It’s hot. It’s muggy. It’s…? Fair time!!
Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, which is not exactly true, we have about 14,000 lakes, but let’s not quibble. Alabama’s state slogan is Stars Fell on Alabama, which I’m sure we could prove. Colorado’s slogan is Enter A Higher State and if that isn’t downright prophetic, I don’t know what is. New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. Unlike number of lakes, pot smokers or fallen stars, enchantment is kind of hard to prove. Last weekend we were with some friends in Albuquerque and one night after a couple beers, we began theorizing about why New Mexico is allegedly enchanted. Theories:
It’s on a dragon line or Ley Line, a mystical and ancient pathway in the geography of the land.
There’s no such thing as enchantment. It’s just marketing to suck in tourists (like us.)
There’s an energy grid in the mountains that causes, among other things, the atmosphere to be tinted a faintly pink hue; clouds to be bigger and puffier; the sky to be bluer; aliens to crash-land; motorcyclists to muster in large numbers; artists to be artier, and crystal-loving New Age pilgrims to flock.
Maybe New Mexico is full of Ley Lines or maybe it does have a special geologic energy. You could go down either of those paths (or 100 others.) Or you could just believe in an unscientific, unprovable, highly subjective, possible exploitive concept called enchantment.
All of a sudden it’s June. It’s summer. Green stuff is shooting up out of the ground. Pink blossoms are popping open everywhere. The trees in our yard went from timid buds to jungle canopy in a week.
The crabapple trees were in their full glory for two or three days before wind and rain stripped them of their flowers. For a few hours it snowed crabapple blossoms and we had a pretty pink carpet on our steps and driveway.
We went from brown-gray-nothing-happening dirt to instant ferns. Just add rain. Ferns love torrential rain.
The white and lavender lilacs came and went while we were in San Diego last week. The pink ones always bloom a little later. They’re bent over and soggy from Saturday’s rain-a-thon. The peonies are still tight-fisted little round buds. I have a lot of pink things blooming all at once.
The clematis survived the winter and is showing off its fine self.
This surprises me every year because every year Snow Plow Man buries the clematis under a mountain of cement-like snow when he plows.
The hostas always return, too. It seems nothing can kill a hosta, not even Snow Plow Man.
We have lots of Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I don’t remember having this many in years past, but they’re all over our woods and yard this year. I love the name Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I can remember it. I can’t remember Arisaema Triphyllum. I have to look it up. Thank you, Google.
Last night my mother-in-law showed me how to take apart a Bleeding Heart flower and get two pink bunnies and a pair of ice skates. That is not something you can learn on Google.
Lit and I went to San Diego last weekend for some R-n-R with our dear friends Muffy, David and their daughter Quincy. R-n-R = rest and relaxation for the menfolk and the Rock-n-Roll San Diego Half Marathon for the women. David doesn’t run and neither does Lit. I’ve seen my husband run only once in the 16 years we’ve been together and that was a 20-yard dash to get out of a hail storm. But every runner needs a crew so while the girls ran the boys found us on the course, waited for us at the finish and, most importantly, made dinner reservations.
San Diego is beautiful and has some funk to it. I always thought it was the more staid and uptight of the California cities but it’s pretty cool. We carbo-loaded at C Level, Cucina Urbana and Café 222, ate our recovery dinner at Island Prime, and did some touristy things, like touring the aircraft carrier USS Midway (highly recommend.)
There were boats everywhere. San Diegans love their boats. I love the idea of boats. I love to photograph them. I think taking a ship out to sea is romantic and ancient. I love boats most of all when I am on dry land. I am a devoted landlubber.
And now, some photos from race day. If you’re my Facebook friend, you’ve already seen this fellow. I nearly tripped over him when I came out of our hotel room on race day at 4:00 a.m. I was only half awake but the sight of him definitely jarred me to full awake status. Doesn’t he look dead? He looks totally crime scene dead. After I figured out he wasn’t dead but rather passed out and snoring, I took his photo and called security.
Now fully awake, Muffy and I got on the shuttle to the start line. If you get to the start line at 4:30 a.m., it is very dark. Muffy lamented that we didn’t have a flashlight. “What for?” I said. “To see what we’re doing in the Port-a-Potties”, she said. She was right. They were pitch black inside, but they were also fresh and clean! So fresh and clean we had to unwrap brand new rolls of toilet paper! If you’re a runner and you’ve ever used a race day bathroom, you know how exciting and rare a clean bathroom with toilet paper is. It’s one of life’s little gifts. I did not take a photo. You’re welcome. But just so you know how dark it was (like you don’t already know how dark it is at 4:30), this was the start line.
Next to the start corrals was St. Paul’s Cathedral and this thoughtful banner.
And then we were off for a 13.1-mile jog, all 35,000 of us, to Petco Park where the Padres play.
We ran mostly through neighborhoods but also some business districts, most notably past a row of strip clubs with a transvestite band playing across the street. So confusing. It was hot and sunny. Some neighbors offered orange slices and showered us with garden hoses, some offered tiny shots of tequila. One guy had a full bar set up in his driveway — for runners and neighbors alike — and he had plenty of takers. There were bands, DJs and cheer squads. A Big 10 alumni club was passing out water just before mile 10. I high-fived a guy wearing a Michigan shirt and said, “I’m a Gopher!” His response was remarkably unenthusiastic which I thought was stingy. After all, I had just run 9.5 miles and at that point one Big 10 team is as good as the next for a little support, in my mind anyway, but next time I’ll make sure to high-five the guy in a Minnesota shirt. Spectators held up funny signs like, “Run, random stranger, run!”, and my favorite, “Half marathons are hard. If they were easy they’d be called your mother.” A your-mama joke! You never hear those any more. It made me laugh. So did the burly guys dressed in women’s wigs, sparkly jewelry, short skirts and skimpy tops stuffed with balloon boobs who wanted you to “TOUCH ‘EM!! YAH BABY!! TOUCH THE BOOBS!” They were having a grand old time making runners laugh. I think alcohol may have been involved.
End result: we all finished. Muffy and Quincy had PRs. Everyone was hot, sweaty and gratefully gulped down water and Gatorade Endurance which on any other day I call swill (or worse.) It is so disgusting but after a race it’s the greatest drink on earth. A volunteer gave me an icy cold wet towel. I told the guy he was my favorite person in the whole wide world.
We shambled back to the hotel to clean up and eat (the best thing about race weekend: the meals after you run. You can justify anything.) We toured the Midway and I didn’t take any photos but it was so awesome and if you’re ever in San Diego you should go. GO THERE! They have retired Navy guys as docents who give talks on various parts of the ship. The pilots who told us about catapulting and catching the fighter jets were the best. I sat on the tarmac listening to these guys, getting sunburned and not caring. They were so great Muffy said they inspired her to watch Top Gun again. I said I would only watch it if Tom Cruise was no longer in it.
And then…it was over! We went home. We flew over the Grand Canyon. There were some wildfires we could see from the air.
Gator Gator Gator. That’s all we talk about. Woe to you if we run into you at the grocery store, the gas station, the golf course. WOE TO YOU. You’ll have to endure at least 10 minutes of Gator stories and photos. So enough about baby Gator. Today we’re going to celebrate Scout because it’s his birthday today. He’s four years old and up until a month ago, he was our baby, our resident Puppy Dictator.
Look at those eyes. He was four months old when I took this photo. I didn’t realize he had a tube of Carmex in his mouth and that he’d eaten most of it.
He’s a German Wirehaired Pointer, not a retriever, but he brings us all sorts of lovely things, like dead frozen squirrels.
He can levitate.
He loves to snuggle which is kinda funny because he’s all lean muscle and bone, not the fluffiest dog ever. But he’s a great snuggler.
Shoeing horses is back-breaking work. Some horses are not so nice to work on. Some owners don’t pay their bills. I forget all that when I look at the tools of the trade. There’s a certain romance to farrier work. I think it’s the tools.
Lots of farriers use a little handmade wooden chest on wheels with tools on magnets for easy access. That’s just genius. I’d like one of these for my kitchen. (Minus the poop, etc.)
When you’re a farrier you carry lots of good luck in the back of your truck.
You use a hammer and an anvil, the same tools farriers have used for hundreds of years. I love the clanking of the hammer on the shoe. Metal on metal.
And sparks! You get to make sparks! With a power drill attachment! Definitely 21st century.
The old farmers say, “No foot, no horse.” Thank goodness for the farrier. Hobey’s got happy feet.
I prepare for out-of-town trips by doing irrelevant time-sucking chores. Last week before we left town I sorted my sock drawer, which led to cleaning out my underwear drawer, which led to picking through a pile of filthy old running shoes I no longer wear. Instead of doing useful things like laundry or packing I obsess about housekeeping chores that are way down on the bottom of the to-do list, if they’re on the list at all, and then detour further from there. Here’s a recent sample:
- Hauled all the garden hoses out of storage and hooked them up.
- Sorted through a stack of Cooks Illustrated magazines looking for…I forget what, but I found some great Thanksgiving pie recipes I think I’ll try next fall. Why do I have all these magazines anyway? Have I never heard of the internet?
- Recycled 10 years worth of cooking magazines.
- Scrubbed the soap scum off the shower walls.
- Searched for the silk tie I wear when showing my horse.
Regarding the last item, the silk tie, I have no plans to show my horse any time in the near future but — again, I forget why — I found myself wondering where I stashed the tie which led to me searching for the tie. I did not find the tie. But that’s OK! We’ve got a few more trips coming up, trips that don’t involve horse shows or ties of any kind, so I’ll be sure to waste more time looking for it.
This has been my pattern for many years. I think deep down I worry if I die while traveling and never make it back home, people will come to the house with wild rice hot dish and tearful condolences and be shocked to find that we lived in Grey Gardens. They’ll call me Little Edie. And me, dead! Friends will have to walk a narrow path through stacks of Bon Appetits from the 1990s, just to get to the kitchen with the hot dish. This simply cannot happen.
At this point in my life, I doubt this weirdness will ever become less weird. I might as well embrace it and sort through the Christmas lights before we leave again in a couple weeks.
I need down time, no doubt about it. I need to shut the door on the big world, snuggle into my own little world and regroup my poop. Please don’t knock. I’m non-verbal.
It may look like I’m doing nothing but really I’m thinking very deep thoughts. Kidding. Mostly I try not to think at all. I try to sit quietly and breathe deeply.
Pretty soon, I’m ready to rejoin the big world,
And face its many demands.
I really didn’t think we could do it. I didn’t think we could drive 1100 miles to southern Mississippi, pick up a puppy, turn around the next day and drive straight back to Minnesota. During a tornado outbreak.
We started out last Sunday with the agreement that we would switch drivers with every new tank of gas, and that the non-driver would manage navigation and social media. I pulled the first driver shift (morning person, you know) while my husband did not manage navigation or social media. No. He just plugged the address of the kennel in Tylertown, Mississippi into the car’s GPS, opened up the Sunday New York Times and away we went. The trouble is, the GPS in his car is more stubborn than smart. It wanted us to take all freeways all the way east to Chicago and then connect with I-55 south. I argued with Betty (short for Queen Elizabeth. Voice guidance in this car has a British accent) and I argued with Lit (short for Litton, my husband, American, and the alleged first shift navigator.)
“We do not need to go as far east as Chicago in order to get to 55,” I say. “We can cut across Iowa. They have highways there.”
“Follow Betty’s directions,” he says from behind The Week in Review.
I follow Betty’s very precise but very stupid directions. She sounds like such a snob and clearly does not know her way around the Midwest. Four hours later we have a driver change. After a few miles, the new captain orders a course correction! He overrides Betty who tries valiantly to get us back on the freeway to Chicago. I imagine her stiff upper lip quivering. I sit smugly in the passenger seat, checking Instagram and gloating over my superior navigation skills.
Queen Anne 1 – Betty 0.
The weather was very unsettled. We drove in thunderstorms nearly all the way south, but we missed the tornadoes and a flash flood (I credit a much needed bathroom break with some of our good luck.) We stayed Sunday night in St. Louis at a beautiful old hotel across the street from a park. Didn’t see it much of it. In late, out early, on the road again.
Here’s a list of other things we didn’t see:
The World’s Largest Frying Pan (Iowa)
Pink Elephant Antiques, featuring a giant pink fiberglass elephant out front, next to a giant fiberglass man, possibly a cowboy, I don’t know, we were going 80 miles an hour and I could not take a photo but I can tell you that the cowboy man was as big as the elephant (Illinois, prior to the dethroning of Betty.)
Meramec Cavern, a Jesse James hide-out (Missouri)
Graceland and all things Elvis (Tennessee)
The Tomato Museum (Mississippi)
“I don’t think we missed anything in Arkansas,” said Lit when I polled him for this list.
On the way back north, with two puppies in a crate in the back, we committed to driving straight through to home, with fuel and puppy stops only. Betty calculated the route and predicted a 20-hour drive. I consulted my map and said 18 hours if we cut across Iowa and skip Illinois. Two extra hours sounded like two million extra hours. I won. We cut through Iowa. Actually, we hurtled through Iowa like space junk getting flung out of orbit. Iowa is lovely during the day but at night when it’s rainy it resembles Space Mountain more than America’s heartland. No offense to Iowa. We landed in our driveway in 17 hours and 47 minutes.
Queen Anne 2 – Betty 0. That’s a shut-out, folks.
The reason for it all was Gator, our chubby little chocolate Lab puppy dog who smells so sweet and has big floppy ears and sharp little muske teeth and an ear-splitting howl. Lots of people have asked us why we went all the way to Mississippi to get this dog. Couldn’t we find a nice dog in Minnesota? They think (they hope) we must have a logical explanation. We do. There was logic but there also was something illogic. We had to say yes to adventure, because once Lit settled on getting a puppy from this litter, we had to figure out how to get him home. We had to get Gator. And we did.
Demolition of the old Ford plant in St. Paul is nearly done, nearly down to the bare earth. The tear-down was a loud slow dance of heavy machines bending, snapping and crushing a structure I imagined would stand another 80 years.
Lots of people worked at the plant. They made useful things. It meant something. One guy and his buddy were trying to save the old administration building, the Northwest Corner. He got choked up talking about it. They did not succeed.