Sunday, August 16, 2009

What I do on Sunday morning

Tim and I often spend Sunday mornings roaming the farmers' market in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood.
We usually pick up a week's supply of fruit and veggies from the vendors who offer superb products.

Click on any pic to view it larger.
There's always entertainment from a local acoustic band.
There's no better breakfast than a crepe stuffed with chicken, guacamole, onions, eggs, cheese and other yummy things.
I see this woman every weekend at the market, carrying the same paper umbrella and swinging the same hoola hoop. It is California, after all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bird's-eye view

I've always loved sitting next to the window during a flight and watching the world go by below. That's especially true when I get to cross some of the more interesting terrain the country has to offer.

I snapped these shots on my recent return trip from Chicago.
Canyonlands National Park near the Four Corners region.
Click on any pic to view it larger.
Part of the Lake Meade National Recreation Area outside of Las Vegas.

Sin City on takeoff.

Imperial Valley in Southern California.
Balboa Park and the Museum of Man while landing in San Diego.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Market Days, Chicago

We spent much of last Saturday and Sunday two weekends ago at the big end-of-summer neighborhood festival in Boys Town, Chicago's gay district along Halstead Street.

Market Days apparently is the biggest annual gay and lesbian event in the Midwest, though the mix of straight people in the crowd was far higher than at your typical gay pride event.
We took the train from Andersonville to Boys Town. Why can't other cities figure out mass transit the way Chicago has? From left to right: Tim, Pete, Steve (our host), Al, Martin and the Cajun.
There were a few people in costume, like this very prideful flight crew. But it was nothing like Mardi Gras or Southern Decadence.
One of the most surprising parts of the festival was the great music line-up. This is Candye Kane, who left behind a brief career as a porn star and magazine model (i.e. Juggs) in the mid-1980s to become a punk rocker-then-rockabilly-blues singer.

The San Diegan has an amazing voice, is a professed bi-sexual and was treated successfully for pancreatic cancer last year.
Next up was Catfight, a Chicago all-chick punk-rock-pop cover band. Click on any pic to view it larger.
The girls loved the girls.
The Village People closed the festival's final night.
The soldier and American Indian are original band members, and the cowboy and lead-singing cop have been with the band off and on since 1980. The construction worker and leather guy are newer additions. Here they are doing a stirring patriotic rendition of "The Navy."
A good time was had by all.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cheese! Glorious cheese!

It's hard to visit New Glarus, Wisconsin, without feeling like at least an honorary Cheesehead. But Tim was the only one who tried to make it official by modeling an amazing assortment of wearable "cheese" foam accessories.

Beyond the traditional wedge-o-cheese hat, he discovered "cheese" sombreros, cone heads, ice cream cones (imagine the Statue of Liberty torch in bright yellow), and the oh-so-cheezy double-cup bra.
We discovered these variations on a Cheesehead theme at the Alp and Deli Cheese Factory, owned by Roth Käse USA. Those of you who know my buddy Russell, above left, won't be surprised to hear that this is one of his favorite places in his new home state.
Here's Tim taking in the amazing selection of cheese offered in the factory's adjacent store. Click on any pic to view it larger.

You want Swiss Gruyère? They've got it. You want Italian Fontina? They've got it. You want trailer trash chocolate cheese? Yup, they've got that too.
And no trip to the heartland of American cheesedom would be complete without a stop at the cheese museum housed inside this old train depot.
A very sweet woman guided us around the museum in Price-Is-Right-pointer-girl-style while we listed to the story of cheese-making history in this region of Wisconsin over a speaker system.
Next stop was the New Glarus Brewing Company, which is housed in this new sprawling chalet-ish complex that had an unmistakable Napa Valley winery feel to it.
After sampling some of the award-winning brewery's surprisingly tasty beers, we did a self-guided tour of the plant and saw some of the beer-making process first hand. We really liked - and strongly recommend - Fat Squirrel and Totally Naked.

But if you want to try these local brews, most of you will have to do some traveling because they are only sold within Wisconsin's borders.
Before we left, Tim and Russell couldn't resist quizing one of the brewers about the finer points of beer making over a couple of sample cups of barley and hopps.

A stop at the brewery is well worth the time and effort. A visit to the tasting room costs only $3.50, which covers three beers and a branded tasting glass.

Madison and beyond

Greetings Bloggerville. Sorry for my absence from this space for the last couple of months. Blame it on my increased work load and Facebook, which has made communicating with the virtual world far more convenient and immediate through my iPhone.

Nonetheless, some of you have asked - no, begged - for me to resurrect my blog. So here we go.

First stop - Cheeseland.
Tim and I headed to Chicago last weekend to visit friends and take part in the Northalsted Market Days festival in Boys Town. But before we did that, we headed from Midway airport by bus to Madison, Wis., to visit my best friend from back home - Russell - and his wife, Wendy, and brand new baby, Dylan.

The pic above was typical once we crossed over from the Illinois border. This place epitomizes rural agricultural American life, but more on that later.
Madison, of course, is the state capital. And what center of government would be complete without a neoclassical Capitol . . .
Or a great big university, for that matter. It's a habit of mine to visit football stadiums any time I'm in a big college town. It's especially fun to see a stadium with as storied a history as Camp Randall, located on the downtown campus of the University of Wisconsin.

I've learned over the years that summertime offers the best opportunities to actually get inside college stadiums because gates are often open as maintenance crews ready the facilities for the upcoming football season.

That wasn't the case at Camp Randall. However, the athletic department cleverly built the gift shop into the corner of the stadium with glass doors that open onto a field level patio. I grabbed this shot of the stadium's interior using Pano, a nifty iPhone app that lets you take amazing panoramic shots.

Madison seems like a great college town along the lines of Austin, Texas, Athens, Ga., and Columbus, Ohio. The city even has some interesting modern architecture, like this glass-skinned tower, mixed in with early 20th century stuff in the square surrounding the Capitol.
We spent a good bit of our day and a half in Wisconsin exploring the surrounding countryside, including a lunch stop in New Glarus, a town settled by Swiss Germans that epitomizes all things Wisconsin.

We dined at a downtown restaurant that specializes in authentic German dishes, where we had schnitzel, sauer kraut and fried cheese curds. The food was the best I've had outside the motherland.

We also sampled some great local beers crafted by the New Glarus Brewery. (Watch for an upcoming blog post on our visit to the brewery.)
Back on the road we encountered mile after mile of bucolic scenes like this one.
And with each mile came more cows and corn. Make no mistake, this state is all about cows and corn.