Scotch and Snowdas On The North Pole (Audio)

WHAM! SMACK! WHACK! Smash! Thud! Shudder-creak-crash! I am nearly seasick in this coffin-size wooden box as it hammers relentlessly into ridges of ice atop frozen Barrow Strait. The coffin is sealed upon a komatik (Eskimo sled), the komatik is pulled by a snorting Skidoo, and I am buried under a caribou hide that would smell worse than bad drains were it not stiff with icicles.

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Grove of the Old Trees

Photos (c) Russell Johnson

Occidental, California, a railroad stop in earlier times, is known for its family-style Italian restaurants. Negri’s has been a popular spot since 1943 and The Union Hotel claims to have been dishing lasagna since 1879. In nearby Bohemian Grove, the fat cats of industry and politics (mostly Republican men) frolic – sometimes naked – in the summer. In the 1940s, the Manhattan Project, which gave birth to the atomic bomb, was planned there.

But high above the clanking of forks and the clicking of tongues, is a verdant, meditative stand of old-growth redwoods called Grove of the Old Trees.

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Floating Through the Canyons of Chicago (Video)

The Chicago “Bean”

Chicago is no longer Carl Sandberg’s “Hog Butcher for the World, Stacker of Wheat” but is still, self-assuredly, “City of the Big Shoulders.” Forget Hong Kong, New York, London…Chicago rules in weight and substance. Its architects — Burnham, Sullivan, Wright, Gehry, dozens of others — gave birth to monuments: to chewing gum (Wrigley), merchants (Sears, Montgomery Wards) who shipped tractors and brassieres to little houses on the prairie, to massive egos (Trump) and architectural movements that swept the world. The skyscraper was invented here.

We are here on opening day of the very first Chicago Architectural Biennial, celebrating ideas from some 100 world architects from Chicago, itself, to Africa and Bali.

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Venice, California: The Other Disneyland

Muscle Beach, Venice, California (c)2015 Russell Johnson

OK, it doesn’t have a white-gloved falsetto mouse in a diaper and it is not as antiseptically acceptable but Venice Beach, in Los Angeles, does have adventures and cartoon-like characters that rival those of Disneyland…unless you are a six year old.

And it is free.

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