08 January 2013

Living out of a suitcase

I took a number of business trips in 2012. I never stayed more than 2 nights in one place. March was the heaviest month; I was in Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Ohio and Maine. Here is a look at my accommodations.
January: Best Western, Palm Desert, Calif.

March: Holiday Inn Express, Knoxville, TN. 

The pillowcases are marked "firm" and "soft." Must be for the "hard of feeling."

March: Hamilton Hotel, Washington, D.C. 

March: Comfort Inn, Waterville, Maine

March: Hampton Inn, Sydney, Ohio. I arrived about 12:30 a.m. and checked out by 8 a.m.
July: Hotel Deluxe, Portland, Ore.
This dresser reminds me of a Seinfeld episode with the Japanese tourists  that Kramer took in.

August. Outside of Seattle. I forgot the name of the hotel and the city.

October: Sacramento, Calif.

October: Ritz Carlton, Washington, D.C. area. My accommodations were paid for. No way my office would put me up here.

December: Holiday Inn, Burlington, Vt.

08 December 2012

Media malleable

I consume my fair share of media, principally magazines, newspaper, television and movies. The last two have conditioned me to expect certain things to happen in certain situations. Let me explain.

This week my wife and I went to the drugstore in our little village for our annual flu shots. The pharmacy is in the back of the store, with cosmetics, candies, ointments and other departments up front. For some reason, the toy department (such as it is) is in the back and I noticed a whoopie cushion hanging on the rack. So of course I squeezed it. The nurse told my wife that all the middle school kids do that. (She said I must still have some kid in me, and my wife agreed without hesitation.)

But I am getting off the track. As I was waiting, I began to think of that scene from No Country For Old Man in which the character Sugar (shoo-gar) limps into a pharmacy to steal drugs to treat a gunshot wound to his leg. He first had created a diversion outside by blowing up a car. As the patrons rushed outside to see what happened, Sugar raided the drugstore. So I had that image in mind while awaiting the flu shot.

Here's another example. Often, when I am in the car in the garage waiting to back out on my way to work,  I expect someone to pop up from behind the driver's seat. I'm sure you have seen the same movies and TV shows that I have. A fugitive, a stalker or some other degenerate is hiding under a blanket and for some reason, the driver never sees the lump in the back seat before getting into the car. I do look in the back seat, but still sometimes I expect someone to pop up.

Finally, a third example, this one from the movie and book Firestarter (the book was better). Firestarter and her dad are in hiding from the government, but eventually the g-men track them down. They wait until the dad steps unto his patio one morning and then shoot a tranquilizer into him so they can snatch Firestarter. The other night I let the dog out and stood on the top step, surveying the neighborhood. Even though I was not harboring a Firestarter, the thought still occurred to me that I might be shot with a tranquilizer dart. I wasn't, and I'm here today to tell you that with too much media and a vivid imagination, you, too, might be looking over your shoulder.

04 December 2012

A rabbit tale

I took an art history course in college and "discovered" the German print maker Albrecht Durer. I like his animal images, like this rabbit, or hare, as it is titled.

Long before college I was immersed in rabbits. At various times of my boyhood I enjoyed tails of  Peter Cottontail, Bugs Bunny and the Easter Bunny.

All of this is to say: I harbored no prejudice against rabbits. Until this spring. Rabbits had eaten our newly planted hostas.

The landscaper installed full-size hostas last summer. They died back in the winter. Some returned in the spring, but we knew he had planted others. We took out the landscape plan. When my wife and I looked at the locations where hostas had been planted, we saw nothing. We pushed away some leaves and looked closer. Then we saw green shoots even with the top of the ground. In the mornings, I had seen rabbits in the yard. I put two and two together (in college, I also took calculus). It equaled rabbit. I was sure it was them. The landscaper came out to inspect his work. He told me to put up fencing.

"Why do they eat some hostas and not others?" I asked, pointing to a healthy specimen. "Why do some people like chicken and others prefer beef?" he replied.

So we put fencing around the locations where the hostas should have been and the plants recovered. Throughout the summer, I threw clods of dirt at the rabbits to scare them aware, or tried to sneak up on them and ran at them. Maybe I thought they would die of fright. They always escaped. I don't know what I would have done had I caught a rabbit.

In the last three weeks, I've seen a rabbit behind the compost pile at the back of the yard. It sits with its back to the wood fence facing the pile. As I approach the pile, it runs off, sits stock still for a moment, and then runs into the neighboring yard. The rabbit is never "in" the pile itself. I don't see it kicking up leaves to uncover potato peels or carrot scrapings. It just sits there.

A funny thing has happened in the time since I discovered the nibbled-to-the-ground hostas from eight months ago to today. My attitude toward the rabbit has changed. Now, when I go to the pile to add vegetable scraps, I try not to disturb the rabbit. I move as slowly as possible and try not to scare it. I am sympathetic towards it because winter is coming. I wonder what it is going to eat. The hostas have died back and will not return until spring. Will the rabbit?

03 October 2012

Uncrossed words

I usually pick up a new word or fact when I solve a crossword puzzle. Here's what I learned in the past week (the answers are in bold):

Monday. The Oxford English Dictionary has 15,490 pages.

Tuesday. Cryptozoology is the field of study that includes the Loch Ness Monster.

Wednesday. Frank Sinatra mentions Peru in "Come Fly With Me."

Thursday. Pamela is the classic 1740 romance subtitled "Virtue Rewarded."

Friday. Pou Sto means a basis of operations.

Saturday. Toronto is the city originally known as the Town of York.

09 September 2012

The earth talks back

From my volunteer work at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I heard about the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. So on our Labor Day trip to Minnesota to visit my brother-in-law and his wife, we made a point of driving out to Chaska.

It turns out the arboretum is only about 15 minutes from my in-laws. In all the years we've been visiting, we had never been. So on Labor Day Sunday afternoon, the four of us (my wife, my in-laws and I) went to the park. Our Botanic Garden membership card was valid for one free admission. The greeter on duty, who had just visited the Chicago garden, allowed all four of us in on the pass.

We came across this art installation, part of the arboretum's Dirt-O-Rama exhibition, by Daniel Dean and Ryan Wurst. These so-called "sonic flowers" magnify sounds from within the earth. It was the wildest, most exciting concept I've seen in a long term. I immediately thought that my dad would have loved the quirkiness of this.

From their Artist Statement: "Welcome to our Garden of Sonic Flowers. Place your ear at each Sonic Flower's opening to discover the sounds of natural phenomena that act on the Earth's crust to create soil. Listen in on the elemental forces that transform our planet's surface, from the power of earthquakes and tornadoes to the measured action of water falling, moving and freezing."  I made a 30-second video of the experience.


The arboretum is just outstanding. We toured the gardens (annuals, rose, herb garden and others) then drove the 3-mile loop. The perennial grass demonstration garden is inspiring. If we go back, and the weather is milder, we'll walk the loop. If you find yourself in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (the locals call them The Cities), carve out some time to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.