Friday, April 30, 2010

Linwood Tennis Courts at Nearly Sundown

I was walking by the courts this evening and found them empty and unused. Most evenings when I go by there are some enthusiasts hacking a ball or two around. This arty shot could be called "Two Empty Courts."

It was supposed to rain this afternoon. It didn't, at least at the places I was occupying, but we moved the geezer gang's tennis inside to Fred Wells Tennis Center. Dennis and Bill were gone to the Nationals and Brad is nursing an injury, so we has two subs - Jerry, of Thursday night fame, and Ahto, a 64 year-old 4.0 player. Ahto grew up in Finland and played bandy as a kid. He didn't start playing tennis until about 30 years ago. We played an hour and a half set, Bill C and I against the subs. We had several set points from time to time, but finally succumbed in overtime 7-6, the tiebreaker going to 9-7. It was a grand struggle. When we finished I told Ahto that he can play with us any time. I love to see 60-ish guys play like they don't want to ever lose again. He and Jerry refused to give up that one more point that would have allowed us to win. I know I won't remember this match in a week or so, but it was the highlight of a rain threatened day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Lilacs are Popping Out

It's still April, but the lilacs are blooming. I don't keep track of these things, but it seems pretty early. They smell very much like spring.

I went to get my hair cut today in the shop I've been going to for about 20 years. There was a sign on the door that said they were celebrating 40 years in business. They have changed locations from the first shop, but a couple of the barbers seem to have been there since the beginning. There was no cake. There was really nothing of a celebratory nature, except the sign. The veteran barber who cut my hair groused about it a bit. The owner took the day off and left the other guys to cut hair. He didn't buy them a cake. My hair cut was the regular price and I left wishing the guys on duty my congratulations.

There was tennis at Wooddale. It's the next to last time we play on Thursday nights this season. There were a few people playing, but the parking lot was nearly empty. It's time to play outside every chance we get. The competition was fierce tonight and we split sets - 7-6, 3-6.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let Sleeping Ducks Sleep

Again. This April has had a lot of very pretty days. Another one came around again today. I mowed the lawn for the first time in 2010. It was time and the dandelions were in need of a beheading, cumulatively. Then because it was such a nice day, I took my act to Como Park. Walking around the big lake again, I encountered this mallard snoozing. He didn't wake as I approached him and even after two photos he was still zonked out. I guess I didn't worry him much.

The flowering crab apple trees are flowering mightily in the park. I got up close to an exceptionally pretty one and took a closeup of the blossoms. These cuties are going to produce little tiny apples by the fall. But for now they're just hanging around looking pretty. There were a lot of walkers circling the lake today, a sure sign that spring has arrived here in the north.

When I got home from the hike, PP was sprawled in the back yard weeding her native plant garden, talking on her cell phone and with the land line wireless phone lying in the grass near her. This multitasking craze seems to have maxed out. April madness. It was, however, a beautiful day in the land of 10,000 lakes.

There is likely to be tennis tomorrow evening. It'll be indoors, because it's night time tennis and because it could rain.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unky Herb in Action

Unky Herb was washing dishes, doing his tousan a good deed, and I surprised him with this photo. He's quite a handy, helpful guy to have around.

I played some tennis in the middle of the day. It was about 62 degrees and there was a breath of wind, but the sun was shining and the crab apple trees continued their job of beautifying the neighborhoods. Two of the geezer quads are off to Surprise, Arizona, on Thursday to compete in Super Senior Nationals. We'll still have a quorum for the weekend, but a slightly altered group. Today we had two good sets and a couple of very long points where neither side would yield the point. It was good for our conditioning and perhaps our fading memories. Today we spent about ten minutes while warming up, trying to remember the actor who played Gomer Pyle. We remembered his Indianapolis singing engagements and his TV shows, but not his name - for about ten minutes. But it's hard to shut out the gang of geezers for very long. Jim Nabors.

Near sunset I went in search of a vantage point to watch the sun pass into the earth's shadow, and perhaps to color the sky in yellows, oranges and pinks. I stopped at Cherokee Street next to the Smith Avenue Bridge - also known as the High Bridge. I was a little early for the show so I walked out onto the bridge to get a view of the Mississippi as it flows by the Capitol City, the Saintly City. It was a beautiful, crisp late April evening.

And the sunset came as predicted at 8:13 p.m. St Paul time. It was pretty, but not spectacular. Every one is different.

Then I came home to post this blog entry, my 601st of this adventure.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Extraordinary Appearances on St Clair Avenue

It's been a week since my last post. In that week, lots of things have happened. Lots of tennis, some walks in nature, some worries about volcanoes. But I'm back.

The Prairie Princess is home today, between jobs and waiting for the Native Prairie job to begin. She and I, both needing a inoculation of spring in Minnesota's great outdoors, went to the state park inside the beltway, Fort Snelling State Park. It's the most visited of all of Minnesota's state parks - because it's very handy to the residents of the Twin Cities. There are wild creatures and wild flowers and a place where two big rivers merge. The prettiest flowers today were those little tiny blue violets, so tiny that they're hard to photograph. There were some others - creeping charlie and garlic mustard - but nothing very dramatic.

But I got a picture of the Princess in her favorite hollow tree. The tree always reminds me of Christopher Robin and his buddy, Winnie the Pooh. I used to read some of those stories to this adult woman, my daughter, who also remembers the stories. She's also my resident expert for the names of wild flowers and plants. We walked the length of Pike Island, looking for the herd of deer that reside there, without any luck. Just after we crossed the bridge off the island, we encountered three yearling deer on the path and in a thicket nearby. I took no pictures of them. I'm not sure why. I was within about 25 feet of one and he showed no fear. I guess they're pretty much used to hikers in the park.

The most interesting of the animals encountered today, and I do have a picture, was a wild turkey who was crossing St Clair Avenue, about three short blocks from the homestead. It was alone and not familiar with city traffic patterns. A stream of cars slowed to a crawl to allow the bird to escape transformation to ex-bird. The Princess took the photo with my camera as I tried to turn onto St Clair from Milton. He escaped unscathed, but he needs to get out of town.

After my trek in the wild, I'm going to take a shower and look for deer ticks. It's the season, you know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Snelling Lake in the Flood Plain

It was a bad day for my internet provider. Verrrrry sloooowwww response times, and uploading photos was a lesson in patience. So I'm publishing Tuesday morning.

I went to Fort Snelling State Park to hike, look for wild flowers, wildlife, and some exercise. I hiked around Snelling Lake, which is in the flood plain of the Minnesota River. I came up on a single, but quite large goose near the river and I was able to get pretty close to him. There are lots of geese on golf courses, but this guy was where he was supposed to be, in the wild.

And a view of some of the water near the edge of Snelling Lake. The white blossoms are the best of the flowering trees to be seen in the park right now. There are also some marsh marigolds in the wet spots, but I've posted photos of them lately. A pretty day and a nice walk, around the lake, and under the flight pattern for the international airport up the hill. The circumnavigation of Snelling Lake is three miles according to the park information sheet.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dapper Dan, Greenway H.S Class of 1960

This afternoon I talked with Dapper Dan, a tennis team mate of mine from high school. He was in town visiting relatives. We had talked previously to arrange the meeting after a chance reconnect through his sister, Cherie and my sister, the often mentioned Santini. We had a couple of hours' chat at the Black Bear Crossing on the shore of Lake Como. It has been a few weeks short of 50 years since we have been in each other's company, but we still have a lot in common to talk about. We have , however, taken divergent paths. He spent most of his working life teaching junior and senior high school students in our alma mater. He is a recent widower and is, like me, retired. He gave up tennis some years ago, but is now thinking of taking it up again, an activity that I personally recommend. In the interest of history I am posting his photo, and a cropped photo of the 1960 tennis team. Dan is the second from the right, standing next to our young, at the time, coach, Paul Bouchard.

Looking at the photo and the tennis rackets that we used that year in playing the game, it is pretty apparent that I was wielding a poor kid's excuse for a racket. Especially pitiful by today's standards, but good enough to win a few matches and to spark a life time love of the game. I'm at the far left in the photo. The line up includes only Coleraine players, all living within a five minute walk of the courts. Dapper Dan lived about a block away from me at 207 Hartley. Left to right: Jim, Tom, John, Dave. Dan, and Coach Paul - all good Anglo-Saxon names.
I don't intend to exclude today's tennis activities. I played my third day in a row, meeting with the youngest of my usual combatants at Wooddale Tennis Emporium, the Fun Zone. At least one of the players is still in his thirties. We managed two very close and entertaining sets, 8-6, 7-5. Indoor season is nearly done and we're beginning to play outside on nice enough days. Tomorrow, for example.

Has any one noticed that if the French Open was to begin this week, some of the U.S. fans would not be able to get to the action? The air ports in northern Europe, including Charles de Gaulle International are closed by volcanic activity in Iceland. I'm hoping that it settles down soon, because I'm aware of some folks who plan a trek in that direction.

I saw my first shirtless bike rider of the season, a guy who was tooling down Selby unaware of his unique status. It wasn't really that warm today, but it's an encouraging sight. And entertaining.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring flowers at Vento Nature Sanctuary

The princess and I went over to Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (BVNS) to see if the spring flowers were out and to see the places where she and her MCC crew planted bushes and trees last year. It was a beautiful spring day in one of the warmest Aprils on record. The predominant flower was the marsh marigold, much like the ones that I photographed at Crosby Farm last week. They were growing in profusion where the ground was wet. The ones pictured below were on the bank of one of the ponds, and PP stood beside them for scale. I'm trying to learn the names of a few new native plants, and I think I've got marsh marigold down cold. I'll probably never call them bog daffodils again. Probably.

The other plant that seems to be out in profusion is burdock. This one is easier to remember because it is very close to Burdick - some people who I knew well while in college and a few years afterward. Bert and Burdick are now gone to their reward, but they were good people and good to me. This Burdock, however, is kind of a weed, but a vigorous weed and one that I may be able to remember. I've got a good memory, but sometimes it's very, very short.

Thursday night is tennis night with the hardcore girls and Jerry. Hardcore Barb wasn't able to participate tonight, but we recruited Heidi to play with Jerry. They're going to play in a tournament together this weekend, so they wanted to have some time playing together. We managed to get in three sets, pretty good competition and fun to play. Jerry and Heidi play a lot differently from each other, but they are pretty effective. She hits softer, but is very consistent and persistent. Jerry usually hits hard and goes all out. They also bicker with each other sometimes when things aren't going well. It's pretty amusing, because they aren't married to each other.

A good night of tennis was followed by an order of Yang's Singapore Rice Noodles from the restaurant in Woodbury. I brought it home and shared it with the princess.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It rained and the Twins lost at home for the first time

Today's photo is the Minnesota Korean War Memorial on the Capitol grounds in St Paul. It commemorates a war that ended when I was still a youth, living in the great white northern part of the state. It's the war that gets little attention these days - just too many other more recent ones to concentrate on, I guess. It's a nice sculpture and moving when one sees it, but so far hasn't stopped the human need to engage in warfare about every generation.

It was a rainy day today. There was no tennis scheduled, and I tried to get in a nature walk at Hidden Falls. I just arrived and started to walk along the river, watching the few fishermen on the riverbank, when the rains came. I got a little wet getting back to the car, but I did not melt. I guess I needed a rest day and I managed to get one.

The princess is done with her jury duty stint. She was selected for a jury and served. She did her duty as citizen. The two day criminal trial ended in acquittal. It was a pretty good story when she came home and told it to me. It was a drug possession charge in which the state failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You may hear more about the trial, if she decides to blog about it. It's not my story.

The Twins lost to Boston 6-3 in a home game - the second of the new season in their new ball park - that pretty much ignored the rain.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marsh Marigolds are pretty yellow flowers

Marsh marigolds, a species of early spring flower of boggy places, and a species that I inadvertently called bog daffodils, to the great amusement of the Princess de Prairie, is pictured below from a hike I took down by the big river. There aren't many native flowers out yet. In the area by the river there were these and some tiny little violet-like blossoms. The marigolds like the wet areas where the flood was, and from where the water has receded a bit.

Anyway. It's Tuesday and the rain stopped by about noon (nuun?), and the several geezers and I were scheduled to hit some ground strokes, volleys and lobs at Marie Park. As sometimes happens after a rain, we were forced to do some sweeping of the courts. I have a nice barn broom that does a good job of spreading out the wetness. The sweeping reminded me of the times in high school, in the early spring in a certain northern Minnesota town, where several members of the tennis team had to shovel the ice and snow off the tennis courts in anticipation of the short spring tennis season. It was especially needed in second addition of Coleraine, because the tennis courts were used in the winter months as a skating rink. There always seemed to be some leftover ice to get to melt. Today's moisture from the rain was minimal, and we got around to playing after a little warm up while the moisture evaporated. The other bugaboo of early spring outdoor play is wind. And we had some wind today. It took some of the magic out of the action, and the play was inconsistent at times. But it was a beautiful afternoon, we were outside in the sun, playing a familiar game that we love, so what can beat that. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut again, "It this isn't nice, what is?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Outdoor Activities Prevail

It was a nearly perfect April day. This April has not been the cruel month for which it is famous. I was able to play about an hour and a half of outdoor tennis at Marie Park with the gang of geezers. There was almost no wind and the main hazard was a bright sun in the south that hindered serving and overhead smashes.

After tennis I joined some family members, including the ones pictured, in some outdoor chatting and snacks in Andy's backyard. We were even able to feast on those lemon bars that Santini loves. As you can see, it was sunny and bright, but it's still April and there is no guarantee that we won't be visited by another snow storm.

Birthday week has come and gone.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The First Monday of Birthday Week

Unky Herb had a birthday today. He is 30 years-old. We went to the Grand Szechuan restaurant near where he works to celebrate. He and the Prairie Princess are waiting to order some of that spicy Szechuan cuisine. Her birthday is later this week, ergo "birthday week."

It was a nice spring day. The trees are starting to bud and the grass is greening up. The year that UH was born there was a big snowstorm the day that he was born. There was no storm in the forecast this year, but April can be cruel.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Fanciest Bench Ever

It was a nice day and tennis had been canceled by the Fort Snelling Tennis Club management because it's Easter. The geezers could have played outside, but instead took the day off. In the absence of a real plan for exercise, after lunch, I took a bike ride. It's real early for me to be biking much and a long ride was out of the question. So I took the short ride to the state capitol and environs. Because I've been on the lookout for benches lately, I was pretty impressed when I came across the bench below in the sculpture park just east of the downtown Sears store. It's the nicest one that I've come across to date.

After looking over the area around the capitol, I continued my ride to an area that I haven't visited on a bike or on foot in a number of years. In a little park by Bethesda Hospital I saw this fancy statue of Linus that was created for the summer sculpture program a few years back that filled St Paul with statues of Peanuts characters. This is one of the more colorful ones that I've seen. Trek for scale.

So my ride was about 10 miles and is the longest of the year. It's pretty puny by some standards, but I'm happy to have been out and to have returned without serious incidents. It was one of the nicest weather days for Easter that I remember.

Nothing says Easter like sauerkraut and brats. So that's what I fixed for lunch. It was pretty tasty, too. I suppose I should put the recipe on the family recipe blog, but not today.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blue Flowers Down by the River

This early in the spring it is always gratifying to find flowers blooming outside. Except for the crocuses, these are the first outsiders that I've seen. I don't think that they are native, but they are blue and plentiful. There are also some white flowers mixed in for contrast. I found them in Crosby Farm Park, planted in a flower bed in the middle of the turnaround point very near the path that leads to Upper Lake, the home of the beaver lodge.

This is a closer look at them. I'd like to know what variety of flower they are. Blue somethings, maybe?

I was in Crosby Farm Park early this afternoon after returning from indoor tennis at Wooddale. When I was last in the park it was very difficult to get to Upper Lake because the Mississippi River had flooded the area. It was better today, but there was still water over some of the paths and mud on some, too. But there were quite a few people out to explore the area on a pretty nice April weekend. I don't think I've ever seen this many folk in the area, to be honest, but after a long winter it's nice to get out into nature again. There were even some people on bikes riding through the puddles and braving the mud. None of the bikes had the skinny tires favored by bike racers, just fat tires and curious riders.

PP and I installed a new bike computer on her Bianchi yesterday and today. I mostly did trouble-shooting when the display failed to get data from the wheel sensors, but in the end we succeeded and she set the display data to zeroes and went off on her bike, good Will hunting.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guess Who's Back from White Earth

It was such a nice day, that even I was coerced into riding my bike. The mileage got me into single digits for the month and double digits for the year. PP wanted to bike over to the garden plot at Hamline and see if her perennial plants were coming up yet. She showed some enthusiasm for the ride - her first bike ride of the year - by pretending to fly. The ride was only 6.25 miles, but enough for a start. After all, I had tennis to play tonight with Jerry and the hardcore girls.

A word or two about my trip yesterday to the History Center in search of more info about George Miller, the last of my ancestors to live in the Alsace region of France, and that in 1828. This was done with an eye to perhaps doing some more research when I visit France later this year.

It was a trip to the History Center to find a reference book - "The Alsace Emigration Book." I found volume 1, but not volume 2. There were just a few Millers in the book and no George or Jean, or Jaçon (Jaçon?), Marie Elisabeth (not Elis.), or Marie Roni (perhaps Rom). Maybe volume 2 has something, if I can track it down.

The site, which is available there, did add some tantalizing details. I did a search for George Miller (aka Grossfather), born in 1823 in France. An entry from the 1880 Federal Census from Missouri (done in April, 1880)shows a George Miller, born in 1823 in Alsace. It could be Grossfather, but he is married to Caroline Miller, 47, and has a 17 year-old son, George Miller, and an adopted daughter, Corinne, 3. He was a grocer in St Louis township, St Louis County, Mo. The 17 year-old son would have been born in about 1863, around the time that Grossfather disappeared for 28 years. When he returned Sept 10, 1888, the Crawford County Journal article indicates that he was gone for 28 years and was visiting from Missouri. He must have left Prairie du Chien in 1860.

There is also a George Miller, born in France in about 1823, a servant in a hotel in November, 1880, working for a Barbara Heckler. He was in Clinton, Henry County, Missouri. Could they both be him? There is quite a distance between Clinton and St Louis.

And then tonight there was tennis at Wooddale. We played two very good and very close sets, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5). The biking took some of the starch out of my game, but all in all it was a good match and I was glad to be off the court. I think I will sleep well tonight, except that later I did have the curried Singapore Rice Noodles from Yang's and that be a constraining factor to a good night's slumber.