Sunday, July 31, 2005

Don't Give Up, You've Got a Reason To Live, Can't Forget, You Only Get What You Butt

So Katie is in Vermont. Has been for a couple weeks now actually. I brough her up there a little under a week after we got home from Minnesota, stayed the night, and drove back home. The drive up there was a disaster, which is just somewhat expected when you are dealing with roads in Vermont. By that I mean only this: it appears that there are in fact highways in Vermont. At the very least there is 89 and its affiliate 189. Ostensibly 89 is an interstate, but I have no freaking clue which even more isolated state this highway connects to. I guess it does connect Montpelier and Burlington, the two "big cities" in the state, but for some reason, there is no freaking route from any part of New York to the biggest city in the state of Vermont that doesnt require mostly travel on roads with one lane in either direction. Seriously, I am not trying to crap on Vermont, cuz there are a bunch of things in that state I really dig, but you have to have a freeway to your biggest city. If you can't get from New York City to your city driving only on significant highways, its too freaking small. End of story, no more negative things to say about the drive to Burlington.

In fact I will go on to say something complimentary about the area, just so there are no hard feelings. Due to a significant road closure on the ride up, I decided to negotiate my own route on the way home. I got some suggestions from google maps, took some advice from the Vermont road signs that indicated the direction of the "Bridge to New York," and sort of improvised my way back to highway 87. The route I took was magnificent, it really hit up what I would imagine are the most beautiful places in the Western Vermont, Northern New York area. I'm a sucker for mountains, coming from about the flattest area of land you can imagine, and when you get up that far into the Adirondacks, they are pretty legit. If you've gotta drive thru the middle of nowhere on one lane roads, you might as well do it negotiating the heart of a mountain range, sunlight filtering through the trees, breathtaking clear lakes nestled between them. Incredible, really really incredible. If I had either the ability to get a summer house or a job that would allow me to work from the middle of nowhere, I think this is the area I would consider. A boat, fresh fish, storms coming in over the mountains. I took the same route this last week, on the way up and the way back, its the absolute highlight of the trip.

One of the most highlightable moments of that highlight is the trip over Lake Champlain, which we spent a good amount of time admiring over the days I spent with Katie. She had a couple days off between high school and college institutes so we decided to venture to some place with good food, air conditioning, and comfy beds. My original thought was just that she would like a hotel nearby, but we eventually decided to venture into the exotic and generally geriatric world of bed and breakfasts. Anyway, we decided a night at the rustic Point Au Roche Lodge near Plattsburg, NY, right on the other side of the lake from Burlington, essentially. So, Tuesday morning we got up and headed up the actual highway towards the ferry.

I have never been on a ferry before but I love boats in general. Not to mention that this particular ferry cut about 40 miles off the potential drive. So we bought our tickets, got in line, and drove a car onto a boat. I suppose that its not surprising that I would like the concept, in a way its a bit like the turducken of the transportation world. I think we should also have the plane equivalent of a ferry, but I won't get into that for the moment. Maybe we could put helicopters on tanks or something. Regardless, the boat ride was fun. I was unaware, for instance, that Lake Champlain is the 6th largest freshwater lake in the US. We crossed at a pretty narrow point, the ride was only 12 minutes accross, others are up to an hour. Here's one of the ferries:

Its prolly not the most economical way to get accross, but it was worth the cash, both time wise and cool wise. You can sit up in the observation deck or just stand out and look out over the front of the boat. Apparently the boats run all day all year round. I think both the winter and the middle of the night would be cool rides, personally.

Since a big part of the whole getting away from debate camp thing was eating food that was not preparable by microwave without refrigeration, we ate pretty well. Had lunch at some cute little cafe called Irises. Katie had a tasty little chicken on foccacia, while I had a rosemary-mushroom bacon cheeseburger. To be honest I had never thought of rosemary as a cheeseburger herb, but it really worked well. We returned to the "downtown Plattsburgh" area to have dinner at Giovanni's (review=hilarious by the way, since there is obviously not an overabundance of quality eats in this town). It was a good Italian joint, good bread, a tasty appetizer of fried beef tenderloin with grilled polenta, some wine etc. Katie had a tasty baked pasta, which I cannot remember specifically at this point, it was manacotti-ish and filled with the various types of cheeses one might expect. It was really quite good. I was blown away by my cheese tortellini, which was stuffed with ricotta and parmesan, bathing in a tomato-cream sauce, and topped with a big clump of some of the best gorgonzola cheese I have ever eaten. It was so fresh and so perfectly tart, I was really blown away. Both of us were too full for dessert, which means alot when theres tiramisu on the menu.

Our other eating experience on the Tuesday we went out there is to freaking hilarious for me to accurately explain without first giving you this picture:

Thats correct, that is a big neon sign that indicates that this ice cream stand is called "Creamies." I literally thought I was going to crash the car, I couldn't breathe for like a minute after I saw it. We had to stop and get a cone, I insisted that Katie get a picture of me under the sign, cuz I don't think anyone would believe that someone named a business "creamies" without proof. I learned later on that in this area of the country (maybe in other areas for all I know, but I've eaten a fuckload of ice cream in my day, and never heard it before) soft-serve ice cream cones are referred to as "creamies." We stopped at a couple other ice cream stands, cuz Creamies got me in the mood (omg, it never gets old), and most of them seem to spell it "Cree-mees" or some variation thereof, hopefully to try to distance themselves. I tried to get Katie to rub the ice cream around her mouth and let me take a picture of her licking the cone under the sign, but she would have none of it. Regardless, it was good, so I can say with all certainty, if you are ever near Plattsburgh, NY, you should have a creamie.

The time that we didn't spend eating was spent in the "Garden Room" at the Point Au Roche Lodge. Katie was tired, so she took an afternoon nap, as has become her custom whenever we check into a hotel. I spent that time out on the sweet-ass deck in the Adirondack chairs (in the Adirondacks no less) reading Truman Capote. Total hipster was I. While I dig the rustic ambience and all, none of these rooms had television, which in my mind is just stupid. I understand the desire to be all away from the world and all, but when I was laying in bed, waiting for Katie to finish her chapter, tired and a little tipsy, I would have really liked to watch 10 minutes of sportscenter or an old sitcom. If you wanna get away from it entirely, just turn it off. Get some self control, hippies.

Anyway, I won't post a bunch of pictures of our hotel room, largely because you can see them on the hotel's website if you want. It was hella pretty. I don't think there is a shot of our deck, so here's that:

and here is the view towards the lake. In actuality you can see the fogged mountains behind the water, but it doesn't turn out well in the photograph. Regardless, it was a gorgeous place to relax on a summer afternoon.

I got up the next morning and got a cup of coffee before breakfast just so I could sit out on the chair again and read in the morning air. I'm not usually up at 7:30 in the morning, but when I am it always seems worthwhile. The mountain and lake combo is really the right way to spend a cool morning, even if you are reading about the gruesome murder of a rural Kansas family.

When Katie did get up we headed down for breakfast, which was in fact quite an affair. I had the Spinach, Bacon, and Cheese Fritatta, while Katie went for the Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes. I tried some of Katie's bfast as well, and while it didn't match up to the eggs, I must admit that I have never tasted a better fruit filled cake like snack. I think we both enjoyed the pleasant B+B hospitality factor, but luckily we didn't really have to interact much with any of the other patrons. Katie was all freaked out that we would be shunned for not doing crafts in the great room or something, thankfully, it was not the case. Its really just a quaint hotel, with the best continental b-fast in history. By my evaluation of the breakfast room we were the youngest people there by only about 10 years. If you exclude the woman who was there by herself, obviously on some sort of business trip to Plattsburgh that she managed to convert into a comfy B+B, it was at least 20. I'm not 100% sure that we will start spending all our vacations in overly-floral bedrooms lacking in fairly simple electronics, but it was fun.

Since Katie gave me this very useful list of state songs, I will lead into my tirade, to be continued next time, by letting Alabama, Alasaka, Arizona, Arkansas, and California know that you and I are cool. Beyond that its any-Hippo's guess.



Saturday, July 30, 2005

But Don't Hesitate, Cuz Your Love, Just Won't Wait, Ooh Baby I Love Your Butt

Before I attempt to crank out the last of the Minnesota trip, only 3 some weeks after the actual return from said state, I have a brief pronouncement. As I was driving Katie to Vermont a couple weeks ago I discovered that Kansas' state song is "Home on the Range." Jobviously, I called bullshit, cuz you very clearly can't have "Home on the Range" as your state song any more than you could just say that "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is your national anthem. My criteria are not yet objectively set out, but the basic idea is this: your state song has to have something to do with your state. Can't just go all willy fucking nilly on the bit. Yes, Kansas is on the range, so are Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. I appointed Katie the official representative of the state of Kansas and since she was unwilling to budge on the legitimacy of the ballad, I offered her two alternatives to choose as the new state song. Since she again refused, I have officially designated as the new state song of Kansas 2 Live Crew's epic "Face Down, Ass Up."

I'll be adopting a thorough review process and potentially replacing the state songs of the other 49ish states as necessary in due time. Let me tell you this off the bat: I'm coming for you Conneticut.

Last notable event, I believe, from the Minnesota trip was the trip to Nebraska. Katie finished her institute before noon, so we picked up her dad, gave Hippo instructions for the weekend and journeyed down 35. The drive was pretty uneventful and we actually made good time, thanks be to the people of Iowa, who finally had the good sense to raise their speed limit to a civilized 70. We got into Carole's mom's house, had a nice dinner, hung out, etc. Later that evening, Katie,Karly, Kari, myself, and Cousin Jessica (I totally like the practice of referring to relatives by "Relation-First Name" in the singular without articles, if nothing else, I can sound like a Dukes of Hazard episode) headed to "Downtown Lincoln." Downtown Lincoln is a bit like naming your pet goat "Awesome:" we get the reasoning behind it, but we're not quite sure the name makes any sense.

There was a strip of bars somewhat like you would find in any college town and while most of them looked like the fratish places I usually intend to avoid like the plague, we were amongst a crowd that seemed to prefer even the University environment rather than suburban bar-grills. We hit a place that I am forced to believe is by far the hippest place in prolly the whole of Nebraska. It wouldn't have been out of place in a decent city, though it was empty on Saturday night here. There was a decent micro-beer selection, well stocked bar, and most importanly, I think our tab for 3-4 beers, 5 shots, and 2-3 drinks was like 35 bucks. For some reason we matriculated to a place down the street, which was pretty much the picture of bars I don't enter. While the drinks were even cheaper than the previous joint (a pitcher of something that appeared to essentially be a screwdriver was 8 freaking dollars) there was a series of frat boy behaviors which impinged on our good time and ultimately resulted in our venturing to another establishment. This one was a fairly classic dive, which I didn't expect around either. The occupants were still huskers thru and thru, I think there was at least a couple instances of ass-grabbage when Katie, Kari, and Jessica headed to the dance area. Drinks remained cheap and plentiful and to establish what kind of an evening it was becoming, I had switched from beer, to bourbon on the rocks. There was one more bar, which finally had freaking Maker's Mark, but otherwise had no distinguishing characteristics. We went home late, fun was had by all.

The next morning featured a high quality breakfast which was conveniently also classic hangover food, sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, and gravy. There were more family members, some repeats, and for a while there was a female exodus to the Dillard's 4th of July sale. Tom and I watched the Cubs game with Carole's parents before the ladies came home and the party traveled from some section of Lincoln to a different section of Lincoln and another set of g-rents. We didn't need to make late night bar binges here, cuz unlike the first stop, there were beverages a plenty. There was good food, good drinks, fireworks, and general comradery. Their house is the nuts, with a huge well decorated backyard, a pool table, bars upstairs and down, prolly about 20 total televisions (including a set-up of four in the living room to feature any and all available sporting extravaganzas), and a good deal of Nebraska themed merchandise. We took a couple pictures, most during the afternoon of the 4th when the Tom designed bocce tournament (featuring prelims and seeded elims) came down to an epic battle between Katie and Kari. Here's a lone action shot to demonstrate the intensity of the finals:

Drove home the next day in fairly uneventful fashion. Pretty much just enough time to say hello to my rents one more time, gather up the Hippo-Bear and vamoose to Buffaliz. Alright, thus ends the Minnesota rants and at least a good amount of the picture fests. More importantly, the incessant narration of something that is not incredibly interesting and in the near past. Hippo seriously needs a claw trimming and I have the scars to prove it, so I think we are gonna see what we can do bout that.



Wednesday, July 20, 2005

This is The Story of a Girl, Who Cried a River and Drowned the Whole Butt

Last night's RockStar didn't match up to the first week's show, but it was still very phat. Jordis dominated yet again and I found myself saying exactly the same thing as Dave Navarro in response to the fact that she sang Hoobastank. Basically, that song sucks, but you made it pretty sweet. It wasn't nearly as rocking as her version of Baba O'Reily or Heart Shaped Box, but she hits this one note that, were I to be in charge of giving names to musical things, I would call a "break-note." Heather was also on her nuts yesterday while some other people met mediocre reviews. Jennifer Robinson's "Purple Haze" couldn't match up with her "I Want You to Want Me" from last week. Anyway, if you started watching RockStar: INXS last night on my advice and were disappointed, just give it another week. Its freaking sweet, trust me.

I am currently watching last night's Canadian Idol. This young lady just decided that, in case anyone wanted to notice how overshadowed she was by any of the American Idols she decided to do Roy Orbison's "Crying" , which we all remember was done in the later weeks of this past season by Ms. Underwood. One of the guys literally sounds like a girl, I mean, when he talks, you would think that he was a girl. Its not even a particularly high voice, its just a girl's voice. He's apparently 17, so maybe bloomin js just comin late, but I'm leaning towards no. Tonight is apparently Canadian music night, so we've done BTO, Orbison, and now some dude whom I have literally never heard of. Its ricockulous. Also, Sass Jordan (Canadio-Paula) appears to have selected a shirt that is designed to make her breasts sag into her waist area. Ouch, Sass, ouch.

I return to Minnesota, specifically, Rosemount at the point I returned from Mad-town. Katie had borrowed the car, her dad had cleaned it like a mo-fo (new carpet pad things, scrubbed, washed, everything out from under shit, it was really impressive) and she was coming to pick me up. When I bought that car in the late summer of 2000 the first two things I did, in all seriousness, were light a cigarette and go through a drive-thru. I'm quite certain that there was ash in the car somewhere very shortly and there is absolutely no question what happened with the MickeyD's trash. Regardless, it looks as good now as it did the day I picked it up. Katie came down, we hung with the kitty for a couple minutes before heading out for our anniversary celebtration.

I wanted to take Katie back to the Hyatt for our anniversaire, but things didn't work out. Luckily my favorite hotel in the Twin Cities came up strong having available rooms, reasonably priced, and then upgrading us upon arrival. We were staying, of course at the St. Paul Hotel overlooking Rice Park and right down the block from the home of our rehearsal dinner last year. I don't think Katie had ever entered the building before, which made it an even more enjoyable experience. We stayed in what Katie described as what her bedroom would look like if our home wasn't overflowing with Care Bears (thats a slight paraphrase). The view was good

I think Katie prolly appreciated the bed and the shower more than the occassion itself, since she had been stuck in the Hamline dorms for about a week at that point. The bed admittedly was pillow topped, large, and very much in charge:

We hung around, Katie napped, and we still made our dinner reservations at the St. Paul Grill. I love the ambience of that joint, prolly more than anywhere else I have ever really eaten. Manny's is up there and I've always dug on my g-rents country club, but still, that place is just freaking classy. I had a tasty piece of beef, but in all honesty it was second fiddle to Katie's walleye, which was served with a some sort of an almondy maple sauce. Katie continued her on the nuts descriptions by explaining that it was like having fish for dessert.

Dessert itself was waiting for us upstairs. We had the top tier of our original wedding cake, but it had been through alot, I mean, a freaking lot. We got it from the reception the day after, we transported it to Buffalo, somewhere along the line it got wet, it hung out in the freezer for a year, taking up space that we could have really used for turkey, or bacon, or turkey-bacon. Anyway, I got a similar cake recreated by Wuollets for the occassion so we didn't have to eat more than a bite of the nasty stale stuff.

There was cake and champagne and maybe more importantly, no debate camp of any kind. One year down, many many to go. I guess alot of people say the first year of marriage is really hard, but I can't say I buy it. I've really enjoyed everything and on a practical level not that much really changed. We had been working with joint finances for a year before, we lived together, we shared a car, etc. (sidenote: this woman on C-Idol was talking about her return to her hometown and she literally spoke this sentence, which I never would have imagine was actually a possibility: "When I got home yesterday they had a parade for me, they had a big gathering down by the world's largest axe." I believe its the structural equivalent of "If it wasn't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college.") Anyway, the first year of marriage was pretty awesome for me and the parts of year two that we have spent together put it on track to top even that.

Hippo wants to check out the premiere of So You Think You Can Dance so I think we will set the computer aside.



Sunday, July 17, 2005

I Was Frying On the Bench Slide in the Park Accross the Street, L-A-T-E-R That Butt

I've gotten into the summer seasons of The Inside, Big Brother 6, The 4400, and Six Feet Under, to name the big ones at least. The one I wasn't expecting that is fantastic is CBS's RockStar: INXS. This was the first week of the show, but its off to a biz-a-bang, let me tell you. I'll just give you three reasons you should watch this show so you can make an informed decision come tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening before you set your TIVO:

1) Mark Burnett is god. Seriously, if Mark Burnett made a reality show about people who like Froot Loops, I would watch it. This guy can do no freaking wrong and this is no exception. If you don't like reality TV I guess this isn't a reason for you, but I don't know any fans who don't live to see that flaming logo.

2) Imagine this: American Idol with rock music. Thats right, take out all the crappy songs and replace them with rock and roll music, people who sound like they're fronting a band instead of a choir performance. There's nothing wrong with those things, notably, but in my world they just can't compare. Thats also not to say that the people on this show don't have tremendous talent, cuz jobviously they do. The stuff that Kelly Clarkson is doing now (Hazel Eyes, Since You've Been Gone) proves how well that works, women with tremendous voices who don't just do Celine Dion. Think when Carrie did Heart's "Alone" this year or several of Bo's performances. I know its a little early to say for sure, and I'm sure it can never compete ratings wise, but this show looks potentially better than AI.

3) Jordis Unga. She's cute, she has awesome dreds, she's from St. Paul. She's my jobvious favorite, from the first moment on the screen. She sang Nirvana and The Who and while its hard to say that she is the favorite, she's certainly in contention. She's got a pretty rock-metal voice, so that may play into my opinion, Even if for some reason you don't like Jordis (shame on you) there are at least 4-5 other people on this show who are pretty sweet.

Anyway, watch RockStar, its good. Back to the MN trip. Had I been going strictly chronologically I would have technically missed one significant event, but there is not really anything I can say about it that hasn't been set to music and chronicled by Bietz. It was fun and delicious and t-shirt riffic. I did eat a little too much beef, all in all, with the Nookie, a stop at Mannings, and the trip to Assbraska, but still good.

We turn then to the weekend: since Katie was at camp I figured that I would join the collective of homeboys/girls who were making the trip to Mil-a-wau-kee (in the immortal words of Alice Cooper) for the Twinkies road-stand at Miller Park. I didn't join them the year, but was excited to finally see the stadium. I rode with Kevin and Andy J leaving on Friday night. Thor and Ari followed us, Maroney and Reut came down after work, my bro and Melia were already in Madison (which, I should note, is where we stayed) and Wilking and New Jenswick met us at the park. Regardless, we drove, listening to alot of music that typically wasn't my thing, but allowed me to relax and enjoy the drive. It was broken up by the Beach Boys and some Beck (mebbe you could've guessed that Kevin was in charge). Despite my best attempts, this was the best artistic shot of Andy J drinking Propel fitness water that I could come up with:

We checked into the Red Roof Inn and eventually made our way to food and beer. Eventually ended up at some joint called the Great Dane which, while named after a truly excellent dog breed and a Mad-town institution, was a bit disappointing on being out of the two beers I would have most enjoyed drinking. At least I got some New Glaurus at dinner and a decent micro-brewed pilsner. My bro and Malia had met us by then and joined us back at the hotel, where we continued the party in anticipation of Maroney and Reut. Ari came strong with a couple bottles of wine, so we were good until they showed up in the 3:45ish area. To show exactly how hard the party was rocking I give you Ari and Thor:

The next morning featured the absolute worst grocery store run in all of history. We took about an hour, spent an unknown amount of money, but managed to get just about everything we needed, save napkins. There were burgers and brats and beer and condiments, and hotdogs, and to be honest, that was about all we cared about. Still it took forever and we were on the road to Milwaukee maybe 45 minutes late. Didn't much matter though, since we were still amongst the first wave of tailgaters and had a quality spot. Reuter got mad along the way because we kept confusing him with a Asian gang member:

I still think that this photo generally summarizes the experience:

but there were people there besides Maroney's half-drunk Corona with lime. For instance, my brother and Backwards Malia (who were the only ones smart enough to bring chairs).

The ballpark was gorgeous

we got to see Santana pitch

and Wilking and Jen were doing it as always.

We all drank quite a bit, though I thought Reuter's bottle of scotch was without question the classiest set up. A really really intelligent lady who was collecting money for either some homeless shelter or a scam came up and at first scared us cuz she acted like she was going to give us a ticket. Instead she joked around with us, got a dollar or two from everybody, and passed out stickers which were variously attached to Wilking's genitals:
(sorry I can't make that right side up)

We ate a bunch of burgers and hot dogs and brats during two distinct grill sessions. It was a strong way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. Freaking Twins lost, but we got to see Torii and Shannon Stewart go yard. The only time I can ever really care about baseball is when I'm back at home, and the stadium alone was totally worth the trip. I can't imagine how awesome it would be if the TC could get something like that accomplished. I rode back with Reut Dawg, Kevin, and Maroney, in the back of Reuter's car with a passed out Maroney. This was a reasonable play, notableuce, since there was nothing to do and drinking in the hot sun can take alot out of you. When we did arrive back at the Red Roof Inn it took us a while to mobilize Maroney, and when we did, he leaned just a bit too far and stumbled down a small hill finally causing this:

That is, knocking down the fence, or at least a segment of it. I was amazed that he didn't tumble straight through it, but he righted himself enough to get back upstairs so he could continue drinking. I don't think anyone realized until the next morning that we may have had a former Maroney, had he gone about another 2-3 feet beyond the fence line

a drop that is estimated, depending on who you ask, between 12-25 feet. My guess is near 20, but I'm not a measuring tape or nothin, whadda I know.

Two final hilarious stories:

1) At one point hanging around the RRI we flipped through the Adult Desires section of pay-per view. While there were several quality double features and alot of girl on girl action, everything else was blown away by Latex Housewives, which anyone can tell you are characterized by three adjectives: Slutty, Bored, and (you guessed it) Horny. We joked about how desperately this movie needed to be ordered and it wasn't until Maroney pressed the wrong button on the remote that it actually ended up on Thor's credit card. It was legitimately hilarious and lived up entirely to its name. It was during the film that Maroney and I discovered exactly how difficult it is to fall asleep with porno in the background. Very disconcerting. I was sad I had to miss the disclosure to Thor, but Andy J and I were out early the next morning.

2) Kevin was being all Kevin-like on Saturday night, so after we decided to hit the hay, Kevin announced that instead of sharing a bed with someone, he was going to build a fort using a comforter, two chairs, and the table. It was in fact, a high quality fort, which happened to be located immediately next to my bed. In fact, one of the chairs of which it made use was the chair on which I had set my wallet, phone, etc. So in the middle of the night, around 4 in the morning, when I reached over to my phone to find out exactly what time it was, I had to lift up the corner of the blanket and was immediately confronted by the accusation: "You're breaching the walls of my fort!" I swear he was waiting to use that line all night. If you know Kevin, that one's a classic.

Alright, Hippo and I are gonna watch Elisha Cuthbert's "The Girl Next Door" which I believe was just selected as AFI's Greatest Teen Movie About Porn Stars. Hippo says meow.



Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Do You Feel the Same, Am I Only Dreaming, or is This Burning, an Eternal Butt?

Drive back to Minneapolis: relatively uneventful, Hippo found a comfy spot under Katie's seat, we got slowed down in Chicago but made it to Janesville in about 10 1/2 hours, at which point Katie took over and filled out the remainder of the drive. We were home by about 2 am and besides getting a little antsy from the Dells onwards, the kitty was remarkably calm. She had access to food and water and her litter box, not to mention a comfy spot on the backseat. She desperately wanted to be sitting on Katie's lap a good amount of the time, but generally she just speculated about the history of the land she saw around the car. If you've got a couple spare hours you should ask the Hippopotameow her thoughts about the Indiana landsacape.

Not many events in the first couple days at home. We saw my dad, Dave and Amy and Natalie and Matt and Katie's rents, and so on. I hung out with the homies at Andy J's place and eventually went up to see my madre. Father's day was the first notable situation: since I got two incredible meals and partied with the assorted paternal figures. We picked up Karly, then Tom and Carole, before making our way to Rudolph's in Minneapolis for the BBQ brunch, which I haven't attended in quite a while. They have both quality breakfast food and their more traditional BBQ, which was on the nuts. Garlic mashed potatoes, brisket, ham, ribs, and really good cornbread were the focus of my plates. Katie, unfortunately, had to bow out after that meal, and head o'er to Hamline for the inagural debate camp experience. I, on the other hand, joined up with my sister and dad at his place to enjoy a big steak, some quality early season sweet corn, and the like. I've actually gotten to have a nice meal with my dad on each of the last two father's days, which before that prolly hadn't happened in 5 years. Debate camps and wedding ceremonies set us up, I guess.

Hippo and I were alone with my dad for the next couple days, since Katie had to be sleeping in the dorms at Hamline during some hot-ass days in the Twin Cities. I believe the high point was Thursday afternoon, when the digital display on the strip club near St. Cloud indicated the temperature was 99 farenheit. I was in St. Cloud in the first place for a visit to my Grandparents' place North of Brainerd. My sister and I rode up with m mother in the convertible, which was actually a pretty relaxing way to spend the morning. We left at like 8, got there around 11, hung around, went out for lunch, hung some more and came home by 7 or so, even including the stop at the rural-ass DQ-Brazier for a tasty blizzard treat. My grandma's back is really not doing too well, even though she had this crazy ass hippy new age pain treatment that is all the rage in fringe medical circles these days. We had lunch at this ridiculous little cafe, since their usual restaurant, The Chaparal, burned down the week before. My mother put peanut butter on her BLT, which was truly fucked up. My cousin Robin was up there, which in my mind satisfies my "extended family outside the grandparents" requirement for the next 3-5 years.

My grandparents refer to their place up there as "the lake" which is an accurate depiction, insofar as there is, in fact, a lake. They have some land, which has a driveway and a clearing, a big ass garage which stores some motorcycles, a boat, and a motorhome which I think my grandfather purchased from the estate of Otto Von Bismark. They have had this land since my mother was young, she remembers cutting down the trees which produced the clearing and even building the original bridge and dock that lead from that clearing to the lake. We went up to the lake all the time when we were kids, staying in a camper, in the motorhome, etc. at various times. I was there really really briefly my junior or senior year in college, but besides that prolly haven't been to the Brainerd area since high school. It was somewhere in there that my grandparents built their "cabin" which is more accurately two pre-fab houses next to each other. If you're gonna do a cabin, this is the way I would suggest it, with heat, gas, electricity, a two-car garage, air conditioning, high speed internet, full kitchen, two bathrooms, a couple tvs. and so on. Its by no means huge, but a comfortable suburban home. Here's my grandma and my sisters enjoying the recliners, and the kitchen in the backdrop:

A boring outdoor shot, but it emphasizes the comfort of the area:

From the back window through the woods, to the lake:

Finally, a cute one of my sister and me with the g-rents:

The ride home was uneventful. We had to keep the top up cuz it was just too damn hot without containing the ac, see for instance, the strip club which informed us of the 99 degree situation. Afterwards I went to the como area to pick up something for Katie and saw what I think pretty clearly sums up St. Paul hippies in all of their glory:

Its not a great picture, but I'm gonna leave it at that. Hippo's ready for bed anyways.



Monday, July 11, 2005

How Do You Talk To an Angel, Its Like Trying to Catch a Falling Butt

Its been a long wait for day two of the Toronto trip, not to mention that I have not said a word about our time in Minnesota, my trip to Madison/Milwaukee, or the recent one year anniversary. I will get to them all, I swear, but back to Canadia in the first place.

As I think I mentioned, my biggest complain from my first full day spent in the heart of the land of the North was the lack of two words "hoser" and "ay," specifically as they might be combined in a sentence like "ay ya hoser." Despite my attempts to get in as many Tim Hortons conversations and Canadian art discussions as I could, no one called me any names of any sort, hockey related or otherwise. While I didn't fix that dilemma I did manage to overhear someone call his friend a hoser and, several times, was told that "It was a good day for ____, ay?" Which was totally awesome. It is an infintiely cooler expression than "huh?" as in "Nice day out, huh?" or "ain't it" or any of that shit. Not to mention that it allows for question to simply become a statement with the sound "ay" at the end of it and some questioning pronunciation and you are golden. It was especially cool when this early 20s-ish woman said "Ay, good choice, ay" regarding our weekend plans. It worked out really well.

Both those moments occurred on our way to or at the Royal Museum of Ontario, which we don't really have any pictures from, even though it was kinda interesting. We went through this exhibit which had alot of incredibly highly-detailed fossils from a dig site in China. The primary argument that the exhibit was making concerned not only the fact that most (if not nearly all) types of dinosaurs actually had feathers (including a scary ass set of feathered velociraptors and an enormous chicken-like dino, that seriously could have eaten at least three Nookie Supremes), nor that birds descended from dinosaurs, but that birds are dinosaurs. I'm not much of an archaeologist or anything, so I can't regurgitate it all, but it had alot to do with archaeoptrix, which was a pretty sweet little dinosaur as far as I was concerned.

Royal Museum, back to hotel, check out, tipped Mexican valet (according to his nametag), in Canada, with American cash, and headed for Casa Loma. I don't know if Katie has described her thoughts about Casa Loma on her blog yet, but she will and they are seriously in depth, so I will save them for her. Basically, its a castle built in the 1900s, in the middle of Toronto. A quick shot of the gardens and the architecture:

Its not downtown, but its clearly in Toronto. We climbed up into one of the towers, through a one (skinny) person wide cricular staircase of about 4 stories, and while exhausting, it produced the coolest part of the excursion. It was worth seeing once, but don't make it a must see Toronto attraction. Katie and I look pretty good atop the castle, at least:

The picture spectacular really begins now, at the Toronto Zoo, which as far as I was concerned, was by far the most important part of the trip. Before the Canadian Idol victory city ever came into the picture, after all, we were planning on a run down to the Buffalo Zoo-logical gardens which didn't have any of the rhino or hippo related things. I was all nervous since it looked like it was about to rain right as we arrived at the zoo, but Katie's continual optimism proved right as always. It was hot like a mother as we made our way towards the Austral-Asian area, passing a couple of cute camels who had been impressed into giving rides to children, which I would say sucks for them, but I guess its an improvement over full size people and long rides through the desert and such. We first got to the indoor section which featured some cute birds, some fishies, a water monitor, and a big ass komodo dragon. After that there was a dark area which featured nocturnal things, a little kangaroo-like hoppy rodent, a kookaburra bird, and a wombat, which was so incredibly cute that I can't even describe it. I had never seen one in person, but I couldn't take a picture, since the guy was in the dark and all. Imagine an immensely cute version of an ROUS with a shorter face, but an even better waddle.

So we were already off to a great start when we saw some large birds in the distance and approached their cage. The closer we got to the cage the more we realized that it was a fenced-in enclosure featuring a gate which we were encouraged to enter. We then walked up a hill along a narrow-ish path to see a herd of kangaroos and about 4 decent sized emus, walking freely in the area we were in. No walls or fences or gates or pits or moats or trenches or whatever, just the kangaroos and emus between 2-10 feet away. This doesn't emphasize how close the birds got, but shows the general atmosphere:

There were lots of herd animals and monkeys and polar bears and stuff near by. The most notable thing was this incredibly adorable red panda, who was doing its best Hippopotameow impression napping in the tree:

I have pictures of lions and rhinos and gorillas and jaguars and so on, but for the moment I will just include a couple. First off, Katie with a couple of gigantic elephants. I know I have seen elephants before, but I think maybe they were all Asian-speciated or something, cuz these folks were enormous. I mean gigantic.

This is a set of pictures intended to prove two things: 1) Hippos of all types are fricking awesome 2) My cat is well deserving of her title "World's Prettiest Hippo" (which she proudly sports on her favorite coffee mug)

Finally, a good story about the last animal of the day, the Indian rhino. This guy is a big sucker and at the point we got to his spot it was about 5 minutes to closing and the park had cleared out pretty significantly. I found a spot near a corner of the rhino area and watched him graze around for a couple minutes before he got within, literally, 3 feet of the fence. While Katie had backed up and started to make her way towards the exit, I followed the rhino around by the fence for a couple minutes and had a nice convo. I took this one right before I left with literally no zoom:

Anyway, we left around 6 and were home well before dark after a stop for Canada's signature donut at Tim Hortons. It was a really sweet little vacation and we will certainly go back. Sorry it took so long to freaking describe it.

We are back in Buffalo now and have been for a while. I swear I will get up to date soon. At least some Minneapolis stories before Katie leaves me on a month long excursion to summer camp. Hippo needs to play, so I bid you adieu.