Wheaton, Year 3, Part 2

Before we left for vacation, Dah and I had a discussion about why he would have had two charges at the same gas station about a month ago, surveying the multitude of social media and blog posts and personal calendars we have to try to piece it together. We finally realized he had bought an item that qualified him for a fuel discount, then pumped the gas after. Mystery solved.

This serves as a reminder that we haven’t kept a very routine account of our expeditions. So I’ll try.

Yesterday we drove from his house through Antioch, IL into Elk Grove, WI where we stayed in a “lovely” Airbnb room hosted by Clarisse and Gonzalbes, who we never did see. We had the place to ourselves, even though it sounded like they were going to be there. According to the listing page, we were not to use the kitchen, except that we could store things in the fridge. We had the bathroom to ourselves that was across the hall. I dreamed about sneaking around to make scrambled eggs on the sly. But I didn’t dare do so. Why our hosts weren’t around, we aren’t sure. Or why it sounded like there was a fireworks show that ended around 9pm. That mystery will remain unsolved.

We had stopped at thrift stores and rummage sales along the way, and stumbled upon a Harry Potter fest in Antioch that we had no interest in although it looked clever. Dinner was at a Japanese market called Tensuke in Elk Grove that turned out to be less than 10 minutes from where we were staying, which is also not far from Mitsuwa Marketplace, a much larger Japanese market we had been to before. The big surprise in that is that there’s a $3 Daiso section within Tensuke. I’d been to a Daiso in San Diego so I was really thrilled to find that. We bought fountain pens that turned out to be really good, and I also got a kitchen knife and a Rilakkuma mechanical pencil for my daughter.

Dinner was a cold soba plate salad for Dah and the best Udon s\noup I’ve ever had, with a side of gyoza for me. Oishii, ne! As usual, we both sampled some off each other’s plates. It was all pretty good, but cold tofu not a winner.

Once we checked into our room, which turned out to be a condominium, Dah went to sleep pretty quickly while I stayed up reading and trying out the pen, also writing yesterday’s blog.

Dah got up after I fell asleep and took a shower around 1:30am. I slept through until around 4am after falling asleep before 10pm. Forced myself to sleep a little longer, and that’s when I dreamed about the scrambled eggs.

In the morning, we started off toward a bagel place but realized we weren’t hungry enough to go out for breakfast after sharing a chocolate chip muffin we’d gotten from a yard sale for 25 cents the day before. The GPS pulled a wild one and sent us off in the wrong direction when we thought we were heading to the hamfest at the DuPage county fair grounds. I can’t understand what it had set as its destination when we realized we were off course. I’d never seen it before, and certainly hadn’t meant to select it from the suggested places.

So we looped around the tollway frustratedly. I was crying while Dah was driving angry. We made it to the hamfest around 7:30am, a half hour after they opened, and all was forgiven between us.

The sun was less forgiving, bringing intensely hot weather as morning progressed. There weren’t nearly as many sellers as in years prior though, so it didn’t take us too long to walk through and see everything, wind through the indoor stuff, and loop back around to see anything Dah had been interested in. We also went back to the indoor area once they’d started grilling and had a breakfast then on hot dogs, mine with giardinera since they had it, both with slices of tomato. Good stuff.

After that we hit a couple of thrift stores – Savers and Goodwill – then decided to head toward home. Dah was tired. I thought we were planning to go to H Mart but knew that was out of the way. Instead, we stopped at Mitsuwa and then Dah impulsively swung us into an unpretentious Italian Beef place for a quick bite before hitting the road. One of the fastest and most satisfying meals ever, and the prices were great! We both got Italian ices too, his watermelon and mine lemonade, because it was still feeling like 100 degrees so that felt in order.

On the way home, we stopped at a Thorton’s where the gas was close to 20 cents cheaper than anywhere else. As we were leaving, Dah asked me to call Sherwin Williams to see if there big sale was on. It was, and he wanted to stop at their store nearest his house to pick out a paint color for his upcoming bathroom remodel. After much deliberation, the choice was Honeydew.

They had a weird coffee/tea machine that had a dozen or so drawers of squeeze packets still labeled Alterra, though Alterra (a local coffee roaster with a number of coffee shops) had changed its name to Colectivo a while ago.

We arrived back at his house and tried the Honeydew paint card against the walls in his bathroom. He had instructed them to mix his paint for him to pick up tomorrow, so knowing it was a good pick after seeing it in the room was a big relief.

I went home from there, with stuff I had unpacked from his car into mine to then sort out once I got home. I reconnected with my family, including the cat. I’m sure he took a nice long nap.


To Wheaton

Today we drove I45 toward Elk Grove, IL where we are staying at an Airbnb we got in a condominium for $40/night plus taxes. On the way, we stopped at rummage sales in WI and IL, mostly near Antioch. No, wait – the sales were in WI but we stopped in Antioch to chase down thrift stores. There was a Harry Potter themed event all through downtown (or, Main St. anyway). Also a model train store Dah took an interest in that was very well maintained. From Antioch, we continued on to the Arlington Heights/Elk Grove area via Hwy 53. Explored a Japanese market much smaller than Mitsuwa though not far from them called Tensuke. They have a $3 Daiso section where I purchased the fountain pen I am writing this with. We had a wonderful dinner there. I only ordered the plain udon w/out fish cake, which came with a choice of side dis so I got 4pc. gyoza which were good but deep fried. the broth was the best I’ve ever had. Dah got a cold soba plate with tofu and salad. Good but plain. I would love to go back there sometime. We are headed into Wheaton tomorrow morning for a big Hamfest that starts at 7am. It is always a good time. – Dit 9:13pm Elm Grove Airbnb

NOLA Effects

I spent a week away from Dit for the first time since we met two years ago. The occasion was my trip to New Orleans to visit my cousin, who had planned a traditional NOLA jazz memorial for his dad, my uncle. Dit was invited, but couldn’t join us due to childcare responsibilities.

NOLA was just as I had pictured it, a pleasant and
interesting time, but not my kind of place. Crowded, noisy,and jazz isn’t something I crave. Nor seafood or alcohol.

It’s about relationships, and I was pleasantly surprised to
see my cousins, whom I have not communicated with much over the years, relate well to me and to each other. The same goes for their friends, of which they were many, since my cousin has been a well-known businessman for decades in the city. The one awkwardness was that of all the group, I was the only non-drinker save for one of my cousin’s daughters, who was pregnant. I’ve no objection to drinking, my body has never been able to handle it, but it still feels awkward when you’re around people who drink a lot of wine.

I kept in touch with Dit with my usual couple of emails per day. In the weeks since my trip, I’ve been trying to characterize how it felt to be apart. Saying that I felt lonely and lost would not be correct; I’ve lived alone most of my life and don’t feel at loose ends without people around.

One of the things I like most, one of the things that feels best when I have relationship, is sharing experiences. I’m sure this is what most people care a lot about. I feel more comfortable with Dit than anyone else I’ve ever known. So being a week without her around, well, it just felt off in what will remain a hard to define way. And it was a relief getting back and doing anything and everything with her. It’s a much better life with her.

New Orleans, etc.

I hope Dah while write more about this, but I at least want to document some of his big adventure. A couple weeks ago, he left for New Orleans to take part in his uncle’s memorial. There had already been a midwestern version last November, but his cousin in New Orleans suggested then that there should be a jazz component around the time of his father’s birthday in April, so Dah traveled there and spent a week with family exploring NOLA.

From what I’m told, the food was great and the weather was fine all but one day when it rained. It rained that day in Milwaukee too, and my car battery decided it was done, so I sat waiting for roadside assistance reading Dah’s reports about touring New Orleans with his cousins.

He returned with tales of above-ground burials (not for his uncle, he was interrered in Illinois), typewriter poets in the French Quarter, fountains and tiles in formal gardens, an abandoned bike factory, and, of course, alligators. He brought me a stained glass art piece, beignet mix, a gator tooth, and a voodoo doll. Much appreciated!

A week later, Dah and I celebrated his birthday in grand style with a week of grand activities. Two plays (The Fantasticks and Doubt: A Parable), a lunchtime comedy show with free tacos, open house at the Gateway Technical College iMet Center, Sunday brunch and the Rotary Club’s Seniors Prom. We even fit in a morning of me driving with him to get his bloodwork, followed by a nice lunch in the hospital’s atrium cafeteria and then a stop at a computer keyboard company where he procured a replacement key for a $160 keyboard he found for a fraction of that, but missing one key top, recently at Goodwill.

Now we have nothing on our calendar except an upcoming Hamfest next weekend, and I miss the luxury of seeing him every single day! But I think we both need to rest and recover from all the running around too!

Good times.

– Dit

Let’s Fest

Jefferson, WI is somewhere west of Madison and Milwaukee. Even after looking at it on a map, I can’t really wrap my head around where it falls geographically, but I will say it holds a pin on the map of my heart.

Last weekend, Dah and I and my daughter made the trip out to Jefferson for the hamfest. Last year, Dah and I had take the journey too, but just the two of us. My daughter is 17 and not very social, so the expected course would be for her to stay home. This year, she asked to come along.

She and I drove a county down to Dah’s house and stayed overnight so as to facilitate a very early morning departure, per hamfest routine. These things tend to start at 8am if not earlier, and are usually located an hour or two from where we start, which means we leave at the crack of dawn or even earlier.

This time, we broke from our usual tradition of taking either a big sandwich of the grocery store sub variety, and/or XL frozen burritos, heated in the microwave right before getting in the car. Since my little one was along and I recently got her addicted to bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddles (“Macu-Grid” in our familial shorthand) Dah offered to stop there instead, which we did, awkwardly but effectively redeeming Android app offers from two different phones, his and mine.

The drive was nice – clear roads, no snow – and was punctuated with the occasional sighting of cows or horses or even donkeys!

We arrived in Jefferson right around 8am. The hamfest is held at the county fair grounds, as many of them are. This year it was much more crowded than last, and I worried about my daughter feeling claustrophobic in the crowd, as she often becomes.

But she surprised me. After our initial walk-through, where we lost Dah as he was viewing different items along the way, my daughter broke with tradition – and expectation – and quietly flowed into line following him around instead of me. She usually trails me very closely, an absolute shadow. It was good to see how intrinsically she trusted him, enough even to follow him in a crowd of strangers, minus me, her mom. I kept close, but she got somewhat aggravated with my meandering and preferred his steady calm, to my shock and delight. I think she trusts him. I know I do.

During the course of the morning we found an original Gameboy that I knew she’d be interested in, and though she didn’t press for me to buy it for her, I still did, at a reasonable price that was amicably haggled. I bought a couple little things for myself, mainly the battery holders necessary to fit replacements into my fuzzy logic rice cookers, and Dah, as usual, picked up a couple things he’ll try to resell. And he bought me a set of speaker wires, knowing I’d mentioned mine fell apart.

On the way back, we went through Whitewater without realizing an estate sale we’d hoped to hit was there, thinking it was in Watertown instead. Oops. The saving grace, though, was a long-awaited trip to LD’s Barbecue, located inside a BP gas station in East Troy. I had read about it on facebook and hoped we could stop sometime. What a find! Everything was just what you’d hope good BBQ would be. The ribs and beans side dish was especially satisfying. I lack the words really to explain how good a lunch that was.

Hit a couple thrift stores on the way back, since my daughter is on the lookout for second-hand Monster High dolls to revamp. She strips their features with acetone and brushes acrylic yarn into wefts for new wigs. She’s very good at it.

On a tip from a friend, we made a stop at an estate sale settlement operation just outside of Milwaukee. It’s an industrial park shop where all the stuff that doesn’t sell at the estate sales ends up. I have never seen so many for sale typewriters together in one spot! I think I counted 27. I bought two: An Olympia SM9 for myself, and the find of  day – a Royal that has Double Gothic font! Dah had mentioned he wanted an all caps machine so he could more easily do Morse Code transcription. That’s what Double Gothic is. It facilitates the process by eliminating the need to shift for Caps then revert to lowercase to type numbers. I never thought I’d come across one in my life, but there it was!

We were all getting tired, and my daughter especially wanted to move on to at least one more Goodwill, so we didn’t spend long enough for me to try all the typers, but they were open again the following Tuesday so I went back, armed with a head lamp and carbon paper, and tried them all. We really got the two best machines that were there. Surprisingly, I didn’t buy another typewriter when I went back! I did get my daughter an Asian Barbie she’d had her eye on the Sunday before but was too shy to inquire about.

On a similar note, Dah and I attended an antique radio swap meet a week prior and landed some deals. I don’t remember at all what Dah got, but I scored a nifty 8-track player for a dollar. Turned around to another ham who had bought a speaker and we hooked the two up together and played Pink Floyed off the mix tape that was included. Good times!

Good People

We have the privilege of knowing good people. The best. And this weekend, we said goodbye to two of them, one a friend of mine and the other an associate of Dah’s, respectively. By that, I mean instead of us trying to both attend two memorial services on Saturday as a couple, we each attended one and met up later to talk to each other, grieve, and basically just listen and distract and support one another. We woke up Sunday to high winds and a snapped rope that led to a fallen Ham antenna, and spent most of the afternoon rigging another rope to help lift a wire off stuck roof shingles, not without struggle and ingenuity. The important thing here is that we work together in good spirits, which makes it all enjoyable. – Dit

My Funny Valentine

We saw this on a Goodwill together weeks ago so it became out Valentine’s Day project.

We exchanged other gifts as well. He got me vice grips per request (he even explained some of the history of the company and that he’d chosen these ones carefully, for lack of malocclusion), very nice cup cozies, which are kind of my thing, and also a mini Zen garden which he explained was “small enough that Squeakers wouldn’t confuse it for a little box”. There was also a .15 cent opened bag of dry fruit from Big Lots big clearance deal shelf, but I’m not sure if those were part of the gift or just happened to be near where he’d laid the other things out. He had a nice card for me too, which stated, “Roses are red.” And the star of the show: A page of three poems composed at the Smith Corona script typewriter, with explanations that it was producing inconsistent line spacing, and that the paper he typed on was one of the last remaining sheets of Strathmore 75% linen. He had contacted the company when he lived in New Hampshire and was told they had discontinued production of it when the century old machine used to make it finally gave out.

I’m touched that he used one of his last sheets for my poems, and that he chose precious highlights from our life.

I, in turn, gifted him a variety of sweet treats including Chocodate almond-stuffed, chocolate-dipped dates, with and without coconut, shards of a prototype sugar cookie made by my friend Christina, milk chocolate bulk coating that was on sale, double chip cookies, a frosted croissant, and overripe pears from a different store’s clearance, and fresh strawberries since we hadn’t had them for a while. And I brought my electric fondue pot so we could make a melty lunch of it, which went over quite well with the addition of a shared banana. I also made us a grilled cheese and onion sandwich in the Foreman grill and we shared a Clausen pickle, as he mentioned them in his poem.

My poem for him too the form of a vintage PPG Valentine. I also read him a few more in draft for from my travel notebook.

After lunch we retired to the couch and did our respective social media stuff, then feel asleep sitting up hugging each other while attempting to watch Logan’s Run.

Really, I couldn’t ask for any better.


– Dit