Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in Munster and Thereabouts

Well, we had a bodacious trip to the midwest, and it was with some sadness to that the time had come to leave.

Monday night we left the homestead to acquire the necessary fuel for our trip, consisting of a bit of 87 Octane and a venti mocha from Starschmuck's. Through intermittent and dense fog, I guided the van through the night betwixt high mountain passes, stopping only to visit the privy and salute West Virginia for its architecturally attractive and squeaky-clean rest stop high atop the scenic ridges along I-68.

We made it to Indiana that morning, catching a few zzz's east of Indianapolis, before arriving at our first stop, the Schap residence. Our time there was too short, but consisted of good laughs, socializing, late night/early morning walks through the Old Town, not to mention a fine pipe smoke and brew from Lafayette's hometown brewery, courtesy of one M. Schap. We couldn't have asked for better hosts and were happy to see them in high spirits.

Arriving in Lake County is always a bit surreal for me, and I kinda turn into a different person. It must be an element in the air from the steel mills' smoke stacks or something, but my usual giddiness returned when the wheels of our van crossed over the county line and finally into Munster early that afternoon. Our family joined my parents for our now customary trip to Cabela's, where I stocked up on shirts. A fly rod also made it's way into my cart and some cool older dude gave me a $10 off coupon at the register since he couldn't use it. I hope to put the rod into action in the near future and acquire a taste for the local Brook Trout that gets stocked around here.

After a tasty and very satisfying trip to Sanfratello's in Glenwood, IL, my first hometown, I met up with Tim D. and his brother at Three Floyds in Munster. We waited 45 minutes outside for our seat and fought the chill with an endless supply of hometown hilarity. Finally, after many visits to the brewery, I obtained and quaffed some Calumet Queen and their brash hefe-weizen, Drunk Monk. Tim and I departed to the pool hall, Johnny's Tap, and finally Munster Donut to relive old times before retiring at 3am.

Turkey Day was a blur, after waking and visiting my dad's work, where I acquired an olde jointer, and then crashing for a few hours at my parents, I woke up to the arrival of the rest of my family, who I had not seen in over a year. The food was great and everyone had lots to say regarding their political feelings. I abstained from speaking to much and establishing whole-scale assualts, not only to preserve what semblance of familial feeling I have left, but also to see what and how others in the region are thinking. I also enjoyed some wine from Von Jakob in Southern Illinois.

Friday began with breakfast at hallowed ground, The Commander on Ridge Road. The fare was delicious, as usual, and wholly pleasing the palate. Afterwards, Clare and I visited my wonderful Aunt Marsha, while simultaneously acquiring her son Tim to join us for the day in Chicago. Before we left, Aunt Marsha treated us to Kreshiki's--my favorite polish pastry, but one that I had not had in half a decade.

Our itinerary first delivered us to Intelligensia on Broadway and then back into the loop to the dock at 1 N. Dearborn. Bobby, Tim's brother, generously gave us his parking space, where he worked, to allow us to visit the Christkindl Market across the street, and then Macy's, for free. After working up an appetite by waxing philosophical Tim steered us to one of his old haunts for lunch in Little Italy, Pompei Bakery. Established in 1909, I believe, Pompei has been serving up world class lasagna and other treats for a long, long time. This was the first time I made a visit, but it definitely won't be the last.

After another cup of Intelligensia, we sped home under the cover of darkness and dropped Tim off, before arriving at my parents for leftovers. Stuffed, I had a token piece of Turkey and watched the Black Hawks with my dad achieve victory over the L.A. Kings.

Saturday brought us back to Chicago, after a home cooked breakfast at my parents'. We were given complimentary tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry from one of my mom's friends. While the place was loco, we did get to see the model ships, U-505, the circus and riddle section as well as the fairy castle and Yesterday's Mainstreet.

Leaving the Museum we then ventured to Lincoln Park zoo after getting some smoothies in the rain at Jamba Juice. The zoo was awesome--we had it all to ourselves because of the weather. At nightfall, the zoo lit up into a Christmas wonderland that was definitely magical amidst the big city and was but another classic experience there and example of the city of doing things right when it comes to having class and putting on a good show.

We went home, sad that this was our last day in the city, but our frowns were turned into smiles when we met my parent's at Eduardo's in Munster for some sumptuous deep dish.

The next morning we awoke for 10 AM mass at the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Munster, IN. That place just makes you want to be holy, and afterwards we joined my sister's family for breakfast at one of the many divey Greek-restaurants nearby.

We took the rest of the day to get ourselves together before going out for a last supper at a new Mexican restaurant. In the morning, we quickly bid our adieus, snagged some Munster Donuts and coffee and began the trek to Youngstown, Ohio, where we met up with my friend's Jason's dad and had a look at some 100-year-old wood he wants hauled off. We stayed at the Fairfield Marriot in Poland, watching Pawn Stars and Picking Pickers or whatever into the night before heading home the next day.

All in all it was a good trip. Most of my trips blend together, so I wanted to put events down in writing so I can refer back to them from time to time and reminisce when I have the chance. It was certainly very fun and enlivining to be back in the region, especially at this time of year when people are feeling nostalgic about their hometown (as regards to the movie "A Christmas Story"). It was good to reconnect and see friends and family and remember home.

But it was good to get back into the mountains and check back into the hollar, too.

Over and Out,


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shenandoah Fall & Stuff

This has been one of the prettiest Fall seasons I can remember here in Va. The leaves in the mountains are nearly finished with their magnificent display of color, while the forests at work, this past week, have been at their peak. In a sense, it has been like being treated to two distinctly different Falls on my daily commute, but I see no reason to complain.

The crisp weather and winds that have swept through here, sans rain for the most part, have been perfect for reflection, on the season, the year, and the days ahead. Below, are a couple of my ruminations and plans, going forward as I look ahead to the winter and first months of 2012.

Wood: We have made even progress through our wood pile this past two months. Because the weather has been so cooperative, and also because my wood pile has been seasoned, I am getting more bang for the buck with the stove. On hand, I have a significant amount of seasoned locust and red oak, not to mention a massive pile of white oak, waiting to be sawn. Our freak snow storm from two weeks ago took down enough branches to supply me for kindling for 3 seasons. It was ridiculous. They have been piled high to be allowed to dry out.

Tax Season: This Tax season can't come soon enough, for me at least. I've been looking forward to it immensely. I have a number of projects and things that need to be finished around here with the extra cash, that will hopefully bring us to the next phase of life in the holler--expansion. But first, I would like to see a perimeter fence installed along our property line, to allow both our kids and our (other) animals some defined space. Secondly, it is high time we purchase a well hand-pump for emergency purposes.

Weaponry & Supplies: In addition, adding a red dot and a few other accouterments to the AR, as well as another batch of 5.56, 9mm, 00BK, and new Glock mags to the cache, and rounding out the first aid supplies and larder are on the list. Along with knocking out a debt or two, I think we will be as well situated as possible to face the tumultuous seas that will surely spill onto our shores and envelope humanity during the zombie 2012 apocolypse.

Bail-Out Bag: I've ditched my formless Jack Bauer wannabe bag for EDC in favor of an affordable attache, aka "Bail-Out Bag" from L.A. Police Gear. For the price. S29.99+shipping ($42 total), I am hella impressed. There is a pocket for everything and more, and I can always find my shit. It's easy and pleasurable to stay organized with this thing, which when you are in a hurry or bad situation, is key. No rummaging through your bag for the hatchet--it's right there!

The new bag comes with two pistol concealment compartments on each side, making bag carry less of a hassle for those times one is so inclined. Combined with a 3-day pack from L.A. Police Gear--my over night bag, if you will--I feel well-poised to cover most of my bases where gear is concerned.

Gear in General: Over all, I have found the most workable scenario, at this point is a 3 tiered approach: 1) What you have on you; 2.) What you carry with you, in the building and leave while you wander about (as my job demands while I am at work); and 3.) Essential supplies in your base of operation (vehicle) to help get you to home base in case of an emergency. These 3 tiers seem to work well with one another, and having a functional bags makes it that much smoother and better.

Ok, I am about to crash. Good night.