30 April 2008

Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town. . .

I met a man, he danced with his wife; in Chicago. . .

Now that I have figured out how to italicize some words I can't seem to get it to go back to normal, so you, gentle reader will have to put up with it. Blame our friends at Blogger.com. This is what happens to a smarty-pants.

Here is a picture of the bedroom part of the Superliner sleeping car. Difficult for two people to pass unless one leans into the bedroom door.

After an evening figuring out the world's problems and their solutions with Judy and Gerald, and a good night's sleep to fortify me for the rigors ahead, the latter dropped me off in Columbus to resume my journey to the East.

We quickly arrived in Milwaukee which looked like it was being completely rebuilt, and then on to Chicago, where I caught the Capitol Limited a few hours later, headed for Washington DC.

But not before I caught some later afternoon reflections of some downtown buildings in the windows of other buildings.

This is what I remember Union Station in Chicago looked like in late 1964 when Carol and I took a trip to Denver to look for an internship, but this is actually across the street from what they now call Union Station and moreover, doesn't seem all that busy. Hmm?

29 April 2008

A Little Time in Columbus & Sun Prairie WI

That is the Columbus WI City Hall above, recently cleaned in order to look nice for the upcoming scenes from the movie Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, to be made here, starting very soon I think. I don't know where the name of the town comes from, but I am sure Mr Google does. Well I guess he doesn't. Kurth Brewery is also located here.

Was picked up by brother Gerald in Columbus WI after spending some time looking at Mississippi river towns like Red Wing and Winona (I did not know that you can catch a bus in Winona to the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester MN but I learned that from a fellow traveller who went there for occasional checkups, not entirely trusting her hometown doctors I guess).

Columbus is a fascinating little town on the edge of Dodge County where I grew up. It was always a little upscale even in the 40s but now it is even more prosperous looking with many really nice 19th (see the above house of some 19th cent worthy now on the Historical Register) and early 20th century houses and public buildings in the downtown area. Many of the older houses are really kept up well.

The latter are so well preserved they are using them as part of a set for a movie. I'm not sure what that earlier prosperity was due to, probably lumber and/or agriculture, or maybe just business.

The Empire Builder to MSP

While I was having a pizza and and cold Moose Drool in the Stockman's Bar, see above, just across the road from the station I was startled by the appearance of a train about an hour earlier than I had expected. It took a few seconds to realize that it was going in the other direction toward Seattle and Portland. By the way, it looks like Malta itself might be worth a stop, especially if you are interested in dinosaurs. The museum was closed when I was there, not sure why. See below.

Boarded Train #8 in Malta MT about 3:30 Monday afternoon (about 40 minutes late) headed toward Chicago: they stopped that big thing right in front of me, the conductor grabbed my other bag and they were moving in 15 seconds it seemed like. See below.

This is a picture from another stop as I didn't have enough hands to do everything as it was when getting on the train.

This is what I see of northeast Montana through my roomette window. It stays the same until you get to Minnesota. I almost missed the wine and cheese gathering in the dining car because the train was 40 minutes late getting into Malta. The club car was not in the consist. Fortunately, I had a roomette, so had room to stretch out, fool with the computer, and make phone calls: we didn't run out of a connection until the other side of Williston. Fort Peck looks lower than ever. See below right.

Paul Roberts told me they had fixed the roadbed in North Dakota. He was wrong. What is compensable swaying and occasional bumps while you are upright and sitting becomes nasty swerving and rocking and rolling when you are trying to sleep in a horizontal position. It must have to do with the positioning of the semi-circular canals in the middle ears. I like to sleep on my side which is easy to do on the Tempurpedic bed that I have at home, but that is difficult to do on the Spartan bunk you get on Amtrak.

The shower worked great and even better, it is not in your compartment. Food in the evening (trout) was reasonable though not great. Breakfast was excellent. We started getting into the outskirts of Minneapolis about 7 am, and I saw the downtown are about 7:30, so we should come into the station which I guess is closer to Saint Paul about 8am judging by how slow we are going through the railyards. Right now I see a lot of tank cars.

Downtown Minneapolis above.

A lady rancher from near Havre is my neighbor in the sleeper car. I think a pair of roomettes might be more useful than a bedroom for two people as climbing up to that top bunk looks a little dicey these days.

Last night and this morning I met some real enthusiasts: one kid who is going from Portland to Chicago to LA to San Diego and then back to Portland, all by train; and others who are going to Washington DC like me, somebody else going to New Orleans. I'm a little surprised.

27 April 2008

What I did today after church

I pretended I was a French Horn in the Beethoven as we only had one and Mr B forgot to write a part for the trombone, probably because of his deafness. But aren't there trombones in his 5th symphony?

We did OK though not outstanding.

23 April 2008

BumperStickers and Smoke-Filled Crappers

This is where I think the final decisions should and will be made with regard to the candidates for president and vice-president of the United States of America. If it was good enough for the Roman Empire it should be good enough for us USAers. Those old Romans lasted a long time, longer than we have so far. And I like bumperstickers. It saves so much time and effort. I mean, has any illiterate person been persuaded by an ordinary argument? Has any "highly educated" person been persuaded by an ordinary argument? I rest my case.

19 April 2008

Peggy Noonan writes an amazing op-ed

I usually enjoy reading parts of most editions of the Wall Street Journal as it seems to be a daily newspaper interested in the truth, but I really look forward to the Saturday morning edition because that is when Peggy Noonan’s weekly mini-essay gets published.

I remember she had something useful to say about Benedict XVI (and John Paul II too, naturally) a few days ago. See an earlier entry on this matter. Today she said some thoughtful things about our presidential candidates. I wonder if they all have people working for them who do and say similar things? Check out the back page of the Weekend Journal section on Leisure & Arts.

The first point she makes is that nobody is listening to Mrs Clinton anymore, not even her supporters. The goofy lie she told us about her Bosnian experience was noticed only because most people had already decided what they thought about her. She is done for now but may make a comeback [hmm—what other famous politician made a comeback?] but only if she wears skirts! That last suggestion is Ms Noonan's, not mine. I like baggy trousers as it reminds me of her Soviet days.

And then she goes on to Mr Obama to mention his inexperience and elitism. She candidly says that “he was only caught speaking the secret language of America’s elite, and what he said was not meant as a putdown.” [my emphasis] And of course Mrs Obama then protests that she is from the South Side of Chicago, perhaps not realizing that “to rise in America is to turn left, unless you are very, very tough or protected by privilege of the financial or familial kind.”

And finally, she suggests that Mr McCain offer himself as a one-term president, thus allowing all of us a reluctant compromise and delaying tactic while Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton can re-do their makeup and personas for a re-entry on the national stage few short years down the road. I think this was the tactic the Holy Spirit used in selecting our present pope. Four years for a politician is a lifetime, especially with our short attention spans. Brilliant. Probably too much so for anyone to pay attention. Where does one get bumper stickers with the pizazz of this one?

18 April 2008

More on Easter Sunday 2008

I carry at least one camera in my pockets most of the time as my regular viewers will know. Even in church as you never know when a blogworthy picture will pop right up in front of your nose. These pictures are odds and ends from around one of my favorite towns, Billings MT.

That is a shot from Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral, above, where we had the luxury of a mandolin accompaniment, below, on Now The Green Blade Rises.

This is some urban art on 27th St just in front of the Yellowstone Art Museum. It seems to keep turning round and round without effort forever, not making any progress but not giving up either, kind of like The Shoveling Man in Seattle. I'm sure there is a moral here just begging to be shouted out loud: I will try to come up with something.

15 April 2008

Welcome B16

I Love My German Shepherd. Forgive us Father, we know what we do.

13 April 2008

All My Sons

We saw a version of Arthur Miller's first successful Broadway play, All My Sons, at Billings Studio Theatre. It was directed by Bobbi Hawk and was well done by a good group of players. They may have been a little too laid-back to start with but by the 2nd act they were in good form. A personal note: the doctor made a house call using my recently donated medical bag from the late 50s. 

There were other distinctive chronological touches; such as people living in a neighborhood for a long time, maybe even their whole lives; and seams on their nylons, the ladies' that is. There were even a few snorts from the audience when they mentioned a successful haberdasher: first for knowing what a haberdasher was, and second for probably remembering that Harry Truman started off in that humble way.

Things might have gone a lot easier for all the characters if they had had some way of receiving absolution for their sins. Of course, the thought of confessing them never occurred either. I guessed where the story was heading about halfway through the 2nd act, but was still properly appalled at Kate's insistent revelation that if her son was dead then her husband was a murderer! Maybe this play was one of those factors that led John Updike to counsel all of us that we should not disabuse ourselves of our illusions because bad things happen when one does this.

12 April 2008

Something Beautiful Has Begun

That is the title of Peggy Noonan's short introduction of Benedict XVI just before he arrives in the USA. It reminded me of something odd I noticed in walking in and around the Vatican last December. The souvenir shops had lots of pictures of the pope, John Paul II that is, and very few of Benedict XVI. I wish I had bought a copy of the one where we did see a smiling Cardinal Ratzinger together with, of course, John Paul II. I just did a quick search online but couldn't find that one.

We were in St Peter's Square on Christmas Day 2007, but not close enough to see the pope's eyes as one can see in the picture above. He seems to have lost some of that shyness that always came through in his eyes. 

05 April 2008

Down Memory Lane

Carol and I took a little trip down Memory Lane this evening when we went to a Glenn Miller Orchestra concert at the Alberta Bair Theatre. It was a sellout crowd. I'm sure we actually lowered the average age, although there were a fair number of grandkids there too. Major Glenn Miller cashed in his chips a little early on December 15, 1944 on a small plane flying from London to Paris that never made it. But his band idea and arrangements persisted from about 1956 on. The above is a well-worn ticket from WWII.

We sat in the balcony because we didn't buy seats until about a week ago. Not surprisingly, the sound was terrific, though we would have been disappointed if we were watching a play. I imagined many of these same people might have heard the original at some time in in 30s or 40s. My mother used to sing the words to all the songs when we were kids.

I had a flashback to my father going off to war by taking a bus to Hartford or maybe even Milwaukee. All I remember now is him waving out the back window as the bus turned the corner on Hwy 60 in Hustisford, right in front of my grandfather's house on the corner next to the Chevrolet garage. Gerry and I and Mom waved and smiled and cried all at the same time. I think my father did the same. It was probably 1943.

I didn't realize this big band has been successfully touring for over 50 years with the original arrangements plus the Army Air Force Band arrangements, and then some added stuff over the years. They were very tight and very talented: 5 Saxes (doubling on flutes, clarinets including a big old bass clarinet), 4 trombones and 4 trumpets, and 3 rhythm, plus the leader who also played trombone and two singers. The clarinet on top with one of the lower saxes also playing that same line produced a nice and distinctive sound. I had forgotten how nice it is for the 4th player to be as good as the 1st player and for everyone to play exactly together and exactly in tune. The sound was and is amazing. I even remembered why I thought that rock and roll was just a passing fad in the 50s.

In addition to taking us back to our very early days during the War (WWII that is) they also took me back to the 80s and 90s when I used to play bass trombone in the Al Bedoo Dance Band. We often played arrangements very similar to what these guys did, though not quite as well. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does sometimes rhyme according to Mark Twain or was that Kurt Vonnegut?

01 April 2008

Winter in Wyoming

This is a flashback to the late 90s I think. We set out for Denver and Albuquerque with a load of furniture on a very cold day. The interstate highway was rough with ice. We gradually picked up confidence and speed as we were heading down the 25, not realizing that the sun was warming the icy surface below. While going up a gentle hill the car and trailer started slowly spinning on the road. We wound up in the median, fortunately right side up, having spun around perhaps twice or three times before coming to rest. I must have had my camera in my pocket. A nice guy with a rope or chain stopped almost immediately and offered to pull us out. The highway patrolman soon came by as well. The whole event took about 20 minutes and we were on our way with a small dent in the Expedition where the trailer had slowly whipped around, though we went about 15 miles per hour until we were well on the other side of Casper.

Word Games

You could have saved yourself $35! by reading today's Wall Street Journal. Matthew Connelly's Fatal Misconception has been reviewed in the WSJ with the headline The War Against Fertility, reminding the reader of the failure of other wars, like against poverty and now against global warming. I particularly like the connections the book draws between the early 20th century eugenics movement and the later evolution of Fascism—still going strong in, for example, the Democratic Party of today.

Sorry, couldn't resist borrowing the image above from the review in the International Herald Tribune.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue


Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here
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