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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.

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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

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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.

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       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?

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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

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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.









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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

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Pants For Obama!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pants For Obama! (Exhibit A), Minneapolis, Minnesota,
August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
reserved.



Our cat, Mr. StripeyPants (we call him Pants for short), is one unique character. His claim to fame is that he plays PawPong with me on the bed, running to fetch the ball and bring it back to me every time it goes out of bounds. Last year (after nearly dying), Pants also competed in the Olympic Fly-Eating contest and won the Gold Medal in 2007.

He is notorious for leaving his trophies in clumps in his food dish. He also hides them in unsuspecting places around the house. (See Exhibit B: Ball In Cuff for evidence of his latest hiding place.)



Ball In Cuff, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



This morning when I got up, half asleep and stumbling to make a pot of French Roast, I looked down to see a pink glow from his food dish (See Exhibit A at top of post). There, between two of his red felt balls, was a “change” button.

I yelled to Liz, “Hey, you gotta see this!” She rushed out from the back room to a roar of laughter. “Hey, Pants must be for Obama,” she said. “Do you think he’s trying to tell us something?”



Caught In The Act!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pants For Change!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I grabbed the “change” button out of his dish and tossed it on the table. He flew across the room like SuperCat and started batting it around tables, chairs, through piano bench legs, and under doors. He scooped it up between his teeth, shook his head as if gnawing a mouse, and proudly trotted over to his food dish. “Yep,” I laughed. “Pants is a righteous Obama fan!”



Campaigning Cat!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Right In His Pants Paws!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Button Button, Whose Got The Change Button?!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reser



The irony wasn’t lost on me. Since ybonesy did her Obama piece on red Ravine last February, and I posted one of the only political pieces you’ll probably ever see from me, a lot has happened. Hillary has long been out of the race; Obama chose his running mate yesterday. Okay, I guess Mr. StripeyPants is more politically savvy than we’ve given him credit for.


Well, I guess if humans are casting their votes (in record numbers) for the groundhog, Smith Lake Jake for President, then surely a cat like Mr. StripeyPants can vote for the human, Barack Obama. What more is there to say? Pants for Obama!



Mr. StripeyPants -- Set On Change!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mr. StripeyPants — Set On Change (Cats For Obama),
Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 24th, 2008

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Cool Cat, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



There are a lot of reasons I’ll be keeping my cool over the coming days, but the one that tops my list is that by the time you read this, I will either have completed or be on my way to completing a 16-plus-hour flight (one stop for fueling, after about 13 hours, I believe). Egads. That’s enough to make anyone lose their cool.

But not me. I’m a road warrior of past, not to mention panic attack pills. Here are the cool-cat techniques you can be sure I will be exercising during that walk in the park:

  • Pull inward. Conserve energy, stuff earphones in my ears, and don’t talk much to people around me. A while back I flew about 13 hours in business class next to one really cool cat—the kind whose touch pad computer never died—without once saying Hello. Can you believe it? He was so cool he actually pissed me off. That and his full head of wavy hair and the fact he was ten years younger than me.
  • Become self-sufficient. Have everything I need at my fingertips, including aspirin, extra clothing, toothbrush, latest memoir I’m reading, all my writing and drawing stuff. Everything.
  • Be stealth. Don’t stand out. I don’t want to become a target for anyone.
  • Act like I know what the hell I’m doing. Goes with not becoming a target. Walk with confidence, especially on the streets.
  • Be comfortable. Dress in loose clothing, easy shoes, layers for when it gets overly hot or cool.
  • Stay cool-headed. I once unwittingly picked the movie The Ring to watch after lights out. Very well-done movie, all was going along beautifully until suddenly I found that my heart was racing and my palms sweaty. Looked to my left: man sitting next to me was fast asleep. To my right was complete stillness, everyone alseep. I forgot that I never watch horror movies by myself, much less while trapped in a plane hurdling through complete darkness somewhere over the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, I managed to breathe through it.


I’ll be off-line for a while, but knowing me, it won’t be too long. In the mean time, if you have any tips for keeping sane on those long flights (if Heather’s reading this, well, em, hyperventilating is not a good tip) please drop them here. I might need them for the way back.

Oh, and if you happen to see a slinky, sleek, smooth chick prowling the streets of Vietnam, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t approach her and ask, Are you ybonesy?

Ta-ta for now.

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Lone Pine In Red Clay, Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Lone Pine In Red Clay, Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









roots of dry summer
where lake water kissed burnt sand
lone pine in red clay










-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, August 21st, 2008

-related to post:  haiku (one-a-day)

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Minnesota State Fair -- Happy Birthday, Minnesota!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Minnesota State Fair – Happy Birthday, Minnesota!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Let’s Talk History

Summer is winding down; it’s time for the Minnesota State Fair! After 4 years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859 near downtown Minneapolis, one year after Minnesota was granted statehood (2008 is the Minnesota Sesquicentennial). The Minnesota State Fair found a permanent home midway between Minneapolis and St. Paul when Ramsey County donated its 210-acre poor farm to the governing body of the State Fair, the State Agricultural Society.

The Fairgrounds now cover 320 acres and contain a number of architecturally and historically significant structures. And this year, there are Sesquicentennial Celebration events taking place under the Big Top at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, including a 150th birthday cake and Minnesota Memories, conversations with some of Minnesota’s most colorful residents.

Many famous people have walked through these gates. It’s hard to believe it’s been 80 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald reminisced about the Minnesota State Fair in his book, A Night at the Fair. Since 1859, rain or shine, the Minnesota State Fair has been held every year except five:


  • 1861 — the Civil War
  • 1862 — the Dakota Indian Conflict
  • 1893 — scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago
  • 1945 — war-time fuel shortages
  • 1946 — polio epidemic


Grandstand Show, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Grandstand Show, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.


Classic rides grace the Mighty Midway; a couple of new ones, too, like the Heartbreaker and the Wind Surf.  I’m not much of ride person (I get too seasick!). I attend the State Fair for the tradition, the food, and the music (Alabama has performed 18 times in 13 years). This year, Liz and I have tickets to see Gnarls Barkley at the Grandstand. We plan to make a day of it. And if you’re into history, the Minnesota State Fair is full of odd and choice moments in time:

  • 1887, 1888, 1889, 1898 – Battle Reenactments of Minnesota at Gettysburg
  • 1906 – St. Paul Growers Association built a model of the new State Capitol out of onions
  • 1915 – a Baby Contest pitted city babies vs. country babies, Minneapolis babies vs. St. Paul babies
  • 1927 – John Phillip Sousa was the Fair’s first big name entertainer. He performed in the Plaza Park outside the Grandstand.
  • 1938 – the last year the Fair started on the Saturday before Labor Day
  • 1949 – the last year of horse races
  • 2002 – the last year of Grandstand auto racing


Close Up Nightshot - Carousel, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Close Up Nightshot – Carousel, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m particularly fond of the carousel, and the tradition of outdoor sculptures at the Fair. Over the years, there have been many: the 36-foot-tall Pioneer Woman made of gold fiberglass erected in 1958 to commemorate the State’s Centennial (she’s 50 years old this year); the 1959 statue of Neptune (a tribute to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway); and my personal favorite, Fairchild the Gopher, a 24-foot fiberglass statue dressed as a Midway barker, complete with striped jacket and straw skimmer.


Stella Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Stella Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.


In 1966, Fairchild the gopher became the official mascot of the State Fair and was joined by his nephew, Fairborne, in 1983. Fairchild (a play on the institution’s title) got his name after a state-wide naming contest. It is also a tribute to Henry S. Fairchild, the man who suggested the Ramsey County Poor Farm become the permanent site of the State Fair (more Fair photographs in my Flickr set Minnesota State Fair.)

You can learn more by visiting The State Fair History Museum in Heritage Square. The museum, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., showcases memorabilia and artifacts from the Fair’s past and admission is free. Or, for little known Minnesota State Fair trivia, visit the comment section of last year’s MN State Fair On-A-Stick where our friend Teri (who works at the Fair) knocks our socks off with her bounty of State Fair knowledge.


Worlds Greatest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Dairy Barn, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

World’s Greatest, Dairy Barn, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



What’s New In Food at the Minnesota State Fair?

I’m going to wrap up with my favorite subject — FOOD! Corn fritters, fried green tomatoes, and blooming onions debuted 15 years ago (1993); nearly 500,000 corndogs are consumed at the Fair each year. This video of Minnesota State Fair food lovers snarfing Fair food on-a-stick is a must see. And there’s a breakdown below of all of this year’s foods on-a-stick, as well as what’s new in food at the Fair in 2008 (check out the Minnesota State Fair Food Finder).

I’ll come back after next week to give you a rundown on all the foods on-a-stick I ate (and let you know how Gnarls Barkley turned out). Oh, one more thing — if you want to save a little money, look for the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book Bonus Coupon. Liz just came home from Cub Foods with groceries, State Fair tickets for $8 each (Admission is $11 at the door), and our Blue Ribbon Bargain Book ($4 before August 20th). She’s a big Minnesota State Fair fan and early bird bargain shopper!



Ways To Save $$$ At The Minnesota State Fair

(BRBB) BONUS COUPON -

  • The State Fair Blue Ribbon Bargain Book has 100 coupons worth over $500 in savings on food, merchandise and attractions. New this year, the book contains a bonus coupon good for a free ride or admission at one of the five favorite fair attractions, including the Butterfly House, Pirate Island Shootout, Space Tower, Sky Ride and Ye Old Mill.
  • Blue Ribbon Bargain Books are available through August 20th for only $4 wherever pre-Fair discount admission tickets are sold. During the Fair, books may be purchased at State FairWear Gift Shops on the Fairgrounds for just $5.

SUNSET SUNDAY SAVINGS -

  • On Sundays, August 24th and August 31st, this evening promotion will feature a minimum of 20% off at participating vendors from 8 p.m. until close.



Fried Fruit On-A-Stick Family, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fried Fruit On-A-Stick Family, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  3. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  4. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  5. Beer Battered Brats on-a-stick
  6. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  7. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  8. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  9. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  10. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  11. Catfish on-a-stick
  12. Cheese on-a-stick
  13. Cheese (fried) on-a-stick
  14. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  15. Chicken on-a-stick
  16. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  17. Chocolate Chip Cookies on-a-stick
  18. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  19. Corndogs on-a-stick
  20. Corned Beef and Cabbage on-a-stick
  21. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  22. Dessert Dumplings on-a-stick
  23. Dixie Wings on-a-stick
  24. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  25. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  27. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  28. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  29. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  31. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  32. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  33. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  34. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  35. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  36. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  37. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  38. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Pickles on-a-stick
  40. Pickles (deep fried) on-a-stick
  41. Pizza on-a-stick
  42. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  43. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  44. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  45. Rueben on-a-stick
  46. Sausage on-a-stick
  47. Scones on-a-stick
  48. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  49. Shrimp on-a-stick
  50. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  51. S’mores on-a-stick
  52. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  53. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  54. Spudsters on-a-stick
  55. Steak on-a-stick
  56. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  57. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  58. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  59. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  60. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  61. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  62. Walleye on-a-stick
  63. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 63


Freshmade Nutrolls, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Freshmade Nutrolls, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2008

    Chicken Bites on-a-stick (blackened chicken breast meat served with horseradish sauce)
    @Axel’s, located on the outside southeast corner of the Food Building
    Deep-Fried Ice-Cream
    @San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
    Deep-Fried S’mores on-a-stick (marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker, battered and deep-fried)
    @Oodles of Noodles, located inside the Food Building
    Deep Fried Tater Tots on-a-stick (tater tots made with hashbrowns, cheese, bacon, onions and sour cream deep-fried)
    @Axel’s, located on the southeast corner of the Food Building
    Dessert Chocolate Pizza
    @Pizza Shoppe, located inside the Food Building
    Fish Tacos (southern California-style fish tacos)
    @San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
    Fried Bacon on-a-stick (Big Fat Bacon) (1/3 lb. slice of bacon fried and caramelized with maple syrup and served with dipping sauces)
    @Big Fat Bacon, located on Carnes Avenue near Nelson Street in front of the DNR Building
    Grilled Shrimp on-a-stick
    @Grilled Shrimp, located on Underwood Street near the Ye Old Mill
    Italian Breakfast Strata (layers of Italian sausage and cheese with Italian bread)
    @Oodles of Noodles, located inside the Food Building
    • Italian Ice (frozen non-dairy confections with up to 20 different flavors)
    @Isabella’s Italian Ice, located on the corner of Liggett Street and Dan Patch Avenue
    •Leprechaun Legs (lightly battered, deep-fried green beans with dipping sauce)
    @O’Garas, located inside the Food Building
    Neapolitan Cream Puffs
    @Cream Puffs, located on the corner of Liggett Street and Dan Patch Avenue
    Norwegian Style Cheese Curds (cheese curds battered in a Scandinavian batter, deep-fried and served with Lingonberry-flavored dipping sauce)
    @Ole and Lena’s, located on Liggett near Carnes
    Pickle Pop (pickle juice frozen in a plastic push-up sleeve)
    @Preferred Pickle, located inside the Food Building
    Pig Lickers (chocolate-covered crisp-fried bacon pieces)
    @Famous Dave’s, located on Dan Patch Avenue near Liggett Street
    Walking Taco (taco ingredients served neatly in a Dorito bag)
    @Church of the Epiphany, located on Underwood Street between Carnes Avenue and Judson Avenue
    Yaki-Soba Noodles (buckwheat style noodles, wok-fried with spices and vegetables)
    @Island Noodles, located inside the International Bazaar



MN State Fair Poster 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.MN State Fair Poster 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MN State Fair Poster 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



More Nuts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. More Nuts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. More Nuts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

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Odd Pop, Jim’s homemade mint-grape popsicle (recipe from
Self magazine), photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


 










       



Minty Grape Pops

Adapted from the August 2008 issue of Self magazine. The original recipe is attributed to Jennifer Iserloh, founder of Skinny Chef Culinary Services in New York City.


1/2 cup fresh or bottled lime juice (Jim used a mix of lemon and lime)
1/4 cup honey
4 cups red (or black) grapes, halved
1/4 cup (or more, for the halitosis-afflicted) packed fresh mint

Whisk juice and honey until the honey dissolves. Add two cups cold water. Place grapes and mint into molds, then cover with liquid. Add sticks and freeze for six hours or overnight. (Perfect for first dates and pre-make-out sessions.)


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Beast of Burden, Palomino horse and young rider at today’s horse show, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










H — O — R — S — E
carry the sadness of the world
turn it into joy










NOTE: Today Dee had a horse show, and once again I was so impressed by the gentleness of these animals as they carried their young riders that I wanted to do a haiku as a tribute to The Horse. The above rider is friend and former neighbor; her horse is Curly. This photo is not a good one (Em recommended against using it altogether), but it’s the best I have from the few I snapped (plus, I’d rather not publish kids’ faces since I didn’t get permission).



-Related to post haiku (one-a-day)

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Sweet Cherry Blondies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sweet (Flathead) Cherry Blondies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Flathead cherries are in season! When I lived in Montana in my twenties, I spent one summer at the top of a ladder near Flathead Lake, handpicking cherries. It was hard, tedious work; I wasn’t that good at it. But the beauty of the Flathead Valley and spending time cherry picking with my friends made it all worthwhile.

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. west of the Mississippi; it’s also the largest lake in the state of Montana and one of the cleanest and most pristine in the world. The lake is a product of the activity of ice-age glaciers, and is fed by the Swan and Flathead Rivers. The watershed contains a diverse community of plants and animals, including over 300 species of aquatic insects, 22 species of fish, the grizzly bear, bald eagle, bull trout, lynx, peregrine falcon, and grey wolf. The snowy Northwest mountain winters are perfect for the hibernation and growth of Flathead Cherries.

To our good fortune, Liz’s sister in Wyoming picked a batch of Flathead Cherries a few weeks ago and sent them along with her Mom to Minnesota. (Rumor has it she toted them on board in her carry-on.) We ate some of them one by one off the stem. But Liz was in the mood to bake. So she searched for a good recipe and landed on these Sweet Cherry Blondies from Northwest Cherries. We substituted the Flathead Cherries. The Blondies were to die for.



         Single Cherry On Cherry Pie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Cherry Pie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Single Cherry On Cherry Pie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Cherry Pie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We ate the Blondies hot out of the oven while watching the Beijing Summer Olympics. They reminded me of a cross between a thick chocolate brownie and Mom’s Rocks. Hmmmm, good. Liz took them to work on Friday and, let’s just say, we’ve decided to make them a new family recipe.

Right now, Liz is baking Grama Hodne’s (Ex) Ginger Snaps. And we’re heading over to our friends for a fire under the August Full Moon. What better way to spend a perfect summer evening.

There are volumes of other recipes at the Northwest Cherries site, as well as tips on freezing, canning, and drying cherries, and information on growing seasons. And the same can be found at Flathead Lake Cherry Growers. Or if you are really adventurous, check out the 25th Annual Bear Hug Mountain Festival, September 12th – 14th on Flathead Lake near Rollins, Montana. In the meantime, enjoy the Blondies!



Sweet (Flathead) Cherry Blondies


1-1/3 cups flour
1-1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pitted and halved Northwest fresh sweet cherries (we used Flathead cherries)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Yield: 16 servings.

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, oil, eggs and vanilla; mix on low speed of electric mixer until blended. Mix 1 minute on medium speed. Batter will be thick.

Spread half of batter in oiled and floured 9-inch baking pan. Toss cherries in small amount of flour. Scatter cherries over batter; spread remaining batter over cherries.

Sprinkle pecans over top. Bake at 325ºF 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on rack and cut into 16 pieces.

Chocolate Chip Variation:
Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter with pecans.



 Sweet Cherry Blondies Thief, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sweet Cherry Blondies Thief, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sweet Cherry Blondies Thief, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, August 16th, 2008

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By Marylin



Chrome Hubcaps, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Chrome Hubcaps, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




I’ll be the first to admit that I am baffled by most of the high-tech inventions that have come into our lives in recent years, so I am going to express my appreciation for one that is really low-tech. How low? Well, how about wheels? Not just any wheels. I’m talking about the ones that have made my traveling life so much easier and better! I have been an enthusiastic traveler for many years, and being a woman only five-feet tall, with mighty muscles-of-mush, the lugging of luggage has always been a challenge.

My first set of wheels was on a metal cart, in the mid-1970′s. I had observed airline attendants using these and thought they would be great; and they were. It just took time to get my bags strapped on, and a few times the bungee cord wasn’t fastened in quite the right strategic position, and my belongings gradually looked like they were about to drop off, each going its own separate way! But my skill at hooking boxes and bags on the cart improved, and I was even able to keep apace with the British Railroad cars, which only allowed ninety seconds at each stop, for disembarking!

The first wheels I saw actually attached to luggage were on bags belonging to a group of Japanese tourists. I’m sure I turned a lovely shade of jealous green, with eyes glazed over. I had to have a wheeled bag! The first one that came into our local stores only had two wheels on one end, with a strap at the other. I didn’t linger to try it out; I just handed over my money, and could hardly wait to use it.

While it did save time and I didn’t have to bother with the cart, it wasn’t entirely satisfactory. As I mentioned, I am “vertically challenged,” which meant I had to lift my end of the bag by its strap. This proved to be worthy of being an Olympic event which, unfortunately, I had not trained for and so was very tiring.

There had to be a better way. There was, or so I thought when I spied a different version. Yes, it still had a strap but it came with four wheels, one on each corner — a proper set-up for wheels, right? After all, this is where cars, trucks and buses have their wheels; it can’t miss! It rolled along behind me, smoothly, about 90% of the time. Unfortunately, the remaining 10%, it fell onto its side as if it had lost its balance. This happened at very inopportune times, usually while I was entering or leaving crowded elevators in posh hotels. The cause had to be something about going over uneven surfaces (like doorways) that made it behave like a falling-down drunk!

Two decades have passed since my quest for the perfect luggage began, and I am finally satisfied. Again, in observing flight attendants I decided to purchase the same kind of luggage they were now using — a bag with two wheels on the bottom and a rigid, collapsible double bar on top. I can pull it, push it, turn it any way I want; it follows without falling or even faltering! I love it!

In my opinion, frequent flyers should be rewarded for time spent in the airport, as well as in the air. In the meantime, I am just happy that someone thought of the “moving sidewalk,” enabling one to either rest a bit or make “double time” when racing to catch a plane. That telescoping walk-way that we now use to board the plane can only be truly appreciated by those of us who used to sprint out on the tarmac to the plane and up the stairs during a blizzard, with a wind-chill factor of minus 60 degrees!

Ah, so many inventions connected to travel to be grateful for, but luggage with wheels is still my favorite!




    Free Wheelin, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Lock & Key, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Texture, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated on two picture books for children with her grandson. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. This is her second piece for red Ravine. You can read more from Marylin in her post, Kindness.


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Calling all red Ravine writers and readers!



Today we’re over at the online poetry gathering place that is Read Write Poem. These creative folks are known for their love of poetry and collaboration.

Every Wednesday at midnight they publish a new Read Write Prompt. (What they call a prompt, we call a topic. You say tomato, I say tomahtoe.) Poets then make magic with the topic, and anyone who has a blog site can drop a link to said magic in the Comments section of the Read Write Poem post. Cool, huh?






This week we are providing the topic, and it happens to be one of our favorites. Before we could throw it out there, though, we had to explain why Writing Practice isn’t just about the writing. So please head over there; you’ll find the story of how QuoinMonkey and I met and how red Ravine came to be. (You’ll also at last see photos of the two of us. If you peer really hard into QM’s gorgeous shots of Taos. Unless those are the ghosts of Mabel and Tony that you’re seeing. We understand there is a resemblance.)

The best part? You, too, are invited to write on the topic, which you can get by clicking HERE. If you have a blog site, post your work and provide a link (at Read Write Poem and here). If you don’t have a blog and what you write isn’t too long, go ahead and reproduce it in Comments on this post.

Many thanks to everyone at Read Write Poem!

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My Whites, laundry on the line on my rooftop terraces, downtown Granada, Spain, photo © 1987-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The first time I got on a plane I was 17. Mom said to dress up for the occasion; she normally wore a skirt and heels for plane rides, and she sometimes took a Valium right before the flight. I wore jeans and clogs and acted like I’d been flying all my life.

The travel bug bit me on that trip. I was like the kid whose parents never let her eat candy. Awake for the first time to its pleasures, I couldn’t get my fill. I vowed I would become a world traveler.


At 26 I moved to Granada with $6,000 cash and two suitcases. I trusted everyone and made friends easily. Within weeks I was heading out with Teresa and Alicia to see the country. I became fond of saying, “I’m taking a vacation from my vacation.”

Within a year I’d been all over Spain and Portugal, plus France, Germany, and Denmark. And nary a picture to show for it. I had Dad’s old Kodak yet I brought home exactly seven photos—all grainy and dark. I do, however, have four filled notebooks. And a handful of postcards I never sent.



Yesterday we walked to El Torcal, an eerie rock mountain, and we got a ride down with a busload of little boys. They were singing songs and clapping.



           



When it comes to traveling abroad, I have a mental block about cameras. For as long as I can remember, I believed that a photograph could never do justice to reality. Cameras proved a poor attempt to capture something that defied ownership—the experience itself.

I also saw cameras, like maps, as the domain of tourists. (I have spent hours wandering lost in foreign cities, unable to ask for directions and too proud to consult a map.) In Spain I was ashamed of the loud, nasally, jogging-suit-wearing Americans who stood in front of cathedrals, snapping shot after shot, and then bothering passersby to take that final picture that contained the entire family.

I was a traveler. A world citizen, not a visitor.

And so my arrogance accompanied me to every place I visited (and every experience had) since. Standing amidst throngs of Vietnamese peering up at a Virgin Mary as tall as a building to see if we could tell whether it was rain or tears running down her cheeks. At the train station in Delhi, searching my purse to find change for an old woman with an open trachea cavity. Walking at dawn through an entryway that opened onto gardens and pools, the white marble of the Taj Mahal shimmering like an oasis.

I’ve been to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Costa Rica, Mexico, and China several times each. Singapore, Ireland, Israel, South Africa. Most of the photos I have from those trips (if I have any) were taken by friends or co-workers. There I am, the only white person in a pub in Soweto. (I even took my camera to South Africa, pulled it out during a safari then put it away whenever people were around.)

I missed my opportunity to capture the phenomenon of “the Jeepni”—those long, open-air Jeep-buses—that dominate the streets of Manila, even though they captured me.



Only 7am yet it seems as though the city has been alive for hours. Everything is coated with a gray dust that goes from black at street level up to the color of light gray in the sky. Signs: U Want 2 B Rich? and Fish-Head Pet Store & Tire Repair. A man is cooking roadside and another bathing himself. People adorn their Jeepni’s: Gemini, Godspeed, Lady Rowena, The Born Winner, Something Special, Jesus the Provider, Jesus the Savior, Jesus Love, Holy Jesus. Jesus has a corner on Jeepni names.

Poverty looks the same in all the places I go. Too narrow roads lined with shacks selling snacks, fruits, peanuts, corn. Children and animals too close to the cars and buses and motorbikes that go careening through the streets. All things for sale, recycled, old mufflers, tires, plants. The Jeepnis choke out black smoke as they wind their way through the streets. Cheaper than buses, but to ride them you have to hold a handkerchief over your nose.


It’s been more than two years since I’ve traveled abroad. I’ve enjoyed the time off. I went to too many places. I hardly remember most of what I saw. It’s been good to stay home as my girls have gotten older.

But finally, it’s time to start up again. In less than two weeks, I’ll take a trip to Vietnam. It’s part of an assignment that will probably take me there at least one more time, maybe more, in the coming six months. I have zero photos from my prior two visits. This time I intend to whip out my camera, whether people notice or not.

I know what’s changed. It’s this blog and the opportunity to publish my photos and write about my trips. (I fear I’ve exchanged one form of arrogance for another.) But no matter the motivation, I aim to make up for lost time.

How about you? Do you do photos or do you just do?

 

 
 

 



(The top six photos were all taken by me in 1987-88 while living in Spain. I scanned them for use in this post. The four images at the bottom of the post are postcards I purchased that same period in Spain.)

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