Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year-Ender 2012

A long time ago, when I was learning how to use FrameMaker, I created a bogus newsletter. I set up a three-column template, made a second "jump" page, and connected the two so text would flow from one to the other.

The whole thing was an exercise in formatting. I wanted to give it a silly, playful name, and settled on Lung. Years later, I dredged up that name for this blog.

Here, at the tail end of 2012, are some of my favorite Lung posts from the last twelve months.

A series of posts relate to an injury sustained by my daughter – including, but not limited to:
Broken Arm
She Said No
Back in the Saddle.

Another post, Everything Hurts, relates to an accident my wife had.

In June I noted the passing of tenor man Faruq Z. Bey.

Earlier I'd become fascinated by the fate of a century-old structure in my town, and wrote about it in more than one post.

Right after Thanksgiving I went to an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh paintings and drawings.

The Presidential election inspired several posts.

And I began the year with a whimsical flight of fancy centering on the new year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pie Crust 101

Some people have a hard time making pie crust.

Let me share a secret with you: it's easy.

My mom made legendary pie crust. "Why, it just melts in your mouth," her mother, my late grandmother, would say.

So maybe there's pie crust in my genes.

But it's easy. Let me show you.

First, the ingredients:
  • 1 1/3 (one and one-third) cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening (plain)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

These proportions are for one crust. If you want a pie with a bottom and top, you'll need to double them.

I usually start by filling a glass with water and adding the ice, so it's ready when I need it. Then, these steps:

1. Mix flour and salt in mixing bowl. Cut shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter or fork. (It never completely mixes. When it's ready, it will still look like flour, but with chunks of fat in it.)

Do not use your hands to mix it. This is a textbook no-no. The heat from your hands is supposed to be bad for it. (I've handled the dough more than is recommended before, and it turns out okay. But you should go by the book until you get a feel for it.)

2. Once it's the right texture, add the ice water and combine with a fork. Quickly gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. (This will help when you roll it out.)

Wrap in plastic (I use produce bags from the grocery store) and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

3. Remove dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and cold, let stand until cool but malleable. 

4. For this last stage, I suggest using either wax or parchment paper. (There's a better way, which I'll get to momentarily.)

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough disk out in each direction, forming a 12- to 14-inch circle. I usually rotate the paper as I roll it, to help keep the crust even.

To transfer the dough, roll it around the rolling pin, lift,  center it over an ungreased 9-inch regular or deep-dish pie plate, and unroll. 

A couple of years ago my mom, that maker of legendary pie crust, gave me a big piece of canvas to use for rolling out the dough. It came in a kit that included a sleeve for the rolling pin. What a difference! The dough doesn't stick. Makes things a lot easier.

My crusts tend to be light and flaky, and to die for.

Note: I did not make the crust in the above picture. I don't know how to do that fancy crimping thing around the edges. I think you just use your fingers to wedge up the sides. Also, see those fork holes in the picture? I don't do that. I'll have to try it next time.

Another note: I usually use plain old unbleached all-purpose flour, most often the King Arthur brand, although any will do. I've used bread flour once or twice and it works fine.

I also usually use Spectrum brand organic vegetable shortening, but in a pinch have used Crisco. I'd rather not. But I have. Works fine.

Final note: my daughter is on a gluten-free kick, so I sometimes make pie crust with white spelt flour instead of all-purpose wheat. The all-purpose wheat is better, I think, but the white spelt flour works pretty good, too – much better than I thought it would.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Front Page News

Our local paper had an extraordinary front page today.

We're only a few days removed from the savagery of the mass murders in Connecticut. But even as victims are buried and politicians pledge to do something, that horrific case barely made page one – because we've got yet another case of mass murder on our hands.

It appears to be what, in America, is an all-too-common, garden variety mass murder-suicide. Some asshole with a violent streak shot his estranged girlfriend and two others and then killed himself.

Apparently the girlfriend left the man who would become her killer on Thanksgiving day. He was jailed this past weekend on domestic violence charges, the victim being the estranged girlfriend. He got out on Monday night. Around 4am Tuesday he went to the home where the ex was staying and killed everyone.

Grislier details include the fact that the murder of the girlfriend and the suicide were both recorded in a frantic 911 call. The dispatcher heard the woman's futile pleas, heard the gunshot that killed her, spoke briefly to the killer – and finally heard him kill himself.

As tragic and sickening as all of this is, some asshole murdering his girlfriend or wife and then killing himself is all too common an occurrence in these loosely united states. You barely need to pay attention to know that.

The reason it all seems so extraordinary to me is that beneath the front page article about this murder-suicide is an article about those friendly, responsible chaps at the National Rifle Association vowing, or at least pretending to vow, to do something about the availability of assault rifles, in the wake of Connecticut. That, and a third front page article about the governor of my fair state also making noise about doing something to stem unstable people getting easy access to guns. This, in a state that experienced the Aurora shootings last summer and the Columbine High School murders in 1999.

There's been much talk and much media attention about all this since the slaughter in Connecticut. It remains to be seen how much of it is sincere, and how much is public relations. Clearly it is the duty of elected officials to listen to the will of the people, and to enact laws that increase public safety.

Meanwhile, our national bloodbath continues.

Pressure them!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Violence

Can anything good possibly come out of the unspeakable carnage at an elementary school in Connecticut?

Yes – if the majority of Americans finally stand up to the gun-toting minority, and insist that enough is enough. The slaughter of innocent children should be ample motivation.

I am heartsick and outraged at what happened. It's a simple enough equation, really. America is a violent culture and it's armed to the teeth. So twenty children, none older than ten, are brutally gunned down because someone with an unstable mind had easy access to firearms.

It happened yesterday, as I write this – and just days after the mass murder in Oregon that, but for some trick of fate, could easily have exceeded the magnitude of Newtown. And it happened only months after the slaughter in Aurora, and the mass murder of Sikhs in Wisconsin by a bigoted gun nut.

It's been quite a year.

There's no way to predict and no way to stop the sort of violence that killed all these people. But we sure as hell can reduce the odds of it happening again by enacting stricter gun laws.

Tell the NRA to fuck off. Make pariahs of the Ted Nugents of this land.

I've written this elsewhere, but it bears repeating:

On average, guns kill or wound 100,000 people every year in the United States, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Over one million people have been killed by guns in the U.S. since 1968.

Lock and load that one.

Think John Lennon. Think Gabby Giffords, and the eight people who died senselessly in Arizona after being shot by an opponent of gun control.

The National Rifle Association has had our collective common sense in a hammerlock for too long now.

Friday, December 7, 2012


For most of my life, I’ve been intimidated by tools. Couldn't really drive a nail straight, didn't do well with measuring – that sort of thing.

This is changing – due in part, I think, to a new-found interest in bike mechanics. But I am not merely losing my intimidation of tools; I am getting interested in them, and in repairs.

Take the job at right. This is a clever little fix I learned from a guy in a hardware store. After years of loosening, the door to our laundry room finally came off its hinges. Stripped screw holes. What to do?

The hardware guy said to take ordinary tooth-picks and tap them into the stripped holes, along with lots of wood glue. Cram in as many as possible – round tooth-picks, not flat ones. Snip off the protruding bits. Let dry for twenty-four hours.

"It'll be like virgin wood," he said.

It wasn't quite that effective. But it worked very well indeed.

My growing interest in tools is quite the sea change. There is still a lot to learn, but I'm at the point where I'm welcoming household repairs. Small ones, mind you, like the toothpick affair. But I'm beginning to enjoy these little fixes, and appreciate a job well done.

The down side? I need more tools. Bike tools, in particular, like a cassette locking and a chain whip. Maybe Santa will read this.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Van Gogh

Seventy paintings and drawings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh are on display at the Denver Art Museum, and I went to see it on the day after Thanksgiving.

The show is called "Becoming van Gogh," and it is getting a lot of attention here. Tickets are going fast – so fast, you'd think they were for the latest boy band.

Said tickets are time-stamped. Ticketholders must show up at a specified time, and get the hell out by a specified time. We only had about an hour with Vincent and his stuff.

When we arrived, the place was totally crowded. For a few extra guilders you could rent an audio device, which provided additional info as you moved from work to work. We skipped that little feature. I wrongly assumed there would be some kind of handout available – a pamphlet, or some sort of fact sheet.

One of the first works to catch my attention was the drawing at left, Peasant Woman Pitching Wheat or Hay (1885, black chalk on paper). I leaned in to examine a detail: faint, preliminary lines still visible beneath the finished work, made as the artist's hand searched for the proper form.

But as I bent forward to inspect it, a museum employee materialized and asked me to step back. Politely, she said patrons must get no closer than eighteen inches. To illustrate this point, she moved her hand along an imaginary vertical plane a foot and a half before the drawing.

"Can I breathe on it?" I snapped. The drawing was framed and covered in glass. The employee smiled, said "Try not to," and withdrew.

None of the seventy works on display were the really famous ones. No Starry Night, no Road with Cypress and Star, no Self-Portrait with a bandaged ear. Most of those, I guess, are too priceless to be part of some traveling road show.

We did, however, get an old pair of shoes. We got The Weaver. And we got Restaurant de la Sirene a Asnieres.

Van Gogh liked using ordinary people for his models, as in  Sientje Peeling Potatoes (right). As I contemplated Sientje I wondered how accurate was the likeness. Then it occurred to me it didn't matter; that was hardly the point. And I further made a link between that and my own feeble attempts at fiction. The best fiction is drawn from real life, which is truth, but need not be an accurate rendering of reality.

While none of the really famous works were on display, there still were some very well known paintings and drawings, like The Postman Roulin (oil on canvas, 1888) and an early version of The Potato Eaters (lithograph on Japan paper, 1885, left). The Potato Eaters is an old favorite of mine. But the one in the Denver show is not the well-known painting, which is much darker. The order of the figures in this lithograph is reversed from the painting. The woman pouring kaffĂ©, here on the left, is on the right in the painting. And so on.

Anyway, great show. Runs to January. After that, it's kaput; supposedly, Denver is the only stop for "Becoming van Gogh."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Forty Nine

Being in Dealey Plaza at half past noon on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination is an incomparable experience.

Whether you care deeply about who killed Kennedy or think the whole conspiracy thing is a crock, you cannot help being impressed, for better or worse, by the reality of Dealey Plaza on a sunny midday in late November, and by the people who show up there to remember JFK.

November 22nd is a date synonymous with national calamity, like December 7th or 9/11. The implications of the assassination loomed over the United States for decades, but I don’t think it does any more. Between the passage of so much time and the stigma associated with “conspiracy theory,” the issue has been effectively neutered.

As I grew up, though, the assassination seemed ominous and real, especially on each anniversary. The next day’s paper always had a picture of surviving Kennedys gathered at JFK’s grave at Arlington. One of them, usually Teddy, leaned forward to place flowers by that eternal flame, while the rest knelt beside him, their heads bent in prayer. That picture didn’t change much from year to year – except gradually, as strange fates and the inevitable claims of time left fewer family members to mark the occasion.

This post is extracted from a larger work.

See also a similar post from 11-22-11 ...

And, check out some Dallas pictures by Truly Yours Truly (but not Roy Truly). They look best through Safari, or Mozilla Firefox. Chrome is okay. Internet Explorer is not so good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bicycling magazine

By the time my Bicycling magazine subscription lapsed for good, I had lost most of my interest in that publication.

To be sure, there were still interesting articles sometimes, such as "The 90-Year-Old Who Can Kick Your Ass" – a profile of a nonagenarian, former pro cyclist still riding strong. And there were the recurring staples, like "Get Stronger Legs!" and "Fix a Flat in Two Minutes Flat!"

But too often, Bicycling seemed little more than a shill for the bike industry. Their regular "buyer's guide" issue seemed like free advertising – and a not-so-soft sell, at that.

The magazine had enough interesting stuff, though, so that I saved a bunch of old copies. And recently I've been leafing through them in search of past articles, like the one about the 90-year-old.

I noticed that not only was Bicycling a shill for the industry it supposedly covers impartially. It was a shill for Lance Armstrong.

It's really sad to see all that old stuff, now that Armstrong has suffered his spectacular fall from grace. There are countless articles from Armstrong's heyday, with titles like, "How Lance Will Win Tour #5." For years, he was Bicycling's cover boy.

I've written elsewhere that Armstrong almost certainly used performance-enhancing drugs. That topic is not the purpose of this essay. I guess I don't really know what the purpose is, except to illustrate what I consider media hypocrisy. It is true that I haven't checked out Bicycling magazine on a regular basis in years. But it is also true that I heard its editor talking disparagingly about Lance Armstrong in an interview on NPR about a year and a half ago, before the fish really hit the fan. He said he had the goods on him: yes, he doped. He was a cheat. What a sad day for cycling.

Now that Armstrong had served his purpose to Bicycling, this editor was prepared to piss all over him.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Are You Here?

Lung gets very little traffic. I wish I could do something to boost readership; no one likes having their stuff ignored. But first and foremost, I enjoy writing. I like doing these posts. If no one reads them – well, so be it.

Lately, though, there has been a jump in readership. Nothing huge, but noticeable. I can only measure this by the hit counter provided by Over the last couple of months, it shows readership going from almost nil, to an average of thirty or so hits per day.

How come? I have a theory...

The most popular (if that's the right word) post here is a little ditty from 2011 called The Amazing Toilet. It is not a particularly amazing post. It is not particularly amusing, either, or insightful. Nothing like that. So why the sudden increase in hits?

I think that out there in the vastness of cyberspace, there are lots of people with backed up or broken toilets. Rather than search the Yellow Pages, they turn first to the all-knowing Internet. With just a few carefully chosen keywords, they wind up at "The Amazing Toilet." It tells them nothing about fixing a busted potty, but does go on for several paragraphs about how ingenious is the modern commode.

It's gotta be something like that.

A distant runner-up to The Amazing Toilet is Litterbugs, Part 10: Zug Island, a reflection on an industrial dump in Detroit. Its popularity really stumps me. Well behind the toilet post and Zug, in position #3, we find a rather charming, uncharacteristically sentimental ode to a dearly departed ballyard entitled Last Look, to which I will admit being proud of.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

President Obama: Election Aftermath

Too often, I fear the worst is about to happen.

Like last week, when I all but resigned myself to the election of Mitt Romney as President of the United States.

Of course, I was wrong. And happily so. And when all is said and done, there isn’t much change in this post-election era. Same president. Same Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate.

Yet I honestly believed that the zealots were about to storm D.C.

On Election Day morning, I left the house fearing the worst. The sign at left had caught my eye a week or so before and I wanted to make a record of it. It was about a half-hour’s bike ride from my house, and on the outskirts of town – a liberal bastion in Colorado.

Later in the day I got what turned out to be the last of countless robocalls that have come in recent months. A woman’s voice, simultaneously sultry and outraged, said, “President Obama has failed to unite us.” I hung up.

That evening I settled before the idiot box for what I assumed would be a very long, very painful night of election returns. I was most interested in the Presidential race, although there were other races and ballot issues I hoped to hear about. Imagine my surprise when Obama’s re-election was called before 9:30!

It turned out to be a great night for the Democrats. Some lunatic Republicans went down to well-deserved defeat (I’m thinking of Akin and Mourdock in particular). Strides forward on gay marriage. A couple of states, including my own, even legalized marijuana, although how that shakes out remains to be seen.

On Wednesday I went back to where that nutty sign had been, wondering whether it might have been taken down, or perhaps amended with some new dire warning of the coming apocalypse...

Postscript: I went by a second  time later that day, and the entire sign had been removed!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

President Romney

By now, I have had it with the Presidential elections.

I feel like the torture victim who is begging, begging his tormentor to shoot him in the head – just to put him out of his misery.

"You know I can't do that, pal," his torturer replies blandly, as he takes an indifferent puff on his cigar. "It don't work that way."

Instead of asking for a bullet through the head, though, I'm ready to accept Romney as the next president. Well, not accept him, because he is so unacceptable. But the GOP is going to steal this thing anyway – so for God's sake let's get it over with.

I don't believe the majority of Americans favor Romney over President Obama. I feel like this thing isn't nearly as close as they say; that we're being manipulated into accepting a Republican "victory."

But then, I'm conspiracy-minded.

How could any sane person support Romney? Or as some of his critics spell it, (R)money?  Romoney. I shudder to even think how disastrous a Romney presidency will be – for the nation and for the planet. Romney is wrong in so many ways, I can't even begin to count them. Even his own party didn't want him. And his running mate! A slimy little weasel, a tea party charlatan – a heartbeat away from the oval office!

And yet, they are going to win. I have to put it in quotes, "win" – because it will be another stolen election.

In three debates, Obama kicked Romney's ass. Yeah, even the first one. It was beautiful. Obama is the Great American President.

At left is my mail-in ballot. I voted Obama.

But let's be done with it, already.

Heaven help us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brake Dancing

First of all, sorry about that title. What a dreadful pun.

A few years ago somebody gave me a bike. Specifically, a Peugeot road bike. I don't know the reputation or status of Peugeot bikes. This one has a "Made in France" sticker on the top tube, which could be considered a conversation starter. But it's got really cheap components.

I'm no mechanic – but even I can tell that. So it's my guinea pig bike.

The other day I continued my experiments in bike mechanics. I put the bike into my new-used bike stand – another item somebody gave to me! – and began taking apart the rear brake. In this first photo, the procedure has already begun with the removal of the brake cable and the center-pivoting nut that attaches the thing to the bike.

Next, I have removed one of the brake calipers. The picture is a bit fuzzy – auto-focus is not infallible! (I took pictures because I thought I might mess up the job, and wanted a step-by-step record, in case I needed a reference when I re-assembled everything.)

In the picture at right I have removed the other brake caliper. Behind it are the springs which push the two calipers back into position. You may not be able to tell in this picture, but when you remove it – it just lifts right out – this spring unit resembles those old-fashioned pincher eyeglasses.

At left, the spring has been removed. Perhaps you can make out the slot that holds the spring in place. It's on that circular thing. Right behind it is a bracket that holds a reflector (just visible). At this point, the brake disassembly is nearly complete.

Photo at right: same as before, different angle. When I put the brake back together I wavered about putting the reflector back on. Since my daughter is the one most likely to ride this bike, I did.

In the center of the above-right picture is a nut. I unscrewed it. And then, as you can see below, the remaining screw slid right out of that mounting hole. At that point I cleaned the entire area (using diluted Simple Green and a rag), congratulated myself, and began putting it all back together. I did indeed need the photos as a reference in places. But I got it all back together and it works.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scenes Along the Road – a little more

I've got a few more observations, and a few more pictures, that I'd like to put up here, as another cycling season nears its end. (This is a continuation of a previous post.)
Yours Truly in the middle of a century ride, some years back
There are those who will tell you that the bicycle is the greatest invention ever, but I’m not one of them. Not because I don’t believe it (I’m not sure I do, though I’m close) but because of my reluctance to speak in absolutes. Isn’t the wheel touted as the greatest invention ever? And bikes have two of them! But then, cars have four, and semi-trailers have god knows how many. Does that make them exponentially better?
Whatever. I am content to say that the bicycle is among the greatest machines ever developed, and leave it at that.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle,” someone once observed. “Its passenger is its engine.” And this is one of the things that make bikes great: they allow you to travel point-to-point and, as its engine, get some exercise while you do it.
“Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish,” Iris Murdoch declared, in The Red and Green. “Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”
Pure in heart. Since bikes are fuel-free, they are environmentally sound. Between planet-threatening emissions and fluctuating gas prices, there may never be a better time than now to dump the car and embrace human powered transportation as the ideal way to get where you need to go.
There is a magnificent silence to bicycles that has enormous appeal for me. This may be most evident when riding, as I often do, through rural areas in the early hours of a summer morning. The only sounds are the steady clicking of bike’s freewheel, and the occasional warbling of a meadowlark. These are what I think of as bicycle moments.

Bicycle moments. Often they are fleeting, but they speak directly to the bike’s purity of heart: moments of blissful quietude that you can only experience on two wheels.

Of course, for a lot of people bike season is not ending. Community Cycles, mentioned in a previous post, holds workshops on winter cycling. But much as I love them, bicycles have their limitations. Few are willing to pedal to work in sub-freezing temperatures. Biking to the airport to pick up grandma and her three suitcases is out of the question. But for running simple errands around town, bikes – weather permitting, of course – are ideal.
The best thing about bicycles, though, may be that they are just plain fun to ride.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Scenes Along the Road

Late September. I’m not in quite the shape I’d like to be, vis a vis the bicycle.

But I’m a-tryin’. I’m out there turning the cranks as often as possible. And I keep passing interesting things along the way, like the buffalo at right.

There haven't been any wild buffalo in the American west for a long, long time, so far as I know. Maybe a few stray here and there.

The beast seen here is one of a herd off Nelson Road in northern Boulder County, Colorado, not too far from where my daughter takes riding lessons. In all likelihood, this critter is destined to end up as a buffalo burger, or a steak on someone's plate.

The herd was right up along the side of the road when I passed it in a car on the way to my daughter's lesson. But by the time we had her saddled up and I had ridden my bike back, they had moved away from the fence. I didn't have a zoom lens, but I think this picture looks okay.

And how about this sign? I think its most important line is, "we load for you." Yeah, the cow manure is organic. That's very good to know, in this green and golden era.

But, we load for you. Oh yeah. That's what really counts.

Bikes have been on my mind a lot lately. I shall spend the balance of this post writing whatever I think about them, and illustrating it with additional photos that I've taken during the course of one ride or another. I always take along a small digital camera when I ride.

I'm trying to learn some bicycle mechanics, so that I become less dependent on the local bike shop. (The shop I most often haunt is Louisville Cyclery.) Toward that end, I've gone to a few workshops at Community Cycles, a very cool cycling cooperative not too far from where I live.

Just recently, in fact, I took a shifters and derailleurs class there. So emboldened was I, that afterward I replaced the shifter cables to the front derailleur on my guinea pig bike, an old Peugeot that someone gave to me a few years back. Then I changed the brake cables on my wife's bike.

Work like this is small potatoes to those who know what the hell they're doing. It's still a big potato for me, although I almost feel like I know what I'm doing.

Aside from the workshops, my chief inspirations and guides include the web site of the late Sheldon Brown, a bike mechanics guru of some renown. I'm also guided by Lennard Zinn, a frame builder who has written several very useful bike repair books – titled, rather predictably, Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance (and ...of Mountain Bike Maintenance).

For the time being, it's going to be brakes and derailleurs. So far I've limited myself mostly to cables, although I'm fiddling with the brake levers on that guinea pig bike. Someone gave me an old Park Tools bike stand (people keep giving me stuff!) ... so I'll move on to other areas of the bike, in due time.

(I made a post similar to this one early this summer.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grain Elevator: Game Over

If I thought anyone read this blog on even a semi-regular basis, I'd probably stop making little posts about the century-old grain elevator in my town.

But I don't think anyone does, so I'll keep on making the posts. What the hell.

Somehow, they've saved the damned thing. Somehow the city council approved a measure to buy and restore the rickety old grain elevator to the tune of 1.5 million dollars – or up to that amount, according to an article in the paper.

So the city now owns it, and must come up with a plan to use it for something. Its previous, private owners had said they would demolish it if that was the only way they could sell the parcel of land on which it stands.

"I'm excited for the community's vision to come together for what we want the grain elevator to become," the mayor said, although exactly what it will become, I think, is anybody's guess.

I've been strangely intrigued by the fate of this building, and have followed developments over the last six months or so. I'm very pleased they've found a way to save it.

On a recent late summer morning I took the picture above. The original was in color, but I saved it as B&W and tweaked the result with editing software.

One vision of what it could become appeared in the local paper as a rather idyllic artist's rendering (left).

I don't know what happens next, but before any sort of restoration can take place the building must be stabilized and "rehabilitated." I get the stabilizing part, but I don't know what "rehabilitated" means. That's what the local newspaper keeps saying, though. Apparently a local firm has backed out of an agreement to fix up the old thing.

After running the same old photograph over and over and over, the way newspapers do, somebody finally dug up another vintage picture of the grain elevator, which I include below.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grain Elevator: In the Balance

Just a few weeks ago it seemed like the old grain elevator in my town had been saved. But it turns out its future, at least for now, remains uncertain.

I think they're going to save the thing. But once again it's up to the city council here to do something once and for all. "I frankly think it's time for us to lead and to preserve the building," the mayor said recently.

The council voted last week to spend nearly a million bucks to buy the century-old building from its current owners. They thought about putting the matter before voters, according to the local press, but changed their minds.

I've written about this old grain elevator a couple of times since last spring. I can't help it: I think it's a cool old building. We've lived in this town for not quite fifteen years, so I can't say that personally, it's some cherished piece of our heritage. It is – but it isn't like I've been looking at it since I was a tadpole.

Anyway, the brainiacs who run this town are going to vote on the building's fate sometime next week. In all likelihood they'll vote to buy it and restore it, and then – what? Put in a Starbucks, perhaps?

We shall see.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grain Elevator, Part Two

A few months ago I wrote here about a century-old building in my town that may be torn down.

The building in question is an old grain elevator that has outlasted its usefulness. It stands in the way of progress.

As I described it last spring, it's a rickety old thing that was forever shuttered more than fifty years ago. It sits next to some railroad tracks in what is apparently a primo piece of real estate. So its owners want to knock it down and build something profitable.

In April it got a reprieve. If someone could come up with a plan to restore it by July, it would not be torn down. The 109-year-old building has at least one unique feature – something called "stacked planking" construction – and its advocates say that makes it worth saving.

And they've done it. At least for now.

The city council in my town voted a few weeks ago – and I'll just quote the local press here – to "move ahead with plans to partner with a developer that would salvage" the old building.

"It's clearly an iconic structure that could become the representation of [our] agricultural history and what people think of [our town] in the long run," said our mayor.
So we'll give a real estate developer 2.1 million dollars and tax rebates to buy the grain elevator, and refurbish it for commercial or retail use.
As of a few weeks ago the deal still needs to be finalized. But it sounds like it's going to happen. I'm very pleased with how this has played out!