Random Late Summer Stuff

As I acknowledged in my last post, the Street Parade has been less than active these days.  Quite a few things came up recently and I found myself a little busier and more distracted than I intended.  Some of it has been ongoing: I’ve been collaboarting a good bit this summer with a Biology faculty on a course we are going to team teach this year.  It’s exciting but much more intensive than I had anticipated.  Then a few weeks back, I got word that a book I have had an essay in for some time has finally found a home.  This is great news of course, but it’s also meant a great deal of last minute revising and formatting to get it ready for publication.   But keep an eye out for Compelling Confessions: The Politics of Personal Disclosure from Fairleigh-Dickinson Press with an essay on John Berryman by yours truly.  Publication date as yet unknown.  A few other odds and ends that crept into my life and suddenly the last few weeks slipped away.

We have as of late, though, been thoroughly enjoying the August weather and our gardens.  The berry patch I planted a few years ago has finally taken hold and is big enough that it can hold its own against the deer and rabbits.  They, of course, still take a good chunk of the berry patch, but it’s at least a fair fight now.

Though we generally aren’t able to garden vegetables (see the above comment about deer and rabbits, as well as the strange fact that, even though we’re in Iowa, our yard is mostly clay) and don’t really have the energy to put into really changing this overwhelming yard to make it vegetable garden friendly, nor the inclination to stay in this house more than another year tops, we do have some nice flower gardens around the yard that have been quite productive and beautiful this year.  Here’s one along one of the side retaining walls (yes, it’s quite hilly here which is why we’re all clay):

And here’s another one a bit further back in the yard:

With this recent nice weather and all the great local produce, we’ve been grilling out almost nightly.  We’ve made Baba Ghanoush several times, plenty of corn, veggie and tempeh kabobs, etc.  Last night grilled veggies with pasta and goat cheese and pine nuts.  We enjoyed that with a fire in the fire pit, a bottle of Boulevard’s Double Wide IPA (I’m happy to say that John’s is now carrying Boulevard’s Smokestack series. This was my first sampling of these beers, and it was really quite nice; tons of caramel followed by a nice, dry hoppy finish) then a bottle of Cline Zinfandel we brought back from California.  Really the way a summer evenings ought to be.

Of course, it’s not that way for most of Cedar Rapids.  It’s quite surreal the way the city has become two cities.  In the unaffected areas, it’s hard to know what the floods have even done to this town; it would be possible to know that nothing has even happened–except for the aroma of mold and muck that still drifts on the breezes.  And for most of us in unaffected areas, it’s hard to know what to do anymore.  Most of the salvage work at this point is really for professionals, so there are odds and ends that we can jump in and help with, but it’s hard to know how best to help.  The flooded areas remain devastated, though.  I recently took a drive through the hard-hit Czech Village and it is completely surreal.  No power.  The grass and weeds have overtaken lots.  Piles of debris still line the roads.  Many houses are just gutted shells at this point.  Some houses are out into the streets and alleys.  It’s a different world, with very slow progress to see.

On a completely different note, in keeping with the Street Parade’s observance of musical holidays, we must of course honor today’s anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.  Too much great stuff to listen to, but I’ll generally suggest the early recordings.  Don’t get me wrong, I love his later stuff like Suspicious Minds as anyone, but you can’t beat his early material.  So give his 1956 debut a listen or go to his complete Sun Sessions (of course, listening to Sun material in general is good to help put Elvis in context).  Then I’d also suggest 1969’s Elvis in Memphis, a great comeback.  In fact, thinking of his comeback, if you haven’t seen his 1968 “Comeback Special,” definitely give it a look.  It’s really pretty brilliant.  And one other strange little plug since I mentioned “suspicious minds.”  There’s  a little-known movie from 1968 with Harvey Keitel and Bridget Fonda that I think is really good.  But even if you don’t like the movie all that much (and I’ll admit that I seem to be in the minority among people who have seen it), the Harvey Keitel Elvis imitation doing Suspicious Minds is really worth watching; it’s ridiculously good at capturing the over-the-top Elvis.

OK, you are getting real time blogging of course.  As I wrote about Harvey Keitel, I started thinking “Oh, it must be on YouTube,” and well, of course…

One other little Elvis plug: listen to a little El Vez, the Mexican Elvis if you haven’t.  The man is a rock ‘n roll revolutionary and a comic genius and a damn fine musician all at the same time.  I highly recommend Graciasland and Gi Ay Ay Blues.  In the latter, his “JC Lowrider Superstar” is a classic.

OK, I think that’s enough random notes for now.

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