October 15th, 2011


The Non-Frozen Northlands

Last Christmas, harrock and I were somewhat traumatized by our attempts to get home from Wisconsin. So this year we went to visit his family during the non-winter season, which proved a lot easier.

We flew into Minneapolis on the Wednesday, and visited Jerry's mom to start; petted the cat and saw her garden, which in October is admittedly not at its peak flower season, but still is quite a bit more interesting than when it is all under a foot of snow. Then we zooshed down to Madison, stopping at one of Jerry's childhood memories, the Circus World Museum. It was off season, so no actual performances, and in fact it was nigh unto deserted. There's something surreal and almost creepy about walking around a place that seems like an amusement park with nobody else there. The river with the fall foliage was gorgeous, if a bit unrelated. Anyway, we trooped through the big warehouse full of circus cars, including a lot of painted carvings, one inexplicable circus missile launcher car, and a music car. There was a separate room that had the no-man-band wagon (that when I put a quarter in to make it go was REALLY LOUD), as well as some of the fancier painted wagons.
We stayed with Jerry's Grandma that night, and had her impressive pot roast. It's hard to have a very *long* visit with Grandma Marty, though she is really very sweet, so we decided to be tourists the next day and visit the House on the Rock. Which was... mad and surreal.

So, take this kind of eccentric architect. Frank Lloyd Wright, also from the area, says to him "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop", so in revenge, he builds this house which is shaped kind of like an Imperial Star Destroyer that someone parked on two stone pillars, jutting out into space. The house itself is chock full of sunken sofa nooks, covered with shag carpet, plus this infinite room out into the air. Then added onto it (and separated by a Japanese garden here and there) are these... other buildings, full of ... stuff. A carousel and a ceiling full of angel sculptures and a gun collection and a whole bunch of animatronic music players and a huge collection of carved diamond window ads and a huge room with a sea monster and ship models and an even huger room like the walk-through steampunk clockwork-powered organs of the Inferno (okay, that one was my favorite), and and and. Kind of overwhelming and surreal and baffling.
The next morning after that, back to Minneapolis to hang out with Jerry's mom and Vicki. All this driving is being done to the audiobook of The Zimmerman Telegram, which I will insist upon thinking of as the sequel to the Guns of August. Any scene that has the Kaiser in it, or has people talking about him, is my favorite. That night's dinner involves tomatoes and basil from the garden, with fresh mozzarella (not from the garden) and chicken, which we eat out on the back porch.

(The back porch, however, is to be my DOOM, as this is where I try to pick up my new iPad (birthday toy) and drop it on the bricks, breaking the glass. Tragedy! I am crushed! But that's not yet. Look at me foreshadowing! All is not lost, though, but that part is for a different post.)

The next day is church. There is this cruel trick that Jerry's mom keeps unintentionally playing on me; she likes to sit at the front, and then she gets called up to assist with Mass, so I end up being the first in line for communion (for all you Catholics being appalled at me taking communion, this is Lutheran, and I've been baptized, so I am given to understand that I'm not profaning anything) and don't know what I should be doing. I'm fine when I can do what everyone else is doing, but not when I have no one to copy! Where do I walk to? Do I take the wafer or do they give it to me? To my hands or do I open my mouth? Anyway, I kind of muffed it at Christmas, which I am sure no one in the church cared about but me, so this time I made the second row cut in front of me so I could follow them. Church came with an Octoberfest Bratwurst Feast, which was fun and I didn't flub anything there.

That afternoon, we putter about in Stillwater for a bit, and I get to buy both yarn and a fascinating two-chambered bowl; if I had bought a book I would have had the trifecta of my collections, but I was experimenting with a no-books no-laptop ipad-only trip to see how it went. Then we went to an organic off-grid "garage winery" (Clover Meadow) Vicki liked for a wine tasting - out in the middle of nowhere, very informal, just sitting out in an open-air tent trying different wines and meeting the rescued dogs as the sun went down. I ended up coming home with two bottles, neither actual wine - one of oak leaf wine and one of onion wine. (The latter will probably be used in stew).

The next morning is the Doom of Dropping the iPad (and I sulk quite a bit), and then to the airport and back to Boston. There is absolutely no problem with the weather or the flights; nothing at all is cancelled. There is something to this travel-not-during-winter thing.