No Snow

Went north on holiday in search of Michigan winter wonderland. Maybe rent an Artic Cat for a day and hit the trails.

But we encountered a little problem: No snow (except for fake snow at the ski resorts). Only rain.

No ice on Little Traverse Bay either. Locals can't remember the last time the bay wasn't frozen solid in late December. Maybe Al Gore is right about global warming.

So we went to Guntvillers Taxidermy Museum and Gift Shop in Elk Rapids to gander at two-headed calf specimens and whatnot.

And drove home in quintessential Michigan wintry misery.


Big Star

Crossing paths with a movie actor doesn't happen very often, so we'll pass today's little incident on to you:

We had an hour to kill before the start of the new James Bond movie (the best 007 flick we've seen in years), in Birmingham, MI. Just enough time for a cold beer and tomato juice at Dick O'Dows Irish pub. The Lions game had just begun, and a woman behind us asked the bartender if they'd change one of the televisions to the Steelers game. We turned to see who was speaking and two feet away was Tim Allen and wife.

No one pestered him for autographs or pictures (which no doubt happens all the time), but the pub kept the televisions set to the dreadful Lions game. They walked out the door and a few minutes later so did we, leaving all of six people to cry in their beers over another season down the dumper.


Ocean Dreamscape

Since it's all of 23 degrees at the present and too cold to go outside in search of something interesting to post about, we decided to throw up a shot of the Oregon coast from our trip three months ago. With several months of gray winter misery ahead of us, we'll be dreaming often about distant shores and warm ocean breezes.

Weather here aside, we're still hyped from the G n' R concert at The Palace two weeks ago. We've found a youtube bootleg of one of the new songs from the upcoming Chinese Democracy cd (if it ever gets released) called Better. Fire up the speakers and blast this new G n' R jam, courtesy of your friends at RR:

No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better, better.
No one ever told me when I was alone

They just thought I'd know better, better

The hardest part this troubled heart has never yet been through now
We've healed the scars that got their start inside someone like you now

Well had I known or I'd been shown back when I longed you'd take me
To break the charge that brought me home and all that won't erase me

I never would know that I could No matter what you'd pay me.
Replay the part, you stole my heart I should have known you're crazy

If all I knew was that with you I'd want someone to save me
It'd be enough, but just my luck I fell in love and baby

all that I wanted was
Now I know you better
You know I'd know better
Now I know you better

So bittersweet, this tragedy won't ask for absolution
This melody inside of me still searches for solution
A twist of fate, A change of heart
Kills my infatuation
Of a broken heart
To provide the spark for my determination

No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better, better
Ooh, no one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better, better

All that I wanted was I know you know you know better
You know I know you know better
Now you know me better

I never wanted you to be so full of anger
I never wanted you to be somebody else
I never wanted you to be someone afraid to know themselves
I only wanted you to see things for yourself

All that I wanted was
Now I know you better
Now we all know better
All that I wanted was

If I were you I'd manage to abhor the invitation

Of Promised love that can't keep upwith your adoration
Just use your head and in the end
You’ll find your inspiration
To choose your steps
I won't regret
This kind of aggravation

No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better, better
No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better, better


Eastern Upper Peninsula

Tea colored water plummets over Tahquamenon Falls

Windswept shoreline of Lake Superior at Whitefish Point

The Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie

VFW Hall, Sault Ste. Marie


Cap'n Tony

This very unfortunate news came our way this evening:

One person died Wednesday evening in a single vehicle crash on State Highway 82 about ten miles east of Elgin.

On November 22, 2006 at approximately 7:10 p.m., a 2001 Toyota pickup driven by ANTHONY BRIAN CAMPBELL, age 49, from Milton Freewater, was eastbound on Highway 82 near milepost 30 when it failed to negotiate a sharp left curve and struck a guardrail. CAMPBELL was pronounced deceased at the scene.

I had known Tony for 12 years. Back in the Oregon days, I made friends with a group of boaters who lived for river trips. Tony was the hub of the adventures; the consumate "man with the plan." He was the trip leader who defied the odds and drew a permit for the Salmon River year after year, the guy who bought the groceries (thick steaks, fresh asparagus!) the night before launching, the experienced boatman who knew every set of rapids in Oregon and Idaho by name and could navigate them with both eyes closed. His laugh was loud and infectous and would echo off the canyon walls from the moment he arose to get the cowboy coffee brewing until long after dinner, when stories of past trips were re-told around the campfire below a star-laden desert sky.

The annual river trips included the Owyhee, the Umatilla, the Main Fork of the Salmon, and most recently, the Middle Fork of the Salmon. On our last trip, my raft flipped on a massive diagonal wave at Weber Rapids. My boat landed over top of me and I was trapped in a dark world of ice cold water and powerful hydraulics. I freed myself from my raft and swam to shore, after the other boaters were pushed out of sight by the swollen river- except for Tony. Eddied out a hundred yards or so downstream, Tony yelled for me to jump and swim to him. I jumped and a strong reversal eddy spun me backwards into a boulder. I managed to break free from the boulder and leaped again into the river. Tony backstroked against the powerful current and threw a rescue line. I credit him with saving my life- had he been pushed downstream with the rest of our party, I would have surely succumbed to hypothermia that cold May day in the Idaho mountains.

The balance of life hangs by a thread. One day you're here, the next day you're gone- so make your time on earth count and live life to the max. Tony understood that simple principle, and in his death, so do I.

Farewell, my friend. May the rivers run at good flow and may your raft stay in the upright. This spring, when we spread your ashes into one of those desert rivers you loved so much, you'll be there with us. And from the deep folds of the canyon, we'll hear the roar of your big laugh.


Guns at The Palace

Our ears are ringing and our clothes still carry a faint whiff of mega skrunk from the communal haze at the Guns 'n Roses concert last night. Axl and crew started the show at quarter to midnight and jammed until after 2 am (no doubt the management at The Palace was less than pleased). Late concerts like this harken back to the day, say twenty-five years ago, when bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who ruled the arena rock circuit. Nowadays, good luck getting geriatrics like Mick and Keith or Daltrey and Townsend to play past eleven o'clock- not gonna happen!

From start to finish, Gn'R embodied everything that is absent from today's rock music: energy, edginess, and exceptional musical talent. Compared to the invertebrates that inhabit the sludge of contemporary album rock, Gn'R is an organism more akin to a gray wolf or a bengal tiger- reclusive, intelligent, and powerful. Biologists theorize that when major carnivores are absent from an ecosystem, the natural balance shifts towards an over-abundance of rodents and other low-functioning lifeforms. The same can be said for today's music scene; so after a decade-long absence, we hope the re-surfacing of Gn'R is for real.

All day long, local radio stations were broad-casting updates as to whether or not Axl Rose would show up. The prognosis was good- Guns had toured Europe and other American cities and other than a couple of dates that were cancelled well in advance, the shows occurred without incident. But you never know with Axl- at the 2002 show at The Palace, he threw his mike down and left for the night- right in the middle of Patience. When it became obvious he wasn't going to return, 12,000 fans were left wondering if they should be pissed or grateful he played most of the setlist before storming off the stage.

Nothing like that happened during yesterday's- er, today's show. Instead, Axl was in good spirits (at one point, he even commented how well the night was going), and his performance reflected the mood. Flanked by some of the best unknown guitarists in the music business, he sampled generously from the Gn'R canon of old as well as presented several new songs. For those of you in a city they have yet to play, we hope Axl's good mood lasts awhile.


November Day

The afternoon sun casts long shadows through a stand of hardwoods.

Canada geese cackle and run. Their defecations stick in the waffled tread of our boots.

A roller skier trains while ash leaves drop from lofty branches.

The Huron River flows under the high blue Michigan sky.

Picnic tables at the Metropark, piled until spring.


Pheasant Hunt

We ventured out to western Michigan for a morning pheasant hunt this week. We began walking the fields on a family farm right as dawn burned away the dark and the temperature hovered around twenty five degrees. Which made the blued steel of our 12 gauge Remington feel like a frozen lead pipe in our hands. The tall grass and stalks of corn were covered in thick frost, until the sun melted the frozen coating into a pants-soaking film of dewey moisture.

It was a perfect fall Michigan morning for a hunt, the kind you might read about in Sports Afield or Grays Sporting Journal. Golden leaves on poplar trees dropped to the ground one after another after another, with not the slightest hint of wind at blame. Three dogs (two brittanys and a yellow lab), rambled and jumped and sniffed every thicket and briar. We had to put the lab in the truck when it became obvious she was going into heat- the two male britannys were beginning to lose focus on finding birds and just wanted to do the humpity humpity dance. Minutes later, all primal distractions removed and on the edge of a grassy slough, the spaniels pointed in unison and a pair of pheasants cackled and jumped. We shot at the first rooster but missed as he flew into the sun. The second bird hit the ground with a thud.

We walked another field and flushed two more cocks. All total, our combined harvest was three roosters. Not a bad day. It wouldn't have mattered if we had gotten skunked- coming away with a few birds is just the bonus. In a day or two, we'll cut the breast meat into thin strips and slice up jalepeno peppers and a red onion. We'll roll the pepper and onion slivers in the strips of pheasant meat and skewer with a toothpick. Then we'll cook the little rolls (this recipe would make a cat turd taste spicy and delicious) over charcoal and pan fry our last bag of Hen of the Woods mushrooms. We'll dip in ranch dressing and wash down with a Molson. Ain't a bad life.


Museum of the Random and Absurd

We were in Port Huron, MI, over the weekend with a couple of hours to kill before a family event. So we headed to the Museum of Arts and History, hoping to learn something about the local arts and history. Instead, what we found inside the building was perhaps the most random and disassociated collection of non-related items we've seen anywhere, except for weekend flea markets along the Tennessee interstate.

The building housing the museum is remarkable. Built as a library in 1902 with massive blocks of Indiana limestone, it was paid for by Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron turned philanthropist who gave away his $350 million fortune before he died in 1915. In addition to the numerous highly-regarded institutions he created (Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Mellon University are among the many), three thousand of his libraries dot small towns across the U.S. and Europe. And judging from Port Huron structure, Carnegie spared no expense.

The library moved to a new and larger building in the 1960's, and so the building converted into a museum. We expected to find a regal collection of art and historical items inside, the kind that would illuminate Port Huron's rich history- first as trading post and fort in the 1700's and later as an affluent shipping hub in the golden era of the Great Lakes maritime transportation industry. While items from those days were on display, the exhibits were weighted heavily with the obscure and the irrelevant, often with complete disassociation: a porcelein doll collection is on display between miniature wooden ships and a violin shop; the iron lung machine (seen here) sits under a trophy muskellunge mount.

Nestled between the World War II diorama and the Ladies of the Maccabee booth is the natural history collection. Various mammals sit encased in glass, many covered in dust and some so frail the hair has fallen off like they were siblings of the Velveteen rabbit. Framed butterflies cover the walls, many so old they've disintegrated into particulated ghosts. An elephant skull (presumably from Africa) sits on the ground next to mastodon bones recovered from a nearby farm. No attempt is made to illustrate where any these critters lived, how they lived, or what their connection is to the area. A school kid would leave the museum thinking elephants once roamed the banks of the St. Clair River alongside mastodons.

Upstairs, things get even more confusing. A Greek statue of a bearded gent with a tablet (we don't know our Greek fellows by sight, but he was probably a philosopher who profoundly influenced modern thought), is perched next to a Clikman's Sunbeam Bread shirt. If there is a connection between the two, it doesn't get transmitted, leaving us to come up with our own: in addition to being punctual and friendly, truck drivers at Clikman's were the intellectual giants of their time.

The "Arts" section of the museum was equally bizarre. As soon as we saw it was a hodgepodge of middle school art class submissions and the old paintings seen at any VFW hall, we turned and headed towards the door. We assume that's what this bronze statue is trying to do as well. But he's forever trapped amongst this most incongruant collection of common attic artifacts and garage sale artwork.


World Series Bound!

Saturday morning at 4 am, our brain fires off a half-lucid thought: go to game 4 of the ALCS. this has been a great year for the Tigers. hmmm. Wonder if any tickets are on the net.

On the computer three minutes later: tickets everywhere. Ebay. Stubhub. Ticketpimp."Pick up tickets at the Thunderbird motel two hours before game start" Thunderbird motel, eh? Er, no thanks.

Hmmm. There's a pair on the Tigers website ticket exchange for thirty bucks over face value. Lower tier, first base line, twenty rows up. Hmmmm. Go back to bed and think about it and come back in a couple of hours.

Back on the computer three minutes later: buy those tickets. The Tigers have made it this far only twice in our life: in '68, when we were a zygote, and in '84, when we were still picking our nose in front of people.

One minute later, our printer was spitting out the tickets.

Twelve hours later, we were at Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play the Oakland A's.

After twenty years of no playoff action and twelve straight losing seasons, long-suffering fans were anxious to wrap up the AL pennant race and have the Tigers play in the World Series. Detroit is, arguably, the best sports town in the country. Other than the Lions, the pro teams all have rich championship histories. Despite having the worst economy in the country and pending layoffs and a collapsing housing market, southeast Michigan is delirious right now. Karl Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses. In Detroit, it's professional sports.

A local news crew yelled at us to move while they were interviewing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. We pretended to be dim-witted and stood in place.

Beautiful fall day, cool and crisp and perfect for a ball game. Play ball!

Back in early May, while at a Harrah's casino in Nevada, we bullshitted about baseball with a couple of guys at the sports bet counter. We asked what the payoff would be if we bet the Tigers would win the 2006 World Series. The team was off to a good start, but the season had just begun. After twelve years straight of cellar dwelling, the odds of the Tigers winning the World Series was something like 200 to 1. Now they're favored to win. We joked and laughed with the bookies about putting $100 on the team. Now we're crying we didn't.

For much of the game, we wondered if the Tigers were going to pull off the W. Oakland had a 3-0 lead for the first several innings, until the Detroit tied the score at 3-3 in the sixth. Opportunities to take the lead in the seventh and eighth innings went unheeded. At the bottom of the ninth, with two men on base and two outs, just as we began to brace for extra innings and a possible loss, Magglio Ordonez rocketed a dinger over the left field wall. It was a moment of baseball greatness we'll never forget.

While Ordonez ran the bases, the crowd went crazy. The decibel level must have been somewhere between a jet engine and a Who concert, circa 1976. The cheering continued for the next half-hour and didn't end until after the team was awarded the pennant.

As the fans left the stadium and emptied into the streets, we were unsure what to expect; Detroit celebrations can spiral quickly into chaos and mayhem and overturned burning cop cars. Not this time, not at all. Instead, everywhere we looked we saw nothing but love: fans hugged each other and the bums in the streets. Traffic cops high-fived fans as they walked by. Detroit isn't the kind of town where strangers openly embrace and cops dish out high fives, but it was on October 14, 2006.

Here's what Comerica Park looked and sounded like as Ordonez smacked a heaven sent three-run homer into the record books:


Western Omelet

We'll close out the Idaho/Wyoming/Oregon thread with a big western omelet of random images that we omitted from the previous postings. It's time to move on, but we wanted to post these pictures for no other reason than we are too lazy to put our photos on disk and this is an easy way to archive. We'll keep the banter to a minimum, other than a note about location. That's another sign of laziness, but it's a beautiful fall day here and we have things to do. Like deal with a boat full of leaves and water because the cover blew off in a storm while we were away.

Here's a shot of the Idaho sky, as shards of sunlight penetrated thick clouds.

Near Twin Falls, Idaho, at a memorial called The Healing Field, thousands of flags were arranged in honor of the victims of 9/11.

Near Bonanza City, Idaho, an old miner's cabin crumbles in front of a pine knoll.

On the coast of Oregon, waves break atop distant shoals before crashing into the rocky shore.

The wind-bent and gnarled branches of a tree point towards an ocean beach.

The Haceta Head Lighthouse overlooks a sandy ocean beach as low tide exposes thousands of tiny clams.

Next: back in Michigan, as fall colors peak.


Light Show

Driving home this evening after a few days in northern Michigan, a brilliant harvest moon lifted over the eastern horizon. We whipped out the camera and tried to take a few shots from the dashboard as we bulleted down the interstate. As we should have expected, the moon pics turned out lousy (while the moon loomed large on the horizon, in picture it looked like a tiny penlight floating in the sky). But something unintentional happened: some of the photos captured a remarkable dashboard lightshow.

Wispy ribbons of color dance like kite tails in the wind. What's probably just our radio looks like waves of energy cascading down a cosmic fountain. Or maybe it's the dashboard again. Sometimes the most interesting images are the ones least expected or the least explainable.

Light + velocity = some pretty whack images.

We eventually pulled off the highway and put the camera on a fence post at a park. That moon, so immense and magnificant as it rose over the treeline, is only a little white dot against the velvet black sky on film.


City by the Sea

West of Corvalis, Oregon, the Yaquina River drops from the temperate rainforest of the coastal mountains and broadens into a wide estuary before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. On Yaquina Bay sits the fishing village of Newport, home to 10,000 people and hundreds of trawlers and seiner boats. The town is a salty mix of watermen who eke out a living pulling crabs and tuna from the sea and tourist-laden taverns, restaurants, and art galleries. Local roads are clogged with motorhomes and rental cars with out-of-state license plates, like our convertible.

Fat sea lions lounge on the docks and bark in loud chorus. It's a lazy life they live, thanks to an endless supply of scraps from the commercial fish houses. They sit half-asleep with their backs arched, foam bubbling from their whiskered mouths. All of a sudden, often without reason, a lion will begin to yelp orrt orrt orrt. His buddies will join in song for several minutes until they grow bored of the noise and silence returns. But not for long. As soon as an unpopular lion swims by or worse, jumps on the dock, the cacophony begins again.

Of all the places to stay in Newport, the most interesting is the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Perched on a high bluff overlooking the ocean, the hotel is a haven for book readers. On the top floor sits a comfortable library with easy chairs positioned in front of a million dollar view. Each of the seventeen rooms have been decorated in honor of a famous author. In the Edgar Allen Poe room, a pendulum blade swings from the ceiling and a false door opens to brick wall and the dangling tip of a jester's cap, homage to The Pit and the Pendulum and The Cask of Amontillado. We stayed in the F. Scott Fitzgerald ("show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy") room and were greeted by three bottles of gin on the wall mantle. Gin, eh? Makes perfect sense. Other rooms included the Hemingway room, the Mark Twain room, the Melville room, and the Tennessee Williams room.

Back on the Newport waterfront, the Barge Inn proudly boasts their customer base: wino's, dingbat's, and riff raff. Gotta love the place for being honest. Unlike the pretentious Ann Arbor establishments, with their unearned air of elitism and entitlement, the Barge Inn knows the exact place in the universe their customers come from. In a world full of posers and placaters, romeos and robots, the Barge Inn is a port in a storm.

Over on the docks, after one of the sea lions jumped on his buddy, the crowd goes nuts:

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