Friday, September 29, 2006

Owen Cleary, Boy of Steel.

While out on one of their daily constitutionals earlier this week, my friend Emily, her mom-in-law Barbara, and Emily's bambinos (Owen, 3, and Aine, almost 5 months) were crossing a street in downtown Helena when a truck failed to stop and crashed into the stroller Owen was riding in.

The stroller got totalled. Thankfully, Owen didn't.
Owen Cleary, Boy of Steel.

(And, thankfully, the truck didn't hit Emily, otherwise it would've taken out all three of them, since Emily had Aine riding in the baby-hiking backpack at the time.)

Owen's got a couple of stitches on his face, but other than that, Emily says he's doing alright. And I told him the stitches make him look cool, like a pirate. That seemed to cheer him up even more. He's already back to his frisky, sister-pestering self.

(See, that's me taking the lemons of my shock and concern and making them into figurative lemonade for the boy. Pirate-themed lemonade. Or something. You get where I'm going with this, right?)

(I'd also like to think some of the catlike reflexes I instilled in him with all that underwear-slingshotting at Shopko over the years worked to his advantage in this scenario.)

New York, Pt. 8 - "Panorama-ding-dong"

On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (yes, I know, this was going on five months ago, but isn't it more fun to get this stuff in rationed-out portions?) Regina and I hopped a train out to Queens to meet up with her fiancé John--he's from over thattaway, and was there for the day to help some friends with some carpentry work. We met up at his mom's house, who was lovely and funny and to a hayseed like me, the very embodiment of much of what I've seen on Seinfeld over the years--like George's mom, but without the shrillness, and way nicer. We had tea and danishes and I was referred to repeatedly as "the visitor from West Bumblef*@k."

When I was planning this trip to NYC (and I use "planning" loosely, because let's face it, I'm kind of a hunt-and-peck sort of traveller), one of the few concrete must-see items I had on my list was this: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, aka the site of the 1964 (and 1940) World's Fair.

Home of...the Unisphere.
Mary with the Unisphere.

I *heart* the Unisphere. I don't know if it's the space-age thing, or the design of it, or just the fact that there' s a giant steel globe sitting in the middle of a park somewhere--I just love it. I could have sat by this thing all day long just staring at it, taking pictures of's just somethin' else.

A little closer.

Some of the buildings from the Fair have been preserved and still function in various capacities today. One of those is the Queens Museum of Art, which houses rotating art collections as well as a nifty collection of artifacts from the Fair. (It also looks out on the Unisphere area of the park.)
Exterior of the Queens Museum of Art.
Skating rink.

Here's a small model of what the fairgrounds looked like in '64--you can probably spot the Unisphere globe in the middle, towards the top. The Queens Museum of Art is that rectangle right behind it.
Model of '64.

And posters from the two Fairs.
Posters from the '64 Fair.
Poster from the '40 Fair.

The Museum is also home to the Panorama of the City of New York, or as Regina and I referred to it throughout my stay, the "Panorama-ding-dong."

It's a room-sized scale model of the entire city of New York--every building there as of 1992 in all five boroughs is represented in the panorama. Very tiny-like. The original panorama was built for the 1964 World's Fair--apparently there were little helicopter-shaped carts you could ride in with glass covering their floors, being lowered from the ceiling, right over the top of the model. Neato!
Panorama of the City of New York.

Nowadays, there's no airlift, but there is a cool walkway all around the model (with a glass floor in parts, for a birds' eye view), with pictures and maps lining the walls to help tourists and locals alike get their bearings.
Part of the walkway...

Little tiny Central Park.
Central Park.

Little tiny Statue of Liberty (on the little island closest to the bottom).
Statue of Liberty.

Little tiny downtown Manhattan. (On 9/11 anniversaries, they apparently install two little beams of light in place of the towers, emulating what's done at the memorial site downtown.)
World Trade Center towers.

Little tiny Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Teensy tiny World's Fair.

Regina & John, picking out landmarks far more readily than I was capable of.
Regina & John pick out landmarks.

All in all, quite possibly one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

After we'd toured the museum, we headed back outside and went to see the New York State Pavillion.
New York Pavillion.

Back in the day, elevators took fairgoers to the sightseeing decks up top. Nowadays, the elevators are long broken, and I imagine the place is far too run-down for visitor traffic like that.

Also, there was a domed ceiling over the top of the Pavillion (kind of behind the towers/decks), made out of big, brightly-colored plates of clear plastic (blues, oranges, etc.). They had to remove those as the building grew more unstable, and the roof posed a hazard.
Ivy on the sides.

The Pavillion is padlocked shut (although there is a Children's Theater functioning & thriving beside it)--but I peeked inside through a crack in the gate.
Peeking inside.

The floor was once covered by a giant map of the state of New York--not anymore. (Then again, that was forty years ago.)*

After the World's Fair, the pavillion was apparently used as a roller rink for a while...I think that closed back in the 70s. Since then, I guess it's been sitting,'s made notable appearances in Men In Black (although I think most of it was computer-generated in the movie), and, for those of you familiar with They Might Be Giants, it was in their "Don't Let's Start" video (circa 1986). The map on the floor was still mostly intact then, as you sort-of make out here.
Video again.
That video I was talking about.

We walked over to the other side of the park (it's a BIG park!) and got some ice cream after that--and when I saw the picture on the side of this truck, all I could think of was the Mr. Tastee episode on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Wonder if this served as any inspiration...
This reminded me of

As we looped back out of the park on our way back to Brooklyn, we passed Shea Stadium...
Heading home.

If you ever get the chance, head out to Queens & to the park. Seriously. I know, if you're just visiting NYC it's a little ways off the beaten tourist track, but wow, was it ever worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

No, he didn't have 69 attendants. But I'm sure it crossed his mind.

Buzzy got married last Saturday. Awwwwwww. haha

Cursing apples and all they represent.
(Apple Festival parade 1996--my senior year, Buzzy's junior year. I think Buzzy's mom gave me this picture when I graduated, complete with the curious but strangely relevant word bubble stickers already on it. Buzzy was usually lost, and I was usually a pretty good cat.)

Buzzy was a year behind me in school--we met when I was a sophomore, when he joined the high school band as this hyperactive lil' skateboard punk type of kid in the alto sax section. I sat in the back row of the band, by the tuba & trombone players, because the parts I played were nothing like what the clarinets played and besides, let's be blunt, the back row just had way more panache than the rest of the rows. (I think I was probably the first bass clarinetist in AHS history ridiculous enough to consider her instrument "low brass." But happily, I wasn't the last.)

The alto sax section sat right in front of me, and while the details have gotten a touch fuzzy over the years, I can remember him horsing around in front of me, all gangly and goofy and with that shaved-on-the-sides, floppy-on-top haircut of his, and for whatever reason I said something like, "Hey, Buzzy! Simmer down!"

I never knew him as "Brandin," I only knew him as Buzzy. He was too hyper and all kinetically akimbo to be called "Brandin." He was, much like his haircut, "Buzzy." And what can I say, when I give a nickname, it seems to stick. (Yes, Whitey, I'm looking at YOU.)

Shortly thereafter, Buzzy switched to the mighty bari sax, and made the big move to the back row. The rest, as they say, is history. For three years we functioned as part of some sort of a larger bizarro Greek chorus in the back row, a musical Mutt & Jeff, being wiseacres and smartasses and generally just really...loud. I would sneak him out of the school for Dairy Queen runs when I got my off-campus study hall passes--and later, on my last day of high school, Buzzy would steal my chair from the band room (famously known as "Mary's Midget Chair," since it was apparently designed for a really short 3rd grader/me yet had inadvertently made its way into the high school band room, of all places) and hide it in my trunk. (I found it in my parents' attic last spring, waiting.)

Probably about to get in trouble.
It was, in all honesty, a pretty unlikely friendship on the surface--a skater/hockey/hackey-sack kid hanging out with an insanely dorky nerd with awful glasses (god, look at those glasses! haha)--but for whatever reason, it clicked.

When Joe invited me to be his "plus-one" (with Shannon serving as the "plus-one, times two") to go to the hitchin' last weekend, I hadn't seen Buzzy in about seven or eight years. We kept in touch sporadically after high school--he went to UWS in Superior, I went to UMD in Duluth, so we were really only a bridge apart--but well, as tends to happen with people in their early 20s, life intervened. :+)

But I was sure glad to be there on Saturday, even if I had to be a quasi-wedding crasher to get there. Because something tells me Buzzy, of all people, would appreciate wedding crashing.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Oredock, coming down.

Yes, you read that right. In the past week, crews from Canadian National Railroad have been in town, removing the metal bridges from the parts of the Oredock crossing over Highway 2, St. Claire Street, and Water Street. People went out with lawn chairs the other night to watch this one, which crossed Highway 2, come down.

The Oredock, coming down.

I know these aren't parts of the Oredock itself, but rather the tracks leading up to the concrete structure that cuts out onto the lake (the largest structure of its kind)...but that seems moot, since the dock's nearly the last of a dying breed. (Ashland once had five Oredocks.)


I know, I know, the Oredock & the tracks leading up to it through the east end are a huge hazard (with particular threats being fire and general deterioration). And it hasn't been used in what, thirty years? But gulldang -- still blows to see it go down like this. I hate to say it, but I would've honestly preferred a towering inferno or something, at least it'd go down with some glory and not with a half-assed whimper.


Like most people around here, I'm attached to this part of town. And particularly, to the Oredock. But I think my family's especially attached, since my grandmother & her 14 siblings grew up on Water Street, back in the day. My great-grandfather died on the dock next to this one. My great-aunt Esther drowned next to it. My great-uncle Chet died in his boat beside it. Hell, I could've joined them when I almost backed the family station wagon in the lake there when I was 16.

St. Claire Street crossing (looking toward Hwy 2).

I spent a lot of time down in that neighborhood as a kid, playing on the Oredock, down by the boathouses, out on the point. My cousins and I spent countless holiday meals staring out at the dock from my grandma's dining room window at her house on Water Street, listening to the wind whip through the timbers on frigid winter nights, and to the blasts of the fireworks as they'd reverberate through it on the 4th of July. We'd go out onto the dock and stare into the diamond-shaped pools in the middle, captivated/terrified at the stories the old timers (or, more often than not, our older siblings) would tell us about people being "sucked under" the dock when they'd jump in...and my great-uncle Chet didn't help matters with all his stories about "sturgeons" sending his minnow boat into tailspins along the dock's edge. (Some might consider all this talk of drownings & watery graves a touch macabre for a bunch of kid s-- I like to think of it as having a healthy sense of mortality from an early age.)

Seeing St. Claire Street without the bridge crossing over's much more depressing than I was expecting it to be.

I've never seen one from this angle before.
Looking toward the Oredock & the lake.

And if that weren't bad enough, they're also taking out a big chunk of the wooden timbers between the bridges, as well. Safety, I know, but sheesh, it's a lot for a town to digest at once. Even if common sense tells me leaving insanely flammable creosote-soaked wood up indefinitely is probably not a wise move.

More holes to come.
St. Claire Street crossing, looking southwest.

Looking east on Hwy 2.
Hwy 2, looking east.

They'll need a crane.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy "Talk Like a Pirate Day"!

Arrr, bet you thought I'd forget, huh? NEVER!

Talk Like a Pirate Day t' all my fa'orite lil' buccaneers, shiver me timbers!

Soggy Rumpot Salamislacks

Civic duty.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Treasure chests, trannies, and Trogdor.

Last weekend, a weekend that shall live on in infamy: our trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

But first--before my maiden voyage to a renaissance festival--there was my maiden voyage to an IKEA store.

*cue choir of angels singing "AHHHHHHHHHHH!" Or maybe Opera Man. Either/or.*

I hereby love IKEA, and if it were possible, yes, I would marry it.

Burninating the countryside!
(New friend, burninating the countryside just like

They even have a snack bar. Where you can get two hot dogs, a bag of chips, a pop and a cinnamon roll for under $4.00. God bless the Swedes.


After filling up the ol' gut tanks, we were off.

And what wonders we would behold that day! Names being written on grains of RICE! Chain mail bikinis! (Yes, you read that right!) "Vegetable Justice!" (Destined to be on TV after Judge Judy one of these days, I think.) Bagpipers! Kilts! PLAID!!!
A truly useful service.
Uncomfortable on so many levels.
Vegetable Justice.

And, of course, pickle vendors yelling things like "Nine out of ten wenches love pickles!" and lots of rides for the kiddies emblazoned with "PLAY AT YOUR OWN RISK!" Because that's just how things were back in the Renaissance. None of yer shock-absorbing playground equipment, oh no--things had steel beams! And they gave you slivers! And you felt ALIVE!
Pickle cart on ye olde food court.
An observation:

And then, there were the weirdos. Like the ladies in Victorian England garb.
Out of time.

And the Keith-Richards-lookin' dude in the skull & crossbone tights. (With his goth rock lady love.)
Holy cow.
Holy cow, part 2.

And these two.
When dorks collide.

And guys who could snap me like the insignificant twig I am.
He could snap me like a twig.
Gerald Hugeinson!

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention...the tranny strumpet.

And oh my GOD, check out these freaks!!

Have I mentioned the rain yet? Oh yeah--it rained. Pretty much the entire time we were there. (We figured it added to the overall authenticity of the event, what with all the mud.) The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free and to eat something hot & deep-fried, headed to Ye Olde Food Court.
Ye Olde Food Court.

Ye Olde Greek Foods.

More bready goodness.
Bready goodness.

Fortified, we ventured back out and did the only reasonable thing one could do during a rain storm: watch a mud wrestling match.
Because we didn't have enough mud already.

We shopped for leather goods.
Paging Xena.

(Yeah, it says "Treasure Chest.")

We saw some non-vegetable-based justice.

We watched a guy with a balloon down his pants pester a shirtless beggar guy.
Big Shirtless Rod.

And with one final "HUZZAH!" in unison, our time at the RenFest had come to an end. But the "HUZZAH!" in our hearts shall never die.
Once more, in unison: