Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicago to SLC to West (Yellowstone)

Thanksgiving brought an extended road trip. The first stop was Chicago for the Social Science History Association meetings, where, unfortunately, unlike in past years, I didn't run into the Swedish demographer who studies the comparative efficiency of various farm arrangements in eighteenth-century Sweden -- and, I swear, looks and sounds just like the Swedish chef from the Muppets. Canadian friends, the Swedish Chef also makes poutine here.

It was also unfortunate that, outside of my panel, I didn't participate much in the conference (besides giving my first-ever 90-second speech, to award a book prize). I was too busy finishing (I think) the Hoover Essay That Would Not End. I used to say that American history is so short that we Americanists deal in months, not years, but at this point I know the history of Hoover's policies from the October 1929 stock market crash through his stupid tax increase proposal in December 1931 week by week. Writing this essay made me even more obsessed with 2007-2010 -- and obsessed with the fact that Obama's entire presidency has been irrationally shaped by the 2010 elections he lost (which subsequently led to all the gerrymandering) in large measure because he pursued a policy -- a large fiscal stimulus -- desired (in large measure because of the ghost of Hoover's failures) by the vast majority of economists across the political spectrum (a policy largely begun by Bush; remember TARP?). Example: in 2009, economist Martin Feldstein, formerly chair of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers -- Reagan's CEA! -- testified before Congress: “While fixing the credit markets is necessary for sustained economic growth, it will not bring the economy back to full employment. Because monetary policy is not effective, reviving the economy requires a major fiscal stimulus from tax cuts and increased government spending. It pains me to say that because I am a fiscal conservative who dislikes budget deficits and increases in government spending.” Sigh. Lydia, what was he like in class?

I may have hit the wall on gastropubs in Chicago. The pork belly and egg sandwich at Revolutionary Brewing was delicious, if a cliche. But note to Owen and Engine, where I caught up with my college roommate Jason (and sorry Lydia, I forgot to mention that there's a restaurant by this name): it's fine that you make a decent pretzel, but your chicken wings are average at best, and above all, if it's so damn cold in the restaurant that you admit it's cold and have a space heater where we sat, for pete's sake, buy a ^%$# heater that puts out more heat.

I did have a nice view from the room in Chicago, though. There was a very tall building near us.

Salt Lake was just a quick layover, but gave us enough time for dinner with Kristin and Jason and Will and Allison (sadly not pictured), and dinner with Sarah and John and Jonas and Issac at our regular stomping ground, La-Cai Noodle House.

From there we hit the road to "West," as our local Nordic shop instructed us to call West Yellowstone. Here the goal was the iconic Rendezvous Trails. In one word -- perfect. The snows had come the week before, leaving this:

Thanksgiving at West is an alternative, Nordic skiing-centric universe. A large part of the community from across the country takes over the place. The results can be pretty unusual.

Thanksgiving dinner at a church with Jen and Dru and Ewan and Reese and the rest of TUNA, our SLC ski club, was a lot of fun. Everyone seemed surprised by how much food I took, but the plates were pretty small. The best part was Epic in Hammer cups ...  and Bonnie's pumpkin bars.

Sorry, no picture of Dru running the logistics of the clean-up ... and of the high-school kids outsourcing their labor to Reese.

It's important on Thanksgiving to help out those who've had a rough go of it.

JUST KIDDING Dru. That's a thumbs-down comment, and actually, I was sorry I didn't do more for Movember (not that anyone would want to see that). All the leading Nordic racers in town were rocking seriously good porn star stashes.

The American West is a big place, and yet we keep running into Sean and Gillian there. Amazing.

Look, I'm fully aware that the hat is absurd. But it's a World Championships thing.

West can be a pretty bleak place even when above freezing ...

 ... but you should have seen the place on Sunday morning, when we were making a break for it with a snowstorm and -28-degree temperatures on the way. Of course, one can only make a fast getaway in the snow properly caffeinated ... which in West means this place. Nordic store + coffee bar = way-station to Paradise.

 Visibility on the way home was a little iffy.

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