My love and I celebrated four years together this April. Armed for the road with a latte from the Mothership, we escaped the hustle for a while, and drove out into the rolling hills of Wisconsin. Comb Cat set the tone for my day, better than I had woken up for it, all before caffeine managed to kick in to make colors shine brighter. We caught up on the Danger and Lisa Show podcast on our drive. It happens all the time: I'll think Michael, Danger, Lisa and I all had a conversation about something, and it turns out we were just talking to each other while listening to their podcast. I genuinely love how natural their dialogs are, so much so I feel like they're actually in the car with me. Once arriving in Madison, we stopped for a pint and bite.
A short time later we pulled up to Cave of the Mounds. While we waited for our tour time, we ambled around the woodland trails. Michael befriended some squirrels, and I marveled at his ability to attract wildlife wherever he goes. I’ve been in the cave quite a few times, but it was Michael’s first visit. If you’ve not been, Cave of the Mounds is special in that it is a closed, living cave. There are no animals living in it, no natural entrances or exits. It continues to grow and change little by little, bit by bit, over a time hard for humans to really appreciate. It has been here long before we knew, it will be here long after we’re gone, and I’m fortunate to live in a time to see its beauty. It offered us cave kisses the whole way through.
On the way to our B&B, I stopped for fuel at one of those sleepy town stations, off the beaten path of the highways. It was the first time in a very long time I’d encountered a pump before pay situation. I was bemused - it actually took me a moment to figure out how to go about filling the tank! The porch of the station had carved wooden bears next to the door, and an older local man sitting on a bench rolling himself a cigarette. It may seem like a caricature, but the whole scene is comforting in its way. There is something practical about pay at the pump, but it is also more cynical than I’m conditioned to see it now as a city girl. There is a trust and a valued quaintness to the old ways. Speaking of quaint…
We drove up to the Walking Iron Bed and Breakfast in Mazomanie, and found a beautiful card and key waiting to welcome us. After unpacking the car, drinking in our room, poking around the grounds, we went exploring the village. We walked through the main street, peering through all the shop windows, sitting a spell in the park, and stocking up on iced teas from a corner store. Back at the inn, I primped to shoot a video (as yet unreleased) for AP in the corner whirlpool bath. It was such fun, and a lovely prelude to our dinner date.
The proprietors of the Wall Street Gallery and Bistro welcomed us as though we were family. Their canine familiars were excellent staff as well, checking on their guests, making themselves available for pets. I was completely relaxed by the gregarious host’s mixology, and splendidly sated by his darling wife’s cookery. It was absolutely the perfect evening out to celebrate. The walk back to the inn was cool but comfortable, the night sky alive with starlight. When I finally fell asleep that night, secure in my bonds, cuddled up in the spectacular iron canopy bed, I could not have been more breathlessly content. Morning light danced in our windows, and after breakfast in the dining room with our lovely hosts and fellow guests, we were off to more adventures.
On the road, we paused to greet a handsome fox. Also, gaze at the impressive Taliesin grounds. Our ultimate goal that morning was to wander House on the Rock. There are simply not enough words for the home. Bizarre is a good one. Ostentatious in its kitsch. Marvelous and delightful in its design to assault and overwhelm the senses. Vast in both its sprawl and collections. House on the Rock is a simply treat for professional weirdos like Michael and I. He muses about having such bookshelves as are in the main house, and I daydream of the parties I’d host in the sunken shag rooms. We both are mesmerized by the elaborate carousel, get giddy over the infinity room, and banter endlessly about the massive whale sculpture. One thing is for certain, someday we’d like to round up as many Bizarros as possible for a field trip.
Easily convinced by our B&B conversation that morning, we went to sample the hidden gem of Prairie du Sac: Wollersheim Winery and Distillery. Perched up on a hill to the right is the distillery, and to the left the winery. We took in the distillery menu first, indulging in a flight of spirits. Then we took to the wines. Our preliminary was pretty standard, and I'm going to say I handled the reds admirably. However, it was the focused flight of white wines that really sung to me. Among my favorites were the 1876 Press House Brandy, Dancehall Absinthe Blanche, award-winning Prairie Fumé (American Seyval Semi-Dry), and sweetly delectable River Gold (dessert wine with a finish of pear and mango).
No trip to Wisconsin would be complete without a stop for cheese and New Glarus. We procured both at Brennan’s Market on our way through Madison en route to Milwaukee. I’m quite sad at the time of this writing to hear news that all of those lovely locations will be soon closed for good. If anyone in that neck of the wood has a favorite market in the same vein, I’d love to know about it. Mars Cheese Castle is of course my one true church, close to home for restocking the coffers. Where do you suggest I go when I’m in town, Madison?
Whenever I’m in Wisconsin, I always contemplate dinner at Balzac in Milwaukee on my return trip. My first time there we sat in the garden, until rain forced us inside. The waitstaff was incredible, and the absinthe selection was ample. Truth be told, there is one thing on the menu that makes me salivate just thinking about it. Manchego Brulee; a savory cheese custard sensation with bits of caramelized ham. It has me coming back again and again. This last experience left me wanting, but if only for humanity. We realized the Kentucky Derby had just run, and the Bros with their Blossoms had been drinking all damn day. The food and service was grand as ever, but I’ll forever share inside jokes with my love about the table of blustering daft-douches seated next to us for the majority of our meal. A quick stop in Rochambo Coffee & Tea House, and we were on our way home. Sweet Home, Chicago.
Not to let the spirit of our weekend dissolve too quickly, we had breakfast at Longman & Eagle. It was a nice way to ease back at home. They’d been closed for renovations the last I’d tried to meet a girlfriend there this past winter. It is in the pool of favorite brunch spots, and I’m glad to have it back in rotation. Truly, a first-rate meal with distinctive spirits in splendid company is one of life’s great pleasures. You’ll sense a theme here, especially when traveling or hosting guests.
Burlesque has been… booming, you might say. I’ve found a home with Bim Bam Boom, who’s been teasing audiences at Temperance Brewery this summer. I’ve had a blast performing alongside longtime friends like Ammunition, and gaining new show-sisters like Kevlar B. Lightning. The common thread here is this: convivial darlings who are also powerhouses of the bump and grind. They’re a delight to work with, and a joy to play with. I hope you’ll catch our show coming this fall to the Playground Theater, and (on the heels of a brilliant production debut in July) very likely out at Durty Nellies in Palatine as well.If you’ve enjoyed my burlesque, perhaps you’d consider my Patreon. It is a subscription service where you can get access to teasers before they appear on social media, full photosets, behind-the-scenes access, and one-of-a-kind instax prints mailed discreetly to your door. I have artistic control like never before, and I’m really excited to build a supportive community of my own. This is the shiny new home of all my artistic pin-up and sensual erotica endeavors.
Summer has been good for cinema. I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 for the eye candy, popcorn flick it was. Addicted to a good superhero story, I was elated with Wonder Woman. Many reviewers have made excellent points on the merits, but let’s just say for the record that Representation Matters, and leave it at that.
I’m a bit of a history nerd, and I’m very much looking forward to Dunkirk. In the meantime, I’ve plowed through Secrets of Great British Castles and Tales of Irish Castles, now tackling the Hidden Houses of Wales series on Netflix. I can’t get enough of the history of these commanding examples of architecture. There’s so much intrigue! Of those that are open to the public, I find myself wanting desperately to visit those I’ve seen and explore those I haven’t. The few which are still privately owned, I find myself researching to see if there have been any changes since the filmings. In a few cases the property had changed hands, and in one instance I learned the owners had taken ill forcing them to close the B&B. That’s simply heartbreaking. To put everything you are into an estate of such magnitude, in many cases to preserve history and save it from ruins, you really must be on another level of enthusiasm. That is absolutely infectious.
Attending a wedding for the first time with a partner can be a road marker in the relationship, especially when you both have lots of personal experiences that shape your feelings about marriage. That might seem, at first glance, to put one at odds with the prospect of wholeheartedly celebrating the wedding of two lovely friends. In fact, I could not have been more excited and privileged to witness their display of commitment and share in their limitless joy. I’m particularly struck by the energy of the groom, as he waited for the ceremony to begin. I’ve seen the tired script followed time and again; nervous joking about cold feet or empty humor about ball and chains. This groom was so far from that stereotype it was refreshing and gratifying. He was ready for the rest of his life to begin. He was thrilled to say I do, and could hardly wait to proclaim it. #OhEmG it was a fabulous occasion!The ceremony itself was touching and emotional. My darling partner had not expected to tear up at their vows, but it was unavoidable. Their love is something you feel; there is an exuberance between them so obvious and welcoming it affects you. From this pretty church (where you’ll be happy to know neither Michael nor I so much as smoldered - let alone caught aflame) we drove to a lovely estate for their reception. I got to dance with babies and ladies and my love. I drank and laughed and smiled until my face grew sore. I could not be happier for the newlyweds, and I could not be more thankful for the display of love that sparked conversations on my drive back to the hotel afterwards.
This vacation took us not only to rural Ohio, but on a multi-day multi-state tour. Before we left the Buckeye state for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, we popped in on Dayton for breakfast with friends. However short our visit, I am always happy to see CV Hunt and Andersen Prunty. They’re full of stories and have a quietly captivating way about them. Discourse flows like trickling streams, ever winding and calm. With miles to go and tour schedules to keep, we sadly had to bid them adieu.
When it comes to Mammoth Cave, the name does say it all. There are vast stretches of cavern, with many routes to choose from. We settled on the historic tour, which enters the natural cave mouth and follows paths with the most prominent landmarks explored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Not all of the rooms of the cave are enormous halls of stone. After some narrow passages by Sidesaddle Pit and over the Bottomless Pit, you come across Fat Man’s Misery and Tall Man’s Agony. Needless to say, between my hips and Michael’s height, it was something of a squeeze! The footing was important without many additions in the way of modernity, although there was thankfully The Tower staircase taking us up to Mammoth Dome. The Ruins of Karnak may have been my favorite sight on the tour, and of course, more cave kisses along the way. I very much enjoyed the whole experience, and wish to go back for further tour escapades. We checked in to our bed & breakfast, and poked around Bell’s Tavern as the sun began to set. Stately [Edwardian, Victorian, Queen Anne Revival] homes with their inviting porches, grand staircases, and elaborate decor evoke an immediate relaxation and romanticization that comes with being part of the landed gentry - even if only for the night.
Next morning the order of the day was to hit the Shawnee Wine Trail with Team Chaos. As a surprise for Courtney’s birthday, PJ had arranged for us to meet up with them, tour the wineries for the day, and stay in suites rented out by one of the vineyards. I was so excited to spend a weekend away with our bestest friends to cap off this road trip adventure!
With the surprise a success, we took to Blue Sky Vineyard. Which was slammed. And understaffed. Oh well, the view was nice. Aborted that flight plan (ha, I'm so punny), and made scrumptious decisions at Owl Creek instead. I’m especially fond of the Sweet Knockers cider. We picked up a growler for later at the B&B. Very clever. Soon after we were enjoying the evening at Alto Vineyards, listening to a live band on the patio, with a glass of white wine in the sun. Finishing up at Von Jakob Winery & Brewery, where we were staying the night. Popcorn, sweets, yet more booze, and an evil permutation of Munchkin - I think it was called Drunk Quest. I don’t remember much. I liked it. I didn’t drown in a whirlpool bath that night. We competitively tested the sound proofing (A+ job, Von Jakob).
Finally, we visited Pomona Winery the next day, before moving on from the trail. This must have been my favorite of all. The couple there serving tastings were the owners and operators, charmingly forthright, describing their operation and wares in great detail. Clearly passionate about their quality and unique ideas, with all the reason in the world to be proud. I took home several bottles of award winning elixir. While we’ve broken into the apple wine, we’ve still yet to open a Strawberry Dessert Wine (the great experiment to reduce served over ice cream), Orchard Spice (for making melt in your mouth pork in my crock pot), and Kir (which is utterly divine just as it is - I couldn’t bring myself to adulterate a drop of it).
As a bonus, I got to see more of the surrounding area where Dig Two Graves was filmed, and where Michael went to grad school. The wine fueled shenanigans of dinner at Quatro’s pizza, and stocking up on provisions at Schnucks seemed to reclaim some memories. I can most certainly relate. Then there was Makanda; a tiny town with humor, curiosity, and bohemian flair. One building runs opposite the train tracks, filled with indie shops selling everything from incense to metal sculpture to gemstones. I had a phase in the nineties that I never fully shook, and this sleepy hamlet embodies the very same wildchild spirit. If my pocketbook could have sustained my impulses, I’d have stocked up on outsider art and jewelry craft. As it is, I will savor the bag of B52 roasted coffee beans as a souvenir.
Whenever possible, take the long road home. With a heavy case of the Sundays creeping into our party, the only solution was to have dinner in St Louis. We visited the Gateway Arch, and walked the parkland. As the sun was setting we drove back over the mighty Mississippi, and I’ll never tire of making that crossing. Far greater poets than I have loved the river; I’ll leave the flowery musings to them. I’m a mix of all I’ve ever known: a midwestern gal, with east coast roots, born in the south… and I have a love affair with the west.
The third year on we’ve represented a collective of small presses, under the umbrella of the Bizarro Authors Association, at Printers Row Lit Fest. Our distinguished guests included Laura Lee Bahr, Andrew Goldfarb, Danger Slater, Lisa LeStrange, Nicholas Day, Don Noble, and Ophelia Darkly. John Bruni and newly established local Emma Johnson joined us at the table and for our weekender party.
Our S&M Salon is now a debonair staple of the weekend. We have the very good fortune of a cast of amazingly talented friends. I’m particularly proud of the readings, and relish live casting them to our extended Bizarro Family. The Slow Poisoner graced us with his 500th show - in our very own living room! Contagious drumming, swaying, singing is something I hold very dear about Mr Goldfarb’s performances. I cherish the memory of so many friends chanting along with the tunes. It is a rather communal and warm feeling you get from sitting on the floor, hearing all those familiar voices around you. The only other time I feel this way is at Bizarro Con. I’m glad I get to inject this as a booster to get through the year, and as a way of bringing a dose of wondrous madness to my friends who haven’t yet made (or cannot make) the annual pilgrimage to Oregon.
After the books were sold, lives changed and perspectives opened to the unsuspecting public, we packed up our table. We said goodbye to the dear Rooster Boys, headed for dinner on Devon and a late night trip to King Spa. Actually, I won’t recount the experience for you here. You’ll learn so much more from listening to a special guest appearance on the Danger & Lisa Show podcast. Before our guests departed to their corners of the globe, we gathered round the microphone to reflect on the weekend together. “Listen in as we recount (in uncomfortable detail) our weekend selling books, saunaing naked, achieving pinheadedness, drinking haunted tea, and chowing down like pornstars on soggy communion wafers. Subscribe to The Danger & Lisa Show on iTunes or Stitcher.”
Currently Reading: Haunt by Laura Lee Bahr
Once again, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of modeling as a couple for Grotesque Burlesque in the Starlight Lounge of the Uptown Underground. Michael and I were not only elated to be back, but to be the first to christen the brand new model boxes! Commissioned built-to-suit in a very clever design, these boxes aid in the ease and variety of poses models can hold for the artists’ talents. We, of course, took great advantage of them, not holding back in the least! Darick Maasen was so very kind to gift us another of his bold and beautiful drawings. He’s now captured two disparate views of Michael and I; originally a soft and loving embrace with a prominently featured rose, and now an over-the-knee posture with O/our paddle held in the same loving regard. These two magnificent works of art grace the walls of the bedroom, hung in matching floating frames to compliment one another. They encapsulate pillars of our relationship, in essence reminding us to be forever romantic, remembering love is an active verb. Then to express those emotions in O/our own way, which gives U/us the most mutual joy.
PRIDE! I got to let my freak flag fly with my predominantly Prognosticators crew again. Great food, good friends, strong drinks (of both the caffeinated and the alcoholic varieties). We watched the parade, which we had far better weather for this year than last. Standing publicly for the bisexual, kinky, poly woman I am felt as important this year as the first year I attended. I’m thankful for the support and love from my friends and a community of strangers in the street. We danced and gabbed. We sang and we snapped pics with damaged film. We celebrated who we are and each other. I’m fortunate for where I live and those who have come before me. There is still much to be done. In moments of celebration like these, it seems somewhat less daunting. There is positivity, and that fosters hope. In macro and micro, it does get better. Together, Love Wins.