Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Land of 11,842 Lakes


Greetings from Minneapolis, Minnesota!  This place is a series of contrasts. On the day I arrived, Mark brought me to the classic Nye’s Polonaise room, which was, I’m certain, quite the fashionable place to be in its day. It’s still crowded and there’s karaoke, of a sort, at this place, you get to sing the classics with the piano player. That’s in the main room, the room next door has the famous 
“most dangerous polka band in the world.” I think the only danger they have now is of falling off their chair. Or maybe getting gummed to death by the accordion player. I’m pretty sure she forgot to put her teeth in before show time. But then right down the street there was the place where Prince became famous and the more modern places are packed too.
Donja know now that the people here sound a lot like that movie, “Fargo.” Prairie Home Companion is produced right down the street, and at the gas station the other day, the guy behind the counter said to Mark about me that, “that girl doesn’t talk English like we do.” But the Walker art museum has a beautiful collection, and the architecture and town design is fabulous. People here are very progressive, recyclers, and kind of granola-ey. It’s fascinating!
Went shopping at the Mall of America, but I also stopped at the jam packed Wedge food co-op for some supplements and free range chicken.  
We’ve been having a spectacular Indian summer. 
The days and even nights are warm, and the beauty of the place is certainly enticing, but when Mark mentioned that there are days in the winter that are 30 below ZERO, the decision is easy and I will certainly be gone before I experience that contrast! The city is truly a tease – Friday night we at outside at a really nice Cuban restaurant, but finally, tonight, I can feel the cold air just waiting to blow in.

Mark and I went to training together and are fast friends. We went camping for a few days on the bluffs by the Mississippi river. Strange that I’ve seen the last part of the river before it flows into the gulf, and now I’ve been to nearly the start of it! We just went for a quick trip and didn’t pack a lot of food, so for dinner we went into the nearest town for food. Had a hell of a time finding a suitable restaurant (meaning not fast food), and finally ended up finding a Mexican place that looked ok. Here’s the irony – it was called, “Chula Vista!” It was nearly a year ago to the date that we had our first meal at the Chula Vista in training. Gotta say, the Fairmont Acapulco restaurant was much better than the one in Minnesota. After a good night’s sleep and a great morning hike, we packed up the camper. Unfortunately, the campsite was on quite a slope, and when I tried to saddle up the camper to the trailer hitch, I bingled it and lost the camper – 
it started rolling down the hill and nearly went over a cliff – despite attempts by both me and Mark to slow it down and stop it! It ended up hitting a small barrier (probably designed just for that) and the treacherous drop was avoided. I laughed like crazy at the escapade, Mark was a little rattled.
I’ve taught twice here and practiced a lot more than that. It’s been wonderful to see Martha’s studio – she is very well known as a passionate and excellent senior teacher. I took her class once, and even though she is 8 months pregnant, she still kicked my ass. She has an amazing “you can do it” attitude, and an incredible ability to withstand the heat and humidity despite 
her condition. She is a great teacher.
So is Mark. He has great passion, and compassion. I love his energy, his humor, and his ability to get people to go beyond their expectations. His practice has improved considerably and he looks strong as well. I’m very impressed.

We went to see a movie made locally called, “Into Temptation.” Mark wanted to see it as there’s a woman in 
the movie who practices at the studio. I wasn’t exactly too thrilled with the idea of what I thought was a movie about prostitution and sex shops. But it wasn’t really about that at all – it was about redemption in a way and it was so well done, I was crying at one point. If they end up doing a
 nationwide release, go see it. Or rent it on Netflix. See? That’s what I’m talking about – contrasts. This place is full of them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Michigan Sunsets

I betrayed the Motel 6 chain, but really, they betrayed me – the hotel I wanted to stay in was poorly run, smelly and dirty. So I’m at another number – Super 8. Good enough for a night in Wisconsin. It smells like cows here. But not so happy cows – Happy Cows come from California.
After a week at Eileen’s I’m exhausted. She lives a life that I would not have the energy to live. She’s a single mom with three kids, a business, a busy personal life and an extended family. She handles it all well, with grace and 95% of the time, with a great big smile.  Not so sure I could pull that off. But we do what we must at the end of the day, don’t we?I arrived on Thursday evening, tried to get here for the sunset, but wasn’t too heartbroken when I missed it – I’d been traveling west for two days and had been staring at the sun plenty long enough. Friday got my hair cut and highlighted. Everyone on Facebook has seen it and yes, it looks great! Thanks for the compliments! After we dropped the kids off at their dad’s, we took a bike ride around town and watched the sun set over the lake. Eileen lives in the western most part of the eastern time zone, and on the east coast of Lake Michigan, the sun sets over the water very, very late in the day. We enjoyed a couple of beers on the beach and then had an outstanding dinner in town.
Over the next few days we helped Eileen’s mom (she’s still Mrs. Dwyer to me) finish up and prepare to go. After something like 26 years, she is moving to Florida to get out of the northern winters. She’s amazing – she sold her house, gave away most of the contents and sold off the rest, and Eileen’s brother Edward is going to drive down only a carload of clothes and mementos. Pretty brave for a 79 year old!!! We helped pack up the last of the stuff, join her for church, and did other chores before Mrs. Dwyer went to the airport. I was so happy to get to see her and help out.

Saturday afternoon we went to the catholic church; Sunday we went to Eileen’s alternative church – it’s spiritual but not religious – and it was an interesting study in contrasts. Saturday was full of mostly senior citizens and we did the usual “sit down, stand up, kneel down” routine, and I have to say, there were very few people smiling. The sermon was not so memorable, they talked about Ted Kennedy’s funeral, and that’s about all I can remember. At the second church, it was bless the pets day, and it was pandemonium – dogs barking, kids laughing, they even brought kids up to the altar for a little talk. I guess that’s typical. It was happy, funny and joyful – in my opinion, a wonderful alternative – but hey – different strokes.

We got to go sailing on the lake on Monday. So this summer, I’ve been boating in the Pacific, the gulf, the Atlantic and now on the Great Lakes – how cool is that?

Eileen’s kids are wonderful. They are sharp, independent and funny. They had their first day of school on Tuesday and I got to take their picture before they boarded the bus. Well, actually Joseph and Audrey boarded the bus – James goes to another school so he was driven.

A kid that James knows was killed in a boating accident over the weekend. It shook up the town and made everyone realize how precious their kids are – the sorrow could be felt for days – life is short – you just never know!!!

And on that note…..sending love to all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I heart NY

Drove across New York to the tune of $25 for the toll road, but I got an “I heart NY” bumper sticker. I’m not 100% sure it’s true, but it does chronicle my short ride across the Empire State. Highlights included lots of hedgehogs on the side of the road sitting like sentinels, and a view of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile – maybe the hogs were there to salute the giant hot dog!

Spent the night in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area. Another Motel 6 – brand new and really nice! But it was strange being in that town. There were no young people there – most folks were 50+, I’m guessing the younger generations have left to find greener pastures. Stopped in Target to pick up something cheap so that I could get some cash back from the purchase, and three different women nearly bumped into me as I was shopping around the corners. “I’m Sorry,” “I’m Sorry,” “I’m so, so sorry.” Was the response I got for the near misses. I thought about that. What did they have to be sorry about? Why would they apologize for not bumping into me? “Excuse me,” or “Pardon me” might be a little more appropriate, but even that seemed a bit unnecessary. In addition, I just couldn’t imagine any man apologizing for nearly walking into me – they might expect an apology, but to give one? I just don’t think so! So it made me wonder about the women in the area and how much (or rather little) power they had in their lives. Wasn’t there long enough to give it a more thorough exploration, but still, I wondered.

Stopped at Niagara Falls. I went there when we lived in Erie. The first time was in the winter with a school group – I remember getting out of the bus, looking around impressed, and then getting back in the bus – it was too friggin cold to give it a good look. The second time was with my dad and grandmother. It was a warmer day, but still really overcast and wet. I remember getting one of those plastic rain jackets and going on the boat by the falls. I think I did it by myself while my dad stayed with his mom – I thought about that and how they let me explore on my own even as a young person. Probably one of the reasons I am such the adventurer now. But this time, WOW – it was a spectacular day – picture perfect!! Beautiful blue skies – amazing views and Higbee and I had a great walk around the state park and looking at the rivers, falls and the woods in the area. It was a fun morning, and I got yet another sticker for the camper.

Crossed into Canada to make the shortcut into Michigan. I was surprised at how easy it was – I fully expected a closer inspection – and thought for sure I’d have to raise the popup, have the dog x-rayed, but the guy just asked me a few questions (he didn’t even raise an eye when I told him I had been on the road since May to visit yoga studios), and we continued on to Canada. It looks a little more like Europe there. The architecture looks like Northern Europe, and the signage, well, that is exclusively Canadian. The re-crossing back to the US was just as easy except for the LONG lines as the border. The bridge that I took over the waterway showed spectacularly blue water though, wish I was able to capture an image of it.

Then another long drive to Eileen’s. Whew. I broke all the rules on that trip – stayed exclusively on the interstates, drove WAY longer than I was supposed to, ate crap from rest stations, and arrived absolutely spent.

But even though I can already detect a cold winter breeze here, it’s truly beautiful. I know why Eileen lives here. More on that later.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Massachusetts by the Numbers

1 Awesome experience with Diane
2 Sibling visits
3 Massages
4 Manninos
5 Teaching opportunities
6 Hundred miles
7 Lobsters
8 Really good friends

Tomorrow I leave Massachusetts and head for Michigan to see Eileen and her family. This has been such a special part of the trip, and not only for the opportunity to hone my teaching skills and learn from Diane. I have found a very dear friend in Sunny and I have been lucky enough to know Linda, Terri, Terri, Danielle, CJ, Jodi and Sam. Each has been really special in his or her own way.

I’ve got to spend a little time with siblings, and visit my mom’s old haunts, thus removing, some might say, some haunting of my own.

A very productive trip. Yesterday after leaving Terri Almquist’s house and heading west back to Sunny’s, I felt a little sad. The light in the sky was much lower, indicating the end of summer (and it’s been quite cold in the evening – summer here lasted about 2 weeks), and it was a literal turning point. I’ve finished going east, for the most part, and will head west again.

We’ll see what this next leg of the adventure brings. There’s LOTS of good things out there, tomorrow will bring more.