Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cool and rainy

It was rainy and cool today - the coolest day in over a month. I managed to play a little tennis in the morning, but mostly let my achy, creaking joints rest. I also applied some ice to my left knee, the one with the extra knobs.

Purple petunias from the butterfly garden at Como Park.

I'm in the middle of getting psychologically ready to attend the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation in Coleraine. I plan to go look at the yearbook - the Blast - and then try to recognize the faces after the damage done by 50 years of Father Time. Luckily I haven't changed a bit.

I may bring along the antique ax I have that used to belong to Abe Lincoln. Of course it's had 5 new handles and 3 new heads.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A campus visit

Rich is still in town and we've been playing quite a bit of tennis. And we'll probably play some more before he leaves at the end of the Labor Day weekend. Today, since he and I are both alumni of Hamline University and because we are trying to help our old tennis coach, Doc Lewis, get into Hamline's Athletic Hall of Fame, we took a trip to Hamline. We toured the campus before our visits with a couple of interested parties. The statue of Bishop Hamline, the colleges namesake is pretty photogenic with the flowers and lawn neatly manicured for the start of new student days next week. It's a pretty campus this time of year.

And we had to stop by the tennis courts. This used to be court one where the number one players would face each other in dual meets. I'm not sure it's still used that way, but we appreciate its history. I've played on the court a number of times over the years since I graduated from the college. It has been resurfaced at least once since 1965 when it was a concrete surface.

And a memorial fountain on the grounds that looked attractive in the midmorning light. I guess I like fountains and the reflections that they sometimes provide. This one has a layer of dark gray and very rounded stones at the base.

We had a chat with a couple of members of the alumni relations department and expressed our belief that Doc Lewis deserved the hall of fame honor. Then we went off to find the tennis coach. He's a young guy, still in his twenties and a graduate of Hamline. He seems to be doing a good job of recruiting players and has a chance to have a pretty respectable team this year. He actually went to HU at the same time as the Prairie Princess and recognized her when I showed him her photo. It's a small world at Hamline. We even tried stopping at the office of a certain Mrs. Smith, but she wasn't in the office that the Alumni people had pointed us to. Maybe another time.

And there was geezer tennis again this afternoon. It's getting close to the end of summer and we'll soon be losing a couple of our competitors as they go south to escape the coming deep freeze. But today the tennis was spirited and competitive. Again, no one fell down or hurt themselves, always a good result.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Some tennis with a gent from Arizona

Rich Stebbins is in town for a while so we scheduled this morning as a time to hit some tennis balls. He drove to my place in his 1994 Honda Accord and turned off his car to come inside. When he tried to restart the Honda it just groaned and refused to turn over. This is pretty much what happened last year when he was here too. Last year we went to Sears and he bought a battery charger, which got him through last year. This year we drove to AutoZone and bought a nice new battery, then we brought it back here, jumped his car with mine and went back to the battery store to get the battery installed for free. That put us over an hour behind our schedule, but we managed to get in an hour or so of smacking tennis balls at the St Clair courts. It was a beautiful, windless day, a day well worth spending on a tennis court.

Here's the guy from Arizona at the courts.

And here's me clothed for tennis court action with my trusty tennis weapon, Wilson.

There are no scores to report - there was only practice hitting.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kids and Sculpture

When you take a bunch of photos of sculpture, sometimes you get extra characters in the photo. When the characters are little French kids, it makes the photo special. I intentionally snapped the photos with the kids in them because they were so cute. I think the kids are French, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

This was taken in the little park by St Julien the Pauvre just across the Seine from Notre Dame. Sculpture title is unknown.

And this was taken at the Rodin Museum. The sculpture is one of Auguste Rodin's most famous,"The Three Shades".

Pleasant memories recalled.

Tennis scores: 6-7, 6-3.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mid August

A quiet street in the middle of a mid-size city in the midwest.

I had a walk around the neighborhood on one of the nicest days in the history of days. There must be an acronym for that. I was just stretching my legs in anticipation of some tennis action this afternoon, and also enjoying an August morning. The birds were singing. the flowers blooming and the rabbits eating my carrot tops.

Rich, my old college tennis team mate, is in town again for a couple of weeks. He came for a wedding of his niece, but also to play some tennis with the gang of geezers. It was a little windy in the mini valley that contains the Marie Park courts, but not so bad as to discourage play. There were eight of us today, and is usually the case, no one got hurt and no discouraging words were heard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some are flowers

There are a lot of plants like this in the parks and even growing in DavN's (Datter av Norge's) native garden plot. I think it may be goldenrod, and goldenrod has a reputation for being one of the prime causes of hay fever. Along with rag weed. There seems to be some people beginning to get the tell tale symptoms of pollen allergies. The tennis geezers and even Unky Herb seem to be reacting. I sort of like the flowers on this weed, but it takes its toll.

I'm in a tennis slump. Last night in USTA mixed doubles play, my partner and I lost to a pair that we probably should have beaten. There were a lot of errors and double faults that don't usually occur. We went down 6-3, 6-2. Luckily there was no money on the outcome and nobody got hurt. And even Novak Djokovic, the world's number one player, has a bad day once in a while. He lost on Sunday, for only the second time all year, this time to Andy Murray. I lost to a couple of people named Dan and Lisa.

The tomato plants are bearing fruit. It's a tomato salad everyday now until the first freeze. There are even enough fruit that I don't mind losing an occasional orange one to the squirrel vermin that live in the neighborhood.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer flowers

It's summer and the summer flowers are in full bloom here in the northland. The black-eyed susans are at their peak for a while yet, but the feel of autumn is starting to sneak into the air. Especially after the sun goes down. It won't be long before the asters become the prevalent bloom.

I spent some time yesterday at William O'Brien State Park. It's located on the St. Croix River which is pictured below. I mostly just hiked around about a two mile trail and read the trail signs about the park and the flora and fauna in the area. It was a nice day for a walk in the woods.

There was morning tennis again today. The weather was pretty much perfect for an August morning. We had eight guys and we played the better part of two and a half hours. I was a little off my game - the coordination just wasn't there today. The sets were competitive and no one was injured so it was a good day. It would have been better if I had been able to get my serve in, but there will be better days again.

It was nice enough when I got home, that I mowed the lawn and enjoyed the odor of freshly mowed grass, but without the smell of burned gasoline exhaust. Then I picked a couple of tomatoes from my little garden patch and made some home made soup. It doesn't look like the carrots are going to be much of a crop. The bunnies (vermin) that live in PP's native grass garden are still eating the leaves off the plants. My new protective fence is not very effective. Nonetheless, it was a nice busy August day, and the soup was pretty darn good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two fountains

Another opportunity to use a new photo and one from France. I'm running out of comparisons and I'll soon have to try to be a bit more creative. The first fountain is in Como Park near Lexington Avenue.

The second is in Paris very near the Louvre Art Museum. A little more grand, I'd say.

It was another fine day in Minnesota. It was a good day for a walk in the park. That's where the first fountain was.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The Prairie Princess (Datter av Norge) left her boots here when she left for school. She doesn't need the steel toed version of work boots in her new enclave somewhere near Oslo, but they make a nice subject for photography. These are PP's boots nestled in front of her native grass garden here in St Paul. Waiting.

It was very close to one of the nicest days in the history of days today. It was a really nice day to play some tennis outside and enjoy the warm zephyrs as they wafted lightly past the eight guys who showed up to play some tennis today. Everybody played well and they were all winners - just like Little League. Prof Bill was back from his bout with rotator cuff problems and showing some of his usual grit. It's hard to believe that we're two and a half weeks from Labor Day weekend and that the Minnesota State Fair starts next Thursday. I can almost smell the deep fried butter sticks.

And political funny season is back in full swing. It's hard not to be excited.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A large bird in a city lake

This is a city lake. I live in a city with such a lake. Large birds live here, too. If that isn't nice, what is?

It's raining really, really hard in St Paul tonight. I guess it's our turn.

Monday, August 15, 2011


It was a nice, nice day. I was scheduled to play Senior USTA mixed doubles at 7:30, so I took a stroll around Como Park as a kind of warm-up for the evening. I circled the lake first. They have done a lot of improving of the vegetation and flowers and planted milkweeds and butterfly milkweeds along with an assortment of other blooms to attract butterflies. They should really be called flutterbyes. Then I walked over the pedestrian bridge over Lexington Avenue to see how the Enchanted Garden was progressing. It's planted every year with the express purpose of attracting a population of butterflies. It has an assortment of colorful flowers and, of course, milkweed.

This butterfly is not a monarch.

This butterfly is a monarch.

I was pleased with my collection of butterfly photos. I may go back with my new camera tomorrow and see if I can get some better ones.

And then, tonight, there was tennis. This was the first match of the season for the senior league. Mostly I've been playing in an open league, where there is no age limit, but the senior team requires people of at least age 50 (I think). It doesn't matter what the age is, because I'm old enough. It was nice to play against people who have slowed down nearly as much as I have, and to be reasonably competitive. The people on the open team that I played on this summer are mostly old enough to play on this team, so we were good enough to win tonight. Marsha was my partner tonight and we won too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two beaches

It's always fun to contrast two similar, but disparate images. Plus, it's more interesting than repeating scores of tennis matches between aging, but somewhat competitive, gentlemen. The first beach pictured is an artificial one set up along the Seine in Paris about two weeks ago. The city trucked in sand to make an artificial beach in a place where none exists anymore. They trucked in enough sand so that the guys from Disneyland France could craft a sand castle on the artificial beach. It was great fun for Parisians and tourists alike and they crowded onto the beach and enjoyed the day. And each other.

This other beach is a real beach at the end of Pike Island. It is also next to a river (or two), in this case the merger of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. There are no people here to enjoy the day, nor any Disney sand castles.

We tried to play tennis this morning at 8:30, but it was sprinkling and the courts were wet. So we postponed the action and had coffee at Caribou. There we chatted about the Twins abysmal play of late, and the general lack of good U.S A. tennis players in the top tiers of pro tennis this year. The top U.S. guy at the moment is Mardy Fish (once a Minnesota guy) who is now number eight in the world. Andy Roddick is 12th. The top American woman is Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is 31st. Venus Williams is 34th and Serena, who has been injured and just now making a comeback is 80th. It's been a bad year for American netters.

This afternoon we reassembled to try playing some more tennis. The weather had improved greatly, and although there was a bit of a wind, it was nice weather for some back and forth forehand smacking. It went well for about an hour until a wind squall blew up and it began to rain pretty briskly. We had to quit. We managed a set and a half, which isn't bad for a Saturday.

I've been harvesting some of my tomatoes from my backyard plants. I even had a couple of fried green tomatoes yesterday, and a bacon-less, lettuce-less BLT for lunch. Pretty tasty. I'm also battling with a rabbit that lives nearby, perhaps in PP's native grass garden, who has been eating the tops off my carrots. I think all those old Bugs Bunny cartoons which has Bugs stealing carrots from Elmer Fudd, were misleading. Bugs wasn't after the roots of carrots, he liked the leaves. That's my theory, at least.

And what the heck is a straw poll? In the one in Iowa, you have to pay $30 to vote in it. And you only get to vote once, because they make you dip your thumb in purple dye when you vote to discourage cheating.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some woody words

Today the Pooh tree on Pike Island looked like this.

Last April it looked like this.

For an afternoon stroll, I decided to see how Pike Island in the flood plain was doing. When I last visited the park, before the unfortunate state shutdown at the beginning of July, the path on the Minnesota River side of the island was still under water. The water has since receded, but it has changed the look and even the shape of the island. The path still has silt on it, which means it would be hard to bike on even if bikes were allowed on the island. But it was walkable and quite a few people were enjoying the wilderness experience. There was a young mother with two preteens and fishing equipment trying their hands at fishing in the Minnesota River. I chatted briefly with them and wished them good luck as I went by. I walked the full circumference of the island without once getting mud on my sneakers.

The water level never reached the height of the 1965 flood, but by the look of the dried mud on the measuring pole on the island, it was second or third highest level measured.

It was a beautiful day down by the big river.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


It was a nice day for some outdoor activities. Unfortunately the first outdoor activity of the day was lawn mowing. While I was mowing with my electric mower with the long extension cord, one of the guys working for a lawn service down the street approached me to find out about the electric mower. I guess he was curious about the amount of electric juice that's necessary to cut the lawn, and whether or not it made an appreciable difference on my utility bill. I told him that I hadn't noticed any spikes in the bill, but I am a little annoyed by the need to constantly check where the cord is while I'm mowing and periodically having to get it unkinked. He went off satisfied, without offering his lawn services - the thing that I thought he was doing when he first approached. I finished the lawn and went to have a look at my electric bill.

Other outdoor activities included a set of tennis with the geezers at Marie Park in the afternoon. We had eight guys again so we used both courts and played a couple of hours. I'm not playing up to par lately, since my return from France, but it was a nice day and there were no injuries. Jerry and I lost in a tie-breaker after being ahead 5-2. Tennis goes like that some days.

To assuage my feelings of disappointment, I went looking through my travel photos for something pretty and that had not yet been published here. My choice is a photo of a flower garden at the Jardins de Plantes in Paris.

Soothing, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Two Ponts

The French word for bridge is pont. I'm shamelessly using a photo from France and comparing it with a new picture from Minnesota. They have just a little in common. A bridge appears in each. The French bridge (pont) is the Pont du Massacre in Chartres. It's an idyllic scene on a beautiful day just a couple of weeks ago.

The Minnesota bridge is the West Seventh Street Bridge over the Mississippi in St Paul - taken today from the Hidden Falls Park on the east bank.

I checked out the rest of the bike path by the Mississippi that goes through Crosby Farm and Hidden Falls and found that it is indeed again open for bike traffic. The judicious use of a plow of some sort removed the layer of sand from the path and again allowed the path to be used for biking and hiking.

It was a cooler day than has been experienced for a while in the area - a high in the lower seventies, a little cloudy, but pleasant for some outside exercise. I thought I might find some cardinal flowers, but none were growing down by the river. I'll keep looking.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Missing French pastry

Compared to Paris, not much is happening in St Paul. After two weeks of Brioche Swiss and Eclair Chocolate even food doesn't seem so tasty. But I'm getting back into a rhythm and back into a somewhat healthier eating style. No pastries. A nice sandwich from Subway. Some cherries and a banana. Normal food.

But I did take a walk down by the river to see if the water has receded. The bike path in Crosby Farm has been under water most of the summer, but in the two weeks or so that I've been absent, the water level has dropped and the park maintenance guys have cleared the bike path of the two inches or so of mud that the flood deposited there. Biking has been reestablished though that part of the farm. Probably tomorrow I'll have a look at Hidden Falls and see if that's back to normal, too.

My tennis schedule has also returned. I played three complete sets today for the first time since that Paris thing, and although I was on the winning side of just one of them, it seemed like I was getting my legs back, not my ankles yet, they're still sore, but the rest of the legs seem okay. We were helping Curt and his cousin, Bryce, get ready for the Bear Path Tournament starting Wednesday, so we tried to play well, but it was their day today. But it was two and a half hours in the 82 degree day and my conditioning was good enough to get through.

And, of course, today the stock market crashed again. Most of the tennis group has a rooting interest in the stocks represented in the Dow Jones average. We mostly just shook our heads and opined that it was probably best to just ignore the whole subject until sanity returns - if ever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Returning to earth

It's hard to go back to the farm once you've seen Paris. First there's jet lag, then routine seems just so routine. And there's the lawn to mow and all those dirty clothes to wash. But with the chance to play tennis a couple of times and even without playing all that well, the feel of reality is returning and life is beginning to get back to normal.

The tomatoes have grown and are bearing fruit. I had a nice salad this noon with home grown, organic tomatoes still warm from the sun. If that's not nice, what is?

The Prairie Princess went off to become the Daughter of Norway on Friday. She's on the ground at grad school near Oslo and is working on getting over jet lag.  I think she's going to have a great adventure.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Off to Oslo

The Prairie Princess was all packed and i drove her to the airport to begin another adventure in another foreign land. She left this afternoon for graduate school in Norway. She's in the air as I type and will soon be navigating the intricacies of another language and another culture.

I played some tennis.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Airports

Roughly ten hours apart:

Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

Hubert H. Humphrey airport in the Twin Cities.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eiffel and Rodin

Time is getting short and we hadn't yet visited a few of the sites we wanted to get to. So today we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower and then later hoofed it to the Rodin Museum. We left early enough so that we were competing with the rush hour crowd underground, but we managed to get to our chosen destination without any trouble before most of the crowds arrived. The Tower is the most visited of the sites in Paris and it has long lines of tourists and very many guys hawking varied sizes and shape replicas of the big tower. Since we had been to the top a year ago, we opted to watch from below and marvel at the hugeness of the place. I always wonder how they were able to build such a structure in the 1880's without our modern tools.

I took some photos from very near the base to try to catch the scale of it.

Comforting to me and to perhaps many others, there were security guys, gendarmes with machine guns, strolling about doing, probably illegal in the USA, profiling of visitors.

Then off we hiked the several blocks to the Auguste Rodin Museum. Very many of his famous sculptures are located in the gardens there. He's one of my favorite sculptors and I took quite a few photos there. "The Thinker" is one of his most famous and it sits in what is called the Rose Garden, for obvious reasons.

After lunch at the museum we came back to the Ile de la Cite to finish the day. There are favorite parks nearby that I revisited, including the one just across the Seine from Notre Dame near the Cathedral of St Julian the Poor. It's well endowed with the blooming flowers of August.

Ah, Paris.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Taking the Metro to Sacre-Coeur

The weather forecast is improving and today was the warmest day so far - 79 degrees. We took the Metro to the big church on the hill, Sacre-Coeur at Montmartre. Since the Metro is our main travel option, I'm including a photo from this morning at the Ile de la Cite stop as we waited for the train.

The big church is pretty impressive.  It's newer than most, having been dedicated in 1919, and it's walls are still very white.  It is a popular destination for tourists and French people alike.  It's in a big artist quarter and there are shops featuring original art and roving sketch artists. 

A partially obscured photo of the church.  Gino is working his way up the slope.  We didn't count the steps, but I'm confident that there were less than the 422 that constitute the climb to the top of Notre Dame.

 The workers were weeding and thinning the impressive array of flowers on the way up the hill.   Paris is rich in flower gardens and window planters with colorful blooms.    These were some of the nicest on the way to Sacre-Coeur.

After lunch at a Chinese restaurant in the area near Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge, we came back to our home base for a sit down.  I took an afternoon walk around the isle we're on - the one where Notre Dame resides.  There are some famous bridges and parks here and there were people out and about enjoying the warm sun.  This is a big statue of Henry IV of France, who died in 1610, which is placed in a square near the west end of Ile de la Cite.

The very end of the island where a big willow tree shelters people lounging in the late afternoon sun.  I stood there for a while and watched the boats go by.

Another fine day very near Point Zero.