austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society

Sunday included among other luxuries, like time with bunny_hugger, a couple banana smoothies. We'd got bananas as potential snacks although I at least managed to be out or distracted for most of their ripe period (not all of it, just, we had more bananas than banana-consumption), as well as a pack of smoothie mix. This proved unexpectedly delightful because the Meijer cash register rang it up as 'Banana Frost', showing the database name from before about a decade ago when 'smoothie' got to be a trendier name.

bunny_hugger hoped we could go letterboxing and Sunday would be a great chance for it. And more she suggested we could launch a letterbox together, preferably one of the small ``hitchhikers'' which gets put in the box of a permanently-stationed box. This I thought was a great idea.

The plan was for me to design a stamp, and for her to carve it, and then for us to find a local letterbox and launch it together. This was challenging my skills as an artist. While there are some things I can draw with reasonable competence, or at least in a style so unlike anything anyone would want to draw that it's unmistakably me, I've got no experience in drawing things to be icons, which I figured was the nearest analogue to rubber stamps. With some thought I figured out a design that looked like (a) something that (b) didn't use excessively many fine or intricate lines. It had a few, but seemed to be simplified enough to be carveable and to read when stamped. I think it almost came across right, but I will need to think more about stamp and icon design to make further ones.

bunny_hugger took complete charge of transferring the design to rubber, and then to carving the rubber out. The process goes about like you imagine --- dragging a knife across the rubber until the unwanted parts aren't there anymore --- but I watched, wary of doing anything to mess it up, and noting what I managed to do to make the design unnecessarily complicated. My instincts were good about reducing lines and confluences of lines; I just didn't space things out well enough. Nevertheless, the test imprint worked out really well. The design may have been that of an amateur but given a fair chance it looked good. We also got a multi-colored impression that looked rather better, which was the result of a mistake in inscribing the little logbook which was to accompany the stamp. The hitchhiker should prove a nice surprise for some letterboxer.

Near bunny_hugger is an historical village, one of those collections of transplanted 19th century buildings that get transplanted when a community has a bunch of old buildings that are in the way but has enough nostalgic residents to not want them just demolished. It's set alongside a nice lake and some woods. And there was not just one letterbox but a series of eight, tied thematically to the buildings of the historical village. I'd say the most interesting is the tollgate house, remnant of the Lansing Central Plank Road Company and set aside a short plank road. But I have this infrastructure thing; I've had thoughts of someday finding a decent history of the Garden State Parkway too.

bunny_hugger thought, reasonably, that the letterboxes would be around the buildings of the village. A couple of them are. But more of them --- most of them, in fact --- are in the woods. There are sensible reasons for this; for example, it's easier to set and work with a letterbox without drawing attention in less-travelled public places, and it's hard to find very many clever hiding places around a building. But the are disadvantages to this. For example, letterboxing clue-writers like to suggest one look by the ``fallen log'', apparently never noticing that there is a ``fallen log'' in every direction and at every distance one might like to look. We were temporarily stymied several times by this sort of fallen log or parallel log or other ambiguous claim, although we did get through them. We briefly considered a description of ``the big tree'' as ambiguous, but it turned out just a little farther along the trail there was an unambiguously big tree, one about forty feet in diameter and reaching to Earth orbit, where it naturally flinches every 91 minutes so as not to catch the International Space Station in its midlevel branches.

Also, there's swampy patches. The oppressive heat and reduction of rain to a few teasing sprinkles was a good thing here; we'd see in the logbooks of earlier discoverers that multiple of the boxes could be inaccessible because underwater. One of the boxes was even across a marshy field of grass as tall as I was. We spent much of the time hiking around apologizing for accidentally swatting the other with cleared tree branches, but this was admirably dense going. We got through just ahead of a team digging the Panama Canal and their good news about Walter Reed's investigation to the causes and instigations of the malarial plague.

Oh, and, did I mention that since it was to be a hot, sunny week I was there, I'd brought only my sandals, and had no sneakers, much less socks? If bunny_hugger had known it was this heavily wooded she'd have got us better foot protection; our anti-mosquito spray was barely up to the task.

However, we did find not just some of the letterboxes but all eight of them, a perfect set. And the stamps of this set are great: very finely detailed replicas of the buildings or details of the Historical Village. And the stamps were well-composed for multi-color stamping, which dovetailed nicely with the eight-colored inkpad bunny_hugger uses for these.

Unfortunately, the plastic boxes in which these letterboxes were stored were very compact one; good for keeping the stamps dry and reasonably protected and easy to tuck into inconspicuous locations, but far too small to take the hitchhiker we'd designed and made. We thought about attaching the hitchhiker to the outside of the box (bunny_hugger had brought a freezer bag sort of thing), but that didn't seem satisfactory, to me at least. We'd launch at a later time, with another suitable box.

Still, we had enjoyed a fantastically successful day of letterboxing, between carving a new one and finding eight rather cleverly planted boxes in an interesting historical village and the woods around it. We were ready to eat.

bunny_hugger had been recommended to a Chicago-style pizza place once in a conversation about the Lansing area lacking a cozy pub of the sort she had liked in Ann Arbor. The sole obvious point of comparison is the restaurant boasted of having over a hundred beers available, matching in number if nothing else the bar she used as referent. This makes it sound like the place was comparable just in number of beers, without respect for the ambiance of the place, but, what the heck? It might be, and it was nearby and we were hungry and deep-dish pizza sounded awfully good.

It wasn't a cozy bar sort of place. It's a good sports memorabilia-festooned spot that should satisfy any needs for the gang at the office to go out for dinner. It's the kind of place which has got monitors showing the baseball game, yes, but also the results of trivia quizzes on the order of ``Which of these four Beatles movies was a documentary?''

Still, we had a wonderful deep-dish pizza with multiple vegetables layered on top, and an even more wonderful dessert consisting of a hot chocolate-chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top. This is really good. I may take to microwaving Chips Ahoys to recreate the experience.

In the evening, bunny_hugger's rabbit did emerge from his cage eventually, and even took to staring at me for sitting where he meant to hop. This was a marked improvement from the night before and indicates he's really warming up to me.

Trivia: 4,192 cars were made in the United States during 1900; over two thousand of them came from Connecticut or Massachusetts. Source: The King's Best Highway: The Lost History Of The Boston Post Road, The Route That Made America, Eric Jaffe.

Currently Reading: The Princess Of The Air, John M Ford.


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