The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 30 – Attend a State Fair, County Fair or Renaissance Festival

Woo Hoo! It’s State Fair time. I see the MN State Fair as the great equalizer. Suddenly everyone from that kid who flips burgers at McDonalds to your doctor goes to the fair. It’s when we all hop on public transportation (seriously, if you still drive and try to park, you’re crazier than I am), all eat copious amounts of ridiculous food on a stick, enjoy sculptures made of butter like they were sculpted by Michelangelo, and prize farmers and horticulturists above all other occupations. It IS "the great Minnesota get together".

Overcrowded Fun Day
I enjoyed watching people more than anything else at the fair today. I felt like I was sharing my funday activity with 100,000 Minnesotans (I think that’s the average daily attendance at the fair). To my friends who work at the fair: I saw none of you today, where were you?! 100,000 people and I didn’t see a single person I knew. Actually, it didn’t seem too crowded; possibly because it was Steely Dan night at the Grandstand. The first time I took Chris to the fair I thought he was going to run screaming, but he enjoyed it a good deal and has since submitted pieces of his own art for exhibition in the Fine Arts building. We don’t go every year – only about once every 5 years because I think you can definitely have too much of a good time when it comes to the fair. But the fair still screams MN to me. I bet this opinion exists at other state fairs too.

In fact, here’s Hank Green (Yes, another vlogbrothers video) describing this year’s Western Montana Fair:

See, the great equalizer!

The Path to Fun
For me there is only one way to get through the fair. It is a particular path that includes the French Fry Stand, the Kare11 Barn, the Lumberjacks, the Fine Arts Building, Sweet Martha’s Cookies, the Grandstand, Fried Green Peppers, and the Skyride. Once this is over – anything else is up for grabs. Oh, and the Giant Slide – Yes, the Giant Slide! Do you really need to do anything but go down the slide? Come on, a burlap sack is a magic carpet slide rider! Oh, you crazy place of fun and overindulgence. If you don’t go home with too much sun, too much food and not enough liquids then you obviously haven’t done the fair justice.

Random Thought That’s Only Kind of Fair Related

I use YouTube every day to illustrate my point and for highlighting songs. I’ve embedded more than enough vlogbrother videos in these blog posts. In fact, how many of you Hank & John followers didn’t know they vlogged before I told you? If I can promote people I don’t know on this forum, why to I feel awkward promoting people I do know? That’s stupid.

In other words: I left you with a vlogbrother vlog up there to illustrate the state fair point – when I know there’s another video that does it better. And also – inserting promotional plug here – you should follow chriscopeful on YouTube. Chris & Jenn usually do daily vlog posts from Wales, but Chris recently visited friends and family in MN and – of course – went to the fair:

See. MN State Fair funtimes!

Picture: Your favorite fair ride or exhibit. The most crazily dressed, over the top Renaissance person you can find. There is so much fodder for pictures at any fair – it’s like “Peoples of Wal-Mart” but somehow worse.

Song: Since the MN State Fair marks the end of those endless summer nights each year, I’m going with Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights”. Ah, 1988 – the middle of the mullet craze. Ah, MN State Fair 2011 – the middle of the mullet craze. Also, here is Gaelic Storm’s “The Night I Punched Russell Crowe” because the MN State Fair is the first place I heard Gaelic Storm and this song reminds me of the entire over indulging fair experience. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy!

Tomorrow: Write a Short Story, Song or Poem on Something You See Outside Right Now

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 29 – Go Someplace in Your Town/City You’ve Never Been Before

This was a funday activity originally suggested by my friend Matt. I instantly thought it was a good idea, but since I’ve lived in the same town for most of my life I also thought it might not work for me.

I’ve been everywhere in Bloomington, MN, haven’t I?

We moved to Bloomington at the end of my first grade year of elementary school; I’m guessing May of 1982. I’ve lived in five different locations in Bloomington since then – but always the same city. To be fair, this town isn’t small. It fights with Duluth on a regular basis for bragging rights at the third largest city in MN (after Minneapolis and St. Paul – the Twin Cities) and usually wins (says the girl from Bloomington). It also has a large land area and encompasses MN landmarks like The Mall of America and the Minneapolis / St Paul International Airport (MSP) as well as the only IKEA in the state – all locations I’ve been to more times than I can count.

Maybe I haven’t been to EVERY place; there are a lot of places to go here. I made a list and came up with a number of local businesses I haven’t been too because they are new and quickly planned to go to one of these. I think this might be cheating. It’s not really surprising that I haven’t been to Poor Richard’s Commonhouse or Cowboy Jack’s because they’ve both only been open a year or less. And then I realized I have been to both – at least in the buildings, they were just known as Major’s (Ah, crappy hour: Lots of memories there.) and Steak & Ale then.

I thought about some older locations and pondered the living in the same place for nearly thirty years dilemma one more time. I think I need to move. But then Stacy and Amy and their families are both back in Bloomington now and I can walk to the part-time job-hobby and I like it – Chris and I are quite happy here. Maybe I’ll stay for a little longer then...

In the end I did cheat, but only a little. I went to two places in Bloomington. One I’ve never been to before and the other I’ve been too, but not for at least 25 years.

Where did we go today?

Scoops Ice Cream & More
This place is almost as much a Bloomington icon as the Mall of America and it’s only been open since 1994 – the year I graduated from high school. Granted the Mall of America has only been open since 1992, but who’s counting. What in the world did we do in Bloomington before MOA and Scoops? Wow, I would hate to think that these two institutions put us on the map…that probably didn’t happen until IKEA in 2004. Regardless, ice cream was the chosen venue today.

Scoops is small but homey: A sort of ma & pop location with a candy store type display on one wall and two counters of ice cream from local creameries to choose from. They have a wall (Well, I counted three walls.) of signed photos from celebrities – local and international stars of sports, acting, music and politics all made out to ‘Scoops’ with lots of love and ice cream. I’m guessing about 10 people standing fit into the store front, but there are four tables nonetheless: two more table out in the hallway and two more Adirondack-type chairs outside and across the boulevard with ‘Scoops’ written on them. Chris and I both had waffle cones – I had “Pirates Booty” and Chris had “Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake” – and yes, the ice cream was scrumptious. IT’S ICE CREAM!

What astounded me was how similar the entire experience was to the going-for-ice-cream-funday in Duluth. That Malt Shop – the one in Duluth, a good two hour drive from Scoops – which is possibly 2 miles from my house, give or take a bit. I’ve been to that Malt Shop in Duluth at least 12 times in my life. Why do we constantly look outside of our own home-sphere to find these experiences? Maybe we don’t, maybe it’s just me. I just said I’ve lived in the same place for almost 30 years – but if you add up all of the time I spend traveling, including studying and living in London, you could easily shave two years off of that total – maybe more. Maybe all of you have been everywhere in your towns; in which case this is a ridiculous blog post and you should stop reading it. This IS a ridiculous blog post because I’m wondering these big, huge things after going to get ice cream at a place down the street I’ve never been to before – but there it is.

Also, I really don’t think I’m alone in this. We all get trapped in our paths and routines. I’m all about breaking the routine frequently. You see and experience so much more when you look up every once in a while. I’m nearing the end of this month of fundays which has been a self discovery journey as much as a writing/blogging journey and a having fun journey. In the end I had to come away with something, didn’t I? Otherwise why are you all reading this?

Normandale College’s Japanese Garden
With ice cream in hand Chris and I drove over to Normandale Community College and walked around the Japanese Garden. Yes, of course I’ve been to the Japanese Garden. It’s like 6 blocks from my house. I mean that would be crazy not to go in a place I drive, walk, bike or bus past at least twice everyday. Actually, I haven’t been since like 1984 and Chris – who went to college at Normandale when he moved to this country because he was still too young to go anywhere else – hasn’t been since he graduated in 1995 (The year we started living together). Oh, those Japanese Gardens.

The garden was dedicated in 1976 – so no newness there. My opinion of the garden: Lovely, but much smaller than it seemed when I was six-years-old. There’s huge koi and Japanese maple and mugo pine – some of my favorite things. Seriously, what is wrong with me? Do I have blinders on! A garden and an ice cream shop – neither is a stretch for my lifestyle or anything. I spend many a day writing in, walking around or listening to an outdoor concert in gardens. I could – and would – eat ice cream everyday if it had the same calorie intake as tea. I mean yummy things and sunshiny nature places are all I’ve been blogging about this entire month; and yet here are two places literally in my backyard, both going unnoticed by me.

It does sound like my day was more aggravating than fun, but I promise it was a good day with new experiences in it. Try it. No, really. I would like other people to have as much as fun as I did today while also being annoyed with themselves and their own short sidedness. Please…

Picture: Where did you go today? A picture of yourself at the place you’ve never been before.

Song: R.E.M’s “Stand” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s (because, really when is there not an MCC song for one of my blog posts) “I am a Town”.

Tomorrow: Attend a State Fair, County Fair or Renaissance Festival

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 28 – Wander around a Museum

I realize some people think they are boring, but I’ve always loved a good museum. Art, history, science, tin, Barbie, MoMA…whatever – museums are high up on my list of fun things. Sometimes randomness is fun and it’s amazing what people collect.

Whilst traveling, Chris and I have made a habit of going to museums. I’m not exactly sure when this started – maybe we always have; he is an artist after all. I think my favorite trip was Chicago a couple years ago when we ended up at 5 different museums and spent a good two hours in The Thorne Miniature Room exhibit. Who knew how fun tiny things could be?

Today we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota to see the King Tut exhibit before it ends. The Science Museum was a favorite school field trip when I was little. There’s lots of hands-on for children and I’ve always enjoyed their collection of old-school medical/quackery devices. I think the Science Museum is where I discovered how gullible people can be. And they have musical stairs – musical stairs are cool!

I honestly don’t know if I liked the Tut exhibit or not. I’m guessing most of the antiquities are replicas because they weren’t in cases and I didn’t see a lot of temperature and humidity gauges; but nothing said it was a replica in print anywhere in the plague copy. Well, except for Tutankhamen – he was a replica. On the other hand, the cartouches were cool and the size and amount of stuff was impressive. Not over-stimulating, I’ll-never-be-able-to-see-it-all like the Egyptian collection at The British Museum, which I think was the last museum I was at this summer. Today was still enjoyable and fun.

My favorite part of museum wandering is the scope of imagination just sitting there in a palpable state waiting to be discovered. I started bringing a notebook to write down story ideas because I’m always inspired by something on exhibit. Today’s story idea came from a video about finding King Tut’s sarcophagus. Apparently a local, unnamed water boy helping out at the dig was the first person to come across the steps leading down and into the burial site. I think a mid-grade or picture book version from the boy’s perspective would be good. Naming the Water Boy: See how I already have a title and everything – by ‘everything’ I mean all but the actual writing, plot or characterization.

Museums: Educational, inspirational but mostly FUN.

Picture: The exhibit you are looking at or museum you decided to go to. What’s your favorite item on display?

Song: Barnaked Ladies’ “If I had a Million Dollars” if only for the art comments and a real green dress is cruel. Also Indigo Girls’ “Galileo”, a man who seems very museum-y to me...OK, this song also reminds me of all the artists, musicians and scientists who try to enlighten out human existence through their genius. And those things all end up in museums.

Tomorrow: Go Someplace in Your Town/City You’ve Never Been Before