Friday Festivus

Greektown on Halsted.


Whilst Commuting

School has started up for the fall. Yes, I know it is August and technically still summer, but for some of us, school has started.

I am commuting again. As with any thrill of the new, one notices things along the road- mostly the billboards and other cars. Documentation of the first day along my route:

  1. The standard issue uniform for hackers is a dark hoodie and blue jeans. Strange how the hoodie is considered to be the preferred mode of dress for the marginalized members of society with criminal intent. Weren’t hoodies derived from the monk’s cowl? How do the monk’s feel about this?
  2. It is exciting to see the smashed up sand containers that are used to prevent head on collisions with concrete overpasses. Someone’s life was saved by this simple, low-tech device! Then some unease- wait, no one has replaced the smashed ones… What will happen with accident #2?
  3. The food trucks have different bumper stickers from the rest of us: their bumper stickers are Mobile Vendor permits issued by the State Health Department’
  4. The billboard advertising college football has players which look suspiciously like Power Rangers. I’m thinking that the kids who play college football now were probably raised on a daily tv diet of Power Rangers as children. Power Rangers were the go-to kid show.
  5.  Too Much Information Hyundai = ‘I don’t Skinny Dip, I Chunky Dunk’, ‘Southside Irish’, ‘I (heart symbol) my Piercer- Trx Tattoos and Piercings’

Mom gets played. Again

My urgent question that night: When can I get my son’s hair cut?

The costume director’s jaw dropped slightly. She recovered. “Um, well, any time. He just needs a haircut which can be parted on the side and then slicked back. Young Elvis style. Anything is ok-just nothing drastic.”

One of the parents mutters, “Yeah, don’t give him a Mohawk.” Murmured chuckles in the room. Other parents stare me down like I am half crazy. I sink in my seat.

All summer long my son had been telling me he couldn’t get his hair cut because that might interfere with the school musical he was performing in. I had to wait until late August and get specific instructions on the most appropriate haircut.

For the entire summer I let my son run around with ragamuffin hair. His hair looked like birds could nest in it. The grandparents were not happy. I explained it all as “it is for the good of the show.”

Later at home, when I question my son about the haircut he says, “Well, maybe I forgot to include the word ‘drastic‘. It’s just you always make me get my hair cut sooo short that there is no way I could part it on the side.”

He does have a point, but I still have the feeling I’ve been played.

I tell him he is going to have his hair cut tomorrow by my hairdresser. I will tell her I want my son to look like a young Johnny Cash.


Don’t Be Missing Out on Paradise

Remind self that the messy living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, laundry room, bedrooms etc are all a sign that people you love are living in this home. Granted, these people are not very good at picking up after themselves. But that magazine-perfect room you think of as your ideal? That room is only inhabited by photographers and their assistants who hover on the edges of the room. That glossy photo depicts something closer to a museum exhibit or archaeological site than an actual living space. Yes, your space is definitely living, perhaps crawling- are those ants coming out of my daughter’s lunchbox?- and if this energy weren’t here, it would be someplace else. These people could be making their messes in their office, school desk, cafeteria, locker, football field, restaurant. Well, they are probably doing that too, but they are also here, around you, with you. Don’t grumble so much about the mess. Remember intentions, priorities, and the blessings that surround you.

And the dirty socks. How does he do this? It’s like he’s leaving me a trail.

Iceland Structures

The last of the Iceland series.

Iceland day structure- in the summer there are only a few hours of darkness. Of course, this means that during the winter there are only a few hours of sunlight.

Reykjavik Harbor, 9:30 pm!

Iceland Topography: While Iceland is a rather big island, most of the human population is lined up around the coast. There is no road that goes through the island, but there is a ring road that goes around the entire island. The glaciers, mountains, earthquake fissure lines, and trolls are in the central part of the island.

Iceland Architecture : In the olden times, people lived in turf houses. These were homes where the foundation consisted of rocks, and then earth would be piled on top to create a house.

Reconstructed traditional turf house- not too many windows

While this might seem quaint, haven’t you read “Little House by the River”? The mom  constantly complained about her turf house, she wanted a ‘real’ plank house. Imagine trying to clean the dirt house. Ponder the kinds of visitors you might find tunneling into your earthen abode. Also, these turf houses do not stand up too long to the elements. Most of the structures in Iceland only date back to the 19th century, even though the island was colonized in the late 800s.

Nowadays, homes are built of reinforced concrete or aluminum siding.IMG_0522 Nothing too tall, this country is prone to earthquakes. Also, nothing of brick- brick NOT good in an earthquake situation.

Remember, there are no forests in Iceland, all wood must be imported or found along the beach as driftwood. If you are building for harsh conditions and you have to import the materials anyway, may as well go with concrete and aluminum. IMG_0519

Iceland Landscapes

We flew into the Keflavik Airport and then took a but to Reykjavik. On the way to the city, we crossed through a former lava field. I’m not showing pictures from the bus because it was early morning, raining, and I don’t know how to work the flash on my camera so I only got photos of the window. Sigh.

Anyhow, imagine if you will black volcanic rocks with green moss growing on them, and off in the distance, tall mountains spiking up out of the mist.

Moss growing on volcanic rock

At one point, the rocks were huge ovals with cracks on the top. It looked like huge domed bubbles which had cracked on top, only these things weren’t soap bubbles, they were ROCKS.

Later in our trip, we went to a volcanic site that is used as a geothermal power plant (the whole island gets its power from geothermal and hydroelectric sources. I think they could also put up a few windmills and get the wind power too, if they wanted). Anyhow, this gives you an idea of the scenery.IMG_0640

Not unusual to see steam coming out of the rocks here.

Nevertheless, despite all these pictures, I am having a hard time conveying the eerie mystery of Iceland. Maybe you just have to go there, but it is an extremely unusual place. I can see why a fanciful prince would think it might be the perfect place to find a bride who was as cool as ice on the outside and a lusty volcano on the inside. This is a description of Brunhilde, but it holds equally true for Eyjafjallajökul, the volcano which is UNDER a glacier, and when it exploded in 2010 it put miles of ash into the atmosphere and grounded many airline passengers in Europe.

Iceland actually used to have a lot more trees, but within 200 years the humans had deforested the place Lorax/Easter Island style. There are some trees, but they are small. I don’t think I saw any trees over 20 feet while I was there. It also doesn’t help when you pasture a lot of sheep. Sheep are very destructive to plants, eating everything down to the nubbins.

There are now ‘tree farmers’ in Iceland who are trying to re-grow the Iceland forest. They plant American aspens to act as windbreaks for the native Icelandic birch.

An Iceland joke:

Q: What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?

A: Stand up.

The Crone, the Waterfall and the Battle of the Legacies

IMG_0700The plaque doesn’t really explain the conflict over the Gullfoss waterfall. It tells of an old woman who was very fond of the waterfall. She was from a big family and she and her brothers and sisters would guide people to the waterfall back when it was a rather difficult and perilous trek to get to it. She never married, she was dedicated to the waterfall.

However, our tour guide has a different explanation for the origin of the memorial. The tour guide explained that this old woman, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who known for being difficult to get along with and rather prickly, had to take on Iceland’s Mr. Big poet laureate-religious bigwig-entrepreneur to save the waterfall.

Mr Big had big plans for the waterfall. He was going to lease the waterfall out to a British company to develop a hydro-electric plant. In ‘developing’ the energy usage, the waterfall would probably get somewhat trashed modified and, of course, be closed to the public.

According to our tour guide, the crone didn’t like this plan. She organized a public relations campaign to stop the British electricity deal and make the land accessible to all- native Icelander as well as foreign tourist.

However, if you look at the Wikipedia page, they make it sound like the business deal with the British wasn’t working, and Mr. Big ‘generously’ sold off the land to the Iceland government. Perhaps he is rolling in his grave over all the tourist money he lost from the deal.

Seems to me we are witnessing the battle of the legacies. Why would a ‘waterfall admirer’ get her own plaque? Where is Mr. Big’s plaque? Who are we to believe? The oral tradition of the uppity crone or the Official Version of the bourgeois elite who decided to pass on an business opportunity?


It is a beautiful waterfall.IMG_0692 I thought I would be disappointed because there was so much hype surrounding it, but Gullfoss is truly a lovely spot. IMG_0670The water thunders down, and since there is a rock wall nearby, a wall of mist is thrown up into the air. You feel like you are going through a veil as you get closer to the waterfall itself. IMG_0675

We were there in July, so the wildflowers were in full bloom.IMG_0671

Icelandic people are very sensible about advertising danger. As soon as you see those ropes, you know you had darned well better stay back. They aren’t worried about lawsuits, they figure natural selection will favor those people who can follow instructions.IMG_0679

Easy does it tourist types.


Fun with Geysers

A  short take on geyserIMG_0720 activity, featuring our favorite 10 minute (or so) interval geyser, Strokkur.

Yes, they do name geysers, volcanoes, and waterfalls in Iceland.





 -This geyser is taking forever.                                                          
-Why don’t you try water bending?                                                                  
                                   Ok! He-ha, ho-ah, Ho-ah –
-Totally not working. let’s just……                             Ho-ah, Ho-ah ho-ah –
-AHHH! I’m blind!                                       BWOOOOSH!!!!!                                             Weeeeeee!-

Munich’s Homegrown MJ Memorial

Someone in Munich is a big Michael Jackson fan. They have established a huge memorial to the singer on site of a memorial statue to Orlande de Lassus (a Renaissance era, Flemish composer-songwriter to Bavarian Duke Albrecht V).

Check it out:

There may not be the quantity of fresh flowers there were a few years back, but the MJ Memorial is very well maintained.

The memorial is across from the swanky Bayerischer Hof, a five-star hotel which Mr. Jackson stayed in when visiting Munich. No, this is not the hotel where he dangled his kid out the balcony- that’s the famous Hotel Adlon in Berlin, not far from the Brandenburg Gate.

Someone misses Michael, as do we all on occasion, but the majority of us just build shrines in our mind.

Split Purgatory

“Before now she would have felt exhilarated by the idea of existing without obligation or consequence, but the experience is nothing like she once imagined. This is a half-life, a split purgatory where her body and mind coexist but occupy separate realities. Her eyes look at what is ahead- the road, a fallen tree- but her mind scours the past, judges each choice made, relives every failure, roots out what she overlooked, took for granted, and didn’t pay attention to. The present scarcely registers.”

  • from Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg