A PINK ELEPHANT IN THE…

Another part of our son-in- law’s Madison sculpture excursion took us to see the Pink Elephant Pinky. I have heard of a pink elephant in the room but never at the gas station.

Yep, there really was a pink elephant residing in the corner of a gas station’s parking lot. He’s actually been living here since the late 1960’s when the gas station’s owner wanted his gas station to attract customers away from his competitors. I should say Pinky does a good job as a roadside attraction sitting right off the highway.

The irony of this sculpture is it was manufactured in our part of the state at Sparta’s Sculptured Advertising and its first home actually was at a supper club in Marquette, Iowa. Did any of you ever see it there in 1963?

Other pink elephants found homes around the area at Arco Stations but Pinky now donning glasses is the last one remaining. One might find others farther south of Wisconsin in gas stations, car washes, car dealerships in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

It’s not easy keeping the elephant clean as for some reason it attracts graffiti but the station puts in energies to keep it scrubbed so that other visitors can see Pinky in good shape.

A lot of folks have stopped over the years to see Pinky and even return to share the experience with grandchildren. The gas station’s store carries elephant merchandise to help one with those memories. I don’t know how anyone could ever forget seeing a pink elephant with glasses.

Long live Pinky!

SCRAPMETAL TAKES ON NEW SHAPE

People can hoard all sorts of objects and actually do something with their collections. Tom Every alias Dr. Evermor was one such man and his passion was creating scrap metal sculptures. One of his sculptures holds a place in the World Guiness book as the Largest Metal Sculpture and was even featured in a film.

Now 80, Dr. Evermore lives in a nursing home with dementia and his collection needs some tender loving care. Albeit the fact some contractor recently dropped off a pile of brass onto the lawn of the nursing home.

Take a look at some of the amazing creations. I’ll add more soon.

Nighttime visitors and not just the 4 legged kinds have been creating havoc. Sitting water has some mighty feisty mosquitoes themselves when we visited this past weekend 5 miles south of Baraboo on Cty Hwy 12. Dr Everymor’s Scrapmetal Sculpture Garden does have daytime hours.

Rumors had it possibly moving to the Dells. Who knows what their future will hold? With road construction on 12 it is easy to miss. It’s near Delaney’s Surplus Sales sign in North Freedom.

Have a magical time and don’t forget your bug spray.

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The heavens let loose repeatedly early this a.m. indicating a very wet morning for me. Permit me to backtrack a bit to what brings me here…

Last week a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a very long time invited me to join her at a Plein Aire painting demonstration in a small town about 10 miles from the End of the Rainbow Valley.

Foolish me figured no reason to jot down the basic directions to the country locale where the artist would be painting. Parked cars would be an excellent indicator that I had found the spot. The skies were dark and drizzling so when no parked cars were in sight, different thoughts crossed my mind like: perhaps the event had been cancelled/ I had made a wrong turn/it was the time and I was early. A lot of maybes but hey, give a gal a break, it was Monday.

As long as I had driven the distance I might as well enjoy the early changing fall colors, barns ( my favorite architectural structure) and on my return there’d be time for some photography. But after ending up in the next town it was clear, something was amiss. Heading back down to the town where the trip began seemed worth the try. No time to stop though if I wanted to catch some of the class. Alas after double checking my phone notes… Oops the memory had failed me and I had passed that street sign. There again was the huge zinnia bed that had caught my attention early on in the excursion with the desired street after it. Turning down the lane there was a sign reading closed street with no cars in sight. Gimme a break…

Returning home somewhat deflated, there on my calendar was the event not in the Monday space but Wednesday’s, today.

So what in the heck does all this have to do with being wet. Artists will stand out in the rain. It’s not the demonstration, it’s that bed of zinnias. You see, Natureman’s youngest is getting married this weekend and flowers are needed for their park picnic . Zinnias seemed the best choice as they would travel well. Our crop wouldn’t be enough and there were no cut flowers at the Amish Farmers Market Auction on the ridge either, just mums. Oh dear, quite a predicament!

But wait, there was that huge bed of zinnias and it is late in the season perhaps those folks could part with some and I’d be glad to pay for them. Desperation can make one take some chances, the worst thing that could happen would be they’d say “No,” right? With a little sleuth work,after getting their surname and making the call, there was no answer so my name was left on their machine.

At dinnertime the phone rang and it was the long awaited call. Yes, they’d be glad to help me out. Come by in the morning. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. As Mom used to say, you never know unless you ask. It’s going to be wet, but it’s worth it!

MAKING MINNESOTA MERRY

Of the 8 Happy Bookers 2 of us, Susie and Nancy, couldn’t make the girls’s overnight summer trip north to the Cities. I was almost a third, hesitant with a big wedding weekend following but was encouraged by Natureman to go enjoy the bonding.

Thankful for not having to drive I was thrilled to be a backseat passenger as country living in the End of the Rainbow Valley provides enough behind the wheel time for me.

The two carloads met up for lunch in Rochester , a halfway stop, with nourishment and a little logistical planning and off we went for our first stop to get situated at the St. Louis Park condo followed by a walk through our hostess Jo Ellen’s childhood ‘hood.

Coincidentally Connie’s hubby would be staying within a couple blocks of us and we scouted out his AirBnB. It was almost like high school, going by the boyfriend’s house to see if he was home.(Connie and her hubby would be continuing on to South Dakota for the weekend after our book club’s overnighter.

The walk was perfect for stretching our legs, allowing just the right amount of time to learn a new card game, Sechs Nimmt and change for our theater night at the Old Log Theater.

About a half hour away in Excelsior, The Old Log Theater is touted as being the oldest professional theater in the state of Minnesota situated in a lovely setting. We were fortunate to be attending on Ladies’s Night so we received a complimentary glass of wine besides $5 off on our ticket. High Five!

Cast & Cru, unlike most theater restaurants is not your typical mediocre dinner theater food. Our server, an Alaskan, suggested Skuna Bay Salmon on a Plank so three of us opted for the salmon served with a white sauce and rice, grilled broccolini with a couple dollops of goat foam. One of us had Pan Seared Walleye with polenta cakes, asparagus, fennel beurre blanc and lemon dill gel, another: Grilled Baby Beet salad with Chicken and the 6th Southwestern Salad of arugula, corn, onion, tempura fried avocado, micro cilantro and red pepper vinaigrette with shrimp. For dessert, most of us abstained but 2 of the gals split a yummy looking banana foster torte .

After the leisurely dinner we were ready for the play- Five Presidents was enjoyed by all. Former Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W.Bush and present Leader in Chief Clinton (’94) are secluded in a room together before Nixon’s funeral and their chit chat is filled with jabs.

Clinton would be the only President to deliver a(n)? eulogy that day. Their lines were clever and historic with a play guide page of 20 people referenced in the play if one’s age ( young/ old) did not serve one well enough.

You may remember me talking about this play before as it was one of the plays in the Milwaukee Rep season but I didn’t mind seeing it again with the girls. I knew if I dozed off due to my glass of wine, I wouldn’t miss the clever dialogue since I had heard it all before. The actors did a fine job with their personae and deliveries with Reagan probably being the best caricature of himself. My only issue with the performances as a Southerner growing up in Arkansas is I do know what a Georgian, Texan and Arkansan sound like and these Minnesotans didn’t get close.

We returned to the condo to visit the club room as a couple of us wanted to watch the game. The rest of us enjoyed the deck with the gardens below and the moonlight above . Following the game we returned to another rousing round of Sechs Nimmt… I was definitely burning the midnight oil.

We packed up the cars after coffee the next morning and met Connie’s hubby at Yum, a perfect breakfast stop. It was time to eat again and enjoy some new cuisine…

Luckily during breakfast Sally called the Russian Museum to inquire re: the docent tour and discovered unfortunately only one display room was open as they were changing exhibits. Even with a discount, we really wanted to see more than Ukranian dress after our read, Stalin’s Daughter. Since JoEllen had mentioned wanting to see the sculpture garden at the Walker, it was a no brainer on a drop dead gorgeous day. We bid Doug & Connie farewell as they headed out to Dakota and in no time we were at the sculpture garden and parking in a small metered lot right next to the garden. Certainly worth the $4 unlimited time.

Great art and a stop to peruse the Walker gift shop and use its facilities before crossing the highway to a sweet park and eateries.

We stopped at The Bird for a cold drink. Take a look at my bill. Notice what this restauranteur adds to her bills. Look carefully below subtotal…

Yep, 3% Health Care charge.

When I questioned the manager who was waiting on us re: that charge, she immediately assumed I was complaining as most do. “No,no” I replied, “I am impressed that your boss is providing health care. I think all employers should do the same.”

Well, it was time to head home as Mary had a late afternoon play in La Crosse. Monica was heading out on her own to visit family and we were dropping Sally off on our way south at an AirBnB where she would meet up with her hubby and friends to attend a concert that evening.

Can you tell we all make the most of our days?

Well, of course, we’re the Happy Bookers. Missed you Nancy and Susie.

MONDAY MUSINGS: NEVER TOO OLD FOR GAMES

One might think that game playing is just for kids but does that mean we can’t act like kids after a certain age? Whenever the Happy Bookers take a road trip someone brings along some games to play. This past week we learned a new card game brought by Monica and we had a blast.

The German card game is called Sechs Nimmt, Six Takes It and it ‘s the type of game that grows on you. We had a really fun time around the kitchen counter learning the rules and laughing with this game which uses a tad of strategy but chance does play into it. Each player receives 10 cards which each have a number from 1 to 104. Each player receives 10 cards and arranges them numerically in their hand. The dealer flips over 5 cards in the center. The game is similar to solitaire in that as at each turn you must try to place a number sequentially. 5 can be placed in sequence but if you are forced to place a 6th you must take all that row. Get it? Sechs Nimmt. Six takes it all.

On the top of each card are any where from 1-5 bull oxen heads. These bull heads will be the points counted against you at the end of the round. The player who first receives 66 points ends the game. We called that person the winner. And the rest of us were losers because we didn’t end it first… Seriously, it’s a very fun game and we played it more than once!

We had no problem adding our own laughter and I don’t think you would either. We’re never too old for games, it’s okay to be big kids every once in a while/more…

Special ‘Thanks’ to Monica for introducing us to this great game!

TBT:HAPPY BOOKERS HIT TWIN CITIES, AGAIN

The Happy Bookers are returning to the Twin Cities. So what a perfect time to have a flashback to the last time our group was there…

HAPPY BOOKERS BIRCHBARK’ING IT & MORE 2016

You might be able to identify this skyline as it is Minneapolis where the Happy Bookers ventured for their summer adventure of 2016. 

We met up at Birchbark Bookstore since we had read the owner Louise Erdrich’s 15th novel, La Rose. The bookstore has been in this residential area for over 20 years. It is packed to the gills with not only Erdrich’s works and top sellers but more importantly Native American writers and native crafts. Shelf markers with  employee picks and reasons definitely helped our choices. BTW classroom teachers/parents here’s the place to find wonderful curriculum materials to teach about our country’s first residents. 

After perusing the store and making our purchases, we took the walking path along the Lake of the Isles before heading back for lunch at Kenwood. As you may recall, we not only read good books but we also eat well when we are together.  

    Take a look at these presentations.

Swiss chard frittata (L)  smoked trout with  hollandaise sauce and hash browns(R) pork belly hash ( No, I didn’t try that one)

In addition to the trout entree, I also enjoyed Kenwood’s corn chowder with chanterelle mushrooms. Delish! (It was a bit too noisy at lunchtime to discuss the book so we decided to wait until later.)

After lunch we dropped off our stuff at our St. Louis Park lodging  and toured the premises, then off we went in one car to head for the Minnesota Art Institute.

The photograph exhibit was Who’s Who Seeing Back to Front. The idea was how we recognize celebrities. The exhibit perspectives included views from either the front/ back. Half of the exhibit was trying to identify those photographed from behind.

Who do you think these are from behind? The left one is to warm you up. The one on the right is a bit more difficult but a hint is they are sisters in Kansas City heading off to a white school.

Here are some of my other favorite museum pieces in MAI

Garden sculpture, furniture, glass, mobile, fabric and  print 

Iowans do you recognize this midwestern intaglio work below? It’s of  Leonardo Lasansky, one of Mauricio’s sons (Mauricio created this type of printmaking.)

After this culture fix we headed back home to catch our breath and head out for dinner.  Four of us walked and the others met us at Crave where I tried the traditional Poke Bowl with Ahi Tuna. It hit the spot and crave it I will for a return visit!

We beat the thunderstorm back home by about 5 minutes and had our book discussion of Erdrich’s La Rose, an Ojibwe story of atonement. The weather gods of thunder, lightning and rain added to the eye opener novel’s discussion as so little of this Minnesotan tribe/ any other was spoken about/ taught during our school days.  Native Americans have faced way too many injustices.

After the book review we had a rambunctious game of Catch Phrase of the ’70’s to end our wonderful day. Laughter is never in short supply and clues such as this is a really good book by a really good author didn’t help us narrow down a phrase too fast as we certainly have read many but I’d be remiss to not add La Rose was not the only thing to get a thumbs up. 
Happy Bookers are the best…

(BTW I’ll make this public now, I’m putting in my vote early for Oregon next summer to visit Violetta, one of our group who moved!)

Stay tuned for what this 2019 trip will bring… Oregon is still in the planning.

PRAIRIE MOON SHINES AGAIN

Many moons ago we visited Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum but our return visit this past Sunday after being at the Alma Music and Arts Festival was special. Prairie Moon has a new ‘face’. It wasn’t old and tired looking as I remembered it but Sunday it shone brightly. Let me tell you its story…

To begin with if it wasn’t for Herman Rusch, there would be no Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum. After working his family land for 40 years near Arcadia, he retired in’52 and rented, eventually buying the Prairie Moon Dance Hall which he turned into a museum. A museum he filled to the brim with oddities. In contrast though, the grounds were empty.

Raised rock garden bed with fisherman and deer

In 1938 Rusch decided to do something about that emptiness surrounding the museum and built a concrete and stone planter. This was just the beginning as it was followed by many more sculptures and flower beds during the next 16 years as he continued to scour quarries for different kinds of stone and his masonry skill grew.

It took a year to build a 260 ft arched fence on one side of the property. Notice how intricate each piece of the fence is as it’s embellished with mirrors, glass, rocks, bricks and pottery shards.

Grotto effect miniature castel

Sometimes he added color to the cement / would paint it.

When we originally visited , the sculptures had seen better days as its colors faded and sculptures were disentegrating after years of the Wisconsin elements.

Some cement is colored and others are hand painted. Notice the 13 1/2 ft watch tower behind the church…

Structures of all scales sprinkle the grounds like castles, towers, a Hindu Temple, a Rocket to the stars, even a windmill etc…

There were even people and animals. I spied a snake, dinosaur and a bear like the one below.

Warding off the ‘ bare ‘ facts.

Anyhoo, on with the story .. By age 89 Rusch had created 40 sculptures and even purchased 4 .

The Tower and Rocket to the Stars are in the background

The Walker Art Institute even included his art in one of their major exhibitions. This one time farmer had found fame in his later years. At 94 he auctioned off the museum selling off most of its contents. Imagine its new life as the new owners converted it to a dog kennel for 13 years.

Rusch died soon after his 100th birthday but his sculpture work lived on. Unbeknownst to us in ’92 it was the Kohler museum on the other side of the state who purchased the property and began “restoration with an ongoing commitment to the preservation of significant art environments by self-taught artists. The conservation of sculptures required structural stabilization; surface repairs and cleaning; paint analysis including stereoscopic microscopy; and painting to re-establish the original palette.

Gardens were revitalized and the Museum is filled with memorabilia along with additions from other area folk artists over the last couple of decades.

We were witnesses to years of this transformation.

Kohler donated the site by the town of Milton with the condition it would be maintained.

And Prairie Moon ‘shines’ again thanks to the Kohler Museum and its care today by the Friends of Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden.

*An aside: It was the Kohler Museum who also revitalized my neighbor Mary Nohl’s property in Fox Point, one of Wisconsin’s top folk artists. Here’s an older blog entry: https://chaseburg.blogspot.com/2014/05/bewitched.html