Regionality

While on our recent road trip to visit relatives in central Georgia, I was able to take a side trip to Greenville, SC, for a reunion with nine friends from college. We do this every couple of years now, and one of our rituals is a Saturday night book swap. The book I offered this time was Gardenias, by one of my favorite “regional” authors, Faith Sullivan of Minnesota. I’ve loved her books since one of her earlier publications, The Cape Ann; in fact, I included a used copy of that book for background, since it has some of the same characters.

Wiki has this to say about American literary regionalism, or local color: “In this style of writing, which includes both poetry and prose, the setting is particularly important and writers often emphasize specific features such as dialect, customs, history, and landscape, of a particular region.”

I was delighted to find that the book I drew, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, was also by a regional author – Carolinian Appalachia – and now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve learned some background history of the area I just visited. I also got to hear some local dialects; got to know some characters whom I would probably not have found in, say, Minnesota; and read descriptions of places I’ve seen only from a distance. And although the ending to this tale was sad, I would probably read another book by Ron Rash.

I have found (and loved) over the years several authors I whom I consider to be regional writers, but will wait to see if other Baboons name them before I do. To that end:

Do you have a favorite regional author? Is there a region of the USA that you would like to learn about through reading?

Self Regulation

Last March I went to the doctor for my annual checkup and he informed me that my cholesterol  and blood sugar levels were too high. He asked me to come back in six months for a recheck.   I spent the summer working in the garden and changing my diet only a little. I  went back to  the doctor in September, and he said my cholesterol had dropped 50 points to a normal level, and my blood sugar was in the normal range.  I was surprised as well as dismayed, since that meant that I had to maintain my current level of activity and continue to watch my food intake.

The elevators at my work have been out of commission for three weeks, and won’t be in operation for another two weeks.  I work on the 4th floor of my building. I know that I will need to continue to walk the stairs all winter once the elevator is repaired.  I hate to exercise, but I hate the thought of poor health even more.

How do you motivate yourself for good health choices?  What should you do for better health, and how will you accomplish it?  How do you maintain your health?

Death in a Jar of Salsa

I gave one of the nurses at my office a about 40 lbs. of tomatoes this year, since she wanted to make salsa. We had an abundance and I was glad to get rid of them. She said she got other tomatoes, too, and canned 60 jars of salsa. She gave me a jar earlier this week, and it was all I could do to smile and thank her when she handed it to me.  Once I got up to my floor, I flushed it down the toilet.

Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I would never can and process anything in a used Hormel ham hock jar using the original cap.  She hadn’t even removed the ham hock label.  I know that salsa has lots of acid in it from the vinegar, and that her salsa will probably be fine, but, still, this person is a nurse and there are some basic rules of hygienic food preservation that you just never violate. There was a story in the Fargo Forum a few years back about some well meaning woman in the eastern part of the state who invited people for Sunday dinner, fed them home canned peas, and killed half of the guests with botulism.  Those stories  stick with a person who does any home canning.

Tell about some gifts you would have rather not received.  Got any canning or food preservation disasters or horror stories? Am I being alarmist?

VS Travelogue – Mount Etna

I know that Mount Etna on Sicily is one of the earth’s most active volcanos because it comes up in crossword puzzles all the time.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I traveled to Sicily with a client two weeks back.  I stayed in Taormina which means you drive past Etna and then sleep in the shadow of the volcano.

The Sicilians do not refer to Etna as “volcano”; they prefer to call it “la montagna” since mountain is a feminine noun in Italian and they definitely believe Etna to be a mother figure.  More than one of the Sicilians I met said that they look to “la montagna” every morning to see the constant steam that rises from the top.

One person told me that they think of Etna as a properly functioning pressure cooker.  As long as she is emitting steam, she is not in any danger of exploding.  Of course when there is an eruption, the lava flow is very slow; a study of deaths in historical time reveals that only 77 folks have lost their lives due to Etna.

So feeling a little more secure we headed up Etna one morning on our trip.  First you take your car (or bus) up to the Lodge which is at 1910 meters.  Then you take a cable car up to 2500 meters.  THEN you get on a big 4-wheel bus (looks a little like the polar bear vehicles you take in Churchill) that climbs over lava up to 2900 meters.  Then you climb that last bits on the inactive crater just to the east of the main (active) caldera, up to 3150 meters.

It’s an eerie feeling, since everything you travel over once you get on the cable car is like a moonscape; totally black and crunchy; in 2001-2002, an eruption destroyed all the tourist infrastructure down to the Lodge.  And even though it was plenty warm at the bottom, it was windy and fiercely cold at the top.

Of course all this lava means that the regions around Etna are extremely fertile and the wonderful Etna wines can only be bottled with grapes grown on the mountain (kinda like you can only call it champagne if it comes from the champagne region of France).  We had a wonderful lunch at an Etna winery before heading back to the hotel that made me glad that I had visited one of the most active volcanos on the planet!

Have you ever visited a place you were a little afraid of?

Cheap Dates

I read this in the local paper yesterday:

According to an article from USA Today based on findings from 24/7 Wall St., North Dakotans are the second-cheapest date in the U.S.

The recent report found the average date cost for each state, including a bottle of wine, two movie tickets and a restaurant dinner for two. North Dakota had the second-lowest average of $42.43, bested only by South Dakota at $38.27.

Minnesota, meanwhile, had the nation’s 23rd-highest date night cost of $109.81, while New York topped the list at $297.27.

Well, I guess there are some advantages living out here!   The article goes on to make suggestions for one of a kind, cheap excursions like going to the Minnesota State-Moorhead planetarium,  corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and an adult only Halloween party at the Red River Zoo in Fargo including a  costume contest, concessions, dance party, a cash bar and zookeeper talks with critters ($10 for advance tickets).

Think up a cheap date excursion in your vicinity. Tell about some memorable dates from your past. 

 

Disaster

October 8 was the anniversary of three terrible fires in 1871-The Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire, and the Port Huron Fire.  There were other, smaller fires  in the region that raged the same day as well.  It was dry in the Wisconsin/Michigan lumber regions, and the conditions were just right for a perfect storm of fires.  Thousands of people died. Some posit that meteorites from a passing comet may have started the fires, but that seems unlikely.  Small fires used to clear land, as well as very dry conditions and a very windy cold front that blew through, are probably the causes.

Once, out here on Halloween about 15 years ago we had a terrible range fire in the two counties just north of us. Warm and drought conditions during the fall had left the pastures very dry. On Halloween, a very windy cold front came through and, somehow a fire started and hundreds of acres and cattle were lost.  It was terrible, but not as terrible as the fires of 1871.  I can hardly imagine what it must have been like.

A friend of mine is obsessed with the Titanic Disaster.  She even went on the 100th anniversary commemorative cruise out of England and had period costumes sewn for the occasion. She knows everything there is to know about the Titanic.  I only like hearing about disasters if there is a happy ending to the story, which there rarely is, although I must admit I spent a good chunk of my adolescence reading about the Black Death.

What disasters have you experienced. Which famous disasters fascinate you?

David vs Goliath

Today’s post comes from Crystalbay

I’ve been MIA for a few weeks because I’m thoroughly embroiled in a fight with city hall. In this city, people aren’t allowed to have a boat at their dock unless they themselves own it. This means that my own kids couldn’t even dock here. I have no boat, and have rented it out every summer for much needed income. A local marina owner found out and filed a complaint against me. I was notified that I had to remove the friend’s boat in one week or face trial. I didn’t comply, then received a summons for a court hearing. Bottom line: I’m facing up to a $1000 fine or 90 days in jail for having one boat at my otherwise empty dock. This money is 1/4 of my annual income, so I decided to fight back.

In a group email to the mayor and city council, I begged for help in resolving this. I explained my situation. I also wrote that, short of help from them, I might have to go public. Not one responded. I’m sure that they thought I was just blowing smoke.

I made one phone call to the StarTribune. They came out the very next day to interview me. A week later, the story was featured on the front page of the Minnesota Section.

What’s happened since this is nothing short of phenomenal. 360 comments followed the article, 95% positive. Someone posted the story on a Lake Minnetonka Fan Club FB page. 250 more comments followed, 98% from people outraged by Orono’s actions. A high end attorney offered pro bono representation. Two more local newspapers wanted in on the action and two more articles brought even more support. I’ve been told that the story spread across the state and that even our governor is following it. I’ve had offers to pay any legal costs or fines. Hundreds have expressed interest in attending my public hearing on Oct. 25th. All three reporters from the three articles published want to be present for possible follow-up articles.

What began as just me and the city locking horns over my dock has taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of people angry about everything from how our tax dollars are being spent to government overreach to how seniors are treated. It seems that disdain for city councils around the lake in general was tapped into by one old lady’s predicament. It’s reminding me of the movie Network when Peter Finch got people to open up their windows and yell, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!!!!!”

In short, my situation going public has touched a palpable and collective nerve in the community across the lake. Even if, as many are predicting, my case gets dismissed, something has clearly been awakened. All I wanted was and is to be able to have one boat at my dock.

What was your David vs Goliath moment? Have you ever had to fight City Hall?

 

 

%d bloggers like this: