Thursday, August 28, 2008

Door County, WI

It's been a while since I've written, but I've been away from wifi & cell service for the past two weeks. I'm staying in an enormous old house in Door County, WI (top of the peninsula), specifically in Egg Harbor. The house is right on Green Bay, which is great for swimming, sunsets, and goose watching. I'm with my oldest & dearest friend, her family (which includes two great kids) and a variety of friends & family members who drift in & out for various lengths of stays. The summer heat is not brutal up here, so it is livable, and my favorite town here, Sturgeon Bay, has very affordable housing. These are my favorite photos so far (taken a few steps from the house), as they come at my favorite time of day: when the sun starts to set and I heave a hugh sigh of relief....thank goodness summer is almost over!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Made From Corn

I was just about to toss this plastic cup last night when I decided to read what was written on it. I would love to tour the plant that makes corn into plastic cups. I don't know if you can read the back but it says "fully compostable." Interestingly enough, I just read an article in "The Sun" magazine today about a 90 year old Nicaraguan woman who made corn tortillas from 4am to midnight for the Sandinistas-to give them energy to fight the Contras; Esperanza says "corn is the strength that we subsist on...a person cannot work, cannot think, cannot exist without our corn." This stirs up all kinds of thoughts, like how much Reagan was hated on my college campus during the Nicaraguan conflict, heated talk over beer & cigarettes about the SNLF, and the idea of taking a raw material & turning it into something unexpected. It's interesting that this cup looks exactly like plastic, like did they have to take the "cornness" out of it so it wouldn't freak people out (because it's more reassuring to drink out of petroleum by-products), or does processed corn look like plastic anyway. Did this cup use 20 times the resources to make as a plastic one? Or, even more intriguing, did some Banksy influenced guerilla artist just print this on there, making an urban hipster hoax, to give people like me something to blog about...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Go See "Man On Wire"

The Frenchman profiled in this documentary lives the Helen Keller quote: "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Even More Remote

This place I went to in Way West Texas isn't even on the map. The road to it is marked by a short black line that turns into a long grey line. From now on I will always know what the "grey" line on a map means: do not drive a low-rider Ford Taurus on this road! For 2 hours I twisted through the mountains on an unpaved & obviously rarely traveled "road." Thank goodness the scenery was jaw-dropping, otherwise I would have had only my abject terror to focus on. I drove across giant boulders praying my tires wouldn't get punctured. One section of the road was 90 degree drops into dry creek beds while in my panic I thought I heard the faint strains of the deliverance theme song, saw some Hills Have Eyes types darting my periphery, & the standard cliche: circling vultures. Fergus was bouncing so much in his seat I had to strap him in. I mentally inventoried my water supply (1/2 a hot bottle & a rapidly emptying dog dish), wondered if I had a flashlight, and started to remember than the reason I had never come out here was that it required a "high clearance" vehicle. I only remember being this scared one other time: driving on another "grey" road about 10 years ago looking for a scenic route to Jerome AZ. I cried like a baby on that trip, but on this one I just focused on breathing and going 2 miles per hour. When I finally saw the sign for my destination I was so releived, but incensed enough to let the owners know they need to warn folks like me on their website. This is a part of Texas that makes comfortable regular, paved road West Texas seem soft & easy. This is hardscrabble "No Country For Old Men" country. The worker at the Springs said "I've never heard of a Taurus making it through Pinto Canyon." I thought he was perhaps new to the area, but later found out he was a native Terlinguan (wiki it-makes Luckenbach look like the Taj Mahal). Yikes. Now that my driving adventure was over, I could focus on the resort: small, funky, relaxing. Fergus running wild with packs of hounds, nude toddlers everywhere, and, unfortunately, their skidmarked tiny undies. After a quick once over of the pools & grounds, I power napped (my energy sapped by my death defying canyon adventure!), but was harshly awoken by one of my two most hated sounds: lawn equipment! I swear, as much as I hate California, I would move there in an instant if I could afford to live in the town (I believe it is Carmel) the has outlawed all motorized/gas powered lawn equipment. I almost had to laugh though, that at his remotest of remote places were one would expect nothing but quiet, I was subjected to an obsessive maintenance guy with his weedeater that you could tell he was in love with. His other tool of the trade was a medieval looking machete, so I'm sure the weedeater was a huge energy saver to him. One of the naked toddlers was fond of screaming loudly for no apparent reason, but hey, we were one big happy family by nightfall, all swapping stories in the communal kitchen, bonding over the unspoken fact that it is no small feat to get out to a place like this. There was one other lady travelling by herself, and I'm always pleased to see this as we are a small, but significant tribe. I have become that sort of woman I always secretly hoped I would be: middle aged, fit, dressed sloppily but not un-hip; not asexual, but definitley not enticing, and with a wee precious dog that shows a commitment to having a lovable companion to share the adventure with. The only other male guest there was named Fergus too. Wow. Two Irish-named mammals at Chinati Hot Springs on the same day. And he was all the way from England. The next morning my city persona took over & I bolted from the Springs in hope of good black coffee at the town at the bottom of the road. After a wrong turn (into a dry creek bed), I backtracked & finally made it to the town of Ruidoso - population "zero" it would appear. There were no buildings, certainly no coffee shops, and I even forgot about the coffee when I saw the giant wild boars racing along the road with me - wow again. I realized I was in a part of the country that has more animals than people. Wild burros & horses were spotted too, and the burros came up the the car & were very freindly. (If these are donkeys, forgive me, I don't know the difference).  There was something surreal about the road from Ruidoso to Presidio: it bordered Mexico & you could see the canyons and all sorts of unidentifiable...lodging was all I could figure it must've been. Really put things in perspective for me. I live in my self-abosorbed, luxury problem filled life here the coddling bubble of city life, and a 10 hour or so drive to the deserts of my own state show me a lifestyle that I know nothing about - I wont try & guess what sort of living they eke out, but I admired them for putting togehter a home base, especially the ones out of scavenged materials. I once read a New Yorker article about the floating slum of Lagos Nigeria where everything is made of scavenged metal. I saw that today on highway 170, and it was nice to see that a lot of homey touches went into it. I feel that I am city girl in my soul, but there is something about ultra remote locations with nothing to do but visit with people that will have me put everything else on hold. When there are no places to go or things to do, people sit around and talk - about 10 strangers who are no longer strangers by the end of the evening.  Can't believe I waited this long to come out here. Next time I'll bring Will.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

West Texas

It may look like Tucumcari, but West Texas has a whole different vibe. These photos were taken in Alpine, Marfa, and Fort Davis Texas, the gateway to the Big Bend Park. I've been coming out here since '92 and consider this my "runaway" place (or "run to" depending on what's going on in my life). It's very isolated and a long, long drive from a big city. There is no Wal Mart and almost every business is locally owned. About 10 years ago I secured a contract on a house in Alpine as I was convinced I was going to move here. Now that house has tripled in price and it is still only about $120K. I have to resist looking at real estate out here because it IS so affordable, but life in this small a town I'm not sure I could swing. Alpine is the biggest of the cities (pop. ~5000), where I stay at a 1940's lodge with my dog (bottom photo). Fort Davis is probably the prettiest of the towns as it has the McDonald Observatory nearby & lots of interesting mountains & rocks. The "Sleeping Lion" rock (also pictured) was something I wanted to climb, but when I drove up to it there was a fence around it. Marfa is the most interesting of the towns - with a population of just about 2000, it has become a swanky artists' mecca - and not your dreadlocked slacker coffee shop artist, but big name NYC artists with loads of cash fixing up the derelict buildings and filling them with cutting edge art, which juxtaposes sharply with the low income local adobe dwelling population. The best part of this trip this time is that it has rained a lot - at 85 degrees F it is twenty degrees cooler here than in Austin. 85 is still way too hot for me, but that's as good as it gets for a seven hour drive. There is no traffic. There is no noise. The sky is so beautiful that I got tears in my eyes watching the violent thunderheads rolling west last night. The relief I felt getting out of Austin was overwhelming. I had gone through a couple of weeks of "negotiating" my salary with the Antarctic folks which left me feeling empty (they said "no" but I keep my integrity), so I knew I'd be recharged out here. I miss my daily yoga class, but I brought a dvd & am trying to do it in my tiny room without knocking a decoration off the wall. I also recently finished a climbing class in a bouldering gym in Austin, and I'm itching to get back to climbing, and to try it outdoors. I know this post is uninspired so I'll keep it short. This blather is just padding for the photo of the grain elevator with the dark cloud above it, which I drove the wrong way down a one way street to get a shot of before the sun came back out. Actually, the other Marfa photo (with the water tower) has a dark sky as well. As far as my personal photographic ambitions, I live for this sort of shot. When I was taking photojournalism in 1980 in college, I raced out on one of the 10 cloudy days I have witnessed in my life, and did about half my assignments. Even before the professor told us, I knew the power, beauty and color saturation of a sunless photo. I guess my second favorite type of photo is crumbling buildings, so I got photo goodness on this day.