the State Fair and Sesquicentennial history exhibits and enjoyed a Gnarls Barkley concert and fireworks in the Grandstand.

There is a JFK Remembered exhibit this year that we wanted to attend (Kennedy’s death had a big impact on me as a child). We passed the building when we arrived, but the lines were too long (the exhibit is drawing 20,000 people a day). We had planned to circle back, but you know how it goes at the Fair. Navigation routes are turned topsy-turvy; we never made it back.

The exhibit is the personal collection of Nick Ciacelli. He started collecting in the 4th grade on the day Kennedy was assassinated. The exhibit contains rare items such as Kennedy’s jewelry box, a gift from his father in 1946, and a pair of gold Texas star cufflinks he never got to wear. The exhibit was featured on WCCO News a few nights ago — ‘JFK Remembered’ Exhibit Drawing Record Fairgoers.



        Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On Friday, we returned to the Fair. We did the weave-and-dodge past weary food vendors, and over-full rides, then ate our way through the Food Building, packed with wall-to-wall people (wait until you hear about the Pickle Pop on-a-stick!). We visited the Education, Creative Activity, Horticulture, and HealthCare buildings and picked up a few freebies at the Merchandise Mart.

There are 3 days left to attend the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a beautiful cloudless Saturday: low humidity, sun, slight breeze, blue skies. There must be thousands of people planning to venture around St. Paul’s blocked off roads (for the Republican National Convention) to make their way down the Midway. I thought it might be helpful to have a check-off list of must-haves (in no particular order) to take with you to the Fair.



Hidden Values Of A Casket, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Hidden Values Of A Casket, vintage Minnesota Casket Company booth at the MN State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair)


  • State Fair tickets – easy to forget. slide them in your wallet
  • Blue Ribbon Bargain Book — see details under Ways To Save $$$ in the second link on this post
  • Rain jacket – and rain pants if you have them. It drizzled all through Gnarls Barkley and poured as we were leaving. You never know!
  • Portable umbrella – small enough to fit in a backpack. When it comes to umbrellas, remember, you get what you pay for.
  • Shoes with good arches – flat feet or not, your feet and legs will be tired; they need lots of support.
  • Water bottle – unbreakable and full. Fair food is greasy and salty. You are going to be thirsty for water!
  • $$$ — with attachable wallet ring. The Fair makes you spacy. The right accessories help to keep the right things close to your body.
  • Backpack — comfortable with lots of zippered pockets
  • Sweatshirt — hooded, for cooler evenings at the Grandstand
  • Map of the Fairgrounds – with streets, bathrooms, buildings, and information booths labeled. You can pick this up at any Information booth when you enter the Fair. Believe me, you’re going to need it.
  • Tree Sculptures By Name map – kind of like playing the License Plate Game with your kids on the family vacation. (Details in Comment #43 on the second link in this post.)
  • Deals, Drawings, & Giveaways Guide – this is your guide to everything FREE at the Fair. (Details in Comment #43 on the second link in this post.) 
  • Hat — with a brim to shield direct sun from eyes. August in Minnesota is bright!
  • Sunglasses – any kind, cheap or designer. I saw two kids wearing blue LCD light-up sunglasses at night on the Midway. It’s a strange adaptation, but it works!
  • Suntan lotion - does Rudolph ring a bell?
  • List of 63 foods on-a-stick – and their locations on the Fairgrounds. I marked the ones I wanted to try on the map in highlighter. Well, okay, that’s just me. (More info and a list of all 63 foods in the second link on this post.)
  • List of streets blocked off in St. Paul – for the Republican National Convention. It hasn’t officially started, but already there have been street closings and police raids in St. Paul. Is it the Boy Scout motto that says, “Be Prepared?”
  • Plan for your parking spot – it’s mobbed, friends. You’ll pay $9 for the lots. Make an alternative plan to save money. Have any friends living near the Fairgrounds?
  • Cameras and video cam – don’t forget charged batteries, portable tripod
  • Tickets to Gnarls Barkley & Cloud Cult – these were the tickets we had to remember. Varies with the evening. BTW, Cloud Cult is one of Liz’s favorite bands. They combine art and music beautifully in their concerts. Two painters work on canvas during the concert; then they auction the paintings off at the end. See them if you ever get a chance!
  • Trash bags – large brown plastic ones to cover gear and body if it rains
  • Aluminum foil and baggies – for extra foods on-a-stick that you’re too full to eat or want to cart home. We used quite a few of these!
  • List of Must-Do Pointsdo the things important to you first, before you get worn out. For us it was: History Building, Farmers Union, Public Radio, WCCO, Art Building, Crop Art, chickens, Dairy Barn, Butter Queen sculptures, photographs of carousel, Ferris wheel, roller coaster.
  • List of places where there are seats and shade – you’re going to want to get off your feet and out of the sun once in a while! I had a mini-meltdown last night when my ice cream was melting down my hand, a blister was forming on my right foot, and my camera battery died all at the same time. A 15 minute rest on a nearby bench did the trick.
  • ChapStick — for the dry lips that happen from sun, wind, and all that screaming!
  • Napkins, paper towels, & Wet Ones – need I say more? Yeah, grease, and everything else touchy-feely-sticky imaginable.
  • Flashlight — portable LED that hangs around the neck (with fresh batteries)
  • Pressure point wrist bands – for vertigo from the rides. Liz bought these for her plane trip to Georgia this year (I ended up using them on our car rides). Yesterday, I wore them to the Fair. They really do work!
  • Gratitude — to the 3000+ workers who labor at the Fair to make it all possible. (After all, it is Labor Day weekend!)

 

If you don’t live close enough to make it to the Minnesota State Fair, you can live vicariously by visiting the pieces sprinkled throughout this post. They contain all the links and trivia you’ll ever need to know about the Minnesota State Fair (with the exception of their official website).

Or better yet, plan on attending a local Fair this Fall in the part of the planet you call home and write an essay about your own experiences. It’s good to support the local economy (think global, buy local), and have tons of family fun in the process. Oh, and if you think of anything I should add to the list, feel free to leave it in the comments. I just thought of one other thing I neglected to mention — TUMS!



State Fair Chautauqua (150 Years Of Statehood), Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

State Fair Chautauqua (150 Years Of Statehood), celebrating all people and cultures of Minnesota, Minnesota State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Read Full Post »


Catching a ride, passenger riding backwards on a motorcycle in downtown Saigon, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



It’s Saturday morning, and like many locals I’m heading out for the weekend. Some of them are taking Monday off; Tuesday’s a national holiday, and there’s a whiff of excitement in the air. They say the beaches will be full.

I’m going for people and culture. I’ll be taking a boat cruise to the Mekong Delta, bringing along little more than my camera, mosquito spray, and clothes to spend the night. (A much lighter load than the woman in the picture above.)

So much swirling through my head over here on this side of the world. Yesterday I frantically tried watching Barack Obama’s speech from work, but the video streaming was more like video constipation. Instead, I called home every 15 minutes to get Jim’s impressions. He and the girls watched the whole thing; Em’s fourth-grade teacher assigned it as homework.

I’m at that point in this trip where I long for my home. All of it. Last night a work colleague invited me to dinner at his home with his family. He has four daughters, ages 17, 15, nine, and six. They’re beautiful, as is his wife. It was Shabbat, and so the dinner was extra special, with singing and challah, candles and wine. By the end of the evening I wanted to take the nine-year-old, who stayed by my side most of the night telling me everything there was to know about everything, and just squeeze her. When I hugged her good-bye I told her that I missed my girls.

This is a short post. Not focused, more stream of thought. I feel more than ever that we must elect Obama. Every person I talk to, from every nationality—they hate the U.S. They hate W. So much damage has been done to our reputation, our credibility, our influence.

We are one world now. We’re like those contraptions where you pull the ball on the pendulum and it hits a whole bunch of other balls, causing the one on the other end to jump out. We are the main ball, reverberating on every other one.

After I finish this post, I’ll call home. I’ll talk to the girls once for the weekend until Sunday night, their Sunday morning. It will be hard to not have at least twice-daily conversations with them. I call them every day when I get up to wish them Good-Night, then again in my evening to wish them Good-Morning.

I want them to come to Vietnam with me some time in the coming year. I want them to be able to see the world when they are young, when their minds are open and they can understand how each individual is connected to the whole.

Off to the Mekong Delta. Should be fascinating.

Read Full Post »

       Mary In Minnesota (haiku for yb), Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mary In Minnesota (haiku for yb), ribbon winning Crop Art by Elisabeth Smeltzer, Minnesota State Fair Horticulture Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.













Mary of the Earth
holds the world and the wide sky
humbly plants her seeds















  Yellow Ribbon Crop Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Spare Us From The Norm, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Yellow Ribbon Crop Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Yellow Ribbon Crop Art, Spare Us From The Norm, ribbon winning Crop Art by Elisabeth Smeltzer and Kim Cope, Minnesota State Fair Horticulture Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Post Script:  I immediately thought of ybonesy when I saw this Crop Art at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. She has done many posts of Mary on red Ravine, an icon that spans many cultures, beliefs, and landscapes (including a VW bug). Hey, I miss you ybonesy. Safe travels, my friend.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, August 29th, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day), MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), MN State Fair On-A-Stick, Blogger In Vietnam — Is Speaking Your Mind So Dangerous?

Read Full Post »

SpongeBob Craves Deep Fried Tater Tots + Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

SpongeBob Craves Deep Fried Tater Tots + Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Axel’s at the Minnesota State Fair, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









SpongeBob at the Fair
63 foods on-a-stick
waiting for you there









         Two Foods On-A-Stick, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Two Foods On-A-Stick, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Two Foods On-A-Stick, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, August 28th, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day), MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920’s INVENTIONS, MN State Fair On-A-Stick

Read Full Post »

Mary in Vietnam, statue at Notre-Dame Basilica in Saigon (was
said to have shed tears during my last visit in October 2005),
all photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I remember one particular moment during a trip to Cuba in 1992. I was talking to a Cuban professor at the national university. We were all over the map—Clinton’s relaxing the embargo, Brazilian investment in Havana, the rationing of electricity that caused “lights out” in our hostel the night before and prevented us from having coffee that morning. I was midstream in a sentence when suddenly he stopped me.

“Please, woman, don’t use (familiar ‘you’ form) with me!”

I was dumbfounded. What did he mean? Had I overstepped my bounds?

We’d been talking for 30 minutes, gesturing with arms and hands, laughing, hitting it off. He wanted me to refer to him as usted? That’s what you called strangers and elders and higher-ups.

“You’re the enemy,” he went on, seeing the confusion on my face. “I wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re my friend.”





Thomas Friedman says the world is flat, and to find myself in this lovely hotel with internet hook-up, my daughters’ clear voices on the other end of the receiver, and the Democratic Convention on television, it’s easy to believe that the world is not only flat; it is teensy-weensy. It’s also easy to forget, like I did in Cuba, that there are fundamental differences not so much in the way we are as humans but in what we can and can not do.

It took me two days and some not terribly sophisticated finagling of code to access wordpress.com from Vietnam. Vietnamese government censors the internet and has used firewalls to block content “opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, disturbing security, economy, social order… and undermining the nation’s fine tradition and custom.”





Bloggers are persistent and creative creatures, though, and they seem to have managed to exercise their voices in spite of the government. And thank goodness. Vietnamese bloggers have a lot to share, I imagine, just as any citizen of the world might.

I remember back in 1992, when the internet was still a baby, we talked a lot in Cuba about what would happen if people got access to the rest of the world via the web. “There will be change,” was the consensus.

What that change is exactly and how fast it happens…well, that’s yet to be fully understood.

For now, all I can say is, change is good. Here’s to change—positive change—in the U.S. (Yes, we can), in this unbelievable fast-moving Ho Chi Minh City (named after the revolutionary who once brought a different kind of freedom), in countries all over the world whose citizens are ready to join the world in speaking up about everything, from Doesn’t James Carville drive you crazy? to My anxiety is doing quite well considering to You gotta see the fruit here.

You really do gotta see the fruit here. And on that note, I think I’ll run down to the cafe to get some.









Read Full Post »

Atlanta Airport - 1952, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Atlanta Airport – 1952, family postcard, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’ve been thinking about the lost art of writing postcards and letters. A few weeks ago, while staying at my uncle’s place in Georgia, I began the long process of scanning old photographs and historical documents for the family archives. I asked my uncle if he would pull out his collection of memorabilia. He showed up the next day with stacks of old black and white photographs. And a wide, faded brown shoebox containing bundles of newspaper clippings, letters, and postcards.

Most of the postcards were to or from my Great, Great Aunt Cassie. My Great, Great Uncle Claude had worked for the Georgia Railroad and they traveled a lot on their vacations. But there was one in particular that caught my eye – a postcard that Mom’s older brother, Jack, had sent her in high school. The postmark was July 24th, 1952. A postcard stamp was only 1 cent back then. One cent.

My Uncle Jack would have been 16 at the time. He must have been on vacation with relatives. On the front of the postcard, where we might now see a digital photograph, was a 4-color illustration of the Atlanta Municipal Airport, the same airport Liz flew out of on her way back to Minnesota from Georgia in July.

In scratchy, adolescent handwriting, he wrote:



Dear Amelia,

I am having a good time here. I have met a lot of girls here and I have
had 6 dates since I got here. I’ve got another one tomorrow night and
Saturday. We are coming home Sunday. We have an air conditioner
here and it is cool.

Love,

Jack



I called Mom after I got back to Minnesota and asked her if she minded if I posted Jack’s card. She lost her brother in 1954, two years after he sent the postcard, only days before I was born. It was the year he graduated from high school. He had been ill with mono but wanted to go and celebrate with his friends anyway. They went swimming at Clarks Hill. He drowned on what is reported to have been a second swim across the lake. His body, still recovering and weak from the mono, must have given out mid-swim.

Mom said she didn’t have any qualms about me sharing the postcard. “No, I don’t mind if you post it,” she said. “We’re open about things like that.” Then, in one last thought, she sounded a little sad. “What did it say?” she asked.

I told her he wrote about what any teenage boy would write about: girls. But what struck me the most was seeing his handwriting; it was over 50 years old. And that he took the time to write, to send Mom a few lines letting her know he was thinking of her.



Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



When we were on St. Simons Island, I looked high and low for postcards to send to friends. I finally found a rack in the corner of a novelty store along the main drag near the lighthouse. It was the same place Liz and I got our soft cotton Georgia T-shirts. But then, there were no stamp machines that sold postcard stamps. And we never made it to the spot on the island where the  post office was located. So I waited until I was back in Augusta to mail them.

Postcards are becoming a thing of the past. But I have one writing friend who sent postcards every week as part of her practice last year. And another who sends herself postcards when she goes out on the road to write. She says she has many insights while traveling, jots them down on a postcard, and mails them to herself. After returning home, it centers her to read them – a gift to her creative self.



I am running into handwritten letters at every turn. Boxes turned up in storage with letters from my mother and grandmother. And I’m midway through the letters of Flannery O’Connor; you wouldn’t believe how much I am learning about this great Southern writer (and the South) from reading her letters. Should I begin writing letters again?

I am getting closer. Last Saturday, Liz went to three garage sales; at one she bought me an antique Royal portable typewriter. I started using it that day. At the same sale (it was run by an artist/photographer; she took me back with her later), we bought some vintage vinyl for a quarter a piece, and three great literature books for 50 cents each. One of them was Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It is full of her letters.

Later that day at the studio, I started thumbing through Frida’s biography; sticking out of the middle section, was a faded postcard sent from Colombia. The front of the postcard has a photograph of a Cuna woman in traditional garb. A small 2 was circled at the top; it was the second of a series of three. The title, URABA (ANTIOQUIA) COLOMBIA — India Cuna, was in block print. The handwriting was loopy cursive, written in Spanish. A studio mate read it to me. She recognized the sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup.



I think the postcard is like a letter haiku. Think of everything you’ve learned in brief intervals of 17-syllable haiku from our regulars on haiku (one-a-day). The postcard from my uncle spoke to me; half a century later I gained a glimpse of who he was. I got a postcard from ybonesy that arrived right after I came home from Georgia. Maybe she’ll send me one from Vietnam (smile).

I’m considering a postcard/letter writing practice in the coming months. I want to use the vintage Royal. When is the last time you received a handwritten letter or postcard? If you have insights into the art or practice of postcard and letter writing, please share them with us. All is never as it seems. And life letters only add to the mystery.



Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 25th, 2008

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,587 other followers