Not much to talk about from the past week. I'm only now starting to emerge from a writing funk that's been hovering about me for six or seven days, which may not be a good thing considering I don't have that much to talk about.
Well, there was the weekend. Lisa was down in Madison for most of it visiting her folks, leaving me to mull around the apartment. I elected to clean, buy and assemble chairs for the dining table, hang up a bunch of previously-neglected artwork, and get a new clock radio (which, incidentally, completely kicks ass).
While I did have a productive weekend, if there was a thing about it I regret, it was missing Jeromy's band in St. Paul on Friday. He's a former coworker and generally cool guy, and I'd been intererested in hearing what his group was like. It looks like they have other shows coming up, though, so maybe next time.
~ ~ ~
Coming up this week: I have no clue. This coming weekend: The Uptown Art Fair. Whoo.
More later. Maybe.
Items Noted Elsewhere, Minnesota Legislation Edition
I'm feeling fairly disengaged this week. Not sure why.
Lisa and I keep talking about having a lazy weekend, but it remains illusive. This weekend, originally planned as moderately lazy, has already included the Minnesota ArtCar Parade (with an unexpected performance by Savage Aural Hotbed), a housewarming party in West St. Paul, and the Aquatennial Fireworks on the river in Minneapolis. And it's not even Sunday yet: Tomorrow will bring tours of six condos in downtown and south Minneapolis, plus a number of long-overdue errands.
Lisa's going to be out of the area visiting her folks next weekend, so I'm planning on spending the time taking care of a number of long-overdue tasks around the house. Or I may just sleep.
~ ~ ~
Here's a photo of a person driving a couch:
Lisa and I had dinner with Heather and Rich at the French Meadow Bakery on Lyndale this evening. It was good to see them, especially considering that the last time I saw Heather was at New Year's and Rich some time before that. (That despite the fact they both work in Minneapolis and live less than 40 minutes away from here.) We may try to get together for the state fair or something else soon, so hopefully it won't be a half year before we see them again.
With dinner, Lisa finally met Rich, and in doing so met the last of those I'm still in regular contact with from my years at UW-River Falls. Now I just need to meet the rest of her friends.
~ ~ ~
Speaking of Lisa, she was acting a bit goofy this evening. "Do you believe in life after death?"
I was caught a bit off-guard by the question. "Uh, no. Why do you ask?"
"Because I think it would be nice if we could be together forever."
Pause. "What if it just felt like forever? Would that be good enough?"
~ ~ ~
"What are you going to do for our anniversary?"
"Uh, I'm going to make you a turkey?"
"That's cute, but not what I was talking about."
The turkey in the freezer has a date on it. That date is Saturday, September 17th.
~ ~ ~
Lisa and I have appointments to look at condos beginning this Thursday. As it happens, it seems sharing space with a girlfriend can help resolve motivational issues.
Back home, a week later. Last week was dreadfully busy, and I spent much of it trying to catch up at work and at home after three straight weeks of vacations. Lisa and I expected the weekend to be an opportunity to slow down and decompress some, but the weekend had different plans: Friday brought the Aquatennial Subway Block Party, Sunday brought a birthday bash for David Hasselhoff held by one of our neighbors, and Saturday brought Lisa's top-secret plans for my otherwise intentionally-forgotten 30th birthday.
So, well, I'm beat, and tomorrow's Monday.
~ ~ ~
Lisa wanted to got to the Aquatennial Block Party for Ben Lee. I wanted to go there for Mike Doughty. Neither of us were familiar with Howie Day, but we decided to stay to listen to him. Lisa liked him. In retrospect, I'd rather have watched dog poop rot on a sidewalk. Anyway, both Doughty and Lee were good, so the concert had that going for it. Doughty even pulled out True Dreams of Wichita, a song that's been one of my favorites ever since I saw Soul Coughing destroy it at the Williams Arena back in 1998.
Also, Doughty brought his camera. Lisa and I are in there somewhere.
~ ~ ~
Saturday morning at Bruegger's I found myself wondering if it be considered rude for me to just grab the receipt right off the register, as the clerk seemed to have no interest in giving it to me.
"Can I take the receipt?"
"Sure," she said, ripping it off and handing it to me. "It's kind of hard to grab from way over there where you are."
~ ~ ~
In a unilateral decision I had no say in, Lisa decided we'd celebrate my 30th birthday Saturday evening. She did so by treating me to a dinner at Solera, followed by Paxton vs. Pullman at Brave New Workshop. Paxton vs. Pullman was hilarious and a lot of fun, but, unfortunately, nothing quite that kind could be said about Solera.
Solera had gotten a number of very good reviews, and both Lisa and I had been talking about going there for a number of months, so to find out that their food is fairly bad was a major disappointment. Lisa said it best on our way to the Brave New Workshop: "You know, now thinking about Solera, I'm actually getting pissed off."
The meal started off well, with us ordering roasted tomato stuffed with tuna and capers, cumin-roasted pumpkin seeds, and grilled flatbread with roasted eggplant. The roasted tomato with tuna was phenomenally good, and the pumpin seeds were tasty, too. Unfortunately, they were far and away the best things we had that evening. The smoked salmon we tried sucked, and the carpaccio was far and away the worst carpaccio I've ever had. (I didn't get past the first bite.) The best that could be said about the potatoes with capers and dill, the sobrasada, and the artichoke and spinach tortilla was that they were edible. Deserts weren't much better: The cherry trifle we tried was good, but not great, and the churros was about as tasty and exciting as soggy Wonder Bread.
Did we just happen to be there on an off night for the kitchen? I have no idea. In the end, we spent much of our time pushing the food around on our plates, making fun of a large, noisy group that moved in next to us, and discussing whether the hostess was wearing any underwear.
I hate to say it, but avoid Solera at all costs. Our meal was bad enough that we decided it doesn't deserve a second chance.
~ ~ ~
Today I spent a grueling afternoon helping Lisa shop for skirts. (Long story.) This evening we visited neighbors and others behind our building at the "No Hasslin' Sunday," ostensibly a birthday celebration thrown by one of our neighbors in honor of David Haselhoff, but in reality a good excuse to get drunk, play something known as cowboy golf and gossip about building residents not present at the party. As we always said back in the free-newspaper business, a good time was had by all.
In Transit, NWA Flight 186
We're about three hours from home as I write this. A lot went on the day following my brother's wedding, some of it good, some of it not so good. For various reasons that won't be explained here, I'm not going to go into the bad items.
~ ~ ~
Sunday morning brought a trip to the San Diego Zoo with Lisa and my mom. The zoo has a great reputation, of course, so we all looked forward to it, but it turned out to be somewhat disappointing. Aside from the pandas, from a visitor standpoint we didn't really see how it differed from any other large, metropolitan zoo. (At one point I referred to it as "the Milwaukee County Zoo, only larger, with pandas.") Granted, it was still a fun trip, but kind of underwhelming regardless.
After the zoo, the three of us drove north of San Diego to visit Mike and Kristine in their new apartment. The apartment was huge, and included perks ranging from a fitness center to a large swimming pool. (Price-wise it was competitive with what one would pay for something similar in the Twin Cities, which was a bit surprising considering Southern California's reputation for obscenely-priced real estate.) It seemed to be good timing for them, too: They got a new marriage and a new home, all within the same week.
Sunday evening brought dinner with Kristine's family at a nearby TGI Friday's—those working at the hotel made a big deal out of the fact it was within a walkable distance—and, later, a recovery swim with Lisa in the Radisson's pool. 15 minutes in the pool made it painfully evident that we were both out of shape, and we made the decision to look into joining a YMCA or something similar and see if we can force ourselves to go swimming two or three times a week.
~ ~ ~
"You know, I used to teach swimming," she said.
"Yeah. While you had newspapers for a summer job, I taught kids how to swim."
"So you were that girl all the pre-pubescent boys secretly lusted after, since you were the only grown girl they got to see in a swimsuit?"
"No, that was the blondes I worked with, not me. I always wore a full Speedo, not the bikinis they did."
~ ~ ~
Today started much earlier than it needed to, and I'm kind of dragging this afternoon. For reasons I don't completely understand, my folks insisted on taking the 6:00 a.m. hotel shuttle for a 8:45 a.m. flight, even though the hotel was only 15-30 minutes from the airport, depending on traffic. Not surprisingly, we ended up sitting in the airport for over two hours. Following the past couple of days, I really could've used the extra hour of sleep.
If it wasn't for the Mountain Dew I've been drinking all morning, now would probably be nap time.
Two and a half hours to MSP. More later.
11:45 p.m. So my brother is married. It was one of those weddings where nothing seemed to be fully planned or organized, yet everything still managed to fall together, and did so splendidly. The service itself was nice, and the reception was appropriately rambunctious and fun. Mike and Kristine looked great together, and, by the time the day was done, Lisa and I had taken over 1100 photos, her mostly during the service, me mostly after it.
There may be more wedding photos posted if I ever get the photo album up and running again. Right now I don't feel there's much more I can say about it, and, besides, the photos would probably do a better job anyway.
~ ~ ~
For what it's worth, being 30 doesn't really feel all that different from being 29. However, it does feel substantially different from being 21.
~ ~ ~
I'm as wiped as a rich baby's ass on Sunday morning, so the overview of the rest of the trip up to this point will be relatively quick.
Aside from the broken lavatory in the back of Airbus, the flight into San Diego was short and uneventful. Lisa and I had no problems meeting up with my parents at MSP, and San Diego's airport turned out to be small enough that it was impossible to miss Mike on our way to the baggage claim. The driver on the shuttle to the car rental was kind of nuts, but at least we got there.
After settling in at the hotel and going with my brother and other groomsmen to finalize the fitting of our tuxes, I spent the evening at my brother's bachelor party, an eight-hour affair that included grilled food outside his apartment, a trip to THIN and Deco's in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, and a lot of alcohol. Deco's was a complete and total drunken pickup joint, and while there we saw one girl puking into a VIP garbage can, a huge crowd ogling one incredibly sculpted dancer (overheard: "I'd fuck her abs"), and two Mexican girls jumping some white girl in a fight that resulted in breasts being exposed to the encircling crowd. That said, everyone in Mike's group behaved themselves at the bars, which maybe couldn't be said for Kristine's bachelorette party: Details weren't completely clear, but word came through yesterday that she and her group got kicked out of not one but two establishments.
Expectedly, much of the day was spent in wedding prep, followed by a surprisingly good dinner for the wedding party at a Rock Bottom Brewery, of all places. Lisa and I managed to escape for a couple of hours after the dinner, driving downtown to investigate Balboa Park (all of San Diego's major cultural institutions in one convenient location, it would seem), the Gaslamp Quarter, and the incredibly high Coronado Bridge.
Lisa on the bachelor party and the Gaslamp Quarter: "I was trying to imagine what kind of environment would lead to girls getting into fight and ripping each other's clothes off, but from being down here it kind of makes sense."
Of course, there wasn't much time today for anything but the wedding, but this morning still managed to bring a brief trip to Torrey Pines State Reserve just north of our hotel. Lisa got to walk on the beach and touch the Pacific, and my mom and dad were able to drive to the top off the bluffs, check out the view and meet some of the insanely healthy people running around the reserve's steep and challenging pathways. It was a quick trip, but fun.
~ ~ ~
12:30 a.m. It's Sunday now. We're getting up relatively early tomorrow to hit the San Diego Zoo, and I'm completely worn down from the day today, so I guess it's time to hit it.
Holy crap. Terrorist attacks in London. It doesn't sound too bad on the news (yet), but it's still not something one wants to see on a morning one's flying.
Well, we're off to San Diego. The next time I'm in Minneapolis my brother will be married, and I'll be 30.
10:19, the evening of July 4th. We're somewhere between South Dakota and Albert Lea on I-90, speeding away in a desperate attempt to be home and and in bed by 2:30. (Lisa has to work tomorrow, I don't.) It was a good day but an exhausting one, made more difficult by the fact both of us probably would've worked better on a couple more hours of sleep.
After a questionable decision to chow down on pancakes at our KOA this morning, we headed over for a couple of hours at Mount Rushmore. We did the Presidential Trail walk, which was kind of difficult due to our tired and full conditions, but it was an interesting visit nonetheless.
I'm not a big fan of carving mountains, and really think there should be a moratorium on it after they finish Crazy Horse, but tried to look at Mount Rushmore in context of the time it was created and those who did the work. From that perspective, it was cool, but it's disturbing what the place has become. Aside from the extreme levels of patriotism-on-the-sleeve visitors (and bandanas, hats, shirts, pants, etc), the redesigned visitor center is downright scary. I mean, didn't Albert Speer die in 1981?
~ ~ ~
Following Mount Rushmore, we went for a scenic drive down US-16 Alternate, through Custer State Park on a local dirt road, and back to the regular US-16 on the Needles Highway. The drive was incredibly beautiful, and, due to the numerous overlooks and stops along the way, we completely blew our time budget and didn't get to I-90 in Rapid City until after 3:30. Along the way we decided we'd have to return again, maybe early next year, and give the highway the attention it deserves.
And, while we're out there, maybe hit Wind Cave and Devil's Tower.
~ ~ ~
Last night was fun, although the fireworks were on a level of quality I'd expect from my 1980's home of Two Rivers, population 13,000. We managed to plant ourselves on a patch of grass in downtown Keystone, and from there we were able to listen to half the crowd complain about the small-town quality of the show. Said one kid, maybe 10 or 11 years of age, "my fireworks are better than this!" Unfortunately, he was probably right. A lot of people were obviously ticked off by the show and left before it ended, clogging the highway before the finale had even been launched.
The fireworks were an unexpected sideshow for Lisa and I, and while we weren't impressed, the show didn't cause any great consternation on our part. That said, many of those who'd traveled from near and far seemed outright pissed at the quality of the show. This morning Lisa ran into a couple of girls from Southern California in the bathroom at the KOA, and they expressed outright anger at the how crappy the show was (and an intention to make an evening pilgrimage to Custer, where a much better fireworks show was said to be queued up). I heard complaints from others along the same lines, and this morning at Rushmore we overheard a ranger mention that the general reaction to the show was very poor.
Estimated attendance for the show? 30,000 to 40,000.
~ ~ ~
Minnesota mile marker 39, 10:40 p.m. We still have at least three hours to go. More later.
Near Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
7:30 p.m. We're at the Mount Rushmore KOA between Hill City and Keystone, South Dakota. Today wasn't perfect, but it did bring a couple of happy accidents. First, this evening: Despite the Fourth of July being tomorrow, they're doing their big fireworks show over Mount Rushmore this evening. The KOA is packed as a result, and the shuttle busses to the park were apparently booked out at 7:15 this morning. Neither Lisa nor I had any idea this was going on tonight, but we're going to try to get into Keystone to see if we can catch the show.
Earlier today, we had a different kind of timing issue: Due to some poor planning and a couple of other stupid moves on my part, we missed the last regular tour at Jewel Cave, pretty much blowing our afternoon plans to hell. That turned out to be a good thing, though, as there was still space on something called the Lantern Tour, a two hour tour meant to recreate the experience of the tours done just after the Park Service took over in the 1930's. And, well, it was phenomenal. We went a quarter mile into the cave—and 200 feet down—with oil lanterns as our only source of light. There were a number of steep stairwells/ladders to climb and descend, and in some places we basically had to crawl to move forward.
Lisa had been a bit worried about her back, not to mention claustrophobia, but in the end neither one was an issue. The biggest challenge on the tour was putting up with the whiny fucking four-year-old masquerading as a first-grader. (The tour was only open to those six and above, and the family of four towing the kid was obviously using this as a backup to the missed Scenic Tour. I swear, the moment we got to the turn-around point in the tour—the farthest we'd get into the cave before crawling back out—the little brat started screaming that he had to pee really bad. We had to listen to that the rest of the way out.
Still, it was a lot of fun. If you ever hit Jewel Cave, I highly recommend it.
~ ~ ~
There was another couple from Minnesota on the tour, in this case from Farmington.
"I left my three-year-old at home with relatives," she said, "and I'm really happy I did."
I pondered that for a moment. "Are you sure he isn't six?"
~ ~ ~
Our route to the Black Hills area earlier in the day was a lot of fun. Instead of heading up to Wall and taking I-90 across, we left from Interior and took a number of paved and dirt two-lane roads to Hot Springs, driving through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and hitting a number of small towns along the way. (I also ran across a bridge, but that's a different story.) From there we drove up US-385 through Wind Cave National Park and along US-16 on our way to Jewel Cave. Lisa drove much of the way, and I'm glad she did: She really seemed to enjoy it, and the long stretch across the Cuny Table turned out to be one of the day's highlights.
~ ~ ~
Speaking of Lisa, I see her coming back from the KOA's showers. Soon we'll be off to Keystone for fireworks. More later.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
12:30 a.m. We've had a long day, but a good one. Lisa basically threw out her back early in the day (before entering the park, actually), but with a couple tablets of Advil and a lot of perseverance, really managed to get out and enjoy the park.
We basically looped the northern section of the Badlands twice, first after hitting all the main-road overlooks and then checking out the low-res Sage Creek Campground. I wanted a campground where we could see stars, but after sitting there for a few minutes we decided the location wasn't "Badlands" enough. We eventually ended up at the Cedar Pass Campground, the same campground I used with Greg on my last camping trip seven years ago—the trip Greg and I took instead of attending our graduation ceremony at UW-River Falls. After setting up we headed back around to catch a few of the sights we missed, including some prairie dogs, and then sat at the otherwise-vacant Hay Butte Overlook and watched the sunset.
It's been a long time since I last camped, and I've missed it. It's good to be back.
~ ~ ~
Because it was dark and we weren't quite yet in star-watching mode, we decided to head into Wall for some food. I'd vowed on a number of occassions never to stop at Wall Drug, but we were there, and Lisa wanted to see it, so we stopped.
Very briefly. And purchased nothing.
And then went to a nearby DQ.
The drive into Wall gave us the opportunity to watch one hell of a lightning storm, and the drive back in the park gave us the opportunity to nearly murder a couple different rabbits. (As if the act of slamming on the brakes wasn't enough cause for stress, Lisa did a good job of adding a soundtrack to heighten the tension.) Back at the campsite, we wandered over to the nearby amphitheater, laid down on a couple of benches and watched the stars, satellites and meteors.
~ ~ ~
Lisa's been enjoying the trip, and I've enjoyed watching her do so. It's her first camping trip, and so far, it's gone fairly well. Today she got to see Interior, SD, and tomorrow she'll get to see Scenic. Also up tomorrow: Jewel Cave, Mount Rushmore, and probably a number of touristy things.
Kadoka, South Dakota. What a dreadfully boring place.
The drive out went fairly well, aside from what was supposed to be a quick stop at a Taco John's in Worthington, Minnesota. Instead, it turned into a 20-minute ordeal caused by an unorganized staff, outdated request system (paper!?), and one really large order sitting in queue. But that's in the past now, and the Badlands lie just a few miles away.
Lisa has no idea what she'll be visiting tomorrow. This should be fun.