mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
My husband and I have an apparent attraction for quirky doomed personality cult hotels. Back in 2008 we spent one night in a quasi-romantic getaway that doubled as urban exploration at the Thomas Edison Inn in Port Huron Maryland, a picturesque rambling mock-Tudor on the St. Clair River where a portrait of ol' Thomas Alva looked sternly upon you in every bedroom. I spent a second night there for union business in 2011 and noticed how tatty the place had gotten in just a few (hard) seasons. The carpets in the meeting rooms were worn, the landscaping was bleak, but the food was still good and the Ivy Room was the kind of dark comforting place you can't come by easily these days. By mid-2012 it was closed and all the lovely leather furniture and Edison memorabilia were carted away to auction. It's a Doubletree now, considerably shorter on charm but I hear the raccoon invasions have stopped.

Well, we had to go down to Memphis again last weekend for my dad's memorial service, and while looking up hotels I learned that Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel right at Graceland would be closing this autumn, so of course we had to stay there. 

(It's being replaced with some luxe new joint called The Guest House at Graceland, which is just stupid. Why would you have an Elvis-themed anything and not call it Heartbreak Hotel? The current hotel is even on Lonely Street FFS.)

Heartbreak Hotel turned out to be a pretty OK place. The lobby and the Jungle Room bar were cute and some of the light fixtures were so amazing I was sorry to hear (from the bartender) that they, too, would be sent off as lots at an auction along with, one presumes, the portraits of EP that adorned the wall above our bed. The hotel itself looks Brutalist from the outside, but it was built in the late 1980s and the guest rooms do show it. Nothing was exactly wrong with our room, but it was dated, and I presume it was more financially feasible to just start over.

Still, we had a good kitsch-filled time. There are rainbowed fragments of mirror above the bar and Thomas Kinkade portraits of Graceland in the first-floor hallway. The fitness center was named Kid Galahad for a movie I'm pretty sure no one remembers. It all felt strangely right. 

Sisyphus

Feb. 20th, 2016 09:41 am
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Dreams are weird. My mom and her side of the family have a lot of ideas about the significance of dreams which I don't really share, but of late my dream-self seems really disgusted with my waking self.

Last night I dreamed I was cleaning my old room in my parents' house and found a box containing replicas of the UK Coronation Regalia. I have a 1/12th scale set for my dolls that my grandmother bought me in '91 but this was much larger, to the point where I could try it on. I grappled with the plastic band of the fake St. Edward's Crown, shoved it on my head and went in the living room.

There, I said to my husband, "You'll appreciate this. The core of this is supposed to be the crown of King Sisyphus and I feel like Sisyphus whenever I'm at work."

Trufax: My husband had Deep Thoughts about the myth of Sisyphus when we were in uni, the core of St. Edward's crown is thought to be very old but has no connections to Greek myth, and I do indeed feel like I'm forever rolling a stone uphill at work most of the time these days.

But yeah, in between that and the dream on Valentine's Day wherein I tracked down the guy who broke my heart in uni, Dream Mark is getting a wee bit... salty.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
When I was a small child, about three or four, there was a knife shop at the mall. Called Cutlery World, it was on the outskirts of the food court by the Orange Julius and burrito stand that served dry shredded beef that my kiddy taste buds couldn't stand. Cutlery World had as the centerpiece of its display case a giant automated Swiss Army knife that folded its dazzling array of tools in and out in a slow mechanical sweep. I was mesmerized by it. I would stand at the case and watch as knife blades and scissors and tools I didn't know the name for passed behind the glass.

(I saw one of these in a junk shop that was going out of business in NYC last year and was sorry I couldn't buy the damn thing.)

Anyway, I think that marks the beginning of a certain weird affinity I have for rhythmic mechanical stuff.

Read more... )

Ghost Town

Nov. 25th, 2015 11:51 am
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'm on the sixteenth floor of a glass cylinder by the side of I-240.  It was the Hyatt when I moved to Memphis, and then the Omni, and then the Adam's Mark, and then by the time I had the money to stay here it was a Hilton. They're finally putting some money into refurbishing the place and have broken down and permitted free wi-fi, which is nice.  The view from the 16th floor is mostly treetops in a mix of green and rusty brown, punctuated by the spire of a church where I briefly took Latin lessons as a child and the nearby landmarks of Clark Tower and what used to be the UP Bank. Memphis, the city, is lost in the trees, which my husband claims is what Mitt Romney meant when he talked about the trees all being "the right height" in Michigan.  Two miles down the freeway is the large hospital complex where my father died, and then a patch of strip malls I used to frequent, and then Covington Pike with its auto dealerships and fast food restaurants, and then finally the exit to the desolate stretch of Raleigh where my parents unwisely bought a house in 1989, not knowing that the neighborhood was going to implode around them.

I can see none of these things from the sixteenth floor. The only landmark indicating Raleigh is the cluster of WMC radio towers, which I used to call the "Dinstuhl's Formation" because from my vantage point it was located just past the candy factory.  The candy factory is still there; I bought a packet of my father's favorite Cashew Crunch there last month in hopes he'd recover enough to enjoy it.  Since he didn't, we ate it. I bought another packet yesterday to be incinerated with him.

We took a ride yesterday to see that giant spiderweb at the north end of town, the one that made international news. We found the location, a vacant field in a neighborhood which resembled the place we used to live in Detroit (not a compliment), but didn't see the web. People probably already tore it up. 

This is a strange city, sprawling and low-density.  It has the population of Detroit in an area much larger than Detroit, which itself was designed to suit five times the current population.  Memphis got to its size by gobbling up "toy towns" and unincorporated land in a way cities can't legally do in the Midwest.  Driving along the north stretch of I-240 it feels like there's nothing there at all. What's off Warford Road? Dunno, never went there. No reason to go there.

Driving here is disorienting; I've always had problems with cardinal directions in Memphis, with its curious east-west alignment.  The river flows south and the money flows east.  My husband, a quick study in places as foreign as Vienna and Inverness, needs step-by-step guidance every place we drive, and he'd been visiting since 2001. No, you don't want Little Rock, you want Nashville.  No, not THAT Nashville, keep going toward Jackson (Mississippi). You never want to head to Jackson, until you do.

It's a bad dream populated by every terrible driver that haunted Detroit in the mid-aughts.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Okay, so twenty-four hours ago I was in an Italian restaurant in Detroit, finishing dinner with a truck-driver friend who'd just gotten back to the metro area after spending two months on the road.  Then I went home, slept for three hours, got up at 3:30, boarded a taxi and a plane and another plane, and one mechanical problem, one white-out storm and two airsick bags later my most excellent spouse and I were stumbling into LaGuardia.  Since then we've walked ten miles through Brooklyn, met an internet pen pal in person, taken in a flea market/food vendor fare, attempted to get on a ferry, drunk a wonderful latte, had an excellent dinner at an arepas joint/rum bar, and taken in a rock show featuring our friends Brass Bed.

I'm not sure how I'm still standing, much less typing this, but tomorrow we're planning on a visit to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, a Broadway play, a successful ferry trip, and having dinner with another rock-musician friend.

Also there were white truffle macarons filled with chestnut paste and flecked in edible gold.  This weekend has been pretty hard to believe.


mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
As some of you who follow me on tumblr gathered, I went to a labor conference this week.  Actually, it was a labor/women's rights convention hosted by a 40-year-old labor/women's right's organization, of which I am a fairly new member.  

It was interesting.  While the individual people I met there were friendly and helpful and some were inspiring, I got a front-view seat to two of the major, major problems facing any person or group trying to advance workers' rights or women's rights these days.

On Church Ladies and Walmart )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So last year when I was in Chicago and my most excellent spouse booked us a room above a new age spa in Wicker Park, we noticed the picturesque remains of some hallowed Russian-Turkish bathhouse down the street, which at the time claimed to be "under renovation."

Yeah, I'm from Detroit and I've heard that one before. Surprise, surprise-- the place he booked us for this weekend turns out to be luxury hipster lofts located directly above the newly renovated and actually open Russian-Turkish baths, which now boasts a Russian-chow restaurant and a bar with craft cocktails.  So I'm sitting in a spacious converted-industrial something turned sleek two-bedroom apartment; the luxe aspect is undercut by things like track lighting that doesn't work yet and a "3" in magic marker lurking beneath the brass numeral on the apartment door.  Yeah, it's all very new and rough around the edges and the valet here is arguably the most terrifying parking valet I've ever seen.  He gave us our keys back after he parked my car, which was good 'cause we found out later some other cars in the lot were left unlocked.  Yeah.

We're in town for a funeral instead of rock concerts or astronomy (our usual reasons to travel), but while we're here there's no reason we can't enjoy some Russian bathhouse spa fun, right?  And cherry varenyky that might be like what Grandma used to make. 
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Once upon a time there were two girls who swore they'd be friends for life and had matching lockets to prove it.  And these girls came across a magazine filled with pictures of rubies and emeralds, and they decided that one day when they were wealthy and powerful they'd have globes studded with gems to mark all their worldwide possessions and trapiche emeralds as paperweights on their desks.

And then they grew up.  Cut for length )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
In relation to this rant:

I spent the weekend among family; the occasion was the birthday party of a bright and voluble three-year-old. As my family breeds like Kennedys, there were quite a few kidlets in packed into a short age range.  None of them have been ID'd as having developmental issues to my knowledge.

1) The birthday girl, the voluble three-year-old, who was a right little chatterbox until she got overtired
2) Another girl a week away from her third birthday, who was mostly silent but occasionally spoke a quiet complete sentence to her mother or grandmother.
3) A five-year-old boy not noticeably more talkative than child #1
4) A two-year-old girl who never uttered a word or word-like sound in my earshot
5) A two-year-old boy, same
6) A six-year-old boy who never interacted with me personally but was clearly talking to other people
7) A newborn baby (2 mos) who slept, cried, and pooped and didn't do much else.  
8-10) Some other boys in the 6-10 range with whom I did not interact.

Determining "normal behavior" in kids from this sample is pretty hard given #1 and #2 are the exact same age (two-week difference) yet could not have been more different in presentation.  (I will add that #1 has very hands-on and involved parents and #2 does, ah, not.)  General lessons to draw:

Two year olds don't really have a lot to say.  
The kids who did speak were speaking actual words and not "cute" baby talk
Newborn babies are really quite boring.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So I'm in a very nice toy and hobby shop on the east side of the metro area, looking for a pair of beginners' binoculars for my second cousin's upcoming birthday.

Me: Do you have any binoculars for little kids?  Aged three or four?

Shop guy: Boys' binoculars or girls' binoculars?

Me: Uh... gender-neutral, please.

Gender-segregated.  Binoculars.  W.T.F.  Now, the brand I ended up buying is a brand that's explicitly trying to get girls involved in science (by giving them purple binoculars?) but... wow.  Y'know, my first binoculars were black, like a little mini version of the high-quality ones my mom used.  They made me feel adult.  If someone bought me rainbow plastic binoculars I'd have felt someone was shoveling junk in my direction... which is exactly how I felt when I got Astronaut Barbie for my sixth birthday and my little NASA-savvy self looked at that rubbery blonde chick in her pink and silver "space suit" and realized Barbie was some kind of a sham.  After that I stopped asking for Barbies.

The girly binoculars come with a booklet for writing down observations of birds.  I presume the boys-only binoculars come with a scorecard for how many windows you've peeped into.  
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I think the weirdest part of the conference I attended was when I engaged with a 26-year-old motor-mouthed lecturer from SoCal on the pros and cons of using Tumblr as a social media platform for unionism.

I'd talk about fun stuff I did in Chicago but there wasn't any.  I came back to the room exhausted every night and just slept.

Looking forward to the train ride home. 
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Huh.

The Most Excellent Spouse and I are kind of on a roll when it comes to doing Detroit-type things.

Sunday: Went to the 1885 Log Cabin in Palmer Park.  The cabin's not in the best shape, but it's standing, which is more than you can say of many of the homes on the opposite side of Woodward.  Anyway, this log cabin picnic thing featured local food vendors and live music.  Pretty nice and we scored some good eats... all in all this "free" event cost us about sixty bucks in donations and munchies.  I'd never been to Palmer Park before, but it's pretty neat. The surrounding apartment buildings were once Detroit's gay enclave, which has since moved up Woodward into the city of Ferndale.

Wednesday: Took in a showing of A Band Called Death, an engaging documentary that didn't seem to place full faith in the music of the band in question but was definitely worth seeing.  The spouse and I are both perplexed that we somehow missed the story when Death got noticed a few years back. Viewing this also rammed home how much of an assimilated Detroiter I am, as I responded viscerally to the Detroit footage but not to the brief shots of San Francisco. I've never known a city this intimately, though-- it does help to have a car!

Afterward we walked to Greenfield Village and saw the fireworks show for free-- a nice perk of living where we do.  We were close enough to hear the orchestra playing along. 

Thursday: OMG so many fireworks please stop the air is turning gray.

Last NIght: we were supposed to go to the DFT to see a film about the Grande Ballroom, but the people we were supposed to meet there didn't confirm and we stayed home and drank beer floats made with homemade ice cream that never congealed.  Good intentions, I guess.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'd noticed quite some time ago that the architecture in Southfield, just north of Detroit, was kind of oddball.  They have a lot of 1950s/1960s buildings that wouldn't look out of place in California, except they're mostly brick instead of stucco.  And the high-rise office buildings around there are pretty distinctive.

Welp.  Turns out Southfield really does have a high concentration of Midcentury Modern style buildings, including spectacular examples like this gem by Minoru Yamasaki, in part because Southfield barely existed before the 1950s, when Hudson's department store decided to build the world's largest shopping center and a subdivision of modernist ranch homes for their customers to live.  Anyway, urban decay, freeways, post-war money, and post-war housing demand all collided to make Southfield a pretty interesting place architecturally.  I got to take a very neat bus tour today and learn all about it.

I don't really LOVE Midcentury Modern, but it does have its appeal and it sure beats Brutalist shit and just about everything that followed.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I had one hell of a dream before waking this morning.

What is this I don't even )

Then I woke up. The mind is a weird, weird place.

PSA

May. 25th, 2013 04:10 am
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I am sleeping tonight...er, this morning, in a restored Victorian train car in a Beaux Arts terminal repurposed as a very odd resort.

I will be here for the next three days.  This is pretty awesome.

PS: Since the city in question is Chattanooga TN, y'all MAY see an update to "Until the Sun Cries Morning" soon.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
NYC weekend blitz wrapped up beautifully.  We had "second breakfast" yesterday in the company of our Brooklynite friend at this amazing pie place. These are pies like your grandma never made-- thick, hearty reinventions of old classics.  The Rosemary Honey Shoo-fly pie was exceptional and the Oatmeal Black Bottom was pretty damn good.  The Lemon Chess was a bit too light in texture for my idea of Chess Pie but was fine as a thing of its own.

Then we went up to Queens via taxi and dropped in on some more friends, who took us to a Mongolian Hot Pot place for lunch.  I'd been curious about this sort of food for about fifteen years, since one opened in a suburb of Memphis, and all I have to say is this must be what "Mongolian BBQ" wants to be and isn't.  Also it goes well with cheap beer, and I normally have no use for cheap beer.

Then we had Lemon Rosemary Sorbetto at the airport because we apparently hadn't eaten enough.  

-x-

I'm enjoying the Jugdral Name Change aftermath. Celice predictably is the source of the varying degrees of butthurt, but seriously-- it's over.  I already revised my four most recent relevant 'fics to incorporate "Leif" and "Seliph" and quite honestly I like the way that's working.  Hopefully NoA'll do as likable a job with the Spotpass characters.

-x-

Apparently they took out the Mute option for the Avatar voices though?  Sucks.  That promised to be funny.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, we took a weekend trip to New York City.

It wasn't a spur of the moment thing by any means; we bought concert tickets to see John Cale play the Brooklyn Academy of Music a while back; he cancelled his last Detroit show about six years ago and hasn't really toured the States since.  This particular show featured the entirety of his best and only flawless album, Paris 1919, so that was an easy sell.  Fortunately we didn't have to cancel in spite of all the family issues of the past couple of months.

We're staying here.  It's pretty nice and has a magnificent view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  We wanted to see Ellis Island because Ukrainian Grandma came through there, but it's closed thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  We spent the entire day tromping around Brooklyn on foot, from Prospect Park to halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge-- about eighteen miles of walking.  I have blisters on the balls of my feet from it.  

Also I think the infection in my right ear is coming back, damn it all.

But it was a lovely springlike day, and we saw and did lots of things, and we met up with friends for an early dinner at a ramen place and they took us on a walking tour that included the jaunt across the bridge.  That was amazing-- I didn't realize you could just walk across it outside of world-shaking crises.  Getting to touch the elaborate latticework of cables and the granite stones of the pier was pretty cool.

Oh yeah.  The concert was pretty good too, even if I don't much like the new material he played in the second half of the set.  But they did a brilliant version of "Endless Plain of Fortune," which made my night.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'm beginning to think one hasn't lived until one has been pursued by a mustachio'd man in a top hat riding around in a giant electrically powered Hostess Cupcake.

Or stood in line for mini-donuts ahead of a red-robed evil overlord holding a placard to let us all know he's hiring minions.  (Benefits Package: "I live, and you don't."  We asked.)

I could've done without having Luna Lovegood enlisting my help to find Harry Potter, though.

But the best part of all?  The steam engines and Edison dynamos inside the museum were OPERATIONAL today.  I've never seen that before, and it was amazing.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I got to be a staff chick today.

A poison staff chick.

And I enjoyed it. )

New Pet

Feb. 9th, 2012 11:53 pm
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
In the process of trying to get a new pet.

No, not the raven. We're not home enough for a raven.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

It's probably best not to ask.

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