Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Music Store

Google street view image of what was once Amanda Bacon's Studio

Located between the Polka Dot dairy store and what was once a candy store, Amanda Bacon’s Music Studio was an anomaly. Run by a feisty sexagenarian, this small shop in what was otherwise a cultural desert sat there unpretentiously for years, with Miss Bacon making a modest living giving piano and stringed instrument lessons. Her business model changed abruptly when a certain combo from Liverpool appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Suddenly dozens of teen-aged boys were seen there loitering, buying guitar picks and strings, even getting instruction. And there they came face to face with the real deal, Amanda from Kentucky,  roots music personified, long before anyone even knew what that was. I’d stop in almost weekly, my purchases minor, but every visit was a little mini-lesson in some facet of guitar-playing. “Now I’ll sell you those picks, two for a quarter, but don't go bendin’ “em, hold it just so, no, no, like this... ” She had a lot of students now, but she was always looking for more. She sold instruments too, and amplifiers.

Amanda was on a roll.

I drifted away from her little shop and went elsewhere, to places that opened doors for us: “...buy a set of gear and we'll see to it that you get a shot at the teen fair, in August...” Amanda couldn't compete with that. She persevered for a few more years, but the music that young boys wanted to learn to play became louder, stranger, darker. She closed her store, and moved back “home”.

My band had actually gotten to the point of playing out a bit, one day we had a chance to attend a practice with a “name” local band, a band that had just put out a record. They let us play on their gear, and made some helpful comments and gave us words of encouragement. “So where are you guys from?” the lead guitarist asked. We told him and he immediately broken into a wide grin. “You bought your first strings from Amanda Bacon, right?” Half of that band had taken lessons from Amanda for years. “She taught us almost everything we know about guitar pickin’.”

So Amanda was cool, hipper than me to be sure, and I bet that she would have even appeared cool to The Beatles, at least to George.

Summer Re-run Series
First posted July 30, 2006

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

Or, to be more exact, Vinarterta. I celebrated my retirement yesterday with friends and family, with a surprise appearance from the layer cake pictured above. It was created by Eva Sabat, our town's very own "Swedish Chef" who works out of The Swedish Crown Bakery. She made the Swedish version (lingonberry filling) instead of the Icelandic version (prune filling) and it was just as delicious. She also made a carrot cake, equally scrumptious.

The gathered throng left satiated and satisfied.

The dill bread was also a treat.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 8 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gym Class

The first day of gym class in middle school (or junior high) is always a delight. After hearing the school secretary announce over the PA in home room that "boys must purchase an athletic supporter" while the girls giggled, we "junior males" were sufficiently humiliated. At the actual class, some bruiser of a gym coach and his pair of Aryan assistants put us through the paces of a workout routine that proved that we were indeed, wimps.

Background story... our school was brand-new when we started. In fact, it was so new, it wasn't complete. We spent the whole year waiting for stuff that was "on order". At any rate, one of the things that was not completed was the installation of the soap holders, which had been inserted into the tile block walls of the shower - but not secured.

We finished our class and were in the locker room, changing clothes and getting our nerve up for the FIRST SHOWER. Imagine a bunch of twelve-year-olds, nutty as squirrels, with thoughts of wet towel fights, embarrassment and other imagined horrors. As the bravest of us went into that great unknown, timidly walking our naked little bodies (just a hint of fuzz on some of the older boys) into the shower room - suddenly we jumped at the sound of a large CLANG! Then came another CLANG and another - the girls' shower was on the other side of the wall from the boys, and the girls had removed their soap holders, and were pushing out ours!

Now I'm not saying that anybody saw anything - but there was a lot of screaming coming out of those showers.

The gym coach came out of his office and yelled, "NO SHOWERS TODAY - GO BACK AND PUT YOUR STREET CLOTHES ON!"

We did as we were told, they fixed the showers and besides - Sex Ed wasn't until the ninth grade.

Summer Re-Run Series

First posted September 28, 2004

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Vanishing Middle

Waikiki - Kalakoua Avenue

One of the hazards of a vist to Honolulu in late March is the possibity of great swarms of teen-agers running amok on their spring breaks. Between dodging surfboards, and avoiding conch-shell-blowing rowdies, it was all that yours truly could do to thread his way to the water, for his morning constitutional. Add to this mix hundreds of petite Japanese schoolgirls, some in traditional uniform, others not so traditional. When I was mere lad (grumbled the cranky geezer) there was a pop song entitled "We Like Short-Shorts".

Back in fashion, here at least.

Add to it the bare midriff and and things begin to get interesting. Now if the hem line is going up, and the waistline is going down, sooner or later they will meet, and the bottom half of a two-piece outfit will disappear- is it not so? Not quite yet. The trend on the strip here (at least among 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirls) is a pair of short-shorts (Levis, of course) with the hems rolled up even more, and the waist pushed as low as possible on the hips. THEN pull the zipper down as far as you dare. (ie: all the way)

This causes the normally unpurient professor to take pause.

Is this a good/bad thing? A new fashion trend? Or merely a blip, a little wave on the ocean of modern life? And where are these girls' mothers?

Oh... There, on the beach, in skimpy bikinis.

Surfs Up!

Summer Re-run Series
First posted March 30, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The First Church of Wendel

Junior confirmation.

Not Sunday School. Not exactly bible study per se, although there was plenty of that. Junior confirmation meant being stuck in a room with a dozen other kids, and the Assistant Pastor, Wendel. Wendel was a bit of an odd duck; this was evident even to us, the unconfirmed rabble. Wendel liked to talk about sex. Not in a medical way, or even a social way (and certainly not in pornographic detail), but in the terms of good and evil. Well, mostly evil. Well, almost all evil. Now I am sure that I had the same interests and fantasies as the other boys (and some of the girls) but I had never quite connected them to evil. I thought that you would find a girl you like, hit it off somehow and then etc. and etc.. It made sense to me. Wendel did not, and I struggled with his interpretation of God's law.

Wendel used every Saturday morning trying to convince us that we'd better shape up, and in a hurry too (the rapture, you know) and that meant moral purity which meant no dancing, no touching, no impure thoughts and no sex. Wendel said he never even kissed his wife until they were married. The only problem with his weekly lecture was that he wouldn't shut up about sex, so naturally my surging hormonal system was put on full alert. If I wasn't thinking about sex when class started, I certainly was by the time it ended. I think the vulgar term for this process is called a "mind-fuck".

The next year we all graduated to Senior Confirmation, taught by the regular pastor, who actually was a very nice person, who could talk about some other Biblical issues and made a point of showing us the better aspects of Jesus's teachings. Wendel, along with some other like-minded families, left the church to start a new church with what he felt was his purer theology, in the next suburb. It wasn't really called the First Church of Wendel, but it was different. I managed to be confirmed, left our church a year later and I eventually (10 years later!) overcame his indoctrination.

Wendel is almost certainly retired now. I wonder what his confirmands had to endure?

Summer Re-run Series

First posted October 24, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More Coffee? Yes, Please...

Kaffismidja, Reykjavik

A pair of coffee roasters in Flippist purple.

Just the thing for getting a jump-start on my day.

Too busy to blog.

Summer is short.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 22, 2013

When the Music's Over

Turn off the lights...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Top Brass

It was love at first sight.  Exquisite etched brass drawer pulls on an antique marble-topped walnut commode.   While much of Victorian era design can be too much, this elegant design with floral motifs bracketed with fans.

The perfect centerpiece for our three season porch.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stale Pop

Galeno's Grocery

One of the neighborhood grocery stores of my youth was the notorious “Galeno’s”— little more than a shack. Mr. Galeno was a purveyor of pop and candy who also had a few boxes of cereal, soap, toilet paper and other household essentials lining the shelves. When I was quite young I would make the two-block trek there to buy baseball cards, cards that would be worth big money now. They were probably the only things of worth that were ever sold there, albeit taking sixty years to appreciate.

When we were teens, the standing joke was that Galeno’s sold stale pop. We always wondered how he managed to stay in business for forty years; the picture above was taken in the mid 1980's, not long before it was finally condemned. Perhaps he sold numbers? He was always talking on the phone in the back room. For several years,  behind the store, there was a trailer that his daughter lived in.

We wondered about her as well.

Summer Re-run Series
First Posted September 2, 2006

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fasciation in the Home Field

This weird cluster of Black-eyed Susans has established a foothold in our "Prairie Plant" garden this year. A common mutation, nevertheless it does cause the occasional double take among the members of the neighborhood garden patrol. Its stem is as strange as its flower:

Flat as a ribbon with leaves sprouting at right angles. I propped them up for the stems had a tendency to fold.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mansion on the Hill

The Woodbury house has always greeted people coming into my hometown, Anoka, Minnesota. Built in 1858 (on a hill overlooking the Rum River) in its heyday it was the center of local society with several large rooms designed for entertaining. It was featured on his year's annual house tour and the "grand old lady" proved she can still command attention. It was a bittersweet celebration, however, for the house has been vacant for years and is in need of a thorough "makeover": windows, walls, floors, heating, electrical—all need attention.

When the last owner lived there she was elderly and occupied that big house all by herself. She was in attendance for the house tour and described finding homeless people sleeping in the screen porch. After several such incidents her children insisted she move.

The city owns the property and its sizable acreage. There is talk of a B&B or restaurant going in, but at this stage it's just talk.

Walking through the empty rooms, I couldn't help but sense the ghosts of past ball still lingering, and I could almost hear the tinkle of cocktail glasses amid the sounds of laughter and conversation.

This paneled "den" featured a small pulpit overlooking the room, perhaps used for sermons addressing an assembled congregation? This room also had an adjoining wet-bar, no doubt for storing "communion" supplies.

I left the mansion with a strong sense of melancholy, a feeling which brought to mind the words of this old country ballad:

Tonight down here in the valley
I'm lonesome and oh how I feel
As I sit here alone in my cabin
I can see your mansion on the hill

Do you recall when we parted
The story to me you revealed
You said you could live without loving
In your loveless mansion on the hill

I've waited all through the years love
To give you a heart true and real
Cause I know you're living in sorrow
In your loveless mansion on the hill

The light shines bright from your window
The trees stand so silent and still
I know you're alone with your pride dear
In your loveless mansion on the hill

~ Hank Williams

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Loring Park Girls

Loring park is Minneapolis' answer to New York City's Central park. Proportionally smaller, it still occupies several square blocks (including a pond) in downtown Minneapolis. In the late 60's it hadn't yet reached the pinnacle of its notoriety but even then it was a place best to be avoided after dark. There was the Salvation Army home for unwed mothers next to it, a funky "junior college" and many apartments around its perimeter. Its reputation as a gay cruising spot was (and is) completely warranted.

At the time there were kids who played there, kids on their own, doing kid stuff like using the swings, playing hopscotch, and like the girls above even doing a little dress-up role-playing. When we at the college used the park for impromptu photo sessions these kids would insist on getting in on the action.

The park has made a comeback since then; The Walker Art Center's Sculpture garden is connected to it and the once humble "JC" is now a mammoth community college. Loring has become a “Quad”.

These girls are in their late 40's now, I wonder if they ever “play” in this park now?

Summer Rerun Series
First posted July 17, 2008

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kid's Stuff

Reality alteration in my childhood was a strange concept. Of course the first stage had to be spinning around in circles (still popular at amusement parks.)

The earliest I was aware of methods of reality alteration (not counting tobacco or alcohol) was in the 4th grade when some of the ‘bad’ kids started to bring small vials of cinnamon oil to school, with a toothpicks as an applicator/pacifier. This went on behind our teacher’s back for about a week—she must have not had a sense of smell! The cinnamon oil, if splashed on your face, would cause a bright red blotch to appear. It wasn’t really a high, just sort of a “supercandy” rush of flavor. Peppermint oil had a few fans too.

A few years later, the pass-out trick became popular. The subject would hyperventilate while on hands and knees, then stand up quickly while an assistant would grasp him by the middle and lift. The object was to black out from lack of oxygen. It sort of worked - you never knew if someone was faking or not.

Junior high brought real dangers. Aspirin and Coca-cola was supposed to be a good way to get a “buzz” but was probably a better way to get an ulcer. Cough syrup was big for a small crowd of abusers, it usually had about 20% alcohol and some brands even had codeine in them! Those kids thought they were mellow but in reality they were really just drowsy. Ditto for the glue sniffers. That one turned into a real problem, as all sorts of “huffing” was experimented with.

In senior high, we were still quite naive. Yes, we did try to smoke banana peels. In tenth grade the Narcotics Officer came to school with a case of “samples“ of illegal drugs. (Was he recruiting future clients?) It still didn't make much of an impression. Our senior year started right after the “summer of love” in San Francisco. Real drugs began to trickle in, but in the next three years would see it become a flood.

Nowadays there are new threats (or opportunities, depending on your point of view.) But the kid’s stuff we did seems like a whole different world.

Summer Re-run Series
First published March 8, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Kim's Rhinoceros


   "Which animal would you like to see the most?"

   "That would be you, Kim."

The weaver and I had an invite to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo here, a dear friend of mine is a zookeeper there. Upon hearing my corny remark, she did a little double-take, and then flashed that laughing smile for an instant, that smile I remembered so well from the days we worked together. We went with her and met a pair of friendly elephants, the worlds' fourth oldest hippopotamus, a trio of frisky giraffes and a pair of curious zebras. All the animals (except the cranky hippo) seemed to love her. Then she called out "Krueger, Krueger, come here boy..." A 5000 pound white rhinoceros came trotting up, like an obedient dog. She stroked his snout, talked softly to him, and fed apples into his soft, gaping maw. I fed him too, his wary brown eye giving me a once over before accepting my offerings. (Please note: we had a MASSIVE steel fence separating us.)

A rhino is a dangerous wild animal, with a reputation of having a bad temper. But this one had a gentler side, an obvious intelligence and a friend named Kim.

Kim's Rhino
K. Kessler

Summer Re-run Series

First posted March 29, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Uh Oh...

Took this screen shot from my site meter the other day.

It seems as if the charade which FITK has been is exposed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Street Scene

Lincoln Square, Decatur, Illinois,  about 1920

Another photo from the antique store.

The domed structure is “The Decatur Transfer House” for the city's street car line. It still exists, although it was moved to a nearby park in 1962. The other notable structure in the picture, “The Lincoln Square Theatre” was built in 1916. It also still exists and is being restored.

It is said to be haunted.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

(not so instant) Instagram

girls w camera
Photographer (with hat) unknown. Circa 1920 ~ found in antique store, 2013

These young women have finally made it onto the internet—90 years later...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, July 01, 2013


I recently learned that the venue in Reykjavík (where I took the images below) will be razed in August for yet another hotel. Grrrrr. It seems as if many of the places I've enjoyed "discovering" in Reykjavík over the last 13 years are vanishing, including Sirkus, NASA, Hemmi og Valdi and now Faktorý.  This club (as well as its previous incarnation Grand Rókk), was a main venue of the Iceland Airwaves music festival; the sometimes sweltering confines of the intimate second floor room was perfect for showcasing new acts.

Here are a few images of memorable shows I attended in the now soon-to-be-history venue:

Retro Stefson, 2006 (debut)

Vicky, 2009

Sprengjuhöllin Panorama
Sprengjuhöllin, (debut), 2006

Samaris, 2012

Útidúr, 2009 (debut)

Pascal Pinon, 2009 (debut)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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