Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grutz says, "To witness the sun rising and setting."

The Bad Lands. An otherworldly place of beauty. I fell madly in love with this captivating landscape.
Greetings all from mountain time! Carleen has been a stunning and accurate scribe these last few days and I admit I can do little to match her writing prowess. But I will do my best! Other than driving approximately 1,500 miles (hence my lack of blogging), I have enjoyed some grand and exciting places and colorful characters. Here are some places:
The Needles of Custer State Park. A place I once climbed in '96. (Obviously not all of it, but a couple of routes.
Drop the $10 for parking, it's worth it. And if you haven't been to Rushmore since the new renovations then get your red, white, and blue butt out to S.D. ASAP.

Giddy up, lil' doggy! Cowboys, bisons, and pickups oh my! The round up was a spectacle, though a change from previous runs. There was a bit of grumbling from the roundup faithful. Since it was our first time, we loved it, tired and all.

Devil's Tower. Once you see it you know why Teddy made it the first National Monument. And there are climbers on it in this shot (you gotta squint).
The most fascinating events for me are the sunsets and the sunrises. Every park or monument changes drastically at these times and it's like I'm seeing them anew. I can go on about geography and topography, but the way the sun plays upon the land out here is moving.

And now for the characters:
Marcia (1/2 the dynamic duo of the hosts with the mosts) and Sammy the wonder corgi. I now know why Queen Elizabeth digs these canine.

The Great White Hunter Jim and his trusty sidekick, Nick, await the perfect shot.

A lovely nude canvas, dollar bills adorning the wall, a frosty brew, and my best gal at my side. No friends, your not witnessing Nick's dreams, your witnessing his reality. It's good being Nick
So now I'm sitting in a commercial campground in Cody, Wy typing in the dark (and I can't find the frickin apostrophe and I keep hitting the semi-colon and it's tickin me off!) because they have wifi, and hot showers, and laundry. Ok, I feel kind of bad not staying in a state park or national park, but then again we stayed at Steve and Marcia's campground for a couple of nights.

I reckoned that this trek out west would total disconnect from the reality I was used to. But thanks to SDPB and Wyoming Public Radio I am reeling in the news and events and discussions. No doubt I feared a lack of NPR while traveling into (gulp) red states, but I've been delighted at what I found. For example we we're leaving Gilette this morning and the local NPR station was playing some music that blew my mind, including an upcoming release from Danni Harrison and Ben Harper. It was great! Danni sounds eerily like his departed father. Who would have thunk I would have been hearing that in Wyoming? Ok, enough of my NPR rant, but trusted reader, understand I have been driving alot.

But this trip has made me feel a little off. I do enjoy not being tied to the cellphone, I've had it off for what feels like weeks due to lack of reception. It's a liberating feeling, yet at times I worry about missing something. I also feel a little disconnected since I'm not doing alot of things I normally do, such as play and listen to music. I didn't realize how much time I spend around music. I am jonesing for some guitar, I cannot lie.

So tomorrow we're off to Yellowstone. So the next time you here from me I'll tell you all about it and the unusual bear encounter with a happy ending, in the mean time, check out Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It has five different museums under one roof and your admission gives you two days to visit. Highly recommended if you visit Cody, it has something for everyone. Really.
And, once more, thank you Katie and Emmanuel for the best hammock in the world. It's boss.
Oh, and before I forget, I'll also include info on the 5 mile laser pointer and the cool/awesome jar........

Goodbye South Dakota, Hello Wyoming

Tuesday, September 28.
We are driving out of Custer, through the Black Hills National Forest, towards Devils Tower, Wyoming.  We saw a bunch of wild turkeys in the gulch on the left a ways back, and “wild” cows dot the forest.  They aren’t really wild, but there are no people or farms in sight.  The cows have yet to be rounded up for the season and I guess they are still roaming and chewing their cud.  Haven’t seen any buffalo today, they must all be in the corrals near the roundup, which according to the local paper included 1,100 buffalo.  We didn’t stick around to see the branding and inoculation because we’d been up since 4:45, and the sun was brutal by noon.  The Black Hills really aren’t black, but a deep pine green.  Pine trees cover the hills, leave the bright yellow quaking aspen and the areas that have burned to spur re-growth.   The aspen don’t seem to get as tall as the pines, they fill in the middle growth of the forest, and instead of lush shrubbery to cover the forest floor, in SD there’s a diversity of grasses and some undergrowth.  It’s an interesting terrain, and looks nothing like the forests of the midwest.  The clean, crisp smell of pine is strong here, and the air is incredibly clear. Cloudless bluebird skys have been our experience and we leave South Dakota having had an amazing time here. 

This is a fly by car picture, but you get the idea- greens and yellows and blues. 

In Custer, we were hosted by Steve and Marcia Pischke, family of our good friends Jim and Jane of Baraboo.  They were our T&B (tent and breakfast), we tented up in their backyard and befriended Sammy, the corgi.  I have officially become a convert to small dogs, Sammy is so intuitive, she has those knowing eyes and when Marcia or Steve would talk to her, she’d cock her head, listen, and think about her answer.  So great, we are really ready for a dog. 
Here you see Steve in the background, (next to me, your author), Sammy the corgi and Marcia sitting on the floor, and Jane has snuck her head in the corner.  Miss you guys already, and thanks for the tour guiding and hospitality.  It is so  much appreciated.  

Custer and the surrounding area is the first place I’ve ever been where people are actively prospecting for gold and other minerals.  Jim was telling us that in Custer, one can collect mica and feldspar and actually turn it in for $$.  We just drove through Lead (pronounced Leed) which is a current gold mining town. It had the look of a wild west town where horses might be tied up in front of a swinging door saloon.  We actually did find a swinging door saloon in Custer, Jim and Jane brought us to the incredibly classic  Gold Pan Saloon.  The floor was sawdust, there was a naked lady painting, there were nickel and quarter slot machines, and the beer came in frosty mugs.  No free popcorn or peanuts, but it was definitely an experience.   Maybe we’ll just stay here and make our fortunes as prospectors panning for gold. 

Cont’d Tuesday, 28th
On the way to Devils Tower, we drove through Spearfish Canyon, where the brook is clear and babbling, the pines jut out of the rock face, and the canyon walls border on both sides.  (That sounds an awful lot like a take on Garrison Keillor’s introduction).  I wanted to pull over and set up camp right there it was so picturesque.  In the distance, Devils Tower loomed ahead, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It’s a little ominous driving up, but as we got closer and closer, the forest around it came alive, and the color on the rocks reveal life, lichens and shrubbery.  The tower glows with color and life.  Devils Tower is a palpably powerful place.  American Indians sometimes call it the Bear Lodge and have tied it to much lore.  American Indians find it to be sacred for clear reasons, and many still come to pray and gather strength.  Prayer cloths are tied to trees, and in respect, are left tied year round.  Climbers love the tower as well for amazing climbing courses, and for the boulder field that collapsing columns create.  The boulder field makes me feel like a 10 year old again, I really want to scramble over the boulders and totter precipitously and feel the muscles in my legs work.  I think I will tomorrow.  The tower is made up of many clearly defined columns, stitched together to form a complete God like structure.  Theorists and scientists have settled on three creation theories as to how the tower came to be.  All three involve the earth upwelling and molten rock being pushed out of the earth.  As the earth cooled, regular columns were created, making divots and cracks.  As you get closer to the tower, the columns are defined, some are straight, reaching for the sky, and some are sloping, under some sort of weight.  This is not a perpetual structure, over time, entire columns weaken and come unhinged from the tower, collapsing and creating the boulder field that we walked through.  The last documented column collapse was in 1906, and eventually the entire tower will come back to the earth, columns collapsing and crumbling.  Being here, similar to the Badlands where erosion will flatten the rocks eventually, it feels temporary, we are viewing things that people of the future won’t see.  Looking at the columns, seeing where the rock cooled, and where columns broke off, it’s like watching time happen.  
The columns are visible, the bouldering fields fill in the foreground.

Nick took these two pictures of the tower, from our campsite, only 5 minutes apart.  The changing colors at sunrise were so lovely.  Pictures can't possibly do it justice. 

Nick expertly mounted our new hammock (thanks Katie and Emmanuel!) on two huge old growth trees, have I mentioned how beautiful our campsite is? And now he is swaying in the hammock, reading with a head lamp because it is completely dark by 8pm.  

If you look hard, you can see me lounging in the hammock in the distance while  Nick made a delicious dinner - pasta, sauce, and grotta!  Yum. 

We just got back from a dusk hike, which turned into a night hike because the night came up on us so quickly.  The trail took us right through a prairie dog town, of course whose natural predators are rattlesnakes and I walked through the grasses only a little skittish.  The prairie dogs were sleeping, and the rattlesnakes must have been down in the holes on the prowl because we didn’t see or hear any.   I did hear a rustle in the leaves behind me and snapped around to see a the green eyes of a big buck grubbing around for his dinner.  The deer here are so tame, earlier, we were able to tiptoe within 8 feet of a buck and doe eating near the side of the road.  

But the highlight of the night so far was walking back to the site along the road and the witnessing the emerging milky way.   The firmament expanded exponentially in the few minutes we were looking up and it was a special treat to behold so many stars.  The Big Dipper cupped Devils Tower so expertly, we were the only people around, so it must have been just for us.  
I wanted to add two little thoughts from the last few days.  I overheard a buffalo roundup cowboy talking to his wife about his horse, Scout.  She said, “How did Scout do with all the buffalo?”  The cowboy said, “Scout did great, he wasn’t spooked at all.  I however was spooked like Hell.”  
I snuck a picture of Scout's cowboy while he was walking away. 

And from the day before when we were walking around Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park, a ragamuffin family came walking around the bend with their fishing poles.  One of the sons was carrying about six beautiful rainbow trout hooked on a line.  A tourist couple was sitting on picnic benches nearby and the man said “Wow, look at those fish, we’ve been fishing the last three evenings and haven’t caught any.”  The boy showed off his families fish and the dad commented on how the fish were biting so well tonight.  The tourist man said, “I’ll trade you a fish for two beers.”  The dad responded, “What kind of beer?”  Nick and I kept walking around the lake and on the way back we talked to the tourist couple, and found that indeed the beer was up to snuff and an even better trade was made-- 1 fish for 1 beer and 3 corn dogs.  Everybody ended up happy, I think the kids were more excited about the corn dogs than the fish. 

Pristine Slyvan Lake, where brown and rainbow trout were jumping out of the water!

Monday, September 27, 2010


We've just been doing so much lately, it's hard to catch up in one sitting.  Lists are helpful for me, so I'll try it out.  Yesterday, after leaving the Badlands, we arrived in the Custer, SD area and got started on our plans.

This is what we did...
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse
Meet up with Jim McGovern (remember Baraboo?), our Buffalo Roundup contact
Jim gives us a driving tour of Custer State Park (a whopping 71,000 acres)
Stops at overlooks, walk around clear Slyvan Lake, see the Pinnacles
Out to dinner with Jim and Jane
Visit to an infamous Gold Pan Saloon (Jim calls it Bed Pan)
Sleep in the backyard of Janes sister Marcia, and her husband Steve, in our "home" tent
Survive the night with a mountain lion on the loose (for real)

Wake up at 4:45 AM for the Buffalo Roundup (we are on Mountain Time here, so it didn't feel that early)
Drive 45 minutes then, wait 45 minutes until the parking lot opens
See another beautiful sunrise in the rolling plains
See a bunch of antelope!
More wait
People watch
Buffalo stampede!
Cowboys corral the buffalo
See them up close
Fall asleep in the car, so tired from the sun and the 4:45 am start.
Veggie burger lunch
Mini siesta
Cruise around for an internet signal
Library internetting

And that is how we catch up.  The library closes in 20 minutes, so this is it for today.  My new method for this blog is going to be writing in the car, and posting whenever we find a coffee shop with WIFI.  My brain is pretty cashed out right now from the sun, tomorrow when we are fresh I'll check in again.

But before we go, here are a few teaser photos...  I love these beasts!

Photos from (amazing) Badlands

Here is the afore promised photos of Badlands National Park, a truly magical place.  This is only a few of the pictures, I am sure Nick will update with his favorites at some point when we have reliable WIFI!

On our first day here, we were able to get in a few great hikes and views before the sun went down and the temp dropped.  We were mostly stunned with the scenery, tired from the drive, but so invigorated by history and possibility of the place.   

Getting familiar with the panoramic setting of our camera, our picturesque campsite is decked out with a fancy sun/wind shade over the picnic table.  Most camps in these parts come with this accoutrement, which was really great in the heat of the day.

While we cooked dinner, we got to take in one of several gorgeous sunsets across the rock peaks. 

On our second day we did a 5 mile hike that shows the diversity of the place, we went from moon rock spires to the great plains.   

Taking a break and feeling the sun on my back, it's hard not to be seduced into meditating.   Which,  is easy in places of such beauty!

On the second night, we drove up to an overlook to see the sunset, which we almost missed because it was so quick.  The colors of the rocks change so much with the changing sky.  

Silhouettes on the horizon.      

This is Nick's relaxed face....

... and mine. 

Packed early morning breakfast of quinoa, oatmeal, sliced apples, and brown sugar, I call it the breakfast sundae.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Badlands National Park delights

Saturday September 25 (I'm going to add photos and edits later, limited WIFI = limited time)
Haven’t showered for 3 days, starting to be less worried about picking the miniscule flying bugs off of me, and the howling coyotes or wolves didn’t even keep me up last night.  I didn’t know what day it was until I checked with my computers internal clock, and we’ve been waking up by the lit sky.  Our biggest worry of late was getting to one of the numerous overlooks before the sun set.  Sun, don’t drop so fast!  The rock formations here at Badlands National Park are breathtaking.  The color variation in the striations got more beautiful with the setting sun and the changing light reflection.  We’ve been here for two days now; it’s amazing how fast a place can feel like home when you’re on the road.  Yesterday we arrived in the afternoon, we set up camp and headed to the nearest information/nature center to get some maps.  The rangers that work at nature centers are so generous with their enthusiasm for their work and their park, it’s always inspiring and worthwhile to have a chat and get some advice on trails and park activities.  We did a few shorter hikes and saw a few overlooks, just whetting the appetite for the next days adventuring.  When I was much younger, my family went camping quite often in our huge army green house tent, and my parents always made sure that we took in whatever ranger led program was available.  Last night we walked a short jaunt over to the amphitheater where Ranger Larry and his cohorts did a presentation on the current night sky at Badlands.  It was an all around presentation that included much preventative info about the very common ground friend that happens to have fangs and be venomous.  Superstitious I am, and I’ve decided not to talk about this friend because my fears always get the best of me, and until now I’ve been lucky and not yet seen one underfoot...   We did see a plethora of amazing, beautiful, and resilient animals including big horn sheep, prong horned antelope, some sort of desert deer, falcon, villages of prairie dogs, special blue and yellow birds, and free, roaming, hulking, wise buffalo.  We saw them in their natural habitat, not 20 feet from the road, alone and in herds, these animals have ancient souls that are visible from a distance.  There is something so wise and old about the buffalo and they are such lumbering and heavy creatures, I can’t help but love them.  I may feel differently when one tries to charge me at the buffalo roundup on Monday, but today, I love them.   
Truly the rock formations here are something to behold, if it weren’t for other people, we would have thought we’d woken up on the moon.  There is something so stark and lovely, so quiet and clear about being out on a trail, hearing birds and wind in the prairie grass, looking at ancient sea beds eroding so that the vista is different all the time.  Purposeful pinnacles rising ethereally out of the ground, so little and so much biodiversity at the same time, you have to be still to hear and see it. 
The wildlife here only lets you in if you listen.  The world comes to life in the quiet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

All the way to Platte, SD.

Oh I had so much to say and it eludes me!  Maybe it’s my numb fingers.  In the past two days, we’ve traversed the seasons.  We went from 91 degree Cincinnati, delicious sunburn weather to winter in South Dakota, hats and scarves, fingers like molasses when rolling up the tent.  I was kind of expecting the weather, but no one warned me about the wind.  Wind that pulls stakes out of the ground, and requires fly re-staking in the middle of the night so that the noise of the flap slapping the tent doesn’t keep me awake.  The whole tent moves.
The landscape here is so vast.  And it goes forever.  There is some rolling, but you can see for miles.  What I love though is the color of the soybean fields as the flowers dry.  It’s an alive mustard yellow, less burnt looking, but with such richness.  The fields are beautiful.  Nick has been educating me on crop variety of South Dakota.  Which is to say that there is not much variety, but it is different from the corn dominated fields of Iowa and Illinois.  In Minnesota we saw fields of wheat, which I can’t say I’ve seen in this part of the season, when it’s drying before harvest.  It also has a distinct color; you can almost see the health in it, it looks like food.  And here in South Dakota, there is still a lot of corn, there are complete seas of soybeans, and lots of cows in pastures.  Trees are islands that are mostly situated around towns or houses. We haven’t seen any high density feed lots, which is a relief.  I thought for sure we’d be seeing tons of sad cows and pigs in corrals.  Now I’m wondering if some of the fields we’ve been seeing are flax, since according to the little grocery store we stopped at in Canisota, SD, is a major local crop.   There is also so much flooding.  The cattails are the only way to tell if a pond is supposed to be in the middle of a field, or if it is an unintentional temporary flood pond. Yesterday on our drive here, we passed through some major weather, making us really wonder about how well we’d do at camping.  Much to our pleasure, our plastic ground cover sheet was a really great purchase, and kept the tent completely dry.  It did take a while to warm up, but once our sleeping bags had acclimated to our bodies, they were toasty.  Nick even started sweating.  
Mom you would have been so proud of the “dinner” we made last night.  As we were leaving Theresa’s house a week ago today, we decided to take most of our food items we’d brought from our kitchen in Chicago.  So in our car right now, we are carrying plastic containers full of quinoa, mung beans, lentils, green split peas, orzo, millet, wheat berries, wild rice, fresh garlic, and a few other delights.  As the sun went down in windy, chilly, Lake Vermillion Recreational Park, South Dakota, we made a grain and bean based soup that warmed our bodies up so well, that our brains started working again.  I cooked up lentils and green split peas, which offer a nice texture.  When they still had a bit of crunch, I added quinoa and orzo, knowing that the the quinoa would take about 10 minutes to unfurl completely, and the orzo can’t be over cooked.  At the same time, I added a few dollops of Trader Joes tomato sauce (Mom tip) to flavor to beans and to make a tasty broth.  It worked perfectly.  Pepper took away the blandness, and we filled up on healthy grains and legumes.  
Check out our house tent and the beginnings of dinner.  This was also just before the battery died, so you'll have to imagine the grains, legumes melding together.  
I almost forgot the punch line.  After the first bowl of my soup concoction, we started talking about breakfast, and how the ice had melted already in the cooler.  One of the items in the cooler that actually called for refrigeration (we all know that blocks of cheese last forever and are better when warm:) is the grotta (remember my soliloquy on Cincinnati grotta?).  I have made Nick a complete grotta believer and now we look for excuses to add it to anything.  Fried up grotta on our mini cast iron skillet was absolutely delicious added to the grain legume soup!  We were satisfied and happy, and less cold than before.  
Lake Vermillion, where we camped, source of much wind! 
Goodbye Lake Vermillion. 

Today the sun is out, and the cold is dissipating as we drive South on 37 to meet up with 44, which is apparently the scenic and more lovely route, according to our friend Jim McGovern.  We will take 44 west to the Badlands, driving through a few reservations on the way.  Driving through all this vastness, I can’t help but conjure up and have so much empathy for the early settlers and homesteaders out here.  It’s still so empty, which makes it easy to imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago.  This is an area rich with Native American history, I love let my mind wander and wonder; to think about what it was like when.... In order to survive well anywhere, but especially in places like this and further west, one really has to be in tune with the earth, the land, the seasons, life is so necessarily intertwined with nature.  It makes me a little bit sad for most of us, me included, who are so disconnected from the sources of our food, from hard work negotiating relationships with nature, from sun and fresh air and open spaces.  

RIght now we are catching up on writing and email at a little coffee shop in Platte, SD, before we head to the Badlands.  They have organic treats and fancy coffees for just $2.50, we can afford ourselves a sweet coffee since we had beans and grotta for dinner and breakfast.  

Hazlenut Latte, mmm.  Nick had White Chocolate Symphony= a dream. 
Panoramic view of the cute and sparse Platte Main street.

We've got to get back on the road, 4.5 hours till the Badlands!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good to goetta!

So much has happened in the last few days, and we've had no time to catch up.  I almost feel like making a list and letting it go at that, but now, knowing that we have some loyal followers (Nana, Matty P, brother Matt, Jane) I have a sense of duty about sharing our lives.

Well today we packed in the love.  We said goodbye to my parents this morning, we even got up early and had Goetta and Grotta with mom before she trucked off to the Montessori kiddos.  If you are one that needs enlightenment, Grotta is the vegetarian form of Goetta, a Cincinnati staple that resembles sausage, made with spices, oats and pork.   The vegetarian version is delicious, made with steel cut oats and spices: think of the spice of a good slice of sausage with the texture of oatmeal, and then fried.

Mmmm, delicious. 
All we needed was a side of cheese grits and it would have been a classic Cincinnati Healy breakfast.  Moms biscotti tops it off, and as we can all attest, it is the best.

Hello from Cincinnati Healys!  We went for a sunset walk at French Park after dinner.   I practiced droving the Subaru and the mosquitos weren't so bad, I was pretty happy. 

Nick looks disenchanted, but it really was a nice walk.
Actually, there was a small, yippee dog gnarling on my ankle and I was trying not to grimace.- Nick

Whenever we are driving, I have a strong tendency to completely nod off and today, I serendipitously snoozed as we drive by Chicago, and thought, "how appropriate."  I think I am letting go of what was, and am settling on what is right now.   It is a content place to be.

We drove on and stopped for an iced tea and a chat in Madison, WI with my buddy Matt.  It was all too short, we'd barely started crumbling the wall of mild social awkwardness that always happens when friends haven't seen each other in forever before we had to go.  But as usual after a visit, I have renewed commitment to seeing Matt and other best friends soon!  It's just so good to be around old and true friends, there is something so grounding and simple about it.  No explanations necessary, no pretensions, words aren't even needed.  Sometimes it's enough just to be with the person.

Departing Madison, we headed to Baraboo, WI, where we were showered with map assistance and highway stories about driving west, bear encounters, and drunk indians.  Jim and Jane are Nick's non related relatives, they were neighbors in Dubuque and the families have remained close since.  They've done a lot of RV and road trips around the country, and they are going to be our contact for the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park on Monday.  They are great people to know and because of them, the gems of hidden byways of the West are now our privileged information.

Jim and Jane and I!  They take such good care of us, we might never leave.
The Square Bar, Baraboo WI.  "Hip to be square? Uh, like yeah."- Nick
I still have a ton more catching up to do, as this post is now officially "yesterday."  We are heading out of Baraboo, towards Sioux Falls, SD.  Tonight will be our first night of camping, might be completely in the rain, but we have a new tent that promises great things.

Thanks Mom and Dad, Matty P, and Jim and Jane for making our past few days so great!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hello Cincinnati!

Our two day visit to Cincinnati welcomes us with Healy potato red pepper soup and homemade bread.  It's great to be here, Nick and I are sitting across from each other, both clicked in to our blog.  This could be dangerous because we might repeat ourselves and tell the same stories, but I just can't help it.  I love blogging. 
Welcome to the Queen City on the lovely Ohio!

We're at the Coffee Emporium in Hyde Park, which is easily the best coffee and coffee shop that I know.  I treated myself to a pumpkin pie latte, which completely ruins my cold turkey effort on fancy coffees.  Until today, I decided that joblessness requires sacrifices, one of which must be fancy $3.50 coffee drinks.  In Dubuque, we were diligent and got regular coffees and it was just fine, but for some reason, here at the Emporium, where I know it will be good no matter what, I could not help but splurge.  And it was worth it. 

How could a place so cute not be delicious. 

Being in Chicago this past weekend was great, it was reassuring to be there and to realize that this impending trip is really what we want to be doing.  I wasn't bowled over by intense nostalgia, I didn't tear up when we got on the road.  Mostly what I felt was excitement for the future, thankfulness that I got to spend as much time as I did in the city of big shoulders, and deep gratitude for the friends that were/are my family for the past 8 years.  It goes without saying that the dance community in Chicago is irreplaceable.  It's the real soul food.  I am hopeful that I can create opportunities to be connected to the dance world in Chicago and around the country.  I am hopeful that I can maintain commitment to my dance home and to participate with depth and vigor when I can!   

On our way here, Northwest Indiana treated us to a "check engine" light!  Surprise! Today we are figuring out whether or not we need to be worried.  We've consulted dads and it seems to be minor, maybe an EPA emissions thing, a fuel cap tightness issue, or an oxygen sensor thing.  It might even be tied to Ethanol- darn corn!  And yes, it all goes back to corn.  We've been listening to NPR ALOT lately and the campaign to re-invent high fructose corn syrup is driving me nuts.  The rebranding effort to change the name high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar is going on right now and there are commercials and radio PSAs running rampant.  Most of these are targeted towards moms who are endlessly worried about what they are baking with, and what they are feeding their kids.  High fructose corn syrup is a liquid alternative to sugar made from corn kernels, that much is true, and doesn't sound too painful, but the problem is that there is a chemical process, which requires a genetically engineered enzyme, that the corn sugar has to undergo in order for it to be usable.  The Atlantic summarizes the problem succinctly:

"And while the jury is still out about whether high-fructose corn syrup is worse than us for sugar, whether it's metabolized differently in our bodies, for instance, there is certainly reason enough to be cautious that it just might. Harvard Medical School says research shows that high-fructose corn syrup may influence appetite hormones, for instance, and blunt feelings of fullness; it also may increase risk of heart disease. Plus, new studies last year found that samples of high-fructose corn syrup had detectable levels of mercury, from an outdated processing agent."

From the sound of it, more work remains to be done, but for me the bottom line is that we eat too much sugar anyway, if I can avoid chemical processes I will, I'd rather have sugar that comes from a plant that has not benefited from governmental subsidies, and I don't like my sugar hidden by complicated names or used as a filler in ketchup, breads, and crackers:  I'll take it straight up, brown, raw and turbinado, but that's it for now.  

We're dropping the car off at my dads trusty foreign car mechanic tonight, tomorrow we should have definitive answers, but so far it looks minor if at all.  Now we head home to meet up with Mom, who took a half day at work to hang out with us.  I love time with Mom, we are so lucky :)


Grutz says, "I am trying to break your heart."

I anticipated a bit of nostalgia upon arriving in Chicago. Though it feels like we've been away from Logan Square and all for quite some time, it's only been a couple of weeks. Chicago did it's best to exhibit those attributes that make me glad we've moved on, (trash, traffic, stench, noise, price$, cta) while only offering a small slice of all the fantastic and dynamic qualities that cause me to second guess our decision (friends, music, variety, dance, banjos, rock and/or roll (kinda, I'll get to that later)). At one point, I asked after some unsavory act of crappiness, I believe it was someone littering, "Chicago, I'm giving you the chance, but what gives?" And what happens? What divine proclamation comes my way? Blasting from a bar I was passing was Wilco's (oh the Chicago irony) "I am Trying to Break Your Heart". Is that what you're telling me, Chicago?

But not all was lost, sort of. Aside from Carleen's dancing rendezvous's, we had other reasons to travel to King Richard's realm. Back in July, day or two before I was honorably (ahem) laid off by CPS, I took the noble action of purchasing a ticket to attend a show at the Double Door to see the Charlatans UK(I assumed we'd still be living in Chicago come September). Yes, ladies and gents, a heck of a band at a very intimate bar. Now, understand that my buds and I had, over the years, attended a number of shows together having like interests in music. One such show a few years back was to be......the Charlatans UK at the...........Double Door. But they cancelled. So Saturday's show was kind of a make up of sorts for us because I've moved out of the city, Keith's moved out of the city, etc. So, we're getting the band back together* and going to have a grand time in the old tradition. But guess what? Chicago tried, no did, break my heart. The show was cancelled! Oh, vile city! Now, I know what you're saying, it wasn't Chicago's fault. But it was, if only by association.

Fine, the band was still on, with TK and Chow stepping up, and it was great having Tom join us. Next best thing was to watch the Iowa-Arizona game late, late Saturday night. It was rough. Iowa battled back, to tie it, but alas, the 'Cats proved too much. Why is Chicago mocking me so?! Certainly the Hawkeyes would have performed much better had I watch the game at the 'Stube in Dubuque rather than a bar on Division St. It makes complete sense. Utter, rational sense.

My Dad, Dan Grutz, and I at the Europa Haus and Bierstube in Dubuque before Carleen and I set out on our adventure. Had I watched the Iowa-Arizona game there, the Hawkeyes would have won 42 to -8. I swear, hand of God.
Still, it was great to see the guys and gals. And it was refreshing to be out at events and bars with the bulk of the folks being under 35. Mary Sue and Matt are fantastic and I am counting down the days until their wedding next July, and not just for the mosaic table settings we made on a rainy Saturday (see, Chicago was just laughing at me, "How 'bout a little thunderstorm, Grutz, to ruin your weekend? Hmmm, you like the taste of that?! You're a punk."). Matt took me to his work shop and we checked out some of his banjos. I was shocked at the explosion of joy I felt finding myself around tools and musical instruments. Makes me wish I would have brought along my uke or guitar on this trip.

Now we're in the Queen City of the Midwest and she, so for, is not trying to break my heart. Cincy is great. Folks are nice, there's alot of hills, old homes, and a lovely downtown. Not to mention Tom and Karen Healy, the best in-law a fella could ask for. And it's still summer here.

* Whenever Keith, TK, and I and assorted other friends get together, we refer to getting the band back together. It's an old, and dare I say, hilarious inside joke that never gets old for us, but is has for everyone else.

The "band" performing at our wedding. "This next song is off our new album, it called 'Jackson, Michigan is no place for sissies'" This NEVER gets old. Ever.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Banjos, mosaics, dance and friends.

What follows is a bit of yesterdays posting thoughts that I jotted down after getting situated in Chicago...

It’s Chicagoland time for a while; we’re passing through and taking in the town and the people for a few days.  Nick (husbandy) and Mary Sue (our gracious host) are noodling away on banjos and I’m yawning a lot.  We’re here because paths crossed and there were a lot of separate things that we wanted to do here before we took off for the Great West.  
After departing Dubuque this morning, and after an unwelcoming Chicago traffic battle, I got to take my favorite dance class, with mentor teacher thinker Molly Shanahan.  It’s never enough, but I got my easy fix for a while, at least until November when I will be back to perform in an improvisational show.  I felt okay, though I never slip into my cozy, dancing body as quick as I would like to.  I love to think that my dancing body is the same as my everyday body, when boundaries bleed porously and are both one and the same.   And it is, but to be in the body that I like best, I recognize that it takes openness, practice and space.  Heading West on Wednesday will definitely offer me the space, as we will eventually get to big sky country and I will be able to dance to my delight across the plains.  Or so I hope; I keep playing over in my mind ways to make this time of discovery travel also a fertile time for dance and growth as an improviser.  The book I am reading, Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, is making me anxious to get out and engage with and be immersed in nature.  He has assembled a body of knowledge about the relationship between humans and nature that truly inspires and encourages my thinking about nature and it's human benefits.  Early this morning when I couldn't sleep, I learned about horticultural therapy, which, clearly, I've been missing out on my whole life.  This must be why the most sound people I know spend time in their gardens, hands in dirt, tending plants and watching them grow.  Being in nature is a quantitative way of increasing our well being. Louv asserts that children that do not spend enough time in nature are more likely to develop mental illnesses, he also mentions several studies that point to nature being positively correlated with physical change in the body, ie. quicker healing time after surgery, and less illnesses in prison inmates.  It's kind of amazing.  I am really wondering about my dancing self, and if spending lots of time in beautiful places, immersed in nature for an extended amount of time, will change, deepen, alter, grow my dance practice and way I think about dance.   

Today has been a delight so far.  We woke up to rain and thunderstorms and the freedom to really take it easy.  Since we've only been away from Chicago for a few weeks, there is no pressure to engage with nostalgia or visit the old stomping grounds.  We've been hanging with Mary Sue and her fiance Matt this morning, ordered garden pizza for lunch, and made mosaics!  There is nothing like a craft Saturday with friends.  
We make awesome mosaics, Mary Sue and Matt are using these for candle platters for their wedding. 

Last night I took Nick on a date to the Other Dance Festival, and again, I got to bask in the glow of friends and dance and it was so sweet.  I keep reminding myself that not being in Chicago doesn't mean that I'm not a dancer, dance is something that goes with me and that will continue to grow, no matter where I am.  The pieces in the variety show were good, it was great to see my college friend Emma dance up a storm, and my friends in MadShak were beautifully luminous. 

We're off to brave the blue line for a visit with more friends, Holly and Tom, and hopefully their beautiful 1 year old, Frost! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Welcome to our world Subaru!

I apologize in advance for the brevity and simplicity of this post.  I have been sucked in to Americas Got Talent, and Prince Poppycock just got voted off.  I am not the only one, which makes it a little better.  Theresa, Nick and I are a trio of Macbooks, and we all keep glancing up at the tv when the screen lights up.  This is terrible. And embarrassing. But I sort of like it.

Anyway, here's the important stuff.

It's done, we are in love.  My sadness about buying a car and exponentializing our carbon footprint has dissipated and now that I've gotten the hang of the clutch and gas relationship, I love our Subaru.

Our car behaves so much better with a big hug.

Another important note: 

Dear Beautiful Bicycle, that has gotten me so many miles, I promise not to neglect you in the coming years.  My legs will continue to take me places, even if I allow 4 wheels to carry me across the country. 

On course for tomorrow: more grown up things like life insurance, life planning, and trial running a recipe for pumpkin energy bars, but for now (I mean when Americas Got Talent is over) we are going to open mic night at a local coffee shop/ bar (called Monks), just for fun.  This is one of the nice things about Dubuque, it's really easy be convinced to do things because there's always an element of newness.

Before we close it up for today, again, I am astounded by the kindness of people.  Nick's long time friends Ken and Ann Kemen offered to let us borrow XTRA large therma-rests for our trip.   We stopped by their house and chatted for a while today.  They are the sweetest people and thanks to them, we will be car camping in comfort.

 Thanks Ken and Ann!  This is a picture from our awesome Dubuque wedding party on July 31.  
And since I'm thanking people, today we jump drove 57 great photos from Gina and Paul Cesaretti, who documented our wedding party in Dubuque so well.  Thank you.  What a great memory, I met so many people, and now that we have pictures, I can practice remembering all of their names. 

Sleep tight!