Monday, September 24, 2007


I travel quite a bit for work.
People ask me all the time.....what exactly do you do when you're out of town??
Well, I usually spend two out of four days in airports. But once I get into my rental car and hit the road, the scenery is pretty nice.

This past weekend I worked in Incline Village on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

I didn't take my camera out and start snapping pictures the first day. The first day it was sunny and beautiful and the water was an unbelievable turquoise blue.

I was too preoccupied with driving on the mountain roads to do much looking, much less pull over and shoot pictures over the edge. Mountains and cliffs scare me mostly. After driving on them for a couple of days I'm ok, but those first few round-the-bends at high altitude pretty much are white-knuckle moments for me. (Have I ever told you about the first day I trained as a tour driver in Glacier Park????)

I finally got out of town and out into the open spaces to take some pictures my last day at Tahoe. It was a bit rainy, overcast and grey. And it was still incredibly beautiful.

The purpose of my travels is to work with clients who own American Craft Galleries in various parts of the country. Each one of them is similar in that they carry my company product line, Sticks. Each one is unique in that they carry a variety of works by other American Craft artists. I spend my free time wandering around their stores mumbling to myself, "I really need to redecorate...."

They are fabulous stores. Each of them reflects not only the regional style of the local community but the unique personality of the stores owner.

Saturday these two little shoppers stopped by to browse. Dressed like pirates with homemade eye-patches, they explained they were on their way "to a REAL pirate party!!!" but still had time to sit and play some chess on one of our tables with custom-carved chess pieces. I don't think they really had a clue how to play chess. But they sure were cute and had plenty to say about the exciting day ahead of them.

This weekend the owners of the gallery for whom I was working made reservations for me at a very cool bed and breakfast. I had my choice of rooms, each one with it's own balcony overlooking fabulous stands of tall pines. It's hard to tell from the photo but this bed is about as high as my kitchen counter. I felt kinda like a princess sleeping in it, but I had to take a running leap from the far corner of the room just to get into the thing. It was a lovely place. All that was missing was a mountain-style cabana boy (maybe in a flannel shirt???) He could say mountain-guy kinds of things to me while he dried my back after my shower. Stuff like, "Tomorrow I'm going to chop down a tree" and "Yeah, those scars on my neck are from wrestling a bear." I like it when guys say stuff like that.

Uhh-hemmmmmmm.....I digress......

The first measurable snow of the year had fallen at Incline the day before we arrived and everyone was excited in anticipation of ski season. I checked out the weather back home before I flew out of Reno where it was a brisk (but lovely to my Midwest skin) 40 degrees. Hearing it was nearly 90 degrees and humid like summer in Iowa, I just had to stop and take one more picture of autumn in the mountains.

It took a full day of travel through two airports to get back home but thanks to United Airlines choice to run in-flight episodes of The Office and The New Adventures of Old Christine I laugh (perhaps to the mild annoyance of my napping neighbors) allllllll the way home.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

WHY on a perfect, blue-sky Saturday??????

It's a perfect late-summer day.

I am driving along, minding my own business in the WalMart parking lot when.....perchance crosses my path, a man driving a little silver Honda. He turns wide the wrong way, into the very one-way aisle in which I am driving, the correct way.

The man in the silver Honda is now blocking traffic, but that's ok. I have to drive very very slowly and carefully to get around him but that's ok too because it's a beautiful day and I am especially forgiving on days when the sky is so blue. As I slowly move past him and since we are going in opposite directions through the same space, our drivers windows pass within inches of one another. Our windows are both open.

We're close enough now that I can see the man in the silver Honda has a mean and somewhat troubled look on his face. Puzzled, I harken back to advice from some Internet forward that tells me "when someone doesn't have a smile, brighten their day by giving them one of yours!"

It seemed to me good advice at the time I read it and surely this is the perfect moment to put it into practice. I am nothing, if not a day-brightener.

We are now passing close enough to one another that I can see the hairs on the arm hanging out his window. I look straight into his eyes (behind their cheap sunglassses), smile really big and I mention to the man with the mean face in a happy and pleasant voice as I pass, "You are going the wrong direction, honeybee."

Yes, I DID call him "honeybee". I did. But only as a term of generic endearment and remember, I used a very happy and pleasant voice too. I said it loud enough so that he could hear, but I emphasize that I did not shout.

As his wife smiled, waved and offered pleasantries from the passenger seat (I could be wrong, it happened really fast....) the man in the silver Honda responded by calling me a F---ING B-TCH.

I am still aghast at the response. I was, after all, just driving along minding my own biz. I'm not smiling brightly anymore. The man in the silver Honda is not only mean looking but he is also stupid. Quite likely a result of global warming. Damn that Al Gore, anyway.

In review for the Honda-driving gentlemen in my community:

This is a directional arrow.It is painted on the WalMart parking lot surface to help people who are directionally challenged know which way they are supposed to go.

Here is another shot of the arrow, close-up. Interestingly, the arrow does not change as one gets closer, it always points the same direction.

This is how parking lots work. The arrows are big and yellow, just to make sure everyone can see them. In general, these arrows pretty much keep people with anything larger than a pea-sized brain going in the right direction.

In the absence of any comprehension of directional arrows, one can also observe the manner in which cars are parked in the aisles as an indication of which direction one should be driving.

It's a pretty good system. One aisle parks this-a-way and the next aisle parks that-a-way. They use it lots of places. For example, in nearly every parking lot in the entire United States of America including Alaska and Hawaii and Puerto Rico which isn't a state but wants to be because they think we have such good parking lot sytems in place.

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the man in the silver Honda does not get out much. Perhaps the man in the silver Honda was not really mean. Perhaps he is a dumb-ass that should have his license taken away. Or, perhaps he was just trying to find his way to the OPTICAL Department at WalMart for a pair of new driving glasses.

So close...........and yet so far away.
He was driving down this very aisle in the wrong direction. Keen observer that she undoubtedly is, I'll just betcha his wife noticed it, too.

Seeeeeee??????????? I was right, honeybee.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Scary Bugs and Political Correctness

The buzz of the Cicada's has returned to the trees. I love these big locusts. The sound of them is a song of summer to me. I remember plucking the crunchy abandoned locust shells off the gnarly bark of the trees in my grandmother's front yard and collecting them in a shoe box for Show and Tell in elemantary school. Officially, according to the Entymology Department at Iowa State University, this years chorus is officially known as Brood XIII. We last heard from their parents in 1990. While the song of the locusts buzz a continuous daily background to the close of my summer, all is not peaceful in the world of the locust. As is often the case when you navigate the world with multiple legs and red eyes,it is not easy being a bug. Having noticed plenty of these huge, menacing wasps hovering over my driveway and patio my ears perked when WHO-radio took a call from a listener on the subject this morning. I knew they were called Cicada Killers. Apparently there is a movement underway in the bug world to bestow them with a kinder, gentler name. Knowledge being power, I've done my research and heretofore I shall refer to these critters by their new name, Cicada Hawks. Seems weird to me. While they are big enough to be a bird, they are not a bird. However, with not a single class in entymology to my name, I defer to the folks educated in all things segmented and thoraxed. Cicada Hawks, they shall be. Perhaps you have ducked and run into the house just like me, when one of these Cicada Hawks buzzed your yard. Not to worry. They are docile, non-aggressive wasps and perfectly (sort of) harmless (depending on whether you are a non-threatening being of the human variety arriving home from work or if you are a Cicada Locust just winging your way through the neighborhood looking for a nice shade tree). Cicada Hawks reportedly are discriminating diners and human flesh just doesn't suit their taste. They are also dedicated parents and the whole nasty business of attacking my beloved Cicada Locusts is all in the name of healthy offspring. This is where it gets ugly. The Cicada Hawk stings the Cicada. This paralyzes the locust but does not kill it. Then, in a gesture that reminds me of some demented serial killer dragging his drugged victim through the night streets down into his subway lair.........the hawk drags the locust down into the ground and tucks it in near it's pupa (baby cicada hawks, in bug-worldese) where............I warned you it was going to get ugly......the babies will eventually eat the locust while it's still alive. Yikes. As with many horror stories, all this takes place underground so we can just pretend it's not happening and go on about our merry way. Just know that if you have Cicada Hawks buzzing about your flowers and bushes, there is some nasty business going on beneath your feet. The tragedy of it all is the life cycle of the Cicada Locust whom emerges from the ground ONLY once every 17 years. It seems to me a particularly unwelcoming sort of gesture that my yard would be filled with herds of their Cicada Hawk nemesis and especially ironic that instead of killing the locust, they simply sting them and drag them.........right back underground from whence they recently emerged. The whole seris of events reminds me of Season One of "24". Speaking of nasty...... In the spirit of National Geographic nature specials, killing cicada's isn't the ONLY thing Cicada Hawks do. For more fascinating (seriously, it's a GREAT site) photos and info on bugs, check out where they honored the Cicada, naming it July 2007's Bug of the Month.

I had hoped to add a video clip to this post but the dance between me and technology is an awkward one. We have yet to find synchronicity or grace in our relationship.
I'll continue to practice. In the meantime, check out the clip at this web address, I found it completely by accident when searching for info on cicadas and it made me laugh out loud. It's really great.

Taste of Summer

I'm pretty good with a glass bowl and a wooden spoon, but notsomuch with appliances that plug into the wall. I remember watching my uncles take turns standing in the basement of my grandmother's house, one foot on the top of the ice cream freezer, cranking it manually until the sugary milk inside turned to ice cream.

Now I just call my boys over and ask them to take care of the technical details.

Later we noticed a parade of little red ants marching across my patio. I don't mind red ants, really. I don't see them very often. They seem to keep to themselves.
Reflecting back on days at the creek in Bondurant,Mike points out that when provoked, little red ants will attack and bite the heck out of you.

These were especially tiny little guys and really seemed to be minding their own biz?? Bite???? Nik and I are not convinced.

OUUUCH!!!!!! Ok, so I guess it's just best not to provoke them, huh?

Homemade ice cream and ant-stomping : the taste of summer in Iowa.