Monday, June 29, 2009

Dessert and a view

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Heavy rains during the wee hours into the morning raised hopes that maybe the water level will rise enough so that K’s boat can float next to his dock instead of being mired in the muck that the birds so enjoy. Perhaps my crab walk down the steep, grassy reservoir slope last night served as an effective rain dance.

Yesterday, I joined K and Kai on their Friday morning ritual of garage sale-ing. Later, we all enjoyed lunch in Hudson, WI. Then, we dropped the boys off at art class, and K, Sarah and I walked to the beach at the end of the road on the shores of the St. Croix River, which was filling with young bodies in swimsuits, (not that I noticed).

When we all returned to Lake Elmo, we enjoyed another boat ride and swim in the sun.

After we situated the boys for the evening, we had to take our sentimental journey to Macalester College. The years have been good to the school. Square footage under roof increased dramatically, including impressive new sports facilities plus more dorm rooms and a center for international studies.

We found the Heartland Restaurant about a block away from where we used to go for taco night and beer. In addition to one last night of conversation with dear friends, the highlight of the dinner was one of the desserts: white chocolate sambucca semi-fredo with black currant curd, Chambord sabayon and fresh blackberries. That may have been the most subtly flavorful dessert I’ve ever tasted in my ½ century on this planet.

One last thing I needed to do before leaving the area was to go our spot to see the twin cities. So, we found and scaled the steep, grassy reservoir. On top, in the warm breezes of the black night, we looked to our left to see the lights of the Minneapolis skyline and turned right to see St. Paul.

Today, I said goodbye to 4/5 of the K family, wishing we lived close enough to make visiting a frequent occurrence. Thank you, K, Sarah, Kai & Eric.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good Hearts, part 2.

It’s morning on Lake Elmo. Red-winged blackbirds, robins, cardinals and other birds sing out as great white egrets look for breakfast among the lilly pads. The view from my comfy chair in the bedroom is a rare one, because about one-half of the lakeshore is public land. Yesterday’s (6/25) little swim confirmed that the water temperature is just right, which is always surprising to me, knowing that people can drive cars on the lake during winter.

K, Sarah and I met Ed and; Ann at Mears Park in St. Paul last evening, which was a beautiful evening: hot in the sun but perfect in the shade. Mears Park is a terrific one-block sized urban park. A forest stream (man-made yet very pretty & pleasant) flows diagonally through it. A bandstand on one edge of the block fronts a concrete area, while grassy areas soften the other edges. A band supported a singer as she crooned some classics, providing us good background music as we all talked.

I met Ed in 1978 as he roomed with K. Ann has always been a very sweet and loving girl, now woman, who always seemed to know what she wanted and what was best for Ed. I think the years have proven her right, as Christmas letters told the story of raising their two children into a loving family unit. Ed was always her big lug of a guy, who could intimidate with his size and charm with his spirit. They both looked great, and I loved hearing the 25-year update of all that they have accomplished together and some of what they see for their future.

Eventually, we all found a shaded courtyard restaurant for dinner where I asked the question to both couples: “Where would Ed have been without Ann, and where would K have been without Sarah?” Despite the ups and downs that every marriage and relationship must have, these two couples found love, marriage, children and happiness. I feel sad for those guys who either are not loveable or, despite being loveable, never found someone to love them. We ended up at the “Happy gnome” for desert, driving around St. Paul’s magnificent cathedral, which still dominates the city, a century or more after it was built.

Earlier in the day, I got acquainted with Kai and Eric, K and Sarah’s sons. Kai joined us for a boat ride on Lake Elmo out to the public sandy beach on the far side. Kai was kind enough to let me join him on drums playing Eye of the Tiger on the rockstar video game. Eric was busy most of the day, but K and I had the chance to take him to his little league game, each volunteering our advice on how to bat. Later, we learned that his coach had elevated Eric to lead off batter because he is so adept at getting on base. He finds ways, despite being overmatched as a 7th grade batter facing 9th grader pitchers.

City changed, hearts the same, part 1.

My time warp started in Portland on the airplane, when I overheard the gentleman across the aisle share his history as the actor from Dukes of Hazard who played the sheriff in the neighboring town. Later, in Minneapolis, I walked into a bar near the law school just as the Playmate from December, 1968, yes 1968, was concluding her two-hour appearance. In between, I took a quick look around the city I left ¼ century ago. New towers, new condos, new parks, etc. It took awhile to find much that I recognized.

The apartment where I lived for two years was razed and replaced. Grandma’s, the hot spot back then, looked long abandoned. Instead of cocktails at Grandmas, I found fashionable people packed into the new(er) Spill the Wine. Bullwinkle’s had not changed. Perhaps 20 feet narrow, but tall enough to have a loft, the bar’s only upgrade seemed to be flat-screen TV’s. First year of law school, classmates got to know each other at Bullwinkles. Who knew then which of us would be judges, who would succeed in becoming partners at big accounting firms only to have the firm dissolve, who would die of AIDS, who would help corporations with mergers, and who would represent people. Ghosts from 1980, sandwiched among the ghosts from the decades before and since.

This evening, I met K and S at the newer and nicer brew pub across the street, where we started our process of catching up. K was now clean shaven while I was sporting my graying goatee. K predated law school. We met in 1978 at orientation for transfer students at Macalester College in St. Paul, where I attended for a time in place of Stanford. To me, K & S looked the same, despite the passage of decades. Finallyy, four hours after landing at the airport, I finally felt like I was back to my former home, and not just another city.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Enjoying the familiar and what's new.

Old haunts or the new and untried? That’s the question I faced the last couple of days as I prepare to enjoy a brief visit with good friends in the twin cities.

25 years ago, I left Minneapolis for my one-year job in Oregon. 25 years later, the world has changed dramatically. Remember using “white out” when “typing” school papers? From the internet and E-mail to $11 cocktails, times have changed. Yet, as I use the internet to explore myriad entertainment opportunities in Minneapolis & St. Paul, I see that some of the same old bars and nightclubs still compete for business. Decades ago, some of these dives looked and smelled like they had not been cleaned since World War II. But as cash-poor students, we cared not, so long as the tacos and beer were the cheapest in town. We felt welcome and comfortable in grubby surroundings. I feel less so these days.

I’m eager to see my friends. I’ll be happy to combine the comfort of the familiar while I marvel at what’s new.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solstice, Stonehenge, a King and my Queen

When I opened my eyes at 4:33 a.m., the skies were already lightening. The niggling question of the etymology of carpe diem, drove me to Wikipedia, and I had my answer well before the 5:22 a.m. sunrise on this longest day of the year. Carpe diem, as we use it to urge a robust and passionate life, derives from the last line of a poem that translates to: “Seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow,” Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

Wiki refers us to the parallel verse from Isaiah 22:13, “And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.”

We divided our longest day into three parts, Portland Farmers Market ( ), home remodel project, and the road trip to and from Maryhill’s Stonehenge.

At milepost 54, the Portland clouds turned to Hood River sunshine, where we picked up some food and continued another hour to Maryhill. There was a great spirit at Stonehenge. The Portland Actors Ensemble was setting up in the blustery conditions. A group was picnicking in the shade overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. A motorcycle group rolled in, and many others filled the 200 seats. Then, probably another 100 people crammed into oddly beautiful monument. The group of women in front of us were having a grand old time finishing up their bottles of wine and mugging for the camera. Couples settled in with their food, and the troupe received a very warm welcome as the temperature cooled.

One can only appreciate the monument by sitting there over some time to observe how the arches, pillars, and “doorways” treat visitors with different light, shadows and dramatic views. My snapshots don’t do justice, but here they are:

The play was fun, and considering Father’s day, very appropriate as King Lear is driven to madness by his two rotten daughters. Intermission arrived just before sunset, and we took the opportunity to head home. Perhaps we’ll catch the rest of the play at Cathedral Park in Portland.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer starts at Stonehenge

Summer starts with the solstice.
Stonehenge in England has been a gathering spot for over a century, thanks to Druids and new agers. I’m still working hard to clear my calendar for summer, so a trip to England would be tough. Fortunately, there’s the scale replica in Washington State, along the Columbia River.
Wealthy utopian Sam Hill dedicated the alter stone for his Stonehenge at Maryhill, Washington on July 4, 1918. The stone's placement was based on calculations of where sunrise would be on the summer solstice.
(Here's and what happens when the druids celebrate on the solstice.)
Hill’s Maryhill Stonehenge was our first World War I memorial, for fallen soldiers from Klickitat County. The altar stone read "To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country ... in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench."
Why copy Stonehenge for the memorial?
Sam Hill had visited the original Stonehenge with Britain’s Secretary of War in 1915. Supposedly he told Sam Hill, "Here the ancients 4,000 years ago offered bloody sacrifices to their heathen gods of war"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Making up for lost time.

Summer 2008 was not my best summer. My hip joint deteriorated rapidly. I worked hard and lost sleep preparing for an important August trial. I was not much fun for myself or anyone else.

I got new hip parts in October 2008 and a new car a couple weeks ago.

My work load is light for Summer 2009.

I'm ready to start the best summer that I've had in years.