Tuesday, July 28, 2009

greetings from the road

Hello, Blog World (or the small piece of it that reads this stuff). We (wife, son, and myself) have been spending some quality time tromping around down in the Smokey Mountain area of our country, and now we are working our way north and east along the Blue Ridge Parkway - a fabulous drive. Stood at the summit of Mount Mitchell this afternoon - the highest spot east of the Mississippi. I recommend the following things:
1. Hotel Park Vista in Gatlinburg - actually up and away from the madness, looking down on the town with an aerial view. Big 15 floor atrium and glass elevators and all that. If you have vertigo, stay away.
2. Hikes to waterfalls - always rewarding in my experience.
3. Eating any meal at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg.
4. Getting through Pigeon Forge as fast as you can. One big sprawling traffic jam on a Saturday night.
5. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway til you are sick of the endless overlooks of awesome mountain/valley combinations.
6. The Ripleys aquarium in Gatlinburg. A really fine aquarium, ranks with the Baltimore one, I think, in many ways. Big glass tunnels you walk through under the big tank, so sharks and schools of fish swim beside you and over you.
7. This Hotel Floyd, which offers free Internet access, and its 12 or 13 rooms are all appointed with art from local artisans. And it's one of these green buildings you hear so much about...geothermal energy for heating and A/C (and it is cool in here although the temps are warm), bamboo floors, environmentally friendly fibers (have to read up on what that means...), fair trade coffee in the coffee maker too.
Floyd seems to be an interesting little town. Only a few hundred people here nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, but they have a couple coffee houses and restaurants, and a big bluegrass jam on Friday nights up at the General Store. We got here after dark, but I hope to walk around in the morning. I tihnk they are on to something here in Floyd, but I need to figure out what it is. And maybe get some eggs and toast.

Anyhow, I took a lot of pictures of all the aforementioned, but am too tired to think about locating the camera and USB cord, so maybe a later post will include highlights (like seeing YOUR HOUSE from Mount Mitchell).
And I won't mention the part about leaving my wallet at an information stop along the Parkway. Only had to backtrack about five miles to retrieve it...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Z-A "Monday" X

Author's Note: I'm stepping away from this computer for a bit of an expedition, but I'd hate to leave old Xavier hanging. I'm growing somewhat fond of him, the poor fella. It's his big week after all, featuring the letter X. So here is an early posting for Z-A Monday. I hope to be back on the keyboard by the time W rolls around... In the mean time, have a great week, all who stumble upon this!

Xavier rolled out of bed, still fairly confused about Wendy's response ("Not yet"). He was bummed, but not depressed enough to pop a Xanax or anything. He lurched out of bed, hit the shower, and grabbed a bit of breakfast before heading off to work.

Old Mr. Phelps from next door caught him on the way to the XTerra, his old ride that was just shy of coming off lease and getting traded in.
"Hey Xave, new girlfriend visiting?"
"Nah, actually old girlfriend."
"Well, I didn't recognize her. She's not from around here, is she?"
"No, she's not. What are you, some kind of xenophobe?"
"No, straight Lutheran, told you that. Hope you two didn't get all X-Rated in there!"
"None of your business, Phelps. What've you got, X-ray vision?"
With that, the key turned in the ignition and he sped out of there, late for work.
- - -
A courtesy knock on the cubicle wall.
"Xavier, you're wanted for a meeting down the hall."
"Down where?"
"Uh, Mr. Xao. The big guy."

This did not bode so well. Mr. Xao was sent over from Shanghai to oversee American operations since the corporation was acquired by the Chinese consortium. And heads were rolling. Xao was the hatchet man; more like the axe man. Xavier headed down the hall.

"Ah, Xavier, come in. Have a seat." He did.
"Well, as you know, this global economy is challenging us all. We have to trim, and unfortunately, you are on the exit list. The extraction list. You know, the ex-employee list."

Xao did not have the best command of the English language, but his point was made. Xao could have spoken in Bantu or Xhosa and Xavier would have gotten it. Xavier was out.

Suddenly, a prescription for something didn't seem like such a bad idea...

Disclaimer: Streetpolo and its editor, publisher, author, and staff (that would all be me) do not endorse or seek any remuneration from any of the products mentioned or depicted in this work of fiction. Any similarity of the characters featured in this fiction to any actual person, living or dead, is pure coincidence. No animals were hurt in the development of this story. Streetpolo and its editor, publisher, etc., are held harmless from any temporary loss of eyesight due to your attempt to read this ridiculously small print. Have a nice day, and an even better tomorrow!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Z-A Monday Y

Wendy accelerated, steering her Yukon away from Zanesville, toward Xavier. She just yearned to be there. Times were good with Xave - like last summer's vacation out west to Yellowstone and Yosemite, where they carried on like a couple of yodeling yuppies. And yet there was a nagging feeling of...concern. A feeling that yanked her back toward caution. Sure there was that yen, but don't yield too easily...

Xavier was ready. Lights dimmed, soft music (Yanni) playing, steak and yams nearly done. Then, the knock at the door. He cracked the door, then pushed it open, pulling Wendy into his arms. She let out a little yelp (a happy one, he thought).

Later, after dinner, out in the yard by the yucca plants, the time felt right. He went into his well-practiced kneel, brandishing of the ring, popping of the question.

He waited to hear this: "Yes"
What he heard was this: "......Oh, Xavier, not Yet."

The rest of the evening was a bit more restrained, but...cordial. Wendy made an awkward exit, but not before planting a youthful five-star kiss on his lips.

The next morning, yawning himself awake, Xavier reviewed yesterday's events. It was not the best, not the worst. She didn't say yes. Still, she didn't say no. Just being contrary; they always joked, she was the yin to his yang. Yeah, it would be alright. Yet, the early hour's breeze made it feel to Xavier like a frigid morning in the Yukon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

WOF Operate your Trumpet by Foot

So now our son gets the urge to be able to play guitar and trumpet at the same time. Impossible, you say? Not with the inventive lad around the house! He used some found spare parts, some bike brake cable, and other sundries to create this thing. He has not really had the chance to practice yet. I expect a masterful performance one of these days.
It's not beautiful, but it is pretty clever and it gets the job done. Push down on a pedal and it depresses the corresponding valve of the trumpet. Never has multitasking been so easy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meigs County, Ohio

Most of Meigs County looks like this. Not too bad.

Long day yesterday - on the road 6 am, headed for Meigs County, Ohio, with 50-0dd miles of coastline down on the Ohio River. It's beautiful country down there; I'd guess 80% of the county is rolling forest land, so it doesn't lend itself to traditional economic development. Hardly any industry to speak of. What they have is what you'd call "extractive industry" - stuff in the ground, like coal for example, and gravel, that's worth something out of the ground.

There is likely to be another power plant coming soon, and with it, some good paying jobs, so they are looking for a growth boom. By "back east" standards, we are not talking much, but for a small riverside town like Racine, they are pretty happy to have a new business district being built up above the flood plain, even if it consists, for now, of a new Dollar General and bank branch. And with some likely new housing, more things will follow.

Here are a handful of pictures I took while touring the County with their economic development director yesterday.
I was oohing and ahhing as this tug was pushing these barges along. Of course, for the locals, it's no big deal, as these things come along about every twenty minutes. (This pic was taken from the W. Virginia side, by the way. Unfortunately, the Ohio side is too "topographically challenged" for rail).
Three shots of Pomeroy, the County seat, population maybe around 2,500. Top one is the county courthouse, nestled in on a hillside. I believe it is true that the town has no four-way intersections. With the river and a line of hills/mountains behind it, there is only room for a width of one city block. Bottom shot shows Pomeroy from a distance, demonstrating that topo challenge.
Like it or not, this pic captures what makes Meigs County tick. In the foregrond, the conveyor from the Gattling Corp. coal mine to the River, where the coal is loaded on barges. In the background,the stacks of a power plant over on the West Virginia side. And, of course, a transmission tower bringin' the killowatts to people who need 'em.
And finally, the new bridge from Pomeroy over to West Virginia and, among other destinations, the nearest Wal Mart. The bridge opened in the last year - it lights up a dramatic purple at night. Quite a structure.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Z-A Monday ............... Z

Xavier gently fingered the zoetrope, carefully lifting it from the package, holding it steady, spinning it, watching the moving figures through the whirring slots. A remnant from those carefree, bygone days, he thought.

It was amazing what one could find up in Aunt Zelda's attic. A veritable zoo of stuffed animals, the good kind, with little Steiff tags stapled to their ears.

Xavier looked down at the zany floorboards, noting the zigzag pattern, reminiscent of some stage floor from the Ziegfield Follies. As he stared at the pattern and fell prey to its hypnotic effects, he wished he could zoom ahead a week, to a time when Wendy would leave her home in Zanesville, drive to his little town, and he would finally get the chance to pop that question.

Would she give him the affirmative? Would he be a hero, he pondered, or a zero? For now, he was just tired. He needed to zonk out. He extinguished the attic light and descended the stairs.

to be continued...

watch some zoetrope action by clicking here

Friday, July 10, 2009

I got got got no time!

...In the words of Burton Cummings, or whoever sang it, this weekend is the time for our Relay of Life, and I am about to pull my annual all-nighter for our team there, accompanied by Linda (until she tuckers out) and Number One Son (who will attempt to win the 3-4 a.m. poker run for the third year in a row). So...no weird object for this Friday. Gotta pack up a couple things and head out. More on this event later. Our team nearly raised our goal before the actual relay actually commenced!

Monday, July 6, 2009

A-Z: We have reached Zee End!


We've made it through from A to Z!

The results'll go down in history!

We've covered things domestic and foreign

With writing and pictures that sure weren't borin'

To all who've contributed, I give a salute

And a big ol' July Fourth rooty-toot-toot!

It's been a long road, half of a year

And now our Director has plans, I fear!

'Cause now we will travel back - Z to A

And arrive safely around Christmas day

And though I will keep on, I have no doubt,

I think my poor brain is quite “poemed out”!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Photo

I drove the church van in the parade again this year, ahead of the float publicizing the Vacation Bible School programs of both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in town (same curriculum, different weeks), and behind a float publicizing a Bible museum. I had a van full of passengers this year, including the new Pastor's wife riding shotgun (he walked the route - kudos to him! So did my wife -kudos to her!)

One could agree that the mission of just about any Christian denomination is to "follow Jesus" - and as this picture I took from the windshield while driving (kids - don't do this at home! - I was only going 3 mph!) clearly illustrates, I think we were doing just that for the entire parade route!

Another comment on parades in general. Do you see how the kids now line up along the edge of the street proper, plastic bags in hand? When did the Fourth of July become Halloween, Jr.?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America

We have survived the parade (Linda and I were in it again, with me driving the church van with supplies and various people; Linda passing out bottles of water; the kids went and watched) and a cookout with the kids before they dispersed. William to Columbus to see a Columbus Crew soccer game (as he put it, "What's more American than watching a soccer match on the 4th??") and Em to an in-law's cookout. Later, since our town is one of those that scrounged enough money to put some explosives in the sky, we will head for the Fairgrounds for the annual 20 minute fireworks show, followed by the 60 minute traffic jam. (A friend who engineers a nearby town's fireworks extravaganza says current thinking is the public wants about a 17-20 minute show, with lots of stuff going off simultaneously.)

Meanwhile, the grandpuggle enjoyed some corn on the cob. Hope you are enjoying whatever your Independence Day traditions, old and new, are!

Friday, July 3, 2009

W.O.F. 65 Weird and Unwanted

We took two little girls (our daughter's nieces) and two dogs to the reservoir today to play, frolic, etc. This guy rode along, thankfully on the OUTSIDE. Our city usually sprays for mosquitoes, but in a cost-saving move this year, they are foregoing the spray, which is ultimately probably a good thing for the environs anyhow. I say just build a bunch of bat houses and the bats and birds will take care of the skeeters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NEARfest 2009

Two weekends ago, a friend and I made the annual pilgrimmage to Bethlehem PA, and the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, to attend what is arguably the USA's premier progressive music festival. We eat this stuff up. This year we went for three days - which I think we decided is too much music for almost anyone. But it was a great time, and we also had time to tour Bethlehem, which we think is a pretty neat town despite the local economy (in its heyday, it was home to Bethlehem Steel Corporation - the steel works now sit empty, and are the site of a new casino, which is not exactly as promising to a local economy as, say, steel production once was.)

Friday night kicked off with a band that has been around since 1970 or so. Ever hear of Van der Graaf Generator? I didn't think so. They are a pretty intense bunch of guys; their sax player split a couple years ago, but they are fully capable of a full sound with the threesome. The organ player, Hugh Banton, builds organs for churches and such as a day job (very few of these bands can support their members without some alternative source of income). Van der Graaf was followed by Steve Hillage, guitarist for Saturday's headliner band, Gong, and his band.
the inimitable VdGG - a great show

Saturday kicked off with Cabezas de Cera, three young Mexican lads who played a mix of traditional sounding and avant garde music. The guitar player went through five different instruments, some quite exotic, during the course of the show.
Cabezas' multi-instrumentalist Mauricio Sotelo

Next up, Oblivion Sun, an outgrowth of '70s band Happy the Man, was in great form, and they even busted out a grand piano for a brand new suite.
Oblivion Sun

I admit it: I lust after those classic Mini-Moogs!

Italian jazz-rock band DFA ("duty free area") hit the stage and played their second NEARFest.


Saturday closed with Gong, a band of aging hippies and such from Britain, led by 71-year-old Daevid Allen. He would be the one in the wizard get-up.

This is most of Gong - Steve Hillage on the left. The dude in the hat would be Daevid Allen

Sunday started out with Belgian band Quantum Fantay, a sort of space rock band. They were better than I had expected, and they had a good stage patter. It's always interesting to hear these folks from foreign lands with their decent command of English.
Belgium's Quantum Fantay

Two Swedish bands followed, Beardfish and Trettioariga Kriget (it means "Thirty Years War"). I don't know what it is about the Swedes, but they easily have the most good prog music makers per capita on the planet.
Beardfish - they achieve that retro B-3 and dirty guitar sound.

Trettioariga Kriget - say that fast three times!

We wrapped it up Sunday night, going on midnight, with Premiata Forneroa Marconi (PFM), an Italian band from the 70's, and probably my favorite of the festival, because, like Van der Graaf (my other fave), I remember their stuff from back in the day. They blend the rock with some nice classical sounding nylon guitar/violin sounds.
PFM's Franco Mussida (guitar since late 60's) and Gianluca Tagliavini (relative newcomer)

All in all, not in my top three overall lineups, but hey, you cannot go wrong with this stuff. They consistently sell out the Zoellner in a matter of hours every year - meaning there are at least 1,200 or so of us hard core types willing to come back year after year. And many of us were listening to the likes of Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, early pre-hit machine Genesis, and a host of other back in the "golden era" of 1969-1975 or so.
PFM (also on the blog banner above), with one of their accompanying documentary graphics
Enough of this esoteric music stuff. Just wanted to get it in the record here. I hope to do a future piece on Bethlehem, a very interesting town.