Friday, June 27, 2008

Surfin' The Amber Waves Of Grain

I have 22 minutes to explain, that's when the timer goes off and I have a few seconds to collect the oven mitts and take the bread out. Yes, it's 12:30 (central time) a.m. I have to bake, as the menu for tomorrow includes freshly baked bread - grilled cheese, mustard, and pickle sandwiches with gazpacho; there's a farmer's market in Glencoe, right around the corner from our hosts, Liz's cousins Howard and Gay. I anticipate many watering mouths as we prepare a fresh cold tomatoey, chivey, garlicky lunch. Post lunch plans include two (countem) two free concerts.

Glencoe, I must explain, is a well-to-do little burg a bit north of Chicago. Chicago is a very big city, and it's summer. Apparently this means that all the taxpayers' monies go to these huge events that draw no fewer than a galaxy of families and their full strollers. Today's Taste of Chicago, for example, had Liz and I squeezing by masses of people and trying to avoid any flying meat products. It was a long day. My feet feel like bricks of unrisen whole grain bread (14 minutes left). But at least there was beer.

This journey of ours, this Lost In America gig, has been accompanied by another journey, and a longtime dream of mine; a beer tour of the country. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of good beer wherever you might land; let this be a consolation to you all, even you non-drinkers, as a city with good beer is a clue that other good things abound.

It started in Rochester with a Pilsner and Tripel brewed by my best buddy Mark. What a way to start a tour: free beer, and most excellent at that. In Burlington I discovered two brands: the Rock Art Brewery made an excellent, heady double ESB, and another, MacNeill's out of Brattleboro (right near our friends in Newfane) brews this special called Old Ringworm. I bought it for the label, which appeared homemade, and was pleased by its dark and mild yet wholesome flavor. I tried Waterloo Dark in Ottawa but was kinda disappointed; apparently all the good beer happens in Quebec. Next stop, Michigan. Wowee! The sailor recommended the recently founded Right Brain Brewery, an outta-tha-way place behind a salon with plenty of kick-your-legs-out space, board games, dart boards, and a selection of beer that made this beer nut's jaw unhinge a bit. I first had their cask beer; a fine summer wheat that had been combined with - get this - kiwis before casking. It should be served at every Little League game for a good time. OK, so there's that, and there's a beer called Little Italy, an ale brewed with some honey and SWEET BASIL. The bartender said some guys dipped their pizza crusts into it. It tasted like the Tuscan hills. I wouldn't drink it ever again, but don't take that the wrong way. This brewery has it right, and I wish I could bring it with me. On our way out of Indiana was Three Floyd's; I had the Behemoth and then bought a bomber of the Blackheart; both had that special touch, that feeling in the mouth that covers all the taste buds and goes right into your nostrils; it's a sensation that sets the fine beers apart from the superb.

Here in Chicago, Liz and I went to Wrigleyville (they have funny names for places around here) for a flight at Goose Island brewpub, and as inventive and flavorful as their beers were, the glasses had that neglected sponge smell that just permeates everything and kinda ruined the experience. I also sampled their cask ale, a blonde, that tasted too much like vinegar to be good... probably an experiment gone awry.

Anyhow, I just took the bread out of the oven, and it's now 1:00, and the bread smells like a good bedtime. I hope you are all sleeping as soundly as Liz is right now.

Lost In America

Photos from Michigan!

Our friend, the legendary sailor Brendan. He is alive, and does not have a two year old child in Key West. He's only been out of school for a year!
This is how we roll. Notice the Wheatena. This is the greatest breakfast cereal known to our four dimensions. It is not very good with dried coconut chunks, pineapple, and dried banana.

From the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes, right over Lake Michigan. Take that, Big Rig!
This is Liz's posse from Mexico. They're pretty fancy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lost In America: Back In The U.S.S.A.

Hi everybody! It's the Lost In America Show!

[cue intro music - a choir of kazoos zooting "Southern Man" by Neil Young.]

It's been ten days since the first episode of Lost In America, and boy do we have some catching up to do.

[fade intro music, lights. Cue single spot on host Lost In America.]

Our time in Newfane ended as Liz and I departed north into the staggeringly green heart of Vermont and coasted into Burlington. We don't actually know anybody there, but we had arranged to sleep on this person's couch through the inimitable Her name was Tori and she was an all around chill person with a lovable (if trash-rooting) dog named Cassidy. Her Burlington is a great town, with a pedestrian strip, good brews (try Rock Art), a lovely farmer's market, and the opportunity to take inadvertent 20-mile bike rides, which I did.

OK, so Burlington was great. Liz and I had decided to take Lost In America international, and booked it up to Ottawa to stay with another couch.. err.. host. This is where it gets interesting (i.e. PG-13). OK. So Devan is a cool guy. Yeah, he works at Starbucks, but they're "great to work for," because of all the benefits (that don't include free wi-fi, wtf?). We get to his house a while after meeting him at his job because he had to clean up the "horrendous mess" left by his housemates. So it smelled kinda funny, and the cat had decided that clean was not interesting enough and left a strange orange mass on the carpet in the living room. We ended up taking an unoccupied room in the house (a "college" house, need I say). At first it was a bit awkward getting to chat with Devan and his housemate, Drew, but after a grocery trip it was getting better. Long story short, Andrew was starting an online business selling sex toys, of which he had two GIGANTIC BOXES in his room. WOW. It actually gets better, but I can't put it in an e-mail (no, it's not what you think!). Ottawa is a very bikable town with some very interesting architecture; the Museum of Civilization (phase II?) has lots of curves and fountains, and I suppose is mimicking the surrounding landscape, a river and some hills. There's also the Parliament building, very ornate, even at a distance. We didn't take any pictures, so I have to use my words. Actually, I think there is like one picture of Canada from the Mackinaw bridge as we were coming back into the States. Canada is camera shy.

From Ottawa we drove a day and camped by some waterfalls. We didn't know that there was a Convention Of French-First Mosquitos And Blackflies going on right at our campsite. We were out of bug repellant. Go figure. Remember that e-mail I sent from Mexico about the mosquitos in the cloud forest? It was like that. Apparently, annoying insects are tourrorists, too.

"Canada" (Algonquin for both "Expensive" and "Rain"), has succeeded in making me not really care whether I return or not. It's not that there aren't pretty parts and good people, but I think that the good ol' US of A will do me just fine. And that's the extent of my nationalism.

So now we're in Traverse City, Michigan. Last night we hung out (yet again) on a boat with our good friend Brendan who is still alive, contrary to popular belief. I have a picture of his dreadlocks as proof. He now wears suspenders with skull and crossbones on them, and the ship, the tall ship Manitou, doubles as a B&B (bunk & breakfast). Today I think we'll be going to some immense sand dunes, then camping somewhere close by before heading south-er to Grand Rapids for more adventures.



Lost In America, now with more Web enhancement

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pic Trips 1#

The view from the Steepest Hill In The World. After that curve it just drops!

The view from the house on Cayuga Lake in Ithaca. Nice flower garden!

Traipsing up a gorge in Ithaca. I wouldn't call it gorgeous.....

Eerie picture of Uncle Dave, Victoria, and I, sunset in Prospect Park, Providence.

The zipline right outside our cabin door in Newfane, VT!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lost In America: This Ain't No Digest

Greetings! Or as they say in Massachusetts, "Wicked Hi!"

6-10-08Hello friends and family (of which you should consider yourself both)! I write to you from the shady porch of a house in Newfane, Vermont, where the current temperature appears to be "wilt." Liz and I are entering the second week of our westward tour which, thus far, has involved going north and east; only one of those directions fits the prescription of our trip, but we're wily that way.

We started driving north on 270 last Monday, Liz snoozing off the morning's rush and I thinking about Leaving Maryland For A While. As the hills got hillier, the knot of morning traffic unravelled, and the Appalachians of Pennsylvania drew themselves up under the wheels of my truck, I readjusted my butt on the seat and stuck my arm like Superman out the window.

Pennsylvania was a rocky blur. Our first stop was Rochester to visit Mark "Airzooka" McAllister and his homebrew emporium. Mark brews a damn good beer. I hope he turns out to be as good a doctor as he is a brewer. The Airzooka, if you're wondering, is a device that shoots out a concentrated ball of ... you guessed it ... air. Being hit by one of these has been described as "being punched by a ghost." They work great on squirrels.

After a couple nights in Rochester, we zipped over to a rustic house on Hatch Lake, near Hamilton, NY. Liz and I took a lovely bike ride (yes, we brought our bikes along) into town and found The Steepest Hill In The World on the way. That night we saw the latest (and probably the last) installment of the Indiana Jones movies. I had forgotten about the silly religious/supernatural/face-melting events, and seeing these effects, including Harrison Ford's jowls, with more dots-per-inch than ever just made them sillier. During the dark bits, Liz clung to my arm the way the girlfriend clings to the boyfriend's arm during the dark bits in a movie theater. It was classic, if not reflexive.

From Hatch Lake we went southwest to Ithaca to stay the night with a friend of Liz's from her study abroad program. Kaile lives in the house she grew up in, right on Cayuga Lake. The house has many sets of stairs inside and out, and lots of things hanging from the ceiling and walls, and lots of flowers everywhere, and at least 174 bedrooms. We went, with Kaile's 13-year-old dachsund Chili, to a gorge. It was quite dashing. The next morning we left for Providence and hung out with my uncle Dave ("Dadui") and his wife Victoria; my aunt, as it were. And now we're hanging out in cabins on hills in Vermont with our friends Jesse and Caitlin! Wow!

If you were to trace our trip to this point, the line would look like we're trying to draw a hammer. We aren't really, and you'll have to forgive us because we are Lost in America. Our goal is to visit as many people as possible, and not to drive for at least a day for every day of driving. We're going to Burlington on Friday or Saturday, and heading (finally) west through Canada on Monday. I'm not going to reveal the rest of the trip because that would make this series of e-mails "We Know Where We're Going America," and that's just a mouthful of bunk.

Oh! I have to tell you about this dream I had: I was supposed to be playing a guitar solo with the Blake High School Jazz Band, but Frank Zappa was playing a concert at the same time, so I guiltily skipped out on the solo and tried to see the show. I wound up late for the show, only catching the last number, a highly-harmonized choral version of "The Duke of Prunes," that rocked. After the show I found Frank at a party and shook his hand. He gave a very weak handshake. Too bad.

So I'm living the dream, dreaming the life, and theing dream life. I hope THAT YOU are too! I will probably put these things up on a blog soon where I can put up pictures, because I've taken some pictures that you should probably see that will stimulate your ocules more than these paragraphs. If you don't want these e-mails, you should tell me and I'll try to take you off the list.

Much love, sweaty hugs, and good vibraphones,

Aaron... er, Lost In America