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ABOUT ME:  To begin, hello and thank you for making this connection or re-connection.  I am a first-time father at forty-something, practicing Emergency Physician (aka E.R. Doc), Medical Director & Chief of Emergency Medicine, ultrasonographer, master teacher and master student, photographer, novice filmmaker, one book writer, hyper-localism entrepreneur: real estate developer, historic rehab of award winning Viroqua Public Market, co-creator of farm-to-fork Optimo Restaurant (now transitioned to new chef/owners as Rooted Spoon), and dot-dot-dot over-user.... passionate about engaging in the moment by moment evolution of our impermanence. Key outlook on life:   healing is not a destination, but daily practice

I grew up where I now live, after a 20 year right of passage... middle Driftless Earth, Viroqua.  Current sanctuary to many a used-to-be wandering soul.  Here, finally, I seek and I provide, I heal and I breathe.    

______

F E A T U R E D   F I L M S

 

Music Video Short: Work & Wisdom

By the band Soul Music

 

 

Music Video: Elephant Love (version 1)

Original works by the band Soul Music

 

 

F E A T U R E D   P H O T O G R A P H Y

An assortment of my photography our beloved Driftless Area and beyond.... 

Entries in Viroqua (5)

Saturday
Dec282013

No House at All

I cannot attest to the authenticity of any of the suppositions and claims made  herein however I will share my understanding of the background behind this photograph. 
This is an assumed haunted house, moments east of Viroqua, Vernon County Wisconsin USA. I can't tell you the exact address as the street sign off the gravel road off the gravel road off the gravel road off of a gravel road was either not there or very unclear.
Having explored countless of these in my lifetime, when I encountered this one - which I had never somehow seen before - I could not resist peeking around inside.
Coincidentally, I was listening to a radio program about exploring abandoned places. I liked the phrase they used, take nothing and leave only footprints.  It gave me comfort, implying I would likely leave intact.
The abode was only a few feet from the road, so I presumed it would be ramshackled and pillaged - converted into yet another mundane, boring place, by numerous prior like-minded explorers. Nothing very interesting here I'm sure.
However, I was shocked, almost nauseous, when I enter.  As I think of it now, I'm struck by a chill equal to the one afflicting me as I walked in.
 Other than the dilapidated state of the structure itself, it was as if people were still there. Or more accurately, it was as if they were there one second, and then gone the next.  A couple strides past the threshold I quickly turn assuming someone was running up behind me.  Of course, there's no one.
The attire of a middle aged couple are still hanging in the wardrobe and thrown across a still made bed.  A lumpy fold in the sheets, a sleeping body, simulated.
A cute little workshop, with nails nuts and bolts, neatly organized into dusty masonry jars.
And then the kitchen, where the photograph was taken.  Flatware left exactly where it was last placed. A weird greasy stain leaves an outline around each piece. A bowl still seemingly filled with supper set at the head of the table. The National Geographic from 1983, turned over waiting patiently to be picked up and completed.
And the clock on the wall.  The damn clock. Stopped intriguingly at 7:20. What was it.  Batteries finally died.  Or, don't know. It disturbes me to look at it.
There's a steak knife. Stainded with mystery meat.  A saucer with amber residue on the floor.  Was there a poor pet here too now vanished with its master?
Compelled by slaughtered expectations, I command a seat at the table. Not out of disrespect but remembrance.  Maybe it will gift me some form of understanding what occurred here at 7:20, 1983.

With a startle, I launch upward.  An intense sudden grumble, completely out of place in this forsaken emptiness.  Seems to emanate from the vintage ice box.  I relax again realizing it's but a passing angry snowplow.  There and gone with absolutely no regard for my questions.   Invisibility juxtaposed to the necessity of modern life.
Nothing is taken and only footprints are left.  Drove farther down the road to my destination and then back towards the curious house set on revisiting.
I don't know if I just got a little lost or took a wrong turn, but when I pass by what I thought was the house's location... there was no house at all. 

 

Sunday
Nov172013

Sad analogy of invasive honeysuckle to the zombie apocalypse. 

Sad analogy of invasive honeysuckle to the zombie apocalypse. 

I don't watch much TV, but I have been addicted, as many of you are, to the Walking Dead series on Netflix. 

In the show, humans are infected with an unknown pathogen that destroys higher brain function, leaving us biting, nearly indestructible soulless creatures that wander the Earth in hordes, guided only by our brain stems. 

When defending yourself against a pack of these (who seek to dine and you alive) the only means to terminate them is to take out their brainstem. Of course, as you try to take them out, they try to take you out as you do. 

Even as limbs, mandibles and other appendages are cleaved and cracked, lopped and falling away, they still keep at you with their grizzly dentition and grasping festering nails hoping for a shot to tear into your subclavian vessels or eyeballs as you hopelessly observe your certain demise or at least incredible maiming in horror. 

When I'm in the forest, standing alone, armed only with a lopper, machete and chainsaw, I often gasp at the volume of invasive honeysuckle that surrounds me, envelops me, smothers me. 

They seem to approach like an army of mindless zombies, hell-bent on my tortuous death. It's me or them to the end. The odds are with the zombies that they will endure, consuming my flesh and soul, assimilating me into their death cult. 
They feel no pain, they require little care, they easily dominate and amass the precious Earth energy, sapping life from the natural world around them. 

The challenging things about honeysuckle eradication, horrifyingly, even after you take some out there are many more, infected seedlings, waiting to grow up and replace the deceased. Is it possible to really ever eradicate them? What am I doing in this dark forest alone? Are these contusions and near death events wasted in my futile battle against the endless undead. My pathetic delusion that there is hope of eventual headway. 

Moreover, the more you disturb them, snap, pull, push, and saw into them, the more their brains tells them to grow. Unless you kill it, these efforts actually makes the organism stronger. 

I have to remember, you have to assault the brain. 

My strategy is simple, attack each one individually. Commando up to it and rapidly fracture it's extremities. Rip it's mouth leaves from it before it can chew into me. Penetrate deeply into the skull, and crack out the brain (its relatively delicate root ball) like a soft-boiled egg, again the only means to kill it for good.

Of course it's not that easy. Countless times, after launching my combative efforts, they never go down easily. They try to enucleate my eyeball with their pointy limbs, choke my air in strangleholds, puncture my heart and lungs, as they go down in our desperate death matches.

Sometimes even after their seeming death, as I push them into grotesque piles, accidentally falling upon them, they attempt one last maneuver to have me join them, as I plummet into their infinite sharp edges.

Finally, with some degree of temporary relief, I watch boastfully as their fetid corpses burn. 

But alas, the foolish reprieve is brief, for as I turn to prideful stroll back to camp, I walk straight into another rotten, chewing tangle of them. 

My invasive zombie apocalypse.

Now, where are my loppers!?

Monday
May282012

Magical Partial bright

half Moonlit night 

 not so distant coulee

Peer into forest Might

that animal eyes I see?

No, 

 don't think so


 CHORUS

 shadowing moon on

Magical Partial bright   

gravel drive  bends

To Stretch of tall grass

moment of midnight 

Beginning and ends

 

Woody mist 

From Your campfire douse 

Lingers about

its Stellar radience 

like old time moviehouse


The oak trees aloft

'top of the ridge 

whisper loudly 

it's blowing almost harshly

 While deep 

in this groove

 it's nearly all calm

  and nothing's asleep


CHORUS


Then fireflys,

My God, the fireflies!

There's you and moon and me

 displaying cryptic lightcodes

Comprised of shadows 

 

  And eyes !


Sunday
Jan012012

Optimo is now Rooted Spoon!

Optimo is now Rooted Spoon!

 "Rooted Spoon Culinary is happy to invite you to share in our passion for good food and great community at our new Kitchen Table event space. Look here for upcoming events such as community brunches and special dinners as well as workshops, music, art openings and film showings. Rooted Spoon Culinary offers a distinct style of catering featuring seasonal menus that highlight locally sourced and sustainably produced ingredients. We proudly support our local economy and showcase the renowned, high quality food of the Driftless Region by purchasing directly from area farmers, butchers and food artisans. Our menus are custom designed to fit both the season and our client’s taste with food that is hand-crafted from scratch. We offer both off-site catering and on-site events at our event space ‘Kitchen Table’, located in beautiful downtown Viroqua, Wisconsin in the historic Main Street Station. Our philosophy is that the best food is fresh, in season, and locally produced. Let us bring our dedication to quality and love of good food to your private dinner, wedding, party, or any other special occasion"

Saturday
Jul032010

Diary of a Restaurant (Pre-)Opening

in 2003 my family and I started a small business and eventually gut rehabbed the historic 1912 Clark/Peterson building in downtown Viroqua. Our goal was to manifest a healthy business that also benefited the entire community. The doors were reopened in 2004. We had created a town public market. A mall and entertainment venue with local micro-merchants, an art gallery and book store (among other things over the years).... and now a full service restaurant called Optimo. We've invested a significant chunk of our retirement into the project that has seen many triumphs yet also been a struggle from day 1. The entire operation - from event promotion to running the cash register is family-run. Optimo is our final solution to make our family business more consistently successful over the long term and still continue to serve our town. God, I pray this works.

VIROQUA: 3rd of July 2010 - Day of the Optimo Pre-Opening.

8:00AM: Arrive for a brief, fairly busy emergency department shift. Recall my previous shift ... among other patients I sutured my friend's child's eyebrow. He nursed while I worked and barely let out a whimper. A first for me.

1:00PM: Shift over. Minor disagreement with sibling over the Optimo window shades.

2:09PM: Insuring Optimo PA system & music functioning. Hang "Please use other doors" sign. Help arrange table layout. Program table layout in POS computer. Finalize network connection between cash register station and POS. Pep talk to staff. Wishing front staff had a chance to work together more. Wishing we (I) had planned a smaller event. Wishing kitchen had more time to work together. Wishing front and kitchen had more time to work together. Elated that the food in the kitchen really was virtually 100% purchased from and delivered by the farmer. Relieved a bit by the intoxicating aroma of sausage cooking. The food will be great. Say a little prayer.

3:00PM: meet with Chefs and managers. Waiting on booths to be delivered.... still not here. wondering why it's so hot in the dining room. Informed the coffee brewer is not functional and part of beer order not delivered.

3:30PM: Sibling wins the minor disagreement and windows shades put back up. Booths still not here. One hour until the first guests arrive.

3:36PM: Devdan and babymama starving. Run 1st order from the Optimo kitchen over to them (the Greek Chicken). Kiss them both. Run back to Optimo.

4:00PM relatives start arriving. Hugs and greetings. They look hungry.

4:10PM: The booths arrive! A couple at least. Will take em. Have to rearrange table layout and reprogram in the POS.

4:20PM: 1st guests start to arrive. They look happy... and hungry.

4:40PM: Reservations give their names and ask how long. Many walk-ins stroll into the market. And then some more. Hosts are seating everyone at once. A full house. Seating 'system' is overwhelmed. Some people innocently seat themselves. Order printer in kitchen spitting out order after long order. Servers are doing their thing and a lot of folks are smiling. A manager scrambles to find more seats.

4:45PM: Greet ER nurse and friend and fellow business owner dining w mutual friend and candidate for county Sheriff. So happy to see they decided to try Optimo out. Their genuine smiles give comfort.

5:O1PM: Five o'clock reservations show up, not enough seats held back. Restaurant is full. Feeling of joy that people showed up in mass followed by feeling of dread realizing we are slammed.

5:10PM 1st guest checks out at cash register. Cha-Ching ... then .... nothing. The drawer doesn't open and receipt not printing. Try to trouble shoot but no solution evident. The next person to pay steps up. Contemplate calling tech support for the POS and decided better to not think about that right now. Will attempt to fix on my own. Epson printer driver bla bla blah. Another person walks up to pay. Her mother hated the soup and "won't be back". What? Smile. But, she LOVED it and will. OMG, is this how it's going to be?

5:12PM Brother David finds a way to make coffee. Regular and decaf.

5:25PM Good friends show up with huge smiles and remark how much they're looking forward to dining. They also have to get to another important engagement. Calculate they will not be able to be served in time given the current wait. I recall the receipt printer still not working. Dining room is getting even hotter and more full, servers simply cannot take orders outside of the dining room - too busy... Oh heck, the only solution is to be their server myself (something I've never really done). I grab order pad, seat them in the bistro area and take their order.

5:33PM: run out of forks. Confirm the reason it's so hot in the dining room. The AC is down!

5:35PM: seat and serve babymama's Mom and partner who drove in from Chicago.

5:49PM Think I screwed up friend's meat temp when I placed the order, but I'm mistaken. Serve them prime rib and greek chicken. Plates empty. Out just in time.

6:10PM Two doctor colleagues arrive with spouses. Dining room even more full than before. They frown at word of a wait. Seat them on back deck. They love it. I'll be their server as well.

6:20PM momentarily question my sanity.

6:21PM babymama provides calming words and advise. She taking pictures of the action with my baby son. Makes me happy.

6:30PM Two friends and slow food Optimo investors arrive. They look pleased w the crowd. No one has yet told them the wait. Can I handle another table? What about the receipt printer and the AC? Seat them next to the docs. Pause and recharge after they sit and get drinks. Order into kitchen. Sister brings them flowers and a card. They're holding hands. Another guest waiting nearby calls to them - hello there! They know each other. How cool. Gentleman who calls to them running for State Assembly, conversing with dear friend who mentored me when I was a green EMT with Tri-State years ago. They're all having a ball.

6:38PM: Child who I sewed up a couple days before in the ER walks onto back deck w mother. Enjoy inspecting how it's healing. "Is it ok if he got water on it?". Wound looks awesome. Hardly ever get to see how things turn out. I love it.

7:30PM serve a 5-top of foodies and food business people. They are excited to try the trout.

7:40PM sell out of the trout. Must inform foodie table. They have the chicken.

8:30PM Getting through it. Systems working a little better. Siblings helping with the mass of dishes.

9:44PM put burger and pizza order in for myself and babymama and some relatives who didn't get to eat.

10:15PM a few tables lingering and laughing. Music on PA sounds great. We've survived. Atmosphere amazing.

10:25PM eat on the back deck with family in big group.

11:00PM almost 300 covers. More business than some days at Spaggo in LA I'm informed by one of the chefs who used to manage there.

11:30PM Debriefing with chefs and managers. Realize the solution to making this intensity a sustainable venture is to follow our business plan.  Such sweet relief that this will work and be sustainable if we just follow our business plan.

Sleep.

4th of July

5:00PM Relax along the Kickapoo ... relish family and warm gentle rains.

Blow some stuff up.

Thank you God.