Category Archives: Town

Bar rooms

When I was a college student I was often to be found in the bar closest to campus. It featured a jukebox, pizza and cheap beer, all the things a college student favors. The place no longer exists, much to the relief of the neighbors, and a convenience store has taken it’s place (really not the sort of thing one hangs out at). Although I am not a barroom denizen anymore, I do occasionally stop in someplace for a brew or a cider (more likely).

This bar has been around for about 20 years, but I never stopped in until quite recently. Built originally as a neighborhood market in an old neighborhood near downtown, it is very much a hipster sort of place with lots of funky signage (and very good modern food).

This place has existed for less than 10 years in anewish strip mall built in the north part of town. It’s a brewpub, which means that they make their own beer on the premises as well as having other craft beers on tap. It’s a good thing to brew beer, as they do not have to pay the federal tax on it (although this fact does not make the beer any cheaper). The place is dog friendly and serves bacon, so I suppose it is sort of a hipster place as well.

This bar is definitely a hipster hangout, located in downtown (that means there is no parking nearby). They sell various craft beers and pizza. Those things hanging down from the ceiling are beer taps from all the craft beers that they used to carry. This place will soon be history, as the entire building is being converted to condos (flats) for hipsters (they will have to go down the street for a drink).

This bar is the hipster re-creation of a neighborhood tavern in the Midwest. It’s just like the sort of place old guys used to drink in, but with an edgy vibe. They serve the sort of comfort food one used to find in a tavern, chili mac, fried walleye (okay that’s all I ever order there, so I don’t know what else they serve).

I’m sure that they have craft beer, but they also have the sort of brands of beer that ordinary people drink (in Wisconsin or Minnesota), Leinenkugel (which is terrible), Pabst, Hamms and Moosehead (a delicious Canadian beer).

I’m not sure what it means that I end up in hipster sort of places (as I am totally too old, cranky and un-hip to be a hipster). Rather, I guess it means that I like good food and good beer (or cider) and I will go to any place that serves these.

Church suppers

I could count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number times we went out to eat at a restaurant when I was a child. But the one place where we did go was to church suppers. And so I retain a fondness for this sort of event. Unlike chef-driven restaurants, the food has a certain humble and sincere appeal. Driven by both a fund-raising need, and the desire to please and share, I am happy to be part of the experience.

Pteri went with me to this event, a full fledged church festival, complete with booze, booths of items for sale and dancing. It was a celebration of one’s (not mine though) Greek heritage, so on the menu this day was delicious gyros prepared by members of the congregation and a local restaurant.

This was a fund-raiser for a church school prepared by a parent’s group. This day they were serving my favorite, carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile, then slow cooked and shredded) tacos with refried beans and rice. It doesn’t really look that lovely, but it was quite tasty. They hadn’t counted on the demand for beer however, as it was a rather hot day, and they ran out. ūüôĀ

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This was a different sort of church dinner, prepared by some men from the sister Spanish language church of this congregation. The guys had dug a pit, lined it with rocks, lit a fire to heat up the rocks, then buried the food on the hot rocks to cook it. They had made tamales, potatoes, chicken and pork. This was what they thought of as a perfect church supper back home. As the parent church did not condone alcohol, the men surreptitiously passed a bottle around.

This church food came from an Orthodox church out on the prairie, 7 miles from a small town (which is really far from anywhere). The area was settled by Czech farmers, and although most of them have moved away, lots of old-timers come back for a chance to eat this food. Kielbasa, haluska (some sort of noodle, onion and bacon dish), pierogi (potato and cheese dumplings), cabbage rolls, and borscht (plus some things I don’t know the name of) were on the menu.

And this was what was served at the most recent church supper I attended, with food cooked up by a local family-run restaurant and served by a parent’s group. This restaurant has been in business since 1959, which makes it quite an ancient establishment in this town. And served in a plastic cup was an excellent vintage wine.

It is interesting that all of these meals were based on immigrant/ethnic foodstuffs. All of these varied churches are looking to make a little money (sometimes very little), and provide a place for the community to break bread together. What could be a better excuse to get together?

Sports

It was time for the annual ice hockey game between the local expensive private college and the expensive private college from the nearby big city. One of my friends is an alumni, so we always go (I’m not an alum from either school, so I root for them both, secretly). We got there early this time rather than arriving at the last minute, so we wandered about the stadium, checking out the offerings.

It is pretty much de rigeur to have giant foam fingers proclaiming that one’s team is number one. This team is actually ranked #3 by whoever ranks these sorts of things, so get with it giant foam fingers.

And what sort of a sporting event would this be if they didn’t sell nachos?

Also available are the other great food groups, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, colas and beer (the most important item of the lot).

There are also the rather mis-named cheerleaders. They didn’t actually lead any of the cheers as they were located halfway up in the stands near the band, instead of in front of the crowd. And if what was being chanted was the school cheer, they should probably learn some more polite terms for addressing the opposition.

This time I remembered to get a shot of the action. One could also watch this on a giant television screen instead, as it was being broadcast on the local sports channel.

The school had just recently split from the previous beer company that sponsored advertised was somehow involved with the school, so if one had bazillions of dollars to donate, one could become the new name of the stadium. Just imagine ‘your name here’. ūüėČ

Faces in Places

I had ended up downtown at the terminus of the annual cattle drive through town.  It always starts near the private college and ends at the former county courthouse, which is now a museum.

I had always noticed the large faces on the facade, there is a Native American (also known as Red Indians in the UK) over each of the large windows in the place.¬† These faces don’t look to be too pleased with the goings on in the building, but perhaps that is only fitting.

The animal kingdom is represented by this lion’s head.¬† ¬†He would be part of a fountain, if only the water had been turned on.

The intermediary between man and beast can be seen in the base of this light pole.¬† ¬†With cherub faces and lion feet, one wonders, ‘what on earth was the artist thinking’?

This woman is just part of the woodwork in this former district courtroom, but she appears to be happy about it.

Unlike the previous sculpted faces, this figure is painted and shows the entire body.   And what exactly the figure means is rather enigmatic.  She has wings (is she an angel?), she is holding a banner labeled gold (representing Fortune perhaps?), and has a dangling, trussed up person in front of her (no idea what so ever).   The more usual figure of blindfolded Justice holding a sword and a scale is nowhere to be seen in this courtroom.   Perhaps this is an allegory of how our local justice system works.

Going South

I once again found myself in the city to the south.  At one time, it was much more prosperous than my town, it had industry and lots of good paying jobs.   But the industry is gone, and now the city looks to attracting the leftover tourists from our town.   And one of the many reasons to go there is this tourist area.

I think that they call it neon alley.   There is always the question of what to do with the signage of a building, folk art that let one know instantly what the business was selling.   (Although I am not sure what the lamp with Aladdin written on it was advertising, possibly magical wishes).  Most of these are no longer going concerns, although at least one of these businesses still exists.

Cigar stores used to be part of the urban landscape, it was a manly thing to smoke a cigar (me and M used to smoke cigars when we went camping to annoy the insects).   And back in those days when smoking was allowed they also sold cigarettes.   The turquoise sign came from a little family-run cafe over on Main street, and we did patronize it when it existed.

These bits of ephemera are just randomly placed on this half block long brick building that has been partially restored.¬† Located right across from the train station, it had a commercial function at one time.¬† ¬†But now it houses a Senator’s office, a lawyer’s office, a cafe, tavern and an antique shop.¬† The newer part looks to have been built in 1903 and the building survived years of neglect to remind us of the past.

The background painting surely was done a really long time ago.¬† ¬†I can’t imagine anyone bragging about selling wine from Herrman, MO (I have tasted these on a bet).¬† ¬†Greyhound still offers service, but doesn’t even have an office, let alone a waiting room.¬† ¬†One just stands on the corner near a parking lot.

And a final bit of unusual ephemera is an ancient British telephone box.¬† ¬†Of course it does not contain a telephone, or even cards advertising ladies who will answer one’s every need.¬† ¬†But it does make one wonder “how the heck did this get here”.¬† ¬†And possibly “why”.

Art of the Street

In the last post I showed you (dear reader) the bird-like art of a local sculptor at the new arts center.  But wait, there is more in the bird art category on view at another business in town.

How about a giant chicken (readily recognizable as poultry) perched atop a saloon, right on a major thoroughfare.   Surrounded by artificial palm trees (sadly, palms do not grow here naturally), the chicken is master of all it surveys.

Or perhaps a flamingo is more to your taste?

Instead of rusting, enigmatic, possibly industrial art, one can admire a rusting 100+ year old cast iron stove here.

And how is this different from art that one would have to pay millions to possess?  Other than not being for display and sale in a fancy gallery by a big name artist.  (The city did make the owners take down car henge,  a previous artwork, which was made using cars instead of standing blue stones).

So instead of just a weird face, this place has the entire figure!   Yes, a giant fiberglass cowboy, complete with an enormous fiberglass beer.  Just to let one know what is on offer at this location.  It is the art of the pour, rather than the visual arts.   And this artwork is just as striking as the expensive stuff at the arts center.

Downtown

Halloween only comes once a year, October 31st (although people do sneak in extra parties around this date), so what is a person who likes to dress up to do?¬† ¬†Cosplay offers the opportunity for one to dress up as a myriad of sci-fi and popular culture icons.¬† Young women favor sexy characters, like Harley Quinn, etc.¬† but there really wasn’t a way for old people to play too.¬† Until now.

Star Wars created the opportunity for some great cosplay, this was a temporary booth where one could rent fancy dress, be an empress for a day.

But for some costumes one has to have the build to wear them.¬† ¬†If you’re tall, and wish to be anonymous, how about Chewbacca?¬† And you don’t have to say anything.

Then there is dressing up as an old Luke Skywalker and princess Admiral Leia?   (And save the rather chilly slavegirl Leia outfit for the very young women).

 

He seemed a little tall for a Han Solo, but obviously was having fun with it, and I suppose that is the main point of doing this.

More Inspiration

Although my town is in always in the shadow of the metropolis to the north, we do get the occasional bits of interesting things happening.   Besides getting to see Lynda Barry, this month also offered a chance to see in person some artwork from another artist that I admire, but only know from the internet.  And it was fabulous!

This is a picture that I took from a video installation (sorry for the picture quality, I am an indifferent photographer).  Chiho Aoshima does these anthropomorphic high-rise buildings, mixed with images from Japanese folklore.

It makes me want to squee with adorableness of these buildings.

But there is a fly in the ointment, a mythological figure turns into a cloud of black smoke and then the volcano erupts in this paradise.

Alien ships appear.  Notice that the foreground is a cemetery, yikes.  And what does it all mean?

A floating deity appears briefly in  a cloud.

Then a  tsunami knocks over some of the buildings, and makes the rest wobble about.

Bad things are happening, the black and white building grows legs and gets up to move because things are so bad.   But the standing buildings grow construction cranes to repair themselves, the sky clears and the rainbow returns.

There’s a happy ending, until it starts all over again, much like life.

Inspiration

Back in 2014 I decided that I wanted to go to Europe, and that it would be nice to combine this trip with some sort of workshop or real reason to be there.   So I came up with two great choices:  One was learn to write a blog, with the author of the blog Spitalfields Life.  This was a two day workshop in London (and this is why this blog exists).  My other choice, was eight days over two weeks in France, to learn to write cartoons.   As I speak terrible French and could not leave Miss Dog in the kennel for too long I decided on London.

So later I was going to take a class in New York state from this second choice, I had signed up and paid my money, but Miss Dog was ill and I was afraid to leave her lest she die in my absence.¬† So I had never seen this artist in person until now and I was really excited to have the opportunity to see her right here in town.¬† The snow didn’t materialize, and it was two wonderful hours of hearing Lynda Barry speak.

She has moved from drawing about life, to the intersection of neuroscience and art, which are two things that I like.

And I love that she shares some of my obsessions, like octopi,  blackbirds, chickens and ghosts.

I did say that she was inspiration too, here is a page from my first collage book, which she kindly signed.

I had shown this page to the author of Spitalfields Life last November, and he mentioned that he had gone to the same college as the poet, just 400 years apart.¬† ūüôā¬† (So they never got to hang out together).

It was fabulous to see her in the flesh  and hear her talk.  And I decided that if I ever get a chance to take a workshop with her I must seize the opportunity.  (Maybe).

 

 

 

Reflections

A reflection can be either a thought or an actual thing.  I keep most of my reflections on things to myself (for the sake of sanity) but I do have a fascination with the reflections seen in mirrored and other glass.  I love the way things get all wiggly and distorted, like this view of the back entrance of the old AT & SF train station, as seen in a nearby building.

The tip of the Gherkin rises out of the top of a smaller building, looking quite stumpy.  The towering monument to commerce overlooking the scene looks as though it is ready to wobble into a massive pile of rubble.

This dark and gloomy view of Cheyenne Mountain results from the smoked glass on the building.¬† ¬†The sky was actually overcast on that day, but it wasn’t this dull.

This is a more typical reflection of the beautiful blue skies and mountains.¬† ¬†I had gone out to get the newspaper (yes, I read a physical newspaper as I am a dinosaur) when I noticed how glorious the sunshine and clouds were.¬† ¬† If I was better at art speak blather I could go on and on about the inner meaning of the juxtaposition¬† of the double images, but I’m not.¬† So I’ll just say beauty is where you find it.