Or, The World's Largest Roadtrip
Having grown up under the watchful eyes of a 28 foot, 8000 pound viking named Big Ole, I've always had a bit of a thing for roadside statues. Back in 1994 I wanted to write a book about them, but found out someone had already done it. Over the years I've visited a few here and there, but I finally decided to go out hunting in earnest a few days ago. My brother came along and I think we got most of them between Alexandria and Fargo.
Other colossi nabbed last week--
World's Largest Coot, Ashby
World's Largest Pelican, Pelican Rapids
World's Largest Loon, Vergas
World's Largest Turkey, Frazee
Chief Wenonga, Battle Lake
World's Largest Prairie Chicken, Rothsay
Big Ole, Alexandria
Runestone Replica, Alexandria
World's Largest Dragonfly, Ottertail
Various objects in Nyberg Park, Vining
The World's Largest Otter, Fergus Falls
More photos on flickr. I'm hoping to head south towards Blue Earth and Mankato soon to get the Jolly Green Giant and the Happy Chef.
Day Four, final day
Sunday, December 17
Sunday morning we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked around for a while. I saw this woman talking on her cell phone in the middle of the street. A bus had to stop and honk at her to get her to move. She yelled at the driver and they both threw up their arms in a universal "what the hell is the matter with you" gesture. We looped around the World Trade Center Site. Supposedly the firemen and survivors of the 9/11 attacks were going to be signing the first beam of the Freedom Tower that morning, but we didn't see anyone. Downtown is deserted on a Sunday morning. Heading north, we crossed through Chinatown and into Little Italy. We did not witness any mob hits while we were in Little Italy, but we had ravioli for lunch at Positano. Yum.
In NoLita we saw a bunch of people waiting in line at the corner of Spring and Elizabeth. There was a graffiti / street art "exhibit" happening in the building because developers are cleaning it up and turning it into condos. We continued north and ended up at the former location of CBGBs. There wasn't much left, just the Joey Ramone Place street sign. We walked through St. Mark's Place, which really wasn't very exciting and snooped around a flea market for a while before taking a cab back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Cabs aren't as scary as David Letterman led me to believe. Although they are sort of like a thrill ride. I could never drive in NYC. It's crazy, and boy do people like to honk.
Our flight was late and then we were delayed further when the tow machine they use to push the plane out to the runway broke. Luckily, I had the airplane safely procedure brochure to keep me entertained. Most of the brochure made sense, ie. Don’t open the emergency door if the outside of the plane is on fire, but what about this one?
Is that Willy Wonka? What the hell?
We didn’t get home until midnight.
So, to sum up...
NYC is not as big and scary as I thought it would be. It also isn't as dirty or smelly as I imagined. At least, it isn't in Manhattan. I thought Manhattan was going to be all designer clothing stores and clubs I couldn't get into because I wasn't fabulous enough but at least a third of the city is souvenir shops. I spotted six identical quilted leather jackets by the end of the trip. I don't know where they all came from, but I guess if you are a black man and live in NYC it’s the jacket you want. I never did find a snow globe. None of them were quite what I was looking for. Maybe I'll order one. Or pick one up next trip. I'm looking forward to going back. I should have made a friend so I'd have somewhere to stay for free. Next time I will move slower.
December 16, 2006
Thanks to the staff at the Hotel Wolcott our radiator was off and our room was cool and quiet. We started the day with an egg bagel sandwich across the street at the Brooklyn Bagel Co. and decided to hit the Empire State Building first since the skies were really clear. This was a brilliant move on our part. We walked right in, only waiting in line for a few minutes. Later in the day we noticed a sign at the entrance indicating there was a two hour plus wait to get in. The top of the Empire State Building was pretty cool, but it would have been spoiled by two hours in line. Despite having declared multiple times during the past few weeks that I planned to spit off the top of the ESB, I didn't actually do it. Sadly, I'm just not that tacky. I considered dropping a penny off, but decided that wouldn't be very nice either. Plus there were signs posted forbidding the tossing of objects off the top, so I couldn't possibly ...
After the ESB, we went to the Guggenheim. It was pretty cool. I probably enjoyed the architecture of the building more than the art. There was music being performed while we were there. A small orchestra was in the lobby and the choir was further up the spiral--men on one side and women on the other. The effect was rather impressive. From the Guggenheim we took a bus towards downtown. Our bus took a round about path to avoid the protesters on Fifth Avenue. We saw a few people with signs but ended up missing the whole thing. We watched it on the news later. Apparently they made shopping rather difficult, prompting one witness to say, "They have a right to their protest, but we have a right to do our shopping."
Our bus dropped us off right in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. There was no taping of the Late Show, but we were able to buy snacks from Rupert at the Hello Deli around the corner. We were pretty surprised he was there. From there we raced through the MOMA (Ooh, Starry Night. Oooh Warhol. Oooh, Mondrian.) over to Grand Central Station, and through St. Patrick's Cathedral. Next we stopped at the New York Public Library so I could unleash my inner nerd. I got to see the reading rooms, the Guttenburg Bible, Patience and Fortitude, and bought a lucky cat figurine (they were hosting a Japanese exhibit) from the gift shop. I think I'm going to name him "Employment."
We looked at the window displays at Saks, Lord and Taylor, and Macy's on the way back to the hotel. Macy's was insane, but there were all these E6 markers all over the street. At first I thought it was a freak of nature--an appartition in a dirty piece of gum. Sort of like the Virgin Mary in that grilled cheese sandwich, but then I saw them all over.
There were several cops at the square across the street from Macy's looking into the trashcans. Kathy asked a woman what they were doing and she said "they found a purse in there." Only with the woman's accent it sounded like she said "they found a person in there." Kathy's face as she exclaimed "a person!" was priceless. We had dinner at a somewhat cheesy restaurant in the basement of the Empire State Building called the Heartland Cafe. While resting our feet at the hotel we both fell asleep.
Friday, December 15th
After a long, sleepless night trying to determine how to turn off the radiator in our hotel room (it was loud & really hot--opening the window only made it pop and hiss more) we hopped on the B train towards Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. At the museum I saw many stuffed fish that I thought would look cool mounted over my bed. We didn't learn anything but we did find where the stereotypical rude New Yorkers were hiding--in line for the planetarium show. Honestly, the show was only running about 5 minutes late. Maybe I was just extra tolerant because I had lost my ticket while wandering through the museum and the staff was nice enough to give me another one so I could get in to the planetarium.
I also found the fabled albino New York City sewer alligator. They are extinct now. Maybe the C.H.U.D.s killed them all?
After the museum we decided to walk across Central Park, see Strawberry Fields, and get some lunch. Unfortunately there was no food anywhere near Central Park, with the exception of vendor hotdogs. We walked up to Le Parker Meridian to get a burger at Burger Joint but the line was too long (even at 2pm) and we were starving. We ended up eating at Topaz Thai around the corner. It was decent. After lunch we walked up to the discount ticket booth to find that the line wrapped around the Marriot several times. We decided to go back to the hotel for a nap and try again later. When we returned we were able to walk right up to the counter, procuring tickets for the 11pm performance of Evil Dead: the Musical at the New World Stages. That's right. Evil Dead. The Musical.
We walked around Time Square for a while and looked at the window decorations. There was a man down the street with a sign warning that the end was near. Saks Fifth Avenue had lighted snowflakes on the outside of the building that were programmed to blink to "Carole of the Bells."
We ended up eating dinner at Maxie's Delicatessen which was Ok. We were looking for cheese cake and found sandwiches that were obscenely large--an entire pound of meat. Which wouldn't have been so bad but they threatened to charge us $3 if we shared it. Should I be penalized for not wanting to eat an entire pound of meat? No. We called their bluff and shared it anyway. We didn't get charged. The burger was OK. The Cheesecake was OK. Nothing special, but pretty good.
Evil Dead: The Musical was awesome. The first few rows ("Splatter Zone") are half price because you get sprayed with fake blood. We sat in the sixth row, which was the row just beyond where the blood hit. The show was hilarious. There were lots of "inside jokes" incorporated into the plot. At one point Cheryl was reading Bruce Campbell's autobiography, and later Annie joked that the movie Spiderman (also by Sam Raimi) sucked. The songs were pretty good too. I think my favorite was the doo-wop song, "All the Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons." [Listen on MySpace]
New York City: Day One
Thursday, December 14
Kathy and I took an early flight out of MSP to JFK. There was hardly anyone on the plane. I guess most people are smart enough not to start their vacation by getting up at 3am. Eager to ride the subway and to avoid a $50 cab fare we jumped in the AirTrain and took the A train to Penn Station. Seven dollars! Piece of cake!
Having experienced the marvel that is New York's MTA, I can now officially start complaining about how much mass transit in the Twin Cities sucks. It only took about two stops for a guy on the train to start rapping. A few stops later an old lady asked me if I wanted to be saved by Jesus (I didn't.) I saw three people wearing identical quilted leather jackets. Taking the subway was pretty cool, not because we spent an hour underground in a dark tunnel, but because we went from the nothingness that was the airport (the surrounding area looked a bit like Lake and Hiawatha), and emerged from underground in the middle of Manhattan. The first thing we saw as we were hauling our suitcases up the stairs to 8th Avenue was the Empire State Building.
We were able to check in to the hotel early and spent the first part of the afternoon walking around. We saw the Flatiron Building and Kathy ate a hotdog from a vendor. Next we stopped in at the Chelsea Hotel. I remembered you well. It was such a nice day that we decided to take a City Line cruise that took us around the southern tip of the island, downtown, past the Statue of Liberty. It was nice until the sun went down about 45 minutes into the 2-hour trip. After the cruise we were hungry and frozen so we popped into a BBQ joint for a sandwich. By this time it was dark so we walked over to Time Square and Rockefeller Plaza. The tree was huge and giant projected snowflakes fell down the side of Rockefeller Center. We took a bus back to the hotel to ready ourselves for the Dick Valentine show. Turns out both Kathy and I independently decided that the choice sexy outfit for a night out in New York was jeans and a black turtleneck. I think this is amusing.
The Elton John tribute show before Dick was running late so we just hung out by the door and waited. I met fellow Electric Six enthusiast Nicky and her fiancé Dave. The show was pretty cool. Joe's pub was nice, but not so hip that Kathy and I were turned away at the door for not being fabulous enough. The only thing I didn't like about Joe's Pub was the woman in the ladies room who wouldn't let me wash my own hands. Restroom valets give me the creeps.
Dick was accompanied on several songs by a woman named Smith. Smith played a Nord Electro 2 and was, according to Dick, the only person in the room who had been to Detroit besides him. And Dave Kaplan.
American Troubadour set list:
She's White (part one)
Snowball (Devo cover)
She's White (part two)
She's White (part three)
Explains that he can't believe he's only getting $9000 (I'm pretty sure he was joking) for playing the show when the guy who wrote the music for Brokeback Mountain made "one billion dollars" for strumming two notes.
"Who hates the French as much as I do?"
I Don't Speak French
"Anyone here in love?" silence. "No?"
I Invented the Night
When I Win the Lottery (Camper Van Beethoven cover)
Explains that the next song is one he cowrote with Eddie Vedder and it is about a father and a son and a curse and the audience tonight is going to lift the curse... etc.
"Who here considers themselves to be hardcore Electric Six fans?" Wild applause. "Who considers themselves to be hardcore Bongwater fans?" One lone, quiet "woo."
Living End (Bongwater cover)
Hysteria (Def Leppard cover)
Vengeance and Fashion / Taxi to Nowhere
Explains that Jack White taught him how to splice his songs together. Acknowledges that he owes "all this" to Jack.
Jack White Song (sung in a rather spot on high pitched Jack White shriek)
States "I'm going to hell."
Night Vision (invites three girls onto stage to sing back up)
Gay Bar (invites everyone onto stage)
Tells everyone to get off the stage and not to touch him. Everyone responds by touching him as they leave the stage.
Forever in Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond cover)
Band in Hell
??? Title Unknown??? I think the lyrics contained the phrase "pressure cooker."
Tiny Little Men
After the show Tyler immediately took off like Satan was after him. But not before I jumped in front of him to say hi. He recognized me, which kind of surprised me, saying "All the way from Minnesota!" I told him I was excited to be in NYC and he said I'd have a good time. I did.
My trip to New York is going to be just like this song...
Song of the Week: "Fairy Tale of New York" by The Pogues
"And I want to reach into the fire of your heart
I want to program all those beats right from the start
Have you ever been to New York City?"
In two weeks Kathy and I leave for NYC. Our first order of business, besides trying to find our way out of the airport and into Manhattan, will be to stalk Dick Valentine at Joe's Pub:
"The American Troubadour plans to perform....in America! On Dec. 14, Dick Valentine will perform at Joe's Pub in NYC for his first American Troubadour show in America ever. You must attend this show. Table service, candles and Heineken. Storytelling. Casual atmosphere."
Should be cool. Other exciting events in our future include: spitting off the Empire State Building, nerding out at the NY Public Library, riding the subway, and gawking at stuff in Rockefeller Center.
Got any other ideas?
Home of this incredibly large statue of Saint Urho:
Other weekend highlights included climbing to the top of the scary fire tower in Itasca State Park...
which you should never drop your kitchen sink off of...
Despite a plethora of exciting things going on in Minneapolis last weekend (Musicapolis, Tapes n Tapes, Art Car Parade, Golden Smog, etc.), I opted to go to Amish Country and do things uncharacteristic of me like learn to play frisbee golf and cards. I spent the weekend with my aun'ts family at a cabin in Whalan, MN, which is near Lanesboro and Harmony. There's a sizable Amish Community there, though a lot of it is kind of a farce. One of the shops in Lanesboro was selling Amish jelly that contained yellow #5 and blue #2--I don't think so. We all got donuts from an Amish women at the park. It had a strange flavor, which we eventually determined was probably bacon. Our best guess is that it was fried in lard. Ick. My cousin almost ran over a rattlesnake with her bike. Did you have any idea there were rattlesnakes in Minnesota?
Anyway, it was a bizzare weekend and I'm thinking that "Amish Country" would be a fun way to describe, figuratively, those times when I do things like turn off my cell phone and forget to turn it back on for three days.
My behavior in general has been odd lately. Last Thursday I went to Canterbury to bet on the horse races. Wednesday I ate a hotdog. Today, I'm wearing a skirt. What the hell?
Good clean fun on the filthy Mississippi River
La Crosse, Wisconsin
I spent the weekend at my cousin's in La Crosse. We went to Riverfest and saw an oldies band called Studebaker 7 and some boring band (Caroline's Spine) who reportedly had a hit I had never heard. Riverfest wasn't that exciting, but La Crosse was fun--I got to go down a waterslide and ride around on a boat--two things I haven't done in years.
La Crosse residents seem to be fond of slogan t-shirts. I saw a ton of them at Riverfest, everthing from "Officer I swear to drunk I'm not God" to "Cunning Linguist."
I didn't make it back until late Monday night. It was kind of fun driving at night, though I almost backed into a ditch in La Crescent because I was distracted by a sea of fireflies. I saw quite a few fireworks between La Crosse and Rochester.
I spent the weekend back in Podunk celebrating the 48th aniversary of Ma K's birth. She is not, in fact, 48 years old, but appreciated my math error. I forget how dark it gets outside of the city. I stopped in Elbow Lake to visit my friend and could barely find the freeway entrance on the way home. It's as if electricity doesn't exist out there. I got Ma the slutty shoes she had her eye on. Dad got her two more log lawn chairs. I asked her why she needed four chairs when there was only two of her and dad and she deadpanned (I don't know if I'm embarrassed or proud): "Well, when you and Dick come to visit you'll need somewhere to sit."
Yesterday I went crazy and decided to take out the canoe. I saw a really ugly giant carp. It's not often I interact with nature. The experience wasn't half bad. I guess nature is OK as long as it's not part of camping.
I managed to get myself a ride to Madison this weekend. Unfortunately there was some bad construction traffic and it took forever to get through Menomonie. We did get there Friday in time to see Low--which was great. The High Noon Saloon was cool. Saturday, David and Kate and I spent most of the day walking around campus / State Street shopping and eating. It was a beautiful day until I decided to spend way too much money on a pair of sunglasses to replace the one's I had left at home. Then the sun went down and it got a little cool. Most of the shops on State Street were pretty bad--a lot of cheap, disposable, (as David would say) "hoochie-mamma" clothes that I would never wear. They did have a gift store that sold lomographic cameras and I probably would have bought one if I hadn't got the soon-to-be unnecessary sunglasses. I did buy this little kaleidoscope-esque card to hold in front of my digital camera.
And I finally found another one of those big plastic hair pins that I like to use in my librarian bun, so in the end I have to give State Street a thumbs up. There are probably too many restaurants in the area though. It took us over an hour to decide where to eat dinner and by then it was late enough that we ended up eating at Potbelly's.
By Sunday it was pooring rain. Traffic wasn't as bad on the return trip. The rain stopped near Tomah and the sun reappeared by Eau Claire so I got to wear my sunglasses again. I really enjoyed being a passenger, though I felt a little guilty that I can't drive a manual transmission and couldn't help behind the wheel. I could make the trip again, but next time I'd probably avoid the restroom at the DQ / BP station in Osseo.
Last week I traveled to the Chicago area to witness the marrying off of my cousin, Matt. I took the train downtown for a day and since it was raining I went to the Museum of Science and Industry. Several people had recommended it, and it was cool, but if I had known I'd have to wait in line for an hour just to buy a ticket to get in I probably would have skipped it. Highlights included Game On, a video game exibit where I played Pong and Pitfall. I was disappointed to not see Frogger there. Also, the Body Worlds exhibit was pretty cool. The bodies looked pretty real, but not real enough to be too gross. The worst was the man holding his skin. Or perhaps it was the head to toe body slice to show fat vs. skinny anatomy. There was also a body of a woman who was 7 months pregnant.
My favorite of course was the Robots Like Us exhibit, featuring tons of toy robots and space toys from the 40s though the 60s.
Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet
The science museum took most of the day, but I did also make it out to Navy Pier for a boat ride and saw the stained glass window museum. The architectural tour I wanted to go on was canceled due to the rain.
Matt and Terea's wedding was fun. There was an open bar and I had enough to drink that I decided I knew how to dance. I'm sure the video evidence will prove otherwise. After the dance I went to a bar with my cousins Karen and John and friends Jeff and Lyle. That's where we took this jem I like to call "two drunks and a half."
I thought Jeff took a better one of us but this is all I found the next day. Well, this and a photo of an ATM?
Or how I spent my summer vacation in Amish country...
Highlights: ogling red sparkle Kustom tuck-and-roll amp at record shop, pyrotechnic tractor at nearby Spillville fireworks, telling friend just before passing out from sleep-aid that her kitchen looked like a postcard I got from Amsterdam.
Lowlight: the movie War of the Worlds (not good)
La Crosse, WI
Highlight: Watching friend nearly piss himself laughing over squirrel "protect your nuts" t-shirt at Kohl's
Lowlight: the cherry malt at Culver's is nowhere near as good as the blackberry
Shocking / interesting facts: I rode a bike nine miles, didn't see any Amish people