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WE’RE CONSUMED BY TRANSITIONAL EMERGENCIES both tedious (where to put the boxes) and terrifying (a late-season influx of bats).

So this quick one before I lose another a month: a belated love-note to the neighborhood we called home until September.

Drafting a local Bingo Board has been on my list since at least 2009 (along with “Renegade Bible Bookmarks” and “90s Night” podcasts). I guess I needed to relocate to see Longfellow with clear eyes. The beauty and character of a lot of South Minneapolis, that’s there for sure, but it’s the stubborn homeliness that charmed me—a place unassuming yet unabashedly itself, where change can only be measured in decades.

On a good day, you could blackout this Bingo card in three blocks. Though it would be very Longfellow to stretch the game over several years and have its final completion continually in doubt.

Goodbye, old ‘hood. I’m gonna miss you (if not quite yet, then as soon as I’m fighting for a parking space in a Snow Emergency).

> People Under the Stairs – Talkin’ Back to the Streets

IN A RAPIDLY WARMING, PETROLEUM-SCARCE WORLD, long-haul road trips may no longer be defensible. But weighing our waste against the lure of a righteous mountain cabin just outside Yellowstone, we said Screw It and got in the van. Having only driven around it before, I worried the Park wouldn’t live up to the hype. Was it just the darling of people who’d never gone elsewhere (my strong suspicion about all Disney Resort-lovers)? Would it pale next to the postcards?

No. Yellowstone proved to be a steaming smorgasbord of vividly bizarre wonders. It’s one of the few times where conventional wisdom knew what was good for me.

Our ride was deluxe, a big honkin’ GM van worthy of my weirdest uncle circa 1980. Six bucket seats. CD/DVD/cassette. Lingering scent of industrial solvent. 1,100 miles flew by, at least up front in the Dad Cab.

We spent a night in western North Dakota, land of fracking fortunes, gargantuan pickups and shockingly overpriced Days Inns. Then a final 600-mile haul through Montana, which looks like this when the maps bleach out.

The park’s surreal chromatics come from heat-seeking bacteria that cluster along thermal springs according to their temperature (above and below). Did that sound convincing? Because I have no idea what I’m talking about. It might as well be made of Jell-O. Click for a better view.

Jo Jo posing elegantly on the Yellowstone River; Her and Isobel in matching Harajuku Mini meshcaps. These two built dams, rode horses, braved whitewater and went all Frontierswomen for a week (we oldsters honed our Picnicking and Wine Guzzling skillz).

So Old Faithful? People go bonkers for that. Intent on capturing all its glory, this dude butted to the front of the crowd with his iPad aloft. It’s like 68°. Where’s your shirt?

Jenney and Sarah hike above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (right). Our crew had some unique flair too, no?

Bouldering! Also known as scampering atop rocks.

An invented topographic landscape, from a series of romantic moonlit drawing sessions Lucas and I did after everybody else crashed.

Me on Boulder. This field was littered with gnawed-on bones and other wildlife traces, though animals in the flesh were scarce. They smell you coming.

Sarah’s cross-stitch parting gift to the Lazy M cabin (left). I knew we’d enjoy the stargazing deck and full kitchen, but the hair salon was a nice surprise.

Hiking the miles of empty ranchland around the Lazy M, Lucas and I ducked into an old homestead abandoned for decades (right). After experiencing the century’s-worth of tourist infrastructure around Yellowstone, I’m reassured by places that may stay wild and neglected forever.

Big thanks to Jenney, Lucas, and his big-hearted patron Emily for sharing all this splendor. I’d say we’ll return the favor, but who would ever loan me something that good?

>> Lightning Bolt – Magic Mountain
>> Fiery Furnaces – Evergreen

ALONG WITH SO MUCH ELSE IN AUGUST, this happened: my Thursday night crew set up a drawing station near St. Anthony Main across the river from downtown, turned a camera on it, and projected the scene onto a mill two stories high. Trading markers and high-fives with random passersby made our usual private dithering thrillingly monumental (the image up top is 10-feet wide; one we made the next week scrolls to nearly 20 feet).

As enjoyable as it was, more remarkable is that the resulting art—completely undirected, created by drawers of wildly varying commitment and style—is good. Nice enough to contribute slices to the $99 fundraiser show at the Soap Factory, a gallery 150 feet from where we’re drawing.

Credit for the idea and esprit de corps goes to MS! stalwart Aaron, who furnished the projector, the soundtrack (much louder than I guessed we could be in the city), and even a highlights reel (below). To echo a sentiment from several who stumbled on our confab, this is why I love Minneapolis.

UPDATE: More documentation (one of Make Sh!t’s specialties), this one by Paul.

>> Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Funny Friends

GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL comes with a peculiar burden for me. The before-you-go rigamarole I’m good with. It’s once I’m there, there’s this nagging compulsion to gain Meaningful Experience. Some see time away as a pause in life, but for me it’s the exact opposite. Vacation is the whole point: figuring things out, seeing my people, doing notable shit and bragging about it. I find the prescription to “just relax” more than useless—it’s terrifying (if time off is merely a way to replenish for work, there is no excuse for me at all). Until I kill off my Value-Creating self for good, vacation is my State of Nature.

This orientation puts a lot of pressure on our trips. Fortunately, my Planner In Chief is even more militant on the point. Sarah’s so convinced every trip should be uniquely spectacular that she builds tabbed spreadsheets around potential itineraries and checks to see that hotel rooms are oriented properly toward the sun.

Yet for all this force of will, our most recent getaway is hard to explain. We spent three months mulling plans in endless combinations* involving numerous failed connections with friends and the Internet equivalent of throwing darts at maps. Facing a spring break alone and childless in Minnesota, we pulled a wild card: the remote desert outpost of Tucson, Arizona. We knew no one and had no reference points aside from the band Calexico.

In full Thelma & Louise mode (not sure which I was) on the trail from Phoenix to Tucson, a 120-mile drive on butter-smooth I-10, roads being one of the few public amenities the libertarians will pay for.

The city is ringed by mountains for hiking, solidly in my Worthwhile Activity category. Some downer lady told us all Tucson’s trails were the same, but we found otherwise. The terrain is gorgeous and varied, assuming you have enough water to push a bit farther. We did a dozen miles over two days, stopping constantly to photograph unfamiliar flora for Sarah’s prints.

Feeling spry, I had us take a casual stroll 3,000 feet up the ridge overlooking Sabino Canyon. A mild spring day in Tucson is 90° by 10 a.m. and clouds are notably rare.

Scary Desert Things: bees swarming in and out of underground hives (left) and saguaro needles tough enough to break boot leather (right). One night I took a walk in the desert and suddenly freaked myself out I was going to kick a rattlesnake. Hustling to get back, I walked into a small cactus that jabbed spines about an inch into my leg, one of which still hasn’t come out.

South of Tucson there’s a 300-year-old mission, San Xavier Del Bac. Here familiar Catholic iconography mixes with stylistic influences from the Tohono Odom, Arizona’s original occupants since before Columbus. It’s a great psychedelic miasma. Brilliant, bizarre and humbling (click to enlarge).

As splendid as they are in person, sunsets never hold up on film (er, pixels). But we took like 700 shots anyway.

After a few days of Tucson, we retired to the deep desert 25 miles west of town. There we read, drew, ate watermelon and—against all odds—relaxed. With Sarah blistered and sun-shy after days dragged through desert, there was nothing else to do. Heat is the enforcer.

Valley of the Kachina Dolls at the Heard Musuem in Phoenix, a truly dazzling collection of Southwest Aboriginal art. This was nearby the awesome Bolo Tie exhibit.

The food in Tucson was just… OK we felt; nothing to write home about (or post to Instagram, the modern equivalent). Though much praise was due to the vegetable-oil-fried marvels that were Le Cave’s doughnuts. One day I shall feast on a Pina Colada filled cake.

We came home to find Johanna living La Vida Iowa—art, barbeque, trainspotting, making bookmarks for babies. After days of play among family and friends, our return barely registered for her.

In the end, Tucson felt less like a destination than a disappearance. May need that again sometime. You never know.

>> Roger McGuinn & Calexico – One More Cup of Coffee
>> Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Tropical Hot Dog Night

* Our abbreviated list of rejected destinations includes Santa Fe, Saint Louis, Kansas City, Puerto Valljarta, Austin, San Diego, Miami, D.C. and Houston (but only for a second).

 

JOHANNA WILL TALK TO HER GRANDPARENTS only if she can spend the conversation in a laundry basket. She’ll also ask me to carry the basket around the house while she chats, though this I decline to do. Peculiar demands are popping up daily as her Negotiator Gene manifests. I remember wearing my mom out with outlandish requests until she made concessions—things I surely didn’t desire beyond winning her permission—like mixing milk with orange juice or sleeping on the hallway floor.

I admire Jo’s pluck, though my life really needs fewer hoops to jump, not more. Aside from the usual, I’m dogged at the moment by IRS deadlines, mortgage lenders in need of data, and an unholy health care triad that turns every medical transaction into three-dimensional chess. Something as simple as switching to a credit union snarled my routine for weeks. Is this maturity? Entropy? Social decline?

No wonder we end up sick and tired. I awoke last Tuesday with strep throat. With no time or patience to seek treatment, I took some old antibiotics and worked from bed for a day. Just as I was rallying, I got a mysterious case of head-to-toe hives. They didn’t impair me physically or mentally but I looked like a leper (clients I met with were startled and concerned, not reactions I’m going for). I had narrowed the list of causes to synthetic shirts, green peppers or stress before my sister—who spends a large share of her waking hours catering to her own health issues, real and invented—diagnosed it as photosensitivity due to antibiotics.

Those hours spent in my backyard working in the unseasonable March warmth, so peaceful at the time, were inducing a massive auto-immune backlash. It’s mostly cleared up now. But which innocent action will vex me next?

As an enthusiast of obsolete technology, the fake-vintage Instagram photography thing was something I was ready to hate, like neo-antique furniture or retro Ts at Urban Outfitters. But given the lack of settings built into the iPhone camera, the ability to add some filters and flavor to your image is welcome, no matter how faux. Extra irony in these shots I took in Guttenberg, Iowa last weekend with Jo and my grandfather—the site of many childhood memories I know from faded Kodaks.

Scenes from a farm house outside Albert Lea, Minnesota. My pal Lucas’s grandparents, one recently deceased and the other in a nursing home, have left their home on the prairie. But every detail of their existence since 1970 has been immaculately preserved by their descendents down to the glass knickknacks and old-school tool calendars. We wandered the grounds and numerous out-buildings looking for treasure.

Like his grandpa’s vast trove of beer signage, full of bygone logos I drew while Jo embellished.

The Make Sh!t confab is doing paintings with projections in an abandoned gallery space. We clean the squat up at the end of each session and it’s workable for now. As our crew grows and the projects get more ambitious, it’s clear we need permanent space. Fortunately summer’s come a few months early and we can take the party outdoors for a while.

Craig Phillips never lifts a brush yet stays right up in this thing, dispensing sage praise over mugs of bourbon.

I made this poker cheat sheet years ago. Now it’s back for more laughs. In T we trust.

>> P.R.O.; The Identicals – Blacky Joe
>> Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Ballad of the Sin Eater 

MY FRIEND TRAVIS ASKED ME to make something for his art gallery. It’s not exactly a gallery, but an extra room where he has shows. Maybe not “shows” so much as house parties where there’s art. Not having attended before, I can’t even say it’s about art per se. All this will have to be confirmed.

The assignment, dubbed “November 14-20,” is strict yet open-ended: document those days any way I want. And make it fit in a 12-inch cube. We gather on December 8th to see people’s weeks.

My blog, camera, and Facebook are sufficiently snore-inducing chronicles of my comings and goings. Rather than mining or duplicating those efforts, I went non-journalistic and, more importantly to me, non-digital. My unifying principle was Do what I like to do (but usually don’t): draw, collect, and cobble things together using materials and processes I have at hand.

What’s the opposite of a Status Update? I’m going for that.

These seven collages are made from scraps of my days—picked, sketched, assembled, and Xeroxed haphazardly. With some hindsight and luck, maybe they’ll resolve into coherence. Or just as likely not. Which makes them true to life.

>> Elvis Costello – Strict Time

THE MOVEMENT TO OCCUPY FILLINTHESTREET does strike a chord with me. I’d thrill to see our financial overlords brought to account and regulated with extreme prejudice (since Washington can’t fix little stuff like fee gouging though, I’m not holding my breath). True, the overthrow of Capitalism wouldn’t improve my lot much. But I find our unanimous worship of certain über-Capitalists almost more disturbing. It’s not indifference (and certainly not weather) that’s kept me away from the protest. Chalk it up to self-absorption and many small, pleasurable distractions from anger.

1) The distorting effects of 3M Color Transparency Film
2) Great flaming October sunsets
3) Collaborative photo zines documenting the season’s last night bikerides
4) Goats, asses and apples with Evelyn & Marc (who’s blogging again; good on ya!)
5) My inexpensive poster from Puerto Rico w/ extravagant professional frame job
6) Cactuses & Palm Trees; The Sun Says He’s Too Hot – 2011, Sharpie & Crayola marker on manila
7) Melancholy marina fogs over Grand Marais
8 ) Our leaves changed color without regard to the schedule
9) Explorers on the moon under 35-W
10) Hikers with Day-Glo Lichen


>> Tennis – Marathon
>> Built to Spill – Strange
>> Willie Colón – Che Che Cole