Duluth got its start as a shipping hub along lake Superior. Its peak population was in 1950 like many cities in the Rustbelt. It has its museums and its venues and its shops but it clings long and tightly to the lake. Lakeward is a direction in this area in the same way that out West “mountainward” is a direction. We mulled our options for the morning and afternoon before heading out to make our tour of the Soudan mine. The options were: Accordion Museum, Great Lakes Aquarium, or the Glensheen Mansion. The last was listed as The Murder House by the internet so, after finding out the Accordion museum was only open like 10 hours a week and we’d be there for none of them, we opted for the Murder House.

Me: Two tickets please.
Cashier: For which tour?
Me: The murder-iest tour.
Cashier: We don’t talk about the murders.
Me: You sell a book in the giftshop called “The Murders at Glensheen”.
Cashier: But we steer away from that on the tour.
Me: Given what I’ve said, what tour do you recommend?
Cashier: Whichever you wish.
Me: Not helping, boss.
Cashier: The next open tour is in 3 hours.
Me: That settles that.

We departed and tried to catch an earlier tour at the Soudan Mine which would take us deep into Minnesota. The drive was gorgeous and with a speed limit of 50-65 miles we got almost 40 miles to the gallon that tank. Roadside constructs started to appear like the two or three storey Tinman with what I can only describe as Kardashian-esque lips. The trip was through forest studded with wetlands and lakes. We followed behind cars puttering around 55 and adaptive cruise control proved helpful. When following another car, my Subaru would easily slow down to a full stop at a stop sign, and then resume when the car in front has passed the intersection.

The Soudan mine was a iron ore mine that produced oxygen-rich ore that was common before the advent of the modern blast furnace.  The rise of modern blast furnaces and the incredibly rich ore seams in the Iron Range shut down the mine in favor of taconite ore which could be surface mined.  The shaft into the mine drops a half mile winding up 600 feet or so below sea level at a constant 51 degrees Fahrenheit.  The tour started out 3/4s of a mile from the shaft and worked its way back and forward in time from the 1880s to the mine’s closure in the 1960s.  After surfacing, I asked to drone and was informed it was not permitted in Minnesota parks but they were working on it.  The Vermillion Soudan area previously held a neutrino detector which had been removed the previous year….just missed it.  We stopped at the sole store in Soudan for ice cream and gas and continued on to Ely on the way to Grand Portage.  My travel partner looked at the history of Ely while we were waiting for our dinner to make it to table and she calculated that had she visited in 2000 she would have approximately 8% of Ely’s Asian population.

That evening was in a hostel where of the 12 inhabitants, both human and canine, I was the sole male.  I hope I’d wake up.

This post was made on 2018-07-31 and is backdated.

This was a work day. Part of the agreement that allowed me to take three weeks off was that I’d have periodic work days to attend to things. This was one of those days. Our Chicago office had grown considerably since last I visited with the standard people I work with now being highly outnumbered by everyone else. I hope this is a good sign. Their office was much more casual than the head office in which I work and several people were around a large television working on things while watching the world cup. I heard no screaming or other jubilation so either people were polite or unmoved….or maybe all the matches were 0-0 ties.

We finished at work, returned to our host’s place, and quickly departed for Duluth. Not quite Duluth but Superior, Wisconsin. The important part was that hotel prices were lower. Leaving at 6pm and with 450 miles or so to cover, I was pleased that with traffic we arrived before 2am. My travel partner started out and drove for about 300 miles for a proper 4 hours and over that time she went from “I’m going to go the speed limit” to “I’m willing to go slightly above the speed limit to move with traffic”.  I’m considering this progress.  We arrived at our hotel in Superior, WI at about 2am on the button and quickly went to bed.

This post was made on 2018-07-27 and is backdated.

Today we visited the Chicago Art Institute bringing our museum streak to three. The Art Institute has an exceptional collection and impressive temporary collections. I said hello to my friends in the Thorn miniature gallery and then looked over the American work from 1800 to 1975 or so. This was the third museum with a large American wing that I had seen in five days or so and trends and themes previous invisible popped out. Names and movements were less alien. I wonder if the same thing would have occurred if I had visited the same museum three times instead.

I visited my friend “Time Transfixed” as its commonly translated. Magritte prefers “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger” but there were fights that lost.

After museum time, we quickly got dinner at what I can only call an Asian Diner. The menu was thick, much thicker than I’ve ever seen for a place like that and one set of pages was just options for smoothies with about 120 on the spread. We wound up mixing Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese food and everything was a solid B. The servers were even diner surly which made me feel at home.

That evening we took an architecture boat tour of Chicago. Over the span of about two hours we covered the portion of the Chicago River from the Post Office to Lake Michigan. This was the first time I’d seen the Chicago river walk which seemed like a pretty big oversight having visited some dozen times. It was pretty but the buildings started to blur after a bit. There were a large number of boat goers taking pictures of themselves giving Trump Tower the finger.

After the tour finished we decided to half walk back to our hosts. We walked to the edge of the loop and then took a Lyft back. I talked with our hosts for a bit before calling it a night. We slept in.

This post was made on 2018-07-27 and is backdated.

I was pleased to wake up after nine hours of sleep on an air mattress that was still largely inflated. We made a hasty exit as our first stop for the day was to meet someone in Holland, Michigan for lunch. Michigan felt like a state where as one radiated from some central point, one went further to the South. The person we met for lunch spoke of his difficulties as a person of color in an area with so many Confederate flags. I didn’t even know there was a South to Michigan but apparently there very much is. He hoped to leave the area, and I hope he gets to. I’m willing to put in a little help to make that happen. Let’s see if it works out. After leaving Holland, we headed around Lake Michigan and made our way to Chicago. Along the way we stopped at the Frederik Meijer Gardens which is a mix of a botanical garden and sculpture park. There were large installation pieces by contemporary American artists which is a bit rare but was quite nice. Seeing the DeVos name everywhere was a bit jarring. We didn’t have much time and quickly ran out the clock on the gardens being open.  Grand Rapids was featured in Our Towns and I hope at some point to revisit and the see the rest of this city as well as the rest of Michigan.  Another time.  We left for Chicago but didn’t have time to visit the zebra breeding facility.  There’s a zebra stallion that has been tamed and has successfully made zorses, zonkeys, zonies, and other equids.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities for the embarrassment of riches it has for art, reasonably inexpensive mass transit, architecture, view, and history. Chicago is a place for people doing things. Our host was someone I generally only talk to when in Chicago. I’d like to find a way to fix that but we don’t have much overlap in our lives otherwise. Maybe I need to find a way to change that. We arrived and were offered air fried taquitos. Air fryers in my experience were the fastest route to a mediocre french fry but these were amazing. Like, maybe I should get an air fryer amazing.  We caught up, and full of taquito, we slept on a pull out.

This post was made on 2018-07-26 and is backdated.

Our host prepared a cloud of breakfast seemingly from nowhere, summoning bacon and eggs from from his breakfast reserves with skill. We went to the Detroit Institute of Art and saw the Star Wars costume exhibit. It was bittersweat as most of the costumes were from the prequels where Natalie Portman dressed well but was as emotionally engaged as a marionette. The writing was wooden and she spent most of her scenes talking in front of large windows. No one emerged looking good…except the costumers. The rest of the museum, like the Cleveland Museum of Art was built by now absent money for a now absent populace. But again, the riches have stayed in Detroit’s vault and are generously shared by those who are willing to visit. One of the wings was hosting a sketching group, and one girl of less than 12 but older than 8 was doing what I can describe as Picasso-esque drawings of people. A mother and daughter were being sketched (they seemed to know what was happening) but the page showed a dying aged daughter and a skeletal mother with both people’s necks bent in several places they shouldn’t as well as possibly a dozen additional elbows. I was too timid to interrupt.

That evening, we watched Japanese wrestling followed my MMA. I was very lightly into the then WWF when I was a kid and saw a Royal Rumble at a neighbor’s house. The Japanese matches involved two very sweaty, hairless,  blond dyed haired men executing a series of maneuvers over at least an hour. That’s many times longer than I remember those matches being as a kid. The eventual winner was American and I was pleased that he addressed the audience in Japanese and English at the end. The MMA was a bit more of a mixed bag. Matches ranged from anemic to brutal. The final fight of the evening involved what was a two hit take down. What I failed to appreciate at the time was that the time required to execute a punch is much faster than human response time. In the same way a soccer goalie has to choose a direction to dive before the kick is made, the person receiving a blow needs to block, dodge, or respond before the punch in thrown. This explains the cases where someone just got straight up walluped and then fell over.

The matches went long and afterwards we went to bed. This time, my companion took the couch and I got the air mattress.

This post was made on 2018-07-26 and is backdated.

We started with breakfast at Grumpy’s Cafe which was on the “we don’t give people straws” train. Their bathroom had a large display on how eschewing straws would save civilization and that it was a sign of Western decadence or something. Great. Not having a straw cuts down my ability to consume the normal 9 liters of diet cola I like with a meal so they may have had ulterior motives. After breakfast, we parted with our hosts and continued to Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland is a rustbelt town that has far more culture than its current population would otherwise need which is to say the museums are pleasantly devoid of people. Outside the Cleveland Museum of Art is a Rodin that someone tried to “vandalize” by planting explosives at its base. The  vandal succeeded in damaging a foot.  The club-footed copy of The Thinker is easily my favorite version now. I consider it a meditation on how unflappable the properly intrigued or oblivious can be.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a fair amount of American art from the colonial period to early modern. The thread of America becoming America was undeniable albeit through a specific White Anglo-Saxon lens. I hope that’s a chain of progress we get to add a few more links to. The Cleveland Museum of Art was also hosting Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors which started…the day after we left. This marks the fourth time I’ve managed to not get tickets, arrive right before, or arrive right after the exhibit has started. I should probably go to the Mattress Factory. The collection of Dutch art is impressive and I’m not sure why. I wonder if there’s a kinship across times between two cultures who at their peak had thriving middle classes. I hope Cleveland does again.

The rest of the collection is top notch and even better when you consider it’s less than its peak population in 1950 (390K from over 900K). The dividends of concentration are the shows of industrial wealth we call centers for the arts. I know of no such analog coming from the as-rich-per-person-on-average splotches of the suburbs. I’d gladly give up a lawn to have access to Leger and Picasso. Cleveland architecture is distinct and borrows from Beaux-Arts and Art Deco through more contemporary styles and each building does a good job of fitting. The square around the art museum is a well arranged but quirky dinner party.

We departed Cleveland and stopped at a strongly endorsed bakery near Oberlin College. Eh. Off to Detroit. Our hosts met us there with slightly-fancier-than-they-normally-have wine in a box and we caught up. The evening ended on an air mattress and its gradual deflation. Another not-quite-working air mattress.

This post was made on 2018-07-26 and is backdated.

We left Philadelphia at close to 6am which marked the first time I’d met my target departure time in some number of road trips. The drive to Cuyahoga Valley Nation Park was uneventful to the point that the Lebanese restaurant we hit for lunch proved to be a chain. The visitor center sold National Park passes and I purchased one. $80 for one year of unlimited access to the National Park system is usually a good deal. Buying one involved a locked box that contained a safe that contained another locked box. This seemed a bit much. Cuyahoga Falls was in the high 80s with humidity in the 90s. The short 4 mile hike we took was enough to leave us both a special kind of parched. My travel partner commented after a few minutes in the car that I was dry already when in reality I had merely soaked through my shirt to a uniform sweat stain. We got caught in a downpour which may have reduced how wet I was.  After the storm passed, we continued on to Cleveland.

We continued on to Cleveland and met our hosts at a grilled cheese place with an expansive definition of “topping”. The menu had a few oddities to it in that one could add an egg for relatively little and also have waffles added cheaply. The server was almost comically chipper. Like beyond “help, they’re holding me captive” smiley and closer to “I love Big Brother” chipper. We moved on to the Cleveland Waterfront after visiting the “FREE” stamp. The Waterfront consisted of a dock on Lake Erie. I am dimly aware that Cleveland has things. I’m not entirely sure what, but the Waterfront wasn’t too encouraging. Despite being archetypal of “Rust Belt” Cleveland contains both a few large firms as well as Case Western Reserve. The downside is that these industries rarely have coat tails that pull up other businesses and I’m unsure of how the hand has been played by the city. After seeing a boat titled the Aluminauti and supermanning through the Cleveland sign we turned in. At this point, we were seven hours from home. Not quite a road trip. Getting there.

Part of the trip was catching up with my Cleveland host. He’s someone I’ve know for more than 20 years at this point and he’s on the cusp of marriage. He has a passion for film where passion may not be the right word. He consumes film without pretense, and while I’m confident he can tell me why Orson Welles is so great he’s never really pushed it on me. He has strongly recommended I consume more films. His house is a bit of a cathedral to media which would have confused me up until I started buying vinyl. There’s something fetishistic about discs contain culture that I’m starting to understand.

This post was made on 2018-07-26 and is backdated.

The Mutter Masquerade passed. It did as it has every year since it started but this was the first year where I learned that I had “just missed it”. I open my calendar and write a note for September 15, 2017 to look into getting tickets. May this is the last year where I will have missed it. Oh tenses. I note an entry to the left four squares “Ashley D’s Birthday”. Again, tenses. September 11, 2017 would have been her birthday. She’s no longer with us.

Death or at least its pronouncements can form a kind of morbid metronome that hastens as you age but the last half decade has been a respite. In the 2000s I attended about one Boy Scout funeral a year for around a decade. The spread of ages results in no only a steady march of new sons but also the unwinding of fathers. After moving to the city I lost touch with those families and by extension their joys and tragedies. Then earlier this year a friend departed our company. She will be sorely missed.
I don’t want to see that little notifier, a barbed reminder of the arrow of time but there’s no simple way to remove it. I can turn off all birthdays but not just one. I could remove her from my contacts and after a few minutes of staring blankly and bits of information that tie to someone who isn’t there anymore I hit the delete key. I spam F5 and still her name persists. Staring at my screen, I issued a sad little laugh as I went through the indecorous process of posthumously unfollowing her on Google+. So this is where we are now. To Google, she still exists and I’ve simply chosen to not pay attention. She’s probably not sent or received any emails, IMs, Google+ posts, map queries, or made any Play Store transactions. Google doesn’t know if we just had a break up, a large argument, or she’s dropped off the grid. So wise yet so blind. This is a problem that will only build over time. At some point, more users of a given service will have departed than those who use it without appropriate vital hygiene. I guess it’s good for me to get used to this now.

Goodbye, Ashley.

I’ve been biking to work for about four months and all and all it’s been wonderful. I’ve used a total of six subway tokens since then which pleases me greatly.

The Bike/Bus lane on Walnut is usually treated as another traffic lane and this morning, I came to a red with bumper to bumper traffic, hopped off my bike, walked it across the street, hopped back on at the other side while the flow of traffic still had a red and resumed riding in the Bike/Bus lane. The light turned green and the driver behind me started honking and yelling “get out of the lane”. This is when my knee-jerk contrarianism kicked in and I brought my bike to a complete stop, counted to four, and turned around yelling “This is a bike and bus lane, you are neither of those”.

When I turned back around, hiding my embarrassment as having yelling at a car in traffic, I saw that traffic was at a complete stop some 2 car lengths ahead of me. I lifted my bike onto the side walk, crossed the street on foot, and rode off to work.

This is the first time I purposefully turned myself in a road hazard to prove a point. I’m curious if I choose to do so again.

Sam’s Club sells a lovely fruit salad.  It’s six pounds for like 9 dollars and the juice from it has this melony flavor the fancies up mixed drinks in a way that makes grenadine seem a methadone-like substitute.  Knowing this, I avoid consuming the fruit salad juice and bottle it when I’m done in a latch-top bottle from Ikea and store it until it’s cocktail time.

I polished off a container of fruit salad a few weeks ago and decanted the juice.  Then about a week ago, I popped the top to try some and noticed it fizzed.  I couldn’t remember if I had mixed half a left-over bottle of sparkling wine and the taste suggested I had so I recapped it and left it again.  Today I returned home after work and knocked a bottle of Mountain Dew off the top of my fridge.  It hit the ground and I looked down and saw a yellow/green puddle thinking the bottle had opened.  I picked up the bottle and saw it was intact.  I opened the fridge and saw what I can only describe as carnage.  The bottle contained the apparently fermented fruit juice had exploded with enough force to embed shards  of glass in the door.  A fact I found out while wiping the door down and the wash rag being stopped repeated by jagged shards poking out.  Bottles on the second shelf of my fridge had been knocked over and the top rear of my fridge was even hit by the blast.  I threw out some things that were in open containers as they may have received glass spall.  On the plus side, my fridge has never been cleaner.

Part of me wants to science it and see if it’ll happen again.