Free Bird

 avocado xoco 3rdarm Adrian black Arthur mullen churros chef chicago free bird 
The churro is a question mark. I am leaving for Merida in the Yucatan in a few hours. I will keep in touch over the next few days with an email saying “I am ok.” We are going to eat a wild boar cooked in the ground and see chocolate growing on trees and the Mayan ruins.

 3rdarm Arthur mullen Adrian black chef xoco chicago free bird grateful dead  
Two birds flew inside the restaurant. In six and a half years it was the first time it happened. The small brown sparrows (maybe) were in the front window by the churro fryer. I was certain of their soon to be sudden death. Chef Adrian managed to catch and release the bird to freedom.

Driftless Sunset

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I was anxious to capture a SW Wisconsin sunset, having missed the sunset on the summer solstice. Leaving Marcia and Etta behind at the Saltbox, I journeyed out into the rolling hills behind the wheel of the Saturn, my camera in the passenger seat.

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I discovered a vista behind Mineral Point High School. Before me was the throughway and three sheep fed in the long grass, and I just captured the orb as she slipped behind the highest slope. Dejected, believing that I’d missed the shot, I got lost on the drive back to town.

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Way out on unknown roads beside human-tended fields, I took a break from Ship of Songs, Marcia Mello’s latest, to listen to Chelsea Girl, the long ago debut album by Nico. The sun, having finally hit the distant unseen horizon, set the Wisconsin sky afire in purple.

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Nico was singing, “Now that I smile, now that I’m laughing even deeper inside, now that I see, now that I finally found the one thing I denied. It’s now I know do I stay or do I go and it is finally I decide. That I’ll be leaving in the fairest of the seasons.”

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The dusk disappeared and with no GPS at my location, I found the way back home using only my headlights.

Mineral Point

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point music

We chose Mineral Point as the part of Wisconsin to visit with Marcia because of its artistic community, its charming historic downtown and of course, proximity to The House on the Rock. It was pretty sleepy on a Monday in late June. Marcia commented, “I bet you it gets busy in the summer. Wait, it IS the summer!”

Kusaka

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point kusaka ramen

We have never been in Mineral Point on a day when MP Dining Company (with its excellent reviews) is open: my days off are Sunday and Monday. For us, the best restaurant in town is Kusaka (open 7 days a week!) We walked over from the Saltbox, a cottage we had rented a couple streets over.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point kusaka ramen

The husband and wife who own Kusaka are dedicated to serving food made from scratch. It doesn’t get any better than that! The dumplings were delicious, some of the best I ever had, and made for the perfect starter. Etta’s mom got a lychee soda (from Japan) and had fun popping the seal (it involved a glass marble.)

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point kusaka ramen

I got the pork belly ramen with a side of irresponsible sauce. This well balanced hot sauce had bright, tart, sweet shades of flavor and ultimately satisfying levels of spice. I used all of it, and I’m pretty much a wimp when it comes to the hot stuff.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point kusaka ramen

The smoked pork belly brought a smoky, summery level of umami to the dish. The handmade wheat noodles were delicious. I found myself craving them and later that night I raided and devoured Etta’s leftovers.

The Saltbox

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point the saltbox

We had rented a beautiful cottage called The Salt Box in historic Mineral Point, an artistic small town in the corner of SW Wisconsin. What a beaut of a property. A wooden staircase in the center of the cottage lead upstairs to an attic with twin beds and an AC: that’s where Marcia slept.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin mineral point the saltbox

Etta and I (and Marcia, when we played Scrabble at night) stayed in the queen size bed on the first floor. I used the small living room area to read and watch old DVDs of Seinfeld, when everyone else needed a nap after the House on the Rock. We walked to Kusaka for dinner.

Dante’s Inferno

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock carousel organ room

Exhausted, almost five hours into the experience that is the House on the Rock, we entered Section 3.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock carousel organ room

Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Section 3 houses seemingly endless arrangements of humans, animals, dolls, animals, pipe organs, humans with animal heads / bodies, dolls and miniature circuses.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock carousel organ room

The Carousel – The sheer numbers of the world’s largest carousel are mind-boggling: 269 handcrafted carousel animals (and not one of them a horse), 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers are all aboard the world’s largest carousel.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock carousel organ room

The Organ Room – Featuring three of the greatest theatre organ consoles ever built, surrounded by walkways, bridges and spiral staircases.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock carousel organ room

We emerged finally to the parking lot, to the car, and back to the road, wordlessly gliding away, back through the rolling hills of Spring Green towards Mineral Point, having just escaped the depths of Alex Jordan’s titanic imagination.

Inspiration Point

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock inspiration point

This time on our journey through the House we took advantage of Inspiration Point: the only opportunity for fresh air in the first two thirds of the adventure.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock inspiration point

Etta and Marcia posed by Deer Rock, while above our heads, the portal to infinity floated in the Wisconsin sky.

Marcia and the Music Machines

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock music machines

We bought a gazillion tokens and played all the music machines for Marcia.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock music machines

Ancient air driven instruments wheezed out orchestral waltzes.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock music machines

Hours 2 and 3 passed with only a greasy slice of pizza for sustenance.

Infinity Room

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock infinity room

I discovered a terror, unforeseen until the crucial moment, that the tip of the infinity room would break off the House on the Rock crashing to the forest floor.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock infinity room

Marcia and Etta looked out, apparently fearless, to the horizon.

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock infinity room

Hour 1 in the House on the Rock was spent inside the original structure, admiring the architecture of visionary Alex Jordan.

House on the Rock

3rdarm marcia kostick marcia mello etta arthur mullen chicago wisconsin spring green house on the rock

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The first photo of Marcia Mello at the House on the Rock is an instance where that old saying rings true!

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