Truthfully, a bit of a blur. After so many years of rambles around the world, how can I not have the infrastructure of every trip down pat? In fact I seem to get the details a little more wrong each time…consider winding down you say…Oh.Shut.Up. Fortunately Patricia planned all of the good stuff, where to go, main attractions, and even a list of gluten-free eating in the neighborhood. I, on the other hand, planned the bad flight times and missed all the crucial checking in details for our rather strange hotel/airbnb/highrise overnight adventure in Montreal. All of this is just to say I feel tired and a little discouraged. Anyway here we are in our historic hotel in history-laden Quebec City in the historical center of the province of history-rich Quebec, Canada. It’s morning, we’ve finally had a long night’s sleep and soon we’re off for more crepes…gluten be damned…and a history walk.

The journey so far. Albuquerque to QC. Best I can do since life keeps feeling ever so slightly OFF.

Train Montreal to Quebec City.

Checking in at the Hotel Manoir d’Auteuil. History, expensive, friendly, so comfortable with an extra bed put in for us. Except Patricia like it colder and I prefer that warm and muggy summer environment.

A touch of history.

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Patricia and I are ‘getting the heck out of Dodge’ for a week. Montreal and Quebec City. We’re recreating Patricia’s 16th birthday trip to Paris ten years ago. Well not quite, Montreal doesn’t exactly have the same vibes as ‘the city of lights’ but it’s way closer than Albuquerque. I’m posting this lame little entry for tonight primarily to get back in the habit of blogging while traveling… So unfortunately no pretty pictures or clever insights or even major complaints, just me trying to stay awake until 9pm. ‘So sad’ our faux-leader would say.  I wrote on the plane for awhile…it was early and I was anxious and tired and attributed my despondency to the sleazy one. Writing it down helped… so last mention of this for the entire trip I promise. Here on in it’s all about Canada and granddaughter and grandmother hanging out in the world.

I am always amazed at what excellent travel buddies all of my grandchildren are…well except for Sara on trains. Patricia for example is a great organizer/manager…exudes the kind of confidence I badly need when I’m tired and confused which happens more often than I will ever admit out loud.

Anyway today went like this. Airport at 4am gross scrambled eggs and potatoes at the Denver airport (Denver Central Market-avoid) sleepy so P. got fat new neck pillows for us booking.com messed up our hotel reservations because it turned out to be an airbnb kind of apartment that had intricate check-in instructions but now we’re in and we’ve been to the deli. Yeah, P. says, that’s about it. I had gluten-free crackers and cheddar cheese for dinner, P. has a salad in the frig. Dear Diary, on my summer vacation…

Train to QC tomorrow and an historic luxury hotel for two days. Pictures…many pictures.

TOURISTING

  MACROSTIE ART CENTER, GRAND RAPIDS MN

I think it’s a faux-birch bark dress. Whatever…it looked right for a winter party with mead and a roasted leg of animal.

 

BOB DYLAN HOUSE AND SCHOOL, HIBBING MN (where he grew up…although he almost never admits it)

 

GREYHOUND BUS MUSEUM, HIBBING MN

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And we walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America …
Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field…
Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America
(Paul Simon)
I’ve made a small fortune and you squandered it all 
You shamed me till I feel about one inch tall 
But I thought I loved you and I hoped you would change 
So I gritted my teeth and didn’t complain …
Now you come to me with a simple goodbye 
You tell me you’re leaving but you won’t tell me why 
Now we’re here at the station and you’re getting on 
And all I can think of is thank God and Greyhound you’re gone …
Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone 
I didn’t know how much longer I could go on 
Watching you take the respect out of me 
Watching you make a total wreck out of me 
That big diesel motor is a-playing my song 
Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone
Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone …
That load on my mind got lighter when you got on 
That shiny old bus is a beautiful sight 
With the black smoke a-rolling up around the taillight 
It may sound kind-a cruel but I’ve been silent too long 
Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone 
Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone
(Songwriters: Ed Nix / Larry Kingston)

HULL-RUST-MAHONING OPEN PIT MINE, HIBBING MN

This was, surprisingly to me, a remarkable site and sight. I’ve never seen an open pit mine of this size before, and for some reason I find heavy duty mining, drilling, industrial equipment oddly beautiful. (Thinking of the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger, Norway). It also prompts one to think of what the business of extracting the earth’s riches means in positive terms: work, (dirty dangerous, hard work it’s true), for millions all over the planet for centuries; and industrialization bringing us most of the comforts and ills of today. It is complicated indeed.

VISITING

 

Here are some of the kids who ran wild in the woods and fields until the cake was out of the oven.

When I was a kid we went visiting. Over to the neighbors, over to the friends, maybe further away to visit the cousins. Visiting consisted firstly of serious amounts of coffee and ‘lunch.’ Usually the latter included sandwiches (white bread, luncheon meat, cheese, butter, jam), sauce (home canned fruits of many kinds), cookies, and cake (the cake having been quickly put together and into the oven after the company arrived) and pots of the blackest of coffee. The other visiting component was talk, as much of that as there was coffee. Talk talk talk, the men in the front room, the women in the kitchen, the kids all over outside. No tea, beer, or wine (maybe Kool-aid in the summer). No TV, no smart phones, no music. Just talk talk talk laugh laugh laugh.

Yes, I am as old as I sound in that paragraph. And I am sentimentalizing my rural childhood! Now, introverted urban dweller me, I would not want to return to those days of unannounced ‘company’ with the women relegated to kitchen while the table’s set and the cake bakes, but every year when I’m home we partially recreate that old art of visiting for at least one drive out to the Week’s.

Helen, the matriarch of the Weeks’ clan…and me, not really so very much younger but much less wise.

Helen Week, mom and dad’s only living friend turned 97 while I was in Minnesota. She was the youngest grown-up of the two Weeks’ families that were my folks’ best friends. So of course, Robert, Marsha and I went visiting and, it so happens, Helen had just baked a ginger molasses cake earlier in the day. Three of Helen’s kids were home so old stories got told and we laughed and consumed coffee in respectable Minnesota proportions. Helen’s not quite her boisterous and jokey younger self…but she’s not so far off either.

It is harder to leave each visit with our Week’s family-friends. Helen’s age makes us fearful of not seeing her again while our ages (Robert, Marsha and me) make us only too aware that our freedom to visit scattered family and friends will soon be compromised.  We can’t quite foresee all of the ways but the signs (called birthdays!) are impossible to ignore—whether for reasons of strength, health, economics, or worse, desire. I am almost more frightened of not wanting to ‘go’ as I please than of being unable to do so. But that’s not yet…when we drove away I vowed to see Helen and Barb and Kathy and Norm again next year.

 

Vaca is nearly over. This has been an authentic vacation—as in doing as little as possible and then only the most pleasant of activities. I’ve started sleeping again which was a touch-and-go proposition for awhile before leaving Albuquerque. I’ve read and read and read. Visited—as in sitting around talking to people you haven’t seen for awhile—and if in Minnesota, drinking coffee and eating cake. In other words, slothing (an act of just lazying around, an act of indolence , moving around clumsily or lazily.-says Urban Dictionary) So here’s a small slothing album.

The Food Section: Part of ‘vacationing’ is eating food other people have cooked and/or eating things you ordinarily wouldn’t. I’ve been totally meat free (working toward vegetarianism, seafood- free as well…but not yet) all year. Made my only 2019 exception by taking Dried Beef sandwiches up to the Old Place for our day of reminiscences. Mom always made them for excursions because they tasted the same on Day #3 as on the first day! Maybe not a recommendation but never mind that…I will always love them.

 

The house I grew up in and I are disintegrating at about the same rate. Actually the old house may be even more wrecked than me but its dilapidation is far more interesting to behold.

 

 

To me it is beautiful here, where I grew up, just as it is: overgrown, collapsing, old timber and stucco buildings reverting to woods. The welcome wagon meets us on the road and then we just walk around and listen to our young voices echoing through the treetops.

 

TOE STORY

Marsha’s toe became calcified—or something like that. Doctor said ‘it must go.’ So it was chopped off. It’s a bit more complicated than that but there’s apparently nothing life- or even gait-threatening so we all feel free to poke fun at Marsha’s Toe Story. I thought it should enter cyberspace for the sake of posterity.

Here then….

 

I made a list of projects for Minnesota. Including a rather momentous one—to review and then burn most of my old journals. I thought long and hard about the hundreds of angst-filled pages that would go up in smoke, nevermore to be seen by human eye. Then I happily—and only a little regretfully—loaded the books in my bag and boarded the plane for Minnesota. Preparing to end my relationship with that young…then less-young…then older…then middle-age…woman who had pushed my inner child into some deep cranial crevice and taken over ‘me’ with worries and chaos and longings and…nonsense.

For anyone reading this and wondering if I won’t live to regret such an action—I can say pretty definitely ‘no.’ The journals begin June 9, 1975, forty-four years ago. I had been divorced two years; Scott was fifteen, Steven twelve; money, jobs and lovers were all problematic. And that’s what the first two volumes are all about; they’ve been examined before and again this week in a search of profound thoughts, meaningful actions, something…anything I could retain for posterity. Nothing. I was in my 30s, bright enough, pretty enough, ambitious enough I suppose—but not exactly practical or thoughtful or wise. I’ve ripped a few pages out of that fat journal that may contain a line or two for a future book or blog. That’s all. One’s a vision of my young son washing the car with the sparkle and splash of water spraying in the sun; one pays plaintive homage to a love affair ending….and…maybe there are only two pages worth saving?

The drama continued (with a gradual reduction of money problems and lovers) until 1984 when I took my first big trip abroad—Sue and me and the world. By then I had a fulfilling job and my kids were doing well, having survived the somewhat careless mothering they received for awhile. I had room for an inner ‘traveling’ child to emerge.

I brought scraps and pages and 1998 and 1999 journals with me to Minnesota as well on this ‘peruse and destroy’ mission—the goal being to focus on this century when back at my Albuquerque desk. Fortunately, after those early-days ramblings the books become far more mundane, drowning in daily details that I’m sure were healthy for me to record at the time but now, twenty years later, are quite possibly as boring as had I just written ‘all good men must come to the aid of their country’ a few thousand times.

***

So glad I wrote this post and took the photos included herein as I was feeling slightly hesitant about something as final as consigning years of words to absolute oblivion. Turns out, as I’d hoped, to be a positive move…Marie Kondo-ing a whole lot of blather might be the best way to describe the action now that it’s done. I can say thank you with heartfelt appreciation to those hardbound black and red journals that moved apartments, towns, even states, with me all of these years…you have been my therapists and best friends. Now, however, I’ve matured enough to go on without you…and, because Al Gore invented the internet, I can have blogs instead.

Join me now out at the Old Place for the burning of the books—a phrase I never thought to utter.

Love these fire photos…maybe it’s all about my inner pyromaniac?

ROAD TRIP

Family really is what it’s all about isn’t it?

But now for the ROAD TRIP.

Life in Minnesota moves along just as it should. Sleeping again, visiting cousins, stocking up on moose and walleye sweatshirts and enough new shoes for all the abs classes and walking marathons of next year. And a road trip. Granted it was not of the fifteen-hundred-miles-plus kind I enjoyed so much in the past—still it did stir some slumbering  road-trip genes awake. This is good since Scott, Teresa and I are road tripping across Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.

My Minnesota road trip took me west on US 2 (in times past the main east-west routed in the northern US) from Grand Rapids to Deer River, up Highways 46 to Northome, 1 and 72 to Baudette, 11 to Roseau, 89 to Red Lake and on down to Bemidji and finally US 2 back to Grand Rapids. About 400 miles. It’s not the most spectacular route—no mountains, oceans, grand cities or historical monuments but there are enough aspen, spruce, balsam, and birch for my annual/biannual tree fix. Between Roseau and Bemidji the grand sweep of Red Lake keeps me occupied and the first visit in 20+ years to Lake Bemidji and Paul Bunyan and his loyal companion, Babe the Blue Ox makes me happy. Mom and Dad were married 81 years ago on the shores of Lake Bemidji.

I’ve made road trips of over 4,000 miles in the past, often by myself, and loved every dusty or rainy or ragged or scenic mile and almost every second-rate motel. The Albuquerque to Grand Rapids trip of a couple of years ago finished off that lifelong passion and, while it makes me a little sad and a little nostalgic to say that…it’s time I suppose. My first long trip was when my family moved briefly to Portland, Oregon when I was sixteen and I wound up driving much of the way, especially through anything resembling an urban area. My dad had never driven in a bigger metropolis than Bemidji and he wasn’t about to start then. The car was a maroon 47 Chevy (Robert remembered) and since the trip was in ‘55 it was a newer model than we usually owned. I lost the car in (to me) a huge Portland parking lot our first week or so there and my mom and I had to take a bus downtown and spend most of a day searching for it. Northome (300 pop.) had not prepared us well for city life.

Back to yesterday.