Monday, August 31, 2015

Moving Sale

I went to a studio closing Friday.



Caitlin Karolczak, Minnesota’s most noted painter of Victorian medical procedure-themed oil paintings, was leaving her old studio space. The building which housed her studio,  located in a charming conversion of an old factory, is becoming a victim of its own success—first it added a thriving brewpub, and then a wedding reception venue. The artists, as usual, seemed to be getting squeezed out.



It was a nice place, I visited it several times: buying some of her art and even managing to have a few art-related conversations with her without coming off as a creepy stalker. Caitlin said she had experienced run-ins with ‘weirdos’ at previous open studios; I think her moving to a more private space may have been a way to clear out some of this excess baggage as well.



I did buy some of her artwork, and even some supplies.



Flippist World Headquarters now has a new painting in a position of prominence:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, August 28, 2015

Background



   Emily and Sean and Mary were standing in the elevator lobby of the Hotel Winneshiek, in front of an old theatrical backdrop that was hanging there. They had left Virginia and come to Decorah Iowa to meet with Sean’s Aunt Tina and Edwin Duddle.  Tina was reluctant to meet them at Edwin’s apartment, suggesting that they meet at the hotel restaurant instead.  She had been staying with Edwin ever since armed trespasser on her farm had been struck by lightning. The local police downplayed the incident, but Tina had met with the FBI and she knew that it was somehow related to Sean and Mary.

   “I remember this backdrop,” said Emily,  “It was for a play about the life of Moses. I saw it here, upstairs in the old opera house, just before I left for New York for the first time,” said Emily, “It seemed so exotic at the time. Seeing that play… that was when I met John. John Regelind the first, that is.  I had won an art contest for the local paper and they gave me a box seat where I could do sketches of the play—for use as illustrations in a feature article.  John was in town on business and had a seat in the same box. He was impressed by my ability and, after we talked at intermission, by my personality as well. It was his idea that I should go with him to New York—he said he had connections there—and could set me up with magazine editors and gallery owners,” Emily said,  “He set me up all right.”

   “When I got to New York and became his mistress he got me an apartment in Greenwich Village, just couple blocks away from Washington Square. John lived on Lower Fifth Avenue, in the ritzy section. It was a short cab ride to my place. The Village was a wild place then: a lot of Bohemians, artists, radicals, visionaries.”

   “That’s when you began to collect your book of spells?” asked Sean.

   “Yes, throughout the twenties. I got them from a variety of sources. They were mainly from fortune tellers, gypsies, and other seers. Most of them were from eastern Europe and Scandinavia, but a few came from the Caribbean and Africa as well,” Emily said, looking directly at Mary, “We practiced our magic in secret, I learned what worked, what didn’t work, and what was too dangerous to use.”

   “When did you first become aware of your powers?” asked Mary.

   “I was very young. My mother often spoke to me about my grandmother and warned me about how she had ended up in an asylum. I learned to keep my mouth shut.”



   In Edwin Duddle’s apartment, Tina was having second thoughts about meeting Emily at The Winneshiek Hotel. She was at the sink in the bathroom, putting on her make-up. When she picked up her lipstick, she noticed that her hand was shaking.

   “I’ll just leave it at a little powder,” she said to herself, then walked out to the bedroom, where Edwin was struggling with his tie, “Let me help you with that,” she said. Edwin’s hands were trembling as well.

   “I don’t know if I can go through with this,” said Edwin.

   “Tell me about it,” said Tina, straightening his tie, “I’ve always had some resentment about the way she left me, twice. But there’s no use in trying to rewrite the past. We’ll go and be civil adults. Her revival is a miracle and we should make the most of it.  When Sean called me from Virginia and said that Emily was alive and that they were going to bring her to Decorah I simply refused to believe what I was hearing. It will be hard for her, too. When she left us we were young, and now… ”

   “Now we’re old. What do I have to show for my life?” said Edwin. “A bad back, arthritis, wrinkles, living above a junk shop.”

   “You have got me, Edwin. And I have you,” said Tina, “Sharing a life with someone else is a situation a lot of people would like to be in. She won’t begrudge us our happiness.”

   “I suppose you’re right, although that won’t erase my memory of what happened then,” Edwin said.

   “It doesn’t matter anymore,” said Tina, “Your memories have created a life of their own. Let it go.”



   Sean and Mary were standing in the front lobby when Tina and Edwin walked in. Emily was in the Ladies Room.

   “Edwin, Tina, so good to see you!” said Sean, embracing Tina, then shaking Edwin’s hand. “Emily will be out in a minute.”

   “I’m so happy that you came back,” said Tina, “After all you’ve been through, I thought I’d never see you two again.”

   “It’s been… interesting,” said Mary, “This is the beginning of a happier time.”

   “Those men… ?” asked Tina.

   “The Brotherhood? They’re gone. Blown to bits. The FBI said there were explosives stored in the building where they were meeting. Something, perhaps lightning, triggered a massive explosion,” Mary said, “They had been under investigation for some time and were on the verge of being arrested anyway. You probably didn’t hear anything about it—it was kept secret in the name of national security.”

   Emily walked into the lobby where she saw the group waiting. she walked up to Tina and said: “Forgive me.”

   Tina burst into tears and put her arms around Emily.

   “Mother,” said Tina.






Fiction.




By Professor Batty




Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts 2015



Another year, another Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit. This year was less than memorable, to put it charitably. Perhaps the phrase 'State Fair Fine Arts' is becoming an oxymoron. Perhaps I'm jaded. The worst offenders were poorly printed digital photos. It was like 1999 all over again: blocked up, pixelated, blurry lo-rez jpeg images. Not all, to be sure, but many—there shouldn't be any in 2015.

I did run into my old pal Nicole, so we commiserated over chocolate malts and selfies:




The best art was found outside the exhibit. This highly decorated stand, not yet open, was even more attractive in the twilight:



Even the kiddie rides took on a special patina in the gloaming:



Better luck next year!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Has Broken



A recent cold front has broken the back of summer with an emphatic statement. The blood red sunsets from western forest fires have been replaced with cool showers and brisk breezes. No more highs in the 80s; an inexorable slide to autumn. Good sleeping weather—the lows will be in the 50s—although I don't mind sleeping when it’s warm. It’s a good thing overall, however. The longer summer lingers, the stranger things get. I’ve had my share of strangeness in the last couple of weeks: odd things, sometimes several times a day, weird events so pointless that they wouldn’t even make good stories. Best left for another day. Or never told at all. Binge-watching the television series Fargo sure didn't help my equanimity any either.

But that was then, now August is nearly gone and September is shaping up to be a blast. I've got a new role to play, that of Father of the Groom (“Show up, shut up, and pony up.”), and I've been enjoying relearning photography with my new equipment. And then, back to Iceland in October.

I think I would go bonkers if I lived in a place which didn’t have regular seasons.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Friday, August 21, 2015

Rebirth



   Mary entered the inner room. The air within was similar to that of a greenhouse, warm and humid, almost suffocating. The room was illuminated by a feeble orange glow emanating from an overhead light fixture. A shrouded figure occupied a large table in the center of the room. Mary shut the door behind her. She removed the shroud and saw the motionless body of a naked woman lying on the ancient table—Emily.

   “Emily, I have come to awaken you,” said Mary, who then climbed up upon the table and straddled the body lying upon the bier.  Mary began to recite a chant she had found in Emily’s book of spells:
Ahmen lonah, ethen gonar, rehan delah.
   Mary embraced Emily’s inert body.
Ahmen lonah, ethen gonar, rehan delah.
   As she continued, Mary’s embraces became more passionate.
Ahmen lonah, ethen gonar, rehan delah.
   Mary began moving her body rhythmically over Emily’s.
Ahmen lonah, ethen gonar, rehan delah.
    Fully aroused, Mary’s body became flush with perspiration.
Ahmen lonah, ethen gonar, rehan delah.
   As she began to come, Mary kissed Emily on the lips, wetly and deeply. Emily’s body began to shake with small tremors, then larger ones, growing to match Mary’s convulsions. Emily took a deep breath and opened her eyes.



   Outside, the storm had begun to rage in earnest, with nearly constant lightning and sheets of rain. Sean picked up Mary’s clothes and backpack and set them inside the Chamber House’s outer gate.



   At the Regelind manor, The Brotherhood was preparing for its full moon visitation to The Chamber House. John, who had been the group’s leader, was sitting at the far side of the circular table, across from the new leader. The discussion concerned the recent events in Seattle. The new leader’s policy of assassination had mixed results. Two potential problems, Sally O'Donnell and Tara, the fortune teller/agent had been eliminated by a covert operative. That operative had then gone back to Tara’s house to ensure that Tara’s apartment was free of any evidence that might have linked her to the brotherhood. When he had inadvertently entered the duplex apartment below Tara’s he had been killed.  Regelind knew that even if he hadn’t gone to the FBI, things were deteriorating so quickly the FBI would soon uncover The Brotherhood’s plot anyway. All that he could do now was wait; the preparations he had made over the last few days were complete. It would all be over soon. The meeting adjourned, and the members went to the house’s rear foyer put on rain gear for the walk to The Chamber House. The CCTV monitor positioned next to the back door, which showed the inside of the chamber room, was blank.

   “Probably knocked out by the rain,” said John Regelind, when one of the members asked about the missing CCTV feed.



   Mary rose up from her position on Emily and cradled Emily’s face in her hands.

   “Welcome back,” Mary said, “How do you feel?”

   “Thank you,” rasped Emily, “Groggy. Help me up.”

   Mary got off the table and put an arm around Emily’s shoulder, lifting her to a seated position.

   “I’ve got some clothes for you outside. I’ll be right back.”

   A gust of cool air swept in when Mary opened the door. She saw Sean standing in the entry, looking out, with her clothes and her backpack lying on the floor behind him.

   “Any sign of anyone yet?” said Mary.

   “No, it's raining pretty hard. Is she…” Sean said.

   “We’ll be out in a minute,” Mary said, picking up her things.

   Back in the inner room, Emily had managed to get up from the table and was standing by herself. Mary helped her get dressed and then put her own clothes on.

   “Can you walk?” Mary asked, and when Emily nodded, Mary said, “I have someone for you to meet.”

   As the women walked out of the room Sean turned around.

   “Grandmother… ” he said and tenderly embraced her.

   A flurry of yips came from the direction of Regelind’s house.

   “Company’s coming,” said Mary, “We’d better head out. I’ll re-lock only a couple of the inner door locks. That will keep them from entering the inner room for a while. By the time they figure it out, we’ll be long gone.”



   The members of The Brotherhood walked single-file up the path to The Chamber House. As they approached the structure, the rain began to let up. When they reached the building the leader of the group motioned for Regelind to open the outer gate. Regelind, with shaking hands, opened the padlock and stepped back. The leader entered and reached for the switch to turn on the lights in the outer passage. The five sticks of dynamite, which had been embedded in eight hundred pounds of anhydrous ammonia, were connected to blasting caps that were wired to the light switch. In an instant, The Brotherhood ceased to exist.



   Mary and Sean and Emily were already past the fence and several hundred yards down the creek bed when they heard the explosion and felt the shock wave. When debris began raining down a few seconds later they sought shelter under the overhanging branches of a large tree.

   When it had stopped, Sean asked the women: “Was that your doing?”

   “No,” said Emily.

   “Not me,” Mary said.

   “I think that’s the end of The Brotherhood,” said Sean, “Here’s to The Matriarchy, may we live to see the new era.”

   “And here’s to my new family,” said Emily.

   “We’ll head out as soon as we can to Iowa; you’ve got a daughter who’s been waiting to see you for a long time.” said Sean.

   “And then we’ll go back to Seattle,” said Mary, “There’s a great grand-daughter on the way.”

   “Yes, that will be nice,” said Emily, “If I can last that long.”





Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Secret Vice



My needs are few, my desires simple. I enjoy partaking of a full-bodied stout on occasion—only with food of course. There are dozens to chose from, running the gamut from nasty (Rasputin) to the transcendent (Speedway Coffee). My latest discovery is very close to the "godhead" and readily attainable.

Night Tripper is from New Holland Brewing, which also makes the ridiculously over-the-top Dragon's Milk which, when paired with Ice Cream, is the ultimate in dessert beer. Night Tripper is very similar, but not as sweet and doesn't have the liquor overtones of DM. These brews are 11+% alcohol so consume with caution—they are very drinkable but a couple of these is the same as a six pack of regular beer. One is plenty for me, my teeth get 'comfortably numb' but I remain able to carry on a conversation. YMMV.

The deliciously perverse description on the label:
An abundance of roasted malts and flaked barley create a rich roaty stout with deeply intense, lush flavors. Layered, nuanced tones invite intrigue and reward a curious palate. Pairings: dark chocolate, stinky cheese, cayenne.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Monday, August 17, 2015

Attack of the Mutant Tomatoes




My heirloom tomatoes display somewhat disturbing topographies…

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, August 14, 2015

Rendezvous With Destiny



   “Tonight’s the night, isn’t it?” thought Sean, “The start of the new era.”

   “Or the end of a dream,” thought Mary, “Somehow, I never thought the outcome would be dependent on a trip to REI.”

   The couple had returned to their ‘safe house’ with several bags of clothing and gear. They hadn’t seen anyone tailing them but were still communicating telepathically figuring that the car and the house were probably bugged. The debit cards left by the FBI were generous; Mary bought a backpack, two sets of leggings and a pair of spandex tops, as well as two pairs of waterproof boots. Sean also bought leggings and boots as well as an expedition vest and a variety of tools, including a night vision scope. Everything was colored dark gray or black.

   “It will be dark by ten-thirty,” thought Mary, “It should take us about an hour to reach the Chamber House if we walk along the creek. The full moon is at twelve–fifteen. That should give us plenty of time to free Emily.” 

   “What if we run into The Brotherhood?” thought Sean, “Flight or fight?”

   “I can deal with them, but I will need a lookout. If worst comes to worst, we’ll have reinforcements.”

   “Your animal allies?” thought Sean.

   “I prefer to call them my children of the night,” thought Mary.



   John Regelind III spent the afternoon in final preparations for the convergence of the full moon.

   “The Final Meeting,” he thought to himself as he re-locked the outer iron gate of The Chamber House.



   The FBI called the safe house at four P.M. Sean answered.

   “Everything alright?" said the agent.

   “Great,” said Sean, “Just great. We went to that coffee house you recommended, did some shopping. Mary’s taking a little nap. I think we’ll stay in and catch a movie tonight. There’s a new Pixar film on Netflix.”

   “Good. Enjoy the evening. We’ll be in touch.”



   In his Reykjavík apartment, Hilmar opened the statistics page for his ‘old religion’ website.  The server seemed to be bogging down when he had tried to access it on his cell phone earlier in the day. He wanted to make sure there wasn’t a hardware problem. He opened the weekly totals and was astounded. In the last four days, since he had installed Mary’s spells, the number of paid downloads had risen by an order of magnitude.

   Each day.



   Mary and Sean left the safe house at ten-thirty.  There were flashes of lightning in the distance, but they were too far away to produce any thunder. The creek ran behind the house. It was only a trickle here, with an occasional small pool forming in its bends. As they picked their way along the bank, Sean could hear rustling in the brush; he figured that they were being followed by Mary’s ‘children.’ Mary said nothing. She had instructed Sean not to wear his ring in order to allow her to to devote her full attention to their mission. When they reached Hangman Tree Road, Mary held up her hand. At one of the bridges that spanned the creek a large tree was blocking its passage.

   “I’m scanning the road with the help of my ‘children’, there’s a car approaching now,  wait until it has passed us,” Mary said. When the car was out of sight she hissed at Sean: “Now! Run!”

   As he was running, Sean could hear the scrabbling sounds of numerous hooves, paws and claws on the road all around him.  Once they were on the other side of the road, they reentered the creek bed. The woods were much denser here, forcing Sean to turn on his night vision scope. Mary said  that she didn’t need one. When they reached the boundary of the Regelind estate, they were greeted by a heavy steel fence stretched across the stream.

   “Turn off your scope and shut your eyes,” Mary whispered. When Sean did, the fence  began to glow brightly until the cross bars arced into incandescence, then separated. “Okay, it’s open now,” she said, “We’re almost there.”

   They proceeded up a narrow path which snaked its way through the woods until it reached an open area. The storm to the west was rapidly building and its lightning had become almost continuous, its rumbling thunder could now be heard.  On the hill above them was a round brick structure. They approached it from the rear and quietly walked around to the locked gate on the other side. Mary looked at Sean and whispered:

   “Keep a lookout, if you see anyone coming, put the ring on, but only as a last resort. You’ll hear the animals responding to any intruders before you see them. Look inside with your gadget and tell me what you see, my senses are enhanced, but not that enhanced.”

   Sean peered into the building with his night vision scope.

   “There’s an inner door, with what appears to be seven keyholes. There are barrels and bags and landscaping equipment in the passages on either side of it,” he said, “And a padlock on the gate, of course.”

   “I told you I was good with locks didn’t I?" said Mary. She stroked the padlock and it sprang open. Mary put down her backpack and began to take off her clothes. “This is the point where I must go alone,” she said, “I have to perform a specific ritual in order to release Emily from her suspended state. It may take some time.”

   Sean, who was used to Mary's habit of disrobing at unusual times, began to scan the woods.

   When Mary was completely naked, she opened the gate and walked into the Chamber House. She removed the iron bar on the massive door then touched each keyhole. As she did, the mechanism behind each one clicked. After the seventh lock, the door swung inward, opening of its own volition. A dim orange light spilled out from within.

   “As we were born, so shall we be reborn,” Mary said, taking a deep breath as she went in.

   Outside, Sean felt a drop of rain.




Fiction


By Professor Batty




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

River Rats



My little canoe and I prowled the Rum River last week. The flotsam and jetsam pictured above is left by the 'rats' who dump their non-biodegradables into the stream. It's just the tip of the trash-berg. I spent an hour collecting the worst of it, all in an area of about 400 square feet:



Two full bags as well as a couple of 2-liter pop bottles—one of them full of root beer.

It was only a dent, but where I did do a clean up it looked better already. I might make this a habit.

The most disgusting item was a can of Budweiser Clamato beer.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 5 




Monday, August 10, 2015

Girls’ Night Out











By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, August 07, 2015

Things Left Unsaid



   As Sean had suspected, a thorough debriefing was the first item on the FBI’s agenda. He and Mary were taken directly from the airport to a ‘safe house’ in Virginia—a tastefully furnished modernist style home situated in a wooded area adjoining the Prince William Forest Park. After a barrage of questions from the agents concerning the couple’s activities in Iceland, the subject turned to The Brotherhood investigation.

   “We’ve been investigating the information you gave us in your Seattle deposition,” said the Richmond agent, “As far as we’ve been able to corroborate, it seems to be accurate. We’re almost ready to begin a major operation to break up this ring, both here and in Seattle. We need a few more pieces to fall into place before we can act.”

   “Forgive me for being so bold, but may I ask when do you think this might happen?” said Mary, “There are still several people at risk: I’m thinking of Molly and Jo in Seattle, Sean’s aunt in Iowa and, of course, Sean and me.”

   “As long as you’re here, you are reasonably safe,” said the agent. “Molly has taken steps to reduce her exposure. Jo is currently in a women’s shelter—the restraining order on her ex is being used as a pretext to disassociate her from The Brotherhood investigation. There has been no further activity detected in Decorah. Concerning the timing, we can’t divulge that information. Off the record, I will say that it will be within the next two weeks.”

   “Two flippin’ weeks? The full moon is tomorrow night!” thought Mary.

   “Are we being detained?” asked Sean. “We both have obligations in Seattle.”

   “No, of course not,” said the agent, “But I would strongly recommend against returning there at this time. We feel it would be in your best interest that no one knows where you are. That’s why we intercepted you at customs. The flight log will show that you returned to Seattle—there is no record of you flying into Dulles. You’ll have a car at your disposal, there are suggestions for and passes to local attractions, shopping, cinemas, etcetera.  All we ask is that you sleep here each night, and don’t make any transactions in your names which can be used to trace your location. A suitable amount of spending money is also available—to be repaid, of course. The compound has a perimeter security system,  a manned security post at the gatehouse to the community, and a rapid response team is on call 24/7. We’ll be in contact with updates—every day, 4 P.M. You don’t need to worry. Enjoy your stay here, think of this as a vacation. We’ve got things covered.”

   Mary was about to speak up about the full moon meeting at The Chamber House but decided against it.

   “Either they don’t know what they’re doing, or there’s a lot they aren’t telling us,” thought Mary, “I think we’ve got a date for tomorrow night, n'est-ce pas?”

   “I gather that this will be the storm I should fear?” thought Sean.

   “Think of it as a family reunion—of a different sort,” thought Mary.

   “Do you know a place where we can get some good coffee in the morning?” asked Sean.

   “Insomnia in Woodbridge.  My son says ‘It’s da bomb’,” said the agent, smiling, “It’s up U.S. 1 a few miles,  in a strip mall just off of River Ridge Boulevard. You can’t miss it.”

   “Thanks, I’ll make a note of it,” said Sean with a yawn. “If you don’t mind, we’d like to get some sleep, it’s been a long day.”

   “Certainly.  We’ll be in touch. Good evening.” said the agent.

   After the agents had left, Sean and Mary continued to ‘converse’ via their telepathic rings. Sean had his laptop open and was looking at a map of the area.

   “Assuming everything here is bugged, we should act as if we’re buying into their plan.” thought Mary, “We can use the Wi-Fi in the coffee shop, ostentatiously to plan our day, but really use it to research our trip to The Chamber House.”

   “That’s a good idea.” thought Sean, “The Regelind estate is only about a mile and a half from here. We’re on Joplin Road, and its on Hangman Tree road. If we hike up along Quantico Creek we can reach the chamber house without being seen. Will you be able to get us into it?”

   “Yes,” thought Mary, “Oh God, yes.”  



   The next morning Mary and Sean went out for breakfast at the coffee shop that the  agent had suggested.  Despite the edgy name, its offerings and atmosphere was undistinguished, especially compared to Seattle.  The WiFi connection was good, however, and Mary and Sean silently compared notes on the terrain and the weather for the evening.

   “Anyone watching us must think we’re the dullest couple in the world,” thought Mary, “We should say something to each other.”

   “I don’t think anyone is paying any attention to us at all,” thought Sean, “But you’re right.”

   “Didn’t you say that you wanted to do some shopping?” asked Sean.

   “As a matter of fact, I do. I can barely fit into my clothes. I wonder if there is a maternity shop that sells jumpers. Or something in a nice floral print.” said Mary, smiling. “A ninja-styled jumper in a camouflage print, that is,” she thought.

   “I think we might have some luck at this REI in Fairfax. It isn’t too far away,” said Sean, pointing to his laptop,  “We can take the scenic route back, past Quantico Creek, the car is probably geotagged, but it shouldn’t be too suspicious if we use it for site-seeing,” he thought.



   Outside the coffee house, in an unmarked F.B.I. van, one of the two agents listening in to Sean and Mary’s conversation turned to the other and said: “This has got to be the dullest assignment ever. Eavesdropping on two yuppies discussing their plans to go to REI.”

   “They haven’t said anything of interest in the last 12 hours. Why would anyone be interested in killing them?” replied the other.

   “Not for us to decide. Someone thinks it is important.”

   “I say we use our discretionary powers and terminate this operation.”

   “Agreed. Let’s file our report and get some sleep. The director said we might be needed again tonight.”




Fiction


By Professor Batty




Monday, August 03, 2015

Blue Moon

As in once in a.

This celestial non-event (generated from a quirk in the calendar) lured the Professor out on a Friday night. Anoka, a sleepy river town for many years, has finally developed a night-life, not burgeoning by any means, but exponentially bigger than it was when I first moved here thirty years ago. The "Port of Anoka", catering to the pontoon set, was as full as the blue moon itself:



Lovers, caught in a halo, strolled along the dam:



Flat-mates explored their new apartment:



Finally, I spied the majestic celestial orb rising over main street:



The blue moon and the city’s water tower made for an evocative pairing:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2