It's all about family during this season of joy.
And, uh, not so much joy.
But first, the little one
who brings joy to all he meets!
Jennifer and Elliott, above,
and Elliott in his awesome Sherry Cook-made knitted sweater vest thing
while shopping for spangly short shorts at Shop Bop in Madison.
Elliott, below, rocks out with the drummer at Willy Street Coop,
who told me later that this child is firing on all the cosmic pistons, and his daddy did good.
I would add, so did his mommy!
I would add, so did his mommy!
Elliott opens my gift of a pounding board made in Poland by a family
dedicated to sustainable wood foresting and non-toxic paints.
He loves the box.
At the Children's Museum in Madison, Elliott negotiates with two young women
who apparently have usurped his dinosaur for their own purposes.
He successfully reclaims his space.
Grandpa Frank photographs us after I keep Elliott from reclaiming yet another dinosaur
that the ladies have usurped.
At breakfast, Elliott the hipster sports an ironic avocado beard and mustache. Also an ironic bib.
And here he makes his case for more "wa-ee" (water), reminding me of his Grandpa Mike, attorney at law.
Jennifer and I walk to the Madison Capital building to see the cool train, and Elliott gets advice and
an Aaron Rodgers football card from the nice policeman.
He tries to play his
game, but the cop isn't having any of it.
On Dec. 22nd, I leave Elliott gazing into the stars
and take off with Aaron...
...into the wintry mist...
...on our way north on Highway 94 in Wisconsin
where we see flashy trucks carrying dangerous explosive substances...
...and Wisconsin billboards that seem to be speaking to two very different audiences...
...or maybe not...
We stop in Menomonie, WI to have a bite at the Acoustic Cafe
and see that the town has initiated a mass transit system
in the form of this van!
Good for them.
If only Gov. Scott Walker in the vastness of his corporate-toadying wisdom hadn't
nixed the federally-funded, job-creating project of building of a statewide train system...
...so we could be taking the train, playing Scrabble
and looking out windows like we can do on the East Coast
and in Europe. And Scotland.
Above, the view from a Scottish train, and the
Edinburgh train station, below.
Something Scott Walker seems not to understand.
So we whip through the traffic in Minneapolis...
...where there are more cranes in evidence than in Brooklyn!
We stopped to pick up my Mom in New Richmond
and I attended the Christmas service with her, at which one of the men in the audience
kept moaning, "Ohhhhhh, noooooooo..." throughout.
I should have listened.
We successfully reach Sherry and Brett's house near Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis!
Elliott is constantly
after Izzy but never quite manages to catch him.
He does better with Grandma Shirley.
(photo by Andrew Keeley Yonda)
Here he admires Shannon's beautiful wedding gown which she models for all of us
except for husband-to-be Michael
for whom it will be a lovely surprise.
(photo by Andrew Keeley Yonda)
Elliott and Shirley love the blingy red shoes!
Red is everywhere, in Elliott's snowsuit (in spite of there being a pathetic amount of snow)
and in the sign in front of the house,
which means that this will be the last Christmas we spend in this house which has brought us many hours of family fun.
No more summering on the deck...
No more visiting the final resting place of Moe the cat...
They are leaving behind the big house and the small house,
this one a Brett-made model of a geodesic dome structure that will now disappear into the earth
just like those dreams of yore when the world was new
and people were still optimistic about the future of the earth.
...as Aaron dances with trees.
Here blues and reds compete with earth tones.
Our last moments in the nature preserve behind the house...
...with Aaron, Andrew, Chris, Ali, Jennifer and Elliott.
Bro and Sis, below.
Something has been seriously chewing on these antlers...
Above and below are some of Sherry's installations
of this and that...
The strange face-like thing above has evolved from an even stranger mask that we picked up at a thrift sale years ago.
Still life with antlers and pig.
We have our last fire in the fire pit behind the house...
The hot seat!
Shannon purges her life of her former wedding pics, a healing process of getting rid of old to let in the new!
And we also let go of another friend, Orange Guy, who
has traveled the world...
...but began to deteriorate badly last year, his skin dissolving
and his innards becoming out-ards.
Last Christmas Shirley demanded, Burn him! Burn him!
So that's what we're doing.
Buh bye to the Orange Guy.
And hello to Eye-Guy who, after a stint in Brooklyn...
...is now chilling in Andrew and Jennifer's basement.
Shannon and Michael shine their lights on it!
Night and Day.
Elliott wonders about the white stuff.
Later we go to Dan and Angie's place in New Richmond, WI
where Elliott delights in hanging out in CoCo's living room shelter.
You may remember CoCo from last summer...
Uncle Dan teaches Elliott about American traditions such as football and Camels.
And Aunt Angie shows him the wonders of weird toys
that sing "My Darling Clementine."
But after the Keeley Yondas leave and take their little one along, things begin to break bad.
Shirley has had a cold all weekend and on Monday it turns into an episode that's
worthy of an ambulance ride to the local hospital which is right next door to where she lives...
...and then there's another ambulance ride to a hospital farther away that apparently has
more staff and services, Lakeview in Stillwater, 25 miles away.
Here is when I could use that train system
since I don't have a car, I hate driving,
there are no local car rentals in any case,
and the New Richmond cab has a five mile radius.
I finally find a car service in Stillwater
and make a couple of $50 trips to the hospital.
Nothing for a New Yorker.
As far as I can see, Lakeview Hospital
doesn't have much of a lake view.
I spend much of Shirley's stay at Lakeview with her while she gets over the flu, pneumonia
and a uterine tract infection, known as a UTI, which according to various medical professionals, can cause elderly people to act very, very strangely.
It may have been the cause of what I had thought was a stroke, when she
seemed to go blank and could do nothing more than mumble.
I go on a couple of walks down to the lakes near the hospital,
and heed their "do not swim" instructions, although I wish I had brought my skates.
This very creepy sign is about the so-called "brain-eating" naegleria fowleri disease which is fatal in 95% of cases.
It is a "free-living, thermophilic excavate form of protist typically found in warm bodies of fresh water." (Wikipedia)
Other protists cause malaria and sleeping sickness.
The range of this nasty beast is moving northward in the US
due to warmer weather and water temps, like the super warm August in 2010 where a little girl died of this disease from swimming in Lily Lake in Stillwater.
And another kid died in 2012 of the same thing.
And another kid died in 2012 of the same thing.
Climate change at work.
In this grate under the road, something is making loud beating noises
like it's trapped and gasping, pounding to get out.
Then I see strange creatures in the snow on the ground.
Is this a man fighting a fire-breathing dragon?
And what's this one? A brain-eating pathogen?
I retreat back to the hospital where things are less dangerous.
They have a small art gallery in the hospital lobby
and I spend some time looking at the photographs and digital
collages of Laurie Schneider.
These works are from her "Myth and Magic" series, and are
depictions of the positive bonds between animal and human,
and the metamorphic qualities that dwell inside us all.
(photo from her website)
"Lucretia" by Laurie Schnieder
(photo by Deb Kronk)
I speak with Deb Kronk at the front desk of the hospital and she shows me this wonderful photograph
on her screen saver that she took of the Stillwater Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River last summer.
The bridge, built to handle a couple hundred vehicles, has been the only way over the river since 1931,
now serving 18,000 cars and trucks a day.
The need to raise the bridge daily causes massive backups in Stillwater traffic, which both
serves the local businesses and frustrates everyone who has to use the bridge.
It is being replaced by another bridge being built down the river and in a year or so will
only be open to bicycles and pedestrians.
There are only three lift bridges left in use in the US, according to this article, which seems wrong to me but what do I know?
What I do know is that one of the remaining lift bridges is my favorite, the elegant Duluth Lift Bridge in Canal Park,
seen here in 2006, which doesn't get nearly the traffic since it only serves as a link to the Duluth
Park Point community, instead of being a conduit between two states.
Speaking of Duluth and photos, here are a few of Shirley in her younger days, with Gordie.
On the back porch of her childhood house on Wyoming Street.
At Sand Lake, in the water and up in the field at the top of the driveway.
In Rhode Island when he was stationed there during the Korean War.
In Duluth somewhere.
Below is her schedule of events for the Christmas holiday at her independent living place:
We had planned to go to the New Years Eve dinner, but the best laid plans
gave way to me spending the night with her at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater,
sleeping in her room on a rock hard bed and getting more sleep than I thought possible, fortunately.
On January 2nd she is transferred to a facility in Hammond, Wisconsin to get strong enough to go home.
She and Dan chill in her spare new room.
Back in her apartment, where I'm staying for my last night in Wisconsin,
the sun rises and shine for a few minutes before it ducks behind the clouds again.
I leave her to the tender mercies of the physical rehab people whom I hope will work
a miracle and build her some serious muscle to get back to her apartment.
Then I rise over the misty gray streets of Bloomington, MN,
which happens to be where my niece Shannon lives...
...but she's not here, she's in Las Vegas, (where I was supposed to be, too)
getting married to Michael Robinson!
The prettiest bride in 2015!
And now she's Mrs. Robinson, coo coo ca choo!
Instead here I am boarding early in Minneapolis,
following a lady not in a beautiful white dress,
but in a white fur coat
(that almost begs for a splash of red
from a PETA person).
Turns out I had to be bumped up to first class
because there was no room in coach
when I had to change my ticket to hang out with Shirley
in the hospital instead of going to Las Vegas
to celebrate Shannon and Michael's wedding.
I rise over the clouds to see the sun sending out streams of lava
over the cloud plain.
There is some balance in the universe, after all.
I get to drink my complimentary Chardonnay out of a real glass rather than plastic!
And look at all the leg room!
And how fun is it to watch the rest of the world pass by
into the bowels of the plane...
...with my nose in the air???
And who knows what's next?????
Well, we know one thing, that the Painted People are starring in their very own show in Yonkers, NY, opening Thursday,
January 15th, 5:30 - 8PM!
They're on their way!!!