Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hockey Garage, Williston, North Dakota

What you are looking at is the only place in Williston, North Dakota, perhaps for quite a ways around, where a person can buy skates, or have those skates sharpened.  Think about that for a minute.  25,000-50,000 people in the frozen north, one guy selling ice skates out of his garage.

Before Christmas, we decided to buy Nicholas some skates; we wanted to sign him up for skating lessons.  We werent alone.  Of course we went to Walmart.  As I write, they have an entire section for bicycles, and a wall full of skateboards, but no ice skates, and not much to do with sleds either.  Temperatures in Williston lately have ranged between -30 and -7, with a wind chill well below that.  This will last until March or April.  Situated next door to Canada, this is the land of hockey, boys hockey, and girls hockey, too.  At some point in the year, some places in town flood parts of parking lots to make ice rinks.  The local college, Williston State College, was 2013 NJCAA Hockey National Champions.  This is a hockey town.

So, after Wal-mart, we tried a few other places, some of the sport shops (they sell running and golf gear, but no skates).  No luck.  We were shocked.  Seriously, no ice skates?  I would think there would be ice skate kiosks, ice skate vending machines, boutiques.  Finally, we were resigned to "well, I guess we'll just drive to Minot or get them online".  That's when a friend said "just call the guy with the skate garage".  We said, "what?", and our friend said, "yeah, the guy that sells the hockey gear out of his garage."

So, it turns out, this is no mere guy that sells hockey gear out of a normal garage.  When I went there the second time to get skates for me too, the skate garage guy told me the story... Apparently, Home of Economy (this is like the Walmart of North Dakota, but better; imagine Walmart with an entire section of cowboy boots and eclectic stuff) used to have a huge skate section; he was the manager.  When they had a change of ownership in 1999, the new owners said "no skate shop", and suddenly the guy was out.  He tried to find another venue, but nobody was interested.  Enter Duffy's Hockey and Sport from Minot.  They connected with the guy to supply equipment, and the Hockey Garage was born.  And now, he is on the only one in Williston, and quite a ways around, selling and sharpening skates.

As I was standing there watching him sharpen the skates, Ron Raymond (aka The Skate Guy) told me "hmmm..... I guess there must be some new skating lessons.. I've had all these folks in here with little kids buying skates all of a sudden."  Go Ron!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Geographical Center of North America - Rugby, North Dakota

Everybody has a center.  Centers are important.  Without a center, we may feel lost, adrift.  We may have several centers in our life, or in our lifetime:  a spatial center... home, work, school, church or mosque. A temporal center, a time in our life against which we judge all other phases in our life.  An emotional center, Love.   A spiritual center.

Places have a center too.  Types of centers can be economic, cultural, political or historical, or in this case geographical.  Sometimes, the geographical center is in a place otherwise unknown, unvisited, or otherwise disconnected from the identity of the entity that it centers.  In the case of a city, with city limits that might change over time, the geographical center could shift location, sometimes quite a bit depending on the areas annexed into the city over time.

Consider North America as a Continent, with the USA in its middle, one of or perhaps the dominant economy in the world, home to great cities, New York, LA, and still home to cowboys and bison, mac and cheese, silicon valley, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, American sports.  At its northern end, Arctic Canada and its native inhabitants, with a heritage stretching back in time thousands of years of life in the arctic or subarctic regions; French quebec, English Victoria, Hockey. According to Wikipedia, Canadian geology is one of the oldest in the world.  At its sourthern end, Mexico home in ancient times to at least two great civilizations:  Aztec and Maya, home in modern times to one of the largest cities on the planet:  Mexico City.  You dont get to be the biggest city on earth by accident.  Historical connections to european exploration, colonization, music, connecting to Central and South America to the south, soccer, tequila.  And in this vast mixture of cultures and identities, where is the geographic center?

Rugby, North Dakota, population 3000, 300' on the north side of the highway.

Traveling across North Dakota on Highway 2 between Minot and Grand Forks, we came around a random curve in the highway and reached a sign that said "geographical center of North America".  Set amid farmland, fences, trucks traveling to and from the oil fields of western north dakota, a little midwest town along the highway, there was a sign.  Immediately behind the sign, standing there quietly and demurely since the 1930s, a quiet obelisk of river rock to mark the Geographical Center of North America.  

Many people may have stopped at the "Continental Divide", the spot right above the Eisenhour tunnel.  Where the rains split and flow to the Pacific or to the Mississippi.  But how many have been to the Geographical Center of the entire Continent.  I thought "we MUST stop here and see this.  This is incredible".

So, starting up the sketches again, I thought I would start from the Center, literally.

Where is the Center of your town?  City?  State?  Continent?  What does this Center mean to you?  If you read and enjoy this blog post, send me a sketch of the Geographical Center of your Continent or Place, I'll post it on the blog here.
I look forward to receiving some sketches.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011 - Nicholas & Febe

Peace and Joy, to the wide, wide world!  Merry Christmas, all!  Happy Holidays!
Nicholas and Febe, best friends forever!  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Big Move - Frisco, Colorado

Main Street, Frisco, Colorado

The Old Schoolhouse, Frisco, Colorado

Episcopal Church, Breckenridge, Colorado

Well, we did it!  At the end of October we moved from busy Bucharest, Romania to friendly Frisco, Colorado..... mainly for me to look for work.  (Hint, if anybody wants some watercolors, sketches, or architectural design work, send me a message).  Here we are for the winter, to enjoy the snow and skiing, and have fun, and get ready for a busy Spring.  

At 3am at the end of October, with about 10 suitcases, various sundry bags, stroller, dog, baby, baby bags, dog crate, coats and hats, we headed to the airport in 3 unmarked cars (just regular cars).  We had planned our trip with only one layover... easier for the baby and for the dog.  We were one of the first in line at the check-in.  With our small group watching, we disgorged ourselves of most of our luggage and got my dog underway on her long journey (quickly through the security and off she went in her crate!   Whoosh!)  Left with the stroller, our carry-ons, and the baby bag, we headed through security, waved goodbye to family, and Whoosh!   on the way to the gate.  A coffee later (dang!, should have gotten the coffee in the machine for half price), we were on the plane, baby and all.  Amazingly the baby slept almost from the minute of takeoff to our landing.  

6 hours in the airport.
Wide awake from his beautiful nap in the plane, the baby had a great time in the airport, for all 6 hours.  We watched a concrete truck pour concrete for 30 minutes, said hello to all the women walking by with mops and brooms, and checked out every book and toy shop possible.  We even looked for the supposed playgrounds in the airport, but never did find them.  And 3-4 hours at the chairs with Nicholas playing hide and seek, and going from window to window to sit on the sill and look at the planes, talk to all the children possible, and stare at all the people busily sipping their coffee and looking distracted.  Time to board.

10 hours in a flying sardine can.
After 6 hours in the airport, Nicholas was EXHAUSTED.  Fortunately, the plane crew forgot to take tickets for the flight, so just when we were getting ready to prepare Nicholas' milk for his takeoff (to help him adjust with the pressure change and FALL ASLEEP at takeoff), the crew announced we'd be sitting on the tarmac for 30-40 minutes so they could go around the plane and collect tickets.  As this was happening, the couple in front of us must have realized their seats (already much to close to us.... I think the airline recently "compacted" their seats to get a few extra rows)...... realized their seats were able to recline even further than normal... and proceeded to put their seats WAY BACK.... until they were about 12" from our faces.  This level of closeness combined with Nicholas' already tired mood started a chain reaction in Nicholas that made him more agitated and impossible to fall asleep.  Nicholas would have nothing to do with staying in this confined prison of a seat.  Eventually, we got into the air.  

We found the only way to pacify Nicholas was to walk him, so we started walking him and exploring the cabin.  Not only was he amazed by all the gadgets, telephones, buttons, little windows, and all the other passengers, but by the TOILETS ON THE DOWNSTAIRS LEVEL.  Once he had discovered this, all he wanted was to walk up and down the stairs and look in all the toilet rooms.  Weighing now about 20 lbs, a real joy can be found in walking up and down steep stairs carrying a 20 lb. bag of potatoes, wiggling and pointing at everything.  Not to mention the tiny toilet rooms full of all kinds of buttons and gadgets.  Wow!  I think we enjoyed this olympic safari for probably 2-3 hours of the flight.  

Finally, back in our seats, with Mr. and Mrs. Close Sitter there,  Nicholas finally fell asleep.... on Diana's lap, pinning her there for the duration of the nap (3 hours).  Unable to move, my job became to help her eat, and try to keep her comfortable.  The food and beverage service arriving, the stewardess proceeded to ask us so that we could hear, "would you like something to drink?"   I said no.  Again, "WOULD YOU LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK?"  I responded, Shsssssss!  Nooooo!   Seeing Nicholas asleep, she said "I'M SORRY!" and moved on to the next victim.  Thankful that Nicholas hadn't woken up, we settled in and waited and tried to eat in a space smaller than half a telephone booth, unable to move our arms, and able to only put down one tray.  

After 3 hours, and with about 5 hours left, Nicholas awoke, and our 3 hour adventure began again.  Eventually, another nap for a few hours, and there we were at our destination.  Easy as pie.  

We had family there to greet us, so we collected all our 10 suitcases, sundry bags, stroller, baby, dog, crate, coats and hats, through security, made our hellos! and headed for the car.  Amazing that we could fit everything in the car, but we did.  Nicholas even slept the entire way home.  

2 weeks later.
So, it took a week, but Nicholas eventually adjusted to the 9-hour time zone change... only to be hit again by a 1-hour daylight savings time.  But now he's adjusted to that as well.  Febe adjusted as well.  Her food is a different brand, but we continued the practice of adding "improvements" to her food, so she had no problem adjusting to her new menu.  We made it here just in time for Halloween, so Nicholas had an amazingly cute Lion costume..... I guess a subject for a future retrospective blogpost.  Today was the first real snow of the winter, but we're finding that Nicholas is enjoying the snow, rocks, trees, sticks, and dirt here just as much as he did over the summer in the country in Romania (another subject for a future retrospective blogpost).  We found a gym class for babies in the local area, so Nicholas already is developing some friends and making us proud of his athletic prowess.  Another superstar for sure.  Febe is meeting her friends, Diana is discovering a small group of other expats, and John is doing his best to look for work.  One day, One day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Springtime - age 10 months

In the last few weeks, Nicholas started standing up in the living room at the edge of furniture, and maneuvering around the living room, and discovering the joy of crawling.  We had to put up some blockades at the kitchen to keep him from crawling in and getting into something there.  Also at the bookcase and in strategic corners.  In the last few days, he's started to let go of the furniture for a few seconds and balance standing up.  Now one of his biggest adventures is to explore the living room.

Also, we started taking Nicholas to the playground now that the weather is warmer.  Helping him on the slide (even the big slide), swinging with him on my lap on the swing, putting him on the baby swings, trying all of the toys in the playground as much as we can.  Now when we go to the park, when we get to where Nicholas can see the playground ahead and hear the kids, he gets really excited.  When we get to where the path turns to go to the playground,   Nicholas instinctively turns his head, knowing exactly where the playground is.  In fact knowing exactly where all of the playgrounds are.

I started showing Nicholas the trees and leaves and pine cones and green things in the playgrounds.  At first he seemed to be revolted by the idea of touching the tree bark.  he would really recoil and look away.  He had no problem with the pine cones.... hmmm.... some very interesting little things..... but tree bark  ..... EEEHHHHH!!   Now he's a little more interested to touch the tree bark (pine tree).

Happy Easter! - age 9 months

In April (last month), Nicholas started standing up in his crib.  Then learning how to maneuver around his crib.  Since then he's come a long way.... more adventurous every day.  But I wanted to show some of the cute pictures from April.  We have some of the "crazy workbench toys".... a little workbench, a little "zoo" with a moveable monkey, a little drum set.  In April we were able to set those up at the edge of the crib, and Nicholas would work on his stuff there for a while, play with things in his crib, and go back to his workbenches.  Up-down-up-down, around, around.  By now (May), he's able to actually lift one of these "workbenches" up over his head with one arm and throw it down in his crib (a hazard in case he were to fall), so now we keep it limited to just the one workbench that is too wide to lift past the crib rail.  But now Nicholas has "other adventures" on his mind than the workbench.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cartierul Cotroceni, Bucuresti

One of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city, for the architecture of the houses, is Cartierul Cotroceni.  There are a number of great architectural styles to be seen there, including Art Deco, Picturesque, Classical Revival, contemporary Modern, Rustic, Romanian (a version of Brancovean), international style modernist, and communist.  The styles are all adjacent to each other on the many small streets.   One of the interesting streets in this small architectural gem is Strada Lister, which connects Piata Operei (with the Opera, Parcul Eroilor, the statue at Operei, and one of the main bridges over the river) with an intimate little neighborhood park built onto the side of a hill - a great place to sit and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the trees.  Along Strada Lister, large oak trees arch over the street.