Returning the Car After Seeing the Art

TURNED IN THE HONDA.  RENTED A FORD.
We timed our move to coincide as closely as possible with the expiration of our 4-year auto lease.  So this morning, another major item came off our ever-dwindling checklist.  We returned our Honda Element to the dealership here in Sioux Falls (we originally leased it while living in Las Vegas).  When I checked the odometer, I saw that we had driven 3,281 miles (5,280 km) since leaving California June 2.

We’re back here in Sioux Falls for a few days before we fly to Los Angeles to pick up our visas; we then head across the country to New York to see my mother, brother, and other family and friends; and then we head off to Spain.  We can’t believe the big move is now less than two weeks away.  We’re anxious to get going, but it’s a joy to spend a little more time here in Sioux Falls with our other amazing nephew, niece-in-law, and their three exceptional children (and I speak of them all entirely without bias of any kind).

MURALS ON THE TOWN

On our way from Pierre to Sioux Falls yesterday, we made a little stop in Huron to meet “Lavon,” an old friend of ours (via Jerry’s mother).  We hadn’t seen Lavon in a long time and had a really wonderful lunch.  She’s 89 and still bowls (which is how she met Jerry’s mother in the 1970s) and golfs.  But she doesn’t just bowl and golf; she bowls and golfs well.  She’s got awards and trophies covering the shelves and walls of her apartment.  Buffets are standard fare in South Dakota.  So, we met Lavon at her favorite buffet restaurant in Huron; and it was good.  I ate healthy: an omelette and fresh fruit… I enjoyed it.  Jerry and Lavon had hearty food and gooey pastries… they enjoyed theirs even more.

THE COWBOY SITTING BY THE DOOR IS ACTUALLY PART OF THE MURAL.

THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
I had never been in Huron before.  It’s basically east of the middle of nowhere — two hours east of Pierre, which is in the center of South Dakota.  And, man, am I ever going to “get it” from Linda for equating Pierre with the middle of nowhere.  But, while I’m at it, I might as well mention two of my favorite Pierre T-shirts (especially since Linda bought me the first one way back in 1984; and I still have it; and it STILL fits).  1) Pierre, South Dakota, is not the end of the world.  But you can see it from there”; 2) “Welcome to Pierre, South Dakota.  Set your watches back 10 years.”  You would truly appreciate T-shirt #1 had you spent Christmas 1983 with us in Sioux Falls (where we were stranded for three days) and Pierre.  The windchill was minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63 degrees Celsius)!

BUT BACK TO HURON IN SUMMER
The city of Huron (population approximately 13,000) was surprisingly charming with a wonderful public arts project — outdoor murals gracing the sides of downtown buildings.  The murals are intended to “depict unique aspects of Huron’s history.”  After spending a life-enriching three hours with Lavon, we were anxious to get back on the road to Sioux Falls.  But, we made a quick circuit of the town so I could snap away at some of the inspired and inspiring public art.

THE PAINTER ON THE LADDER IS LAVON’S FAVORITE.

Dobie and Thelma: Contented Cats

The most difficult decision we had to make in preparation for our move to Spain was whether or not to take our two cats, Dobie and Thelma, with us.  Thelma turned 4 in April. Dobie, the old boy, turned 15 in May.  We tortured over the decision to leave them behind, and changed our minds several times before finally agreeing it would be the most practical — although heartbreaking — thing to do.

MAYNARD AND DOBIE.  YOU COULD NEVER TELL WHERE ONE STARTED AND THE OTHER LEFT OFF.

We adopted Dobie as a kitten along with his brother and litter-mate, Maynard.  Dobie and Maynard were named for best friends Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs from the 1959-1963 TV show “The Lives and Loves of Dobie Gillis.”  Like the original Dobie and Maynard, ours were inseparable.  Dobie was outgoing and social, while Maynard was shy and skittish.  When he was 12, Maynard became gravely ill and we had to have him euthanized.  We thought we’d wait a few weeks and then start looking for another cat to keep Dobie company. I left on a week-long business trip a day later and Dobie was at home with his pal Jerry (I used to sing “Me and My Shadow” when I’d see Jerry enter or exit a room with Dobie always right behind).  Dobie stopped eating and drinking and spent the next three days at the top of the stairs watching, we assume, for Maynard and me to come home.  He began to fail and Jerry, after begging Dobie not to die, had to rush him to the vet.  Thankfully, he recovered after a few days of treatment, but we realized we couldn’t waste any more time finding a friend for Dobie.

We had decided that, since Dobie was already an old cat, we should get another mature male, around 6 years old, we thought —social, gentle, slightly passive — as a companion.  The shelters were taking cats to the pet supply stores for adoption.  So we made the rounds looking for just the right cat.  At our third stop, while searching for that adult male, calm, friendly cat, we spotted Thelma.  She was 8 months old and sound asleep amid the chaos of a cage filled with smaller, younger, and insanely active kittens.  I took her out, laid her on my lap, where she immediately went back to sleep.  And, for some unknown reason, that was that.  She was exactly NOT what we were looking for, but I was positive she was “the one,” so she was precisely what we were going to have.

DOBIE TAKES SOME TIME OUT FROM HIS HECTIC SCHEDULE.

On the drive home, Jerry commented that he hoped she wasn’t TOO passive.  I had my concerns as well.  I took her into my home office where she was to stay for the week before we introduced her to Dobie.  She immediately high-tailed it to hide on some boxes under one of the desks.  I sat on the floor on the other side of the room.  After 45 minutes or so, she climbed down from the boxes, walked across my lap, and then began to run around the room making noises like one of the tribbles from “Star Trek” or maybe even more like Cousin Itt from “The Addams Family.”  She would jump in my lap and cuddle, run around the room again, then slap herself next to me and roll over on her back to have her tummy rubbed.  I walked into the living room and said, “Jerry, you need to come in and see this  The cat in my office is not the same cat we brought home.”

THELMA AND DOBIE.  RIGHT AFTER THEY MET.  SHE MADE HIM 5 YEARS YOUNGER.

To make a ridiculously long story, well… just slightly less long, Dobie and Thelma didn’t last four days being separated by a door.  He would reach under from one side, she from the other.  We finally let them at each other.  She was in love immediately.  He hissed once the first time she ran right at him. A half hour later they were sound asleep together on the sofa.

ONE OF THELMA’S [FORMER] FAVORITE SPOTS.
IN THE BACKGROUND: AN ALABASTER NUDE CARVED BY MY VERY GIFTED MOTHER.

The biggest adjustment for Dobie was having to give up his privacy when using the litter box.  Dobie and Maynard shared a large covered litter box.  They had an understanding.  If one was using the litter box (with his head sticking out the front), the other left the room.  Thelma has no concept of privacy.  So, when Dobie was using the litter box — with his head sticking out the front— Thelma would sit outside and lick his face.  He was not happy at first but, like everything else Thelma-related, Dobie learned to adapt.

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE SAID THEY COULD FIT IN OUR SUITCASE?

Finding new homes for Dobie and Thelma turned out to be much more difficult than we had anticipated.  We had wanted them to stay together.  But no one was interested in taking in a 15-year-old cat with arthritis, four teeth, and a tendency to inhale his food and then throw it back up.  Other than that, Dobie is in great shape for 15.  But, we finally decided to look for separate homes for them.  We found a cat retirement facility in Newport Beach for Dobie.  That would have required us to make a one-time-only upfront payment of $5,000.  We found another facility in Laguna Beach that cost $6,500!  We came close to paying another place, this one in Rancho Santa Fe, $2,000.  But, even that seemed absurd.  At the last minute, our wonderful veterinarian asked if we would be willing to let her office adopt Dobie as “the hospital cat.”  We were elated and Dobie settled in very happily there.

LOVE.

Thelma was not quite so happy.  Thelma loves everyone and everything.  She has no fear — except of plastic grocery bags.  One of the assistant’s in the vet’s office adopted Thelma and took her home a couple of days before we brought Dobie in.  Sadly, Thelma’s new home did not work out.  There were two dogs and a cat already there.  One of the dogs did not want Thelma in the house.  The cat was afraid of her.  The head of the household did not want Thelma on her new living room furniture.  So, Thelma lived in the bathroom and slept in the sink.  She was at least affectionate with the assistant from the vet’s office, but that was the extent of her happiness.  Jerry and I were devastated and didn’t know what to do as we were already living at the hotel in Irvine and were ready to hit the road. 

JERRY AND THE KIDS ON THEIR LAST DAY TOGETHER.  (JERRY GOT THERE FIRST.)
I COULDN’T EVEN LOOK AT THIS PICTURE UNTIL WE HAD THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THELMA.

OK, so I didn’t shorten the long story!  But, the reason for this post is to share the great news that the wonderful people at the animal hospital emailed us yesterday and said that Thelma has come to live with them as well.  So, Thelma and Dobie are joyfully together again.  They’re sharing a large space with an open door and we’re told they spend a lot of time together on one of the treatment tables, which requires the staff to find other places to do their work.  But no one is complaining.  The way it was described:  “Thelma pretty much walked in and owned the place.” The doctors and staff at the animal hospital were always wonderful to us and to Dobie and Thelma.  But what they have done goes above and beyond all expectations.  We will be forever grateful.

THELMA AND DOBIE.  TOGETHER AGAIN. 
THE ANIMAL HOSPITAL:  MINUS ONE TREATMENT ROOM. PLUS TWO CATS

Soggy and Scenic South Dakota

THE SOGGY

NOT MUCH CURB APPEAL.

It’s been raining.  More than two inches (5.1 cm) in the past 24 hours and more to come over the next 24.  That and the increase in the amount of water being released from the dam has not helped the flooding situation in Pierre and Fort Pierre. 

“I’LL BUILD A STAIRWAY TO PARADISE.”  THE ONLY WAY INTO THE HOUSE.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove over to Linda and Tom’s friends’ house on the Missouri River in Fort Pierre.  Linda and Tom spent days helping their friends move everything upstairs from the basement and the first floor.  They also helped build an impressive sandbag wall around the house and the neighbor’s house.  The wall stands about 6 feet tall (more than 1.8 meters).  Beyond that is a dirt berm (levee) built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

THE VIEW.

The house is beautifully situated (one would think) on the river with a perfect view of the capitol building across the way in Pierre.  There used to be plenty of distance and rolling lawn leading to the river.  Right now, if it weren’t for the berm and sandbags, the house would be IN the river.

THE SIGHTSEERS ON THEIR WAY TO SPAIN.
WE ARRIVED AFTER ALL THE WORK WAS COMPLETED.

Sump pumps are running in the basement, which keeps the water level there comfortably below a couple of inches.  Carpet has been pulled out of the basement and off the stairs.  Wallboard has been cut out in the basement to avoid the “creep” of water being absorbed up the wall.  So, now all they do is watch, and wait, and make sure the sump pumps are working.

THE SCENIC

ABOUT 40 MINUTES FROM PIERRE.  A 19TH-CENTURY SCHOOLHOUSE.

On our way back to Pierre from Minneapolis Saturday, we drove through a very scenic part of central South Dakota (instead of taking the long and boring interstate route we took in the other direction).

ONE OF MANY ABANDONED FARMS.

Traveling was a little slow-going as we went from small town to small town (one posted as having a population of 53), but it cut out many miles and more than an hour of driving time.  Added to that, the drive was much more picturesque.

ANOTHER ABANDONED FARM
THE SMUDGES IN THE IMAGE ARE BUG GUTS ON THE WINDSHIELD.

From St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls

I THOUGHT IT WAS LITTER BUT IT WAS THE SEEDS OF THE COTTONWOOD TREES
BEING CARRIED BY COTTONWOOD FLUFF FOR MILES AROUND THE TWIN CITIES.

We’ve been back in Pierre, South Dakota, since Saturday evening.  So, this is a late post of our last day in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, which was spent (before seeing Erin Scwab perform Friday night) having a great lunch at a German restaurant in St. Paul and then being taken by our friend Byron on a personal tour of that city that ended at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.

DOWNTOWN ST. PAUL WITH ITS OVERHEAD WALKWAYS.  LIFESAVERS IN WINTER.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are beautiful, cultural cities that are a pleasure in spring and summer — except for the fact that Minnesota’s [unofficial] state bird is the mosquito.  The cities are nearly impossible to endure in winter.  To help people cope with the frigid, blowy, icy, snowy cities, tubes have been built over the streets connecting one building to the next.  You can walk all over the Twin Cities’ downtowns without ever going outside.

MINNESOTA STATE CAPITOL UNDERGOING REPAIRS.

St. Paul is the capitol of Minnesota, and Byron took me to see their grand capitol building.  Unfortunately, the building was overrun with red-shirted high-school junior and senior girls from Girls State — a summer leadership program sponsored by the American Legion.  They were everywhere and they seemed to be oblivious of the fact that they were not the only ones in the building.  They are there to learn about government by electing a mock government (including legislators, a governor, a lieutenant governor, etc.).  I can’t imagine it works any more ineffectively than the seemingly mock “real” government.

 THE QUADRIGA CALLED “PROGRESS OF THE STATE.”  MADE OF COPPER AND GILDED
IN 24-CARAT GOLD.  CURRENTLY SURROUNDED BY SCAFFOLDING.

We arrived inside the capitol just as the girls of Girls State were heading off somewhere.  So, the halls and stairways were temporarily flooded with girls in red shirts.  After waiting interminable minutes (patience, patience) for the girls to clear out, we were able to climb the stairs and explore the building in relative peace.  There was lots of restoration going on inside and out.

 CAPITOL INTERIOR WITH GIRLS STATE GIRLS ROUNDING THE STAIRS.

After escaping Girls State and the capitol building, we headed down the road to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which has the feel of a European cathedral.

ST. PAUL’S IN ST. PAUL.

Minnehaha is a fictional native American woman — and the lover of Hiawatha — in Longfellow’s poem, “Song of Hiawatha.”  But she has become real over time with parks, counties, streets, boats, and more in Minnesota named for her.  The name has spread around the country as well.  Byron drove me all over the city of St. Paul and we then crossed the Mississippi River into Minneapolis for a quick walk around Minnehaha Park. It was warm and humid, but the falls and park were charming, although the statue of Minnehaha was not where Byron remembered it, so we never found her.

MINNEHAHA FALLS IN MINNEHAHA PARK IN MINNEAPOLIS IN MINNESOTA.

Jerry didn’t join us for the sight-seeing tour.  He knows the cities quite well having spent plenty of time here while an undergrad at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, about an hour and a half away.  He did, however, grace us with his presence at lunch, which was at Glockenspiel, a German restaurant in St. Paul.

THE FACT THAT THE LETTERING WAS INCOMPLETE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A DEAD GIVE-AWAY.

Byron’s original plan was for us to have lunch on a riverboat that sits moored on the river in downtown St. Paul.  But, when we got there, we discovered the River Boat Grill was closed for renovation.  Ten minutes before we arrived there — as we drove past Glockenspeil, Byron had an uh-oh moment and said, “Glockenspiel is a good restaurant, too.  Maybe I should have called ahead to see if the Riverboat Grill is open.”

AT GLOCKENSPIEL FOR LUNCH.  THE RIVERBOAT’S TOILET SIGN
COULDN’T BE NEARLY AS CLEVER.

Erin Schwab at Hells Kitchen

We are leaving Minneapolis in the morning (Saturday).  We were supposed to leave this morning (Friday) but earlier in the week we found out that Erin Schwab was performing tonight at Hell’s Kitchen. We couldn’t possibly leave without seeing and hearing her one more time.

A TENDER MOMENT.  SHE’S GOT IT ALL.

The last time we saw Erin perform live was way too long ago (nearly 10 years) but, if anything, she’s gotten better.  The crowd tonight was international.  The performance was out of this world.  So, this is just a quick post to tell you that Erin alone is worth a trip to The Twin Cities (that’s Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota).

LOOK CLOSELY AT WHAT HANGS FROM THE CHANDELIER. 
THEY TAKE THE THEME SERIOUSLY.

To top it off, we had an amazing meal at Hell’s Kitchen (where they — justifiably — claim to have “damn good food”). 

ERIN, CAUGHT AFTER THE SHOW.