Tuesday, August 25, 2009

#31 Roll The Credits


Who is Maestro Gaxiola: http://www.artist-link.blogspot.com

It’s time to give credit to those who made this trip possible, and made it such an enjoyable one for me. First of all I have to give a huge thank you to Alice and cousin Doug. They worked on the planning for this trip months in advance. By telephone and by e-mail they hammered out every detail, including maps, motel reservations and advance tickets to almost every attraction we went to. They had plane tickets, airport transportation, motels, eating places, special attractions, just about everything worked out in advance. All I had to do was to show up., …and write my blog. And, as for my blog, I need to make it clear that the opinions and views expressed in my blog are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily express the views of Alice, cousins Doug, Bill, Judy, David, Rob, John, or the Yoopers Bill and Elaine. I came, I saw, and I wrote. I know my views may be a bit harsh and even controversial at times, and I know that the “kill the messenger” syndrome may be in play. But as an artist, I call’m as I see’m, because that’s my job. Future generations, when no self-interest is involved, will determine the truth or non-truth of my opinions and my views. That being said I want to thank all those mentioned above for being tolerant of me and allowing me to participate in the joy of seeing so many wonderful and beautiful things on this trip.

Monday, August 24, 2009

#30 Observations From My Travels - Following The Romans

I read Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and the similarities between our society and the last days of the Roman empire are striking. Large sports stadiums for a sports crazy population, less of its citizens working, people demanding more and more services from their government, powerful men in positions of influence preferring young men over young women, an elitist class that sets the social and cultural agenda, a standing army of professional soldiers ready to obey orders without question, the rise of self-indulgence and instant self- gratification, the lack of purpose, discipline and direction of our people, …all that and more. When these facts become apparent it’s already too late. The damage has already been done, the future is locked in. Momentum will carry us forward no matter what we do. It’s the nature of the human spices I suppose to repeat its success and its failures. The Book of Art says: History doesn’t tell us what humans did - it tells us what humans do.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

# 29 My Trips Across This Country

This trip, as with most of my trips across this country, has reinforced my opinion that the people who are leading our country, and the elitists who set our cultural agenda, haven’t a clue as to what the majority of everyday Americans are like. The decisions made in Washington and by others in positions of power and influence reflect that ignorance. Rather than making decisions that bring peace and harmony to our people they continue to make decisions that anger and divide us. As a result, the people of this country, indeed the world, are becoming more and more separated. There is a growing separation between the rich and the poor, the smart and the ignorant, the strong and the weak, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old. That separation is affirmed daily as we see more and more walls going up, not only between people, houses, and neighborhoods, but entire countries.

Walls are like the canaries in a mine shaft, when walls between people begin to be built it is a prediction that the world’s social order is collapsing. It’s a sign that certain groups of humans believe that only their lives are valuable and that all other lives are of no value. They feel they must separate themselves with a wall to keep “them” out. The Great Wall of China, the Roman built Hadrian wall in Britain, the Communists wall in Berlin, they were all designed to keep people out.

Even though every wall ever built in human history has been a failure we still see today the Israelis building a wall in Palestine and the Americans building a wall along the border with Mexico. It’s becoming an “us” and “them” world. As the “us” continue to close out more and more of the “them”, the “us” diminish, and, eventually, the “them” will overrun the “us” with sheer numbers. The “them” will eventually inherit the earth – it is written.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

#28 Art Museums in America

People are famous when they don’t have to tell strangers who they are or what they do. People recognize film and TV personalities because they know who they are and what they do. In other not so glamorous careers, recognition is more limited to place of sighting. For example, a famous soccer player might be recognized on a soccer field, whereas on the street he would not. I’m sure if a famous doctor were to visit a major hospital word would soon spread throughout the building that Dr. so and so was in the house. But when an artist walks into a major art museum no one notices. Even if that artist has a painting hanging on the wall he/she would still not be recognized. Most of the people who go to art museums, or those who work in them for that matter, couldn’t match an artist to his/her painting even if the artist were standing in front of it.

In America an artist in an art museum is just another tourist. I was asked once if it was hard to get into the (house) painters union when I told someone I was a painter. That’s why I don’t care to go to museums anymore; they are not about art and artists, they are about tourists, fancy buildings, and high-donor socialites. When a high-donor socialite walks into an art museum there is a whole lot of bowing and scraping going on. They get a personal tour with a gaggle of nodding and smiling staff members. A donor is about the money - an artist, well, and artist is just about the art. Money trumps art every time. What museums hang on their walls could be anything done by anybody. The public doesn’t seem to know or care. Americans assume that what they see must be good art or it wouldn’t be in an art museum.

Friday, August 21, 2009

#27 Chicago - The Bean



No trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to the Bean, a piece by British artist Anish Kapoor . It’s public art at its best. Public art should be art that the public loves and enjoys. This piece fits the bill perfectly. People of all ages love the Bean. In contrast, most of the public sculptures in American cities are nothing more than high-priced trash that just clutters up the landscape; rusty pipes, twisted metal, and blocks of tin, boring stuff with nothing interesting about them except maybe the amount of money shelled out for their purchase. These faux pieces of “art” sculpture that are placed in public places are eyesores and they make Americans look like idiots for allowing it. The fact that there is no public outcry is a testament to the ability of a handful of “art” elitists to totally bamboozle the public into thinking this rubbish is art. I don’t blame the public for these trash heaps, it’s not the public’s fault. They’ve been duped. American art has been hijacked by a small group of elitist who think they know what art is or isn’t. Anyone who disagrees with them is considered a Philistine. These art establishment elitists have totally ruined the art landscape of our country and screwed up art appreciation completely. The Bean however proves that if good art is made public the people will respond in a joyful, loving way. Anything that brings people together and provides them with an artful setting, and encourages peace and harmony, is a good thing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

#26 Chicago - Jersey Boys


Now I’m not big on plays or musicals…our friends Nore and Nancy took us to a Valclav Havel play in San Deigo once that I liked, and Cats was OK, but I don’t go to these things on a regular basis. The Jersey Boys traveling company played in San Francisco back in 2007 but it didn’t sound like something I would like…Jersey Boys? What? A bunch of singing Wise Guys? No thanks. Yea, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I remembered their songs but how can a play about some old 50’s rock and roll guys be any good. So when cousin Doug suggested we go see the Jersey Boys, Chicago, I more or less just went along for the ride. Whoa, I didn’t know what I was missing. It was fantastic! It brought tears to my eyes, especially after just visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Jersey Boys really put me in a Rock and Roll frame of mind. If you ever get a chance to see this play..GO! I guarantee you will love it and will be singing, “Sh air air airy bay-ay –be, Sherry baby” for at least the following two weeks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

#25 Chicago - Art Museums


Cousin Bill is a member of most of the museums in town so he shagged us some tickets to see the new wing at the Chicago Art Institute, plus the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago Cultural Center -where there was an exhibit of some recent art from China. That China show was the best of them all. As most of you know I am interested in Asian culture so it was interesting to see what young Chinese artists are up to. As far as the other two..well, the highlights were that I saw an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting at the Contemporary, (for those of you who don’t follow my Book of Art readings I talked about these black paintings in reading #17 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYsPn8JSotY&feature=channel_page ) then at the Institute I met TV star Ben Stein coming up the stairs as we were going down…I pointed at him and said, “It’s you,.. from TV,” and he said, “Yea!” Now if he had pointed back and said, “Yea,.. it’s you, the Maestro!” I would have known he’s been paying attention, after all this was an art museum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

#24 Chicago - One Cool City





“Chicago, Chicago,..let me show you around…” I love Chicago; it is the coolest of cities. Not as in cold but as in “Cooool”. Smartly dressed young men and women on the streets, lots and lots of outdoor eating establishments, museums, a vigorous night life…it has a kind of Paris-like feeling. I just love it. And best of all we’re staying in Cousins Bill and Judy, and son David’s high-rise condo which is right in the middle of all the action. We can walk out the front entrance and be right there at the “Viagra Triangle” (so named because of all the rich old men who sit around having coffee and drinks while ogling the beautiful young ladies) and across the street is the famous Gibson’s high-end eating establishment where film and TV stars hang out. John Cusack was having dinner in the sidewalk eating area as I walked by …we made eye contact but I don’t think he recognized me….”Hey John, pay attention, you’ve got the Maestro walking by here…..a nod and smile would be nice.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

#23 Cousin Bill's Cottage


On our way to Chicago we made a brief stop at Cousin Bill’s cottage at Beverley Shores on Lake Michigan where we met up with his other son John and his grandson Hayden. Cousin Bill’s cottage is about 25 miles south of Roger Ebert’s place. As a matter of fact as we were driving around when we were here durning our Route 66 adventure we passed Roger on the road.…but he didn’t recognize me. What’s up with that..? I know he’s a big fan of Les Blank so he must have seen the film Les made about me, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mOFpq3eEnI&feature=related….. Oh well, I was recognized in Paris… thanks to a TV clip on CNN of me shooting up Christo’s umbrellas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Z3l6ci9Co The French pay attention to these things…..they know what’s going on in the art world.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

#21 The Cord Automobile Museum


Now I’m a California car guy, as opposed to one of those “eastern” car guys. Give me a 32’ Ford five window, a 34’ three window, chopped, raked, with a bright red paint job, or a customized 40’ Ford, 50’ Merc, or 57’ Chevy, with Rod Powell flames and that my friends is the very best America has to offer in the way of automobiles. The rest are…well, just Detroit pig iron. Cousin Doug and Alice however decided to stop in at the Cord Automobile Museum in, Auburn, Indiana, since it was on our way. This is where the Cord, Auburn and the Duisenberg automobiles were hand built one at a time back in the twenties .(while Henry was cranking out the model “T” and “A”s on his assembly line up in Detroit) The showroom of this museum is filled with some of the finest automobiles ever made here in America. It is truly one of the best automobile museums I have ever seen. But rather than me telling you about the museum, go to their website for all the information. http://www.automobilemuseum.org/Pages/default.aspx
…..and, as for an amazing coincidence, we happened to stop in when they were having an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings. They even had his personal car on display which was a 1929 Cord L-29 Cabriolet, painted a bright orange and cream.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

#20 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Let’s Rock and Roll! in Cleavland, Ohio. If you want to take a nostalgic trip down rock and roll lane this is the place for you. If you are around 55 years old I totally recommend it because you can hear and see the sound track of your life. However, even if you are younger, it’s still good. There is something here for every rock and roller no matter what your age. The only downside is that it’s a little confusing because of the sheer volume of memorabilia. But if you go you won’t be disappointed I’m sure of that. Be sure and see the 63 minute multi-media production that combines film footage, music, interviews, animation and still photography that tells the stories of the Hall of Fame Inductees. (an aside) Carolyn, Bonnie Raitt is in that inductee presentation but we didn’t see anything else about her, there was some stuff on Van Morrison though. Les Blank tells me there was a clip from his Lightnin’ Hopkins film in there somewhere too but we missed it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

#19 Frank Gehry


Of all the architects working today my favorite is Frank Gehry. He has kicked architecture way up the road. His work reinforces my belief in the power of the human mind to, among other things, innovate and create environments of physical grace and beauty. You can imagine how pleased I was when we stumbled upon this jewel of a Gehry building on the Campus of Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s one thing to study a photo of a building and then seek it out, but nothing can beat just coming upon a building like this unawares, it’s quite exciting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

#18 Akron, Ohio


We stumbled upon this great building here in Akron. It was designed by the Viennese architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au and is home to the Akron Museum of art. This is another example of what I talked about in my Book of Art reading # 12, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4uy6pWUSgM&feature=channel_page )the trend of art museums to make the building the point of interest and destination rather than the art that’s housed inside. True art should be housed in nondescript, unobtrusive buildings. The people who come to view and contemplate the works of art should not be distracted by the architecture of the building

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

#17 Amish Country


The Amish have their own parking stalls at the local Wal-mart
We stayed a couple of days in Holmes County, Ohio, home of one of the nation’s largest Amish communities. There are about a quarter of a million of them in and around Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They are a God-loving, hardworking, simple, and self-sufficient people. They live by their own rules. Rules that seem archaic and almost childlike in their simplicity when viewed by “normal” standards. They all dress alike in homemade clothes and are mostly seen riding the roads in black hearse-like buggies pulled by a horse that probably has more personality then the occupants. (this one asked me if I knew where he could find a Starbucks)
They allow themselves little in the way of conveniences. For example, they have no electricity, telephones or TVs. Strict rules on how to live their lives are set at birth and continue until death. They are born at one end of a tunnel and die at the other end with nothing in between but hard work and isolation. They have the narrowest view of life imaginable. Every advancement made by humankind in the last three hundred years in the area of art, literature, architecture, philosophy, medicine, industry or space exploration, would not have happened if the Amish were in charge of the world. Humankind would be no different than cows in a field, content to just be, with no thoughts of what could be.

To be around the Amish is like being in a Bizarro world. Everything is opposite. Instead of seeing the world as an amazing place with millions of ways to express the human experience, the Amish prefer to withdraw into a world of cult-like privacy, abdicating everything that makes humans human in order to submit themselves totally to their interuption of the “Will of God”.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#16 Kentuck Knob House

This is not one of Franks Lloyd Wright’s better known houses. Its tucked away way up on top of a mountain…a large hill actually, and it is completely surrounded with a thick forest of trees. When he designed the house there were no trees here at all, but the owners planted thousands of them…. later they were sorry they did. Alice, cousin Doug and I all agree that this was by far the most livable of his houses we have seen so far.

Monday, August 10, 2009

#15 Falling Water


Out of all of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses built in this country Falling Water is probably the best known. And no doubt it is because of a photo that was taken near this spot. I still remember how impressed I was when I first saw it many years ago. There is no question that the setting for this house is spectacular. The house itself is OK, but not the most livable of his houses. …still I’d take it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

#14 Andy Warhol


For me as a Californian Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has three main attractions; the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Andy Warhol Museum. The sport stadiums and the museum are all clustered downtown within a few blocks of each other. I really wanted a photo of myself taken in front of the museum and as luck would have it an employee of the museum happened to be sitting outside the building having a Starbucks Latte. I took my Andy Warhol Museum photo with him. I think Andy would have liked that. Andy was born here in 1928 and left for New York City in 1949 to become one of America’s most famous artists. He died in 1987 at age 58 and is buried in a Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in a suburb of Pittsburgh. If I would have had the time I would have visited his grave site to pay my respects. But we had a tour booked at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house and I wasn’t going to miss that for anything.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

#13 Knights in Pennsylvaina?




We were heading towards Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house in Pennsylvania when we came upon this field with thousands of medieval tents and thousands of people dressed in old renaissance costumes. We just had to pull off the road to see what this was all about. Turns out it is an international organization called The Society for Creative Anachronism and it has over 30 thousand members’ worldwide. It’s an organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of 17th-century Europe. This was one of their two week events that features’ tournaments, royal courts, feast, dancing, various classes and workshops. There was a castle built on the side of the hill and there were Knights jousting all over the place. According to this one fellow I talked to there were about 10 thousand people camped here. Now here is the real shocker, this organization was founded in 1966 in….BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA! of all places.. Isn’t that amazing? We wished we could have stayed to see more but we had to move on because we had a Falling Water house tour booked.

Friday, August 7, 2009

#12 Buffalo, New York







Buffalo, I never thought there was a here here. I know OJ played for the Buffalo Bills but I thought the Bills were just another New York team from no particular place. But here we are in Buffalo, New York, home of the famous Buffalo Bills football team. Hummm, there seems to be a church on every corner instead of the usual Starbucks. That’s weird, how am I going to get a latté? They have some great architecture here though. There are some nice buildings downtown, we had a look inside the Lewis H. Sullivan Prudential (Guaranty) building that was built in 1895. We also went to see the newly restored Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House (photo on top). In nearby Derby we saw the Graycliff House (photo on bottom) which was also designed by Wright. Brother Bob will get a kick out of this, in 1950 Graycliff was bought by the Order of the Pious Schools, (known as the Piarist Fathers) a religious order founded in Rome in 1617 by St. Joseph Calasanctius. They turned the Wright designed house into a monastery of sorts until the order’s financial difficulties caused them to sell the property. It is now in the process of being restored back to its original state.
Nearby in East Aurora is the Roycroft Arts and Craft Communityand the Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft museum. It is a must see for all those Arts and Craft aficionados out there. We had a nice dinner there at the Roycroft Inn.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

#11 Niagara Falls


“……Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls!...Slowly I turned, Step by step, inch by inch…” That’s a bit from an old Three Stooges film and about the only thing I know about Niagara Falls, except that it is a marriage honeymoon destination. Well, here we are, Alice and I....just fifty four years late….but the falls are still here and we are still married…..so some things are still working right in the world.
By the way, I need to give a shout out to Brother Bob and his fellow monks at the Glazer Ranch Monastery in San Anselmo, CA. Apparently after vespers the monks all gather around the monasteries only computer to read my latest blog posting. Blessings to all, it’s good to know I have such a faithful following!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

#10 Detroit 3


No trip to Detroit is complete without a Ford Motor Company Factory tour. It takes about two hours and is worth the time. You can see workers as they assemble an automobile piece by piece. You can imagine what it must be like to spend an entire day doing the same thing over and over, week after week, month after month, year after year. It’s like watching human robots.
We saw the Ford F150 truck being built. The F150 is a “big ol’ truck” and is just what white American males want to feel big and strong. “Look out for me, I’m big and I’m strong in this big ol’ truck”. But times are a’changing. Big is no longer something Americans can afford. We will eventually have to downsize not only our trucks but our image of ourselves as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

#9 Detroit 2





Recession? Not here, not yet. The malls are still full of people shopping. They have their kids and dogs and are merrily shopping away. They’re as happy as Lawrence Welk with a glass of champagne; they’re still dancing in the streets….ahh one ana ahh two..
No one is dancing in the streets in California I can tell you that. The recession has landed. We’re going bust. Typically California has been buying about 2 million cars a year, which was pumping a lot of money into Detroit. But that dog's through hunting. Been there, done that. On average Californians have two to three cars per family and that’s going to have to hold us for awhile, at least until they come up with a car that gets 50 MPG. Time was when we only had one car per family and after two or three years the family traded in the old car for a new one. When times were good and money was flowing people bought a new car just to be buying a new car; it was the thing to do. That made for good times in Detroit. But now that the recession has hit, the west coast has run out of throwaway cash. Californians can barely afford the essentials anymore, like say a Starbucks or a Gucci bag. They are starting to use up the cars they already have rather than buying anything new. That’s not good for Detroit. The recession tsunami is on its way. As California goes, so goes the world. Turn off the bubble machine Lawrence, the dance is about over.

Monday, August 3, 2009

#8 Detroit City


Cousin Doug is always telling us that people out west have the wrong image of Detroit. He says the media has been bashing Detroit for years without justification. Of course I told him lots of people have the impression that Detroit is not a pleasant place to be because of the song Detroit City by Bobby Bare. “ …..by day I make the cars, - by night I make the bars,….I wanna go home I wanna go home, Lord how I want to go home” . It sounds like a place one wants to leave. Whereas you take San Francisco’s song, I left my heart in San Francisco, that song makes people want to stay. People are influenced a great deal by song lyrics. He wasn't buying it, as a matter of fact he had never even heard of the song. As cousin Doug lives here I can see where he might want to protect his nest. He offered to gave us a tour of uptown, downtown, and all around to make his point. This he did.
I have to admit I find nothing wrong with Detroit. From what I saw of it Detroit is a very clean city. It has growing pains and is constantly changing but it is no better or worse than any other city in America.
On the plus side Detroit has a fairly good art scene with a good art museum. And as some of you who have been following my Book of Art readings on Youtube (http://www.Youtube.com/user/crossmmonastery) already know, I have little good to say about art museums. But cousin Doug took us to the Detroit Institute of Art and I must say I was impressed. It is a very people friendly unpretentious museum. They have a little Van Gogh that I liked a lot. They even have easel-benches set up here and there for anyone who wants to set down and do a drawing of some particular painting they like. Art has even penetrated the “bad” parts of the city. We visited a great folk art site in the city’s east side, The Heidelberg Folk Art Project. Check it out: (http://www.heidelberg.org/)


Sunday, August 2, 2009

#7 "The Big Mack"

The Mackinac Bridge is quite an attraction up here in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I saw groups of people taking their photo with it as a backdrop and many photos of it in books and posters. Being from the San Francisco bay area I really don’t know what all the fuss is about. There is only one “Famous” bridge in the U.S.; The Golden Gate Bridge.
But enough of that…have you noticed that packages are getting harder and harder to open these days? Everything seems to come in a plastic package that is tougher than Kriyptonite. I don’t think even Superman could open some of these packages. On the plane coming out here the stewardess gave out these packages of peanuts. The little plastic package looked innocent enough, but when I tried to open the little bugger it clung to its closeness like an abalone to a rock. Tug as I might I could not break in,- it was like a little Fort Knox. Finally the guy next to me managed to get it open for me. He said they make them that hard to open because they don’t want kids to open them without adult supervision….peanut allergies, you know….law suit. Has it come to this? Have lawyers in this country scared everyone to the point of mass insanity? Doesn’t anyone accept the fact that things happen, do accidents always have to be someone’s fault? Does someone always have to be sued? Is money that important? What kind of world have we created?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

#6 Soo Locks

The Soo Locks are in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They lift and lower ships 21 ft. from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. More than 11,000 vessels, carrying up to 90 million tons of cargo pass through these locks each year….yada, yada, yada…..enough of that, let’s talk Motel food.
Europe is way ahead of us in the hotel free breakfast department; at least it was when we traveled there in the nineties…I imagine they still are. Nothing can beat a French or Italian hotel for a good complimentary morning breakfast. I would trade a thousand American motel breakfasts for one like we had in Rome - coffee with hot milk, bread roll, jam and butter. Simple but soooo very good.
On the other hand we have here the famous American motel breakfast which consists of mostly fat filled, empty calorie, mass produced, junk food. The All American Breakfast! It’s pretty much all the same no matter which motel you stay at. It’s tweaked sometimes for different parts of the country once in a while but not towards the healthy or good. The southern states for example have biscuits and gravy and greasy sausage for their “overweighters”. Yummm, lots and lots of extra calories. For the regular “overweight” crowd they offer cello-packed calorie filled pastries, “you make’m” waffles with plenty of butter and sugar based imitation maple syrup, white bread for toast, sugary jam, Jimmy Dean’s egg, sausage, and cheese burgers (only at certain places and times) and several different kinds of sugary cereals. No wonder Americans are fat. But then, no one is fat if every one is fat.......so eat up and let the denial begin. Live and let die is my motto.

Friday, July 31, 2009

#5 Copper Country

“…going down down down, about a slip down….”
The U. P. is copper country. The large amount of copper in the area spurred a mineral rush back in 1843. The U. P. was awash with mining operations up until around 1945. Mining companies such as the Quincy Mining Co. produced over three-quarters of the nation’s copper. These operations were not locally owned but owned and financed by Eastern investors. The tons of money from these mining operations flowed into their coffers to finance their lavish lifestyles. Nowadays tourists supply the cash flow.
We joined a tour of the Quincy mine and explored a 2,400 foot section of the seventh level. We got some idea of what it must have been like to work deep down in the dark, damp, cold bowels of the earth. Not very pleasant. As I listened to our tour guide describe the back breaking work and long hours of the miners I couldn't help think of that country song, “She got the gold mind and I got the shaft…”
Some of the mine workers were no more than boys. Fires, falls, explosions, cave-ins, and mechanical mishaps killed about one miner a week. Others went blind or lost legs and arms. Sure, some miners made enough money to buy a house (probably a shack by today’s standards) but as one woman in our tour told us, most of them died in their forties and fifties. Her grandfather who worked in the mines died at 45.
That’s the capitalist way I guess; the people work and crash while the fat cats get the cash.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

#4 The Upper Peninsula

The U. P. has a scattering of quaint little towns nestled here and there along highway 41 all surrounded by trees and water. It’s all so quaint, the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings. We drove up to the tippy top, up where highway 41 begins before it rolls south for 1990 miles and ends up in Miami, Florida. – Incidentally, the people up here in the U. P. are called’ “Da Yoopers” and they have their own language so to speak. For example when you go into a restaurant you might be asked, “Do you want table?” which means are you going to eat here or take out. And it’s not open or closed its, “open or shut”. Packing down the snow is “Panking down the snow”. Turn signals on your car are “Dickoos”. You don’t walk down the street with your wife side by side you walk “side by each”. And I’m not almost done with this posting, I am “pre-ner” done “ya know, ya hey, I done, Okeh?”.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#3 Wagner and Munising Falls


Our little group of three has now grown to nine. Cousins Bill and Judy, with their sons Rob and David, came up from Chicago to join us. Then we hooked up with cousins Elaine and Bill who live up here. So with Elaine and Bill as our tour guides we set out to enjoy the beauty of the U.P. It was agreed to start out with a trip to Wagner and Munising Falls.
The weather was gorgeous as we slowly meandered up the path to Wagnen falls taking photos and marveling at the variety and beauty of Mother Nature …I could go on,….but I would rather talk about motel shower faucets.
Now I’m a peaceable man, I won’t even kill a spider or an ant; however, I have one thing to say about the person who designed the motel faucet…..OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!!
Why oh why do all motels have these one handle, impossible to adjust, shower faucets? Was the decision made years ago that it would be a good idea to have one handle un-adjustable faucets in all motel showers? Is it some sort of unwritten motel association law? Article 6, All motels must have difficult to adjust one handle shower faucets. NO EXCEPTIONS.
They all have the blasted things. The whole time you are in the shower you have to constantly tap, tap, tap the handle to keep the temperature somewhere near a comfortable level. You are either scalded or chilled in turn as you try to shower down. It makes for a frustrating beginning to any day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#2 Munising - Painted Rock Boat Tour






The ride up to Munising was enjoyable with trees lining both sides of the highway. We arrived in Munising in time for our five o’clock boat tour of the Picture Rocks on Lake Superior. It was a two hour tour in a large comfortable tour boat with outdoor and indoor bus-like seating.
As we slowly traversed the coastline we marveled at the beautiful colors and formation of the shoreline cliffs. It was apleasant way to start our U. P. tour.

Monday, July 27, 2009

1. Detroit - Rochester Hills

Flying across the country always makes me think, as I look out the airplane window, that should aliens from another planet happen to be observing from afar - in order to evaluate what kind of “intelligent life” populated this planet – they would most likely conclude that the inhabitants were a well ordered well disciplined peaceful people with a fair amount of intelligence. From 30 thousand feet up the straight line grid of fields with crops of corn, wheat, oats and barley, the straight lines and gentle curves of roads and highways, the well ordered grid patterns of the small towns and cities with tiny ant-like cars in well ordered lines moving peacefully along, stopping at crossroads when other ant-cars approach, it makes one think all is ordered and peaceful below and these humans must care for and love one and other very much.
But if these aliens were to land and have to navigate through airport security they would soon see how badly they had miscalculated things. For example, they would be dumbfounded to see all the time money and inconvenience millions upon millions of people have to endure just because a small handful of other human beings want to do them harm. It makes one wonder how the notion that the human species was created and watched over by an all knowing all seeing just and loving God continues to gain adherents.
It took me four rounds through the metal detector and several rounds of de- silverizing before I was able to put my boots, belt, and hat back on and continue on my way. What can I say, a cowboy needs his essentials; a sterling silver belt buckle, watch band, saddle ring, pen, silver laced name belt with sterling silver lettering, hat, boots, knife, …well you get the picture.
Be that as it may, we made it OK and just now Alice and I are at the Detroit Metro Airport waiting for cousin Doug to pick us up and take us to his condominium in Rochester Hills where we will spend the night before leaving tomorrow morning for Munising, Michigan.