Saturday, August 24, 2019

Family Day at Purina Farms

Our friend Wing works at Purina and got us tickets to their private corporate event Family Day that they have at Purina Farms. I think the story I heard is that they alternate between Purina Farms and Six Flags every other year. 

Where to begin!?

Closed to commoners only, thankfully.

The Purina Incredible Dog Show featured dogs able to do all sorts of tasks that are frankly unnecessary in the modern economy. Catching frisbees and running through obstacles is cool but I'll really be impressed when they get a dog to run a copy machine or put tickets on illegally parked cars. Get a job, dogs!

I was amused that they wouldn't say "frisbee" because it's a registered trademark. They called them something silly like action disks or something.

There was a lot of free food and we ate it all.

I ate so much that I weighed in at a solid "market pig". Sounds delicious.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Arting In and Rocking Out

We started off our exploration today with a visit to the Saint Louis Art Museum to check out Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention

I was especially interested in Gaugin's work in Tahiti. I've been making some good progress in the Pacific islands recently, with trips to Hawaii, Solomon Islands, VanuatuFiji, and New Zealand. These nations are all related but at the same time have considerable physical distance between each other, so it's been fun to see the similarities and differences in their cultures.

There were some related works mixed in that weren't Gauguin.

"Hone Taahu, the master carver who created these panels, is known for combining both square and serpentine figures. Taahu's carvings often include action and movement, visible in one panel with the placement of the hands through the mouths. Taahu is also credited for depicting great variation in the stylistic treatment of tongues. Extending one's tongue is an expression of a Maori warrior's readiness to fight."

I won a couple of tickets from Do314 to see the Summer Cannibals at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. They rocked so hard with the guitars and the sounds.

Every time we come to the Duck Room I have to remind Lydia that I saw Chuck Berry play here, and that she, a native St. Louisan, has failed to do so. Low energy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Cardinals Cowboy

I went to a Cardinals game, which is fun all by itself.

But this time I finally met... the Cardinals Cowboy! Surprisingly he was more into bird ranching than baseball. I guess I should have seen that coming.

One of my work friends from Anheuser-Busch also works nights as a groundskeeper person at the stadium. Well it rained and so there was a giant picture of him in the newspaper unrolling the tarp. I thought that was pretty cool.

Annoyingly I was unable to take a picture of the event, and begging to both the customer service desk in the stadium and calling the corporate office afterward was unfruitful, but Lydia's dream of being on the kiss cam finally came true. We had pretty bad seats as you can tell from the shot of the field, so I would have thought we were safe from such publicity, but sure enough, the kiss cam was rolling, people were kissing, and a cameraman, popped up out of nowhere. I looked over to the jumbotron and saw my giant face, was shocked, kissed real quick, and then it was over. It all happened really fast. We'll see if Lydia even likes baseball after this, as I suspect it was really just years of waiting to be on the kiss cam.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rural Iowa: a Taste of the Netherlands and Carpenter Gothic

We had a long drive home from Des Moines, but we were able to swing by some interesting spots on the way.

I was impressed that there was a place as cool as Pella in rural Iowa. The town of 10,000 was founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, and they decided to show it. Many of the buildings are Dutch styled.

They have a little take-out-only Dutch restaurant called DutchFix.

Lydia ordered an interesting one: "Stampot, creamy mashed potatoes topped with traditional dutch spiced beef and dutch red cabbage slaw".

When I saw this thing, the Tulip Toren, I knew that this town was not messing around with this whole Dutch schtick. It says Tulip Time at the top, which I guess is some sort of annual Dutch festival. I guess it's so legit that Dutch royalty has been in attendance.

These madmen even had a fake little canal area set up.

And a windmill!

We continued our drive through Iowan country roads and I saw one of those cool brown roadsigns near Eldon, Iowa that indicates something awesome was afoot. It said "American Gothic House". Definitely going to that. I love road trips that include a bit of a time cushion. Lydia is a very plan oriented clock watcher, which is good because it makes it even more fun to destroy her plans with unexpected adventures!

We are fast becoming the foremost experts in Grant Wood. Because... we went to his studio home in Cedar Rapids that one time and then checked out a bunch of his work at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

We first checked out the little museum, which told a little bit of the story of the painting and of the two people featured in it.

The model for the daughter (often mistaken to be the man's wife) was Wood's sister Nan Wood and the man was his dentist. I guess Wood lied and told the dentist that he wouldn't be recognizable, and so the dentist was pissed off about it like forever.

There were racks of clothes of different sizes and a few nice old lady volunteers there to slap it all onto us. We hustled out, they took a few shots of us, and that was that. I thought it was a super fun little American experience.

I guess Grant just sketched the house once because he was amused that that giant gothic window was sitting on such a dinky little house. He never returned to the house. I don't think that the models even met each other until years afterwards.

Wikipedia seems to think that this is Carpenter Gothic, where the "abundance of North American timber and the carpenter-built vernacular architectures based upon it made a picturesque improvisation upon Gothic a natural evolution. Carpenter Gothic improvises upon features that were carved in stone in authentic Gothic architecture."

And then, as Wikipedia research often causes, I really went down the rabbit hole of nerdery. I'd always wondered why the style was called "Gothic" in the first place, because the Goths were a Germanic tribe that destroyed the Roman Empire and surely weren't doing a lot of bathing let alone architecture. Sure enough, the term was used as an insult of a more German style of architecture by Italians and other fans of the more classic Roman style. It was meant to mean "barbaric". Very cool.

I think we did decently. I'm still a little annoyed that our photographer didn't tell me to look straight at the camera. There wasn't a painting out there to use as reference so I didn't really know what I was doing from memory. Oh well.

America can be pretty cool sometimes.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Presidential Primary Season at the Iowa State Fair

There was no time to lose. High off corn fumes from the Illinois State Fair last night, we drove to Des Moines, Iowa for another hit at the Iowa State Fair. I like state fairs a lot because while they are fun in their own right, they are also sort of a distillation of a state's culture. The fact that Illinois' has a Godzilla-sized statue of Lincoln gives you a little hint that he is an important figure in our state, for example.

I was still tired from singing with Snoop all night, so Lydia helped out with some driving while I recuperated.

While the Iowa State Fair had been on my radar as a possible destination for years, I had been lying in wait to go during a presidential election cycle so I could see some of the political hubbub. Iowa is obviously an important part of the American political system due to being the first primary election in the nation, and so politicians spend a large amount of time schmoozing the electorate here. I feel like this was a bit of Americana that I did not want to miss. 

Amusingly since we were here on the 17th all of the heavy hitters had already given their Des Moines Register Political Soapbox speeches. While Seth Moulton was kind of a third string, no-chance sort of candidate, I thought that maybe even made the experience better. I had no opinion on Moulton either way, so he had a chance to mold my thoughts about him here today based solely on his speech. After chatting with some of the news guys present I learned that the top tier candidates drew giant crowds and news presence to the point it may have ruined the experience. An unknown guy talking to 20 people in the hot Iowa sun was just the experience I was here for.

When the speech was over I asked a nearby photographer how he thought that Seth did. He was not impressed: "Seth was sweating like a dog and had a pimple on his nose." It was hot as hell so I couldn't see faulting him for having a body that was attempting to avoid heat stroke.

With business taken care of, I was free to move on to pleasure. There were so many things to see!

There was a very Iowan "cast your kernel" thing where you voted for your favorite candidate with a corn kernel in a mason jar.

I was impressed that they their own ski lift thing set up like we do in Illinois. In real America its called the Sky Ride. Here they call it the Sky Glider. The culture shock!!

They were handing out free hard boiled eggs on a popsicle stick. So... I ate them? I saw some kids licking them which sort of made me want to vomit. Uneggceptable!

Illinois has a butter cow but Iowa had a whole friggin butter menagerie. There was an entire butter Sesame Street cast in there that I wanted to rub some toast on.

Amazingly we bumped into our friend Cory. He lives in St. Louis but apparently he's from Iowa. I did not know that. It's scary to think that there are Iowans amongst us. We should develop some sort of test.

We had a funnel cake on a stick and then proceeded to take unflattering pictures of each other eating it. Unflattering pictures are the best.

There was some weight lifting going on on stage.

My hunger had not yet been egghausted. We popped over to the Cluck'n Coop to pick up some deep fried deviled eggs.

I think I was confused at first bite, but the egg itself was just a deep fried hard boiled egg. The dipping sauce was where the deviled magic entered the equation. It was really good.

I was excited to try some craft beers I'd read were made to taste like corn-dogs or funnel cake. Of course by the time I got to the place they were sold out of all of the good stuff. I said some cuss words and I'm not sorry about it at all.

I'd very much like to hear the story behind this rule. I have to assume their were drunken goats involved.

I don't know why Lydia dresses like this. Shameful.

Since we were in the capital... why not also be in the capitol?

Domes are really the only acceptable places to make laws. I'm looking at you, Louisiana.

We weren't done with politics yet. We had a town hall on the agenda which was located at a little brewery. Awesome. We took an Uber there and walked inside. It was the wrong place. How this was even possible I do not know. I heard the receptionist telling something similar to another guy. So... I followed the guy outside and asked if we could bum a ride to the correct venue, since we were going to the same place. This was definitely a good time to have Lydia with me, as I think she must give me an air of "I won't murder you in your car". Our new driver was an interesting character. He was an Associated Press photographer and had all kinds of knowledge about the whole political scene.

There he is on the left. I was particularly sensitive about my terrible pictures in the presence of a professional. The first thing you need to know about Joe Sestak, presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania congressman and three-star Navy admiral, is that he likes to stand in front of bright sunny windows while standing in dark rooms, making him impossible to take a damn picture of.

Joe had some cool stories about the military, but I was not inclined to vote for him afterwards. I think he and Seth earlier were both too militaristic for my taste. I think Joe wanted to bring back a universal draft or something which is really unthinkable for me.

One of the audience questions was from a woman who had been sexually assaulted in the military and wanted reforms on how that is dealt with within the military's legal system. Joe and she disagreed, which was super, super awkward.

For dinner we hit Zombie Burger because it sounded awesome.

I think I got the Walking Ched, which was "breaded + deep fried macaroni + cheese bun, bacon, Cheddar cheese, caramelized + red onion, mac + cheese, mayo". It was a beautiful mess and I would never ever order it again.