Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friends and on the road again

In 1979, John and I lived in Wading River, NY (Long Island) for 8 months. John was working at a local power plant. During that time, we became friends with Dennis and Barb. Dennis worked at that same power plant. We kept in touch for a few years after that, but basically we lost contact with them.

This weekend, Dennis and Barb, who live in Illinois, stopped by in their Scamp camper. I couldn’t remember half of the things everyone was “remembering”, but even so, it sure didn’t seem like it had been 25 years since we had seen each other. Amazing how you can just pick up where you left off with friends.

Early tomorrow morning my trusty road partner and I are hitting the highways to head back to Florida for a couple of weeks. I have some doctors’ appointments that I need to follow up with, and I have to figure out what to do about our swimming pool. I am worried that I will miss some important autumnal changes, so I’m not planning on staying in Florida any longer than is necessary. Hopefully the drive will be uneventful!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scotty, artist

Like a familiar elf, Jubilee and I sometime run into Scotty on our Missouri River walks. Oftentimes he is the only other person we see.

My gaze is usually toward the river. I love the way it swirls and dances and flows. Scotty, though, looks mostly at the trees and vines. I know what the river looks like, he says, but I have to study the way these trees go together.

He’s been an artist all his life. As a child the teachers mostly let him do what he wanted to do, he says, because he liked art so much. Then he worked at a big company doing “three dimensions: display”.

We talk about a lot of things, but mostly how things look. He let me take a photo of one of his pictures.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Elephant Rocks, Art, and the Missouri River (again)

[Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri. That's John and Jubilee out there.]

I’m getting a little behind here, so I figure I’ll start with today and work backwards.

John seems to think that we should start scouting around the Ozarks. All we know about the Ozarks is that they are somewhere south. On the map the beginning of the Ozarks didn’t look so far, so we headed down to a place called the Arcadia Valley and Elephant Rocks State Park. Supposedly the tallest spot in Missouri – Taun Sauk Mountain – 1700 ft high, is around here somewhere.

They call these mountains? The area is very pretty, but more like rolling hills. Maybe you have to get down into Arkansas before you see the real Ozark Mountains.

We went to Graniteville and hiked around Elephant Rocks State Park – a good park, a paved trail through the rocks with some side trails leading deeper into the forest. Jubilee enjoyed climbing the rocks.
I have been looking for a granite bowl for some months now, and thought that perhaps this might be where I would find it, but the one place we saw offering granite products only sold tombstones!

We had lunch in nearby Ironton, where there were only 3 restaurants – all fast food. Ugh.

St. Louis University Art Museum

My son, Eric, is a good art museum date. He helps me to see things that I ordinarily don’t see on my own. Nevertheless, I ventured into the St. Louis Art Museum last week without him. I found the SLU Art museum to be a very quiet and wonderful place to just wander around, looking. It was an interesting collection – some Andy Warhol, Dale Chihuly, Paul Klee, Miro … There was a side exhibit, "Persuasive Politics", a collection of presidential campaign memorabilia that included even the Palm Beach County voting booth of 2000 (I voted on that!). The life-size cutouts of Obama and McCain caused some elderly men (the only other people in the museum besides me) to comment that it was obvious who the people setting up the exhibit were voting for - look at those droopy pants!

I didn’t have time for the collection of the Western Jesuits on the 3rd floor, and hope to see that next week.

At the entrance to the museum there is a sculpture of an “Urban Francis”. This photo does not do it justice – I liked it a lot.

I also got of photo of the Jesus on the bench with the child this week. It is named “Heart to Heart”. People sit on this bench with Jesus and the child, waiting for the bus. And a sculpture of a coed on campus. (More photos on Flickr)

Finally, I want to post this photo of the Missouri River which crested on Thursday and flooded its banks. This is the place where Jubilee and I walk most every day. The water level is usually 30 or 40 feet down an embankment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's starting to look a lot different around here ...

It’s starting to look a lot different around here. For one thing, the cornfields that surround us are not green anymore, but yellow and brown. It looks like they are waiting as long as possible to harvest. I’ve heard that this is because the corn will be used for fuel, and the longer it can stay on the stalk, the better.

And there’s a lot of water around. Hurricane Ike came through on Saturday night, and a lot of the roads are still flooded even today (Tuesday). The ground has so much clay in it that the water just sits there. The path that Jubilee and I use to get to the Missouri River is still impassable:
I am reveling in the change. Ever so slightly, the weather is getting cooler, so that I can wear blue jeans and long sleeves most every day now. No more air-conditioning! I am sleeping better than I have in 3 years.

[The latest word is that we will be here at least until the end of November.]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Hill

John is always saying that we need to go back to Italy. Today, we went the The Hill District of St. Louis. Italian immigrants began settling the area in the 1890s, drawn by the promise of work in the coal mines and clay factories. The housing conditions were very poor until the turn of the century, when one story, 4 room brick houses began making their appearance. There is an interesting variety of houses there now.

It is a quaint Italian neighborhood, with lots of fine Italian restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores – the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere outside of New York. We found a nice restaurant, Zia’s, that was packed even at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Tables filled with big extended families passing babies around. John had ravioli and I had some kind of mosticolli dish. We bought lots of stuff at Viviano's grocery store to bring home - more ravioli, gravy, cheese, wine ...) John says that having food like this in the refrigerator is like having a gold mine!

[John with the Italian Immigrants statue at St. Ambrose Church. More photos on Flickr site.]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

St. Louis University

Doesn’t this look just like an old American Jesuit college (sculpture and all)? That's St. Ignatius, "the Pilgrim" down the sidewalk. And I believe that's Eve and her offspring dancing out of Adam's rib.

The day started out cloudy, and I headed down to the St. Louis University campus in St. Louis. All of my cousins and my sister attended St. Louis University, and but for a quirk in my own personality, I would have been here too. I ended up at Spring Hill College – but that’s all another story.

I started out in search of a photo exhibit by Mev Puleo (another friend, now deceased, who attended SLU). I didn’t find the exhibit, but I did find an oasis of old buildings, young (and old) people who looked to be from everywhere, and an ambience that kept me just wandering around, wanting to go back to college again, or at least work somewhere on the campus! I attended the simple noon Mass in the Church chapel, and wish that I were close enough to go every day. I love the Jesuits.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The land between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

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In the previous post, I guessed that where we live is halfway between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Looking this up on a Google Map, I'm surprised at how correct I was! It looks like the distance to each river, as the crow flies, is more like 2 miles instead of 5.

No wonder I dream about these rivers.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Confluence Park

We are living on the land between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, just before they join. Each river is about the same distance, maybe 5 miles, away. It seems that we are drawn to the place where the 2 rivers meet – a place called Confluence Park.

In 1721, French explorer, Father Pierre Francois de Charlevoix, wrote of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, "I believe this is the finest confluence in the world. The two rivers are much the same breadth, each about half a league: but the Missouri is by for the most rapid, and seems to enter the Mississippi like a conqueror, through which it carries its white waters to the opposite shore without mixing them, afterwards, it gives its color to the Mississippi which it never loses again but carries quite down to the sea ..."
This is flat land, wet land. Many bays and islands, and usually quite a few people fishing. It is also a sanctuary for migrating birds. Birds from as far away as northern Alaska use the Mississippi River as a navigational route to warmer lands.

I can’t wait to see this area later in the autumn. But already things are starting to look different around here. The sky for one thing. And it is cooler. Will it really get cold here??!! I’ve lived in Florida so long I tend to doubt that this season change thing is really going to happen.

So far, every time we have attempted to drive to the actual place where the Missouri meets the Mississippi, the road has been closed due to flooding. Today, though, we were able to drive as far as the locks. We hiked the “2 pecan nature trail” through tall grasses. It is a magical place.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hannibal, Missouri

Labor Day was hazy, hot and humid, and on a lark we drove up to Hannibal, Missouri, the childhood home of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. This area served as the setting of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and other of Twain's writings. It is about 1 ½ hour drive from here, almost to Iowa.

Hannibal is a small-ish town on the Mississippi River. Had its heyday during middle 1850’s when the Mississippi River was the main shipping route through America.

There was not much happening other than the few tourists who were milling about. Maybe it was the weather. We toured the museum, the Clemens home, and the Tom Sawyer cave. If you ask me, the quandary of slavery that so consumed Mark Twain still haunts the place.