Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Liberal Elitest Food And the Salton Sea

I found this unposted story the other day..
We were in a booth at the Blue Onion with our friends Brian and Jutta Plath, drinking craft beer (and red wine with ice for Jutta), eating charro bean soup (most meals in The Valley begin with charro bean soup, ordered or not), flat breads, dips or wraps, most covered or filled with pesto, goat cheese, shrimp, humus, etc - eating fine things that my friend Buford calls "liberal elitist food" .... as if that was a pejorative. 
Brian is a hail-fellow-well-met (just wanted to use that one). His wife Jutta is a native of Frankfurt, and has a kiss of a German accent. Our conversation turned to stories of trips and vacations gone bad. Brian began his tale of woe, with Jutta expounding and correcting. 
They were birding the Salton Sea. It had been raining and they were excited to be out looking for birds along narrow clay maintenace roads. Jutta: "I told him not to go down that road, but he wouldn't listen! He never listens." Brian said the road was so slippery the truck would slide sideways even when they weren't moving. Of course eventually they ended up in the ditch.

Brian took out his cell phone and found the number of the local AAA tow service. They just said, "We don't go out there." What? "We won't go out there for any amount of money." Jutta: "I told him we shouldn't be out there." After calling all potential tow services it appeared their only option was walking out, then going back for the truck later when the road was dry. Jutta: "Every step we took our shoes got heavier and heavier from the clay. It took us forever to get to a house. 
They walked for hours until they came upon a shack out in the middle of nowhere. They could hear activity through the open screen door, but no one came to the door when they knocked, so they stood and hollered. Eventually a nervous looking man came to the door. No one EVER came to their door out there. 
After an offer of a substantial amount of money the gentleman led them around back to an open garage where there was an old 4-wheel drive truck with huge tractor tires - a mud-buggy, probably the only way out of there after heavy rains. He had to put a battery in it and string an extension cord to the shed to charge it enough to crank the engine. 
Then the guy said, "My wife is gone, so the kids will have to come along." So the Samaritan for hire, Brian, Jutta and kids all wedged into the mudwagon and went out into maze of mud roads to find their truck. They had lost their bearing walking out and couldn't tell him where it was, so they followed their footprints out to the truck. He hooked on, pulled it out and towed them until they reached decent roads.  

A tale as I remember being told to me.

On Flying Dogs and Owls

We sleep with our heads to an open window. Years ago I removed the bed headboard to allow soft summer breezes and the lullaby of evening sounds to lull us to sleep. When we first moved to Oakwood 30 years ago we drifted off to the soft whinney of Screech Owls. 

Then the more entertaining Barred Owls moved in. This did not bode well for the little Screech Owls. They either moved on or became lunch. More likely the latter.

About 10 years ago I built the most owlish birdhouse I could come up with. It turned out to be unexpectedly heavy. Unexpectedly? It is 2' x 2' x 3' high, constructed of recycled 3/4" redwood. It took all my engineery expertise - cables and cams, levers and ladders, pulleys and ropes, to get it ratched up with a rusty old come-a-long into the big Bur Oak. And it looks for all the world like a doghouse for flying canines. This photo was taken the day I put it up. Over the years since then it has weathered in nicely and has become part of the oak tree ... but it has never, ever housed owls.

Last night we heard a Great Horned Owl. It is not as vocally entertaining as the Barred Owls, but its voice carries much more authority.

I hear the owl call my name ... again.  - Gunnar

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

End Of Fall Migration?

Best Fall bird migration ever. My friend Paul was a week long guest from British Columbia, joined at week's end by Carolee. Paul and I photographed 21 species of Warblers in our garden over the week, and drank a LOT of cans of craft beer, splitting each can between us, but still potentially affecting some of the end of the day photos. 

This gives Lorna and me 29 life count Warbler species I.D.'d in our 30 years in Oakwood. Splitting (or not splitting?) hairs, my friend Brian (aka Brain) will not concede our hybrid Lawrence's Warbler as a count species, so we are now tied with him for the yard total of 28 Warbler species (possibly high statewide?). As he and Jutta have left Minnesota for a permanent RV and winter Texan lifestyle, I only need one more Warbler to be able to retire, hang up the bins, and lay down in the garden dirt undefeated - not that it is a competition. An afterthought, if that Lawrence's had shown up in Brian's yard, he damned straight would have counted it.

The next bird is going to be tough. To get to 28, Brian had the 5th Black-throated Gray Warbler ever sighted in Minnesota. For us, we had the first Townsend's Warbler ever photographed in the state (avoiding western forest-fire smoke?). Brian, now Coach Brian, feels that our next best hope is a Prothonotary Warbler: so when Spring comes we will be glue-eyed to the trees and water seeking one very bright yellow Warbler.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I'll post more photos eventually; if only because it is a convenient way to retrieve migration bird dates.

Y'all be well - Gunnar

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fall Warblers: 08-30-2018

The birds were not continual today - breaks of a couple of hours of nothing then a mixed flock would arrive for half an hour or more and we got actvity. First Northern Parula of the season. There were two or three other species that I didn't get good shots of, but nothing unusual.

- Gunnar

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Back Home

We spent the weekend at the cottage in Lanesboro and arrived home to Oakwood in mid-afternoon. I went down the the garden and sat for a while to hopefully take some photos of migrating warblers. There was not of a much of variety nor quantity of birds, but here are a few of today's shots.

Not much. I do what I can. - Gunnar

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Dario Pegoretti, January 18, 1956 – August 23, 2018

For Geoff Marchigiani. 

The following is by Augustus Farmer from issue 31 of Peleton Magazine:  
Getting on a plane for northern Italy, I was about five pages into Michael Paterniti’s “The Telling Room.” It’s a book I had heard, briefly serialized, and sought out at an airport, a tale of a journey in search of a rare and wonderful and expensive cheese handmade in the hills outside Madrid. Suckered in by the draw of good storytelling, I started seeing parallels emerging as I turned pages up there in the sky. This evening I was to drive into the Dolomites, to find somewhere to stay before tomorrow morning and finding someone to photograph. Not a cheese, but a handmade tale of myth and reputation nonetheless. I felt connected to something bigger already.

Winding into the valley away from the Veneto headed into the Dolomiti, alone on roads save for the odd tanker or tractor, hills loom and give way every now and then to glimpses of mountains proper, showing off their snowcaps after a warm week has all but removed winter from view. Villages become sparser as I close in on the heart of darkness. Or I think I do. It would become apparent later that I’m not even close.

Clicking on Pegoretti’s website, the first image you will see is the first thing you see when you walk through the door of the factory: a huge portrait of the man sticking out among a treasure trove of cycling history, pop art and hi-fi.

Dario Pegoretti is a warm, friendly, loud and slightly scary figure. His work is legendary and his presence is kind of mythical. A charming, beguiling laid-back intelligent person, capable of eruption as much as tenderness I would imagine. My welcome is immediate and genuine and then caffeinated just like Italian welcomes always are; we sit and meet and talk about music, hi-fi, furniture, architecture, painting, food, life and bikes. Dario lights up coarse Italian cigarettes. I don’t inhale. I ask about the museum of sorts in the corner. He tells me, “A man came to sell me a Cinelli. I looked at it—and it was my first bike. My parents took me to Milan to meet Cino and have him build me this bike in 1971. I sold it in maybe 1977 and now it has come back to me. All the same, only the hoods are changed. I had to buy it back, it was part of my life.”

Looking around, this space is kind of amazing. On the outside, it’s a bland industrial unit on the side of a quarry in the middle of nowhere; on the inside, a post-pop-art studio of bright space and creative balance. Part bike showroom, part life pad. Think late-1950s modernist American interior and a tin shed. Kind of Frank Lloyd Wright designs the inside of your local Wal-Mart. And thus you never want to leave.

Huge leather sofas chaperone a beautiful hardwood coffee table. There are rugs everywhere. And lugs. Interesting pictures hang from the walls. There’s a kitsch portrait of Dario appearing to be Jesus, with an iPhone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, hanging alongside 4-foot-high handprints and then a miniature, an 8-inch-long steel bike frame. Miles Davis is here. Quad loudspeakers are here. I could stay forever.

In stark contrast to my restricted visits to the big guys, I am allowed to wander freely in the production area, taking pictures as I please. I have come at a quiet time. NAHMBS (the North American Handmade Bicycle Show) is on, and Dario is going to join the rest of his outfit in America tomorrow—so I came in the nick of time, but it’s quiet production-wise. Just two of the team remain, finishing and preparing a few custom frames. Dario’s dog Jack follows me around, flopping down whenever tripod legs are extended. He’s a good guy too. Clearly fits in well to this band of brothers. They rescued him from Croatia when he was a stray puppy, and he clearly loves his life as an Italian canine.

Welded frames stand unpainted ready for the next stage in their upbringing, all marked with codes and names and instructions. Painted frames hang above with nametags and headsets and forks dangling. There are forks everywhere actually. Dario makes his steel forks in-house, and the carbon ones are made for him overseas and painted here. He tells me emphatically that it’s not all about weight. The Far Eastern fork manufacturer was trying to get him to have a lighter model built, but for a bloke with a slightly unbalanced glint in his eye—this is a guy with a mojo on point—it’s all about the ride. You can see this in the frames. They’re not the lightest or most modern. I mean, they’re steel in a plastic age, but people who know, know. I know a handful of these people and all of them have said one thing, they’ll never part with theirs: “Others come and go but this one’s just ‘right.’” I won’t question that, so I ask about stock 54cm frames. I get told straight and sharp: “No, that’s too big for you.” How can I tell this man that all my frames are 54 and they’re spot on? How can I? I don’t. God, maybe they’re not. A seed of self-doubt sewn by a master. Shit.

The paint room is a little cubicle in the far side of the workshop. A lone pair of overalls and a mask hang there, awaiting the return of the American party. Yet more forks, hooked on prongs, cure like shiny pink hams in the corner. Drips and splats from previous generations adorn everything from the floor to the radio. They make for really nice decoration actually, almost purposeful in their accident. I wonder how much of that is accidental because it all looks so much cooler than a sterile, million-dollar paint booth.

This end of the building is just a little bit Pollock, and that’s a lot bit cool. The walls are good enough but the paint on the tubes is something else. There is everything from simple and tasteful graphic illustration to what I can only describe as a kind of post-pop-art explosion using intricate layers of color and texture woven into bold shapes and all fitted onto a standard-diameter down tube. Kind of Rococo painting in Rothko shapes on Warhol’s BMW M1 art car. You could look closely at the tubes of this road bike every day and see new texture each time. It’s just staggering. It’s the best paint I have seen on bikes since the early pre-Trek Kleins. And as beautiful as they could be, they were cave drawings to these masterpieces. They even have great names, such as Big Leg Emma. I want one. I want a loud one. With a silly name.

Shelves of steel tubes and lugs all labeled into sizes and shapes barricade the frame jigs with their tacked tubes trussed up like fowl ready for roasting. Their genetic make-up is scrawled on labels and attached by twine to their head tubes, awaiting the next stage, or at least a guy to return from NAHMBS in North Carolina next week. 

Nothing but warm and friendly and somewhat laid back, the guys are never anything but charming to me as I repeatedly get in their way all morning. Medium-format film cameras are rarely objects of speed and these two guys are utterly obliging to my requests of standing still while trying to work. Even the dog doesn’t object. This place is a haven. An unspoiled loose cannon of a bike factory left behind or overlooked by efficiency studies and health and safety executives and allowed to just carry on deep in the jungle, to the sound of its own drum. This is the heart of darkness—now I see it. I’m in it. It’s not a place, it’s a state of mind, and I don’t want to leave.

Maybe this is something that happens when you cheat death. (Dario was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007—I remember this because a friend of mine was having a frame built at the time and it took a long time—but the maestro beat it and the bike did arrive.) I can’t help thinking as I watch Dario draw on a cigarette that most people would be terrified in his situation, but he isn’t scared of anything. Either that or he knows everything. I could believe it too; there is definitely some Marlon Brando about this frame maker in his own “Apocalypse Now” in these Italian hills. You’d follow him into the jungle even though you knew it was dangerous, he’s just got that sort of a presence you want to believe in.

I ask whether he paints away from bikes? “For myself, no one ever sees my paintings,” he replies. I can’t help feeling that this is a bit of a shame on the part of us, the masses. But, painting so often being a deeply personal expression, I get why and just add to the mystique and wonder to myself what they might look like, imagining explosions of color and texture and expression muted behind private walls.

Back to the studio for a sit-down with new friends and a lump of bread, a lump of cheese and an old lump of prosciutto in the way that only really south Europeans can get away with calling it a perfect lunch; and we just sit and listen. Loudspeakers speak loud, no words are spoken. Books are thumbed through, crumbs dropped, a dog cuddled, cigarettes smoked, guitars strummed, glances smiled upon. This is weird. I barely know these people and we are all enjoying non-awkward silence together like old friends. I get the impression this is a normal lunchtime for these guys and having someone pop by probably happens all the time. It does slightly remind me of the scene as Martin Sheen approaches the camp and they are all hanging out, just one big happy hippie family of self-exiled marines fighting their own little Vietnam into the Heart of Darkness. It’s beguiling. Wonderful. Enviable. I want to put down my rifle and stay and wear a bandana and paint bike frames and eat cheese. This is how I imagine Paterniti ‘s book will end. I almost don’t want to read it now in case it doesn’t. It’s perfect.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Warblers Arrive on Schedule

The Fall migration of Warblers arrived over the night and spent the late morning resting and splashing in our little creek. There were mostly Blackburnians and Chestnut-sided with a scattering of Canadas and Black & Whites. Mostly Warbler photos with a couple of others thrown in for a little variety.

- Gunnar

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dorothy Kaasa

Dor was 94, the last of her generation. In 1972, within months of each other, both of Dor's sisters, Edna Jensen and Florence Hanson, died of breast cancer. In many ways Dor became like a mother to the adult children of those women, as well as her own. Her husband Bud died 11 years ago. Today we buried their ashes together under the grass of the Clarks Grove cemetery.

Dor was pretty computer savvy. In 2010 she copied, printed and saved this blog posting. It was tacked to a bulletin board along with various photos on a memory board at the funeral home.

Addy's Dorothy

Ad has had Dorothy for as long as she can remember. Dorothy was named after the maker, her mother's Aunt Dorothy, the last living grandma of the generation. At the time Dorothy was made where were a series of marketing driven teddy bears called Care Bears. Dorothy Bear was loosely based on these. Among the other stuffed toys, Ad was given a couple of the factory Care Bears. They were okay I guess, but they were not real, and so went up on a shelf in the closet. Dorothy never went on a shelf. She shared Ad's bed and comforted her on long nights. Over the years Dorothy became worn from too much love. The felt hearts wore off, the eyes fell off and her fur became noticeably thin. Eventually the eyes were replaced, she got a little additional stuffing and Dorothy got a felt heart transplant. Ad took Dorothy along to college and then to her apartment in Minneapolis after she graduated.  

Ashes To Ashes, Dust to Dust - Gunnar

Monday, August 6, 2018

Down On the Farm

Sunday 8/5/2018. The progeny of Harry and Adena Nelson:
Lorna, her cousins, their husbands and wives, having a potluck at the home of Fritz and Margaret Jensen Sunday. 

Photos by Bob Nelson? Or Patti? Anyway someone sent them to me via a text message, and there does not seem to be any including Bob or Patti.

And a photo by me ... a gardener who was too busy talking to people to take photos of people talking to people. Margaret does not know how old this bonzai maple is, but she has been its keeper for 30 years.

Family? Those people who will loan you money if you really need it, with the knowledge that they will probably never be repaid.
- Gunnar