Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pirates of the Green

Okay, as ridiculous absurd tourist activities go, we managed to be slightly more ironic about miniature golf. But the spirit of competition was still strong in us, fueled rather than dampened by our realization that we both really suck at it, and we should have gone for the baby course rather than the "medium" course. Let's just say that occasions where we made par were in the minority, and occasions where we gave up after hitting the maximum of 5 were not all that rare. However, we had a pretty good time. Here is me making a very earnest effort:

Here is Pocket of Bolts looking enormous (doesn't he?) compared to the little tiny golf course.

Here is me looking stern and threatening below the pirate flag (it was a totally pirate-themed miniature golf course).

Here is Pocket of Bolts about to make a hole in one, darn him.

And here is me, having lost by a measly two points (two points! out of sixty-some!), clapped in the stocks and photographed as the agreed-upon punishment for losers!!

Worlds of Cheese

For the rest of the time we were in WI Dells, we availed ourselves of the local activities. I would like to say that we did this in an ironic and sophisticated way, but actually we were about 90% naively delighted. For example, we drove out into the middle of nowhere to watch cheese getting made. I'm not kidding, it was miles and miles on progressively tinier roads, until we finally arrived...

Don't quote me on this, but I believe these two gentlemen were named Lester and Earl. The first picture is them tossing slabs of protocheese into the middle so this robot slicer arm could cut it up. The second picture is them tossing chopped up cheese bits with their pitchforks, possible to mix in the salt.

Lamentably, we had to buy LOTS of cheese and cheese-curds. Okay, no one was twisting our arm, but it was all right there, and cheese is (even though it shouldn't be) a staple of Pocket of Bolts' vegetarian diet, and of mine when I'm with him.

I'm not sure if we'd ever had cheese curds before, but they were totally delicious. PoB still liked them the second day, but I wasn't so sure. We got started talking about whether deep fried cheese curds would make sense, and realized that we were getting into deep trouble as far as our resolution to eat sensibly was concerned...

Here is some local scenery, with Amish buggy.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Great Shoe Outrage

We now interrupt this rambling and slow-paced recounting of "What I did on my spring break" to bring you this news bulletin. Sometimes living in China drives me crazy!

It took me a while to get going this morning. Somehow there were three thousand things I had to assemble. The last thing I did before going out the door was dig out my brown sandals because I was wearing brown pants and it looked really warm outside. They've seen better days, of course, because they are Target off-brand sandals that I wore constantly all last summer. But they're not totally disreputable looking, you know?

So after doing a variety of other errands, including eating an eleven o'clock lunch to beat the crowds, mailing a post-card, and so forth, I finally made it to the library. There, I swung my heavy bag up on a podium they have just inside the door and fished around inside it for my access card. Uh oh, the guard started showing an unhealthy amount of interest in me. Not unhealthy in a pervy way, unhealthy in an "I want to kick you out" way. Fortunately, I had the all-important "campus card". I bet he just didn't realize that foreigners could have them too. But I have one! See? I held it up for him pre-emptively, once I'd managed to dig it out of my bag.

He looked impatient and jabbered at me. "Something something shoes. Are you going in?" "Why yes I am." "You can't go in with that kind of shoes." "Huh? What? But I went in with them yesterday." Strictly speaking this wasn't true. I went in with tevas yesterday, but they're functionally equivalent. "I didn't notice you yesterday," he snapped, and made it clear that I needed to leave.

There's no point in fighting these things, I thought with exceeding grouchiness, reviewing the conversation in my mind as I walked straight around to the other door, which was fortunately out of sight of the first one, both inside and out. With my access card in my hand I breezed in past the distracted guard and gained the stairs before anyone could stop me. But once in I felt exceedingly self-conscious about my shoes. So I started looking at everyone's shoes. Could there possibly be a rule against open-toed shoes in the library? Or maybe just until May 1? Because I had worn my brown sandals in and out of the library all last autumn until the weather got chilly.

What my shoe survey revealed was not promising as far as improving my mood was concerned. Lots of girls were wearing open-toed shoes. I mean, they were fancy high-heeled open-toed shoes with little bows on them, but still. What, is there a rule against comfortable practical open-toed shoes in which one wouldn't mind walking a mile? I reviewed the conversation in my mind, and then it hit me--the word he used was tuoxie, slippers. You can't wear your slippers into the library. Maybe this should have made me laugh but it didn't. It filled me with impotent irritation. How can you prove that something is or isn't a pair of slippers? Look, they're leather, they have rubber soles? They just happen to bear a passing resemblance to Chinese slippers. How is that my fault!?

If you think I was ridiculous for gnashing my teeth over something like this when after all I was already in the library anyway... you'd be right. It is so time for me to go home to Chicago.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hike at Devil's Lake

The next day was chilly and overcast, but that's good hiking weather. We took off for Devil's Lake. There I took far too many pictures to post here.

Here's the view from near the bottom. The place was still wearing winter weeds despite it being the end of March. I gather they have hard winters here and late springs.

Here's Pocket of Bolts looking like nature's child.

And me looking oddly tall in front of a tumble of boulders.

One of the highlights of this hike, and maybe the whole trip, turned out to be our antics climbing up into Devil's doorway, a neat rock structure that wasn't all that high but was kind of awkward to get up into. After some hesitation, I post a certain highly undignified picture of myself which Pocket of Bolts gleefully snapped while I had both my foot and shoulders stuck somehow. It took me quite a bit of time to sort myself out and crawl through this little hole up into the doorway. Oh, so Freudian.

Pocket of Bolts had a harder time, since he was too big to go in through the little hole. Neither of us are real rock climbers, since our body types are wrong for it, but I think climbing this tiny "cliff" we started to get a sense of why people find it so thrilling.

Here's us resting peacefully on a boulder overlooking the lake.

And Pocket of Bolts goofing around (at my instigation, I hasten to add) in front of Balanced Rock.

I took so many more pictures than I can post here, but here's one I really liked.

We Go On Vacation

We rented a car and drove toward Wisconsin Dells. Pocket of Bolts drove. He missed a toll because of confusing signage (i.e., accidentally went through the IPass lane), and cursed a lot. Later we discovered that you can pay missed tolls online, which is merciful.

At a travel plaza, he won me a spiny orange gel creature in one of those grabber games. It was silly, but despite myself I was proud and impressed. My boyfriend can win a grabber game, and in only two tries! He is magnificent.

I'm not sure what we were expecting from Wisconsin Dells--neither of us had ever been there--but I'm not sure that this was it.

It was the most astonishing collection of tourist activities I had ever seen, and why? Why there? It seemed to generate its own momentum. Waterparks, theme parks, carnivalesque attractions, a whole miniature golf industry. We had sort of intended to escape the city and be in nature, you know, do some hiking and such. But fortunately, we are flexible and have a sense of humor. Our hotel (billed as romantic) had seen better days. But actually it did make a bona fide effort to be romantic, with champagne and an in-room jacuzzi, Asian-themed decor that made me giggle--giant fans. Full points for effort. Here it is in a state of romantic disarray.

And after all, when you're in love and intoxicated with the joys of reunion, it's not hard to feel romantic--despite the view of the parking lot, the unfortunate giant dolphin slide in the pool, the lack of an ice machine, the grubby stretch of lake which was the beach. We threw ourselves into the spirit of things and had a romantic time thoroughly leavened by hilarity.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Scenes from Chicago

Here are a few scenes from my visit to Chicago. It already feels like so much time has passed! And in blog-time, I suppose it has since I have failed to update. Well, this begins my attempt to resurrect this blog.

These two are taken from the alley behind our apartment. Pocket of Bolts is up on our back landing/fire escape. I'm down in the alley. It's a funny little space, all run down and urban looking but it has its charm. I suppose everything in Chicago has its charm when I am so far away.

Pocket of Bolts has joined the Art Institute. He is very proud of it. That made me smile indulgently until we went there and I realized the special treatment he (and by extension I) got. Why, we just walked right in without fussing with money or lines or tickets. We got smiled at. We could go through the special exhibition as many times as we wanted. We didn't feel like we had to see everything at once because it was free to go back--therefore it was less tiring than going to a museum usually is. I am now a huge fan of being a member.

We saw some pretty neat exhibits. I always especially love their photography down in the basement. We end up looking at it every time because it's right next to the bathrooms. Good planning! The one that was new to me this time was "When Color was New"--about early experiments with color photography as art. The arguments against it were especially fascinating. It would be too much like the real world; it wouldn't really be art. And so on.

The special exhibit was on Ambroise Vollard, a guy who had had incredibly good (or at least incredibly influential) taste and had assisted the careers of so many artists who are now practically household names. His form of charity was having a portrait of himself done, and one of the most amusing things about the exhibit was all the varieties of portrait he got as a result. He was an interesting-looking guy, fortunately. One of the most touching and terribly sad things was a tiny film of him helping the ancient Renoir, whose hands were completely destroyed by arthritis, to sign a painting. I have always had a great fondness for Renoir, partly because the women he liked to paint had very much the same body type as I do and everyone thinks THEY'RE beautiful! But anyway, it was a really cool and interesting concept for an exhibition--and we got in "free."

This is just a picture of the courtyard. Going to the museum always makes me feel like I see the world differently. It's not just about art. It's about how looking at art changes the way you look at the world. Or something like that. Anyway, it was hard to get the kind of picture I wanted here, but I just mean to say that everything seemed beautiful.

I did not end up making pie that week, as I had meant to. I did however make a batch of biscotti. It didn't come out perfect--if I made it again I would up the cardamom and leave out the cinnamon. It was pistachio biscotti, but I was kind of making my own recipe. At least the texture came out right. And it was fun to be cooking again. I'll perfect that recipe yet!

We went to dinner with some of our neighbors, who Pocket of Bolts has befriended. I had actually met them a couple of times before I left, but they have hung out with PoB lots in the interim. Here is us with their Ball Python, Chomp, who has grown a lot since the last time I saw him.

He had just got done shedding his skin and seemed more slimy than usual. I know--snakes aren't actually slimy. But he didn't seem crisp and dry. He seemed wettish and fragile, which accounts for both of our peculiar expressions--we're totally okay with reptiles, but this one just felt especially odd. Still it was cool to have him pouring over and over my hands.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

First Day in Chicago: I See the Bean

Since I am yet again stuck in an airport for hours on end, I thought I'd post a few things about my time in Chicago. The whole time I was there, I had no desire at all to blog. Some times are just meant to be lived rather than written about. But I did collect a few cool photos.

My first day, I went to work in the morning with Pocket of Bolts, who had to teach. I sat in a cafe and prepared for a little interview I was to have on Friday. Of course I was feeling pretty jet-lagged, but not unbearably so. It was such a gorgeous day, really sunny and bright and cool, with a lot of moisture in the air. When Pocket of Bolts got done with his teaching, we had a grand lunch at a Greek restaurant called Artopolis. It was so delicious to me, salad so especially fresh and crisp, spanakopita. (My mouth is watering just thinking about it.)

Then we went out to walk around and try to keep me awake for the afternoon. Chicago is a city full of architecture, as you can see from the above picture--practically THICK with architecture, both functional and decorative. It's not an art I have ever particularly appreciated, but when thought has been put into something, it always shows in some sense, and I was disposed to see beauty everywhere.

Our destination was a funny bit of sculpture called "The Bean." It is a highly reflective bean-shaped shell, hollow inside so you can walk into it. Here are some pictures of it, ending with the extreme distortion you get when you look up into the inside of it.

Aerial Photos

Because my flight didn't go over the pole, I had a different view of things on the ground. Having a window seat is bad in many ways, but it does allow one to take lots and lots of pictures out the window. I didn't keep good track of where these places were, but I'm pretty sure the first ones are Japan and most of the rest are San Francisco.

Aerial photos are fun!