Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Beautiful Evening in Ashland: Dinner at Amuse

When me and Dolly-girl go down to Ashland to see the plays by that Bard guy (hey, did you see old Jack was mentioned in the Ashland Daily Tidings, down near the bottom...) she likes to cozy up at a feed trough called Amuse. I don't get the name myself. It doesn't seem that funny to me. The feedbags are pretty upscale, the missys don't sing or do tricks or bring you cakes with those candles you can't blow out, and you don't hear people laughing any more than any other joints. Go figure. What's in a name?

Anyhoo, Dolly-girl likes it and I got to admit, when it's time to put fork to mouth in Ashland, there are some fine spots, but Amuse hits our spots, spot on. Follow? Plus the place is easy on the eyes and they sure seem to have more missys per I'm-tying-the-bib-ons than most places you go looking for a plateful. Oh, and Dolly-girl likes the day-cor. They got a bunch of looking-walls in the place and little lights that hang around all around. Plus they got themselves an outside picnic area, but me and Dolly-girl opted for the ant-free digs.

The missys are right there to say how-de-doo when you come through the doors and they pretty much stick to you until you walk out. It's not like they're sitting on your lap or anything, but they keep their peepers peeled and when something needs brought, filled, or taken away, there they are. They move around like ships in the fog--they're there, but they're not. I think it's what Dolly-girl would call "attentive service" or some such thing that she picked up at that charm school she went to.

So we settled in, parked our bee-hinds, and ordered up some skid-row. Rosso for me, bianco for Senorina Bianchi...not that I'm saying Amuse is an eh-talian joint, cause it's not that. But whaddayaknow, before missy came by to ask us about the whaddayawant, she brought some little treats. A shot of soup--it was red-eyes with basil for me, and a little pice of whaddayacallit for Dolly-girl. Some sort of squashed thing, I think she said. Whatever, 'cause it was good so we said our over the teeths and away it went.

Missy asked us for our what'll-it-bes and we sent her to get a bowl of what's-in-the-pot for me and a stack of cowfeed for Dolly-girl. Mine was a blondy murphies and plumbers with celery oil in little green dots. Who knew celery had oil--sure as hell not me. I'm here to tell you that if that was the soup they were dishing up in Stumptown, I'd be in line. The cowfeed put the smile on Dolly-girls face and got me the first look through the wave. I knew this spot was hitting her spot and taking me off the spot. With me?

We didn't have to sit for long, just long enough to do a do-it-again on the skid row and have a gander around the place to see who else was coming in. We were early because of the fact that we were going to see what Dolly-girl kept calling "The Scottish Play." I figured it was some deal that she got on tickets but when I asked her about it all I got was a shot through the wave that told me that as far as she was concerned that gumshoe school I went to in order to get my ticket missed a thing or two in my upbringing.

The feedbags arrived and I was ready to tie it on. I had a piece of the tenderest dogie that ever did roam the range and, as you can see, I was so excited that when I took a snap of Dolly-girl's fin-flipper I couldn't even be still enough to get it without a blur. Mine came with a pile of rapini that was just about as good as a green gets to be, and they added a stack of murphy sticks that made you want to book a ticket to the Emerald Isle. Dolly-girl's flipper swam in on what Yogi's back in Plymouth, Pennsylvania would call a "patata pancake", but it had some we-want-to-be-pickles sliced into strings and warmed up. Never had them before, but I'm telling you, I wouldn't mind having them again.

I was not in the mood for the tempt-ya, but Dolly-girl had them bring it on along with a winking blond. Missy brought some sort of fruity pie that would make your head spin. I'm not much for that sort of thing, but I'm here to tell you that you should wish you were there.

I still don't get the Amuse thing, but there's no doubt that it's a first-class joint with feedbags that would put any place in Stumptown up against the wall. It doesn't come cheap--The General shook hands with Poor Richard to get us out of there, but if you want to do it and do it right in Ashland, set your brake at Amuse.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Things You See in Ashland, Oregon, September, 2009

Nancy and I joined our friends Dolly-girl and Jack for a quick weekend trip to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I'm pretty sure that Jack will be writing a few words about the trip, but I thought I'd post some pictures I took. We took in a couple plays--MacBeth and Equivocation, an excellent new production. If it comes anywhere near you, go see it.

Saturday morning we hoofed it on down to the food co-op and farmers' market and I snapped a few pictures of what people are eating and looking at in Ashland. Fruit is big down there. Fruit drinks too.

Everyone loves flowers, particularly ones that look like these. Nancy wrote some post cards while we were sitting in Lithia Park

Ashland can be a little dear so we headed for grittier destinations, including Central Point where we visited the Rogue Creamery. They won the recent International Cheese Competition for their blue cheese entry. It's only available from sometime in October until it sells out. They told us that's because of the milk that they use to produce it--probably related to the fresh pasture is my guess. So they didn't have the big winner and I don't like to eat things that are pre-rotted anyway, but Nancy would have. She likes the stuff.

I'm more of a bacterial fermented cheese fan myself. I do like that they keep the Caveman motif going. Nancy and Ronna have looked up the Grant's Pass Caveman's shorts as documented in 2007.

Across the street from the supposed Best Blue Cheese in the World is Dusty's Transmissions. I like Dusty's enthusiasm. If it's like most transmission shops they should also have a picture of Dusty crawling into your savings account...

We did run into this accordion duet downtown Ashland later that evening, so it isn't all dear.

And I got an interview with them. That wasn't too difficult.

And we saw the end of the day a bride dreamed of. I think her father was passed out somewhere. All-in-all, a fun day. The photographer stopped traffic so he could get a shot of her tossing her bouquet with the Ashland Springs behind them. With the cost of weddings these days, fathers should be out there playing linebacker and breaking up that pass...

The "guitar player/singer" in the foreground was not part of the wedding. He wanted us to give him money.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Trip Across America--No Wonder Buffalo--They Are Really Bison-- Didn't Do So Well...

It used to be, back in the 50s when I first went to Yellowstone National Park, that you couldn't drive more than a couple miles without bears on the road causing a traffic jam while people stopped to take pictures as the bears came to the car windows to beg for anything you might throw them to eat. I have to admit that it was before the days of thinking much about the health of the animals and the problems that were emerging. Yes, I threw Bit-O-Honeys to bears.

Well, bears have been replaced by buffalo, or American bison. They are back in numbers, at least in the park. People don't seem to throw hay at them. Here's a link with lots of information.

They hang out in groups--I believe they are called "herds"--with the old bulls clearly in charge, but the young ones starting to be feisty. We saw some bison pawing to make a dust wallow that they then rolled in and seemed to take a lot of pleasure in the act. We didn't notice anyone urinating in their wallow which I've heard bulls will do if they feel threatened. The wallows also serve other purposes such as creating pockets where water collects.

We did get to see them up close and personal. They grunt and snort a lot and they don't really smell that good. Apparently the grunting is the way they socialize with each other. Come to think of it, we didn't see any of them at other watering holes.

Here are some more enjoying a day at the beach of Yellowstone Lake.

And, lest we forget, here's what they were almost annihilated (supposedly 541 animals left in 1888) for--buffalo hides (I wonder how they got rid of the smell). People died, buffalo died, a culture almost died, and the face of the Plains was changed, maybe for a long, long time. But, maybe not if Ted Turner has his way. He owns 2 million acres (that's 3,125 square miles--about the size of Delaware and Rhode Island put together) and he has 50,000 bison. If Ted turns them loose and says "Go!", don't be in the way. They're big, they can jump 6 feet high and 7 feet forward, and they run fast.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Trip Across America: The Studebaker National Museum

Me and Gus Bianchi, Dolly-girl's old man, were motoring our way across the country. We pulled up short in South Bend, Indiana when we found out what was there that needed looking at. I know, you're thinking Gus is a big Notre Dame fan, but what with a name like Giuseppe Bianchi do you think he'd be screaming for the Irish? Not likely. No, what pulled us off Highway 31 was the Studebaker National Museum.

Gus fancies old cars and this was the place to see them on parade. Mint condition. Stylish. Building crammed with them. We walked in. "Two seniors?" "Back in Stumptown, that sort of crack and you could find the Trouble Twins walking up your garden path there chiquita. I may look the part, but one and one will do us." "Sorry, I was just thinking that we don't get too many people coming to look at Studebakers looking like you and so I figured..." "Relax, I won't pay it anymore nevermind."

We walked in and checked the joint out. They had them all, starting with Conestoga wagons built back when horse power was the real thing. The beauties from the 20s and 30s lined the room, all polished up and looking like they were wanting me and Gus to drive one out the door and head it to Stumptown. And we would have done it, too, except they would have chased us down like a cheap shot with a cold beer.

It just happened to be August 31st when we came across this Studebaker Commander that left New York City on August 30, 82 years earlier, and arrived in San Francisco just short of 78 hours later. The Commander was piloted by Ab Jenkins, who later with his son would be called The Mormon Meteors for their exploits at the Salt Flats. Over the 3,302 miles they averaged 42 and 1/2 miles per hour--not bad for those days and a lot better than me and Gus were going to do--we covered 3,362 miles in 8 days!

It was pretty clear walking around the place that what goes around comes around. These styles and colors are just what people are looking for today. We tried to remember what sort of appetite for gas these babies had.

Well, I thought, we can find that out on the intertubes and, sure enough, I found that not only did they look better than cars today, but they were going 25 to 30 or more miles on a gallon of gas in the 50s--better than a lot of today's iron. So what was the problem? The answer seems to be volume and the ability to mass produce millions of ugly cars. The Big Three could do it, Studebaker wouldn't. My theory is that when they started to make cars that looked like the Big Three's, well, they lost their mojo.

What was left in the wake was a collection of beautiful autos in South Bend, and the wreckage of the auto industry today. Me and Gus waxed on about the ills of the world, but maybe a bumper sticker that said this summed it up best...


After giving the place the twice over, me and Gus hopped in our car--it was a let down after the last couple hours--and I pointed her west. On the road again...

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Trip Across America: Steering Wheel Cam

I took a series of pictures from my vantage point: the steering wheel. I hope you enjoy the view as much as I did.

Central Ohio--Corn Variety Trials

Central Ohio

Hammond, Indiana, looking towards Chicago

Headed towards Iowa, northwestern Illinois

Eastern Iowa
and wind farms, central Iowa

Eastern South Dakota

Western South Dakota

Badlands, Western South Dakota

Eastern Montana

Northern Wyoming

Light at the end of the tunnel, Cody, Wyoming

Bugs on bumper, Central Idaho

Western Idaho

Eastern Oregon

Central Oregon

Columbia Gorge, Western Oregon