A Travellerspoint blog


Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds

TP Meet-up Chicago 21-22 March 2012, Part 2

sunny 13 °C

Dawn broke to the sound of sweat, the sweat that was pouring over our bodies like Niagara Falls after a full year of rain. Rum seemed to ooze from my pores, filling the air with a stale Caribbean aroma. I managed to find the floor with some difficulty, and, sauntering to the door amidst the sweet rumbling snoring of my Dearest, I found the kitchen. Ah, coffee, nectar of the Gods themselves, would be just the ticket to ensure my bright-eyed and bushy tail-ness. Oh my God, this has to be the smallest coffee maker in the world. 4 cups? What good would that be to awaken my senses, to bring life back into my rum-swollen body? Oh well, when in Rome, make do and shut up. In a mere 3 hours, the machine had produced a sufficient quantity of nectar to satisfy a rather smallish dog. Fortunately, I felt like a rather smallish dog. Sipping the life-giving liquid, I noticed the faint aroma of carnitas. Memories flashed through my brain like like a Midwestern tornado attacking a trailer home. The previous evening, just prior to boarding the tramp steamer bound for Greece, I was standing on the back porch of the condo enjoying a finely rolled mini cigar. The neighbors were in full party mode. I waved with a smile, and they yelled over, asking if I liked carnitas. I nodded yes, and they waved me over, attempting to supplicate me with their evening's repast. Being a social animal and mildly drunk, I quickly grabbed a bottle of my best fermented malt beverage and waltzed over to the next yard. Gabriel, who had the good fortune of celebrating another year of life, was in full cooking mode, laboring over a large cauldron of boiling meat products. Family members had gathered by the hundreds, and many greeted me with wide smiles and interesting sayings uttered in Spanish, some of which I deftly translated to mean "Hello funny-shaped donkey person of cheese-based origin". My translation skills were keen. I handed Gabriel my beer and wished him a "Feliz Cumpleanos", which I surmised the family took to mean "please accept my cheese and live happily in this shoe box". At that moment, a rather short and stocky woman, who appeared to have seen many more days than I, handed me an overflowing plate of carnitas, rice, guacamole, and tortilla chips and proffered what I took to mean "eat this, it probably won't kill you". I tasted the succulent meat, and intense flavor washed over my dulled senses. Wow, good carnitas, I said in Spanish, though I think the family thought I said "you are more kind than armadillos". I left with a smile and many "gracias", and we boarded the tramp steamer for Greece.

Just after my 13th pot of mini-brewed coffee, Katie and my Darling awoke, slightly groggy and in need of caffeine. Soon, the computer devices came out, and we all sat and checked out the latest happenings on the interweb. In short order, His Peterness made use of the texting function on his "intelligent" telephony device and told Katie (as My Sweet and I are sadly lacking in intelligent telephony devices) that we should all meet at the Field Museum Hall of Ancient Creatures at 10:30 am. Katie was to be meeting a friend that day and sadly, would not join us in our archaeological expedition. And so, with much combing of hair and brushing of teeth, my Love and I boarded our dear Beaner and headed south to the museum.

Chicago has, since I lived there in the last century, completely re-developed the lake shore and museum campus area. All roads lead to what can only be described as a maze of lanes that lead directly to very expensive parking lots. Clever, these city designers. It was not unlike fishing, only we were the fish, and they hooked us and brought us on board.

A short 4 km walk out of the parking structure and we were in the Hall of Ancient Creatures. I called His Peterness on our dumb phone and left a message. "We're here, we'll meet you at Sue the Dinosaur". Succinct, to the point. Apparently He and His Family had become ensnared in the maze of Chicago parking facilities and with any luck, and using the latest in high-tech GPS Global Where-The-Hell-Am-I technology, They would soon make an appearance. Right then, time for a photo op.


My Sweet fends off the vicious, blood-sucking dinosaur, mocking it with diet-based epithets and impressive scowling. She was named Sue, not because the most intelligent minds of the scientific community believed she was a she (they don't actually know), but because they knew someone associated with the find, and her name was Sue. Scientists, you have to love their wit and ingenuity.

It was just at that moment in time that His Peterness and His Darling Family arrived. It was a Matrix-like moment - time stood still, people ceased moving, Sue winked from barren eye sockets, and we were again together. "Hi, how's the condo", I queried. "Don't ask, it's shite", exclaimed Her Janelleness. "That good, eh". "Sorry about that, but we're here now, what shall we explore first". "The loo". And so after a brief stop for potty, we were off. The Children desired to see Dinosaur Bones. Many pictures in front of Sue later, we made for the second floor where, the museum map promised, we would see many more bones. And so there were. Who knew that a natural history museum would be so full of stuffed animals and bone sculptures? How did these keen minded scientists really know how all the bones fit together? My own scientific curiosity was ablaze. Maybe that skeleton of a woolly mammoth really should look different, more sinister, more malevolent. Perhaps that extinct bison should really look like large herbivorous possum. Why are the horns in front on the head, and not on the behind? That would make for a fine defense against posterior-attacking predators. My years of scientific study had always taught me to question posterior-attacking predators, so I was in my element. But what I was wholly unprepared for, as years of scientific training doesn't cover this subject, was child wrangling.

Child wrangling requires a new definition of patience and persistence, not to mention stamina. I have never borne children, thanks to the gender Gods, but I was now learning just what it was like to be a long distance runner. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and my first step came at me like a raging tiger intent on making me its feast. I had never known that children could move so quickly, that their cat-like reflexes are honed at birth. I followed the children past aisle after aisle of displays, past stuffed animals and dioramas that became a blur. I felt driven to make sure that said children did not wander off and suddenly find themselves parent-less, for that condition is generally followed by panic and the desire to wet oneself. Wet children are nothing to be trifled with, as they become another species altogether, one bent not only on drying but finding nourishment.

My thousand mile journey had become a memory, as I had already journeyed many more miles after Miles. Mother and Father took this in stride, for they have acclimated and evolved as child chasers. My Sweetest and I had not evolved, and so it was time to dine, to feast on the offerings of the Hall of Ancient Creatures.

It was here that I made the most significant scientific discovery of the last several hundred years, one that I was astounded to learn no keen scientist before me had made. This revolutionary discovery could change scientific dogma as we know it. Bread seeds exist. It was during our sup, which reminded me of adult condors feeding their chicks little scraps of meat, that I made my world-changing discovery. Miles was terribly occupied, like his sister, consuming a rather large portion of bread. The child portion of macaroni and cheese held little interest, though it did bring back memories to me. I glanced over at Miles and found that he had a rather large number of bread crumbs on his shirt. I pointed this out to him, saying " Miles, you have bread seeds all over your shirt". Miles energetically replied "bread doesn't have seeds". I said "some bread does". He said "no it doesn't". I said "yes it does". This went on for some time, and I finally convinced the poor lad that if he didn't wipe the bread seeds off his shirt, they might sprout and he would have bread plants all over his body. Ah children, their little minds are so awash in curiosity, and I felt a bit devilish for planting (ha) this idea in his head. But as with most things in life, I couldn't resist. I did apologize profusely to Mother and Father for planting (ha) such a possibly strong notion in their baby's head, but it was amusing nonetheless. I would be curious to know if, at some distant point in the future, Miles would remember that moment and say the same thing to his children. At least I didn't tell him what my father told me at the same age, that I was brought to them by the garbage men.

And so it was time to leave the Hall of Ancient Creatures, since May had become desperately consumed with pushing every red button on every display to watch the video of how organic life began on this planet. Fascinating yes, but time waits for no child.

Katie had returned from visiting her friend, and had stopped along the way to procure the evening's meal, deftly hunting down two wild chickens, killing and plucking them, and obtaining sweets for dessert. Apparently the chicken hunt went well, as Katie showed no ill signs of the life and death struggle. Chocolate can put up one hell of a fight.

The evening's entertainment was to be a showdown between two titans of the cooking world, my Lovely the Talented, and His Peterness the Acknowledged, may the best chicken win. But wait, first there was to be a "Hangout on G+". Technically, this was to be the "TP Chicago Meet-up 2012 Hangout on G+", but who's quibbling with semantics. Schedules for this momentous event had been sent around the world, inviting all to join and "hangout". Computer devices were set up after all the laborious technical details had been accomplished. The first, and as it turns out only, TP member to join the hangout was She, She who lights up the life of Greater Canuckistan, Eastern Bureau, the Incomparable Tweety of Montreal. The hangout was a technical marvel, surpassed only by the moon landing and the invention of garlic sauce. We laughed, we nearly cried, we were joyous. The sudden appearance of the heretofore unseen Neal of Greater Northern Ireland and the charming Sarah of Greater Montreal made for much joy. Hangouts on G+ include the ability to superimpose pirate hats, monocles, scuba masks, and mustaches on the participants, and all were used extensively. There was cheer. The children were most bemused by their newfound virtual apparel. The hangout lasted for several months, and finally, after many days of tearful goodbyes and virtual hugs, it was time for the Grand Smackdown, the Dinner that would end all Dinners.

There was much jockeying for position in the cozy kitchen, not the least of which was by me, as I had been tasked with making the most crucial element of the Dinner, garlic mashed potatoes. I deftly beat the other cooks out of my way with my mashing fork, sparing few bloody noses in the process. This kitchen was poorly stocked with even the most basic of cooking utensils. But we made do. Katie was well occupied creating a dish of chocolate thingies, His Peterness and my Darling were well entrenched in cooking chicken, and the race was on, albeit with a bit of competitive spirit.


After much thrashing about and flailing of utensils, we finally sat together as a clan and began the consumption. The clan agreed, after some discussion and tossing of knives, that the chicken challenge was a tie - neither chef had overcome the other. I quietly sneeked into the Champions Chair via my exquisite potatoes. Janelle was so impressed that she went for seconds with a large spoon. I felt like Leonardo di Caprio on the fore deck of the Titanic - I was indeed on top of the world (or was that Jimmy Cagney?). The children were not as complimentary, offering a vicious critique of sage marinade versus curry rub. Damn kids, they can be so cruel. Where is Sponge Bob when you need him? Fortunately, Katie's delicious chocolate surprise dessert saved the day, and all strife was forgotten. Mmmmm, chocolate.....

Many more hours passed, and it was finally time for The Family to depart for their condo of Despair (shite-hole, I think was the description).

The consumption of many more adult beverages proceeded, and soon there was a call from Him. Were we still up for that game of Scrabble? Of course we were, silly Admin. And in a mere 12 minutes, He arrived again, mental dictionary in hand. Katie broke out the Scrabble board, conveniently packed for just such an occasion. Knowing the clever wiles of He, I began plying Him with the fermented malt beverages I have created. I knew that alcohol dims the senses.....trust me, I'm dim, so I know it works. We selected our tiles, and the intellectual challenge began. The players were determined to not be outdone, proffering such words as "the", and "Travellerspoint". Fortunately, Travellerspoint has 15 letters so that was out. Besides, it would have made a killer triple word score. Katie the Scrabble Shark handily won the first game (3,000,410 to 4) as she has done on many occasions at our humble abode, and through the rum-infused fog that was my mind, I think I almost won the second. Nearly. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. Begrudgingly, His Peterness returned to His condo of shite. Many hugs and kisses.

We Three awoke the next day to a sumptuous breakfast prepared by Her Katieness - Pillsbury crescent rolls wrapping bacon (ham to our neighbors in the UK), eggs, and cheese, and baked to perfection. Oh my God - there is no meal that cannot be improved with bacon. We ate with abandon, knowing that our time was limited in the Condo. Packing our ten metric tonnes of luggage and many hugs ensued. Because I'm anal about these things, I scrubbed the Condo to absolute cleanliness, including the dishes, and we made for home.

I was content in the fact that I had left many bottles of fermented malt beverages for His Peterness and Her Janelleness to consume. They no doubt needed such sustenance to continue their evolution into Father and Mother, Keepers of the Children Who Know No Bounds.

We steered the Beaner west, toward that which was our home, Kalav Manor.

Our children were non-plussed. "Were you gone? We hadn't noticed". Thanks kids, we're touched by your sincerity.

And so endeth the Expedition of Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds.

Thank you dear readers for your attention and interest. You may now return your tray tables and seats to their upright positions.

Is this a crazy world, or what?

Posted by beerman 12:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds

TP Meet-up Chicago 21-22 March 2012, Part 1

sunny 12 °C

As with most of the trips we make abroad, our morning started with a raging gale and snow. It was a crisp, clear Saturday morning, and the birds were playfully chirping from the newly flowered lilac bushes. Though the temps were holding in the mid-10C's, the snow was blinding. I hitched up the team of feline sled pullers and made for the kitchen. Unruly bunch they were today, but a quick snap of the whip and they sprang out of their melancholic tongue bathing rituals and heaved for the coffee pot. Several hours later, we reached the Fountain of Caffeine, long sought by ancient mariners and groggy early morning adventurers. Silly fools, Mr. Coffee is more than just a life giver, He is indeed the nourisher of the soul. My Sweetest and I settled in for a few hours of telly (Jack Hanna's Top Ten Adventures, Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin, Born to Explore with Richard Wiese, and Sea Rescue with Sam Champion) before undertaking the laborious task of packing the ten metric tonne luggage. In no time, which in "packing ten metric tonnes of luggage" terms is about an hour, we loaded the Neon Avenger, AKA Beaner, and steered a course East, toward that Mecca of civilization, upstanding politics, and deep-dish pizza, Chicago.

Several weeks of hard driving later, navigating through thick jungles and wide rivers, we arrived in the Holy Land. Dammit, I knew we should have made a left at Albuquerque....

More weeks passed, and at last we arrived at the humble abode, the place we would call home for the next 70 and 3/4 hours, The Condo. We had done massive amounts of research to secure said abode, from consulting the Oracle of Google to utilizing the latest in high tech telephony. At last, we were here. An hour early no less. Now to simply wait for the owner to arrive and hand us the keys. The time passed slowly, but soon we were greeted with the huge smile and hilarious giggle of one of our Compatriots in Adventure, she who had braved the River of Despair (the Mississippi), crossed vast plains (Illinois), and beaten back the hordes of everyday commuters in the City of Big Shoulders. "Hi Katie, how was the drive?" And so the Adventure began.....

The next couple hours are fairly dull, so I'll skip them for the sake of your attention.

In the midst of socializing and excessive drinking with our Compatriot in Adventure Katie, we received a cryptic text message over the high tech telephony device. It was from the Man Himself, He Who Must Be Acknowledged, The Sage of TP, Peter of Melbourne. "Hey, where are you guys, we don't know where our condo is, but I think we can find yours." The text was actually a blend of seemingly jibberish-like symbols and magical talismans, but Katie deftly translated for us, using her years of deft translation experience: "They'll be here in about ten minutes, they still don't know where their condo is".

Right then, time to prepare for His Arrival. We cleansed in the healing waters of Chicago and anointed ourselves with semi-precious liquids of Caribbean origin (rum). All was in preparation for "The Arrival". And so it was, upon the 20th Hour of the Sacred Day of TP Meet-up-dom, in the Year of our Savior Captain Morgan, that They made Their appearance. Their silver chariot was a newer model Toyota Camry. Rather noble of Him to select such a humble mode of transport, but the kids fit nicely in the back seat.

Hours of gesticulating, hugging, smiling, and consuming of adult beverages passed. All was well with Mother Earth; strife had ceased, wars were over, and the populace consumed more. Then came Gnorman, and his rowdy band of Gnomads.


Fortunately, Gnorman was in a jovial mood. And there was feasting. Katie was busy translating ancient and highly provocative scrolls from her laptop computer device, and the children were well occupied in the transformation of Gnorman and his Gnomads into playthings.


Months passed, crops flourished, and the children grew at a fine rate. And so it was time to sup. My Dearest had procured "reservations" at a well-known local food establishment known as The Greek Islands, located just off the coast of Corfu. We boarded a tramp steamer with nearly all in tow, and in a mere 30 minutes we were transported to Greece itself. Not a bad feat for a tramp steamer. "Sir, you must wait here until your whole party has arrived, then see me and I will make you wait another 20 minutes". Grand folks these Greeks. At long last, we were seated. Our waiter, Francisco, was well versed in the supplication of Adventurers. "Benevolent Sir, please to bring us drink, followed by food stuffs including, but not limited to, cooked meat products". And so it was done. The children lapped up course after course of moussaka, though in all honestly, my gyros were a bit on the dry side, and there wasn't enough tzadziki. And yet the world stopped turning for 90 minutes. Life was good, birds sang, and dogs lay down with cats. Time to head back to the condo.

At home in Shangri-La, time again passed slowly. There was more drink. And plans were hatched to visit memorable places of memory on the very next day. His Peterness transported His Family to their now address-not-so-mysterious location, and we three Adventurers settled in for the night. Though I do believe there was more drinking.

Enshrouding ourselves in our yurt-like bedroom place, we slept. Not well, as it seems the Fire of the Gods was upon us. Why would anyone set a thermostat to 73F? Sleep was restless at best. Tomorrow would be another day of Adventure, and we would be ready, albeit a tad blurry.

Stay tuned to the next riveting Adventure, wherein we voyage to the Hall of Ancient Creatures and discover not only dinosaur bones, but the heretofore unknown existence of Bread Seeds. Really, it's going to be fun......

Posted by beerman 14:40 Archived in USA Tagged chicago 21 tp march meetup 2012 Comments (1)

Arlo Guthrie Comes To Monroe

Wisconsin 1968 - Plus 42 Years

10 °C

Last week, I was going about the business of my job, arranging the brewing schedule, ordering ingredients, analyzing (well, tasting really - it's a job) the beer that was to be packaged that day. One of my brew house mechanics came to my office and told me that Arlo Guthrie was scheduled to play in Monroe (a charmingly rural locale of 10,843 people and 300,000,004 cows) the following week. My interest was peaked, as my Love and I had seen Arlo perform in Madison WI about ten years ago. Great show, so why not see him again? How many chances would we have to see a performer, so close to home, who very nearly defined a generation so many years ago? One, apparently. I quickly checked out the local paper online and found that the Monroe Arts Center was sponsoring the show in just ten days, and it was to be held at, of all places, the local high school auditorium. What? Arlo, the marijuana smoking, anti-insanity of government scion of the sixties, playing a concert at a high school? Hmmm, how times have changed. I found that the ticket prices were reasonable ($20-$75 a seat), so I immediately emailed my Love with this exciting news. We have to go, she replied within 12 seconds. I agree, would you order the tickets my Dear? Absolutely. We opted for the $25 seats, just in case the $20 seats were behind a pole or lighting set-up. And besides, how big can a high school auditorium be?

Two days later, the tickets arrived in the mail. Our excitement grew with each passing day. We hadn't been to a concert in years, and this promised to be a classic. I even went so far as to email Arlo on his website asking if it would be acceptable to bring a few cases of beer to the show for the group. I had visions that Arlo would answer me personally, inviting us backstage, or at least onto the tour bus to share a beer and talk about days gone by. He didn't. The day of the show crept slowly closer, and still no answer. Not deterred, I called the Monroe Arts Center to see if they could help out in realizing my vision. The lady I spoke with was very personable, and though we couldn't have beer backstage (it was a school after all), we might be able to give them my beer directly after the show. She thought it was a very nice gesture that we would consider thanking Arlo with a hometown product. Hey, I have 200,000 cases of beer in my warehouse, so it wasn't really a stretch to bring a couple of cases.

The day of the show finally arrived, with still no word from Arlo himself. Rats. Hope springs eternal, and the day at work passed quickly. I drove home, singing out loud lyrics from "Alice's Restaurant, Comin' Into Los Angeles, and City Of New Orleans". I caught the attention of a few dairy cows grazing peacefully in their pasture, but they were mostly unimpressed. I'd have to work on my singing technique. My Love had dinner almost waiting for me as I returned, knowing, uncannily knowing as she is, that we would be up way past our bedtime by the end of the show and would be in no mood to dine. Cocktails yes, but dine no.

As we drove into Monroe, a town I know quite well, we turned toward the high school. It seems that I don't know the town as well as I think, because though I know where the high school is, more or less, I don't know where the auditorium is. Couldn't be too hard to find, could it? Just look for the tour buses in the parking lot. And there they were, diesel engines quietly humming away keeping the batteries charged. One never knows about tour buses, what kind of energy they consume.......perhaps the batteries were needed to power amplifiers or cigarette lighters or some such, but the engines are only ever allowed to rest at night, after the show is done and the occupants are fast asleep.

Doors opened at 6:45pm, and we were 10 minutes late for that. The show was to start at 7:30pm, so we had plenty of time. Not to worry Dear. There were already a dozen or so people milling around the lobby, exchanging greetings as rural folk are apt to do. I would guess the median age was about 58. We asked at the ticket counter (really, a small table manned by two nice ladies from the Arts Center) as to the whereabouts of the lady to whom I spoke about bringing beer. She was pointed out to us, and we strolled over to her and engaged her in conversation. She suggested we speak to the people manning another table, Arlo people, who were occupied arranging and selling sundry concert-type merchandise (CD's, T-shirts, bumper stickers) on another small table. Perhaps we could bring the beer to the buses at intermission, or even after the show. She told us that Arlo would be leaving immediately after the show.....this dashed our hopes for autographs and chat. We were hoping for autographs.....my Love even brought along two very old vinyl albums in hopes of securing said autographs, as well as a letter from our best friend in Florida who just missed the chance to see Arlo in Chicago in 1963....both were underage, and our friend was not allowed into the club Arlo was playing (funny, since our friend is 2.5 months older than Arlo). We chatted with Arlo's people, who were very friendly, and because we believe in the cause, we bought the latest CD and another bumper sticker. They arranged for one of the bus drivers to escort us to offload the beer onto Arlo's bus. Sweet. Still time for the show and maybe an introduction. We led the nice young man, Ashely, to our car, parked conveniently next to the buses, and brought the beer to the main bus. Say, nice bus you guys have here. Oh yeah, it's kind of home away from home....see, there are 12 bunks, a back room for playing music, a bathroom. Say, any chance your boss will come out and have a beer? No, not really, he's prepping for the show. Oh well, no harm in asking. Thank you Ashely, for the brief look at the daily life of a traveling band.

Back in the auditorium, we found our seats. We couldn't have been more than fifty feet away from the stage. Not bad for $25. I couldn't see paying another $50 each just to sit right up front...we could see everything from back here. Showtime approached, and the audience was filing in. My God, there can't be more than three people here under the age of 50, including me!!! I hadn't seen this much gray hair since our last visit to Florida. I started feeling downright young by comparison.

The lights went down, and out came Arlo, his son Abe, the Burns Sisters (backup singers), and the bassist, guitarist, and drummer. Thunderous cheers from the mostly geriatric crowd rang in my ears. Geez, these people still have some motivation in them (or so I thought). Arlo started at the piano, ran through several songs, then came up front to sit at a stool and regale the audience with his famous tales. Classic song after classic song came from the man, sprinkled with some pretty amusing stories, including a rather lengthy parable of the Biblical Joseph and his trials. Do you wonder what one person can do to change the world, Arlo pronounced? Well, the guy who pointed out to Joseph's brothers where Joseph had gone after fleeing his family....that unnamed individual who quite possibly changed the course of history, that's who. "He went that way". The audience was downright gleeful, fascinating for a bunch of old folk from the Middle of Nowhere. Oddly, as Arlo sang songs that had been part of everybody's life for nearly 45 years, the audience hardly moved, save for applauding at the end of each song. Gleeful, but unmoving. Such is the way of rural life. My Love and I were tapping our toes and nodding our heads with each passing refrain.

Intermission came....fifteen minutes for the band to pee and have a drink. And the audience.....again, geriatric, so a good pee was in order for most of them. We simply stood, moved out of the way for folks heading to the bathroom, and stretched. A couple of ladies seated next to us got up, then voiced that they needed to remember where they were sitting. I told them "just look for my shirt (a red Hawaiian number). Oh, yes, we will see that when we get back. A few minutes later, they returned and sat down. We chatted a bit, about Monroe, Unions (oh, I think the brewery has the last Union in town), and, as older folks are apt to do, their health. Seems one of the ladies had had a stroke at work, so she now cherished every day (fitting, for this concert). And, as she proclaimed with all earnestness, if she ever got "the" cancer, she would "take marijuana", because that chemo and those cancer drugs just don't work. I think I might have wet myself laughing, because this woman is possibly the last person anyone would ever imagine "taking marijuana". I couldn't believe my ears. My Love almost fell over. This one single profound statement made the entire night. This woman was someone's grandmother, and yet, even in today's climate of zero tolerance for anything "out of the norm", she was willing to "take marijuana", even though it could land her in jail. And she knew where to get some too, just in case. Jim Morrison was right....people are strange, when you're a stranger.....and this woman didn't know me from Adam. I was in awe of her. You go girl. Live long, and be happy.

Arlo played for another hour, switching between six-string guitars, twelve-string guitars, and the piano. Each band member had their moment to shine, and all did with gusto and skill. The lights went up, and the show was over. We bid farewell to the two ladies next to us. Once in the lobby, we made sure to pick up the album, with autograph (sorry, Arlo will only sign one item per person), and headed home. I can't really blame Arlo for not sticking around and chatting - this is his job, and I don't like to hang around after my job and chat when I'd much rather just go home. Sometimes you have to talk to your fans, and I'm sure he does, just as I do when visitors to my brewery want to ask me every question they can about brewing. It goes with the territory.

What a show, that's all I can say. Thank you Monroe Arts Center. Thank you Arlo. Next time, I'll plan a little further ahead. Three cases, that'll do the trick. Yeah.....

Posted by beerman 11:00 Archived in USA Tagged art Comments (4)

Voyage to the Isthmus of Panama Day 1

My mother said there would be cannibals

snow -12 °C

(As an homage to "24", the following takes place between 28 January 2005 and 10 February 2005. I shall endeavor to make 14 days seem an eternity to you lovely readers - but think of it this way, it will be shorter than reading War And Peace).

The day began innocently enough, though I have always thought innocence to be merely a state of mind. At precisely 4:40 am, the alarm clock crackled to life, abruptly rousing us from a night of twilight sleep. Dreaming had been a luxury this evening, one that was well outside our reach. The alarm stirred other creatures as well, creatures so fearful that the very mention of their names made weak the knees of strong men. As they slowly rose, they began to shake off the remnants of their glorious and luxurious sleep, They were the fortunate ones, they that remained blissfully ignorant of the pedestrian comings and goings of man. A brief tongue bath, perhaps an ear scratch, and the howling began. One by one, in order of dominance, the males began their sonorous serenade. Other lesser creatures became nervous and jittery. Eyes darted, ears perked. The females roamed the living room veldt searching for a morsel, a bite, something to kill. Deep guttural moans filled the still night air, invading our senses like a club across the back of the head. "Will you shut the fuck up", pierced the cacophony with a steel edge. "Now Goddammit!!!". The wails ceased, and the clawed demons skulked back to the couch for a brief nap.


I rubbed my eyes, trying to shake loose the grip of an utterly dissatisfying night of sleep. To no avail, it would seem. The fog in my head was thicker than mayonnaise with a bit of dijon mustard mixed in. From somewhere deep in my subconscious, just past the parietal lobe, next to and above the medulla oblongata, came a voice...the voice of an angel. Was I dead? Was I only dreaming about the clawed demons? The voice chanted softly, repeating a singular phrase over and over, rising in tempo with each repetition: "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama". The mayonnaise in my head began to thin as the voice grew louder. This was it, the time had arrived. Many a foul day slaving for the man were about to become just another memory. "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama..."

The day began innocently enough, though I.....I.....I began to feel a strange sense of deja vu. I had been here before, but the memory was fuzzy, thick, like mayonnaise with a little dijon mustard mixed in. And that chanting, somewhere off in the distance. Realization came quickly now, faster and faster. I slowly rose and peered out the window, frosted over like the eyes of a drunk-on-Budweiser West Virginia hillbilly. But I wasn't in West Virginia. Snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. If this was Hell, it sure was cold. At once, my mind snapped back into action, sharp as a tack. Like the tack that nasty little kid in second grade put on your chair when you weren't looking. And you sat down. That kind of tack. Stuck in your right ass cheek. With utter resolution born of sheer determination, I crawled back under the covers. "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama" came the angel's voice again. I knew there was no turning back. No drifting off under the womb-like covers and fluffy pillow. It was essential, nay dare I say imperative, that I rise and get a cup of coffee. I knew I should have put that coffee maker next to the bed. Caffeine. Yes, yes, that was the answer. Throwing on my robe and fuzzy slippers, I trudged through the snow, which had overnight delicately blanketed the hallway and stairs. Several furred demons lay in wait at the top of the stairs, hoping that I would not see them so that, upon tripping over them and falling to my death at the bottom of the stairs, they could begin a grand feast on my warm, yet utterly lifeless, body. Little bastards, I'll show you. I scooped up a handful of snow, patting it together in my hands into a near lethal projectile. I pegged the black demon with a nice curve ball just behind the left ear, and as it scurried away to avoid near certain death, I let out a vicious kick, catching the grey one in the hindquarters and propelling him down the stairs. No feasting today vermin!!! Twenty minutes later, I finally reached the coffee pot. Ah, Giver of Life, warm me with your sweet nectar. Battling off four more demons, I poured the coffee. A little sugar, a short dog sled ride to the refrigerator for the milk, and my task was complete. Ah, sweet nectar of life.

The next hour was filled with the type of adventure usually reserved only for the hardiest of Arctic explorers: brush the teeth, comb the hair, feed and water the cats outside, pack the rest of the suitcases, blow the nose, scratch the arm. This was the stuff of legend. Few mere mortals could even conceive of it, much less live it, as we were doing now. We bid a fond adieu to the foul, black-hearted demons, and departed home.


Once outside, we summoned the captain of the icebreaker, ordering him to make all possible haste to the east north-east toward the airport. Alas, there was no crew, and after a simple yet humane execution of the captain, we embarked upon a team of dog sleds and set forth. Arriving at Milwaukee Wisconsin's Mitchell Field some six weeks later, a bit emaciated yet stalwart, we proceeded to the TSA booth, where we were greeted with big smiles and latex gloves. Four days of interrogation sailed by as if they were tea with the Queen. A final application of Preparation H and we were cleared to board the plane for lands unknown. Well, unknown to us anyway.

And so endeth Day 1 of our 14 day voyage, almost. We did actually get to Panama the same day, and that will be covered next. Thank you for your attention, and now if you would please bring your seats back to the upright position, stow your tray tables, and wipe your chin of drool, we can continue.

Posted by beerman 07:44 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

TBEX '10.5

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 5 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day Five has really nothing to do with the actual conference - it was over, all over....kaput, finito, done for, in the past, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, goodbye

Day 5 of the sage came to a close...we were home.......no wait, I missed something. What was it? Oh, right.....Ah, New York, Gotham, The Big Red Fruit, The City That Never Sleeps.....HA, fooled you, we did sleep. The rum helped, mind you. We awoke to yet another balmy New York summer day. Temperatures were in the high 200s and the humidity was thick enough to swim through. Hot time, summer in the city. Our minds were still racing from the events of the last few days. Blogging, podcasting for alien life, search engine optimization, telling a good story....we were alive dammit, and that's what counted. On came the local television news: several thousand people gathered in Central Park had, or were in the process of, melting. Yellow cabs had overtaken the city and were preparing to overthrow the government and declare their own sovereign nation - Yellow CabLand, where immigrants from every corner of the Earth would be free to drive hybrid Ford Escapes at warp speed to demonstrate their previously unknown might. Ocean bathers in New Jersey were being devoured by an onslaught of killer phytoplankton, which apparently had their own designs on world conquest. Why start in New Jersey, we asked? Still, the local news was intriguing. It was during a story on the most recent excavation attempts at the site of the World Trade Center to find intelligent merchant bankers that we cleaned ourselves and made ready for what was to become, perhaps, the most daunting episode of our 5 day adventure: packing the bags. I hadn't remembered bringing that satchel full of bricks, nor the file cabinet full of breakfast receipts. Fortunately for us, we had brought along our very Tardis-like luggage - much bigger on the inside than on the out. In a mere 30 minutes, we had packed the equivalent of the Library of Congress into 2 carry-ons and one detached garage. Life was good, and so were we.

Craning the last of my shorts into a carry-on, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a scent that made my very essence tingle with anticipation and excitement: cooked meat products. Time for breakkie dear? Indeed, and so we shall descend the tiny staircase and make for the restaurant. The Maitre'd greeted us with a slightly unsettling familiarity, as if he had known us for 4 or 5 days already. Peculiar little man, hunched over in his ill-fitting penguin suit as if waiting for a fish to be thrown his way, but quick with the coffee - had to give him that. The cooked meat products were excellent this morning, and the coffee exquisite. If only we could stay here for the next 8 hours until just before the plane taxis down the runway. But alas, the hotel insisted that we leave at noon, and so it was with heavy heart that we handed back the flat screen and checked out. The hotel was kind enough to store our baggage for a few hours so we could meander the mean streets one last time, to soak up all that the City could throw at us without actually throwing anything. The park was calling once again. Strolling past the chess board tables occupied by men of super-intelligence out to make a quick buck from innocent passersby who knew nothing of the gambling world of park side chess, past the fountain filled with gleeful children and the odd tighty-whitie from the previous day, around the man covered with bird seed and pigeons, by the NYU jazz string trio, and up to the hot dog vendor casually setting up for another day of hawking cooked meat products in a bun, we set ourselves on the shadiest bench we could find. It didn't really matter, it was still 170F in the shade, but who cared? Oh look, a city squirrel. With a gun. And a wad of cash. Why does that pigeon keep giving me the hairy eyeball? I have no seed, be gone little bird. Hours passed like hours in this bucolic setting, and we listened intently to the conversation from the next bench about how the US policy in Afghanistan was short-sighted and we should bring the troops home, right after we solve the issue of how to fill the pockets of virtually every American with cooked meat products. Strange folk, these New Yorkers. Still, worth listening to if for no other reason than they're more informed than Fox News, and somewhat more articulate.

The time to depart had arrived, so to hail a yellow chariot was the order. No, first get the bags from the hotel, then hail. Our driver whisked us at near warp speed toward LaGuardia, pausing only briefly to slam on the brakes to avoid a cataclysmic accident with a runaway Toyota Prius. On the upside, this driver knew where he was going, so the bill was $10 less than the one from the airport to the hotel 4 days earlier. Crazy world, and when apocalypse comes and Yellow CabLand is formed, I want a hybrid Ford Escape.

Following the usual US airport body cavity screenings (just in case we were intent on smart-mouthing the stewardesses or chipping away at the solid cast-iron cockpit door with our nail file), we settled in for a few hours of the finest in people watching. OK, maybe not the finest - it was kind of dull, but we did manage to procure one last cooked meat product wrapped in a bun while we waited. Oh look, all flights to Washington DC are cancelled due to plague. There's a delay to Denver because of some chronic deodorant issue. All flights to Europe are running three hours late because Homeland Security just wants to fuck with people going to Europe. That, and the volcanic ash covering most of London and Paris in a haze thicker than the mustard gas used in WWI. You have to love the unequivocal efficiency of modern airports.

More hours passed, and suddenly, there it was: Lake Michigan, sparkling jewel of the Midwest. We were soon to be home. Landing would, of course, be optimal prior to getting our car from long-term parking. A quick. spine-dislocating three hop landing and we were back on solid ground. Ah Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, that Toddlin' Town, home of true cooked meat products. We had decided, as we always do, that standing up and unloading the entire overhead bin of our luggage while simultaneously texting God that we were still alive was not the best course. Not that anyone else on the plane took our lead - it was chaos, and I'm certain that God needed to know at that very instant, while the plane was still moving into position at the gate, that Wanda in seat 17C was finally at the gate and would deplane shortly to save the world from cruelty and injustice. Volumes could be written, or possibly tweetered, on such behavior.

Emerging from long-term parking, we found our rear-view mirror tucked gently between the seats. Thanks guys, for taking such good care of our baby while we faced the terrors of New York. What? I can file a claim? Oh, thank you, my mind is now at peace. I am somehow comforted in the fact that I could visit my local WalMart and buy some glue to fix this little issue.

2 more hours to go, 1.5 if traffic is good. As we turned out onto the expressway, I was relieved. We had survived modern flight, modern baggage claim, and no rear-view mirror. Life was beginning to return to some sense of normalcy. As we sped swiftly down the road, I could not get something out of my mind, something that has come to haunt my inner being for some years now....it was all returning, madly and with no change in tempo:

Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

The Green Acres song. Egad, I was turning into Eddie Albert, and beside me sat not Eva Gabor, but Mrs. Eddie Albert. She has also embraced country living, though by nature we are neither country folk nor city folk. We blur the line between the two, we can fit into either society. Cocktails on the mezzanine, or cold box wine over a game of euchre. The only thing that changes is attitude.

And so came to a close the 5-day saga. Thank you for reading along, I hope I have entertained. Please send all your loose change to me, and I promise I'll fully disclose it to the government in my next blog.

Posted by beerman 09:49 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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