Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Time

October 29, 2010
What am I?

-A starry night

-A black ghost

-A muslim apparation

-All of the above

-None of the above

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Sister and Mt. Everest

October 21, 2010
My younger sister, Christine Shuraleff, a retired Eugene, Oregon school counselor, is a world traveler and adventurer. Over the course of her 63 years, she has travelled from the Arctic and Antarctic regions, from the Galapagos to Patagonia to Indian jungles in search of tigers, Botswana to the Svalbard archipelago. She has shunned the cathedrals, seaside beaches, cultural and the culinary meccas for the remote and inaccessible.

Fifteen years ago it was Mt. Kilimanjaro. Her love is rarefied mountain air and there is no more rarified air than that of Mt. Everest, or Mt. Sagarmatha, as the Nepaliese call it, the Goddess of the Sky. So the celebrate her October 6th birthday, her reconstituted knee, to test the amount of gas still in the old girl's tank, and to be spiritually closer to the spirits, it is off to the greatest height she has ever been for an 18 day trek, Mt. Everest Base Camp.

I am really quite proud of her.
Here are some of her pictures:

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Wedding, Belgium Style

August 21, 2010

Arnaud and Stephanie, nee Fanuel, Fieve

Please excuse my tardiness in posting our trip to Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Austria last month. My enthusiasm to write faded as my digital camera was destroyed when our canoe overturned on the Vtlava River in the Czech town of Cesky-Krumlov. I have had to rely on some photos emailed to me, stock photos, and memory. Hopefully, more photos are forthcoming from our European friends. After a week of hard rain, the weather was unusual for Belgium, sunny.
The Wedding "Day": Bride's First Appearance

Pictures taken in the garden of Stephanie's parents in Charleroi, Belgium

The wedding started at 9:00 am from Stephanie Fanuel's, the bride's, home in the French-speaking Belgium city of Charleroi. There a continental breakfast with champagne in the parent's garden started the day as the groom, guests, and town people awaited the appearance of the bride in her gown at the top of the family's staircase. The apparition of the bride created quite a stir not only for the groom, Arnaud, but for all young women at the bottom of the stairs who were anticipating Arnaud's reactions.

The Wedding "Day": The Official Ceremony

Vows at Brussel's Woluwe-Saint- Lambert City Hall

Group picture outside City Hall

The legal marriage in Belgium in a civil ceremony conducted at the city hall. It may simple signing of papers or what we might call a full wedding ceremony. Arnaud's and Stephanie's marriage we drove about 30 miles from Charleroi to a city hall in Brussels for a full wedding ceremony conducted by a city official at 11:00 am.

The Wedding "Day": The Church Wedding

Saint-Lambert's Church, Brussels

Saint-Lambert's interior

The church wedding was conducted at 3:00 pm in the 12th century church of Saint Lambert in the Woluwe district of Brussels. Mary and I helped the wedding party of about 20 bride's maids and groomsmen prepare the church for the 1 1/2 hour ceremony.

The Wedding "Day": Outdoor Reception

Groom Tossing

Then it was a 15 mile drive back south somewhere near Genappe to a old chateau converted to a country inn with stables now a dining and reception area accompanied by a beautiful outdoor garden. Champagne, hor d'ourves, helped to grease bringing together the various family members and guests. The wedding party started their own celebration by tossing Arnaud high into the air.

The Wedding "Day": Formal Reception

With Arnaud, his mother, Francoise, and brother, Jerome, at formal dinner

Moving inside for the sit down dinner started about six (very early by French standards). The early start was needed as we were treated to a multi course meal with interludes between courses serving as a smoke break and for the couple's many friends to show videos, toasts, and make jokes. Wine continued to flow.

For those interested, this was the menu:

Le ravioles de langoustines aux petits legumes bisque parfumee a la vanille.

Sorbet passion

Filet de canette de barbarie au miel et aux epices legumes rotis en cocotte

Vacherin glace et coulis de fruits rouges



Bordeaux "Chateau Anniche" 2008

Bordeaux Superieur "Chateau les Paruades" 2007
The Wedding "Day": The Dance
At 10:30pm the DJ started. A new younger crowd joined those from the formal dinner. Everyone seemed to be dancing with the music progressing from oldies to dances only the Belgians knew. We left at about 1:30am, being driven back by our guests who changed clothes only to return again.

The Wedding "Day": The End
The dancing did not stop until 5:30am.

The Wedding "Day": The Honeymoon
Two days later Arnaud and Stephanie left for the Indian Ocean island country of Mauritius for a two week honeymoon.

A honeymoon memorable moment, a Mauritius dolphin

Our Hosts

Quentin Sibille and Christel
Arnaud's long time high school friend, Quentin, his partner, Christel, and their Jack Russell dog, Harper, served as perfect hosts, drivers, and friends to make our stay at their home in Braine-l"Allude more than we had ever hoped.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Resuming my blog

October 9, 2010
I find myself beginning to forget things I have done, deep thoughts on obscure notions, and the need to record for myself at least portions of my life. The intervening time since my last entry in August is kind of like a brain fart, time dissipating into a nothingness.

Contributing to this loss is the destruction of my digital camera pictures as Mary and my canoe overturned in a Czech Republic river. I just need to continue on synthesising the past from other people's photos and pilfering the Internet before all my memories become imagination. I have entered some previously written, but unposted blogs.

The Gandy Dancer

October 7-8 2010
The "Gandy Dancer" is the name given to a 50 mile biking/hiking/snowmobile trail in northwestern Wisconsin, formerly a railroad line through such towns as Siren, Milltown, and Luck. The name comes from combining the "Gandy" from the Gandy Tool Company of Chicago which made the tools for constructing railroads and "Dancer" to mark the synchronized swinging of the hand tools and foot movements of the laborers. I doubt the workers ever connected the two romanticized words. After hearing the name of the trail I just had to walk it.
Some people may wonder why any person, especially a geezer, would think of to, let alone do such a thing. But usual 70+ degree temperatures and clear skies of an Upper Midwest October can do unusual things to a person. So with the forces of nature also affecting my enabling wife's encouragement, I packed my granola bars and water bottle in my Samoan $10 WalMart backpack and set off.
The trek was originally planned for 2 1/2 days, including two overnights in motels. However due to poor planning on my part and a Sheriff's deputy on her part, I was able to finish in two days. Mary met me at trails end, relieved I has finished and disappointed that I did not collapse into her arms. Instead we went to the local casino for a beer.
Since people like to read about other peoples suffering, let me share mine. The worst part is looking at the trail ahead disappearing into infinity. Such sights gender an "Ah shit" response.
As for the hike itself, you just put one foot in front of the other. Before you know it you have reached the end, sore legs and blistered toes included. In a way it is like life. You wake up every morning and before you know it, you have reached trails end.
The beginning
The middle

The end

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Philadelphia Impressions

July 18, 2010
Some places in this world myth becomes so intertwined with reality it is hard to separate the two. Philadelphia is one of those places to me.
"City of Brotherly Love"
Just where this notion came from is beyond me. Even Ben Franklin hated the new German immigrants whom he felt would poison his country with their alien ways. The racial tension in the Philadelphia is matched only by Detroit's, my home town. The most conspicuous sign of "Love", besides the newly weds of the wedding Mary and I attended, is the "Love" sculpture. Whether the sculpture is a sign of intentions or reality, I don't know.

George Washington Statue
This allegorical piece of metal would amaze even the "Father of our Country". Bison, elk, Indian maidens and warriors under his horse's hoofs? Why even George would have trouble lying about those.
Another Rocky Wantabe
The steps of the Philadelphia Art Institute are filled with people running up them and raising their arms in the air. There is even a statue of "Rocky Balboa" at the base of the stairs. Unknown by many, Sylvester Stallone only ran up seven steps, a double did the rest.
Samoa in Philadelphia
Somehow unknowingly ending up one night at the swanky black nightclub, The Octo, with a group of our decidedly suburban Edina book club members, I received a flyer about the "Pangea" festival, an event to foster diversity and harmony in the City of Brotherly Love. Much to my amazement, besides being one of the few to promote the diversity part, the program had a non-Samoan woman doing a Samoan dance with swords. I had never seen a dance like that before, let alone a woman doing it, but that's not the point. I am in favor of anything promoting anything that has to do with diversity and harmony, even if the audience thought Samoa is a city in California.

The Mutter Museum

Where else can the preserved specimen of the world's largest compacted human colon or hundreds of skulls and deformed bottled babies be a major tourist site, but in Philly? Call it Historic, call it macabre, I went. After all it is the Brotherly Love sort of thing to do.


If you don't know what it is, don't bother to try it, even at Philadelphia's "Historic" Reading Market. I do know what it is and I did try it. Now I have had scrapple that you can swallow before, but this stuff they sell to tourists, even the poor Dutch settlers wouldn't recognize.

A Wedding, Philadelphia Style


Just like Romeo and Juliet, Alex Braden and Shannon Lack exchange wedding vows on a balcony in Philadelphia, officiated by Alex's friend who flew in from Kosovo. Both Alex and Shannon are now Philadelphia lawyers having met while attending law school at the University of Pittsburgh. Alex is the son of one our book club members and graduated high school with our son, Nicholas.

I just love weddings.