Saturday, October 31, 2009

Never Eat Soggy Waffles

A couple years ago, a friend of mine was advertising how cool a specific Salvation Army Thrift Store in Minneapolis was. He told me it was on 4th Street. Two girlfriends and I drive downtown Minneapolis and find the big Salvation Army by the Target Center. We park. We get out. Get haggled, ridiculed, and soon realize that, as we're walking toward the Salvation Army, that there is a very line of homeless looking folk. The closer we're getting to the building, the more we're feeling that this is not the right place to be...which of course it wasn't. This is a homeless shelter/soup kitchen. There is no thrift store here. Ooops. Later, I find out the Salvation Army Thrift Store was on 4th Street NE.

Today I was checking out a couple blogs on Vancouver and found one telling me to go to the Gastown District and look for the second hand/vintage store called Deluxe Junk. The address is 310 Cordova. I look it up on Google Maps and it tells me to go a little past China Town. Well awesome, cause I wanted to go to China Town today as well! The closer I get to my address the sketchier Vancouver becomes. Pretty soon I'm to the intersection of where this store should be (one block past the jail) and I see a line of homeless looking people covering the whole block. I keep looking. Where 310 should be, there's nothing. There's some kind of a shelter here, and I'm getting harassed, so I'm going to give up looking for this place. I go to China Town and have lunch and walk back towards the hotel. I walk through Gastown again, cause it's a cute little cobblestoned street area. I go into Woo Vintage which was so cute and chic! The worker and I gabbed about all the Halloween sluts roaming the streets in their "sexy cop/nurse/maid/etc" outfits and I looked at their amazing selection. Turning the corner, I run straight into Deluxe Junk. 310 Cordova. West.

One of these days I'm going to learn to get directions as well as the addresses....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vancouver's Art Scene

Easy to Find : My first night in Vancouver happened to be a Tuesday. I happened to be walking by the Vancouver Art Gallery, which stays open late on Tuesdays. Why not go in?! It is a beautiful building and had some pretty interesting exhibits. For the most part, the art was Canadian and historical. There were a lot of landscape paintings that I would classify as less than masterpieces. There also was an exhibit featuring one of the country's most loved artists: Emily Carr. While looking at her work my first thought was how the heck did she get in a gallery?? (please don't banish me, Canada.) Her subject matter is very native Canadian and her style is pushing landscape and totem polls to almost a cartoon style. Upon researching more about Carr, I have learned more why her style and subject matter are this way and while her art still doesn't interest me, I can see the love her country has for her. Another Canadian artist heavily represented was Scott McFarland. He's a pretty good photographer, and based on the sheer amount of works he had, there were bound to be at least a few that I liked, which there were. Something that I've never seen before and thought was interesting is that there was a room with two small spotlights focused on specific parts of very dark photographs that had obviously been augmented to have one central light source:
So the room is very dark and the light part of the photograph REALLY pops. I'm not sure that I like this much digitalization of photographs, but this concept of bringing the dark room into the gallery is quite interesting.

An exhibit at the museum that was definitely eye catching was their contemporary exhibit: "Is only the mind allowed to wander." The works were inspired by the figure in some way and in most cases resembled portions of the figure. One piece I liked in particular was Patrick Traer's "Baby Blue Balls" and yes, it kind of does look like what it sounds like...It was HUGE and the texture was so soft and inviting...quite the parallel it draws.

Underground : I happened upon the coolest art gallery I've ever seen. Located in a half empty mall type building is Ayden Gallery. When I walked through, there were paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc on the walls, in the gallery. There were some clothing items and turntables where a dj was setting up. Pretty regular for any hip trendy gallery of the day. As I walked around I noticed 4 or 5 artists working on pieces. It was pretty fabulous to walk around the gallery, looking at these finished pieces, but also to watch the artists working. The gallery seems pretty young and the exhibit definitely was chosen based on trends as it was "Robots vs Monsters." This theme of course led for some pretty funky interesting art. Please check out the website to see examples, the artists are very talented. I realized later as people started coming in, the artists finished their pieces, and the music started to pump, that it was the actual night of the show opening.
Those artists there weren't just part of a performance element, but were actually cramming before the opening. (See, not only college students are still painting the walls on the day of their It made me think that this is an idea I could really get behind...interactive galleries. Any takers?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baby Beluga in the deep blue ...tank

The Vancouver Aquarium is without a doubt the most amazing aquarium I've ever been to. It features arctic sea creatures: Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Beluga Whales, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, etc. But also it has a whole tropics section including an alligator and lots of frogs. And an open air caged area with exotic birds and even a sloth hanging from the walls. If he was lower I could've touched him! There were plenty of interactive exhibits as well as shows/talks led by the staff.
The otters were by far my favorite. I learned that they have the densest coats of all animals, and they have more hair in one inch on their bodies than humans have on their whole body. They store food in the folds of their armpits and eat at least their entire body weight once per day because they have no blubber and need to keep warm. Plus they're freaking adorable. See for yourself:
The dolphin show/training session was very impressive. The trainers specified that the dolphins are trained with positive reinforcement only and are free to leave training class whenever they wish. But, as with all the animals, they were rescued from dangerous situations, and cannot live in the wild because of impairments (which is awesome that they aren't yanking these guys out of their natural habitats just for zoo purposes), the trainers find they live longer and happier with challenges given to them. So the otters are given tubes and packages to open with food inside and the dolphins and whales are taught tricks. Pretty darn cool.

The Beluga Whales were so wonderful to watch. One of the females had just had a baby, and was put in a separate tank so they could bond. I loved watching the mom and baby swim around together! The baby would follow the mom, touching her underside with her head every few feet or so. The mom would circle around, bump the baby lovingly, and then twist away from her, beckoning her to follow. It just struck me how loving and gentle these huge animals are. Whoever says that animals are just animals...lesser beings...are full of it. It was wonderful to watch this little (huge) family!
On the inside there were a lot of interesting fish. There was a fish I have never heard of called the hagfish that releases a slime when it is in danger that makes it too slippery to catch. It also has no jaw but is a predator. Want to know how that works? It eats its prey from the inside out. And the gross thing is that scientists are looking into it being a food source as we're depleting our oceans. There were spindly sea snakes in a tank with 3 little orange fish. It was only a matter of time before the fish would be eaten. It was so sad watching the scared little fish move around every time a snake would come near. I was just thinking how he must be singing "just keep swimming" in a trembling fish voice... These events aside, I think the most disturbing thing at the aquarium was that they had tuna sandwiches on the menu at the cafe...

Good family fun! : )

Granville (Island and South)

Turn right out of hotel. Head up Hornby Street for approximately 2 miles. Walk until you're at the water's edge and you'll find a rainbow colored little boat called the "Aquabus." Pay 5CAD (so yes, stop at the cash machine on your way) for a round trip ticket across the narrow water to Granville Island.
Once landed on Granville Island (which really isn't an island...but more like a man made peninsula, but who's keeping track anyway?) there are plenty of things to do. It's like a Pike's Place market divided by 20. Small and intimate but still full of stuff for all the senses.
The real draw for me at Granville Island were all the artist studios and galleries. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design is a small art college on the island. Emily Carr is one of BC's most famous artists. The school seems to be pretty cutting edge and the student work on exhibit was really great. I was definitely impressed. Back on the streets/galleries, there were glass blowers, bronze and metal workers, jewelry makers, weavers, and basically anything that can be sold. The artists have realized how to merchandise their product, and as Granville Island draws many tourists, it's a really smart move. I was told that it is federal subsidized housing for artists (much like the Tilsner Building in St Paul, MN) which is pretty cool that their shops are located right there.

I had a wonderful lentil soup at Bridges, a very yellow building, and continued walking "off the island" into South Granville. If Granville Island is the home of the hippie artists, South Granville is where their rich parents live. There are some really neat galleries and also some pretty fancy antique shops and art dealers. I always feel so awkward going into art dealers "galleries." For the most part, there is not much quality present, and if the odd Chagall, Picasso, or Matisse is present, its the leftovers that the museums don't even want. However the employees always make a point to judge me as someone not sophisticated enough to drop 100 grand on a painting. Well, they're right in a way. If there's something I like, I'll most likely make a mental note to paint something similar some day. There were also some great little shops and cafes thrown into this eclectic yet expensive neighborhood. It seemed like the ideal place to exhibit...there are enough galleries that I can't imagine it would be too hard to get some space, and I definitely wasn't the only person spending my Saturday gallery hopping, so sales potential is there for sure.
After hours and hours and hours of walking, my feet HURT. I had finally seen everything in Granville Island and seen all the galleries that stood out to me in South Granville, so I headed back to downtown. What a hike! Good thing it was a rare sunshiney day in Vancouver!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hello Vancouver!

I didn't know what to expect except that I expected to love it.  And I do. 

I got in after a very very long miserable day (including me getting so motion sick I had to have the taxi driver pull over on the side of the highway...and then getting obnoxiously hit on repeatedly by a TSA agent...and then 8 hours of travel...and then getting hit on by the taxi driver who kept calling me 'pretty lady' in his middle eastern accent) and checked in to the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed in.  A place where they don't even give you the option of helping you with your luggage.  A place where the morning room service attendant calls you 'madam' without any connotation that you are old or brothel-y.  A place where I can look out my window and see the city.  The picture above is the view from the hotel on the opposite side of my room.  Pretty gorgeous.  It's been like this every day and I couldn't be happier.  I never tire of telling my fellow colleagues who complain about it how energized this weather makes me!  

I have been working every day until at least 5, running to my room, changing clothes and hitting the town.  So far, I've been walking 2-4 miles a day.  It feels nice to just have things to see and I never will run out of streets to plod.  The unfortunate thing is how early the sun is setting, and with Vancouver being a large and diverse city, there are definitely places you don't necessarily want to be walking in after dark alone (like the neighborhood I found myself in tonight at 9 pm...ooops).  It is because of this perpetual sunset that I don't have many wonderful pictures yet.  Tomorrow I am walking to Granville Island, home of the artsy fartsy folk and will certainly have more images then.  

What I know about the city so far is that it is similar to Europe.  But with the thousands of residential high rises (all topped with trees which I think is the most amazing thing ever) integrated with the old architecture and moody landscape, it's a hybrid I have not yet seen.  The people walk slow but are very thin.  The food/drink selection is limited only by the number of cultures represented in Vancouver...which means they have everything.  And not just knock off everything...good everything.  Everyone I've met at work has been so nice and wonderful.  I think Canada is a good place to be, and I can't wait to see more!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Postcard Inn on the Beach, St Pete Beach FL

Postcard Inn on the Beach is a brand new renovated property in St Pete Beach, Fl.  You would never know that this used to be a run down Travelodge.  The design team took a vintage surf motif and ran with it.  The rooms were transformed from moldy carpet and floral bedspreads to 70s inspired funky luxury.  The inner courtyard is beautifully landscaped, including many casual sitting areas among the foliage.  The bar on the beach is a famous spot for the locals, but also makes for a great evening of people watching for visitors.  Wildwood BBQ is the NYC restaurant transposed in St Pete and it's pretty damn good!  The original BBQ sauce was really fabulous with the pulled pork.  All in all, if you're looking for a unique vacation spot with a warm staff, Postcard Inn is a good place to look!  

My last night in St Pete, I went to Jimmy B's Beach Bar nextdoor and really enjoyed the less than mediocre cover band.  It was annoying at first, but then after the obvious 40 year old burnout rocker songs were played, they went into even worse covers of that awful song "she was born to do the wild thing" and Jump Around.  The crowd there was loving on the band, dancing around and acting all Girls Gone Wild.  I must say it was a very appropriate send off.  I met some really awesome people there and definitely left with a much better impression than my first!  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blasius Erlinger

First, click here, then look at the photo on the far left for "latest work." Then look around at all the other photographs.  That first photo takes my breath away.  The composition, the pose!  Everything is to die for.  I had the pleasure of informally meeting the talented Blasius Erlinger in St Pete Beach, Florida.  The Postcard Inn used to be a dingy Travelodge.  In a matter of months, it has been transformed into a hip beautiful property.  Blasius was hired by Travel & Leisure to capture this new fabulous getaway.  It was so interesting to watch him at work.  His twin 15 year old 6 foot + daughters modeled the lobby furniture, surfboards, and rooms.  He ran around capturing the new architectural angles and atmosphere alike.  Usually a man of this caliber would be cold and arrogant.  Blasius was so kind and humble.  He was very flattered that we had even looked at his website, let alone complimented his work.  

It's very rare to find talent paired with kindness and humility.  He definitely deserves a shout out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Band-Aid did not pay for the following endorsement...

Because I believe this look is utterly unacceptable past the age of 8, I don't wear socks with my shoes.  Because control top panty hose do wonders for my thighs but are killer uncomfortable, I usually slip my bare feet into my flats or heels.  For anyone who has worked to wear in a new pair of shoes, you know it can be painful.  Of course it shouldn't be, but it is.  You get the blisters on the tops of your feet from flip flops and the worn off pieces of skin on your heel.  Well this is of the past now that Band-Aid created Friction Block Stick.  It's a few bucks at Target.  I bought it, not being too optimistic, but having painful and bloody spots on my feet...I was desperate.  All you do is rub this small deoderant looking stick against those parts of your feet that get the most wear and tear and voila.  No more blisters.  I shit you not, this product is genius and I use it every day.  

***Band-Aid, if you read this, thank you thank you thank you.  Oh and you owe me for this commercial....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Dutch - Painting, not the potato chips...

When it comes to photo realism painting, no one holds a candle to the old Dutch masters.  When I went to The Netherlands a year and a half ago and went to Den Hague's Mauritshuis Museum, I finally saw Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring," Paulus Potter's giant animals, and Willem van Aelst's still lifes, I definitely fell in love even more.  It's always been a technique I've idolized.  Usually when I see a painting in person, I can finally see the flaws, the brushstrokes, the layers of color.  This is the best thing, I believe, about going to museums.  When I finally saw my first Frida Kahlo painting, I realized that she made some major mistakes or changes when painting.  Seeing the process, decisions made, and errors in ones you look up to is pretty cool.  Not so much for the Dutch.  Basically they're perfect, smooth, flawless.  In Vermeer's paintings, you can see brushstrokes up close, but from afar, it looks like a photo.  The above photo is an example of this technique.  A less famous version of the Dutch masters, this Jan Anthonisz van Ravensteyn painting was hanging in the Snite Gallery at Notre Dame University.  Those beautiful collars, although quite the fashion statement, would be a pain to paint.  The textures from fabric to frizzy beard hairs are so perfect.  The repetition and patterns that those painters achieved are so meticulously executed.  Seeing the paintings of the best of the best can be very discouraging.  However, seeing this paiting gave me a different outlook.  This is a style of painting that is reserved for the few these days.  It is popular to be gestural and abstract.  The days of photorealistic portraits may be long gone, but it is something I would like to explore even further.  Let's be Dutch and make ourselves go crazy by attempting perfection!   

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sloppy Pelican Loser Bug Paintings

Best burger of my life.  Medium-well grilled beef patty.  Melty provolone cheese.  Half of an avocado.  Lettuce, Tomato, and Pickle.  With garlic parmesan fries.  I'm so full, I hurt.  After a pretty stressful and long day at work, we headed down the beach to the Sloppy Pelican on St Pete Beach.  It's a bar/restaurant with a patio right on the water.  Fabulous service, good no frills food & drinks.  And some fabulously rich key lime pie for dessert.  PLUS you get to watch the sunset during your meal.  Just can't get any better.

Now that I'm bloated, I sit down on my bed to watch some tv.  The Biggest Loser is on, and of course, within moments I'm crying.  And feeling even more bloated than before.  Where is a personal trainer with crazy tasks for me to do?  Just then a bug walks by me on my bed (a big one) and I realize I have bigger problems than some extra weight right now...

Last night I had my first night of peace and quiet.  No noisy neighbors screaming.
For some reason I still couldn't sleep.  I think and think and think and somehow land on an image that I need to paint.  I want to paint.  It looks like a familiar face but in a style I have not fully explored.  Highly expressionistic.  Instead of trying harder to sleep, I pulled out my drawing materials that I travel with and got a pretty good first sketch of it.  Of course I didn't have a model to go off of, but I got down on paper the look I'm going for.  Then I could sleep.  Art is fun like that...sometimes it just demands your attention.  And thank goodness for that!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Salvador Dali

What a weirdo he was, yes?  I finally made it to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  It is said to have the biggest and finest collection of Dali's works...outside of Spain, that is.  Statements like that lead me to believe it would be a huge art museum.  In reality, it was much smaller than I was expecting, however, too much Dali might be overwhelming, so it was a perfect size for the amount of work.  There were some small pieces, some measuring in the hundreds of feet.  The museum was arranged in chronological order, which was wonderful to see Dali's progression through styles and themes.  Obsessed with Freud and sexuality, Dali's paintings usually were object heavy, and each object meant something to Dali.  (I won't bore you with an Art History lesson...but it is pretty interesting if you're into that kind of thing.)
My favorite pieces were ones I had never seen before.  One is the painting pictured above : Oeufs sur le plat sans le plat (Eggs on the plate above the plate), 1932.  As one of his earlier surreal paintings, his talent for realistic painted objects is very clear.  The egg is attached and hangs with a weight that is not possible for the object.  The yokes reflect the light from a window which is not seen.  The technique is fantastic...he created a photograph with paints.  

The other painting I really enjoyed is the one pictured below : Sentimental Colloquy, 1944.  Midway through his career, Dali became very popular in all artistic circles.  This painting below is a design he was working on for the New York Ballet.  What?!  Yes.  Pretty crazy stuff.  It's interesting to think of these famous artists being so commercial.  Some artists judge those who do custom work, portraits, mass production, basically anything that's not your heart's yearning desire to express your soul, as not actually doing art or selling out.  Photographers get this a lot.  My response is that Mucha, Lautrec, Michelangelo, and even snobs like Dali did it.  Why can't we?  
Dali used to be my favorite artist.  Then I learned a little more about art.  And now I realize, seeing his paintings up close, that his technique is not flawless (its pretty damn good though...).  I believe there comes a point when an artist becomes so self obsessed that they stop communicating through their art.  Dali got to a point in his art where he kept repeating himself and pushing the envelope just for the purpose of pushing the envelope.  He was brilliant though.  And, the man new how to grow a mustache.  

Audrey Niffenegger and the Destination Novel

Staying up until 3 in the morning is something that very few select things can make me do. Watching back to back episodes of Lost or True Blood is one. Reading Audrey Niffenegger is another. I LOVED The Time Traveler's Wife with such passion. Immediately you loved, cared for, and were so anxious for her characters. The story had just the right amount of romance so that it's not "chick lit" but actually fits into the mystery/drama/thriller genre. I have followed Niffenegger's published works including her two somewhat alternative illustrated books (think children's books with adult themes).  When Her Fearful Symmetry came out, I ran out and got it immediately.  This happens to be what kept me awake last night until 3.  Although much different than Time Traveler, Symmetry still carried her gift of character and mood writing.  The major difference this time is that there are more main characters, and of which she exposes more.  This is one of the first books that I was so interested in the characters without actually knowing if I liked them.  They were very realistic people : selfish, emotional, flawed.  I'm not sure that I am on board with every plot twist in the book, but all in all, it's a great read.  
Her Fearful Symmetry took place in Lake Forest, Illinois and mostly London.  It was one of those books that gave directional details and store names without explaining what they are.  So if you've never been to London, you'd miss quite a few details.  I love these details cause it's nostalgic to me.  Sometimes I go back and forth as to how much of this is necessary.  An author who uses location as a character of the story is Neil Gaiman.  He uses London in Neverwhere (my favorite book of his) and the midwest in American Gods.  He gives the locations an appropriate importance to the story, so that they're not just mentioned, and they're not explained to death.  I believe that Audrey is getting an American author, she did admit to having help with her English slang, as most of the characters were English.  So at times, it did seem a little forced, but it helped paint the atmosphere for me.  I'd be curious to hear what someone who hasn't been there thinks about the subject?  Does it enhance the story?  Or are they just added nonsense?  

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is the kind of idyllic university we see in the movies.  Of course there is the giant stadium where all the football is played, but beyond that, there are thousands of trees and gorgeous buildings.  There's a strong sense of the history and culture of the university as you walk through it.  The first building I came across was the art gallery.  An actual art gallery filled with actual historical and contemporary artists!  (See last blog for a review of one of the exhibits.)  

Obviously I snuck around the art studios to check out how great the facilities are.  Well, pictured here to the left, is just one of the sculpture studios.  Just one of them.  HUGE great spaces that I could not even imagine getting to work in.  It seemed like a pretty wonderful art department.  And I am definitely keeping it in mind for grad school.

I explored the rest of the campus including the beautiful cathedral and breathtaking admissions building.  Paired with the beauty of the campus, the immature co-ed conversations I heard seemed so out of place.  But then, I must remind myself that they are young, and even though this place is gorgeous and historical, 18 year olds live there too.  It was quite the experience to be there the day before a home football game.  The campus started swarming with alumni.  The infants and oldies alike were dressed in Notre Dame gear (which, I must add is NOT cheap, as I found out in the over-crowded bookstore).  

Friday, October 2, 2009


"Thin" is a photography/film exhibit put together by artist Lauren Greenfield.  Right now, it is living at Notre Dame's Snite Gallery, which is where I happened upon it.  As you may guess, its subject matter is eating disorders.  Greenfield spent time at a clinic in Florida where she conducted interviews, was present for treatments, and filmed/photographed her experiences.  At first, I was disappointed by how literal the photos are.  They are very un-pretty: exposing cutting scars, ribs, and under-eye circles.  It is obviously made to make the viewer react strongly, which, it was successful at.

What the exhibit really succeeded at was telling the women's stories.  While it might have been a little cheap to show grotesque females to get a reaction, I believe, that paired with the individuals' stories next to the photos, it became appropriate.  As a woman, not only could I sympathize, but understand.  While never having a severe eating disorder myself, I am obsessed with my body, as I believe most women are.  And I don't mean obsessed as an egotistical term, but obsessed as in I think about how horrible I look all the time.  I don't want this to be a personal whine fest, but I think it's an important issue that we all deal with, and it's important to discuss it.  I remember being 6 years old and being in an outfit my mom was so excited to put me in, and all I could think about is that my belly stuck out over the pants and I thought I was fat.  I didn't last an hour in this outfit.  At 6 years old...which leads me to believe that it's not just our screwed up society that makes us so uber-critical.  I grew up with strong (although sometimes emotionally unstable) women influences who always told me I was beautiful.  No matter how often our mothers, sisters, and boyfriends tell us we're beautiful, it takes one glance at a girl in a bikini without any bulges or a reflection of ourselves in a glass door for us to go back to self-loathing land.

Needless to say, the exhibit affected me greatly.  I think that it would be a good idea for anyone who has been affected by their appearance or has been in a relationship with someone with low body image to check this out.  It's a good call to attention to the issue.  If we have the power to try to rise above this and prioritize our thoughts better or if we unfortunately do not, it's empowering to see what these other women have been through and seeing their fight to live.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

South Bend, Indiana

These towns I've never heard of keep popping up on my schedule.  When someone asks me where I'm going and I tell them, if it's a man, they immediately point out that a big university is there.  Last time it was Texas Tech.  This time, it's Notre Dame.  I didn't even know it was in Indiana.  Which, at least I knew where Indiana was, unlike one of my dearest friends : P  (love you!!).

The town is much like any suburb would be.  Complete with a Panera Bread (mmmm creamy tomato soup and asiago bread....), Red Robin, Red Lobster, Carrabbas, Houlihans, Old Navy, Borders, etc etc etc within 1/2 mile of the hotel.  These eateries were as far as I had ventured in the town.  Until today.

I'm working the overnight shift, and so, after staying up until 7:30 am, I slept in until the sun peeked in my room at 1 pm.  After a delicious lunch at Panera (no surprise there), I decided I wanted to go to Target.  Now.  There was a dilemma.  Target is 2 miles away.  Walmart is 1 mile away.  Obviously Walmart is the better more convenient choice.  Obviously I went to Target.  The hotel shuttle could've taken me, but this dear sister of mine gave me assignments to aid me on the road to self improvement, and one of these tasks is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.  A 4 mile walk (even if interrupted with some mild shopping addict behavior and Starbucks drinkage) would definitely satisfy that.  Convinced that it was my destiny to begin this adventure, I put on my sweatshirt and new Nikes and braced myself against the fall wind.  (It actually was a beautiful day for a stroll...)

The US is, on the whole, unfriendly to the idea of being a pedestrian.  South Bend, Indiana, is downright discriminatory against pedestrians.  Not only are there no sidewalks or shoulders on the road, but no walking signals on the traffic lights.  I definitely almost got run over more than once and was gawked at by all drivers.  As the ONLY pedestrian on the road today, I felt a little alien, but I had my sights set on Target, so I kept on truckin.

Pretty soon, I felt like Buddy the Elf on his adventure to NYC.  "First I walked through the vast squishy fields of grass.  Then I passed by all the chain restaurants in the world!  Then I ventured through Horny Honkers' Hollow (apparently jeans and a sweatshirt creates a look rival to that of the red carpet or hookers on street corners).  THEN I crossed over the Bridge of Death (think busy overpass with no sidewalks...).  Then, just as Super Target was in sight, I came across the scariest obstacle of all: giant locusts!" Grasshoppers the size of my finger EVERYWHERE.  With every step I took, I displaced at least 5 grasshoppers who would jump up as high as my waist.  I've never been creeped out by these bugs, but they were SO huge, and they ran into my hands when they jumped, it's like they were doing it on purpose  (I'm starting to understand Moses better).  Then to top it all off, the crickets the size of silver dollars joined.  Yuck yuck yuck.

Finally I reached my destination.  Have I mentioned how much I love Target?  It's such a comfort in times of need and despair.  When I was done shopping and sipping at my Pumpkin Spice Latte, my zen level had returned and my nerves were calm : I was prepared to venture back to the hotel now armed with the experience of the route.  I knew what to expect, and I rocked it in reverse.

The House on the Rock

The first time I heard about The House on the Rock (and paid attention) was when reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods.  When he writes about all the gods of all religions (burnt out, forgotten, etc) convening at this place, it perked my interest.  I researched it and found out it was a pretty quirky roadside attraction just outside Madison, WI.  And for how much I love Mr. Gaiman's writing, I couldn't get the pictures he painted out of my head, and I just had to go.

In the mid 1900s, an architect, Alex Jordan, wanted to build a spectacular house on the pinnacle of a rock in Spring Green, WI.  He did this and then opened it up as an attraction.  I'm guessing because of boredom or personal interest in collecting (the guy had to be a little off if you ask me) he built/assembled/collected tons of junk, which is now part of the attraction and museum of The House on the Rock.The main attraction is pictured above: the largest carousel in the world.  This, in American Gods, is the portal to Odin.  In person, it was hot, sweaty, and overwhelming.  There are no horses on the carousel, but hundreds of horses lining the walls/ceiling of the room the carousel is housed in.  The creatures on the moving carousel range from bulldogs to mermaids.  You can't actually ride it, which is a bummer, but it's pretty impressive.  The attraction has many rooms filled to the brim with some genuine articles, but mostly crazy worthless items that end up being impressive by sheer volume.  The rooms full of dolls was by far the creepiest.  There was a full scale model of a humpback whale (with teeth...hmmm not accurate) and a squid attacking it.  Also in the same gigantic room, was an "Octopus' Garden" area where you could insert a token and listen to a mechanical "band" playing the Beatles' song while the cartoon-y octopus "played" the instruments.  There were rooms upon rooms of lavish musical sets with the same token invoked canny music.
The attraction took the most time to walk through, as there was so much to look at.  As an artist, I couldn't help but be inspired by all the objects and design.  It was such chaos.  The mass of STUFF was inspiring and disturbing all at the same time.  A lot of these objects took a lot of craft to create and assemble, and although he must have been insane, the talent must be recognized!

The actual house was the most interesting/impressive part of the attraction.  The story is that Alex Jordan wanted to study under Frank Lloyd Wright, who was his hero.  Wright, looking at Jordan's sketches, laughed in his face and told him he was ridiculous.  Obviously, Jordan was not accepted into Wright's highly prestigious Taliesen school, which happens to be 5 miles down the road from where Jordan decided to build his masterpiece in Spring Green.  The story is just hilarious to me, knowing how pretentious Wright was, and that The House on the Rock attracts more visitors than Taliesen.  The house is small, the ceilings were so uncomfortably low.  The structure is built into and on the rocks.  The interior walls are partially natural rock, and the Japanese design is beautiful.  The impressive part is the cantilevered portion that juts out hundreds of feet from the main structure:

The cantilever ends in a point, leaving not enough room for adults to walk to the end.  It was rickety and creepy and beautiful.  Here's a view from below/side.  See how it's just leaning on that one rock for support?!  Yes.  Cool.

Although it costs an adult $28 for the full tour (and no student discount...), it is so worth it.  Just about 30 minutes West of Madison, The House on the Rock is a wonderfully unique way to spend a day.