Archive for January, 2006

Perfect rose

A job worth doing is a job worth doing well.

I’ve always assumed this attitude is a corollary of the Protestant Work Ethic. Correct me if you know differently.

I haven’t read enough ethnographies to say so, I’m sure, but I don’t remember ever seeing reference to how prominent this notion of striving for perfection is as a human (pan-global) social characteristic. I certainly encountered plenty of it when/where I grew up!

So, is this rose perfect or what?

Night light

My favorite parts of the day are the transitions at dawn and dusk. If sunlight fuels our lives on this planet (well, along with oxygen, water, the CHON chemicals), then moonlight may well fuel our souls.

Rotting snow

I’m quite happy living in Atlanta where I do not see banks of rotting snow, depressingly grey (the most unattractive grey imaginable), with the texture of decay, and the charm of an unaged buffalo chip. Remnant snowbanks just do not happen in Atlanta, at least in these days of global warming (perhaps it was different during the Little Ice Age).

Atlanta (and Georgia in general) does have its drawbacks. I’m thinking excessive humidity (I’ve seen oiled wood kitchen cupboards turn green with mold provoked not by poor housecleaning, but by their presence in an unairconditioned house), chiggers (the worst thing about fieldwork), rattlesnakes and copperheads, and assorted closed-minded staunch fundamentalists, rednecks, and Republicans.

Of course, some of the latter bunch crop up most places in our fine nation.

Chipped lips

Wander the Walker Art Center‘s Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and you will discover that Canada Geese congregate at the pond around the iconic Spoon Bridge (hence not pictured here), making access for admiration or photography, well, fraught with suspense…. Wander deeper into the Garden and you may encounter these lips (part of Judith Shea’s “Without Words,” 1988).

or, in this weather: “Chapped lips“!

Bryant-Lake Bowl

It’s bowling in a living history exhibit—visit Bryant-Lake Bowl and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

You get your own shoes from the rack on the wall. You keep your own score with a number 2 pencil. The lights over the pins may malfunction, so you must watch the pins to know your score. Come on a Saturday morning and order brunch to be delivered to you as you wait in the player settee.

As you rememerge into the light of day, blinking, you remember what you didn’t experience at Bryant-Lake Bowl that you associate with the days when all the alleys looked like this: clouds of cigarette smoke.

Night ’n day

One of the fun things about the urban scene is the neon, some of which is totally invisible by day, while at night it dominates your visual scan.

How different, too, is our perception of the city we have seen in daytime when we look at it again with a dark night obscuring so much infrastructure (and structure) from the nighttime landscape.

Pillsbury is one of the iconic brands of American foods, yet mostly it’s relegated to the bottom shelves of your local grocery, maybe appearing in a few so-called women’s magazines in conjunction with a new product (mango muffins anyone?). Here it gets its due, high above Minneapolis.

The newest high-profile resident of downtown Minneapolis: Al Franken (and his lovely—I hear—wife Frannie). And the state’s abuzz with talk about whether Al will run for office soon. I hear the bets are on the 2008 Senate race.

If you haven’t already sampled him and you have a speedy connection to the web, catch Al afternoons from 12-3 on AirAmerica radio (alternatively, you may be in the listening area of a station that actually broadcasts his show!). Sometimes he kinda phones it in, but most of the time he’s pretty engaging. He has some regulars who call in to chat with him. Christy Harvey is one of my favorites; she even has a song that Al sings to her just before she comes on the air! Al always introduces her with her long title: Director for Strategic Communications at The Center for American Progress….

Blooming bulbs

Beautiful day today. Sun drenched, almost glistening white spring flowers put it over the top.

Too bad you can’t smell the paperwhites!

I love the paperwhites especially for their beautiful scent and the hyacinths for their dense bloom-cluster.

New Orleans

One of my favorites [bars] of years past was Goldie Bierbaum’s place on Magazine in New Orleans. A green colonanade extended over the sidewalk, and the rusted screen doors still had painted on them the vague images and lettering of Depression-era coffee and bread advertisements. The lighting was bad, the wood floor scrubbed colorless with bleach, the railed bar interspersed with jars of pickles and hard-boiled eggs above and cuspidors down below.

“You want to know who’s running New Orleans? Flip over a rock. Welfare pukes hustling bazooka and blacks and South American spics and bikers muleing brown skag out of Florida. Nothing against the blacks or the spics. They’re making it just like we did.” [spoken by an Italian-American organized crime guy]

New Orleans wasn’t a city. It was an outdoor asylum located on top of a giant sponge.

Three excerpts from James Lee Burke’s 2003 “Last Car to Elysian Fields” (pages 2, 22-23, 85 respectively)…. The tale is set in 2002.

Fiction often presents a better window on our culture than the newspaper articles, sociological studies, and documentaries that purport to note the truth about our sociopolitical world.

I’m about half-way through “Last Car”, so I might revise this, but my favorite James Lee Burke novel is “Jolie Blon’s Bounce”, drawing its title from a famous New Orleans song. However, you won’t go wrong with any James Lee Burke title.

His most common protagonist is Dave Robicheaux, who has an adopted daughter named Alastair, who by the time of “Last Car” is off at college in Portland. Burke has a daughter named Alastair, it turns out. I found her when I found at title by one Alastair Burke on the shelf next to James’ books, a fine mystery, too.

Burgeoning bulbs

bulbs_emerging

One technique I use for fending off the winter blahs is to plant a few bulbs around New Year’s. This year’s crop has just begun to open blooms. There’re both paperwhites and (foreground) hyacinths. The paperwhites aren’t scenting the room yet, but I’m ready for it!

Outdoors here in Atlanta we are seeing the bulbs peeking up and the other day I saw one bulb of paperwhites in bloom, but it’s the only one I’ve seen so far. I also found a crazed azalea in bloom, just one bush, very unusual. Of course last summer one, just one, of our azaleas bloomed four or five separate times. Crazy hormones or something….

What I miss among the springtime blooms are lilacs. I grew up in Michigan and lilac season was my favorite. I always liked the paler lavender ones best, though the darker ones are hard not to admire, too. I understand that botanists have developed a lilac that will bloom here—winters aren’t cold enough—but it’s not the same without yard after yard decorated with those big bloom-clusters.

Spring stroll

I know it’s only January, but I have a hankering for a mountain hike, I think because we had such a spectacular one last year, when we descended to the west from Brasstown Bald, the highest place in Georgia. The weather was unsurpassed; we started in the clouds, with leafless winter vegetation around us. As we descended, we moved with the seasons, seeing buds, then tiny leaves, assorted mushrooms, then finally reaching the road in full-out spring leaves, with happy lusty-strong poison ivy.

During yesterday’s walk, however, John and I plodded through rain during early rush hour, no sparkle to the sodden landscape. I found the urban noises and looming dusk rendering the adventure so totally dissimilar, I dreamed about the Brasstown descent as an escape from the Atlanta drone.