Category Archives: Willy

Letters from Spain

E-Mails that Willy has sent from Spain:

Letter #1:

I don’t mean to give you a heart attack, but yes I am sending an email. Just to show you how ignorant I am on emailing, I couldn’t figure out how to send this to more than one person. I hearby authorize you to send this email to others.

Today was the first day of my hike after 4 days in Madrid. The scenery here reminds me of the West Highland Way. The mountains are not very high, but the feel is the same. It’s as though you are nestled in a valley most of the time you are hiking. There is a feeling of community even though I have only been on the trail for one day. I MET A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM SOUTH AFRICA YESTERDAY AS THEY ARRIVED FROM ST. JEAN IN FRANCE. I walked up with them today along the trail as we hiked from roncevalles, where we started this morning, to our end point for the day in Zubiri.

Please forgive the caps lock, as I couldn’t figure out how to shut it off on this dam Spanish keyboard. The message would have been longer but the Spanish chick at the hostel was mumbling something about shutting down the computer( I think)

Letter #2:

I was going to figure out the multiple address thing,but, that would make sense, and is therefore not the Mcalpine way. I talked to Jay today, and he is going to post a blog of my travel tales.

THE CAPS LOCK THING HAPPENED AGAIN DAM IT! I FIGURED OUT THE PICTURE I SHOULD SEND YOU. THE PICTURE IS THAT OF WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER THE TYPICAL IRISHMAN. HIS NAME IS PADDY (PERFECT) AND HE LIKES TO SMOKE A PIPE AND DRINK. I HAVE TALKED TO HIM OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS AND I THINK I HAVE EARNED HIS TRUST ENOUGH TO ASK HIM TO POSE FOR A PICTURE WITH HIS PIPE. HE IS 63 OR 64 AND IS PLANNING ON HIKING THE WHOLE CAMINO THIS YEAR. LAST YEAR HE DID A WEEK ON THE TRAIL, AND OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS HAD PROMISED HIMSELF THIS WAS THE YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WHOLE TRAIL.

I HAVE REALIZED THAT HIKING THE TRAIL IS WHAT YOU DO TO EARN THE PRIVELEDGE TO SOCIALIZE WITH YOUR FELLOW TRAVELERS. I STAYED IN A HOTEL LAST NIGHT TO HAVE MY OWN SPACE, AND ALTHOUGH I NEEDED THE TIME ALONE, I INSTANTLY MISSED THE SENSE OF COMMUNTIY WITH THE FELLOW TRAVELLERS. I HAVE ENJOYED THE HIKE SO FAR, AND MAY CONTINUE ON THE HIKE UNTIL THE END OF NEXT WEEK. I WILL PROBABLY LEAVE 3 OR 4 DAYS FOR SOME FUN IN THE SUN IN SOUTHERN SPAIN.

ADIOS, FROM WILLY

Letter #3:

It is hard to think about leaving the trail tommorrow. I was thinking about skipping ahead to do the last 100 kilometers to Santiago, which entitles you to a pilgrimage certificate, but you get a little depressed, thinking about the friends you have made so far; and you don’t want to leave them behind. That’s the great thing about being on the trail, you know that you will meet new people every day. There are an incredible number of people that are walking the entire 500 miles of the trail to Santiago, and you kind of feel unworthy of skipping ahead to see Santiago.

Tonight there was a group of 8 that got together and made dinner. There was 3 Americans, 2 New Zealanders, 1 Australian, 1 english woman, and 1German girl. It’s almost unfair the variety of people and cultures you encounter along the trail. There is no way to have this kind of interaction in your ordinary life.

I think this might be an apropriate place to end my hike tommorrow, in Logrono. I think I will head to southern Spain and spend some time on the beach, as well as head to Seville; and possibly still Morrocco.

The hardest thing about travelling is having to pick and choose where you go. You can’t see and do everything, and knowing that, you want the experience to be as broad an experience as possible.

Minutia – Chapter 4: Failure

Chapter 4: Failure

Thomas Edison failed on his first 100 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked if he was upset with all of his failures he responded that they weren’t failures. He had learned 100 different ways not to invent the light bulb. I think of that story at times when I need motivation and I can’t seem to make the picture in my head and the picture on the screen the same. Then I also remember that Thomas Edison used to publicly electrocute cats and dogs to show the dangers of Tesla’s competing style of electricity. That reminds that the distance between genius and insanity is measured by success.

I had just got home from Ames. I had a belly full of Club sandwich. I had invites to not one but two swinging parties burning in the back of my mind. One party was in Des Moines. This party was to celebrate Nate and Ryan’s birthdays. If I attended this party I would get to see Ryan. He is the recognized master of the high five. This was a strong selling point.

The second party was for Sara H.’s graduation. She had recently graduated college and was having one last shindig before she left for North Carolina for a stint with Habitat for Humanity. While Ryan is an acknowledged master of the high five, Sara is an acknowledged master of profanity. Perhaps the only one I know.

Sara H.’s party was in Ogden. Nate’s party was in Des Moines. I considered my options. Then I considered that the sun was quickly fading in the sky. It had been a while since I had felt the Maxxum 5D in my hands, if you hadn’t counted the pictures of Bethany and her new camera I had taken an hour or so ago.

I was feeling restless. I grabbed the camera and loaded the car up with fake flowers. I hit the road. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know where I wanted to go. Plus, I was going to need an assistant.

There was really only one man for the job of assistant. With apologies to Baier, if I were an artistic genius like Van Gogh, Jay would be my Gauguin. This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Jay would look great with a mustache. The second reason is that Jay is always riding me for being lazy.

Any time that I say that I should put up a tripod, but that I won’t do it because it is too time consuming, he is right on my back calling me lazy.

I dream that someday Jay and I can have a confrontation where he tells me that the only thing he can tell by looking at my work is that I work too fast. So I can get right back in his grill and tell him that he “looks too fast”. If this happens I would prefer that Jay was wearing red pants.

I had drove around aimlessly for awhile before deciding on giving Jay a call. He answered his phone and sounded a bit like a man that had been beaten down. I’m sure he had. He had probably spent 10 hours at work.

Without trying to sound pushy I asked Jay if he might be interested in helping me with a little photo project that I was working on.

“When?”

“The sooner the better.” In reality I had some disposable time, but I wasn’t in the patient mood.

“I’ll need to take a shower first.”

“It would be better if you didn’t.”

That sentence kind of hung there for awhile.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It might involve you getting wet.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want to go down to a stream and then you are going to throw these fake flowers into the stream. It might involve you actually getting into the stream, plus we might have to cross the stream, and you might have to help me find the flowers if they get lost. Plus there is always the chance of mud.”

“I can’t take a shower?”

“I wouldn’t see the point. You are just going to have to take a shower after we are done.”

“I really stink.”

“We both are probably going to stink before this little exercise (in futility) is over.”

“Why me?”

“Because you are my Gauguin!”

“Wasn’t he kind of a prick?”

“It would be better than being my Signac?”

“Yeah, that pointillism joker with his ‘scientific method’.”

“Yeah, screw that guy.”

“Screw pointillism too.”

“So you’re in?”

“The deal is that you can’t complain that I stink.”

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

I swung by Jay’s pad and picked him up. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do. Although I knew this was going to be entirely a test run for a later photo, I needed to make the test run as soon as possible. The deadline for State Fair Photography Salon was quickly approaching and I wanted to be able to place my order with Adorama with plenty of time to spare. That way I would get the pictures back with plenty of time to discuss my matting options with Monica. After all, Monica is my matting expert because of her vast knowledge of the color wheel. Plus she can put a picture on different colored mattes and say “that looks good, it really brings out color X.”

I’m not at liberty to discuss what I am trying to do with this picture. Only Monica gets to see the four pictures I enter to the State Fair Photography Salon before the reception the Tuesday before the State Fair opens. At that point, Sara J. gets to see the pictures. Then, I might post them on my website. That is if I do well. If I don’t do well, I just pretend like I’ve never heard of the State Fair Photography Salon.

Jay got in the car. I didn’t smell any stench on the man. Which means he was either grousing for no reason or he had made haste to take the White Trash Shower. I didn’t smell an excess of cologne on him, so I think that he was really just trying to buy time until he could think of a good reason not to wade through a stream with me. His plan failed.

I turned the radio up and we headed towards McHose Park.

I had chosen the stream that ran behind McHose Park. Perhaps it isn’t the most sanitary stream in the world, but it had three things that I prized above all else.

The thing I wanted the most was solitude. I knew that if I was hanging around this stream, I would most likely be able to do my work in peace. As opposed to Ledges, where there would be people crawling all over the place. McHose Park is always busy on the front side, but not many people hang around the backside, unless they are engaging in an illegal narcotic based activity. If I ran into such people, we would leave each other alone.

The second thing that I liked about the stream behind McHose Park is that while it isn’t deep, there are sections of it that are fairly deep. The water can get as deep as 3 to almost 4 feet deep. Finding one of these deep spots would be key to my artistic pursuit on this day.

The final thing that appealed to me was clear water. Unlike portions of the stream at Ledges or Squaw Creek, the water that runs through this stream is very clear. At least in the parts of the creek that have a sandy bottom.

One of the sad truths about McHose Park is that despite being one of the largest and most beautiful City Parks in the state, it has come into disrepair lately. The main paved road that cuts through the park has huge sections where the term pothole seems to hardly even be appropriate. The gravel back roads are eroding away and the city does not seem to be interested in grading them. A couple of the bridges on the backside of the park are well past being called safe.

I drove down the one gravel road that is still passable for somebody in a sedan. I stopped and parked a few hundred feet past Turtle Pond. I parked right in front of the Water Treatment Facility.

There are no words that adequately describe the smell that first attacks your nostrils when you smell the air outside of the Water Treatment Facility. If Jay was worried about any body odor, this smell should have put him at ease. I don’t know the person that can produce an odor that can compete with this smell. For purposes of intellectual honesty, I should admit that I do know a couple, but nobody that I would ever allow in my car.

Years ago McHose Park had a road on its very backside that you could drive through. It was a gravel road that allowed you to drive through the stream on a couple of occasions. For some reason, the City closed down this road. Although you can’t drive on it any longer, it is still there. Slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by the forest. We walked down what is left of this road.

When I originally envisioned this project, I thought about a part of the stream that is on the very south edge of McHose Park. A part of the stream that was almost all the way to US30. There was a small waterfall at this part of the stream and a stretch of the stream that was a decent depth. However, we were quite a ways away from that part of the stream, so I decided to just make do with the first decent part of the stream I came across. After all, these were just test shots. It didn’t need to be perfect.

Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as walked down the road, past a crane and a Bobcat that blocked part of the road. Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as we approached a section of the road where the stream crossed the road.

Jay looked at me and said, “Now what?”

My plan wasn’t terribly thought out. I told him what I knew.

“You are going to stand down here. I am going to walk down there.” I said while pointing in the general direction of downstream. “When I give you the signal, I want you to throw the fake flowers in the stream.”

“That is it? You drug me out here to throw fake flowers into a stream?”

I saw that he had brought with him his particular brand of insolence.

“Yeah, that is pretty much it.” I conceded.

I decided to take on the stream barefooted. I loathe sandals and do not own a pair or their bastard offspring the flip flop. I can’t even bring myself to say flip flop. Last time I bought a pair, I made Olivia refer to them as “water related footwear.” Those “shoes” ended up in the bottom of the channel that separates Lower Cullen Lake and Middle Cullen Lake. It was either lose the “shoes” or go underwater with the Maxxum 5. Today I chose to go barefoot.

I do not know if Jay thought what I was doing was stupid, but he didn’t ask me any questions. If Jay knew what I was about to do was stupid, he has been conditioned in past encounters to let me make my own mistakes.

The other theory that I can operate under is that Jay might have noticed that I was wearing hiking boots. He may have considered the possibility that I didn’t want to get my hiking boots wet or muddy. They might have been my dress shoes. After all, we did have a friend that was vacationing in Spain that tried to pass hiking boots off as dress shoes on more than one occasion.

Whatever Jay’s motivation for not pointing out my stupidity, what I was about to do was a very stupid thing. I was going to try to make my way through a series of concrete blocks and rocks to a part of the stream that was just sand. These concrete blocks and rocks stuck out of the stream at weird angles. These concrete blocks and rocks were intermittently covered with algae.

I took off my boots and socks. I waded into the stream. The cool temperature of the water gave me an initial shock, but that gave way to a sensation of pleasure. The water was rather refreshing.

I inched my way off the road and onto a concrete block. My first step was decisive. Then I stood there and realized I didn’t really have a good second step. The rocks and the blocks were at funky angles. While I would have no problem handling this situation with two hands free, one hand was clutching the Maxxum 5D. True I could have left the camera dangling from its strap around my neck, but quite frankly I don’t believe in the camera strap. I believe in my right hand.

I was standing on a concrete block. On all sides of me was rushing water. About a foot a way was the bank. I could have stepped to the bank and walked about 20 feet and hopped into the stream in a place that wasn’t occupied by a mishmash of rocks and blocks.

It is possible that what crossed my mind was that taking the bank would have been a wimp’s way out. I would say the way of the pansy, but I have since learned that the pansy is actually a very hardy flower and does not deserve to be compared with people that are feeble or cowardly. The iris on the other hand . . .

In actuality I don’t think I ever considered the bank. I made a few more tentative steps. It seemed like I was going to make it. I made a few more steps. It seemed like this plan was going to work.

Then I tried to step up on to a concrete block. I placed my foot on top of a rock and began to push off. The rock was covered in algae. My foot slipped right off. I lost my balance and started to fall face first towards the concrete block.

I had an option though. I could put a couple of hands in front of me and stop my fall or at least push myself off to the side of the concrete block. The only problem was that I held the Maxxum 5D in one hand. If I tried to use it to help stop my fall it would surely be smashed into several no longer functioning pieces or it would have ended up in the stream. Then it would have been in one no longer function piece.

Out of my peripheral vision I realized that I still was only a few short feet from the bank. I tossed the Maxxum 5D in to a growth of grass and continued to let gravity take its course.

I put my hands out and pushed against the concrete block. My face was saved. My body shot upwards, but I was still not in equilibrium. I fell to the side and landed in the water.

“You alright?”

Jay’s concern was heart warming. I pulled myself and what was left of my dignity out of the water. I walked over to the bank to find the Maxxum 5D. It was sitting on top of the grass, looking as if it had not been flying through the air a few moments earlier. I picked it up. I looked it over. I tested it. It was fine.

I sat down on the concrete block and looked myself over. The camera was still in one piece. My face was still intact. There was a throbbing pain in my left foot though.

This term is not used with any kind of medical training. I believe that I hyperextended my left foot. When I was falling on the rock, all my weight went on the front of my foot and my toes bent upwards well past where they are supposed to stop bending. The result was a dull throbbing pain on the bottom side of my foot that felt like a bruise, but there wasn’t a bruise to be found. Further examination of my foot revealed a decent sized gash along the side of my big toe.

“I’m fine,” I answered. “Just a little cut.”

“We calling it a day?” He asked, but he already knew the answer.

I just gave him the look. The look that indicated that I wasn’t an iris, I was a pansy.

“Want your boots then?”

“Yeah, that suddenly sounds like a real good idea.”

Jay threw me my boots and I made the rest of the journey without incident. I stopped at a bend in the stream that was about 100 feet from Jay. It seemed like a good spot because on the west side of the stream there was a clearing on the bank. Plus on the outside part of the stream’s bend, the water was at least 2.5 to 3 feet deep. I gave Jay the signal.

He began dropping the fake flowers into the stream. I waited. He kept throwing them in. I waited. He had thrown them all in. I waited. I waited. I waited.

“This isn’t going to work.” He yelled downstream at me.

“Why not?”

“They’re sinking.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t matter what it makes, they all sank.”

I began to walk upstream. Sure enough, not even 20 feet from Jay I found all of the fake flowers. They had all sunk. Fake flowers don’t float. This didn’t make sense. The flowers were made out of plastic, which floats, and silk which I would assume isn’t heavy enough to sink. I had reckoned wrong. I reckoned that maybe that the part of the stream where Jay had thrown the flowers in was too turbulent for proper floating. I grabbed all the flowers and headed back to my bend.

I dropped the flowers into the calmer area of the stream. They floated for a second and then they dropped to the stream bottom.

This sucked. I looked up to call out to Jay. I wanted to tell him that this sucked, but he was gone. It was like that moment in the horror movie where two people are in the woods and one of them disappears. Either the person that disappears shows up moments later for a “fake scare” or their body shows up in the third act all distorted and mutilated.

This wasn’t a horror movie though. Jay showed up moments later. He had wandered off and collected some small real flowers.

“This sucks.” I was finally able to verbalize, but I had lost some of the venom.

He ignored me and threw the flowers into the stream.

“Real flowers float.”

Which was great, but not real helpful. If I was going to use real flowers for my picture, I would need a flower with a much larger bloom than what Jay was finding. I saw a grouping of the type of flowers that Jay was throwing into the stream and I took a few pictures of them so that I could identify them later.

I came back to the stream and tried to get what I could out of the sinking flowers. I figured it was good enough for a test run.

I walked back to Jay, got out of the steam and walked the uncomfortable walk of somebody with wet boots. While I was walking in these wet boots to the car I decided that I didn’t really feel much like going to a party. I felt like getting out of these shoes, taking a shower, and playing with Photoshop. This would be my Saturday night. Not exciting, but I would get plenty of sleep and be able to start up my church streak again. Plus I would be plenty rested for the next day’s graduation festivities.

When we got back to the car I came to the sad realization that even though this was a test run, I hadn’t learned how to take the picture that I wanted. I had learned a way not to take the picture that I wanted.



Broken Bridge of McHose Park

05-19-07
Back of the Crane

05-19-07
The Deceptively Tricky Rapids


“You should have worn your shoes and I would look smashing wit a mustache.”


The Small Flowers on the Bank


Coming Back from the Bend

05-19-07

Chapter 3: Tenderloining It!

Chapter 3: Tenderloining It!

Tenderloining it! I’m sure if you were to rush to your dictionary you would fail to find the term “tenderloining” anywhere within its pages. One of the great things about language is the fact that it is constantly evolving. What was not a word, a correct usage, or a correct spelling will over time be absorbed and become a part of the language. Language evolves. New words are added. Old words are left behind like a vestigial tail.

“Tenderloining” might not be an accepted English word yet, but if I have my way, it will be a common term in the near future. It will be common to hear people answer questions about their weekend plans with the simple two word retort: “Tenderloining it!” or the variation, “The wife and I are going to tenderloin it up!” The variation will sometimes be accompanied by the optional international “raise the roof” gesture. Two high shrilled “whoos!” will also be optional.

I personally had been aching to go tenderloining for almost half a year now. I have been passionate about the tenderloin ever since I knew such a sandwich existed. I have been interested in the concept of perfection since I learned that it wasn’t attainable. I have been fascinated by the concept of rankings since I received my first issue of Sports Illustrated as a child. I had been aching to go to a restaurant known as Darrell’s Place in Hamlin, Iowa ever since I knew that they served what was considered to be the best tenderloin in the state.

Now if you lived in a sissy state like Nebraska, Massachusetts, or Arizona; having the best tenderloin in the state might not mean much. On the other hand, in a state like Iowa (where we know our meat) having the best tenderloin is quite an accomplishment.

I had to make my own estimations though. A tenderloin aficionado such as myself can’t just merely take the word of somebody else. I had to see, smell, and taste for myself. Not by myself though, but with somebody.

I am not a solitary creature. If I were to ever send a secret to Post Secret, that wasn’t something meaningful or actually deep, it would be that I don’t like to eat alone. But it just isn’t my fear of dining alone that made me seek out a compatriot for my tenderloin road trip.

It is my belief that a road trip, although it can be made alone, is much better when shared. Although this wasn’t going to be a long road trip, it was still going to be over 4 hours round trip, plus dining time. I needed to find somebody to share the adventure.

I took a look at the list of my normal road trip chums. It didn’t look promising. Most of my friends that would be interested in such a venture had the type of job where you have to work on weekends. My friends that don’t work on the weekend wouldn’t want to drive 2 hours just to eat a tenderloin. There was the possibility of Willy. He only works 4 days a week and does enjoy hitting the open road on occasion. Plus despite his vigorous workout routine, his dietary habits are far from exemplary. The only problem with Willy is that his planner is imaginary and he is notoriously flaky. Particularly when it comes to committing and then backing out of road trips.

Then there was the possibility of Jay. He was definitely a fan of the road trip. He is as reliable as Willy is flaky. There were just two problems with Jay. The first one being that in order for him to get a Saturday off, he has to ask for it one lunar cycle in advance, do a rain dance, wish on a falling star, and pray for a miracle. Then if everything breaks just right, he might get a Saturday off. The second problem is that Jay on occasion likes to eat “healthy”. I was worried that we would make the 2 hour drive to Hamlin and when we got there he would embarrass us in front of the locals by ordering a salad.

When it seemed that all was lost, I was given a surprise. I was discussing my desire to try the state’s best tenderloin with Baier one day. He announced to me that not only had he been to Darrell’s Place, but he was willing to proclaim it the best tenderloin that he had ever taken down.

Eureka! I had my compatriot! Baier is from Audubon, which is a mere stone’s throw from Hamlin. Not only did I have a compatriot. I had a guide. I had access to a wealth of local knowledge. This might have been divine intervention.

The only problem now was scheduling a time to make our pilgrimage. It didn’t turn out to be as easy as I had suspected. Despite us both not having most weekends free from work (me from the computer mine and he from his cushy financial planner job) it turns out we sure had a lot of other commitments. It seemed like our schedules were never going to line up. It seemed that the sun and moon crossed paths more than us.

Yet when all hope seemed to be lost Baier came to me with an offer. He was going to Audubon with his family to witness a dance recital. I could ride along with them, but that would mean spending the night in Audubon. Or I could drive myself and then drive myself back. That would mean losing the communal spiritual experience that is the road trip.

Then I got an e-mail from Shannon about the possibility of getting a little scratch for taking pictures of beans. After I met with her I knew that the shooting schedule was going to be tight. They wanted a pretty quick turnaround. I sent an e-mail to Baier telling him that I needed to back out of the trip. I would have to “work” on Saturday. It turns out that in this relationship I was the one that was flaky.

Although I badly longed for the taste of the state’s best tenderloin, it did not hurt me too much to send the cancellation notice to Baier. I’ve been called a “true believer” in the past. This roadtrip that we were going to make wasn’t pure. This road trip wasn’t all about the tenderloin. This road trip was all about a dance recital with a little bit of tenderloin on the side. A little diversion. Nothing more.

“Tenderloining it” isn’t a diversion. It isn’t eating lunch because we are hungry. “Tenderloining it” is the activity. It is the alpha and the omega. It isn’t the delta, the gamma or the epsilon. I wanted this experience to be about the tenderloin, not something we can do because we are in the area.

Baier sent an e-mail back that consisted of his booing me. It is not the first time that I have been booed by him. I do not know if it is something that it is in the water in Audubon or if it is merely a Baier family trait,(I will have to watch his children for this trait) but it is the manner that he shows his lack of approval for the actions of his friends. Although I have been booed numerous times in the past, I had not been booed by him since I told him I was going to watch Barack Obama speak and I asked if he might be interested in attending as well. He booed me.

I am not a fan of booing. When I attend sporting events I go to cheer for my team. I do not go to deride the other team. I only crack out the “boo” when I am facing evil in its purest form: the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

Like all the times in the past, I told Baier that he was a big kid now and he needed to use his “words”.

He booed me again. Then there was silence.

Late on Thursday I got an e-mail from Baier. The e-mail was entitled “My Final Offer”. This sounded an awful lot like an ultimatum. Although it has never been diagnosed (nor do I even fathom that something like this actually exists) I have a firm belief that I suffer from a Psychological Reactance Disorder. I considered for a second not even opening up this ultimatum. Who was he to give me an ultimatum?

Then a vision of the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa danced across my head. I decided to take the risk of opening the arrogantly entitled e-mail. I gave Baier his “final chance”.

Turned out that his final offer was actually a pretty good offer. He proposed that I take off work an hour early on Tuesday. He would pick me up and then we would be on the road to tenderloin greatness. Furthermore, he proposed an extra stop to help settle a family dispute.

Baier’s old man used to run a Ford dealership in Exira, which is about another stone’s throw from Hamlin. The Old Man always claimed that Darrell’s Place did not deserve its place in the Tenderloin Pantheon. A place in Exira called The Red Barn served the superior tenderloin. Baier proposed that we call ahead and order 1 tenderloin to go from the Red Barn and then split it between us on the way to Hamlin. He was proposing nothing less than Tenderloin Judgment Day.

The prospect of sitting in judgment on not 1, but 2 tenderloins excited me. I wrote him back immediately that his proposal was accepted and I looked forward to the 2 Tenderloin Road trip, as it will become known to future generations.

The Tuesday came. It was New Taste Tuesday and it was Steve’s turn in the rotation. There was some debate about whether or not it should in fact be Steve’s choice since on the previous Tuesday he had vetoed Frank’s choice of The Café and then took us to Dublin Bay. A power he had because he was driving the car.

Frank chose to take the higher road and allowed Steve to have the choice and Steve chose Indigo Joe’s. I was hoping that this would be a quick restaurant since I was hoping that we would have enough time left over for us to make a stop at Best Buy so I could pick up the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Steve would still have time to have his smoky treat.

As we were cruising down Duff I hatched a rather brilliant plan. Indigo Joe’s is a sports bar. I could have a tenderloin for lunch and have perhaps the first 3 tenderloin day in recorded history. (Although some killjoys would no doubt want an asterisk placed next to my record and it stated that in fact I really only had 2.5 tenderloins.)

However, it would be a moot point. Indigo Joe’s does not have a tenderloin on their menu. A mistake they would compound by having extremely slow service. Which slightly surprises me since we sat in the bar area and I almost always get fantastic service when I sit in the bar area. That surprise aside, my dream of buying “Pan’s Labyrinth” was squashed.

I returned to the mine content to just finish out my workday.

A little after 5 pm Baier showed up. I was done with my work for the day and I only had to hand off the kid that was job shadowing me to the Company President. It had been about 20 minutes since Angie handed the kid off to me and I had yet to show him anything that even slightly interested him. I offered to show him the insides of a computer and he said he didn’t want to see them. He was equally unimpressed by our server rack. The South Parker Server was also a bust. It was after 5 so I handed him off to his next keeper.

By the time I handed him off we were already behind schedule. So my brief hope of making a stop at Best Buy was once again extinguished. Instead I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and we loaded up his car and hit US30 heading west.

On the way to Exira we made polite conversation. It ranged from the buffoonery of many NFL players to the times we shared at Dasher Mismanagement to religion to capitol punishment. They were the type of every day conversation that two intellectual giants have when they are sharing one another’s company. I wonder if it was the kind of conversations that Van Gogh and Gauguin might have shared when they lived together in that yellow house in Arles. Perhaps Baier and I could open up a colony in southern Iowa for fellow tenderloin lovers. That might just be a pipe dream though.

About 10 minutes from Exira Baier called The Red Barn and placed our order for one tenderloin. Perhaps two dudes with less security in their sexuality might not have been able to split a tenderloin. Fortunately we didn’t have this problem.

When we arrived at Exira he pointed out The Red Barn to me. At first I thought he was joking. From the outside it looked like a little shack. It was maybe ¼ the size of the Whistle Stop Café in Boone. It wasn’t even a barn. It was a tragic misnomer. The Red Tool Shed would have been a more accurate name. I tried to remind myself that looks could be deceiving. Some of the best barbecue in the world is in a little dump called Big Daddy’s in Des Moines. This could be the Big Daddy’s of Exira and the tenderloin world.

We didn’t stop though. Baier just cruised right on by. I peered at the window longing for the tenderloin that waited for us inside.

“Where you going?” I demanded.

“I’m going to give you the tour of Exira. Plus I need to stop at Casey’s and do some damage to their restroom.” He answered.

Truth be known, Baier is not the type of guy that would use that type of description of the human body’s biological function of waste disposal. I just feel like if I didn’t make the description more colorful, it might be less believable. Women need to think that when men are together without female supervision that it is utter chaos. A steady stream of profanity, crotch grabbing, scatological humor, and rubber necking.

It is safer to think that he said something along the lines of “drain the lizard, take the kids to the river, see a guy about a horse, or drain the main vein.” Truth is that he probably said something to the effect that he needed to use Casey’s facilities.

Whatever he said, I got the nickel tour of Exira. It consisted of driving up one road and stopping at Casey’s. While we were at Casey’s I also decided to take a leak. When I got out of the bathroom Baier was standing in front of an ATM machine. He seemed to be staring it down. But he wasn’t attempting to use it. He was just staring at it.

I broke his concentration by offering, “It must have impressed the natives when this type of technology became available to them two weeks ago.”

“I’m just trying to decide if I want to get any money.”

We stood there in silence for a few moments and then he indicated that it wouldn’t be necessary. Moments later we were back in the car driving the six blocks back to The Red Barn.

We parked on the east side of the restaurant. The Red Barn is a rectangular shaped building. We entered through a door that was square in the middle of one of the long sides of the rectangle.

Once inside I checked out both halves of the restaurant. On the left it looked like we had walked into somebody’s kitchen. It was not the industrial kitchen that I was used to seeing. It looked like my Grandma’s kitchen. The difference being that my Grandma has a pizza oven in her kitchen. I didn’t see a piece of equipment that looked that professional grade in this kitchen.

The other half of the restaurant contained four tables. Three of those tables were filled with townies. I have often heard the term small town hospitality. I have often been the recipient of small town hospitality. Don’t think that I dislike small towns. To the contrary, I hate cities. I love small towns. That being said, we were not the recipient of any small town hospitality.

The townies were staring bullets at us. For whatever reason, they did not want us there. I hoped silently that our sandwich was ready and we wouldn’t have to occupy the 4th table and wait. I didn’t want to answer any question like:

“Where you boys from?”

“You from the city? I can smell city on you!”

“You boys ain’t from around here, are ya?”

“Those are pretty clothes ya wearin’. You get those at a JC Penny’s”

“You want to squeal like a pig?”

My hopes were answered though. A teenage girl was working the counter. Baier stepped up to the counter. I subconsciously stepped with him. I didn’t want to separate too far from him. Just in case one of these townies wanted to back up the smack their glares were talking.

“I have a to go order for Baier.” He said.

The girl turned around and grabbed a brown paper bag that had his name written upon it. She came back and said, “$3.65”

Baier pulled out his credit card and said, “Do you take credit?”

The teenage girl began to speak, but before she could I cut her off, “Dude, we are in the sticks! You really think they are going to take credit cards.”

As I uttered the words I realized that I had just exponentially increased our odds of having somebody make one of us squeal like a pig. The bad news was that we didn’t have a young Burt Reynolds waiting in the car for us.

Baier was nonplussed and repeated the question.

Now that I had insulted the area, she seemed a little embarrassed to say, “No, we don’t.” I think she was wishing that they did take credit cards so she could have shut me up.

Baier moved on to form of payment number two.

“Do you take checks?”

“Yes, we do.” She said.

“From out of town?”

“No we don’t.”

“But my parents live in Audubon.” Baier tried to negotiate.

At this point I could feel the eyes of 6 or 7 townies burrowing into me. I had my wallet out and was reaching for the cash that I had brought with me because I didn’t even think we would see an ATM machine where we were going. But before I got my twenty out, the teenage girl had turned and walked back to a wall. I presume that behind the wall was the fryer. Also behind that wall was the person in charge.

“Can we take a check from out of town if their parents live in Audubon?”

The voice that answered was not kind or friendly. In fact it could only be described as snotty. That voice answered, “I’d prefer not to.”

The teenage girl came back up to the counter and gave us the bad news that we had already heard.

“That is really okay,” I said pushing the twenty into her hand. “I have cash.”

She took the money and brought me back my change. Baier grabbed the sandwich and I made haste to get out of the line of sight of the townies.

Once I was back outside the fresh air emboldened me. Although I felt very claustrophobic inside the restaurant, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the fair town of Exira. I reached into the backseat and grabbed the Maxxum 5D. I felt like taking some pictures of the area.

I had only brought my 50mm lens. It has become my standard lens. A fixed focal length lens is a good standard lens for a photographer. It teaches you discipline. So I was not able to get any wide angle shots of anything, but I took some pictures of The Red Barn, the Exira town sign, and of some grain bins.

I got back into the car and Baier asked if I wanted to go see the “Plow in the Oak”. It was nearby. I most certainly did.

I had read about the “Plow in the Oak” on a few occasions. It is exactly what it sounds like. A plow that over time is slowly being devoured by an Oak tree. Legend has it that a farmer left the plow next to the oak to go off to fight in the Civil War. As the years piled up and the owner never returned the oak grew around the plow. Eventually it gobbled up the plow.

I had even seen pictures of the “Plow in the Oak”. Jay and Willy had once stopped and taken pictures of the oddity on a rare road trip where Willy hadn’t flaked out.

>We headed out of Exira and stopped at the “Plow in the Oak” Park. It was decided that we should have dinner before desert. We split up the tenderloin and took it down. It was indeed a very tasty tenderloin. One of the best tenderloins I have ever had. However, could it compete with the tenderloin that legend claims is the best in the Cyclone State? That was yet to be determined.

We exited the car and followed the signs that pointed us in the direction of what we had come to see. At the far south end of the park there is indeed an oak tree with a plow sticking out of two sides of it. Not much though. There was maybe two inches of the plow sticking out on both sides. If I was the type that did any reckoning, I’d reckon that the plow will be completely devoured within the next 5 years.

As we walked back to the car Baier became excited. I think he was invigorated by smelling his native air. He stated that he wished we had more time so we could go see the “Tree in the Road”.

Knowing full well what the answer was going to be I asked, “What is the ‘Tree in the Road’?”

“It is a tree in the middle of a road.”

Honestly I am interested in seeing this oddity, but I’m more interested in a people that would just let a tree grow in the middle of a road. These aren’t my people though. I’m a Boonie. Boonies are my people. I understand them. I don’t think I will ever quite understand the mentality that just watches a tree grow in the middle of a road and doesn’t think:

“We might want to do something about that.”

I merely indicated that we will have to do that sometime. Then I handed over the Maxxum 5D.

“Hold this, please.” I said than I began digging in the backseat for a tripod.

At the beginning of every great road trip I think about taking a road trip group picture. I always envision a picture of the group of hardy travelers pictured next to their noble steed. I never end up taking this picture because Willy flakes out and puts me in a foul mood. This time I wasn’t to be denied.

“It is time for the road trip group picture.”

“What is that?”

“A picture of us with our noble steed.”

I began to setup the tripod and the camera and I turned around and saw that Jason was sitting on the hood of his car.

“Think you will have time to get up on the hood of the car?” he asked.

“The timer will be set for 10 seconds, which will be plenty of time, but are you sure that your hood can handle this much weight?”

This was the question I spoke, but what I really thought was that this picture is going to look kind of gay. I wondered if it was things like this that had made some scholars postulate that Gauguin and Van Gogh had “got it on! Whooo!”

“It can handle it.”

“This might look a little gay.”

He answered, “For two people less secure in their sexuality that would be a problem.”

It was an airtight argument. Neither of us was the type to answer a question about a perceived feminine activity with the answer, “because I’m not gay” or “let me check, nope I don’t have a vagina.”

So I started the timer and jumped softly onto the hood of the car next to Baier. Quite frankly though, I was never really very comfortable. It seemed to me that any moment the hood was going to collapse and the roadtrip would be over. That would have been a tragedy for Baier’s car and a tragedy for future generations who would only know this road trip as the “Failed Tenderloin Road Trip”.

Fortunately the ten seconds flew by and the shutter clicked. Potential disaster was averted. The hood and car were still in one piece as we hopped off the hood. We hopped back in the car and got back on the highway. Destination: “Best Tenderloin in Iowa.”

We pulled into Hamlin five minutes later. There isn’t much to the town. I’d say a few houses, Darrell’s Place, and a junkyard. Darrell’s place and the junkyard are right next to one another. Literally the east wall of Darrell’s place is facing a junkyard. There is a fence in the parking lot that separates Darrell’s place from the junkyard.

I had only seen something like this on one other occasion. Not surprisingly, that other occasion was south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When we were in Louisiana and we were searching for a place to eat we drove past a Church’s Chicken that sat on a corner lot. On two sides of the lot were streets. The other two sides of the lot were fences that separated the restaurant from a junkyard. On that day we chose to keep looking. On this day, I accepted the junkyard as just a small town quirk. A story that could be told later:

“The tenderloin was fantastic, but you won’t believe this little factoid. It actually shared a wall with a junkyard. I’m serious.”

We pulled onto the lot. I was relieved to see that this was an actual full sized restaurant. Although it looked like it was a steel building and a little more like a year round State Fair food stand than a restaurant, I was glad for its size. At least if we were crowded in with townies, we could keep some distance.

We walked in the door and sat ourselves. We choose a table that was near a stack of Darrell’s Place merchandise. I also noted that we were directly in front of a lottery machine. This restaurant had bathrooms. Two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. It had a salad bar. It had a full bar. Although it wasn’t enormous, this was a real restaurant. Not a food stand masquerading as a restaurant. It isn’t that I mind food stands. On the contrary, there is pork place that sets up shop in downtown Boone that is incredible. I just prefer that things be true to themselves. Don’t pretend to be a restaurant when you are a glorified food stand.

I looked over the merchandise and although I had fully intended to purchase some memento to remember the trip, I only came home with a belly full of pork and a brain full of memories. It turned out that the merchandise was horribly ugly. Not in the splash the American flag and an eagle on a t-shirt Harley Davidson style ugly. (Also known as Art in the Park ugly – I mean really who looks at a saw blade with a picture of John Wayne painted on it and hopes they have enough wall space left for that.) It was more like they had taken no effort to design anything at all. The shirts and hat only said the name and address of the place in a nondescript font. I decided to pass and I sat down across from Baier.

I was facing the west wall. The west wall was filled with booths. Those booths were filled with people. Note that I write people and not townies. These people seemed to be interested in their own conversations and their own compatriots. When they did look at us, it seemed like they were happy to see us. We weren’t invaders from the big city horde. We were fellow travelers in the night, only seeking the best tenderloin we could find. This was the kind of small town hospitality you read about.

Darrell’s Place is the kind of place that keeps the menus on the table. We were looking at the menus when the waitress came to take our order.

Baier had the unmitigated gall to ask me if I was going to get a tenderloin. Did he think that we had traveled over 2 hours for me to see what kind of burger this joint made? Did he think that I was going to embarrass him like Jay had once embarrassed Jesse and I buy ordering boneless wings at Wings to Go? Did he think when I was offered a heaven, I would say, “No thanks. I’m going to check out purgatory and Hell first and see what they have to offer. If I don’t find anything I like I’ll probably settle on heaven, if the property taxes aren’t too high.” This was the sole purpose of our trip. Why would I drop the ball? Would I look at the menu and be think “Ooh they serve catfish! I wonder if that is any good?”

It was with no small amount of incredulous that I said, “We drove halfway across the state to try this tenderloin, why would I get something else?”

The waitress then said, “You didn’t drive halfway across the state for this.” Then she shot me a look that said, “Keep your BS to a minimum mister. This is Hamlin, Iowa. We only want straight shooters in our midst.”

I was not going to be called out on the carpet for speaking the near truth. So I reiterated. “Actually we did. We got off work and drove from Ames for this. Although perhaps not literally half the state, I think it is in the general ballpark.”

She seemed to accept this information.

The rest of the ordering process went fairly confrontational free. The only hiccup being that they served two different types of fried cheese. Now here is another little secret for you. I love me some fried cheese. When the day comes that I have a massive coronary from eating all this fried food and the doctor tells me no more “fried cheese products”, I’ll have to look him straight in the eye and ask him, “How many more heart attacks do you think I can survive? Just a ballpark figure.”

We reached the compromise that Baier ordered one type of fried cheese and I order the other. I have no doubt that history will record this event as the “Great Fried Cheese Compromise of 2007” and it will be placed next to the other great compromises of history like “The 3/5 Compromise” and the “She Sure Married Beneath Her Compromise” that is seen the world over.

As we sat waiting for our fried food to come our way I noticed that the people of Hamlin sure enjoy playing the lottery. Somebody must have come by our table to visit the lottery machine every few minutes.

After the third person came by to self tax themselves and move the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor, our food arrived. At first I was a little bit worried. The tenderloin looked identical to the tenderloin we had just eaten in Exira. The conspiracy theorist in me was worried. What if The Red Barn had secretly infiltrated Darrell’s Place in a bit of corporate sabotage and stolen the recipe of the greatest tenderloin in Iowa?

One bite into this sandwich assuaged my fears though. Although the breading was identical, the sandwich did in fact taste different. This was indeed the superior sandwich. The only thing that the Exira tenderloin had going for it in comparison is that you have to ask the good folks at Darrell’s Place to toast your bun. Yet having to ask for your bun toasted is a small price to pay for the superior hunk of meat.

The fundamental question remains: “Is it the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa?” It was a great tenderloin. Perhaps the greatest I have ever had, but I am not ready to proclaim it the greatest in the state. I still need to do some research on this subject.

As for the fried cheese? One type of fried cheese was basically the same fried cheese that you can find in about every restaurant in the world, usually under the moniker “cheddar nuggets”. I’m not knocking it. It is some pretty good stuff.

The second fried cheese product was a bit different. It wasn’t quite as good, despite being unique. This fried cheese still had the consistency of a curd. It was good, but not quite as good.

We finished up our meal and paid the bill. As we exited the building I noticed that we had lost most of the light. I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and took some low light shots of the parking lot and the junkyard. After I was satisfied with what I had, I got back in the car and we headed towards home.

The ride home included more polite conversation about religion and the NBA and old times at Dasher Mismanagement and making fun of Guthrie Center. When we were about 20 miles outside of Ogden on 169 Baier said that he was disappointed in Russell. He had told Russell that Greg and Amanda were getting married and Russell hadn’t told Andree.

“What?”

“Yeah, he never told Andree.”

“I didn’t know Greg and Amanda were getting married.”


Welcome to Exira
Exira


The Red Barn


The Red Barn Road Sign


The Last Bite


The Plow in the Oak


What’s Left of the Plow


Slightly Gay Group Photo


Darrell’s Place Sign


Darrell’s Place


Employee Parking


School Bus


Junkyard Entrance


Welcome to Hamlin

Minutia – Chapter 2: Beans

Chapter 2: Beans

I do not get many e-mails at work. The ones I get are either related to a phone system failure that doesn’t affect me, the aisle copier being broken, new orders, or loaner requests. If I get a personal e-mail it is usually a link to read a story about or watch a video containing somebody doing something pretty darn stupid. Then there are the occasional e-mails that are of an actual correspondence nature. I wonder if I end up being a person of consequence someday, whether or not future historians or psychiatrists will have access to my pile of correspondence e-mails and what they will decide they say about me. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my decisions. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my motivations. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my mental health. I then stop myself from wondering. It is a futile enterprise to wonder what future generations might make of the sum of your life. For when they are, you will not be.

My wonderings aside, if it turns out that I go on to a smashing career in the field of commercial photography, there is one correspondence and one date that will be considered the genesis of that career. Historians will remember that it was a Wednesday. The time was 11:45 in the morning. The following e-mail blazed across the server at the computer mine and landed squarely in my inbox.

My boss just walked into my office and asked me to call a photographer that we’ve been working with. She didn’t do what we needed to have done. I asked why we work with her if she’s been difficult to deal with in the past.

He said something about just being convenient. So, I mentioned that I know a guy…and I had him look through your calendar. He’s interested in talking to you about doing a shoot for us.

Right now we’re looking at needing some close-up photos of roasted corn and soy beans. Would you have time (or want) to swing by {COMPANY NAME CENSORED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT} today or tomorrow to speak with him?

You can say a lot of bad things about the Photography 139 calendar and its extensive use of free labor, but for the first time ever, it actually worked as a bit of advertising. 5 months ago when Shannon “purchased” her copy of the Photography 139 calendar and hung it up in her office at work, it began what would be the process that would on this day lead her to sending me an e-mail asking me whether or not I would be interested in an audition for a gig as a commercial photographer.

I read the e-mail and thought a second. Then I replied thus:

I could stop by and discuss it at least. I’m not what you would call a gifted commercial photographer, but I could give it a try.

What time were you thinking?

After a couple of more e-mail exchanges it was established that I would come in on Thursday and discuss the possibility of taking close-up pictures of soy beans and roasted corn.

I wasn’t sure really what they wanted. I wondered if they wanted to send me off to some farm to take pictures of somebody’s operation. I wondered if they would want me to do this photo “shoot” in their offices. I wondered if I was just to be a trained monkey for their amusement. You know, like at my old job, before I worked the mines.

I did know that one thing was likely. I would probably officially have to cancel the tenderloin road trip for Saturday. That was fine, because the tenderloin road trip that was planned was not tenderloin based, but was dance recital based. Frankly I wasn’t comfortable with the lack of purity.

So it was then that I sent an e-mail to Baier explaining the situation. He sent me a one word reply:

“Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!”

I know it hardly qualifies as a rebuttal, however his response is what passes for discourse for people from Audubon.

I arrived at Shannon’s place of work at 1 pm. I had been there in the past, so when I walked in and saw nobody around, I began to walk toward her office. I only made it about as far as their massive television set, when Shannon showed up from the back room and indicated her boss would be with me shortly and invited me to sit down on the couch next to the massive television. I did what I was invited to do and wished that we had a couch like this back at the mine.

After a couple of minutes, her boss ran by and said something about, “being busy fighting fires.” I had a flashback to that previous job where the owner used to stay he didn’t want his managers to be “fire fighters”. He wanted us to be “boat captains”. This would lead into rhetoric about how the “Pre-shift Checklist” was the elixir that prevented fires from cropping up on your ship. That man loves his boat captain analogies almost as much as he love shoveling Grade A cow dung straight down his employees throats.

I wasn’t here for a walk down bad memory lane though. I was here to learn about the possibility of earning a little extra scratch through one of my passions. As I sat on the couch I did start to have a desire to turn on the massive television. It was unlikely that this television was hooked up to cable or satellite. It was even more unlikely that even if it had been I would have been able to find anything on daytime television that was more interesting than snow or the most recent development, the “unusable signal” channel. A favorite channel in the Baier household I would learn soon enough.

As I thought about touching the massive television, the Boss returned in the same rapid gait and uttered something to the effect that he was busy and I could just talk to Shannon. This was fine with me. It was what I preferred. Even though this was hardly what I would classify as a job interview, I still didn’t really want to go through the process of answer questions about my alleged photography skills with a stranger. I am not a person good at being interviewed. Maybe it is because I don’t like being judged. Whatever the reason, my interview skills are probably the reason that the only two jobs I’ve had for an extended period of time have involved Lowell.

I got up and started walking towards what I perceived to be Shannon’s office. To which she indicated that I was heading in the wrong direction. Her office had moved. So I turned and walked in the opposite direction back towards the door. Towards her new office.

I sat down in her office next to a file cabinet with a clear flaw. I noticed this immediately, but because this was to be a pseudo-professional meeting, I let it slide. “It” being an Iowa Hawkeye football schedule magnet.

Shannon is a Panther by education. This is fair enough. I do not hold this against her. Not everybody can go to Iowa State. Yet, when she is asked to pick a side between Iowa or Iowa State she reveals a terrible character flaw by choosing the Hawkeyes.

There was some polite conversation to begin this meeting, but then the conversation moved towards what they needed from me.

“We need close-up pictures of soy bean nuts and roasted corn on a white background. They will be used for a website and brouchures.”

Then she produced two clear bags. One was about ¼ full of soybean nuts. The other was about 1/3 full of roasted corn.

“Sorry, but this is all we have left. We gave the rest to the other photographer. I guess this is where you get to be creative.”

It was a fair enough observation. It does sound like an incredibly boring job. Taking pictures of beans. Where do I sign up? I would learn in the near future that most people seem to think that this involves taking one picture, and then you are done. It is quite a bit harder than you would think. And I allegedly know what I’m doing.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as my predecessor. That lady was in the unemployment line. So I asked, “So what was wrong with the other images.”

“Too low of a resolution. Plus you can’t tell whether or not you’re looking at beans or whether you are looking at roasted corn.”

I looked closer at the bags that were in my hands. If you did look closely, they were slightly different. This really only left me with two questions:

“When do you need these by?”

“Pretty soon.”

I knew I couldn’t work on this project tonight. It was Rebecca’s birthday dinner at Shorty and Doris’. I wouldn’t be able to work on it Friday night because that was Friday Night Supper Club and besides being sacred, we were also breaking in Willy’s new pad. I had cleared up Saturday. It would have to be Saturday because Sunday was Mother’s Day.

“Would Monday be soon enough?” I offered, but actually thinking that it wouldn’t be soon enough.

“That would be perfect.” Shannon said.

“What resolution are you looking to get?” I asked my final question.

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask the Boss.”

That concluded the business end of this meeting, I thought. Yet there was one question still to be decided. I had never thought about this question. That question was money.

“How much do you want to be paid?”

I hadn’t really considered that I might have to enter into a negotiation. Another reason I was glad to be dealing with Shannon rather than some stranger.

“I don’t know.”

Shannon quickly answered with, “That is what I told him you would say.”

It hurt to be so predictable, but it has never been my goal to be unpredictable. My goal has always been to be me. Who ever that might be?

So I answered the best way that I could: “Just pay me whatever you were paying the other photographer.”

That seemed to settle it. The business had been settled. Shannon gave me a run down of what they did at her company. They mostly produce football highlight videos for a third party. I scored 2 Cyclone highlight video DVDs. Then she showed me shelves and shelves filled with boxes and boxes that were filled with DVDs for high schools. Apparently the high school videos don’t sell very well. She showed me a list of schools in Iowa for which they produced these videos.

There is one thing that has always annoyed me. It is when people who aren’t involved in a business want to tell you what is wrong with your business. Even though this is a major pet peeve of mine, I couldn’t help but start running my mouth about what I perceived to be their problem.

“These are all large schools. That is why they aren’t selling. What they need to do is focus on small towns that having nothing going on but their high school football programs. Places like Madrid, Harlan, or Aplington-Parkersburg. There might not be as large of a customer base, but these people are going to buy them.”

It harkened me back to a particular customer from my past. I can’t remember his name, but he was an Engineering Professor at Iowa State, allergic to onions, potentially stalking me, and a super sized jerk.

The night that Campus closed one of the first things I did was take down the drive-thru menu board. While I was out there, Professor Know-it-all pulled up to the drive-thru speaker.

“Am I too late!” he bellowed out a half question and a half snarl.

“Yep we closed at 7.” I said, trying not to engage him in conversation but answering his question.

“This is too bad. I think you guys really could have made this work.” He said and then looked off at the distance like people do who are having deep thoughts and are about to say something compelling. What he did say was this, “What you guys needed was a hook. Something to get people in the door.” Then he made eye contact with me and continued, “You should have given people a free drink when they ordered something else.”

He continued the eye contact as if to tell me two things. He didn’t need my approval of his idea and secondly I should acknowledge his wisdom by pointing out the greatness of his idea.

I said, “Yeah that might have worked.” Then I grabbed up my tools and walked back into the story, leaving the genius alone in the night to think his genius thoughts. I’m pretty certain his thought was that he had saved the store. I was going to go in and tell the owner this brilliant idea. The owner would then say something about boat captains and change his mind about closing the store.

In reality I went inside and told some of my fellow Campusites about what I had just endured and we all had a good chuckle at the knave.

Truth be told, there was nothing that was going to save Campus. The owner had wanted to close the store down for years and years. He was emotionally invested in closing the store down. He had done everything possible to make sure it closed and certainly wasn’t interested in any ideas that might actually help the bottom line. On the contrary he was interested in ideas that would hurt the bottom line so that he would have more ammunition to take with him to the corporation as he pleaded with them to let him close it down.

Even if Campus would have been blessed with an owner that was interested in making Campus into a profitable venture, giving away free drinks was possibly the worst idea imaginable. Food cost on a soda is around 3.5%. Food cost on a sandwich is sometimes as high as 60%. You don’t make a profit by giving away the thing that makes you most of your money. Add in the labor involved in making a sandwich and you probably lost money on it. But a person would have to get over 30 free refills to put a dent in your profit margin.

Laughable! The ideas of that knave!

Perhaps that is the exact thought that was going through Shannon’s mind when she said, “Actually the problem is that they try to sell them for fifty-five bucks.”

I conceded her point that these DVDs were in fact priced out of the marketplace. She then offered me any high school DVD that I wanted. There weren’t any areal teams, but I thought that Jay was a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy and they were on the list. Shannon snagged me a copy of their 2006 DVD. I was disappointed to see that the Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars had flat out stolen their logo from the Kansas State Wildcats. Whatever happened to originality?

After I had collected up my DVDs the Boss streaked by again and blurted out “RAW!” I now had all the answers I needed to tackle my project. I had a format. Which isn’t the same thing as a resolution, but it worked for me.

I left her office loaded up on DVDs, soy beans, and roasted corn. As I drove back to work I called Jay’s answering machine and left the following message:

“Jay Janson! Jay Janson! Were you a cougar?” I might have growled a smidge as well.

I decided to do this shoot outside. Saturday was a tad bit windy, but I would take the wind for the better light and the joy of working outside. I was also concerned that bright light was also going to make shadows somewhat troublesome. So my plan was to rely a little bit on fill flash and a little bit on the gentle shadow of the garage.

It turned out that the joy of working outside was slightly diminished by the neighbors across the alley. They had chosen this weekend to rent a power sprayer to clean their deck furniture and the toys of their children. This steady noise was not the blissful peace that I had imagined.

When I am working in a creative way, I strongly prefer to listen to jazz or classical, but mostly jazz. In particular I find I respond best to the albums that Miles Davis recorded in the mid 1960s right before he got hardcore into fusion. Although the sound of water hitting plastic at breakneck speed might have fit in decently with “Bitches Brew” or “Dark Magus” it wasn’t doing anything for me on this day. It was not mixing well with “Miles in the Sky”.

So I switched my background music to a little harder stuff. I found that Led Zeppelin nicely covered up the sound of noisy neighbors. Although I’m not sure what the other people in the neighborhood used to cover up the sound of this noisy neighbor.

I shouldn’t go into great detail about what happened when I finally started taking pictures of my subjects. I could. I’m sure that there are many interesting things I could discuss about exposure compensation, depth of field, aperture setting, saturation, sharpness, and leveling tripods. I will leave all that out because I don’t really like to discuss how I do what I do. I like it be sufficient for people to know that I do do what I do.

I will just state that it is a lot harder to tell whether beans are in focus or not. Way harder than it sounds. Let us just say that I eventually got enough of something on the memory card. I had enough to at least present something to Shannon. Whether that something was going to be good enough, I didn’t know. I did know that I was not a gifted commercial photographer and spending an afternoon photographing beans is more interesting than it sounds. I called it a day.

I burned the best of what I had onto a disc and went to visit Shannon again. She was in a rush to go somewhere, so the interaction was brief. I dropped off the disc. She looked them over and said she thought they looked good, but she was not the final word.

I acknowledged her compliment and indicated that it is a lot harder than a person thinks to tell if a bean is in focus.

I then left her to do what she had to do. She said that she would show the bean photos to her boss and they would get back to me today.

I returned to work and felt a little bad. I was worried that the Boss would look at the pictures and tell Shannon that this was the lousiest set of bean pictures he had ever laid eyes on. Then I would get the following e-mail:

The Boss says that your bean photos are no good. Get out of here kid! You got no future!

Unlike Marty McFly though, I can handle that type of rejection. It might be the only type of rejection I can handle, but I handle that type of rejection.

However it wasn’t the rejection that worried me. I would have felt bad for Shannon if she would have had to tell me that I suck. That is a hard thing for one friend to have to tell another friend. Even when it has to be done, like when you have a friend walking around insisting that “Shrek 2” was way better than “Shrek” and you have to tell him to stop doing that because he is embarrassing himself.

As I contemplated this potential dilemma, an e-mail popped into my inbox. It read:

I finally just got your CD to the Boss. When I asked him what he thought, he said something to the effect of, “I think we just found our new close-up photographer.” So my opinion was valid. They are great photos!

I was relieved and excited, but yet I wished that they would use the term “Macro Photographer”. Is that too anal?

Minutia: Chapter 1

After what could only be described as an extended absence, today I return to the blog world with full force. I have planned for this thin slice of cyberspace a monster of a blog. There will be 14 parts to this blog. When it has completely unraveled, it might be long enough to be considered a novella. The reason I have chosen to do this is because I wish to test my theory that everybody’s life is worthy of a biography. I have started with my own life. The 14 chapters that will be posted here will unfold in a nonlinear timeline similar to the kind that writers such as William Faulkner made famous. All of the events described transpired between May 9, 2007 and May 20, 2007. While these chapters are doled out, I will do nothing interesting, so you do not have to fear that while you are reading about my past, I am doing something worthy of reading. So without further adieu, I present my novella.


Minutia
An Autobiographical Novella
by Christopher D. Bennett

Chapter 1: Hick Town

Tuesday means two things for me. It means “New Taste Tuesday” and on this Tuesday it was Steve’s choice. He chose Indigo Joe’s which was adequate, but not superior. A superior experience would have included a tenderloin on their menu. A tenderloin would have been a perfect prelude to the tenderloin road trip. A superior experience would have allowed us to get in and out in a quick enough manner to allow me to make a trip to Best Buy to indulge in the second meaning of Tuesdays: “New Releases”.

On this New Release Tuesday, the service at Indigo Joe’s was not quick enough to leave me enough time on my lunch break to get to Best Buy and purchase the best movie to come out last year (Pan’s Labyrinth) and make it back to the computer mine within my allotted sixty minutes. This meant that I was going to have to wait to purchase the 2 Disc Special Edition of Pan’s Labyrinth. The question remained, for how long would I wait?

I knew that I couldn’t sneak into Best Buy after work on Tuesday. Even the briefest stop would have hindered the precisely crafted time schedule of the Tenderloin Road Trip. I knew that on Wednesday I was getting lunch with Monica and that we were either going to drive half way across Ames to eat at the West Street Deli or Chinese Homestyle Cooking and that was not going to leave sufficient time to also make a stop at Best Buy. I also wasn’t going to be able to make a stop after work because we were having a small West reunion at the Baier household and I was already going to be late because I had to stop at the post office to mail my RSVP for the Beavers wedding and I had already missed the deadline by a week.

It became clear that I was going to have to make a stop at a quick service restaurant for lunch on Thursday and slide into Best Buy to pick up my copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It was a fair plan.

About 1 pm on Thursday I put my plan into motion. I hopped into my automobile, turned on my iPod and headed across the street to Best Buy. It seemed almost too easy.

It turned out that it was in fact too easy. I looked all over Best Buy and there was not a copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition to be had. I was surprised. I had waited for a few days in the past to pick up a DVD and had never run into the problem of them being sold out. I re-evaluated my plan and headed to Target. Perhaps, Best Buy just had the best deal and surely Target would not do me wrong for 2nd time this week.

Yet, despite my arrogance, Target failed me. When I reached the new release section, the only thing I found staring back at me was a stack of rain check certificates. I was in a bit of a quandary. I was running out of time. I could drive across town and check Wal-Mart. I know that Wal-Mart customers are considerably less sophisticated than Target customers, so there was a chance that they still had a few copies left. After all, a Wal-Mart customer would probably be disgusted by the notion that you would have to “read a movie”. As the thought raced through their head they might even spit a bit of Skoal onto the ground just to punctuate their point, exactly as they had been conditioned to do.

However, I didn’t have the time to drive across Ames before my lunch break had expired. So I went through a nearby drive-thru and grabbed some sustenance and headed back to the computer mine once again empty handed.

The good news was that I had my night mostly free. The only plans I had cobbled together was going to Lake Laverne to feed the swans bread. I had made a few stops at Lake Laverne in the past few weeks to take pictures of Lancelot and Elaine, but I had yet to record a satisfactory image. I was hoping the aid of bread might help me in my quest. Other than that trip, the only other thing on the docket was visiting Monica to square up a 14 dollar debt that I had incurred on Wednesday.

There was the rumor of a special Thursday Night Supper Club to replace Friday Night Supper Club since Willy would be boarding a plane on Friday and flying to Spain. However, it was late in the afternoon and the rumor had yet to bear fruit.

Of course, that was when the guitar riff from “Mannish Boy” blasted from my phone. It was Jay. Thursday Night Supper Club had become a reality. I told him that I preferred staying in Ames because I had a couple of errands to run. He indicated that Ames would work for him, but he would need to be back to Boone by 8:30 because he was having headlight difficulty with his automobile.

Jay and I exited the mall. Hobby Lobby, feeding swans, feeding ourselves, and squaring a debt had taken longer than I had figured. It was now well past 8 and the sun was waning. I needed to take Jay back to his car before the daylight had expired and Jay would be forced to find his way home in the darkness. The Ames Wal-Mart was no longer an option.

I am not a quitter though. Boone has a Wal-Mart. I hatched a new plan. This time, my plan would not fail. I could drive Jay across town, drop him off at his car, drive to the Boone Wal-Mart, buy the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”, and then meet Jay back at my place for our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

If there is one thing I was certain about, it was that the Boone Wal-Mart would have the DVD. I’ve worked in Ames for about a decade now. When I first started working in Ames I was immediately oppressed for my Boone heritage. When people found out I was from Boone, there was the immediate smirk, guffaw, and statements like“that hick town”. For years I defended Boone on its merits. That list of merits does not include “cultured”.

Boone is a cultural Sahara. Consider this tally: 1 Speedway, 0 Art Museums. What passes for art in Boone is a mural of a train, chainsaw sculptures, and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt missing a thumb. (Although admittedly the missing thumb gives the statue just the slightest Cubist feel to it.) Boone for the most part has only one video store. There is not a foreign language or independent film section in this video store. The Employee Picks (employee picks were designed to get people to rent or buy more challenging or lesser known movies) in this video store are regularly the most recent Wayans brother movie or something directed by Michael Bay. There isn’t even an oasis in this Sahara, unless you count a fairly active community theater group and the City Band Festival.

It seems to me that for once, living in a backward, redneck, hillbilly, and hick town was going to benefit me. Who else in this town was going to buy a foreign language film? Admittedly there are small pockets of intellectual enclaves deposited here and there throughout this town, but not enough to snap up every copy of my DVD.

I entered Wal-Mart and headed straight for the new release end-cap and what before my wondering eyes did appear? An empty rack where my DVD should have been!

How could this be? I refused to believe that there was enough people in the unwashed horde known as the citizenry of Boone that were willing to throw down almost 30 bucks for a foreign language film. 30 bucks for a special edition of “White Chicks”, that would be no problem.

I theorized on a possible explanation. Is it possible that enough people from Ames had also had difficulty finding the DVD and had made the pilgrimage to the Boone Wal-Mart to stymie my bid? Or is it possible that I have just sold my Boonie brethren short? Perhaps mixed in with the mouth breathing morons I see beating their kids in the grocery store every week there are a few more enlightened individuals than I think.

One thing was clear though, whether it was people from Ames poaching in Boone or Boonies being more intelligent than I had predicted, I wasn’t coming home with the one DVD that I had waited for all year.

I gazed upwards and asked: “Why are you dicking with me?”

Perhaps it was not the most respectful question ever thrown in that direction, but it certainly was not the least respectful either.

Then I had an epiphany. Wal-Mart has two New Release sections. Perchance there was going to still be a happy ending to my quest.

I walked 25 feet down the aisle to the other New Release section.

Eureka!

There it was! In all of its 2 Disc glory! “Pan’s Labyrinth” 2 Disc Special Edition. There were about 5 copies left. I looked through them to find the one with the cardboard cover sleeve that was the least damaged. Although beggars can’t be choosers, I can still be that anal about a DVD.

Such a miraculous turn of events called for a celebration. I do not drink alcohol for personal reasons, but I do have other vices. There was only one thing that could add to the sweetness of my victory.

I grabbed my prize and walked to the Wal-Mart freezer section and opened the door. Much to my chagrin, they did not have any Haagen Dazs Cookie Dough ice cream. However, that still couldn’t dampen my spirits. I selected a half pint of strawberry ice cream and headed to the check out lanes.

My brain had thought too soon when it pluralized the word lane, for there was only 1 lane open. Furthermore, I was the 6th person in that line. It seemed that although I was destined to get my movie and celebratory ice cream, I was going to be terribly late for my meeting with Jay and our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

In my melancholia I had forgot that while I wasn’t lucky in all aspects of my life, I had always had the good fortune of being picked out of long lines at Wal-Mart by the employee manning the service desk. While the other proletariat swine are left to wait in line behind the person who forgot something and has sent their 3 year old kid back to the sports department to find something or other, I am usually picked out and sent on my merry way lickety-split.

I like to think that it is because of my debonair good looks. It might also be that I don’t actually have that many items that I am purchasing. The most likely reason is that it looks like that I might have showered in this century and in my experience working with the American public, I can tell you that “limited body odor” goes a surprisingly long way in getting decent service.

While my hand started to lose feeling and my ice cream began to lose solidity I was waved over by the girl running the Service Desk. My good looks, limited items, or limited body odor had worked its magic once again.

The girl picked up my DVD and gave it the once over and then asked, “You know this movie isn’t in English, right?”

Now I can’t be exact in recounting what came out of my mouth next, but I’m fairly certain it was something like this:

“Yes I do. The movie is in Spanish. I saw it in the theater. The Spanish title for this movie is “El Laberinto del fauno”. For reasons I’m not sure of, they translated it into English as “Pan’s Labyrinth” when it should have been translated as “The Faun’s Labyrinth” since this movie has nothing to do with Pan, the Greek God of Nature. However, I’m sure they had there reasons since the director Guillermo Del Toro personally oversaw the production of the subtitles. I consider it to be the best movie to come out last year. It won several Academy Awards. However, despite being the only foreign language picture nominated in a category besides Best Foreign Language Picture (besides a handful of shorts) it did not win Best Foreign Language Picture. Some dreadful German movie won. I consider it to be a grievous oversight that the Academy should do something about. Like when it gave an Oscar to Bob Dylan a couple years back.”

To which she replied, “I just have to make sure. A lot of people have been buying this movie and then are trying to return it when they get it home and realized that it was in Spanish.”

This induced awkward silence from me. I was forced to come to the sad realization that the reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” wasn’t because of some small art film community in Boone. The reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” was because people are stupid.

I knew this deep down in my heart the whole time I suppose. I knew this because when Jay wanted to have a movie evening to send Willy off to Spain and I suggested we get the movie “The Sea Inside”. It is a Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem as a paraplegic fisherman and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture a few years back and seemed to fit the bill.

I knew this because when I suggested this movie to Jay he asked if the local video store had it.

I didn’t even think about it. My first instinct was to laugh and point out that the last time I was there one of the “Employee Picks” was “Scary Movie 4”.

My realizations and flashbacks were interrupted by the girl.

“I like your shirt.”

I looked down because even though the shirt I was wearing was complimented by another person in another place less than an hour ago, I forgot what I was wearing. Rocky Balboa stared back at me.

“Did you like Rocky Balboa?”

I responded, “Yeah. It is the only sequel that captures the spirit of the original and doesn’t degrade into a mindless action movie.”

“It was pretty good. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

I walked out of Wal-Mart knowing that at times it is good to live in a hick town, even if it is despite the fact that it is a hick town.

Randumbness

I’m going to attempt to get out of the video posting rut that I’ve been in lately. Not that the videos I’ve posted have been bad. In fact, they have been highly entertaining. However, this here “Artist’s Notebook” isn’t supposed to be about funny videos. It is supposed to be about “Yours Truly” and my artistic endeavors and artistic failures. Although it is certainly also about my inspirations. Those videos are a part of my “Online Idea Box”, as I have been known to refer to this thing as. 

This “Artist’s Notebook” is also about my more personal inspirations: My friends. So I should reveal what has been up with some of my friends. 

The biggest news about my friends would be that Derrick has become the man at his place of employment. I believe his previous job title was “Guitar god” or “Guitar Guy” or “Sales Consultant”. Now his job title is something like “General Manager” or “Store Manager” or “The Man” or “Mr. Man” or “HHIC”. 

It is a strange twist of fate that his S.O. Jen was once “The Man”. She hired Derrick on. Now it is a few years later and he is now “The Man”. 

There was a store manager in between them, but I fail to recall her name. I do know that the rulers of Derrick’s company did her in on Monday. They pulled the old switching the locks to the door trick. A classic of all passive-aggressive wieners that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do somebody in face to face. 

I know from my extensive firing experiences that it takes a man to look somebody in the face and tell them: “Get out of here kid. You’re no good. You don’t have a future”. Of course my extensive fire experience includes firing not a single person. 

You see I was once “The Man”. Not with the same company where Derrick is currently “The Man”. Yet, I was the man for a couple of years in a quickly failing restaurant. It was hard to be “The Man” at this place because the owner of the restaurant wanted it to fail. They were begging their understanding of God for it to fail. 

I ran what in the politically correct vernacular would be known as a “quick service restaurant” in Campustown. The large overhead of such a business and poor location spelled doom for the restaurant. 

While I was captain of this sinking vessel I did not have to fire anybody. I soon realized that most people fired themselves. You set up standards for people. You communicated these standards to the people. You set up consequences for not reaching these standards. You communicated these consequences to the people. When people knew that they weren’t reaching the established standards, they would pretty much quit on their own. 

I should point out that I wasn’t exactly setting the bar high either. My minions consisted of High School and College Students. This wasn’t a career stop for them. This was a little bit of spending scratch so they could booze it up on the weekend or go to that Dave Matthews concert or for some it was to pay for their textbooks or their rent. 

The good ones already cared about their job, not because they cared about the job. They cared about their job because they were the type of people that did well because what they were doing was what they were doing. In less convoluted terms, anything that they did they were going to do well because the result was a reflection of them. It wasn’t what the job consisted of that was important. Whatever it was, they were going to do it well. 

Then there were the employees that failed under my regime. They really failed of their own accord. At least they left of their own accord. Which the majority of them left because their time at Iowa State had concluded or they realized that they could get paid much better doing a much easier job some place else. However I am not typing words out about the people who just moved on to better things. This is about people who theoretically could have been fired. The failures. 

My standards were not that high. It isn’t that they were low. It is that when you are stuck working in corporation there are about 1 trillion incredibly dumb rules about every single insignificant aspect of how to do every single mundane job. In huge multilevel corporations like the one that employed me, you will find people that memorize and dream about every single one of these stupid little rules that have nothing at all to do with the success of a business. In fact the enforcement of these rules is a waste of time. Concentrating on the mindnumbing minutia that is the “Proper way to pull eggs from the grill” is allowing insignificance to control the significant aspects of the business. 

There were really only a handful of things that I cared about. I never spelled this out, wrote it down, posted it, or handed it out on cards. But if you were to really spell out my rules of management they were simple: 

1. Serve the customer, in a fast, friendly manner with a good product.
2. Keep the store clean.
3. Maintain the equipment.
4. Don’t get me in trouble. 

People who couldn’t do these things usually phased themselves right out of the business. 

WOW! I never meant to drone on and on and on and on and on about it. 

Willy had oral surgery last Thursday. It must have went well. He was up and back on the dance floor by Friday night. He even attended the largest Friday Night Supper Club in history. There were 6 people there. Including 3 people that had never made it to a Friday Night Supper Club function before. Jen, Derrick, and Sara now have FNSC Auxillary Member Status. 

Jesse did not make it to Friday Night Supper Club because he had his nose broken Friday morning. It was on purpose. It wasn’t like he had lipped off to some dude and got regulated. A doctor busted him up good and attempted to rearrange some of the nose parts so that he can breathe better and make him a little bit softer on the eyes. 

I got the pleasure of hanging out in the Ambulatory Waiting Room with Kelly and Mary while the doctors were working him over. It was through a conversation with Kelly that I learned more about his lying, scheming ways. Also I got more ammunition for the Bandwagoner side of the Jesse Howard: Bandwagoner or Innovator debate. Wives sometimes talk too much. 

Kelly also regaled me a tale that I will file in my memory banks under the “Great Easter War”. I will not retell the tale at this time, but it might make its way into a short story collection in a bookstore near you. 

Last night after work I headed to a park to test out my new camera bag. Once I got to the park I realized I couldn’t test my new bag out because the only thing I had brought with me was my camera and the new bag. I hadn’t brought my old bag that was full of goodies. I was looking forward to doing some bird photography, but that dream was effectively snuffed out by the fact that I had left my telephoto lens in my old camera bag. Therefore I was stuck with only my 50mm lens to try to capture images. The 50mm is a great lens, but birds are known cowards. I believe that they are the first known draft dodgers. 

Due to their well documented cowardice (sometimes known as migration but really draft dodging) it is difficult to get close to them with out them taking off. So below are the best pictures I could muster out of the experience. They are failures. I know this fact. 


04-19-2007

 




This is going to sound slightly harsh, but it was nice to see a collection of deer without injuries. There is quite an assortment of deer that live in the woods behind my current place of employment. Almost all of them suffer from at least one injured leg.

The Past Weekend

Mr. Wentworth came over to Boone this weekend. So it turned out to be a pretty good weekend. I took some pictures to remember the events that Bill’s presence triggered.

First of all, I have completed the next picture to be hung in Salon 908. Below is a picture of the picture that will replace “Last, Loveliest Smile”.


03-29-07

This picture is an enlargement of a picture that Teresa commissioned me to do for her living room. I have named my color flower pictures the “Earth’s Laughter Series”, but I did not have a name for black and white flower pictures. Until now. The full title of the picture is “Happiness Shared – #01”.

The title comes from the old adage: “Happiness held is the seed. Happiness shared is the flower.”

On Sunday we went to Cold Stone Creamery. I found out Bill is somebody that hates seeing people have a good time at their job. Usually I find that the people that fit into this category hate the job that they have. Bill seems to fit into that category as well. So when we got back to Boone I took a picture of Bill.

03-26-07

Bill complained that I didn’t give him a chance to get ready before I took his picture. I told him that I wasn’t interested in posed pictures. I was interested in pictures of people how they are. A pretentious person might call that candid photography. A pretentious street photographer might call it guerrilla photography. I just call it capture what “is”.

Willy decided not to ride to and fro with us. The weather was warm and he was ready to get on his motorbike.


2007

2007

The second picture was taken from Jay’s automobile. It turns out that being on a motorbike doesn’t automatically make you look cooler. But check out those sexy legs. Ladies.

Some time last week Jay Janson went a milking. There is video tape evidence of Jay’s encounter with an utter, but I have yet to lay my hands upon it. Jay did bring me the coolest memento from his adventure.


03-26-07

I could really go for a Boyd’s malt right now. One of my fondest memories as a child was returning the milk bottles to Boyd’s because I got to put the bottles on a conveyor belt. I’ve always been fond of conveyor belts.

Then on Monday while I was on my break I encountered this fellow.


03-26-07

I have also seen the groundhog that lives behind the building within which I toil 4 times so far this year. I only saw him twice all of last year.

Then despite all of these good things that put me in good humor I came upon something that reminded me that while Spring brings much good to the world it also bring pure unadulterated evil back to Boone.


03-26-07

I have worked in Ames and lived in Boone going on 10 years now. There has been one constant in that experience. The ability of co-workers to constantly deride Boone as being a backward, hick, racist town.

I point to the myriad of good things there are about Boone.

They point to the Speedway.

I don’t have a rebuttal.

They win.

Stupid Speedway

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part III)

I have had difficulty in getting back in my mode to finish up this mostly uninteresting tale. It has been over a week since most of this stuff has transpired. My memory of the events may be more than a little bit foggy. I’ll do my best recollect these events because in the last few weeks I have received the following comments to my face:
 
“See. I really do read your blog.”
 
“Kelly thought your commentary about Jay was spot on.”
 
“I can’t wait to hear about your lunch with Bill W.”
 
“I didn’t say ‘let’s go get a salad’!”
 
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been able to get back into my mode. Once I’m out of my mode I can’t force myself back. All I can do is create conditions that are conducive to getting my mode back into effect. So I’m listening to a little Otis Redding and I’m typing away. If that doesn’t help me get back to my mode, it might be gone forever.
 
I believe the last time I took keyboard in hand in a creative direction I had just concluded my Oscar analysis. The Oscar analysis that moved people so much that not a single person decided to offer an opinion on what the most tragic ending to the movie “Blood Diamond” would be. This can mean only one of a few things.
 
#1. Nobody actually made it to the bottom of Part II.
#2. After getting to the end of Part II everybody was so emotionally exhausted that they couldn’t bring themselves to offer an opinion to a simple multiple choice question.
#3. Nobody thinks that what happens with conflict diamonds is tragic. Perhaps the real tragedy in their minds is that not enough innocents are murdered and enslaved.
 
I don’t know. I’ll just accept that despite the claims of some to the contrary, these writings exist in a vacuum.
 
I’ll just get back to the business of this writing, which is to weave the tale of my existence and recent exploits. Although, I’m sure there is somebody out there with a dictionary right now claiming that the events that have passed through my experience lately can hardly be considered exploits. More than anything they are a monument to a culture of consumerism and an attitude of narcissism. Except for making soap, that was certainly an accomplishment. Eating shrimp at the Oscar party was also an accomplishment. I’m telling you, these things were massive.
 
We left the formal Oscar party and made our way back to Jen and Derrick’s homestead. I believe we reached their front door pretty close to midnight. I entered the living room to see Jen’s first completed project from her stained glass class. She had made a stepping stone. I knew that this was the first project and I was always a little bit suspicious. How do you make something for stepping on out of stained glass?
 
She brought it up from the basement where it had been curing. Curiously this was the second time this weekend I had heard about something being left in the basement to cure. This time I did not see an activity known as “catproofing” though.
 
It was pretty amazing. I’m a stained glass man from way back and I was impressed. The stained glass was placed in concrete. The design was a butterfly. This is a particularly difficult design because it is symmetrical. This meant that for every piece of glass that Jen cut she had to also cut an identical piece for the opposite side. She did an amazing job. I am eager for the future stained glass night where we make our own coasters. Although I confess not being sure that I am up to the challenge.
 
There was one other curious thing about this stepping stone. The concrete was extremely smooth. Maybe I’m impressed by strange things, but there isn’t a trick to making the concrete turn out so smooth. You don’t sand it. That is the way it hardens. It is naturally that smooth.
 
I went home and crashed, not anticipating much of consequence to transpire on the following day.
 
I woke up on Monday and headed into the computer mine. My only hope was to make it through yet another day of arduous labor without developing the dreaded Silicon Lung. Jesse approached me and delivered some good news. Bill W. would be joining us for lunch.
 
Let me stop and make a point here. I’m not calling this man Bill W. because that is his name. I do not wish to be forthcoming with his actual identity because I might in my haste of writing this thing, blurt out some private information. You see Bill W. had stopped in Ames on his way home from the Twin Cities where he had a date with a lady friend. I will be coy with his true identity because he may or not be on the prowl with this lady.  There is a nearly infinitesimally small chance that she might happen upon this blog and read some of the things I’m about to put down about Bill W. and his attempts to make this date something a little bit more substantial. I don’t want to kill Bill W.’s game. Not that I think that is a likely outcome. I just want to hedge my bets. For that reason my friend will remain unidentified and I will refer to them by the name Bill W. as homage to the man who founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
 
My subscriber from Mankato was most interested in this bit of the tale. I’m not going to go into much detail about the lunch. There isn’t much to tell. He came to the mine. We went to Hickory Park with Jesse and Willy. We asked him questions about his weekend. Some details I won’t recount. There is one detail that I wish to recount. It is actually a question of strategy.
 
Bill W. is a fan of bored* games. So is his lady friend. While he was visiting her they played a series of games. In fact they played a best of 13 series. When he told me this fact I was quite shocked. I didn’t know they had made 13 different bored games. Off the top of my head all I can name is Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, Chess, Monopoly, Candyland, and Sammy the White House Mouse. I have heard the beginnings of descriptions of other games. However, usually about 2 words out of the other person’s mouth I’m sound asleep. I might not have the best survival instincts, but my instincts for avoiding a boring night are as sharp as the sting of a whip.
 
Now I’m going to throw up a red flag. I am about to get into some territory that if you don’t know me very well could be described as sexist. It might not be in the next paragraph, but it will be there soon enough. You will know it when you get to it.
 
Bill W. claims that when they got to the climax of the evening AKA the rubber match, he threw the contest so that his lady friend came out as the winner. Let us not dwell on the veracity of his statement. Let us merely question whether or not that this was correct strategy. At this point we are going to have to talk in generalizations. I concede that all people are individuals. So my next question should be viewed at the aggregate level.
 
I also need to make the following distinction. My question is related to competitions where men and women are able to compete on an equal plane. Not in activities where men have to make a concerted effort to make the competition close. Of course, I’m talking about activities like basketball, naming the starting third baseman of the 1984 National League Champion San Diego Padres, driving, or mathematics.
 
My question is simply: Did Bill W. make the wise move? Was it savvy? Should he have let his female friend win the deciding game or should he have won?
 
This is a question that when it has been discussed in a few of my social circles has gotten some spirited debate and wildly varying answers. If you got an opinion please weigh in.
 
I understand that this is a small part of the “game”, but I’m curious if people think this piece of the game was well played or muffed.
 
After the meal Bill W. went on his merry way and I returned to work. The rest of Monday passed without incident until my bowling league.
 
You may remember that from past writings that I have clearly established myself as the worst bowler in the league. Despite my efforts to scuttle the team we arrived at the alley on Monday as the 1st Place team in the Pioneer League. We were matching up with a team that possessed the moniker “Giant Killers”. Before the game began one of their representatives ambled over to our table and told us to “Note the name.  We’re called the Giant Killers for a reason.”
 
Even though this bravado was laughable, I figured out that there team name wasn’t derived from  a story involving the climbing of a beanstalk or taking down a Philistine.  However, he insisted on continuing to allow words to escape from his mouth.
 
“We always beat first place teams.”
 
Great.  Don’t really care.  Take zero pride in my bowling and I’m not here to win any trophies.  I just want to hang out with the guys at my table.  We bowled pretty well. They didn’t. This meant halfway through the second game they quit. Yeah, they finished the games physically, but mentally and emotionally they were beat. They spent most of their time complaining about how throw a couple members of our team throw the ball. Well Mike is in his 60s. Jim is in his 50s. They aren’t going to throw the ball like somebody in their 20s. One of their team members took to throwing the ball as slowly as he could. I was leery about joining this league at the beginning of the year because of my limited bowling aptitude, but I have to say that this was the first unpleasant experience I have had all year.
 
I always have to shower when I get home from the bowling alley. I can not tolerate smelling like an ashtray. It always makes me want to vomit. It is the same way I feel every time the announcers point out that Michael Taylor has broken Dedric Willoughby’s consecutive games with a 3 pointer streak. At least I can wash the cigarette smoke smell off.
 
This tale is almost completed. I only need to cover my lunch with my Private Climatologist and his analysis of “An Inconvenient Truth”, but that will wait until the exciting conclusion of this tale in Part IV.
 
I will just wrap up this section of the tale with a small discussion of the Lenten Study Group I’ve joined on Tuesday nights. I was a little bit leery of joining this group because my previous experiences with Bible Study groups hadn’t been super swell. However, this is really the first time that I’ve joined a group at my own church strangely enough.
 
I was a bit worried because when I walked in to the room I was the youngest person in the room by 10 years. However, I’m really glad I went because our Associate Pastor Andrea said something that really helped me re-order some things in my head. What she said I’ll leave for a discussion at a later time. If you are really interested e-mail me and I’ll let you know.
 
I enjoyed myself enough that I’ve decided to continue going. Tonight we went 30 minutes over because of a heated discussion of the meaning of the term “citizen of heaven” in the Philippians verse we were discussing.
 
So I’ll leave it at that for now.
 
To Be Continued . . . .
 
 
* In the haste to get what I’ve got to say out there by any mean necessary I frequently stumble with words, grammar, and homonyms. I assure you 100% that the misspelling of board games by spelling it as bored games was 100% on purpose. In other words, I hate me some board games.

Reflection on the Last Few Days (Part II)

All false male bravura aside, the ride home from work today SUCKED!!! I can’t emphasize this point nearly enough. You could underline that word about 4 more times and the point still wouldn’t quite be made. I think visibility at times was a negative number. My sister asked me how many cars were in the ditch. The honest response to this question is that I don’t know. I couldn’t see the ditch.

So we are to Sunday. Church services were canceled. I can not ever remember a time when my church canceled services. So I sat on the couch being bored most of the day. I called Jen and Derrick to see if the Oscar party was still a go. I was concerned because I had an appointment with Kelly to get my hair cut and dyed black. This was a fairly radical move for somebody like me. I have never dyed my hair before. Dyeing your hair is one of those things on my checklist of things that “real” men don’t do. I have white hairs in my goatee and I accept that. I won’t dye my hair to get rid of them. I have earned every last one of those white hairs and I’m not about to cover that fact up. However, with the Oscar Party coming I held a meeting with myself about what in fact real men do. A motion was put forth and passed. An addendum has been placed on my list. Instead of reading that real men don’t dye their hair it reads that real men don’t highlight their hair. I was going to dye my hair.

This is a slight aside. I honestly don’t have a real strong list of things that real men do and don’t do. This led me into the following conversation with a co-worker.

“Hey man. You see Durant last night. He went off for like 37 points.”

“I didn’t see any basketball last night.”

“What did you do?”

“I went to see a movie.”

“Oh yeah, what flick?”

At this point it would have been helpful if I would have went to see some mindless blow ’em up. I could have lied, but I told the truth.

“The Queen.”

“Haven’t heard of it, but it sounds pretty gay.”

“Well if I explain it, it is going to sound pretty gay.”

“What’s it about?”

“It is about the royal family’s reaction to Princess Di’s death.”

“Yep. Pretty gay.”

OR

There are also times that I like to wear a pink Iowa State hat. When you buy this hat a portion of the money goes to aid research on the prevention of breast cancer. My sister gave me the hat for Christmas. I wear it because I’m proud to have contributed in some small form to preventing this disease. Jessica, one of the people that worked with Olivia, is a breast cancer survivor. (I heard great news about Jessica this weekend that makes me very happy, but I can’t share it at this time.) A lady from Teresa’s office is currently going for treatment for breast cancer. I don’t think it is an emasculating thing to show support for this cause. In fact my friend Jay, who is a boob man from way back, would argue that it is a very masculine thing to show your support for breasts in any way, shape, form or manner.

The problem isn’t usually the cause. The problem is the color. I don’t have a favorite color. I also don’t have a least favorite color. If you think about it, color does not really exist. It is an illusion of light and it is silly to have a favorite illusion. If I am forced to pick a favorite illusion, I pick social mobility.

I don’t see colors as being masculine or feminine. I see that certain colors have certain purposes. Those purposes are usually to conflict or accent another color. So one of the reasons I can feel no guilt about wearing such a hat is that it goes with a few of the shirts I own.

I’m not what you would call a particularly superstitious person. I can see how you can make the case that luck is the residue of design. However, the statement that you “make your own luck” is absurd outside of whatever residuals you get from your design. I understand that there are an infinite amount of factors that determine the outcome of every single incident. Anybody that believes that they can control an infinite amount of factors to make their own luck is not only deluding them self, they are encroaching on God Complex territory. I advise such a person to study a little bit of string theory for god’s sake. I mean for their sake, not for the real God.

I bring this up simply because Iowa is currently undefeated when I wear this hat to Hilton Coliseum to see their forays into basketball. The men are 3-0. The women are 1-0. Do I believe that my choice of cap has any effect on the outcome of these games? I know that it doesn’t. Yet in the back of my head, I know that there are an infinite amount of variables deciding the outcome of everything. So what do I truly believe? See what hat I’m wearing this Saturday when Steve Alford’s dad comes to Hilton.

The point of this whole pink hat interlude is also that I had the following interaction with a co-worker.

What’s the deal with the hat?”

“It covers my head.”

“It looks pretty gay.”

“It looks pretty.”

“GAY!!”

“What’s your problem with my hat? I don’t bust your chops whenever you come in here dressed like a lumberjack to answer the phone.”

“Actually you do. (truth be known I do) Why are you wearing that hat?”

“I swear we just went over this, to cover my head.”

“Why that hat?”

“They give it to you when you donate money for breast cancer prevention.”

“It’s pink.”

“Pink is the breast cancer awareness color.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

“This is a cause I’m proud to support.”

“I think it is pretty gay.”

“Do you root for cancer? Most people root for the person. You must be the one person that roots for the cancer.”

“Let’s get lunch.”

It is because of this type of mentality that I do have a few things that I think that real men do and don’t do. I’ll keep that list to myself for the time being, except to say that real men don’t highlight their hair. Also real men don’t eat boneless wings.

Before I got slightly askew of the point, I was pointing out that if there was no Oscar Party, I sure as heck wasn’t getting an unnecessary haircut and my hair dyed. Even with everything potentially on hold, the dyeing of my hair had raised a few questions. Not really a few questions. One question.

The answer is simply, I felt like it. It was a one time thing. I wanted to try it while I still have money on the table. That window of opportunity isn’t going to be around for much longer.

So I initially talked to Derrick. He didn’t know. I told him that I had a haircut at 3 pm and if it was canceled before 3 pm to let me know before I went through with this whole hair management debacle.

Then I sat and I waited. At about 2:30 my phone rang. Party canceled. I called Kelly and canceled. 35 minutes later the phone rang. The party is back on. Now I’m in a pickle with my hair. I give Kelly a call back. She doesn’t know if she can do it now. There is a childcare issue. She’ll call me back.

Then I sat and waited.

The phone rings again. We’re back on. I meet her up at Salon 908. Now if you don’t know where Salon 908 is, it is around the corner from Belluci’s, the second greatest pizza joint to ever grace these United States of America I know some of my most loyal subscribers have not had the good fortune to reside in the confines of Boone, Iowa. I know some of you have escaped to your greener pastures.

Let me tell you about the Boone Snow Removal Crew. They don’t play with a full deck. If it is a full deck then it is a pinochle deck and the game is Parcheesi. That’s card talk, which I honestly don’t know if it makes any sense. Let me put it this way. They only have one oar in the water.

What they like to do is take all of the snow and put it in the middle of the road. You might be saying, “so what?” The problem is that they do this in the intersections as well. Which means that quite frequently you come to an intersection that you can’t cross because there is a pile of snow about 7 feet tall looking you straight in your mug and laughing at you. You have to make turns you don’t want to make while you are looking for the exit to this labyrinth. I swear to God that out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Nicholson holding an ax frozen to death at the corner of 7th and Story.

I did finally make it to the salon and the rest is history. There was a moment in the treatment where we realized that we forgot to dye my eyebrows. Good thing Kelly caught that or I might look more sideshow freak than swashbuckling debonair.

This would be a good point to thank the people that agreed to donate money to the American Cancer Society though me via this event. Thank you very much to Jesse and Stephanie. It was very much appreciated.

When I finally got to Jen and Derrick’s street it looked like a war zone. There were trees down everywhere. It was by the worst looking street I’ve seen through this most recent set of storms. There is an old lady that lives in the corner house next to theirs. I would use the term elderly, but the term ancient seems more apropos. This lady loves to snow blow. Earlier that day one of their neighbors witnessed her snow blowing. A branch above her cracked and came screaming down towards the Earth. It landed not much more than six feet behind the old lady. She never heard it. She never noticed it. She just kept on blowing snow.

I had learned via e-mail that Jen was planning as going to the party as Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I had learned from Shannon on Saturday that on Friday night Jen and Derrick had an Audrey Hepburn marathon. I also learned that absent from the movies they had chosen were “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Sabrina”. I was going to let these glaring omissions slide, but I got there and my mouth ran away with me.

“No Roman Holiday. Come ON!!!”

In the back of my head I heard a conglomeration of many of the “real men” I’ve known over the years point out that what I had just uttered was “pretty gay”.

I shot back, “No! What is pretty gay is eating boneless wings!”

Jen had managed to pretty much nail Holly Golightly. I would offer photographic evidence of this and my black do and Derrick’s own debonair style, but I didn’t bring a camera to this event. Maybe some day I’ll get some of their pictures and post them. Maybe someday Willy and Jesse will actually square off in a real peanut butter cup eating free-for-all. Maybe some day somebody will defeat the longest reigning Log Champion of the World in human history.

I don’t want to overanalyze the party. I mean, what kind of guy analyzes a party. It is either off the hook or it isn’t. That is all you need to know. If you would have called this party all you would have heard is: “The party you are trying to reach is busy. For 95 cents you can hang up and we will call you when your party is available.”

Something that just popped into my head, I have problems remember which side of the number the cents symbol is supposed to go on. I used to work with this German girl named Tabea. Every time I would ask that question she would roll her eyes and denigrate the American educational system. I always got her back by slamming David Hasselhoff though. U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

What I do care to analyze is the Oscars themselves. Yet, I will not broach the subject of “An Inconvenient Truth” winning for Best Documentary. Okay, I will broach it, but I will not dwell on it very long.

I knew this movie was going to win. This is a category that has pretty much gone downhill since Michael Moore started passing propaganda off as documentary. I was only able to see two of the nominees this year. The other one being “Jesus Camp” which is a merciless hack job on Evangelical Christians. That is fine. I think that they probably deserve it. It certainly isn’t my brand of Christianity. These are people that are teaching their children that there is no such thing as Global Warming. They are teaching their kids Creation Science. They are teaching their kids that the world is only 13,000 years old. They are teaching their children hatred for homosexuals, nonchristians, and Christians that practice differently than they do. These people substitute ignorance for faith and try to claim that it is the same thing. It isn’t. Hiding from science and history doesn’t make your faith stronger. It makes your faith a sham. It deserves to be shown up. These people deserve to be exposed. However, to do so isn’t a documentary. It is propaganda.

If you want to see a great documentary I would strongly recommend “March of Penguins”. However, my first and strongest love would be “Born into Brothels”. It is an absolutely amazing movie. It is my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is a shining example of what a documentary can and should be. If you haven’t seen this movie I recommend you check it out. If you are the type of person that I have access to and you are interested in seeing it, I will loan it to you. I like it that much. It is simply one of the most hauntingly beautiful movies that I have ever seen.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand that all documentaries are told from a perspective, but movies like the work of Michael Moore where they just flat out lie or “Jesus Camp” where they use music so perfectly to make you understand that what is going on is just wrong, moves past a perspective and into the realm of propaganda.

By the way, if you are interested in seeing “Jesus Camp” I can hook you up on that one as well.

As far as I can tell “An Inconvenient Truth” deserved to win Best Documentary. It is certainly better than “Jesus Camp”. It isn’t over the top in the propaganda department. In fact, the propaganda has really nothing to do with the Global Warming part of the movie. The propaganda is in how the filmmakers try to sell you on the greatness of Al Gore. Ironically, that part of the movie is going to hurt getting the message of the movie out. However, I’ll talk about that in an entire blog dedicated to my lunch with my Personal Climatologist at an undetermined point in the future.

My major complaint is that Melissa Etheridge won an Oscar for her song from “An Inconvenient Truth”. Whether or not the song is a piece of garbage I won’t debate. Personally I think the song is kind of catchy. My problem is that this song is really only used in the credits. I am a firm believer that the song that wins the Oscar should be important in developing the story line as well as being a great song.

Now if I was just going to pick my favorite song it would have been “Patience” from “Dreamgirls”. Although it is my favorite song it isn’t instrumental in the movie. That song would be “Listen”, also from “Dreamgirls”. It is a great song and it comes at the climax of the movie, when Dina is finally able to summon enough personal strength to leave her husband.

I would just take a little bit of time to point out that there is one thing that I have to take exception with in the movie “Dreamgirls”. Jamie Foxx’s character is based on Berry Gordy. The movie intimates that Berry Gordy had no taste in making movies. Berry Gordy no taste in making movies? Are you kidding me?

We’re talking about the man that would produce the 1980s martial arts epic “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”. I will refresh your memory if you have forgotten this classic of the American cinema.

The movie focused on a young martial artist living in Harlem by the name of Bruce Leroy. His adversary is the Shogun of Harlem, Sho’ Nuff. Right there, that is all you need to know about the greatness of this movie.

But back to other categories that annoyed me. Quite frankly there weren’t that many. One that stands out is “The Danish Poet” winning for best animated short. I sat through this 15 minute cure for insomnia. Trust me, I can take a slow moving movie. You are reading the writings of the largest Stanley Kubrick fan you probably know. “The Danish Poet” is only 15 minutes long!! It feels like 90. At the end, the payoff is nothing special.

I personally would have chosen “The Maestro”. I’ll grant you that the ending is somewhat predictable, but I’m impressed with their dedication to their theme. Moving the camera angle every second to be consistent with the gears of clock was rather ingenious in my mind.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” didn’t win for Best Foreign Language Picture. This was the biggest joke of the night. Not only should it have won for Best Foreign Language Picture, it should have won for Best Picture. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture is the fault of the film’s makers. They didn’t put it up for Best Picture.

I can’t really dispute any of the winners in the 6 major categories.

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson from “Dreamgirls”

This is who I wanted to win. This is shocking because the only thing that I knew about her going into the theater that night was that she was from American Idol. I have a little math equation I do in my head that helps me when confronted with situations that involve American Idol. It goes something like this:

American Idol = Garbage

Jennifer Hudson is the first time that my little cognitive shortcut has failed me. Jennifer Hudson blew me away. She is undoubtedly the first decent thing to come from that entertainment wasteland. I’ll give some props to it spawning “Cyclone Idol” where Stephanie has been robbed people who were looking for “mass appeal and quality”.

Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin from “Little Miss Sunshine”

I was okay with this choice. His character is complicated and entertaining. He gives the most important speech in the movie when he is in the hotel room with Olive and he tells her what a real loser is. Plus an underrated sequence in that movie is the sequence where he tells his son that he is proud of him. Underplayed beautifully.

My first choice would have been Djimon Honsou for “Blood Diamond”. His portrayal of a father searching a civil war torn country for his son that has been turned into a soldier is a great.

I also would have been pleased with Eddie Murphy winning for “Dreamgirls”.

Best Actress – Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

This category is almost an afterthought. That is how good she is in this movie.

Best Actor – Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.

This category is also almost an afterthought. Forest Whitaker is amazing as the charismatic, sociopath Idi Amin. There was some belief that Peter O’Toole might win this category. If he would have, it would have been more of a lifetime achievement award than anything else. Kind of like . . .

Best Director – Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”

I can’t really argue with this choice. “The Departed” is a pretty good movie. It isn’t one of Scorsese’s best movies. Not by a long shot. I know there was a big groundswell of support to finally get him an Oscar. To be honest there are worse things in the world than not winning an Oscar. The two greatest directors in history (Kubrick and Hitchcock) have zero Oscars between them. The problem is that the Academy made huge mistakes in at least 3 other years. If they need to get an Oscar for Scorsese so bad, they should call up John G. Avildsen up and ask him to return his Oscar for “Rocky”. “Rocky” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese should have went home with the Oscar for “Taxi Driver”. Then call up Robert Redford and ask him to bring in his Oscar for “Ordinary People”. Once again, “Ordinary People” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese release “Raging Bull” which is hands down the best movie in a decade that was fairly devoid of great movies. “Berry Gordy’s That Last Dragon” is an obvious exception. Finally, they should call up Kevin Costner and ask him to return his Oscar for “Dances with Wolves”. Undoubtedly “Dances with Wolves” is one of the worst movies to ever win for Best Picture (right next to “Annie Hall”). Scorsese also deserved the win that year for “Goodfellas”. That is a movie that changed the way I hear “Layla” forever.

In the end history will record that Scorsese won an Oscar for Best Director. However, when movie critics survey his body of work, the movie he won for won’t be near the top. It will be an interesting story. What did Scorsese have to do to win an Oscar? Remake a Japanese movie and set it in Boston. That is the ultimate irony. A man who will always be affiliated with New York City finally won the big prize by taking a movie to Boston.

Scorsese was a good choice, but I would have preferred Clint Eastwood. What he did by telling both sides of the battle of Iwo Jima was much more ambitious than taking a Japanese movie and throwing Boston accents and swear words on it. I know though that there is no way that Eastwood would win a third Oscar while Scorsese has zero.

Best Picture – The Departed

Honestly I wasn’t that crazy about this year’s crop of nominees. I would rank them in the following order bottom to top.

“Bab3l” – Interesting, but not great. I think the core message about this movie is that if you are an American, everything will turn out just fine and dandy for you. But if you are from the developing world, you are screwed. I do like the concept of following a story of how one event can affect the lives of so many people around the world. It is that string theory that I love so much.

The Queen – Entertaining. It managed to make me feel sympathy for people that I hold in complete disdain. I went to see this movie with Derrick and Jen. Derrick came out of the movie thinking that royalty was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Although I felt bad for they went through, it reinforced to me how British royalty is a completely archaic institution and the sooner it is ended, the better. If you have an opinion on this let me know. I am interested in other’s peoples opinions on how this movie made them feel about the British royals.

Letters fromIwo Jima – As a companion to “Flags of Our Fathers” this movie wasn’t I was expecting. I left “Flags of Our Fathers” with lots of respect for the Japanese on Iwo Jima. “Letters from Iwo Jima” kind of destroyed that respect for me on some level. They were completely unorganized. Nobody followed orders. At the first sign of trouble everybody wanted to commit suicide.

The Departed – Funny and entertaining. Very well acted. A bit gratuitous in the language and violence at times, but it is a gangster movie. To expect anything else would be lying to yourself.

Little Miss Sunshine – The first words that came out of my mouth when I left the theater after seeing this movie was “best road trip movie ever made.” I stand by that now. You all know that I’m a big fan of the road trip. I’m also a huge fan of road trip movies, with the obvious exception of “Roadtrip” which sucks. The only road trip movies I would put it up against are “Sullivan’s Travels” and “It Happened One Night”. Plus this movie had my favorite scene of the year. The scene where the pageant lady asks Greg Kinnear what his daughter is doing on stage. He turns to her and says: “Kicking ass. That is what she is doing.” Kicking ass is also what this movie does.

I won’t complain about “The Departed” winning. Comedies don’t win very often.

There were a couple of events that actually transpired that I would like to share. First and foremost, Jen won the prize for being the Best Dressed Female”.

Secondly, we decided to have “A Clockwork Orange” Party. I shouldn’t say party. I will say “A Clockwork Orange” Night. The gleaming centerpiece of the evening will be a viewing of the Stanley Kubrick classic “A Clockwork Orange”. This is going to transpire because Derrick made the bold proclamation that “Dr. Strangelove” is the greatest Stanley Kubrick movie. I will not dispute the fact that it is probably the best comedy ever made. But for sure I would have to rank “A Clockwork Orange” as the better Kubrick movie. I’m also going to rank “Paths of Glory” above it. I would have to give considerable thought to where “The Shining”, “Full Metal Jacket”, and “2001: A Space Odyssey” rank. I’m not disputing the greatness of “Dr. Strangelove”, just its place in the Kubrick pantheon. This dispute led to this Night of A Clockwork Orange, but you just can’t watch a movie. You have to have themed food. So if anybody out there has a great “orange” based recipe and would be willing to part with it, throw it my way. It would be much appreciated.

I feel that you might think that Derrick and I just aren’t compatible. He is always running off his mouth and I always have to regulate him. It isn’t just Derrick, though. While we were discussing Melissa Etheridge Derrick asked the no-brainer question of the year. If Crosby, Stills, and Nash were giving a concert right next to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and you could only go to one, which one would you go to? What is the speed of light? Faster than that, that is how long it would take me to go see Neil Young. Jen is a hard case though. She actually stuck up for Crosby, Stills, and Nash. What are you going to do?

The third thing that transpired at the Oscar Party was yet another debate between Derrick and me. I won’t disclose who had what opinion, because I would like to get some feedback from other people. This debate is centered on the movie “Blood Diamond”.

The thing to remember about diamonds is that they aren’t rare. Not even a little bit. They have no real intrinsic value. Their value is artificially inflated by a company that owns almost all the diamonds in the world. This company buys up all the diamonds and puts most of them in a vault so that they can artificially raise their value.

Many diamonds come from countries like Sierra Leone where people are enslaved and murdered so these specks of carbon can be sold in malls all over these great United States. Allegedly this company does not buy diamonds from countries that are involved in war. However, the organization that oversees the diamond industry was founded by this very same company that owns almost all the world’s diamonds.

>Here is the question I would like you to answer:

In the movie “Blood Diamond” people are murdered and enslaved in pursuit of one particularly large diamond. What do you think would make a more tragic ending?

The diamond ends up in a vault and never sees the market.

OR

The diamond ends up in an American jewelry shop where some spoiled American purchases it because of the way it looks and never realizes how many people suffered and died so they could wear that sparkly piece of carbon around.

If you are interested in seeing “Blood Diamond” before weighing in on this question, I can hook you up as well.

Well, I better call it a night, but this story will continue. I need to discuss a stained glass stepping stone, my lunch with Bill, bowling, and my lunch with my personal climatologist still.

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part I)

I may have alluded to having a pretty great weekend in an earlier blog. Although it might have been a bit of bragging on my part, I have always been a big fan of the moral philosopher Jay Hanna Dean (AKA Jerome Herman Dean) who argued that “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” So I shall try to back it up with the parts that were great. 

I might as well start out with the major failure from my weekend. Friday was the last day of employment for James at DM. I had all intentions of going in to congratulate him and pop some bubbly. I did not make my goal. As you can see by the image below though, it was the only goal that I failed to fulfill this past weekend. However, I do apologize James and I do congratulate you James. If you are the interested, James has accepted a position in Nevada as a CNA.




Although that was the major failure of my weekend, it would not be the first. I was given the proverbial “shaft” on two separate occasions. The first was the deepest and most savage cut.

I left the friendly confines of my place of employment on Friday night looking forward to the good natured camaraderie that is Friday Night Supper Club. I was slightly concerned because as I hit US30 I had yet to hear from the founder and president of Friday Night Supper Club. I usually get this call from Willy’s pseudonym Lone Wolf Dinner Reservations by 5 pm. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for the call and I gave a little ring-a-ding-ding to Jay to inquire about this evening’s dining situation. Jay’s response hit me like a bucket of cold water in the face. 

“Willy isn’t coming! He went to go see some steroid jockeys talk about God. You want to go get a salad?” 

Two things instantly occurred to me. First, I’m going to name my upcoming spoken word album “Steroid Jockeys”. Second, Willy is in the process of abdicating his throne. This is something that will need to be addressed at the forthcoming Friday Night Supper Club. 

So Jay and I went to The Colorado Grill. I was so disturbed by the absence of Willy that I knew I would have to take my dining experience up a notch. I normally get the Black Diamond Pita sandwich because the sauce that comes with it is absolutely extraordinary. There are times that I also take down a breaded pork tenderloin. The pork tenderloin is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches and will hopefully be the impetus for a forthcoming roadtrip to Hamlin, Iowa to a restaurant that serves what legend claims is “The State’s Best Pork Tenderloin”. I was going to need beef. So I ordered a sirloin sandwich, medium rare. Just how the gods like their steak cooked.  

Somewhere in the middle of the meal my phone rang. I looked at Jay and said “I’m about to do something extremely hypocritical.” Then I answered the phone. 

The reason that this is hypocritical is because I have with the help of Scott taught the rules of basic phone etiquette to a certain Mr. Ungs recently. He had a nasty habit of answering his phone when he was out to eat with other people. A habit that is insanely rude. A rule that I will no doubt have to teach Jesse in the near future as well. 

Stephanie was on the phone. She was offering to donate her tips from Friday and Saturday night to the American Cancer Society Fundraiser that I was intending on attending on Sunday.  I accepted the offer and thanked her.  What a nice person! 

The rest of the night went by without incident.  I went to bed early to ready myself for what was supposed to be a busy Saturday.   

I had made the following plans:  I needed to go to Hobby Lobby to purchase a can of matte sealer and some mat board.  I was scheduled to go to visit Shannon and learn how to make lye soap.  Then I was going to go to Des Moines with my eldest sister Teresa to conclude my Oscar Party pre-work by seeing “Notes on a Scandal” at the Fleur Cinema and dine on the tasty goodness that is Hu Hot. Then I was to head to The Colorado Grill to celebrate Shorty’s 70th Birthday. 

Most of these plans fell through. For starters, Teresa had been hinting all week that if the weather was bad she wouldn’t want to drive down to Des Moines. I told her that she was a coward and I was ashamed of being related to somebody that would let weather dictate their life. She relented and “agreed” to go. Then on Saturday she calls me in the morning to tell me that she can’t go because she has been to the doctor’s and she has “Strep Throat”. Strep Throat. That is a made up ailment if I have ever heard of one. On par with Countchoculitis. 

I hadn’t gotten off the phone with her for more than an hour when my phone rang again. This time it was Doris (Shorty’s wife) telling me that she was and I quote “uninviting me” to Shorty’s birthday shindig. The roads were just too bad.  

I still needed my stuff from Hobby Lobby. So I did what any “real” man does when the weather is bad. He gets in his car and goes to Hobby Lobby. After all I was out of matte sealer and I need to come up with a new picture for Salon 908. “Last, Loveliest Smile” is nearing the end of its 6 week engagement. I’m thinking about using a B&W flower picture from my sister’s bathroom redecoration project as the next one to go on display. I don’t know if I will be able to get this past the sole proprietor of Salon 908. Kelly possesses a longstanding disdain for B&W photography. This one could take a little bit of the Mayor Goldie’s magic touch. If he sides with me. He might side with his wife. 

I also heard from my Ogden Agent, Monica, this week. With her shrewd negotiating skills she has found a home for some of my pictures in “Everlasting’s”. So I need to make some product for this exciting new outlet. Since this is a flower shop, I’ll probably stick with flower pictures. I don’t anticipate selling much there, but you never know. Allegedly people have inquired about buying “Last, Loveliest Smile” and it isn’t even for sell. 

So I hopped in the car and headed to Ames. I’m telling you people, the roads weren’t that bad. You could easily do 35-40. The only danger was swerving around the person going in the ditch in front of you, but after a couple of times of that it almost becomes second nature. 

Hobby Lobby. I don’t know why, but it seems like every time I go there I forget about there incredibly slow service. It always seems a surprise to me that I wait in line for 10 minutes when there is only two people ahead of me in line. I always stand in line asking myself the same question: “Do I really need this thing that bad?” Although I almost always tough it out, it never ceases to amaze me that as I am walking out the door, the “other” Hobby Lobby employee resurfaces and opens up another cash register.  

Despite yet another painful experience at Hobby Lobby, I swore to not let it ruin my day. If my sister faking an illness and being uninvited from a birthday party weren’t going to ruin my day, neither would waiting in line for 15 minutes to by 1 can and 2 matboards. 

I headed to the nearest Salvation Army to look for cheap used frames. I don’t usually find much at these places, but on this day I left with a 16 x 20 frame that I can paint and use to house the next Salon 908 image.  

I made my way across an ice skating rink that I swore was a parking lot last week and called Shannon. 

“Still making soap?” 

For the first time all day, somebody wasn’t letting the weather dictate to them what it was they were supposed to be doing. The Little White Lye Soap Company. I believe it was this company that Herodotus was thinking about when he penned this line: “these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed”. 

So I learned how to and got to take a small part in the making of the latest batch of Little White Lye Soap. So next time you pick up a 6 pack, I might have played a small bit in the making of that soap.  

Shannon said that it “wouldn’t be very exciting.”  

She lied. It was exhilarating. It was indescribable.  I wish I could tell you all about it. I can’t because I signed a “confidentiality agreement”. I can’t tell you anything that might compromise any of her trade secrets. Sorry. 

The rest of Saturday was a wash. The best part of it being that I fell asleep on the couch during the ISU-Kansas game so I didn’t have to watch much of it. The worst part of it being that I’m trying to build this computer for Willy for his birthday present, but the thing keeps crashing every time you load Service Pack 2 on to it. It is trying my patience. 

This is to be continued at a later time. So I can write extensively and exhaustively about the Oscar results.