Sunday, July 31, 2011

poetry sunday: space, in chains

Things that are beautiful, and die. Things that fall asleep in the afternoon, in sun. Things that laugh, then cover their mouths, ashamed of their teeth. A strong man pouring coffee into a cup. His hands shake, it spills. His wife falls to her knees when the telephone rings. Hello? Goddamnit, hello?

Where is their child?

Hamster, tulips, love, gigantic squid. To live. I'm not endorsing it.

Any single, transcriptional event. The chromosomes of the roses. Flagella, cilia, all the filaments of touching, of feeling, of running your little hand hopelessly along the bricks.

Sky, stamped into flesh, bending over the sink to drink the tour de force of water.

It's all space, in chains--the chaos of birdsong after a rainstorm, the steam rising off the asphalt, a small boy in boots opening the back door, stepping out, and someone calling to him from the kitchen,

Sweetie, don't be gone too long.

by Laura Kasischke from the book Space, In Chains (2011).

Friday, July 29, 2011

stellar shops: treasures on main

Treasures on Main, located conveniently (for me) near downtown La Crosse, is a little over two blocks away from my house. I've found that it's really soothing for me to just wander in this quiet, calm converted house just to kill time. I've only ever bought a set of 70s-era floral suitcases there during last summer's Maxwell Street days, but I find a lot of inspiration there nevertheless.

Treasures on Main
722 Main St.
La Crosse, WI 54601

One reason why I probably enjoy Treasures on Main so much is that there are always between 4-7 cats inside. The owners rehabilitate abused, abandoned, neglected and special needs cats and find them homes - I've seen every age from mewling kitten to sly adult traipsing about. 

Treasures has three floors of well-organized vintage goods. Let me be your tour guide.

Treasures on Main feels more like a house than a shop, so walking around unbothered lends the feeling of being in an ancient great-aunt's house, one who has random objects filling up each room; the mystery of the objects' origins and uses is incontestable.  

This carnation pink is possibly one of my favorite colors in the world. (This is the seat cushion for a chair.)

While I was wandering in and out of rooms upstairs, I felt something rub up against me. This fellow--Monsieur is what I named him--was the culprit! After spending about 5 minutes wrapped around my ankles, he slinked off elsewhere and I went back to my photographing, distraction-free.

Stout is just such an unflattering word, don't you think? These women don't exactly look "stout" to me...

BAM! I turned around at one point and Monsieur was sitting docilely at the table, looking balefully at me as though he wanted to share a cup of tea with me. It was the most adorable instance of my entire day. I should add that Neil is obsessed with this picture; he even framed it and gave it to me for my birthday! (Interjection - I want a cat so bad. We want a cat so bad.) Eventually Monsieur slunk away again, and I saw him disappear into a cupboard as I continued to explore other rooms.

$20 for this Better Homes and Gardens cookbook? You've got to be kidding me. I collect these BH&G cookbooks, gardening and decorating books from the 60s and I've never paid more than $4 for one. I saw this one for $20 and the same edition downstairs for $30. I also just checked etsy and the going rates for comparable editions were $14, $20, and $30. This makes me feel a bit giddy; I think I should get into the book reselling business! I found many of mine at the library book sale over the past few semesters. A large paper bag of books goes for $4 during the last hour of the sale and that's when I make my purchases, so a good portion of my finds have been 50 cents or less. The others come from Goodwill. My stash is stuck at my house in Sun Prairie for now, but I'm sure they'll make an appearance when Neil and I get to Bloomington.

Next, traversing to the third floor:

There's a small room filled with children's things off to the side and when I stepped into it I almost thought I had been transplanted to a horror film. The dolls were truly petrifying, so, um, sorry I'm exposing you to this!


Quilts! Nothing exciting to say about them except that they were oh so pretty.

Me rocking some serious humidity hair.

Next I headed down two stories and took a peek around the backyard area, where Treasures on Main keeps all sorts of random items. If I had a garden or backyard area I would love to find uses for these rusty old appliances and junk.

That's about all I have for Treasures on Main today. I feel like it is definitely a place I take for granted because I live so close to it, one that I will remember fondly when I leave La Crosse. It is well-maintained, calm, there are cats, prices are reasonable if you know what you're looking for, the people working there don't follow you around and make you feel like a freaking criminal simply because you want to wander around. Lots of pluses. Go there if you can.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

riverside park with katherine

Last Thursday afternoon Katherine (practically a celeb here on b. honey due to the frequency in which she crops up in posts) and I headed downtown at happy hour with the intention of grabbing half price martinis at the Starlite Lounge, a fifties-style cocktail lounge. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the Starlite was at capacity and we were turned away because we would apparently be fire hazards.

Unwilling to admit defeat and head home, we popped across the street to The Pearl, a historic La Crosse ice cream parlor. Wanting to get something different from my usual chocolate peanut butter ice cream cone, I went with a strawberry float made with one of the Pearl's homemade phosphates (carbonated soda water + flavored syrup + phosphoric acid). The word "phosphate" doesn't exactly sound edible to me, but it was delicious.

Post-Pearl, we wandered through Riverside Park, which hugs the Mississippi.  I've included plenty of photos of Riverside on this blog before, though I may not have referred to it by name.

Katherine was a willing model for my frequent picture requests. As we soaked in the mid-eighties temps--a blissful departure from the heat wave--we chatted and I photographed the random slices of beauty that Riverside Park had to offer us.

Love that smile.

We meandered through a small garden tucked back off of Riverside Park. Taking in the flowers and obvious care that had been put into this space was refreshing. You have to remember, I live in college housing. Flowers don't exist in my neck of the woods, and decoratively speaking, bits of broken beer bottles that glint off the pavement are the only embellishment...

Monday, July 25, 2011

book list: lady oracle

This post is looooong overdue. Last week (or was it the week before?) I finished Lady Oracle, another of Atwood's earliest novels, and again I noted similarities to both Surfacing and Cat's Eye.

Lady Oracle is the story of Joan Delacourt, an overweight child whose arguably evil mother taunts her about her body size and stews in bitterness over the failings of her own life during Joan's childhood. Her father is largely absent from her life; a WWII vet, he works as an anesthesiologist at a local hospital bringing those who have attempted to commit suicide back to life. Rather than her parents, Joan is close with her Aunt Louise, who spends time with Joan and is warm and kind. Joan's friends are remarkably like the childhood "friends" in Cat's Eye: sadistic and cruel in the way of children. At one point Joan's friends tie her to a tree in the woods and leave her there. But Joan grows up, and for the most part seems relatively unaffected by her weight, her mother's attitude of finding fault in everything she does, and her questionable friends. Indeed, Joan always seems somewhat detached from the proceedings of her life in Lady Oracle; while her mind moves a mile a minute with various schemes and musings, she doesn't seem downtrodden or sorry for herself.

When Joan is a teenager her beloved Aunt Lou dies and to the shock of her family leaves her $2,000. The only catch is that she must lose a stipulated amount of weight. At the time she receives this news she has already lost a majority of the weight and only has something like 18 more pounds to lose. After one of her mother's rude outbursts about her weight, Joan divulges that after she loses the final weight and gets the money, she is moving out. The reaction? Her crazy mother snatches a paring knife from the kitchen counter and stabs her in the arm with it. In typical Joan fashion, the reader isn't privy to her panicking. She maintains a conversation with her mother, but late that night when her family goes to sleep she leaves. This is an example of the character detachment I wrote about: Atwood isn't indulgent with average emotions. In another novel, the mother stabbing her daughter with a paring knife would be grounds for a surfeit of melancholy, but for Atwood, it's just the sort of kooky event that happens. It's not overanalyzed or lingered upon by Ms. J, it simply moves the plot forward.She's a resilient broad.

With the $2,000 Joan goes to England. After a fateful meeting with a Polish count, she moves in with him and becomes his mistress. When she discovers that he writes nurse romance novels under different pen names to make money, she decides to try her hand at writing costume Gothic novels. She is successful, more so than the count. At this point the novel becomes occasionally peppered with examples of Joan's work, which she is writing under her aunt's name, Louise Delacourt. She meets a young Marxist man named Arthur by accident in Hyde Park. She is still living with Paul, but, prone to swift, easy emotions, by the time they pick up his Communist pamphlets that had fallen to the ground, Joan claims to be in love. I never found anything truly appealing about Arthur--he was a smug, pretentious stick-in-the-mud--but Joan leaves the Count and moves in with him. They marry. Goodness gracious I'll speed this up: Joan writes a book of poetry - under her real name this time, expecting nothing to come of it - and she is suddenly thrust into the spotlight of celebrity. J meets and carries on with a man called the Royal Porcupine, easily my favorite character of the book. So on and so forth. I tend to give too much away in these synopses so to learn more you'll have to read it!

I identified strongly with Joan in this passage:

"There were two kinds of love, I told myself; Arthur was terrific for one kind, but why demand all things from one man? I'd given up expecting him to be a cloaked, sinuous and faintly menacing stranger. He couldn't be that: I lived with him, and cloaked strangers didn't leave their socks on the floor or stick their fingers in their ears or gargle in the mornings to kill germs. I kept Arthur in our apartment and the strangers in their castles and mansions, where they belonged. I felt this was quite adult of me, and it certainly allowed me to be more outwardly serene than the wives of Arthur's friends. But I had the edge on them: after all, when it came to fantasy lives I was a professional, whereas they were merely amateurs." (216)

This passage shows Joan's wry humor and also her practicality. Since I was a little girl I've been this way too: living via my imagination. It's the supreme manifestation of personal responsibility: by placing less pressure on yourself to extract happiness from a fallible human being and instead creating your own heroes, you're showcasing independence and resourcefulness. I enjoy this idea of creation as a salve for other people's natural imperfections; it corresponds with my belief that no single person can or should fulfill every emotional role in someone's life. At the end of the day we have only ourselves. Joan's cleverness and imaginative resilience was probably why I preferred Lady Oracle to both Cat's Eye and Surfacing.

As always, there's way more going on in an Atwood novel than can be reflected upon quickly or shallowly, so all apologies to Ms. Atwood for the quick and shallow attempt.

stellar shop(s), viroqua edition: pomegranate & tulips

Okay, first off, with names like Pomegranate and Tulips, how could these shops be any less than stellar? It's simply not possible. I'm convinced.

By the time we made it to these two shops we had already indulged in crepes, taken in the wonders of the Public Market, and found Ms. JohnaLee a wedding dress. Realizing there were two more jawdroppingly hip stores mere feet away was just icing on the cake.

209 S. Main Street
Viroqua, WI 54665

Pomegranate is a tiny boutique run by a crafty, friendly woman named Angie Benetto, who makes over 90% of what is sold inside.

Crazy Daze sidewalk sales on the day we happen to be in Viroqua? Lucky us.

The shop featured handstiched and handstamped aprons, totes and tapestries with no lack of embellishment. An orgy of cascading ruffles.

  Love that the owner's signature stamp reps Viroqua so proudly. 

JohnaLee took a shine to one of these aprons (shown above) and almost bought it. She didn't have cash on hand so the owner told her she could just take it and bring the cash back after she got it at KwikTrip. How's that for trusting? The owner was utterly unconcerned. Small town openness and trust, so incredible to me these days. Ultimately JL didn't end up buying it, but the sentiment was quite astonishing nonetheless.

Charming onesies. Adore the hangers.

Sadly, the owner of Pomegranate didn't have an etsy shop. This distressed me greatly. I hope my fervent urgings to get one up and running convinced her a bit!

207 S. Main Street
Viroqua, WI 54665

Tulips is located directly next to Pomegranate, and I must say, the shops go hand-in-hand. Painted avocado green, these outdoor sale tables were covered in vintage tablecloths. I knew this store would be a favorite from first sight.

Tulips has a facebook page and a flickr account if you're interested. 

  .... I now have a reason to collect miscellaneous pretty old cans.

The inside of Tulips was bright, airy and cheerful. Obviously the owners are also women who have a hard time sticking to one color palette. Um, I can relate.

This will probably come as no surprise to anyone, but I have been seeking a small discarded card catalog such as this for a long time. I get insanely jealous when I see anyone else that has one in their possession. I'm a thrifter and a future librarian, so owning a small repurposed card catalog is just necessary.

Succulents, matryoshka dolls, journals. Bold citrusy yellow paint.

The owners sold both clothing that they created as well as vintage textiles: tablecloths, dish towels, there may even have been some sheets in there. All were lovely. I bought a small dish towel.

Bright colors, small treasures.

 ... I cannot resist a table full of tchotchkes!

Bold, chunky jewelry.

 In the back of Tulips there was a small craft studio area. The owners sold fabric, embroidery floss, and other miscellaneous crafty things. It's possible that they have mini courses at Tulips on occasion, though I didn't ask the owner.

All the stellar shops I have thus far featured with the exception of the antique stores have been small creative businesses owned and operated by women. I can't say enough about how much I admire what they are doing. I cannot imagine what it must be like to pour your creative energy into a shop, not knowing if you will make enough money to keep it running. I imagine it gets disheartening pretty fast, but who knows? I am seriously considering starting up an etsy shop at some point in the future, maybe 6 months out, after I am settled in Bloomington. Lately I've been missing having a creative outlet, as my sewing machine cord is packed away somewhere and there just isn't much room in my shared space to create. I feel the creative itch.

Oh, and tangentially related: Neil and I are moving to Bloomington in less than a month. I'm leaving La Crosse in three weeks. Life is about to get crazy.

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