Sunday, July 30, 2006

unexpected wave of nostalgia

I just got a big unexpected visit from the ghost of good times past.

I'm working on my new Green Lantern Glassworks website right now. I was trying to find some JPEGs from my previous site that showed my student stained glass works. I was digging around in some archived files looking for some missing images.

Then suddenly I found a whole hidden treasure trove of my old photos from the days when I was aspiring to be a photographer. Oh man! Most of these photos have been stashed away on our external hard drive and I haven't really looked at them in two years. What a wave of nostalgia. They're mostly from our years in San Diego and Singapore from 2001-2003 -- a time during which I was so connected to my surroundings because I was spending most days out photographing them. I have such vivid memories of the places I photographed. I would spend a whole day at the Torrey Pines Glider Park, for example, waiting for perfect shots of people flying their model airplanes over the seaside cliffs near San Diego. If there was one thing I truly loved about photography it was the connection with the city I live in, the countryside, the objects, the people. When you photograph you look so intently at details, and spend every day out hunting for them. Nobody does that in their usual lives because we all have other stuff to do. It makes for a rich connection. I just realized now how much I miss that. I should get out photographing again, just for fun. Too bad all my camera equipment is still in France.

Anyway, here's one shot from the glider port.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hi Aaron!

I love hearing from friends that I haven't heard from in a long time! Today I got an email from an old Indo buddy Aaron (no not as in smokin' Indo -- the Indo below Singapore and Malaysia, the one with good satay). Hi Aaron! Shelley did you see his email too? I saw a few of our old Indo compatriots were on his email list too. Aaron you've got to let me know if any of them respond too. How cool!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pictures of my Studio

I've talked a lot about my new glassworking studio. Now here are some pictures:

Me in my studio yesterday

Marco and I building my work table

Me drawing the design for a new window

My fourth window, just soldered


All the news about Lebanon has made me think about this country, which I visited for a wedding in 2003. Marco's very close friend Pierre-Yves, who's French, married his French-Lebanese girlfriend Maria there. Most of Maria's family still lives near Beirut and I hope they are doing well right now. My wishes go out to you and your family, Maria. I'm sorry that your beautiful city and country, just recovered from the past wars, is having to experience this again.

When we visited we were accompanied by about 15 of Marco and Pyves' school friends from France, a lively group. Now that I think about it we saw SO MANY vivid and memorable things in a relatively short trip. Here are a couple highlights:

- Visiting Roman ruins at Tyr in the south (now being bombed) and afterwards eating amazingly delicious grilled fish at a small shack on the mediterranean. It was serene and pretty there. We all watched Philippe swim in the sea.

- Driving down to Tyr, and taking the freeway, only to come to a screeching halt at a massive gaping hole in the freeway that was the size of a football field. Some other Lebanese folks also missed the sign that warned that this hole was there (if any sign existed?) and they helped us find our way to another route.

-Hiking in the Lebanon mountains through forests and grassy meadows, and ending at yes, one memorable tree (in the words of Wawan, "we came all the way here for that??"). Afterwards we had a MASSIVE meal at a mountain restaurant. There was a spread of all the great fresh vegetables and hummus and dips and olives and everything you can possibly find in Lebanese cuisine.(A few months ago I also wrote about this dinner, where Wawan created the talking grease ball man. It's described in my March 28th entry. Sorry this blogger program is lame and I can't put in a link.)

- Swimming in the Mediterranean north of Beirut, where we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by tons of large pale jellyfish. As we quickly headed towards the shore, with little tentacle pieces stinging us, Marco looked down and found a $100 American bill in the water, floating right in the middle of the jellyfish. Then upon immediately reaching the beach, a guy on the beach came up to Marco and asked him if he was interested in making a porn video with me and our friend Sophie! What an odd conjunciton of things - a $100 bill, jellyfish, and porn, all within five minutes of each other. Marco said no to the porn guy and the next day he used the $100 bill to buy lunch for all our friends.

- Driving to Baalbeck. We crossed the Lebanon mountains, and despite it being the middle of July we found a patch of snow. Our two cars immediately screetched to a halt and we had a big snowball fight. Then we crossed into the Bekaa Valley and Syrian-held Hezbollah territory (now a lot more meaningful given recent news). We had to pass Syrian military checkpoints and saw lots of white UN vehicles and signs and also portraits of Arab martyrs. Believe me, I was a bit nervous being an American there, and did my best to appear French like my friends. Before driving out there that day a guy at the hotel told us to just say the Muslim greeting "assalam alaikum" if we got stopped at a military checkpoint. We did get stopped and Marco, who looks rather Lebanese, said assalam alaikum. It worked and the guy just waved us on. I think we had all held our breaths for a moment. When we stopped for delicious lamb kebabs at one man's cafe, Damien (a good friend, but stupid right at this moment!) told the owner I was American, just as the owner was saying how Americans like to eat everything in sight. I nearly died of shock! I thought, "Damien what are you saying!!" I didn't know what they would think there of an American being there in Hezbollah territory. This was only three months after the US started the war on Iraq. Fortunately the owner kept talking and didn't appear to hear Damien. Anyway, then we went to see the massive, spectacular Phoenecian and Roman ruins at Baalbeck, some of the most complete in the world. There were massive Hezbollah signs all over the entrance. I found this excursion fascinating in a rogue adventurer sort of way but I admit that I remained uneasy and tense the whole day, until we finally reached the coastal side of Lebanon again in the evening.

-Swimming in the hotel pool in the hot summer evenings, where we played lots of water games and had fun. Then one evening (the 14th of July obviously) we went to a huge gala celebration at the hotel next door for Bastille Day. Lebanon was once part of France, which I actually had not known. So there are many French speakers and French people there still. And this party was big, although my friends generally agreed it was also quite cheesy. But it was a fun sort of cheesy and we joked around and danced until late at night.

- One night we went out to some nightclubs in downtown Beirut. Trendy cafes and clubs lined one pretty narrow street, shaded by ruins of buildings bombed in the 1980s that were still not rebuilt. We danced in one place with windows looking out over the busy street full of hip young people and at the dark silhouette of ruined buildings and at that moment it seemed intense, as if the history of this region was there in the music and the rhythm.

-Then finally there was the wedding of Pierre-Yves and Maria. They held the ceremony in an old stone church in downtown Beirut, then we all drove high up on the surrounding hills and had the reception in gardens that looked over the vast sparkling lights of Beirut. We had champagne and dinner in the gardens and danced until the wee hours of the morning. The music was quite good as I remember it, the weather was warm, and EVERYONE was into the party. It was ideal as wedding parties go. Just the right amount of energy and in a beautiful location. The next morning we just sat lazily by the beach, then shortly after we took the plane back to France.

So anyway, that's the highlights of my memories of Lebanon. I'm severely disappointed with Bush for refusing to condemn Israel for the disproportionate level of attacks they are waging against Lebanon. The average folks of Lebanon are not able to control Hezbollah or Israel but they suffer from the acts of extremists on both sides. I hope the country can return to the stability and normality that they were finally getting to enjoy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Animals by the Pond

I've seen more interesting animals in the forest by my house.

First there was a coyote trotting through the forest at the edge of the pond. I didn't even know we had coyotes in Minnesota but that definitely explains some wierd howling and barking that I've heard at night.

Second, we saw a mother deer and her baby deer walk through the forest. We've seen them many times now. They must live in the forest just beyond our home. But this time they were followed by a wild turkey! The turkey looked like he was just casually strolling along behind them, la dee da, like he was with some friends. He was a big turkey. Didn't look terribly clever.

World Cup, Norway...too much to write!

Lately I've had about 400 things to write here, but no time on the computer to write them.

First I want to wish a Happy Birthday to my Dad!

Second, the Fourth of July arrived last week. It was my first Fourth spent in the US in several years. I had many thoughts on that but it's too lenthy for now.

Sunday was the World Cup final. Marco and I picked up Emily and headed over to Brit's Pub. This is a stylish British pub in downtown Minneapolis and they have a huge rooftop patio where there is normally a huge lawn bowling green. Today they put up a screen and people sat on the green to watch the game. The pub was ABSOLUTELY packed inside and out. It is a large pub and there must have been hundreds of people. There were Italians and French people and all sorts of Americans. Very exciting. Many languages around, lots of anticipation and revelry. Marco and I were naturally rooting for France and Emily was for Italy since she and Lauren have many ties to Italy (they both have ancestry there, and Lauren is an Italian baker / chef). I quite enjoyed the afternoon.

The game started here at 1pm, so by the time it ended we were quite sunburnt. It was a perfect bright hot sunny summer day. Afterwards, once Zidane had done his infamous headbutt and Italy had won, Lauren met up with us and we ate Ethiopian food at the Blue Nile.

Also this week my cousin and her husband invited us over for dinner. They just returned from a trip to Norway with my aunt, uncle, cousin and my cousin's husband. In Norway they visited our Norwegian relatives and went to the villages and homes that my family originally came from.

I learned that my Norwegian ancestors lived on a very picturesque fjord on the middle west coast, in a town called Valdal. Our relatives still live on the family farm. I think that is so cool! This farm has a wooden plaque with the names of all the generations that lived there, at least fifteen names! So we had been there for a very long time. My mother's grandmother, I believe, was born Norway and moved to the US with her husband who was also born near Valdal. The same on my grandfather's side. So my Mom's mom and dad (my grandparents, obviously) were our first American-born relatives. That makes me 3rd generation.

The area is scenic with clear blue waters and emerald trees and meadows. My Norwegian "uncle" named Arne (I think he's actually a 3rd or 4th cousin) is the mayor of the town. We met him and his family once when I was 19 years old, when they came to visit the US. I liked them because they were well traveled and funny. When Arne was young he had traveled all over the world by working on cargo ships. He had spent a lot of time in New Zealand. And at the time when I met them at age 19, he and his family had just lived for three years in Zambia, where he had represented the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture on an agricultural development project.

So my cousin's slideshow on saturday was a suprising experience. Up to now my Norwegian roots have seemed very vague and distant. I never knew much about where we came from. Suddenly it all seems very real and concrete. We saw photos of my cousins and aunt and uncle surrounded by our relatives in the ancestral home back in the Old World. I saw the landscapes and the buildings. That is a fascinating thing to see. For the first time I feel rooted in something older than just my immediate life that I've known. I guess Europeans always feel this way, since they can easily visit their ancestral villages and relatives. But here in America we often live so detached from our pasts.

Other than this, I have been working a lot in my studio. My building will hold another open house for the public this saturday. This time I will have several panels and maybe even a mosaic-topped table to show. I will have pictures of this stuff up soon. I'm pretty happy with the results.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

July 9 - Those Kids from My School

Lately kids that I grew up with seem to be making news. I just talked to Emily on the phone and she told me that a guy we grew up with is in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. He plays Doug, the buddy of the main girl. In addition to that I was at the annual AFton 4th of July parade on Tuesday, and discovered that a kid that rode on my schoolbus is now running for US Senate, I think, with the Independence Party. He's two years younger than me (that's 27) so not much chance of winning but it's still a surprise to see. Especially because the way I remember him was a such a rosy-cheeked little boy. In my mental image of him I think he is about 10 years old.

The funny thing about the guy in the Devil Wears Prada is that I did have a vague sense of him looking familiar. But I thought he was just a minor actor that had appeared in other movies that I had seen. Even funnier is that when I went to see that movie there were THREE of us that actually had known this guy - me, Lauren and Nick - and none of us had actually recognized him. I guess that's because you never expect to run into somebody from your childhood on the big screen.

Finally, Nick himself seems to have been the origin of the cryptic penguin joke in A Prarie Home Companion Movie. He was working for a writing team that was somehow conencted with the Prarie Home Companion radio show a few years back. Garrison Keilor, our local celebrity and host of the show, asked for jokes for the annual joke episode. Nick submitted that penguin joke and it has become an infamous recurring enigma. Is that joke funny or not?? Of course all this only makes sense if you've seen the movie. Go see it if you want a glimpse into the character and mythology of Minnesota. (Don't tell Lauren I said that though. :-) He thinks all that is a big steaming of ox s*#t straight from Babe the Big Blue Ox).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sign of the Day

Work and Fun

This weekend was quite a treat after two weeks of diligent work.

I haven't had much news to relate because I've been working in my glass studio every day. I've got some neat stuff done but I won't have any pictures until Marco comes back with the digital camera on tuesday.

If you're wondering, a typical day of work for me now is something like this:

I get to my studio around 9am. I open the big windows and the nice summer breeze comes in. I have some new plants that are big leafy plants that I picture near a lake in India. They seem faintly exotic and lotus-like. They need to be replanted however.

I cut glass and solder on the really solid work table that Marco and I built. I listen to NPR on the radio, or a book on tape. Lately I've been listening to a travel story about a guy going around the entire coast of England on foot and by train.

I have lunch at Golden's Deli which is conveniently in my building at street level. They have good hearty sandwiches with lots of vegetables. I like the BLT on marble rye with onions, jalapenos, sprouts. Their bread and ingredients are, I think, all locally grown and made by people who sell food at the farmer's market just across the street. The have a delicious home-made lemonade! The people who work there already call me by my name and are friendly. One lady who works there is around forty and very motherly which is an interesting blend with all the tattoos on her arms. It is definitely an artists' quarter and the people are intriguing.

Some days I get a ride to work from Mom or John and on those days I'm usually home by 7pm. They want to pick me up before dinnertime. If I have the car I work much later. That will probably change once Marco is back, but for these first three weeks I've been working until around 10pm because there is so much I want to do to get the studio off to a good start. I usually go take a break in the evening, often over at the Black Dog Coffeeshop. Their food is only mediocre and a bit expensive but it's a nice place with an outdoor patio, local art on the walls, cool people. I also get the potential opportunity to run into Lauren and Emily or Mike who often drift over to the Black Dog.

There are other artists and photographers on my floor, some good, others not so good. There are architects offices upstairs. There are some government services offices downstairs.

So that's my typical workday now. Not too bad. I like it, even if I am often sore and physically tired at the end of the day. It's a good tired and I have a LOT of energy to spend.

The other thing worth mentioning is how fun this weekend was. I hadn't been too social the past two weeks and I didn't have anything to do last night, which was saturday night. So I called up Lauren and he suggested that I come meet up with him and Nick and Molly. I was totally relieved because I didn't fancy sitting at home. We met in Minneapolis by the Mississippi on a nice patio and had had a quick dinner. Then we went to see The Devil Wears Prada because Molly really likes Meryl Streep as an actress (Molly herself is a playwright and occasional actress). It was a good fluffy summer movie. Nothing deep or taxing. Just fun and quick. Afterwards we went to a cafe called the Mill City Cafe for it's great outdoor patio and gardens. It was a perfect summer night out and we were in good spirits so we sat there until the wee hours of the morning just telling stories and laughing and shooting the breeze. A few early 4th of July fireworks went off over houses nearby from peoples' backyards and it just had that perfect relaxed summer feel.

As we were leaving we all said we should come back there in the morning at 10 am for brunch. It was a bit hard to get up but we all actually did make it back there at about 10:30. We had a really yummy brunch, especially my wild rice and berry pancakes with fried eggs. Then we hung out for a bit at Molly and Nick's new place then went home. Molly gave me two chairs and Lauren helped me haul them up to the studio. I got home and took a nap. Now I'm here writing this. Nice weekend. Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

July 1 - Felicitations Bertille et Arnaud!

I just want to say congratulations to Marco's cousin Bertille and her new husband Arnaud! They just got married today. I wish I could have been there! I remember the day when Bertille told me she had a boyfriend. She was visiting Marco and I in California with her brother Pierre-Emile. We were hiking in the desert of Anza Borrego State Park and she was 19 and she came over to me on the trail and confided in me in a giddy girl way that she had a boyfriend and his name was Arnaud. She was all smiles and thrilled to the gills. So today, four years later, they got married!

I'm also writing this in English because I know she speaks English like a genius (better grammar than me) AND with a lovely Queen's British accent.

I wish the two of you a long happy and amusing life together!