In the Meantime…

With the last post everything is nearly back in real time. Since returning from the trip, I relentlessly buckled down to finish my Master of Arts in Teaching degree. Mission accomplished. Other than that, it has been getting ready for the new school year, which rapidly approaches. This should explaining The Scarlet Letter in the Reading section. Also interesting is the fact that the one year anniversary of my move to New England has come and gone. Time really flies.

All that aside, with the last breath of summer upon us, Ali and I are taking a holiday and heading for Nova Scotia. Of course we will document the whole trip, complete with pictures, so everyone can see how beautiful the place is. So, in the meantime catch up on all the goings on that you may have missed.

While none of this seemed appropriate to drop in the earlier post, I wanted to also mention that today is my mother’s birthday. So, happy birthday Mom! Here’s hoping your day is a fantastic one!

From MA to IL: Last Activities and Return

Once we got back to the Chicago area, from our sojourn west, it seemed like we were headed back to the Bay State before we knew it. This trip more than any previous one seemed to elapse at a quicker clip on the chronograph. There were only a few days to squeeze in as much family and friends as possible. Ali always has a trip calendar to lock in various activities to their respective time slots to protect them from the encroachment of creeping claims. I tend to be more freewheeling and just try to maximize the time and see as many people as I can. Nevertheless, it always seems as though there is never enough time.

One of the more fun visits one the last part of the trip was visiting my cousin Jen and her family. The two boys are like a couple of little puppies, always into something and needing a close eye to ward off mischief. They are not particularly mischievous, it is more a product of their age, but they do always need an audience. They are great kids, cute as can be, extremely well behaved, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Alas, I was not equipped with a couple of miniature cars, as I always have been when I visit, but they didn’t seem to mind. After venturing to the North Side, Ali and I took everyone out for ice cream. Afterwards, we wandered through nature preserve in their neighborhood to run those rugrats around a bit and enjoy the great weather. Those boys are endlessly entertaining.

Photo: Jen's Boys

Photo: Joseph with His Stick Photo: Sean with His Stick

I have to say that my cousin Jen is the premier example of Supermom! She handles their minivan like a professional livery, adding and removing seats in seconds, making sure those boys are secured, and navigating through the city with ease. Aside from that, she is a trained gourmet chef and pretty cute to boot. Even Ali admits she sets a pretty high bar. We were even fortunate enough to see her husband and father of the cuties, Dean, before we had to split. Visiting my cousin Jen and her family is one of the things I miss most not living in the area anymore. Aside from getting to rassle with the boys, every time I visited, she would always feed me something spectacular, whether it took her ten minutes or two hours.

Photo: Jen and Me

Within a day or so it was time to pack the rented SUV and aim her east for the return. Of course before leaving Ali and Keri were booked to run a family event road race, as evidenced by the photo (Keri came up ill, which prevented her participation). As yet, I have managed to generally avoid this perennial family fun, but I am suspecting that it may soon catch up with me. This time I was able to take advantage of the time and visit some other people.

Photo: Mitch, Ali, and Suzy

As always I wish that I would have had a chance to see a more people, or spend more time with those we did get to visit. So many people and places and so little time always conspire to stymie us, separately and combined. Before you know it we are red-eyeing it back to Boston behind the wheel of a large automobile. So to all those we missed this trip, we’ll be back. And if you want to ensure a visit, you can contact Ali and lock-up a time slot on her master calendar. It will work regardless of who you want to see, she thinks she’s the boss of me anyway. Since our return, I have dubbed her “la maistra de la botega” (the boss of the shop – Italian). But she is the certainly the best boss I have ever had.

From MA to IL: Then to South Dakota and Back Part 3

The last installment of our South Dakota trilogy presents one of those rarified sites for which all passersby must find a reason to stop. America is the grand bastion of the roadside attraction and thus far the one we happened upon in Southern Minnesota clearly ranks in the royal court of kitsch. I leave it to you to decide which crown to bestow. Having revealed this destination even before the trip, it should come as no surprise that this exotic site is none other than the Spam Museum, located in Ausitn, MN.

Photo: Spam Museum

A virtual monument to that uniquely American can of swine-meat, the Spam museum chronicles the rise of the Hormel company from small, local butchery to global food supplier. All the while the blue and gold of the irrepressible Spam can are everywhere. The can itself becomes not only an ingredient of art, but art itself. Everywhere you walk the distinctly shaped container in ever-present. It really is quite astonishing! From the enormous wall of Spam, to the long and winding, twin-level conveyer belt of moving Spam, to the passage into the heart of Spam history, the can is there. Words do not adequately describe the place, which is why I have so many pictures.

Photo: Spam Art

Photo: Spam Art - A Close-up

It really is impossible to fathom the level of detail Hormel has gone to celebrating its trademark product (I mean they also make Dinty Moore products, but who the hell eats that!). There is a movie theater, profiling a quartet of Spam Singers, a university student who has worn a Spam t-shirt everyday for five years running, and a profile of the Spammobile. Few products of any kind engender such a fanaticism, Apple is the only one that immediately comes to mind. Everyone knows at least one Apple freak, which I am occasionally accused of being; but I have yet to go on the Apple geek cruise! Nevertheless, this is not far from the kind of phenomenon we are talking about here.

Photo: Wall of Spam Photo: Spam Conveyer

The décor really was impressive. Just beyond the Spamburger that floats above your head, as you walk down one hallway, is a completely gold colored modern sofa, complete with flanking blue chairs that match. This is adjacent to the enormous spatula below. Each area had a theme too. One commemorates the role Spam played in feeding Our Boys in Europe, during World War II. There is a room that hosts a digital quiz show, dedicated to the salty treat. Plus, how can you not appreciate a place that even has a sense of humor about its own salaciousness, for there is even an area where you can watch the classic Monty Python skit in perpetuity. And don’t worry, the new Broadway musical is not without representation. The whole place is thoroughly entertaining and you cannot get through the place without being offered a Spample at least three times.

Photo: Keri with Spample

Photo: Spam Can Entrance Photo: Spamburger

Let me reiterate what my beloved said upon our exit, “That place is a work of pure marketing genius!” She could not have been more accurate. You see the museum itself is free, but they have taken a page from Disney, as the whole experience finds you smack dab in the middle of a gift shop with more Spam paraphernalia than you can possibly imagine. Apparel is only the beginning of the offerings, and there are many options in that category, indeed. Magnets, recipe books (Who knew all the uses of that can’s contents?), pens, mouse pads, sports balls, slicers, even Spam Singles are all available at relatively reasonable prices. They don’t need to charge anything for the experience, they must bilk something in the range of $40.00 from every patron, ourselves included. Have no fear, if you crave the Spam symbol to adorn your clothing, your desk, your home, there is a catalog available, as well as online access. However, you might think of joining the fan club (No foolin’!).

Photo: Fred and Ali with Giant Spatula

So please, enjoy Spam and all other associated propaganda. And if you ever find yourself on Spam Boulevard do stop in the museum, the laughs alone will make it worthwhile.

Photo: Spam Quiz Show Room Photo: Spam Boulevard and Museum Signs

I leave you, Spam lover or not, with this jingle:
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
Hormel’s new miracle meat in a can
Saves time, tastes fine,
To eat something grand ask for Spam