Brandon, IA

The largest frying pan in Iowa

I think Krista was channeling Shannon here. This photograph was taken on our first day on the road back to NY, with a slight detour towards my friends Derek and Liz in Iowa City, Iowa. This was a wonderful way to start the trip. Discovering the happy propane guy I posted from my phone on Saturday reminded me of this moment— those two should hook up!

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Handmade Nation

From the trip to Milwaukee last Thursday/Friday

The weekend before last, I was reading about a benefit for a film called Handmade Nation. As a person with an interest in most things DIY, I made a mental note about it. It was a project conceived by an owner of a shop in Milwaukee called Paper Boat. Though the project is in progress, it dovetails with my current research obsessions in a profound way. The connections wouldn’t really be apparent to most people not inside my head.

My interest in Henry Hamilton Bennett and the Wisconsin Dells doesn’t have anything to do with the hype surrounding him as a “pioneer photographer.” It has to do with his copious records of the circumstances surrounding his photographic gallery. He was a small town artist, struggling to make a buck as technological and social circumstances changed at the turn of the century. He was only one of thousands. It’s hard to estimate how many artists struggled to profit from newly opened local markets during the settlement of the American West. We have often been, to a large extent, a handmade nation.

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Suckers n’ stuff

Just over a month ago, we were in Iowa. It was before the floods, and looking at the number of road closures I’m not really happy to go back just now. It’s hard to get any sort of traction because I have spent most of this year away from home. What starts as adventure can end up as tedium, if you overdose on it bad enough.

But Tom Waits does not tour frequently, and it seems worth it to brave the waters of Iowa to get to the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Besides, there are unfinished family visits and the hope that maybe for a time life can be reasonably drama-free. Except for Tom, of course.

It’s been a glitter and doom kind of year.