Monthly Archives: March 2009

Brian Andreas and his Storypeople

There is a wonderful store in Rockville called As Kindred Spirits. I’m not sure when I first knew about it — I think it was first a kiosk at a mall. It also was at National Airport. Their About Us page does not mention the kiosk in the mall, but I’m fairly certain that’s where I discovered them. I think one reason I liked the kiosk was because the owner reminded me of my best friend from middle school — Cindy. Another reason was their selection. They had unique jewelry and gifts. Their store in Rockville also has clothes — the classy but comfortable kind with brand names like Flax and Willow. I even bought a pair of hemp sandals from As Kindred Spirits a number of years ago. (and yes, I did wonder if I’d get high if I smoked them).

As Kindred Spirits also carries a unique line of books and artwork called “Storypeople” by Brian Andreas. Not long after the Rockville store opened — or at least not long after I discovered it — the store invited Andreas to do a book reading one evening. What a delightful man he was and what delicious stories he told. I remember feeling as if I’d made a friend that night. I’ve bought many of his books over the years and have given people gifts of his artwork. His artwork is unique because it incorporates his words with his rather primitive, yet colorful, drawings.

An example of Brian Andreas’ work.

I love his books and could read them over and over again (and do). They are small truisms with an eclectic drawing thrown in. They make me nod my head. They make me giggle. They make me snort. They make me laugh out loud. They make me a little sad sometimes. They even made me cry once.

A while back I found his work online and checked the sites out now and then. More recently the company began blogging. A few weeks ago I discovered that Andreas was on Twitter (@brineypup for you Twitterers) and Facebook.

I was most delighted, however, to see that Andreas began his own blog, Zen Bandit, where he posts stories, thoughts and sketches. He even uploaded an audio post and I’m pretty sure will put some videos of his work up on the blog as well.

He and I have exchanged a few words via twitter and I’ll post comments on his blog for sure. This is what I love about the Internet. A person can personally tell someone thanks for making their life a little better.

Thanks Brian!

Artwork by Brian Andreas [from somewhere off the Internet 🙂 ]

Up North: the series ::”Greens’ Point”:: Chetek

Because Wisconsin was calling my grandparents, they finally decided to purchase land and a cabin in the state. I don’t know how or why they chose Chetek, but I suspect it was because they had friends who had vacation homes there. Chetek is on the other side of Wisconsin from Arbor Vitae.

Long dock

The house they bought was a tiny two-room cottage on a moderately large parcel of land along Ten Mile Lake. It had no indoor plumbing — at least no personal care kind of indoor plumbing. I think it may have had hot and cold running water in the kitchen.

They immediately began building an addition onto the house that was twice the size of the existing structure. It included a garage, a bedroom and a small bathroom.

I remember the house before the remodeling though. I remember using the outhouse and later the chemical toilet that must have sat in the corner of what became the dining room.

I can visualize the rooms of the cabin almost as clearly as I can visualize any room in my current house. If I were an artist, I could draw a perfect picture of my grandparents’ cottage. The living room had a huge picture window that looked out onto the lake. At one end of the living room, under a smallish window was a hide-a-bed sofa. In front of the picture window were my grandfather’s chair — a dark-golden easy-chair — and my grandmother’s plush rocking chair. In the corner, behind the door, was an old, low cupboard with sliding doors. Next to the door, on the right side as you looked at the door was a bookcase full of books. My grandfather was a reader and had boxes and boxes of books in the garage.

The kitchen was a tiny galley kitchen. It held a refrigerator, a sink, an island and a enameled cast-iron stove. The stove was the kind that could burn gas or wood and I vividly recall my grandmother putting wood and paper under the cast iron cook lids. I don’t know if she cooked anything on them, but it is possible she did. I think it was mainly used to heat the house.

My grandmother's stove was similar to this
My grandmother’s stove was similar to this

My grandparents’ last name was Green. They called their vacation property “Greens’ Point”. When my grandfather retired, my grandparents moved to Chetek for good. Grandpa got a job in a local bar and played some golf. Grandma fished and visited with the few neighbors around.

I can’t count the number of times we visited Chetek, but enough that everything about it is vivid in my mind nearly 25 years after the last time I was there. I spent several weeks of many summers with my grandparents; and then just my grandmother after my grandfather died.

When my grandmother met John, she moved back to Illinois, but kept the house in Chetek. The last couple of times I went to Chetek, I was in my twenties. One time was shortly after I began dating my husband-to-be. It was great showing him where I’d spent so many happy days as a child and teenager.

The last time I visited Chetek was on our honeymoon. The fact that we brought some of our closest friends only made it better.

This summer I am determined to visit Chetek with my kids. We may not make it to the small house on Ten Mile Lake — that might be a little too painful, but we’ll see if the town is the same and maybe have lunch at the B&B Bar, which according to this website, still exists or perhaps The Pokegma — one of my favorite restaurants from when I visited there. I used to love the pizza. Whatever we do, I know it will be bittersweet. It was such a huge factor in who I’ve become.

Up North: the series ::Gone Fishin’:: Arbor Vitae

Dona with fish. Aged 5
Dona with fish. Aged 5

Sometime during the summer of 1961 I went back to Wisconsin with my parents and grandparents and maybe an aunt and uncle or two. This time we went to Arbor Vitae and I guess I went fishing if the picture to the left is to be believed. I also have video footage of that trip. My grandparents must have liked Arbor Vitae, because many of their early videos are taken there.

I don’t remember this second visit to Wisconsin either, although I do remember an incident shortly after we returned. My grandmother was cutting my hair and noticed a tick had buried its head in my scalp. She used the lit end of her cigarette to make it back out, then crushed it between her fingernails, causing blood (my blood) to ooze over her fingertips. She said that the tick probably got in my hair in Wisconsin. You can imagine why I remember this incident.

It turns out that Arbor Vitae is not too far away from Hazelhurst, the town in which my parents have a lake house. Not long ago my parents took me back to a bar that they used to go to in Arbor Vitae. It looks pretty much the same as in the videos – or maybe all Wisconsin bars look the same.