Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Coffee shop observer

Sometimes when I'm sitting at a coffee shop (and I do that a lot), I decide to practice my rendering skills by discreetly drawing some of the people around me in my journal, often jotting down snippets of their conversation in the process. Since they aren't always staying still, it pushes me to be quick and concise (though I usually choose someone who isn't too animated). And eavesdropping at the same time just makes it all the more interesting to me.

Just yesterday I was doing this at Nokomis Beach, my local coffee shop, while three people were talking at a table across the room from me. The woman I was drawing was saying something like, "She doesn't like to work. She comes to work and just monkeys around." Since this could easily apply to my work ethic, when I noticed that they all fell silent I thought for a moment they were looking in my direction. I also thought they had noticed that I was drawing one of them and wondered if they would be amused, offended, or what.

But then I realized that they were not looking at me, their collective gaze was directed at the next table, where a small girl is carefully drinking a thick strawberry smoothie from a rather large cup -- and it looks as though she could spill the whole contents down her front in one big "glop!" at any moment. But she doesn't, and soon the conversation resumes.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hallowe'en thoughts

Isn't this childlike Frankenstein a jolly fellow? And I do love the way the crabapple tree so obligingly decked itself out for the season. I came across this display a few days ago while out riding my bike and just had to go back and take a picture.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kudos for us!

Wow! My little zine, MOQ (Minneapolis Observer Quarterly) has been nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award for best new publication. There are eight other nominees--I looked at the other contenders, and I'd say MOQ is pretty small potatoes in that company, but that just makes it an even greater honor to be nominated. I also noticed that of the eight, three (including MOQ) are publications of place--Conveyer, in Jersey City, and New England Watershed, which offers "a New England perspective on the American Experience." So maybe we're part of an emerging trend of publications emphasizing a sense of place.

More info about MOQ is on The Observer Web site--just click on the MOQ cover on the left (on the Observer site, that is) to be taken to a page with more information (including how to subscribe, should you be interested).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Parkway bicyclists

We have bike paths alongside our parkways in Minneapolis, but they have a speed limit of 10 mph, and serious cyclists like these tend to go much faster, so they bike right in the parkway. I was actually following these guys in my car when I took the picture. They were averaging about 20 mph, and at times going about 25 mph. I thought their colorful jackets and the way they biked in this perfect straight line was very photogenic. Then they suddenly bunched up, all out of formation, and I wondered why they did that, but once they alined themselves again I figured it out--they had changed leads, like geese flying south. Must be training for a race or something!

A Bridge Over the Mississippi

Last weekend's cold brisk wind took away most of the leaves just as they were reaching peak color, but the upside of that is the clear views you can get of the Mississippi River from various vantage points along the river road. This is the Lake Street bridge, if you live in Minneapolis, or the Marshall Street bridge, if you live in St. Paul.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Me Doll

My very arty friend Kathy Coulter made this paper doll using a photo of me for the head. I actually hate that photo and have threatened to burn any more copies she may have of it, but she insists that this is the last one.

I love the doll, though, so I guess I'll have to forgive her for putting my picture on it. Maybe I need to have a new picture taken!

I also thought it was time to add a photo to my profile, and apparently the only way to do that is to upload it here first.

11/13/2007 I'm adding another image that I created from a rock that looked like it was smiling. I named this character "Art Crone." She's going to be my new profile image.

Wild rose hips

Most photos of roses are taken when they're in bloom, but some of them are just as lovely long after the blossoms have faded. Take this wild rose growing by the river road in St. Paul, for example. The bright red fruit is called a hip, and it's said to be quite edible (usually made into a tea) and loaded with vitamn C, but who would want to throw this beauty into a pot of boiling water?

A good rose catalog will let you know whether a given rose has showy hips (sounds like a burlesque dancer, doesn't it?), and if you live in the north, it's no small matter to get another season of display from them.

Another moss-covered monument.

More cemetery photos

This is also from St. Mary's on Chicago Ave. in Minneapolis. I was especially drawn to the moss on the stone.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mind in the macabre

Perhaps it's the approach of Halloween, or perhaps it's because I was taking photos in a cemetery recently, but my mind misinterpreted a couple of things today in curiously macabre ways.

I was sitting at my neighborhood coffee shop overhearing snippets of a conversation between three middle-aged women when I thought I heard one of them say, "They invited us to suffer." Now we do get religious types at this coffee shop, so I think for a fleeting moment I must have connected her words with some Christian ritual, but then I realized she said, "They invited us to supper." (!)

The second instance was in glancing at a young woman in a grey sweatshirt. She looked young enough at first to be a high school student, but I think she was more likely in her twenties. Maybe that recent tragic incident in the Amish community was in the back of my mind (in which a man entered the school and shot some children and then himself), or any number of incidents like it, but I thought her shirt had on its chest, in bold black letters, the word "SHOOT." It was really "SHOOK." I have no idea what that means, must be a young person thing.

You may perhaps wonder why I was taking photos in a cemetery. I am one of those people who finds cemeteries, especially old ones, very attractive. The monuments, the history, the sense of repose, the beauty of the landscaping, the patterns in the placement of the markers, and perhaps even the sense of being among the ancestors, even when they're not my own, all attract me. So when I learned of an ATC swap (artist trading cards) with a cemetery theme, I jumped at the chance to participate. The photo above is one that I took for that swap.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Catch and Release Leaves

While sitting at my neighborhood coffee shop one recent fine fall day, I felt my usual impulse to look through the leaves that had collected on the sidewalk to see if there were any I wanted to take home. Then I remembered the leaves still waiting between the pages of the phone book I had pressed them in last fall and a few falls before that. So instead of picking up more leaves to add to that neglected collection, I selected a few of the larger ones, wrote a short poem on them, and put them back down. The thought that somebody might find them and read them was a pleasant one, and the chance that they might simply get lost amid the myriad unscribed leaves didn't bother me. I used a felt-tip marker so as not to tear the fragile leaves and copied a couple of the haiku from Cranes Arise, by Gerald Vizenor--from the "autumn" section, of course. Each haiku has a heading of a place name, which I assume indicates where he wrote it, or at least where the inspiration occured. This one is from St. Paul, Minnesota:

city squirrels
tease the calico house cat
at the window

I think a person could also draw a picture on a leaf, or write a short quote, a prayer or a wish, or simply some words to provoke thought. To me, it's a satisfying way to respond to the urge to pick up pretty leaves without actually taking them home. And if I am reluctant to completely let them go, I can always take a picture.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Twin Cities Book Festival

I went to the Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday to promote my quarterly zine, MOQ (Minneapolis Observer Quarterly), and take in the literary ambience. It's a showcase of dozens of local publishers and authors and book-related artists, as well, including the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. I shared table space with another small-time publisher, La Mano, and a nice young fellow named Ed who is an intern with them. La Mano publishes graphic books, that is, stories told mostly with illustrations, comic-book style. They're newest book, Wait, You're Not a Centaur! by Nathaniel Drake Denver is a collection of 50 50-word stories and illustrations. I enjoyed looking through it and reading some of the stories (sometimes, more like story fragments, leaving you with something to ponder). You can read a couple of sample pages and order it from their Web site, which is linked above.

Besides my own publication, I also had some brochures and bumper stickers about the Twin Cities Daily Planet, which is a great new nonprofit Web-based news outlet to which nearly all of our local community newspapers contribute content. It's a wonderful form of cooperative community journalism online and I was glad to help get the word out about them (and not only because my husband works for them!)

Last year, my husband and I both went to the book festival and so I was able to get out from behind our table a lot and mill about and persuade several folks to give me free review copies of books, but this year he was busy and couldn't come and so I only scored one review copy, and that's really one for him to review (it's political). I did buy a copy of Dislocate, an annual literary journal published by graduate students from the University of Minnesota's English department; and a slim volume of haiku by Gerald Vizenor, published by Nodin Press (I didn't even know that Vizenor wrote haiku, they're quite lovely); and the latest issue of Conduit, a semiannual journal of poetry and interviews. Actually, I renewed my subscription and picked up the current issue in the process. So I guess I have plenty of reading material!

Late in the day, some little kids came through grabbing everything in site and stuffing it into their bags. To be fair, they did ask, "Is this free?" before snatching things. Several tables had bowls of candy and it was apparent that the kids had plenty of that! One little girl asked if my business cards were free, and when I said I didn't want her to take one because I was almost out, she took one anyway. I and the others around me were getting a little chagrined at these unruly, grabby kids, when the dad finally came along. He said nothing to discourage the kids' greediness, but when he saw the Daily Planet brochures, he said, "The Daily Planet, where all the paid bloggers hang out." It's true that a couple of the regular contributors to the Daily Planet recently got grants to maintain a blog, but his comment seemed quite unfair and condescending to me. I know that dozens of people contribute to the page for nothing, and those who got the blogging grants are having to work a lot to fulfill their commitments.

Right after he made that comment, the little girl reached for a Daily Planet bumper sticker, briefly asking, "Is this free?" Of course I said yes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Shameless mushrooms

A few springs ago I had noticed what appeared to be a morel mushroom in my city yard, next to the decaying stump of an old elm tree. After checking with some folks at the Minnesota Mycological Society, I was certain that it was, indeed, a morel. They even like to grow near dead elm trees, I learned.

So when I saw what sure looked like several morel mushrooms this fall, popping up in the boulevard of my new neighborhood (we just moved to a different part of Minneapolis), in an area that could certainly have held the remains of the ground-up stump of an old elm tree, I was astounded to see so many of these popular delicacies right out there in the open, and in the fall, no less. The caps were mostly covered in a thin coat of mud, but since we had had a fair amount of rain recently, this didn't strike me as anything unusual. I did wonder, though, do morels grow in the fall?

I sure didn't think so, but I had studied pictures of the poisonous false morel, and I knew these weren't that, so what else could they be? I tried a Google search on "fall morels" and "September morels" but didn't get anything helpful. So, one Sunday morning, thinking some morels with our scrambled eggs would surely be a treat, I went ahead and picked a few.

That's when I noticed that they had a rather unpleasant odor. And when I got them home and was washing the slimy mud off in the kitchen sink, I began to think, even if these stinky mushrooms are morels, I don't think I want to eat them. So I threw them in the compost instead.

Later, I tried another search, this time using the term "autumn morels" instead of "fall," and don't you know the first sites that popped up were about how novice mushroom hunters often inquire about "autumn morels" but what they're really seeing are stinkhorns. Morels only appear in the spring.

I forgot to mention that the other thing that kind of bothered me about these mushrooms was their decided resemblance to, well, er, a certain part of the male anatomy. I didn't recall ever making that association with mushrooms before, and certainly not with morels.

So it didn't come as any surprise that this particular class of mushrooms are described in a mushroom guide (I got one from the library after all this) as "phallus-shaped"; and, indeed, the Latin name of this genus of fungi is Phallus. Even better, the particular stinky mushroom that I had picked was Phallus impudicus or "shameless stinkhorn." Indeed!

An even more obviously phallic relative of this fungus would be the dog stinkhorn, or Mutinus caninus, which you can see here.

The photo of a Phallus impudicus, and more information about these, shall we say, curiousities of the mushroom family, comes from MushroomExpert.com.