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Diamonds At Solstice, June 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Diamonds At Solstice, June 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



At Diamonds they say, “Come for the caffeine, stay for the camaraderie.” Diamonds Coffee Shoppe — Your Atomic Coffee Stop — is located in the Arts District of Northeast Minneapolis. It’s a great place to write. To Dawn and Lucy, it’s not just coffee, it’s a philosophy.

Three of us were there last Wednesday evening to write and do art. It was our weekly creative project meeting, part of our dedication to our practice. Our small group of four alternate between the studio in the Casket Arts Building and Diamonds a few blocks away.

Last week the Pop-A-Lock guys were there; 8 of them formed a circle in the hall next to us (across from the vault), and had their business meeting. As fate would have it, one of them had helped me change a flat tire a month ago over in Brooklyn Park. The world gets smaller every day.



Diamonds In Primary Colors, June 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

Diamonds Coffee Shoppe
1618 Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 789-5282

Hours:
Mon through Thurs – 6 AM to 10 PM
Fridays 6 AM to 10 PM
Saturday 7 AM to 10 PM
Sunday 8 AM to 10PM




 

There were three things on my mind tonight. The first was an end of week meeting with my Gemini friend ybonesy. All went well; we are right on track. The second is Diamonds. I downloaded the photos I took last Wednesday. Maybe there will be a Fotoblog to follow. The third?

Summer Solstice. Liz and I are going to a Solstice celebration tomorrow night at a friend’s house. Fire and water. In Minneapolis, the longest day of the year passed a few hours ago at 5:59pm. When is Solstice in your part of the world?

Below are some links that might help. I was looking at archived photographs of the same date last year; the peonies were well on their way. This year the ants have opened only three blooms. Spring is late in coming. I welcome the light.

Time for Summer. Have a diamonds and light Solstice.



HELPFUL TIME LINKS FOR SOLSTICES & EQUINOXES



  • Times listed for Winter & Summer Solstices (and the Equinoxes) beginning in 1900:

Holoscenes – Textures of the Earth: Seasons From 1900 To 2099 (LINK)

In the Midwest, we have to subtract 6 hours from UT to get Central Standard time (and 5 for Daylight Saving time (LINK). See also Holoscenes – Textures of the Earth – Special Projects (LINK)


  • Here’s how to translate UT time to our time, wherever we are:

Earth & Sky: How Do I Translate Universal Time To My Time? (LINK)


  • Here’s a final link to different systems of time:

U.S. Navy – Systems of Time (LINK)




Diamonds At Dusk, June 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




-posted on red Ravine, Friday, June 20th, Summer Solstice 2008

-related to posts: 8 Minutes, Winter Solstice – Making Light Of The Dark, Solstice Fire In Winter, 15 Hours, 36 Minutes Of Light

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By Teri Blair


Parkway Marquee, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Parkway Marquee, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In 1989 the Academy-Award winning Cinema Paradiso was released. The Italian film takes place in a post-World War II Sicilian village, and chronicles the friendship of a young boy, Toto, and the town’s gruff but lovable movie projectionist, Alfredo. Toto is fascinated by everything at the theater — the celluloid film, the projector, and the lion’s roaring mouth on the wall through which images pass from film to screen. We watch Hardware, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Toto mature from mischievous child, to earnest young man, to successful filmmaker. But in-between scenes of first love and failing health and a changing Italian community, we see and know something else. We are witnessing the life of someone who is undeniably, unequivocally passionate about one thing — movies.

Nineteen eighty-nine was also the year I began attending a theater in south Minneapolis that showed art house films, the sort of movies that weren’t on every screen in town. I rather stumbled upon the Parkway. There was a foreign film playing there that I hadn’t seen, and the theater’s recording said there was free lighted parking a block away. When I arrived, I knew I was at a theater that was different from any other in town. But what I didn’t know was that the theater was owned by someone who is undeniably, unequivocally passionate about one thing — movies.

Bill Irvine’s livelihood in the theater business began, like Toto’s, as a youngster. At thirteen, he was already an avid movie From Here To Eternity , Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.enthusiast who saw at least one picture a week. One Thursday evening in spring, young Bill was walking by the Parkway Theater. The owner needed someone to change the marquee for the upcoming weekend movie. His regular marquee man hadn’t shown. Bill heard, “Hey kid! Do you want to make a buck?” He brought the ladder outside and put up the new film, Romeo and Juliet. He was paid a dollar, a Nut Goodie, and offered the same job the following Thursday. Before long he was working behind the candy counter, then selling tickets, and by the time he was a junior in high school, was managing the entire theater.

That was 40 years ago. Last summer, the 53-year-old fixture at 48th and Chicago ended his career at the Parkway and turned over his theater keys to Joe Senkyr, owner of next-door Pepitos restaurant.Rows, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I caught up with Bill a few weeks ago. I wanted to hear his story. After all, who stays at a job for 40 years, let alone at one location? There is a boyish openness about Bill, a casual baseball hat, a ready smile. He was ready to talk, and as willing to divulge the hazards of his chosen profession as the rewards.

Bill never had a grand scheme to become an actor or a filmmaker himself. After high school he attended St. Thomas and Brown Institute to study Journalism and Broadcast Journalism. But at the young age of 20, he decided to make an offer on the up-for-sale Parkway. He knew the business inside and out, having already been an employee for seven years, and had no trouble getting several banks to offer him a loan to buy the place.

But instead of selling the theater to this neighborhood kid, then-owner Mel Lebewitz sold it to Jim Sparks, a man from Omaha who The Peerless, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reservedspecialized in porn theaters across the country…a move that mystifies Bill to this day. The community was outraged and months of demonstrations and picketing ensued. After six months of hassles, Sparks was ready to unload the Parkway, and Bill (still 20), bought it for $140,000 with his business partner Pat Nikoloff. Papers were signed in March of 1976, and six days later Bill opened with a double feature, The Pink Panther, and Bill Cosby’s Let’s Do it Again.

Bill was quickly enfolded into the Twin City theater-owner community. It was a Jewish-dominated industry, and with a name lParkway Goddess, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.ike Irvine, Bill let himself pass for Jewish…even though his heritage is Scottish and English. “No one asked me, so I never told,” Bill laughs.

Bill’s outgoing personality lent itself to the business. He grew to know the stories of his customers’ lives, and they became his friends. He saw their children grow up, celebrated job promotions, and grieved a lost parent. And along with the relationships, he created a theater known for its documentaries, foreign films, and thought-provoking dramas.

“I have loved what I have done, and I am happy,” Bill mused. “If you don’t love your job, you start to hate life and become bitter and mean. If I were talking to a 25-year-old, I would tell them to set their sights high doing something they love, stick with it, and be good at it.”



The movie industry changed during the 40 years that Bill owned the Parkway. When he began, there were several one-screen theaters in town. They are now the rare exception, having given way to 10-and 20-plex theaters. “When I started in the business, actors were well-trained in their craft. Now, theaters are desperate to fill screens. The integrity of films has suffered, and most movies have no shelf life. If someone has an attractive face, they slap them up on the screen and call them an actor.”

But in the midst of this, Bill maintained a caliber of quality movies that brought his faithful customer base back week after week. He spent hours combing through sample DVDs to find good selections. “I think most people would be surprised by how time-consuming this job is,” he says. “It takes so much time to find a good movie.”

Simplex, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bill has his own personal favorites, of course:  the documentary Brother’s Keeper, Waiting for Guffman, and Shawshank Redemption. The actors who top his list are Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Woody Allen, and Michael Caine. The longest-running movie in Parkway’s history was Shirley Valentine, the story of a woman who flees her stale life in England to begin again in Greece. It stayed at the Parkway for 38 weeks.

What is next for Bill? “Well, I’d like to travel. I want to see New Zealand and Australia. I may open up another theater in St. Cloud or St. Paul; I’ve had a job offer from Columbia Film Society in South Carolina. But I haven’t really decided.”

Blueprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Blueprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


And how about the Parkway? New owner Senkyr has already begun major renovations:  a newly exposed balcony railing, rich colors and murals, seats torn out to make room for a larger stage for live theater. Weekly changes are quickly making the old Parkway harder to remember as the new one is born.

And what about us, those of us who look first at what is playing at the Parkway when we open up the movie section? We likely won’t find another movie theater where the owner calls us by name when we walk through the door, where we can ask for a glass of water and not be charged for it, and where our business is so clearly appreciated.

     Ladies, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Up The Down Staircase, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Stripes, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Cut Out, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I have never minded that there were some lumpy seats and peeling paint on the ceiling. Because the Parkway has maintained something that is hard to come by these days — a sense of belonging and community. In a big city we have had a place that has felt a little like a small town. A place where we could enjoy the talent of someone who knew his business and the quality of films never diminished. A place where the popcorn was always fresh and the movies ever enchanting.

We have been lucky. We have gotten to be a part of a Bill’s 40-year love affair. A love affair with the movies.



Lights, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Parkway Lights, inside the Parkway Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. She is currently writing a profile series on teachers who taught in one-room rural schools before, during, and after WW II. They are appearing monthly in Senior Perspective.


About profiling, Teri says:  I stumbled onto profiling quite by accident. I owned a dairy barn that had been a dance hall during the Depression, and I wanted to meet people who had danced there. When I heard their stories, it was obvious they had to be recorded. One thing quickly led to another, and before long I had a series of essays on my hands that people wanted to read.

I typically go into an interview with 10 questions, one tape recorder, and two cameras. I’ve learned through many fits and starts how to adapt questions, change directions, and let the real story emerge. I’ve had two tape recorders break during interviews, several rolls of film come back blurry, and been in situations where I was so nervous I could barely keep from passing out. I’ve also had the time of my life…adventures worth their weight in gold.

Profiling gives me the chance to shine lights on people who deserve attention for adding something of value to our world. That is my greatest reward.

Favorite profile experience to date:  After interviewing a 14-year-old musher, he took me on an invigorating dogsled ride through ditches, woods, and down snow-covered gravel roads. I learned that a 14-year-old boy has only one speed he is interested in: FAST.



Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



About the photography:  All the photographs were taken on September 20th, 2007 by QuoinMonkey during an Ani DiFranco poetry reading at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. She would later find out, the timing occurred shortly after Bill Irvine transferred ownership of the Parkway Theater. The seeds for a collaboration between Teri’s profile and the Parkway photographs were planted in a Comment thread on The Brave One. The result is this chance meeting between language and the visual.

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Old Friend From Far Away, Minneapolis, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Old Friend From Far Away, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I bought Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Actually, Liz bought it for me, the creative version of romance – a writer’s gift. We visited Common Good Books, an Independent bookstore in Saint Paul, between touring the Minnesota State Capitol (by day), and attending a Victorian Poetry Slam at the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue (by night).

It was the first time I had been to Common Good Books, owned by one of Minnesota’s native sons (and the host of A Prairie Home Companion), Garrison Keillor. I went at the urging of a friend. I slid Natalie’s book off the shelf in excited anticipation. It was the last one they had in stock.

The book feels good in the hands. The paper is soft and textured, the front cover is inviting, and I can’t wait to dive in. I took some time off this weekend. Rested. Today begins a new week. Sometimes I need a little inspiration. I pick up a book.


      Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Natalie talked about writing Old Friend from Far Away in the Writing Intensive in Taos last year. Sometimes she would show us the manuscript with the cross-outs and revisions. Other times she would read partially completed chapters to us. Twice, I saw her write new lines into a paragraph while she was sitting there. She said she was inspired by her students; the book is dedicated to them.

Studying with an author while they are actually writing a book is a rare gift. I learned so much from her sharing the process (both successes and mistakes). The next best thing is hearing the writer read her work. If you want to see Natalie read from her new book, maybe you can catch her on tour from February through April of this year.

If you are looking to learn more about Writing Practice and memories, pick up a copy for yourself. Spending the money to buy a writer’s book shows your support for the writer. You might also want to consider doing your shopping in an Independent bookstore near you. Yeah, it takes more effort than ordering online. And is sometimes more expensive. But it’s worth it.



Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Here are a couple of reasons why:



ONE:

When I hit sunlight on the sidewalk, I felt that I had just been in another world, a place full and close to me. After that day, Centicore was mine. I lived in it.

Since then I have sought out bookstores in every town and city I pass through, the way someone else might search for old battle sites, gourmet food or sports bars. I consider the people working in bookstores my friends. If I’m lost, need a good restaurant or a cheap place to stay, I go to a bookstore, confident someone there will direct me.

If a town has no bookstore, I feel sad for the place. It doesn’t have that concentrated wealth of minds that includes twelfth-century Japan, a painter in Tahiti, traditional North American Indian pottery, memories of war, a touch of Paris and the Mississippi, a lament on love’s transiency and instruction on how to cook a good chicken stew. You can live in a small hamlet on the Nebraska plains and if there’s a bookstore, it’s like the great sun caught in one raisin or in the juicy flesh of a single peach.

A bookstore captures worlds — above, behind, below, under, forward, back. From that one spot the townspeople can radiate out beyond physical limit. A hammer and nails in the hardware store down the block, though fine and useful tools, can’t quite do the same job. Even an ice cream parlor — a definite advantage — does not alleviate the sorrow I feel for a town lacking a bookstore.


-Natalie Goldberg, from Thunder and Lightning; Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, chapter excerpt, Smack! Into the Moment

TWO:

What Happened To Orr Books?  Bookstores across the country are closing every month. Buy Independent!


I know it’s not always possible to shop at an Independent bookstore. I confess, I buy my share of books online. Particularly if I am rushed for time, or am looking for obscure or out-of-print books. Many times, smaller bookstores don’t have the room to keep older books in stock.

And I found when I worked at a large bookstore chain, they, too, would often have to order older books online. In that case, I cut out the middle man and buy direct. But when I do shop online, I try to visit sites like Alibris: New, Used, Rare and Out-of-Print Books. Alibris supports Independent bookstores by uniting book sellers from all over the globe, and giving you the online alternative of patronizing an Independent.

However you shop, I hope you’ll get out to support Natalie on tour and purchase her new book, Old Friend from Far Away. And please come back and share any insights you’ve gained from reading about the practice of writing memoir. We’d love to hear them.



THREE:

Make that three good reasons!


Common Good Books, St Paul, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Common Good Books, Saint Paul, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Common Good Books
165 Western Avenue North
(downstairs in the Blair Building, beside Nina’s Coffee Cafe on Selby)
St Paul, Minnesota 55102

Store Hours:
Monday through Saturday – 10am to 10pm
Sunday – 10am to 8pm

Contact:
Phone: 651-225-8989
CommonGoodBooks.com



Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 18th, 2008

-related to post, Natalie Goldberg — 2000 Years Of Watching The Mind, Beginner’s Mind, More About The Monkey

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Dining Out, Mickey's Diner, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Dining Out, Mickey’s Diner, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, all photos © 2007-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




out to lunch weekends
ah, it’s nice to have a break
blue nightowl sandwich




Sebring 100 Jukebox, Mickey's Diner, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mickey's Menu, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.            Mickey's Nightshot, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sebring 100 Jukebox (Top), Mickey’s Menu (L bottom), Mickey’s Nightshot (R bottom), downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, all photos © 2007-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




-posted on red Ravine, Midnight, Saturday, January 12th, 2008


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The 6 Faces Of Dylan, Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The 6 Faces Of Dylan, Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, Uptown Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Buttered popcorn in hand, I viewed I’m Not There at the Uptown Theater a few weeks ago. I have to admit, when my friends and I plopped down in the Uptown’s long-ago upholstered, vintage seats, we had no idea what to expect.

I wasn’t disappointed. The Todd Haynes film is a riddle inside a Cate Blanchett enigma. Playing Jude, the Thin, Wild Mercury Bob, she’s one of the best parts of the whole film, right down to her classic 1965 polka dot shirt. Her flavorful and juicy depiction of Dylan brought to mind one of my favorite scenes from the D. A. Pennebaker film, Don’t Look Back (a documentary on Bob Dylan’s tour of England in 1965).

Even if you aren’t a Dylan fan, rent this film. It captures the strange unrest and tension between (and within) 60’s counterculture and what was then considered The Establishment (aka The Man). (Yes, that’s Ginsberg in the background.)


Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues clip from the 1965 D.A. Pennebaker film, Don’t Look Back (posted by JG2000 on YouTube)


But I digress.

Other heavy hitters in I’m Not There? (The Rolling Stone character guide lays it out for you.) Richard Gere as a kind of Billy the Kid in The Drifter’s Escape. Marcus Carl Franklin as the 11-year-old Woody, Bound For Glory. Christian Bale as Jack, the protest singer, and Pastor John, the evangelical minister in You Gotta Serve Somebody. Heath Ledger portrays Jack in the Dylan period near and dear to my heart – the Tangled Up In Blue, Blood On The Tracks era. And finally, the least understood, Ben Whishaw as Arthur, the Poet, Jokerman, and Thief.

Confused? Not half as much as you will be when you watch this film. Even diehard fans will do a few doubletakes. The film is chock full of symbolism and references to the life and times of Bob Dylan. The Woody Guthrie scene was moving. I laughed out loud at Cate Blanchett’s romp on the hill with the Beatles. And her encounters with Allen Ginsberg (played by David Cross) are worth the $8.50 ticket.

Dylan Days - Zimmy's Magnet, Hibbing, Minnesota, Summers 2005, 2006,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  I’m not a hardcore Dylan fan, more of a convert. It seems I have always dated, studied under, and partnered with women who love Dylan.  But Blood On The Tracks is one of my all-time Top 10 albums. And I wouldn’t trade the last two summers of Dylan Days in Hibbing, Minnesota for the world.

Dylan Days unfolds in Hibbing every year, complete with a bus tour, battle of the bands (at Zimmy’s), walk-through of his childhood home, and every Dylan book imaginable at the independent bookstore, Howard Street Booksellers. There’s a screening of the Mary Feidt/Natalie Goldberg film, Tangled Up In Bob. And at our last Dylan Days, Liz and I saw the original Minnesota Blood On The Tracks band perform on the same Hibbing High School stage where Dylan got his start.

Dylan is a poet’s poet. He has stolen a corner of my heart. Not only for his prolific writing, but for all he has endured – the legend he has become. He’s another of those misunderstood rebels, like James Dean and Kerouac, who’s gotten under my skin.

You’ll find I’m Not There playing at an independent theater in the artsy section of town; judge the 135 minute film for yourself. If you’re not a Dylan fan, I guarantee you’ll leave shaking your head. If you are a Dylan fan, you’ll still leave scratching it. Then you’ll go out to Sebastian Joe’s for ice cream and talk about the symbolism you did get, vowing to see it again for all that you missed.

I don’t want to spoil the fun by inserting the trailer. Instead, I’m going to wrap this up with another YouTube clip that shows Dylan at his best – romping with Allen Ginsberg.


Bob Dylan & Allen Ginsberg from the 1978 film, Renaldo and Clara, music Not Dark Yet from Time Out of Mind (posted by chimeman on YouTube – if you click on his link, you can see a ton more Dylan clips)



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, December 6th, 2007

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 Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Part I.

Fitzgerald Theater (Inside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, St. Paul. Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On a rainy October night, inside the haunted Fitzgerald Theater, Ann Patchett held the audience rapt. She has created a huge life for herself. A writer’s life. Awed by her confidence and poise, I was surprised to find she is also funny, and witty. Bel Canto was the novel that put her over the top. And earned her the alias, “Opera Girl.” But it was the memoir, Truth & Beauty, that drew me in.

The Write Kind Of Jazz, live jazz quartet, night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved My friend, Teri, read the book for one of Natalie Goldberg’s workshops. Then attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop last summer (where much of the book takes place). She suggested I read it. Along with Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.

Suddenly, it was October, and Teri, Liz, and I grabbed dinner at Mickey’s Diner before walking across Exchange Street into the bustling, sold-out crowd at the Fitzgerald.

We found split seats tucked way in the left corner, right under the balcony. Opening with an airline joke about her lost luggage, Ann Patchett sat across from Kerri Miller wearing black Jazzin' With Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller, Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller enjoying the live jazz quartet at the Fitzerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. jeans, black boots, and a burnt orange scarf. Casual. It didn’t matter. Her comments on grief and loss stilled the room. It was her grieving process for Lucy that became Truth & Beauty. There was no tour when the book came out. She seemed happy to talk about the healing.



Part II.

At times, Ann had the audience in stitches. Other moments, there were tears. Later she would joke with us, pose for a few photos, and sign our books. She seemed glad to be there.

I listened with hungry ears. Teri and I nudged each other anytime we heard some snippet of wisdom, another link in the chain of making our way as writers. Liz took notes in the seat behind us (thanks, Liz!). And every once in a while we would explode into laughter at one of Ann’s jokes.

I soaked it all up. What did I learn?


  • She doesn’t have to write every day. She has no rituals or rules.
  • She doesn’t write between books. She rests.
  • After writing her books, she lets them go. She doesn’t read them again. She doesn’t even remember Bel Canto. She’s moved on.
  • The idea that’s cookin’ may not be the book at all.
  • Writing a novel is about faking it with authority.
  • Two words: pen pal. She has close pen pals.
  • A new definition of pornography was forged when Clemson University (in South Carolina) strenuously objected to Truth & Beauty being on the freshman class syllabus, claiming it was filled with “pornography.” There was a protest; Ann needed a bodyguard to make her speech.
  • Profound, close relationships between two women scare a lot of people.
  • Run, Bambi, Run!
  • The center cannot hold; the falcon cannot hear the falconer.
  • When you write a new book and go on tour, people really want you to talk about the last book because that’s the one they last read. (In this case, the last two books.)
  • She met her best friend and writer, Elizabeth McCracken, during the living of Truth & Beauty. She trusts her with her life.
  • She writes 98 percent for herself, 2 percent for Elizabeth, and no one else.
  • You can’t put love on the scales.
  • In her mid 30’s, she had no knowledge of opera, had never been to an opera, had never listened to an opera. But after Bel Canto, when something goes on in the world of opera, The New York Times calls “Opera Girl.”
  • Research brings her a lot of joy. She hates magic. Why? Magic is the most misogynist art form in the world
  • No experience matches the moment she finished her first published novel, The Patron Saint Of Liars.
  • She was two blocks away from the World Trade Center when it went down. She was holding someone’s hand. 


Part III.

               The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, on MPR’s Talking Volumes, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What I want to say is that Ann was inspiring. She didn’t pull any punches. She was at the same time vulnerable and strong. Very strong. She knows how to take the criticism of her readers, and the country. She mentors others, gives back. But also seems like she guards her time with her life.

The day after we saw her at the Fitz, she flew to Dallas. Or somewhere in the heart of Texas. The tour went on. I smiled when I thought about her missing luggage. I wondered if Run would do well. But I could tell it wouldn’t matter all that much. She’s already moved on. She’s looking in the eyes of a stranger, waiting for the next book. She’s doing what she’s wanted to do since she was 5 years old. She never wavered for a moment. She’s a writer.


In the moment of our death, we are closest to our life. And the person who is with us at that moment is the person that we desperately need. Because they’re the only person who really understands what we’ve been through.

  – Ann Patchett, Fitzgerald Theater, October 16th, 2007


Part IV.

Post Script:  Don’t take my word for any of this. To hear Ann speak about ichthyology, magic, Bel Canto, bodyguards, Opera Girl (and to find out whose hand she was holding), listen to her talk in its entirety at the link below (you might even recognize a familiar voice during the audience Q&A):

Live appearance: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Patchett discussed “Run” with Kerri Miller and the Talking Volumes audience at the Fitzgerald Theater.


Related links you might enjoy:

Seattle Arts and Lectures: Elizabeth McCracken & Ann Patchett
Novelists, 5th Avenue Theatre, January 10, 2000

StarTribune Article on Ann Patchett
Setting Her Own Pace, October 2007
(you may have to register and log in to read)


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC: WHAT HAVE YOU LOST & F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birthday Celebration

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Mickey's Diner In The Rain, Rainpainting Series, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mickey’s Diner In The Rain, Rainpainting Series, outside Mickey’s Diner near the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long couple of weeks. Mr. Stripeypants has started to eat hard food again and seems to be on the mend. (Thanks for all the good energy any of you might have sent his way.) I’m up writing and preparing a post for tomorrow. But for tonight, easy does it.

Mickey’s Diner In The Rain was shot outside Mickey’s Diner late last Tuesday night after Ann Patchett’s talk at the Fitzgerald Theater a few blocks away. If you’re around these parts, you might want to catch a bite to eat.

Otherwise, it was quite a lively day at the bottom of red Ravine. Stop by any time. The parking is free.



I wanted to keep her as much for myself as for her. We had a wonderful time that visit. Even when Lucy was devastated or difficult, she was the person I knew best in the world, the person I was the most comfortable with. Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn’t even realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker.

But Lucy was never going to live in Nashville. Even if it might have saved her life, it wasn’t the life she wanted.

Dearest Anngora, my cynical pirate of the elusive heart, my self-winding watch, my showpiece, my shoelace, how are you?


-from Ann Patchett’s memoir, Truth & Beauty, A Friendship, Harper-Collins Publishers, 2004

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

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3043 - What's Left Behind, Orr Books, Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

3043 – What’s Left Behind, inside what used to be Orr Books, Hennepin Avenue, Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


While walking to dinner in Uptown a few weeks ago, I snapped a few photos of the shadowy insides of 3043 Hennepin Avenue, last location of the (almost) 40-year-old Orr Books.

The independent Minneapolis bookstore closed last summer. Read a full account of its closing in the related post, What Happened To Orr Books?


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 7th, 2007

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The Fitzgerald, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007<br>  by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Fitzgerald, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

Last April, I went to see Galway Kinnell at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. As my friend and I left the theater after a magnificent night of interviews and poetry, I turned and snapped this shot.

I am fortunate to live in the Twin Cities, a place that is a big supporter of writers and the arts (including funding). The Fitzgerald Theater is the oldest existing stage venue in the city of St. Paul and the home of American Public Media’s, A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

When I interviewed my 8th grade English teacher in Pennsylvania in June (after having not seen her for almost 40 years), she told me she loved A Prairie Home Companion and had visited the Fitzgerald Theater in Minnesota. She didn’t know at the time that I lived here. I instantly felt a renewed connection. Memoir research leads down many vibrant roads.

Liz was perusing the City Pages at dinner the other night and informed me that on Monday, September 24th, the St. Paul Central Library is sponsoring a celebration of the birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was born September 24th, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and did you know he was named for his famous relative, Francis Scott Key?

You can find everything Fitzgerald at the Princeton site, F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers — 1897-1944 (Co187). And there’s more information at All About F. Scott Fitzgerald and the University of South Carolina’s, A Brief Life of Fitzgerald.

I saw The Great Gatsby at the Guthrie last year with Liz and her Mom. It was fun to see the play; I learned a lot about Fitzgerald. But I’m almost equally fascinated by his wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald , a writer and artist with a privileged and tragic life. The intimate dance of love between F. Scott and Zelda seems complicated and dark.

 

Details of the celebration of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday at the St. Paul Central Library are below. There will be readings of his work by Michael-jon Pease. And Lynn Deichart’s Jazz Quartet will play.

The Jazz Age of the 1920’s had a big impact on Fitzgerald’s life, the period when he became famous for The Great Gatsby and friends with Hemingway. I wonder if they ever bumped into Mabel Dodge?

 

Celebrate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birthday
Monday, September 24th, 7p.m.

St. Paul Central Library
90 West 4th St.
St. Paul, Minnesota

For more information call: 651-222-3242.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 16th, 2007

-related to posts:  Forget Vonnegut – Jane Kenyon Lives On and Why Writers Don’t Write About Sex

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By Teri Blair

It’s been 40 days since the 35W Bridge collapsed. Today, a sunny Fall day, I’ve come down to view the site…the first day (since the first fitful days of August) that I’ve been here. I’m writing this from the 10th Ave Bridge. I stand close enough to the collapse site to see everything, practically close enough to touch the pillars, the crushed railroad cars, the twisted steel. It looks smaller than I expected, like that feeling I have when I go back to my elementary school and the rooms seem little.

As in early August, a huge crowd gathers. We stand in respectful silence and awe. Seeing. It sinks in, one level deeper. In the river there are 5 barges, the ones used for clean up. They bob slightly in the muddy Mississippi, and I wonder how the divers found anyone. The river is dark, even with the midday sun. Two of the barges have cranes several stories high perched on them, and I don’t see the flags at first. I can’t see much at first. There is too much to look at, and all I can do is stand there. Absorbing it into my cells. But then I see it; a flag is flying against the blue sky, the Minneapolis skyline in the background. I instantly remember seeing the flags flying at Ground Zero, and I have the same rush of faith and patriotism and tenderness for what has happened. I look around, and see flags everywhere around the collapse site. There are 8. On the cranes, the barges, the trailer where the demolition crew takes their breaks. And I know someone thought that through. It was the way someone showed up for what happened here.

I walk the length of the bridge. Slowly. When I get to the end and turn to walk back, women begin to pass me wearing cotton dresses and white bonnets. And then their men come. The single ones clean-shaven, the married with beards. My attention turns from the bridge to the Mennonites, and I realize they are curious, too. Then, quite suddenly, the group of 50 clusters near one of the lookout points and forms a choir. They begin to sing a cappella hymns in 4-part harmony. Their voices are gentle, soothing, the music floating over the site and the people viewing it. I am singing the lyrics with them in my head—all familiar songs from my early upbringing in the church. A Mennonite man approaches me with a CD of their music. I accept it. He tells me they have driven up from southern Iowa to sing on the bridge. A 5-hour trip. They sing 7 songs, and continue across the bridge.

I continue walking. An artist paints the collapsed bridge with her oils, an easel set up. Parents quietly explain to their children what they’re seeing. The voices are mainly those of the children, innocent questions about how people drown, would the choo-choo train be okay; one cries when he thinks his big brother has a better view.

I came here today simply because I needed to. I came without expectations. It was time. What I didn’t plan on was the feeling of tremendous unity. Everyone tries to make sense of this, and brings what they have. The Army Corps of Engineers brings their flags; the Mennonites bring their music, the artist her palette. A feeling of deep peace permeates the crowd. And I can see somehow (as the Mennonites have sung)…It is well with my soul.


About Teri:  Teri is a writer from Minnesota, living in Minneapolis. She went to the I-35W collapse site every day for several days immediately following the tragedy, but she was not able to see the bridge up close due to barricades blocking public access. Teri again visited the site this past weekend, where she did the writing practice “40 Days, 8 Flags, and 1 Mennonite Choir.” This post is a follow-up to “Thornton Wilder & Bridges,” a piece Teri wrote shortly after the August 1, 2007, bridge collapse.

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Riverview Theater, vintage 1948 sign, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Riverview Theater, vintage 1948 sign, designed by Liebenberg and Kaplan, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


A good friend called me last Sunday completely revved up about a film she had seen at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. The last showings were scheduled for Sunday at noon and 5:30p.m. and she said we had to go see it. Both the director and the producer were going to introduce the film and stay afterwards to answer questions.

As soon as I heard it was a documentary on the model most often photographed in Edward Weston’s work, I knew I wanted to see it. It was a rainy Sunday and at 10:30, Liz and I were still in our pajamas, drinking morning coffee; we didn’t have long to get ready. We tried to make the noon showing but got there too late. Instead of missing the first 15 minutes, we decided to head downtown to take photographs and come back for the 5:30. Were we glad we did!

Eloquent Nude – The Love And Legacy Of Edward Weston & Charis Wilson is directed by Ian McCluskey. Ian appeared down-to-earth, excited, and passionate when he talked about the film. He did an excellent job of interviewing, editing, and paring the footage down to just the essentials.

The final product skillfully reveals his vision for the film – to capture the essence of the relationship between photographer, Edward Weston, and poet, writer, and model, Charis Wilson. The film reaches far past their marriage, to reveal the minds and hearts of two people bound by artistic love and creative drive.

Eloquent Nude. The Love And Legacy of Edward Weston & Charis Wilson, image of movie poster provided by director & producer, © 2007 McCluskey explained that he had always wondered who the woman was in the Weston photographs. When he started to dig into it, he discovered Charis and in a moment of bravery, contacted her, filmed over 8 hours of interviews, and, well, the rest is history.

He talked about the tender moment when he worked up the courage to give her a call and then stumbled over his words. “It’s an honor to finally talk to you,” he said. In the cut-to-the-point, direct humor that carried over into the film, Charis laughingly said, “Oh, he says it’s an honor.”

Producer, Julie Gliniany, originally from the Twin Cities, eloquently spoke about the project and how she met Ian through an ad on Craigslist. A few years and a lot of work later, Eloquent Nude is a reality. Julie was beaming when she talked about nervously screening the film at the home of Charis Wilson, now 93 and legally blind. They set up a big screen TV and Charis sat close to the action.

About half way into the film, Charis asked her daughter to stop the viewing, turned to Julie and Ian and said, “If my tear ducts hadn’t clogged up years ago, I’d be crying my eyes out. These are the home movies I never had.”

I can’t recommend this film enough. I was riveted to Charis Wilson’s expressive face, honest commentary, and candid sense of humor. And after hearing Ian and Julie speak about their work, I walked out of the Riverview completely inspired to tackle my own creative projects.

Julie and Ian took a chance; they went out there and did something that was close to their hearts. They didn’t have a lot of money but they had an idea that they believed in; they placed ads, got the crew together, contacted Charis and made their vision a reality.

Before we left the historic Riverview Theater (designed by Liebenberg and Kaplan in 1948, with many of the original furnishings), Liz signed up for their email list. Today she got an email from the producer, Julie, that the film had been held over at the Riverview another week. I had already planned to blog about the experience, but Julie’s email gave me that extra zip I needed to get this post out tonight.

Here’s what she said:

Thank you so much for such a warm welcoming in Minnesota over the weekend. Ian and I are safely back in Portland, enjoying the August sunshine and already missing the friendly crowds, Scandinavian accents, and potato salad of the Midwest (I know, my accent isn’t too far from gone).

We wanted to write and let you all know that due to the huge success of ELOQUENT NUDE, the Riverview Theater has decided to hold the film over for an additional week!

As this obviously wasn’t included in the beautiful press we received we’re asking for as much help as you can offer to spread the word about the additional screening dates. Feel free to post this info on blogs, forums, work email lists, etc.. Although Ian and I will no longer be able to attend the screenings, we hope you will help us fill those seats and continue sharing this story.

Riverview Theater
3800 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis
612-729-7369

Wed. Aug. 22nd at 5:30
Friday Aug. 24 – Thursday Aug. 30 at 5:30pm
Weekend Matinees at Noon on Aug. 25-26
Tickets are $2

Keep in touch!

Julie Gliniany & Ian McCluskey

Don’t miss this film! When it comes to your town, rain or shine, rush out in your pajamas, coffee clutched in hand, and see it. Grab some buttered popcorn and a box of Raisinets. And prepare to be moved.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007


related links:

Weston Photography – Kim & Gina Weston’s site – Historic and current photographs of the Weston family and history, including Charis Wilson and Wildcat Hill

Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Interview with Charis Wilson, Conducted by Mimi Luebbermann, In Aptos, California, March 24, 1982 – Great candid interview with Charis, well worth the time.

Weston Book Leads To Documentary Film, Oregon State Website, updated 2006 – Wendy Madar co-wrote the Charis Wilson memoir, Through Another Lens: My Years With Edward Weston. We checked a local bookstore last weekend and found the book to be out of print. But you may be able to find it used.

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Memorial By Night, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Memorial, By Night, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 5th, 2007, shot through the grove of trees at center circle, facing the I-35 Bridge, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I heard on the 9p.m. news that they found the final and 13th person from the I-35 Bridge collapse. The final person as far as they know. Our visit to the Memorial two weeks ago was unplanned. Liz had purchased tickets in May to see 1776 at the Guthrie on August 5th. We had plans to take her Mom who flew in from Wyoming the night the bridge collapsed.

By the time of the Guthrie performance, the Memorial in the grove of trees in Gold Medal Park had already formed. We took some flowers to the play that night. Before the performance, we ate dinner and walked out on the Guthrie’s Endless Bridge to view the I-35 Bridge.

And after the performance, we trudged through the soggy grass up the hill in the dark, and placed the handful of flowers down under the trees. The bridge was lit up in the background. We said our prayers.

I wanted to wait until everyone was found to post these shots. The eerie, blue neon lines from the benches that square the trees on the hill at Gold Medal Park threw strange shadows on the handmade signs that night. A light breeze blew through the summer air.

We stood together silently for a while. Then walked down the hill, picked her Mom up in the lobby next to a group from the 1776 cast, drove through the city, and headed back home.

Perhaps tonight there is a little more peace. Yet I heard that 6 died yesterday in severe flooding down in southeast Minnesota. Roads, bridges, and railroad tracks caved in. Houses flooded, fell away in mudslides, and are buried in layers of silt.

Maybe there is no peace. Only the idea of it. And the gentle acceptance and quiet strength that reverberate through our town.


Memorial From The Guthrie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Memorial, By Day, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 5th 2007, shot from high inside the Guthrie Theater, Memorial is in the center of the circle on the hill, left view is the reflection in the stainless steel window panel, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 -posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 20th, 2007

– related post: Bridge To Nowhere – The Great Connector

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Leaving the Land of 10,000 Lakes, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Leaving the Land of 10,000 Lakes, photo © 2007 by Liz, all rights reserved


Inspired by ybonesy’s Arriving Albuquerque From Seat 21A and Leaving Portland From Seat 21A, I wanted to post Liz’s aerial shots from her trip last week from Minnesota to Wyoming. I wrote about the Minnesota puddles above in Shadow Of A Dragonfly. The two shots below are Wyoming from the air.


Follow the Red Road, photo © 2007 by Liz, all rights reserved

 –Follow the Red Road, photo © 2007 by Liz, all rights reserved


 The Path to Yellowstone, photo © 2007 by Liz, all rights reserved

To the Path to Yellowstone, photo © 2007 by Liz, all rights reserved


In the last shot, Rattlesnake Mountain is on the right, Cedar Mountain on the left, and more of the Absaroka Mountains in the distance. I anticipate views over the Great Lakes as I fly from Minnesota to Pennsylvania in the morning. There is something about changing locations, covering over a thousand miles in less than two hours, that kind of wakes you up. I think it’s good for the creative soul to zip from place to place, flying like a bird. Though I have to admit, I’d much rather drive.


Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

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Northwestern Casket Company building in Northeast Minneapolis, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Northwestern Casket Company, May 17th 2007, all photos copyright © 2007-2010 by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.


I went over to the Casket Arts Building on Thursday to help my friend, Gail, hang her show. She recently joined the rain collective, a confluence of artists who moved into the building this week.

I took my camera along and the pleasure was all mine. The exposed brick had been restored, the studio floors had been sanded and polished to their original luster, a stunning mix of maple and pine.

The oldest portion of the former Northwestern Casket Company, which served as a casket factory until January of 2006, dates back to 1887. It’s one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city of Minneapolis.

Elevator Shaft, May17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Smoke Stack from Gail's studio window, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I met owner, Jennifer Young, and we stood in the door of Gail’s studio and chatted for a while about what kind of shape the building was in before they bought it – and what it looks like now (a photographer’s dream).

The former owner of Northwest Casket Company, Robert Berny, rose from clerk to president and spent 6 decades with the company until his death in 2004. He was buried in a custom cherrywood casket.

Tools of the Trade, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Yesterday, the building was bustling with artists preparing for an annual Northeast tradition, Art-A-Whirl. This is the 12th Annual Art-A-Whirl; I remember the first. I had a studio in the Northrup King seed building back then.

When artists come together, the energy is palpable – vibrating and alive. I felt like I was standing in pockets of calm when I captured these images – silent spaces between the buzz of hanging oil, acrylic, and canvas on freshly painted white walls, and lunch at Emily’s Lebanese Deli .


Casket Arts Building, May 17th, 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Couch, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Counterweight - Up, Down, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Bathroom window, 4th floor, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Emily’s, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Inside, Outside, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mixing Paint, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Comes & Goes, detail, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sightseer, detail, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Where We Meet, detail, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Gypsy, detail, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Exit, May 17th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Exit, May 17th, 2007, all photos in this post copyright © 2007-2010 by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.


Saturday, May 19th, 2007

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-image from Betty's Pies Homepage, Two Harbors, © 2004 Betty's Pies


I love homemade cherry pie. I remember when I was growing up, there was nothing like the smell of Amelia’s homemade cherry pie with the criss-cross lattice, cooling in the kitchen window.

When Liz and I were up at Lake Superior in Duluth a few months ago, we were longing for the extra energy to take a jaunt a little further north to Two Harbors, Minnesota to stay at the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast and visit Betty’s Pies. Betty Lessard started selling her World Famous pies in 1956. The place has been Minnesota’s best kept secret ever since.

I was writing about Ruby’s Cafe in Goodbye To Old Missoula when I found Ruby’s listed in the Pie of the Month Club. You’ve got to check out this site. On their interactive pie map Pies Across America you can click on your state and find reviews of the best pies imaginable in your locale. One click on Montana takes you to Ruby’s Cafe.

Imagine my disappointment when I clicked on Minnesota and WHAT!? – completely blank. So I’m sending a yell out to Pie of the Month Club – head up to Betty’s Pies as soon as you can! And add her to your list. While you’re at it, have a fat slice of warm cherry pie alamode for me!

What’s your favorite slice of homemade pie. Pie anyone?

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

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I spent a large part of last evening digging in the dirt, mowing the lawn, tying Liz’s Ecuadorian anniversary roses with dark twine into a neat bundle of 9 and hanging them on the porch, emptying vats of standing rainwater, ripe for mosquito breeding.

I poked my hands into the slimy bucket and pulled out terracotta planters and cyan plastic garden pots that had fallen there. They’d careened into the abyss, a thrown out cat litter bin, over winter. I carefully held each pot up above the earth and let the water drip away, then stacked them one by one beside the shed next to the rusting Radio Flyer wheelbarrow and wagon.

The neighbor across the street placed the Radio Flyer wagon at the end of her driveway late last fall with a Free sign on it. Liz and I snarfed it up in seconds flat. But not without asking, “What’s the story? Why are you getting rid of it?”

She said it belonged to her son when he was a kid. And she had used it for years and years to haul garden supplies and planting soil. But now it was time for it to go. One woman’s ceiling is another woman’s floor. We are happy to have it. And now use it to haul dirt in and weeds out of our own gardens.

I worked up the first summer sweat last night, stopping periodically to wipe my forehead on the sleeve of my T-shirt. Bullfrogs sang in the distance, the orange sky purpled near 9pm, and I stood drinking a long swig of water out of a blue Taos Mountain bottle, watching Liz weed the garden near the juniper.

I took macro shots of white bell-like blooms near the cactus. What’s the name of that plant? The lilac, so small last year, has bushed out and is pushing the limits of its ring of river rocks. We’ll have to expand the circle. Growth. It’s good to grow.

When it came my turn to plunge the Sears mower through tall bottom grass soaked from last weekend’s rains, I was sure to take a big long whiff of the first cut grass of the season. I lovingly ran my hands through the clippings in the catch bag every time we emptied it into mulch.

Old garden Skechers turned lime green from the chlorophyll dew. My hair was coated in bits of cut grass and creeping Charlie that Liz laughingly plucked from my head when we sat down to rest and drink a Mountain Dew on the gray steps under the mailbox.

God, I love spring in Minnesota.

Before the dog days of Summer, before mosquitoes and black flies, before humidity swells my joints and sweat drips from armpits on the short ride home from work. Before the day I was born, before wiry brown haygrass mixed with sparks from the barbecue signal fire danger, Code Red.

Before Fall, there is Spring. Mary Oliver said she names a poem in almost every book Spring. She does it because she doesn’t like to think of titles for her work.

I like to think she does it because she loves digging in the dirt and freeing juicy earthworms for the songbirds she so freely writes about in lucid, eloquent detail. I like to think she does it because she loves Spring.

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

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Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved

Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved


from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – GREENING

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