Miss Joan Gunnuss

Miss Joan Gunnuss died today. I know her because her husband John is one of my former co-workers. She died of cancer, and like probably all cancer deaths, it’s a shame.

Joan was one of those good people that there should be more of.  She was kind and curious and was always glad to see me.  I’m guessing she was always glad to see hundreds of people.

My first encounter with her was an observation.  It was back-to-school time and everyone was getting into the swing of things.  For me and two other teachers, it was the first time we did the back-to-school thing at this particular school. It was hectic and tiring and there were so many new faces.

One of the new teachers, Ariel, was going out of the school, passing through the vestibule–a passageway I could see from my desk.  A woman was coming in and Ariel and the woman locked eyes.  There was some sort of recognition and exclamation and hugging before Ariel continued out the door and the woman came in.

The woman was Joan.  She had taught Ariel dance, or possibly yoga, when she was a girl.  Ariel was glad to see Joan and Joan was thrilled to run into a former student all grown up.  They had a connection, even after all the years had gone by.

I officially met Joan later that day and we had a connection too. Because Joan wasn’t the type of person to give you a cursory once-over and a “nice to meet you,” then slot you into a category and be done with the meeting.  She really looked at you. She was genuinely happy to meet you.  She remembered things about you.

Joan was a hippie in the best way. She taught yoga. She had long hair.  She was full of joy. She lived in a tiny old house on a blueberry farm that was surrounded by a huge suburban housing development.  She was long and lean and moved with grace and purpose.  She loved her dogs, her children, her husband and seemingly everyone else.

I remember at her and John’s wedding watching her walk to the alter.  She took time to look everyone attending in the eye. “It was like she was thinking, ‘I want to remember everyone who was here,'” my co-worker said later when I remarked on it.

Aside from movement, Joan loved music.  She was always up for a sing along, played guitar and loved to have at least a couple songs where the choruses were whistled.

She will be missed by many.  I’m glad to have known her.

Highlights from the Avenue of the Roses Parade

Friends Mark & Amanda live at the end of the Avenue of Roses Parade route and host a party. I love a good parade, especially a good small parade, so I went. Here are some highlights.

While 82nd Avenue does have problems with prostitution and I certainly support this group’s efforts, I kept imagining the questions posed along the parade route, “Mommy, why don’t real men buy sex?”

Who doesn’t love a good scary dragon?

I was intrigued by these characters, and unfortunately, missed capturing the group’s name.

Gotta love returned Peace Corps volunteers.

I also loved this cool holder for the saint carried by this Catholic church. It allowed for smooth carrying and left room for waving.

These puffy air-filled dinosaurs were delightful. I’d never seen puffy characters before.

Some cool parade goers make some noise and wave the flag.

It became apparent that the classic cars were turning right off of 82nd, and we were to the left, so we missed them, but we did get to see a lot of the parade. Thanks to Mark & Amanda for hosting.

John & Hank Green, on tour.

Thanks to Kelly, I got to experience John and Hank Green on John’s book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. (When you are a successful YouTuber with your brother, you BOTH go on book tour, even if only one of you wrote the book.)

Here’s John reading from the book.  When I read the book later, I realized he read from two different sections.
We had a visit from Hank disguised as Dr. Lawrence Turtleman. He taught us about tuataras, which are reptiles from New Zealand which are NOT lizards.  Unfortunately, Dr. Turtleman’s PowerPoint wasn’t working, so the good doctor did the PowerPoint from memory.  We had partially obstructed seats which gave us a view of the various people working backstage to try and get the PowerPoint to work.

Hank did some singing and we got our own personal Dear Hank and John Podcast (parts of which made it on the Dear Hank & John episode #114 that compiled this segment from several cities).  We finished the night with a lusty rendition of the Mountain Goats’ “This Year” as sung by the crowd, John, and played and sung by Hank.

Last time, when Matt and I saw John and Hank on book tour, they had a van.  Things have changed.

Here we are, fourth from the end.
It was a fun night. Thanks, Kelly.

Minnesota State Fair Day One: Winding Down

We visited the shopping area under the grandstand.  There were many ways to part with your money, including some ice cream, spread thin, and then rolled up.  Sara and I opted for this photo. You can see Shawn and Sara also took pictures here when they visited the fair a few days before I arrived.  

At this point, I was very thirsty, and Shawn and Sara decided to partake of some roasted corn. We first visited this ticket booth (right next to the gator on a stick) to get tickets that would allow us a “pop” (me) and sweet corn (Shawn & Sara)

Then, it was a matter of getting to the front of the large conglomeration of people all headed in the same direction.  There was no “line.”  I used my skills–moving through crowds is one of my secret talents–but got stuck for a long time in front of a woman who had a technique going.

All of those kids in the picture below new their jobs. One or two people pulled corn out of the oven into bins, bunches of people pulled back the husks (leaving them on–they served as holders.) Then other people would grab an ear of corn in each hand and walk up to the counter.  People would hold up their ticket, and exchange it for an ear of corn, usually stopping to pour salt or a cinnamon sugar blend (?) on their ear, or wrap it in foil.  Every once in a while, someone would squeegee off the counter.

The woman in front of me was getting perhaps 10 ears of corn. But she would look at each ear going by and only hold up her ticket if it was a particularly big ear.  So it took forever for her to clear out and for me to step up to the counter.  Once I got my drink, I just had wiggle back out of the crowd.

Corn eaten, pop drunk, we headed for the shuttle buses.  There was a long line (as with everything at the fair) but it gave me a chance to get some photos of the changing lights on the Ferris Wheel.

When it was time for our shuttle we were ferried home in “choir bus” luxury.

Day One at the Fair was a grand success!  I was so glad to attend with seasoned fair-goers.  I would have been overwhelmed without them there to show me the ropes.

Minnesota State Fair Day One: Yarn Bomb

Walking up to the Grandstand shops, we were afforded this nice view:

And also the great Minnesota Yarn Bomb.  Much yarn bomb knitting on display!

Also, these women, getting their photo taken, plus another woman who was either incredibly aloof, or just not with them.

Yarn bomb horse! (With corn dog) Minnesota nice, and the works of Crochet Twin Cities

Another horse

A view of the crowd.

Sara was enlisted to take a photo of some fair-goers, so I took the opportunity to take a photo of her taking a photo.

A knit Elvis

And more ways to illustrate the crowds.

Fun, food-inspired yarn bombs, with model, complete with foot kick.

Some memorializing of Prince

Minnesota State Fair Day One: Let’s visit the animals

These bunnies have a black stripe down their back.

We watched this goat contest long enough to see the winners.

The announcer said a lot of words into his microphone, but they weren’t very articulated words, so I caught pieces here and there.  (Acoustics might also have contributed to the problem.)

We were sitting in the bleachers, but many people stopped wandering and watched the contest.

Some post-contest chatting.

Grooming stations.

Cows! I was starting to lose the light and animals tend to be too twitchy for low-light situations.  Thank goodness these two were sleeping.

Past winners.

Minnesota State Fair Day One: My First Butter Princesses

When people questioned me as to just what I would DO at the Minnesota State Fair, one of the things I told them was, “And! They have butter princesses!  I have never seen a butter princess before!”  People’s knowledge of what a butter princess is, as well as their reactions to the existence of them, is a good screener for fellow fair friends.

And here are my first butter princesses!  This one is coming soon.  Sara told me that one is sculpted for each day of the fair.  So if you come on the first day, you see a lot of blocks of butter with pictures on them, and only one princess.

Here’s a nicely finished one:

Facts about the butter sculptures:

All of them incorporated some swoopy hair details.  I’m guessing that butter “swoops” well.

Completed and up-and-coming

And here are the butter princesses, in their human form.  If you come at the right time of day, you can chat with them.

There was a long line for the Dairy Women’s ice cream.  I opted for a picture of the line, rather than the product.

Sara nails the Turkey look.  I’ve got to work on my head-in-the-hole skills.

Minnesota State Fair Day One: Agricultural Building & Crop Art

We headed to the Agricultural Building.  It’s a great Art Deco monolith.  You’ll see it from above later.

Pike Schemes never misses a head-in-the-hole opportunity.  Sara and I partook.  Shawn captured us nicely, I think.  (Until I set up this post, I had no idea what the front of this display looked like.)

There were other agriculture props for us.

Corn.  And some winning corn.

We stood in line to see the Crop Art.  I didn’t even know it was a thing, but boy, is it a thing.  There are rules (only seeds that can produce a crop in Minnesota) and anyone who enters will have their work displayed.  There is even a category for out-of-state people. I noticed Portland author Cathy Camper’s had a piece entered.  I had no idea she did crop art.

There were a lot of political themes.  You can see how the artists had to also display a key of what made up their seed art.

I thought this one had the best use of  a hashtag.

These shoes seemed to be an example of seed art gone wrong. (Sorry Susan.)

Some of them looked more like paintings, like that one of Buster Keaton.  And it’s always nice to see RBG in the house.

This intricate entry caused a lot of cheery commentary.

Sweet Martha’s Cookies are only available at the fair. (And apparently, three other events.)  The lines are long. They come in a bucket, lovingly rendered here, in seed art form. More amazing crop art.

My favorite was this map of Minnesota authors.

Here was another well-done political seed art.

Aside from a variety of scarecrows, there were also vintage feed sacks to look at.

Also, the bathrooms in the Agriculture building were great. There was a woman working the door, who would monitor stall usage and tell the first person in line which stall to go to.  This meant no looking under the stalls or wandering about.  Very efficient!

In the Minnesota Fruit section was my one of my favorite fair items.

Frozen cider!  Inexpensive and so delicious!  I bought one the next day, too.