Daily Archives: June 30, 2011

Greetings from Petersburg, Va.:Tales from the road. A stunning Federer defeat. And the butter sculpture lady dies

I am writing to you from Room 104 of the Quality Inn in Petersburg, Va., and I’m pretty exhausted.
With my father riding shotgun, drove 650 miles from Daytona Beach to Petersburg today, as I start my journey to my new life in New York. Since I’m the kind of person who thinks odd things anyway, spending 11 hours in a car driving up the East Coast filled my head with things like this…

— There must be a lot of pressure on gas station attendants who work at stores that boast on highway billboards that they have “extremely clean” restrooms. Do you think if a customer stops there and the toilet is filthy, they come out yelling “But back by Exit 254 it said they’d be clean!”
— Speaking of billboards, anyone who’s driven I-95 in the Carolinas knows there are an inordinate number of signs promoting “South of the Border,” that bizarre shopping/entertainment complex in S.C.
Well, I actually counted the signs Wednesday. There are 51 “SOTB” billboards between Fla. and S.C. Fifty-goddamn-one. That’s too many.

— I know I can’t prove this, but North Carolina has the friendliest waitresses in America. I believed it when I lived there for a few years, and was reminded of it again tonight at dinner. Just love N.C. Although they did give us Jesse Helms…

— For the first time since August, 2002, I’m unemployed. Feels weird to say it or write it. But as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, I’m just a full-time grad student. Odd.

— Finally, I achieved a major victory in my family Wed. My father is a notoriously cranky passenger; the man loves to drive more than Tiger Woods likes to … well, you know. And yet he relented when I insisted, and he let me drive 2/3 of the way Wednesday. If you are in my family or know my Dad, you know what a huge deal that is.
I was proud.

**Since I was in the car all day I didn’t see any of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga’s stunning five-set comeback win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon. I’m glad that I didn’t see it, and annoyed I didn’t see it: glad because I’m sure it would’ve been painful as a huge Federer fan to see him get steamrolled the last three sets, as he blew a lead he’d never blown in a Slam before. But annoyed because apparently it took an incredible performance by Tsonga, a Frenchman who’s always had all the strokes needed to be a Top 5 player, but mentally would crumble at key moments.
This is two straight years Fed has lost in the quarters in Wimbledon. Man, that’s hard to believe just looking at that sentence. The writing on the wall gets louder and louder: Fed may never win another Grand Slam.

**Finally, a few words of praise for a woman who achieved excellence in a very strange field.
In the state of Iowa, she was known simply as the butter cow lady, and she died Sunday at age 81.

Norma “Duffy “Lyon got famous over the past several decades for creating these incredibly life-like, ornate butter sculptures of famous people and animals.

Sure, it might not be your cup of tea (or cream, to be dairy-appropriate for this story). Sure, you may think it’s a little bit creepy to see a buttery version of Elvis Presley (above).

But I love that Lyon worked so hard on these sculptures, making them beautiful. She was absolutely the best at her chosen craft, and that is always something to be admired.
Wonder if anyone ever walked up to one of her masterpieces and dubiously said “Is it butter? I can’t believe it’s not butter!”
OK, that was bad. But I couldn’t resist.