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Friday, July 1, 2016

Gordon Good Neighbor Days - 2016

We are approaching Independence Day once again and that means it is time for Good Neighbor Days in Gordon, Wisconsin.  Some towns have a parade, some have fireworks, but Gordon goes "all in" to celebrate our independence from the British.  And why not.  Gordon has strong French roots.  With a population not much more than 600, there is not a lot of town to see.

The center of town is dominated by the ICO convenience store and gas station (usually the lowest priced gas for many miles.)  Here's the sign set up across County Y to alert passersby to the coming celebration.


 That is our town constable, George Boothe, in our police cruiser keeping an eye on the traffic.

The ICO store becomes a bit of a billboard at this time of year.

There has been quite a bit of fresh paint applied around town too.

Back up the highway toward the bait shop, there is a thriving antique store.  They have added a sideline of fireworks for their customers, many of whom may smuggle the minor explosives back into straight-laced Minnesota where nothing much beyond a sparkler is permitted.

Gordon has seen a decline over the years from its historic role as a fur trading post, then timber town, then rail junction and one result is a few abandoned buildings.  In particular, a long abandoned service station along highway 53 offers potential to the right entrepreneur but has stood as a bit of an eyesore until it received some fresh paint this year.  Not quite finished, it offers a fresh look for Good Neighbor Days of 2016.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Prince's Paisley Park Memorial

"44.862, -93.56"

Plug that into Google, hit the Enter key and you will be take to Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota.  That is the combination home and studio of the late artist, Prince.  Via Google's satellite view, it looks like this.

But, yesterday, as we drove out Minnesota Highway 5 (Arboretum Blvd.) and passed Audubon Rd., this was the view.

There is a good description of Paisley Park here.  And if you haven't seen the movie, Purple Rain, for a while, it features a lot of Minneapolis scenery and landmarks in addition to the music.

The turn lane from westbound Hwy 5 south to Audubon has been closed ever since Prince died.  An informal memorial has sprung up along the fence-line of his property and both yesterday and today, hundreds of fans were quietly honoring his life and artistry.

We stopped to take a few pictures yesterday but made a second trip out to the memorial today to walk past and take a close look.  the memorial begins with "chalk talk" on the walls of the tunnel that passes under Hwy 5.
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The flowers, messages and pictures are reminders of both the special local appeal and the world-wide fame of this north-side Minneapolitan.

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A lot of pictures were being taken.
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I would love to see the age distribution of the fans who were there today.  The man had a remarkably wide appeal.
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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Return to Minneapolis

We were booked on a different route than usual for our return to the USA.  Delta had booked us on Alitalia via Rome and New York City.  The scheduled departure time was 3:31 a.m., just one minute later than our usual KLM flight to Amsterdam.  Alitalia has figured out how to squeeze about three more rows of seats onto an A320 which makes for a rather unpleasant journey.  We arrived in Rome and, I believe took a grand total of three buses across the tarmac before boarding our flight to JFK.

Rome would be a good airport to avoid - Schiphol in Amsterdam is about an order of magnitude better organized.  Of course, there are no drinking fountains.  The concessions are poorly staffed making it a major effort to even buy bottled water.

From Rome we flew out over the Alps on another Alitalia plane, this one an A330 with much better seating arrangements.  My A/V unit never did work, however, in spite of all efforts.  I had Linda take this picture for us.

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It was definitely economy class - the poor fellow across the aisle only had a badly torn pair of pants to wear on the plane.  Perhaps a skiing accident?

After a couple of hours delay at JFK, we ate a $30 sandwich and salad and resumed the flight home.  At JFK, when there is a bus involved, there is someone with a portable ramp to ensure that no one has a problem leaving the bus.  Water fountains are in abundance since it is safe to drink United States water.  You can even refill your fancy European water bottle from the fountain.  Enjoy!
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After arriving we divided up the mail and began going through it.  We only have the essentials since our house-sitter throuws out all of the atalogs - otherwie we would have two or three times as much.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Flowers Are in Bloom

We are down to our final day in Egypt.  We have spent the past few days visiting friends to say good-bye.  Twice we headed south in the direction of Sakkara toward the "horse farms."  I have designated the road along the Mansoureya Canal in that area as "Bougainvillea Boulevard" for the flowers that drape many of the walls around the country villas.

Bougainvillea are not the only exotic plants to be found here.  Bottle Brush and Bird of Paradise can be found lining the local driveways.
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We also spent some time at a friend's "retired" restaurant - no tourists, no business.  He has a delightful small garden there.
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There, a couple of birds joined us to enjoy the garden.
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Even a planting of white Osteospermum looks nice at this time of year.

But it is time for us to leave Egypt and return to spring in the Minnesota-Wisconsin north-land.  The temperatures here are beginning to rise to the hot level.  Ninety degree days are coming.  Weather.com provides our forecast and our averages.

Average temperatures rise into the uncomfortable range during April - and don't return to comfort levels until well into the autumn.

So we will begin the long trip home late tonight.

I hope to complete a few more contemplated but not completed blog posts about our stay after we return.  You won't want to miss the Postal Museum!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This Year's Garlic Crop Is In

When you cross the street you are in danger of being hit by a load of garlic nowadays.  It comes by truck.

It comes by donkey cart.

And the price is reasonable - 2 EGP for a kilo.  Figure that at about ten cents per pound.  How many kilos would you like? Unfortunately, garlic is one of the items expressly forbidden to bring into the U.S. I don't think it would take those luggage sniffing beagles long to discover a suitcase full of garlic.

How many pounds can you get into a donkey cart?  200?  That would give you $20 - not a bad day's income if you can sell it all.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cairo Real Estate Roundup - Part II

The idea of moving to a different apartment that Ishmael put into my mind percolated for a few weeks.  Linda thought we should investigate the current real estate market.  One obvious candidate to explore was a new "luxury" building just down the block.  It is difficult to photograph because of numerous obstacles but this will give you an idea of what the front looks like.  This is a big building with big apartments.
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We took a tour of  a couple of unfinished units.  They range from 1750 to 3150 sq ft.   There are four elevators in the building.  Choose a large end unit and wall off the hallway and you have a private entry!  It is allowed.  The hallways are well lit and finished to a high level not seen outside of luxury hotels here.  Prices are quite high with the 1750 sq ft unit coming in at about $41,000 - and figure another $10,000 to finish it to your taste.

The building is already 70% sold out.  We asked if there were any "foreigners" among the owners and were told there were Saudis and some others from the Gulf States.  (Cairo is a favored "cool spot" for them in the summer.)

Take a look at the well-lit gleaming lobby under the watchful eye of the building's bawaab and you will see why we are intrigued by it.

As a bonus, the unit we inspected on the rear has a view of Ishmael's golden building in the distance.  It is less than a hundred yards from our local center of commerce and public transportation hub.
RealEstate1-01 RagabBlock

But, let's consider another alternative.  Less than a half mile to the west of Ragab Sons' supermarket and across the street from the Japanese School lies this block of buildings:

We had the opportunity to take a look at some of the units in the center building with the scaffolding in front.  There are three units on each floor and the total square footage of each floor is about 4000.  There as no elevator operating yet but sunset was approaching so I climbed to the twelfth floor in anticipation of a nice view.  Once on 12, there is a conveniently nailed together ladder leading onto the rooftop.
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The view is, indeed, spectacular.  Even on a hazy day.

The view looking back toward our apartment and the other two buildings described here was also very attractive.

Naturally, the owner, who was showing me around, was interested in selling me the entire 12th floor or at least half of it.  All 4000 sq ft can be had for 520,000 EGP ($52,000) or half of that for $26,000.  Plus finishing cost of 5-10 thousand, of course.  For one of the smaller units on the lower floors, the base cost will run you about $17,500 - plus finishing.

Owner Mohammed promised me that he could have a unit finished in two months from the day we sign the contract and put the money in the bank.  There were no promises mentioned about the elevator.

Linda and I inspected the finishing work in progress in a unit on one of the lower floors.  The colors may not be to every American's taste but the workmanship seems adequate - although we noted a good bit of hammering taking place in the dark in one room.  A little tile cleanup and these rooms will all sparkle.
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Features to note are ceramic tile floors throughout, complete ceramic in both the kitchen and bath and tray ceilings with recessed lighting in the living room - now a standard mark of quality construction here.

Consider this one carefully!  You won't find 1400 square feet of winter getaway in Florida or Arizona for under $25,000.

And, keep in mind the ongoing cost of living in Cairo.  Tonight we ordered grilled chicken dinners for three with rice, bread and salads.  It was delivered in 22 minutes and cost $10 with tip.  We picked up two pounds of oranges and two pounds of bananas for one dollar earlier in the day.  A few days ago, Linda picked up six pounds of fresh strawberries for a dollar.

Of course, there are downsides to everything.  It turns out that Mohammed only has a permit to build seven floors of that twelve story building.  So buying the top floor with the view is risky.  So let's look at it as they would on House Hunters International on HGTV:

Description Sq Feet Price in $
Ishmael's place with the poorly designed kitchen 1100 22,000
The expensive building with the fancy lobby 1750 41,000
plus finishing
The great view on the unpermitted 12th floor 2000 26,000
plus finishing

Which one did they choose?