Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I had the pleasure of golfing yesterday for the first time in ages, with my fellow Glarites, Bret and Emily from my church, before going off to see Transformers and Star Trek at the Drive-Thru. (The former you really need to avoid. The special effects are cool but they get tiring because that's all there is. The latter is the only movie I've seen this year worth seeing twice.) When you move to New Glarus, you get a lot of cool coupons, and one of them is a 2:1 golf outing, so we took advantage of this.

This was truly a Wisconsinite golf course: cheese, and live goats.

It's a beautifully manicured course, where they achieved an incredible amount of packing in. Every hole winds in and out of the next. The water trap was mostly avoided, though we did have some difficulties in the sand traps.

Most of the holes weren't that innovative, though there was one loop-to-loop that only Bret was able to achieve on the first attempt. Actually, that was kind of the play on every hole- Bret did well, and me and Emily struggled to stay only a couple above par. (And I spent a few holes forced to yell "Four" to get the ball back on the green.) Thus we were pleased that Bret was not entirely Spiner and at least partly human, losing his ball- in the same bush that I lost mine in.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Yudl - Ay - EEE - Ooooo

New Glarus is a town of festivals, with some eight over the course of the warm months. This weekend is Heidi Fest. (Not to be confused with the William Tell Festival, because a Swiss town really can't have too many celebrations of Switzerland!)

Unfortunately, the celebration began with a community presentation of Heidi at the local high school. Don't get me wrong- it's a sweet enough story. But the production was anything but sweet. As someone who's directed productions in the past, the acting was atrocious, and the directing not much better. It was easy to see where improvements could have been made. The 4th grade child playing Heidi did a better job for her age than most of the participants, but everything was at the level of what you'd expect in a junior-high play. Not being able to hear the loud whispers of the woman with the cue cards would have helped. There were a couple notable exceptions, such as how we saw the obvious theatrical training of the woman playing the mean Miss Rottenmeier. But largely, the high point for the audience was when the live goat began to chew on the rope near the end of the two hours. The rope was attached to a large Swiss bell, and we all began silently to cheer the goat on, hoping against hope of some relief from the tedium. We were finally rewarded with the clear dulcet tones of the bell. But it bodes not well when the best acting is done by the goat.

The next day I made my way to the main square, where the dancing, crafts, and music were. On the way I discovered that New Glarus has it's own Ents.

At the festival there was a delightful presentation of bell ringing, though unfortunately their drumming accompaniment left something to be desired, so it was not recorded. (This is not to speak ill. Keeping a beat is often the hardest part of an orchestra, and the drummer has to be that much better a drummer than any other instrumentalist.)

I was happy to see a live goat next to the cheese table, and across the way some Naughty Dolls.

Yes, I wondered about that myself. I think the woman selling them doesn't realize the modern connotation for the old appellation. What it actually means is dolls without faces but only hair, designed to look like they're standing in the corner. Trust me- that's not what you'll get if you Google "Naughty Dolls". (And may I say, dolls without faces, for me, is more "Scary Dolls"?)

Another booth at the festival had these amazing bottles, reheated to 1500 degrees and melted, turned in to beautiful wind chimes. I spoke with the proprietor, Creative Touch, about bringing back some of the Mountain Dew and Coke bottles in Arabic from my trip to Yemen in a month, perhaps even a couple extra for him to sell to others.

Towards evening there was dancing, but because of a spot of rain, hardly anyone came out. When I stopped by around seven, they were playing a series of songs with little kids dancing to them. Sadly, one of them was "Little Willy" by the British band The Sweet. I say sadly, for I have not been able to get it out of my head, and if you know anything of British culture, and are aware that the band is British, the song takes on wholly new connotations.

The end of a day was a treat of sunset over New Glarus, looking over the police station and town hall from the hill of the old United Church of Christ church, going back to 1850.

When a Tree Falls on You, Do You Make a Sound?

Moments ago, with a great crack and a crash, I became convinced that the RV was finally falling apart. I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter, and what to my eyes should appear, but a giant fallen tree, rotten at the core.

There is a collection of these trees around here, mostly dead except for the new life springing at their roots, and mostly cut to stumps to remove any danger of falling. But a few have not yet been cut, and there have been high winds today. This fell about 20 feet from the bow of the RV- had it hit, it would have assuredly caused great damage to the roof and bow.

This is what it looked like after it had been moved out of the way, further from the RV, and this is it's size in relation to the RV.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Presence of God From a Bike

New Glarus has a very level extended bike trail, relatively cheap to bike on, and very long, extending miles in each direction. I traveled out to nearby Monticello today, six miles away, and enjoyed the beauty around me. There are long stretches of straight sun-filled fields, intersperses with over-arching canopy. With no people or buildings or roads around, one comes across a bridge disappearing above the bike path. Near Monticello are marshlands of pussy willows, and willow trees overhanging the creeks, with what I imagine the South looks like. It is a place of peace.

Until I neared completion, and discovered a wicked crick in my neck, necessitating getting the bike repair shop to lengthen the main handlebars of my bike.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Century of Fatherhood

I changed my first flat today. On my way to see my dad, a few bits of rubber flew out from underneath the car, but I figured it was only something on the freeway, since the tires looked good when I stopped. And when the rearview window was shaking, both me and my dad thought it was just bad Wisconsin roads. But on the way back, outside Sentry, a great whoosh informed me that the tire had gone flat, and I had to get a big Sentry worker to loosen two of the lug nuts.

But earlier, I took a trip back in time with my dad, visiting Stone Bank, where he grew up. After a great BBQ at the Steinke's daughter's house, we stopped at the house my dad grew up in, which he rented from the Kutz's in the 50s. They were remodeling, but the Kutz grandson, now owner, was there, and we were able to see the room he grew up in. My dad had a good conversation with Kutz III catching up on those of the family he knew.

We drove down the road, with my dad pointing out where all his friends used to live, and where he used to play, in the small town of Stone Bank, where everyone knows your name.

Down the road was Kutz's itself, the corner store, pub, and general hangout. This is where my grandparents worked, when not at the goat farm, and my dad hung out a good deal. It was extensively changed as well, but where he is standing there was some semblance of how things used to look.

This was the way Kutz's used to look.

The small town of Stone Bank had five bars. Across from one of them was the two-room schoolhouse where my dad went to school with Mary Steinke. I knew they had gone to school together, but I had no idea it was a two-room schoolhouse. I had no idea that those things still existed in the 40s. Now it's a Teen Assistance Center.

But the highlight of the day was finding the cemetery where my grandfather and grandmother were buried. My aunt knew the location, and then we arrived at a cemetery in Ixonia, much larger than I'd envisioned. I was thinking perhaps 60 graves, and this was closer to 600- all flat, and none alphabetized.

I began a long trek, looking through grave after grave, and found many Jaegers, a family my dad had known, before I got to the Palosaari stone. There they were, Sarah and Jon Quincy. I'd not been to their funerals in '82 and '85. This was my first chance to pay respects.

Their stone is in the sheltering boughs of a small tree, and we laid two wreaths on the stone, perhaps the only living flowers in the cemetery. We stood for a moment, remembering. I thought of all my grandfather and grandmother had seen. My grandfather was born in 1901- he'd be 108 years old were he alive today. When he was born, there was no electricity, running water, or cars- certainly not his first few years in Russian-controlled Finland. I haven't considered it before, but as Finland wasn't independent until 1917, my family were Russian citizens until they came over in 1906- much as the Russians were viewed as imperialist oppressors.

It was good to remember. No grave should be unattended, with no memories to hang over it. Much as we might believe in eternal life today, we neglect at our own peril the Jewish interpretation of life after death- in the memories of our offspring, and the generations of descendants.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Serendipity in Minnesota

I know that many are like me, and have viewed Aimee's blog and just assumed that she's given up on the Truth Testimony, and is just making it up as she goes along. Like they've got a new house and are remodeling it, and bought a bunch of chickens that they're raising from the egg! So for all of those in doubt, I went to Minneapolis to obtain true unbiased pictorial evidence of Airemy's lives. The journey started auspiciously enough, with the roar of rockets. But rockets don't always land where one expects.

I had a four day grueling conference, from eight in the morning until six at night- without even a lunch break! I had little time to think or contemplate anything in those four days. I was on the same street, just a few minutes away, from Christians for Biblical Equality, that center of focus on emancipation of women for equality in the family and the Church. I have admired and followed their work for years, but was unfortunately unable to visit there during the times they are open.
Jeremy and Aimee were also living just a few minutes from where I was staying, and I was able to visit their cute (and very real) house, in the process of extensive remodeling that will surely greatly increase it's aesthetic value. It looks like it would fit right in with the old prairies. I had a wonderful dinner catching up with them (though of course any dinner is better with wine), and got to visit their pets in the back. They are named Squwak, Cheep, Chirp, and the other sister, Chirp. (I made those names up.)

Aimee has also worked on a beautiful Rain Garden, which in case you are unfamiliar with the term as I was, is a place where water collects to feed the plants and provide a home for the mosquitoes. Here they are standing in it.

But the most amazing part of my journey was all of the random people I ran into in the Twin Cities. I knew I would be seeing Scott and Kimberly, and hoped to meet up with Airemy. But I was not at all suspecting that I would be able to turn around and see I was sitting at a table next to Raja from North Africa, and be able to have dinner with Lillis, also from Africa, and her roommates- but when I looked up, there was Lillis, at the Lemon Water Stand! Perhaps most mysteriously, as I sat down for dinner, based on my first name and unique upbringing, one of Lillis' roommates deduced that we had been housemates at a conference in Chicago, fully ten years prior! Truly, Minneapolis is the Nexus of the Universe.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


I am the hollow man
Who dreams dreams too big.
I am the hollow man
Finding hope when despair should be.
I am the hollow man
Blindly pursuing irreverent futures.
I am the holy man
Set apart for khawram.
I am the hollow man.

Still I rise from Sheol
Filled with the waters of Marah.
I have become Diogenes
Searching for a companion.
I have become Shiva
bringing despair where hope would be.
For love also is unyielding as the grave.

I am Sheol.
I am the barren woman.
I am the parched Earth.
I am the consuming fire.
And I shall give to the leach,
until finally,
he too,
is satisfied.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New Home, New Glarus

If one looks hard enough, they can find an idyllic corner of Switzerland in Southwestern Wisconsin, where the older buildings and older generation still speak German, where the beer flows freely and the festivals and people are friendly. This weekend, I moved to the town of New Glarus.

It involved a day of packing everything into the RV, carrying many boxes of books while Erin crammed them into the stern, now Storage. (Not Steerage.) The next day, Erin went ahead in her more maneuverable lighter craft, scouting out potential sharks and shoals for my more bulky vessel, loaded as it was with shipping containers. There was some legitimate concern that she wouldn't make it (the RV, not Erin), considering all of the engine trouble she had suffered in the past. But we made it to the new berth safely- and there is no way the journey could have been accomplished without Tugboat Erin.

The new location is decidedly different. I am often the only one in the field, which holds only some fourteen berths. (There is one other empty camper in the lot.) On the weekends one other RV might pull in; on festival weekends, up to five. It is a bit more isolated than previously- but that's the price one pays for cheaper rates. Most of the time my companions are the wildlife of the area. Yesterday I watched one of the many robins working furiously in tug-of-war with an elastic worm. She won, and immediately her near-full-grown children hopped up to her, chirping furiously, demanding the regurgitated food- which she happily accommodated.

I wasn't aware of the weather when I moved in. My first night came with torrential rainstorms, with lightning and thunder. Water was falling in literal bathtubs per meter squared per second. (b/m2/s for the scientifically literate.)

Though I went out a couple times to shake the water off the canopy, I was not quick enough, and the rain - that powerful compound water - completely tore off half the canopy. For a few days, until I found some alligator tape, I relied on elementary principles of balancing physics to open the door.

New Glarus is a wonderful town. I'm at the South end of it, which means it takes all of five miles to bike to downtown New Glarus, and another minute to reach the North end of the village. The people here are amazingly kind and accommodating. Constantly they open the door for me, though I am neither female nor elderly. One receives a number of coupons for meals upon moving to New Glarus- but most of those restaurants are constantly offering me free drinks as well, once they find I'm a new arrival. Stereotypical of Small Town America it may be, but everywhere is a hearty hello and Hail-Fellow-Well-Met.

So far, the two drawbacks I've found have been firstly, limited wireless. There are only two public wireless signals in town, and the stronger of the two at Fat Cat Coffehouse is intermittent- often appearing to be working but more often on the fritz. I found a better signal at Puempels Olde Tavern, and a netcafe hidden in the shopping mall of nearby Belleveille. The second drawback was having to get a breathalizer test after one of those free dinners.

Actually, that's one of the positives of New Glarus. After a meal, and a full glass of wine, I felt a little off. So I left my car at the restaurant, walked the two blocks to the police station, and asked if they could give me the test. The officer there was very accomodating, offering to give me a lift home if it was too high, and we had a very good conversation about policing in New Glarus, and the history of the town. He told me consuming a large meal actually increases the length of effect from alcohol. He also pointed out that Al Capone had his first out-of-Chicago home here (pictured to the left), just across the street from where the police station is now. There's a network of tunnels running under the city for bootlegging, discovered only in remodeling of the last decade- and sadly, rather than taking advantage of the rather obvious sizable tourist possibilities, they bricked all the tunnels up! The officer also kindly filled me in on the other major feature of New Glarus- the largest urinal in the Midwest. It is impressive- waist-high, and you can almost walk into it. The plunger is helpfully positioned as a reference point. (Female readers should of course page down so as not to view the inappropriate commode.)

Oh. Half an hour after a big meal and a glass of wine, I came out at 0.00, and walked back to my car. That's what three years in Morocco does to one's tolerance.

But in truth, what people mostly come to New Glarus for is the Swiss atmosphere and Swiss Festivals. Some twelve festivals in the warm months, differentiated into Polka, Heidi, William Tell, etc. There are many more minutia to Swiss culture than most are aware of! And everywhere, homes and buildings are done in Swiss alpine style, with Germanic lettering, hearkening back to the original settlers of New Glarus.