Monday, January 3, 2011

Update: On The Road

Dog Cat is my Co-Pilot

Taking a little time off to decompress and re-coil in expectation of outreach efforts at re-establishing a new lodge in this neck of the woods. What follows are a few random observations and recollections from the road en route to Maine. 

More After The Jump...

Which of these large, hairy animals is out of place?

A long but otherwise uneventful flight to Chicago accompanied by the two cats (one stowed below and the old fella carried on - my passive/aggressive revenge on having to endure years of squalling infants) culminated with getting stuffed into the Toyota cab along with Diane and the Bird-Dog and heading off to the family farm in Iowa for the holidays. Ham anyone?

Besides getting formally inducted into the traditional family picture around the tree (with several other brothers and a couple sisters and their immediate kinfolk) I amused both myself and the herd of kids by sitting off in the living room, eating some ham, and drawing whatever animals they wanted for a couple hours. Last but not least of which was a sketch from the mom's birdfeeder, which provided endless entertainment with riotously colored flocks of bird species I hadn't seen after many an Interior Alaskan winter. Then, more ham.

"January" (after Grant Wood's litho "December" 1941)

While in Iowa, we checked out the 2010 Biennial Juried Exhibition at the Dubuque Museum of Art, which boated about fifty works by local talents. Also on display were some originals by the patron saint of Regionalism, Grant Wood: the sketch posted above was inspired by one lithograph in particular. I'm always inspired by taking advantage of any opportunity to absorb the artwork, and ham, of anywhere I go, and this museum and the shows was an oasis amidst the empty fields and windswept drifts. Also got a chance to do some sketching and take lots of reference pictures at various places like the Hurstville Interpretive Center in Maquoketa, which had an incredible assortment of species of raptors that I plan to use in an upcoming project.

I like mustard on my culture

Normally I would have taken time out on any road trip to swing by the Albright-Knox art museum in Buffalo, but the current featured exhibit was of photographs of the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL, which pissed me off about as much as hearing about the NFL on NPR. Call me elitist but conceding any ground (or ice) to sports is aesthetically offensive: exhibiting the Stanley Cup in an art gallery has to be one of the the dumbest idea I've ever heard, even if it's a pathetic attempt to lure masses to the museum. You know, like showing cartoons or something...
So given the choice between two cultural institutions in the limited time allowed, we opted instead to visit Heid's of Liverpool. Open since 1917, this hotdog joint has become a cherished CNY icon, and I have many memories as a child peeking over the counter at the grill, entranced at the seeming unending miles of coneys and German franks. I indulged in a customary carton of Byrne Dairy chocolate milk, albeit without the old-fashioned paper straw. In the nineties, new owners tried to use their own dogs instead of the traditional Hofmann varieties, but there was a customer insurrection, and a couple rival restaurants started up ("Hofmann Hot Haus") until Heid's capitulated and restored its, uh, links with the original vendor. Unfortunately, their in-house spicy brown mustard doesn't cut it either, compared to Gulden's...
The wallowing in gustatory nostalgia was completed with a lunch consisting of another WNY flagship sammich: Beef on Weck. Between all this and the Mallo Cups and Genny Cream Ale, there's one New Year's resolution that'll be fairly obvious.
A special side-trip was devoted to revisiting the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY, and we were rewarded with an amazing show of serigraphs by modernist illustrator Charley Harper and his unique stylistic interpretation of birds.

Then it was on to the final phase of the odyssey, and an end to hours of driving, hotels and cramped quarters with grouchy critters. More to come on the Down East leg of the adventure...

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