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March 19th, 2010 - Surreal Ashland, Continued...

I have waxed prolifically (Have I? I dunno, maybe) in past editions of this blog about how my trips up to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin always seem to net some sort of surreal imagery.
I'm not sure what it is about the place.
It's an old town, for Wisconsin, and rather ecclectic, possibly owing to the fact that it's usually winter there for almost six months of the year. It's a geographic crossroads between Minnesota (50 miles west) and Michigan (40 miles east).
On the north it's bounded by Lake Superior, that somewhat ego-maniacal sounding (Well, it IS the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and the world's third-largest freshwater lake by volume) body of water, which must influence people's perception somehow, what with all the free ions and tidal forces and iron ore in the water supply and such.
So whatever it is that adds to the surreality, it seems to pop out when I'm there. Hmm. Maybe it's me.
Be that as it may, this time either because I've been in a funk lately, (not the good kind) or because I just haven't been on intimate terms with my camera much, I had to go looking for some surrealism, but I did find a little.
One thing I noticed on a walk with Hapdog was the frequency of old blue-glass insulators still on the telephone poles, or probably more acurrately, the 'power' poles.
For that matter, even that the poles themselves were still there is something, as most wiring is below ground these days.
There's something about that deep aquamarine glass that sucks my glance right to it. I'm surprised they haven't been stolen, shot off, or pelted and chipped by rocks by now.
For those of you out of the know, these glass (and sometimes ceramic) insulators used to adorn nearly all power poles to separate the wiring from the nearby metal conductors, and prevent arcing during storms. Sometimes they got so hot during lightning strikes that they cracked or exploded on their own.
My first exposure to macramé was in the 7th grade, when we macraméd them upside-down into hanging rope-mesh planters. I was impressed. It was fun.

Speaking of electrical devices, I noticed the former Wilmarth Elementary School (now an apartment complex) had this ornate lightning rod at the top of it's highest gable.
I mean, this is from the days when you just didn't throw up any utilitarian conductor of electricity on your roof, no, you need at least some wrought iron curliques and an amber glass ball, this is a school for cryin' out loud, Beaser might have one, and we need to outdo them.
I wonder if the amber glass ball has a function, besides possibly being an insulator. It could be a fuse or an indicator of being struck or the like.
I'm not sure what keeps the lightning from striking the much larger surface area of the metal peak of the gable however, I guess the janitor has to go up there every couple weeks and sharpen the bayonet to make sure it gets good contact.
By the way, there really wasn't lightning coming out of a clear blue sky that day (although I've heard it does happen), I just happened to have some lying around so I thought I'd dress it up a bit.

Another alleged surrealism is the infrequent occurence of these somewhat odd pink & black fire hydrants. Occasionally, in Ashland you will come across a fire hydrant not painted in the standard yellow & black (or now just orangish yellow) battle colors, but pink & black.
This one had so many layers of thick paint chips on it, I could see the yellow & black from years past, along with an all-over red, and even a touch of green. Happy seemed to be enjoying the archive of dog urine which was probably as old as the hydrant, so I had to cut him off before he flooded us out.
Interesting aside; the manufacturer of the hydrant is named 'Waterous.'
This last pic is the same house and tree as is shown in the black and white image at the lead-in, in it's current spooky blue. The tree really makes the deal, it is some kinda piece of work.

The house is something too, with it's triple columned porch uprights, picture window, turreted captain's parlour, ornate millwork, and slightly askew bannister end-pieces, and of course, a giant fish weather vane. Yup, the sturgeon says the wind is out of the north. The sturgeon is never wrong.
It's got a brownstone basement that looks about as old as my mom's house, which was built in 1889. The sandstone foundation probably came from the Apostle Islands, likely Basswood Island, a very sought after quarry that provided the brownstone for many famous American buildings throughout the nation.
That tree defines surreal for me. I had to move on before it shook my hand and started telling me stories...

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