Thursday, December 30, 2010

All I Wanted To Do

All I wanted to do was print up some music. I'm doing an accompaniment for a baritone on New Year's Day, and he e-mailed me some *.pdf files of the music for the show. I just wanted to print it out.

So, I went to my office, but the printer wasn't there, because my wife started a new store and needed the printer to print out credit card receipts over there.

And I grabbed the laptop, and went over to the store. And that's when the machines started ordering me around.

As soon as I plugged in the printer, of course it had never printed from my laptop, so the computer started whining for drivers.

So, i went online and got it some damn drivers.

Then, the computer wanted to update the Firefox, so we got those updates and restarted.

And now, the Adobe reader wanted to update itself, so now we have the new version of that.

And then the printer popped up another box, wanted to register itself. Well, the last thing I needed was an identity crisis from a little gray box that could throw gobs of ink at me, so we said "yes" to registration.

Then, Windows Explorer popped up - the printer wanted to use Explorer to register itself - Firefox wasn't good enough for it!

And since it was the first time I'd used Windows Explorer (why use a crappy browser when you already have a good one?), now Windows Explorer pops up and wants to introduce itself. Finally, I shut down Explorer entirely - enough already! The printer would just have to take up yoga or tai chi to find itself.

I had almost forgotten what I had started the computer for. I tried once again, and this time the printer started to give me my music. There was even a little voice that said "Printing Started" when it started to print. How cute - actually when you think about it, what else is a printer going to do?

Ironically, the first page to print out was "Auld Lang Syne". I guess the computer was sorry, and wanted to let bygones be bygones.

Happy New Year, everybody!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Ten Room Apartment: $110

I've lived in the "good old days" most of my life. But in my mid-20's I kind of outdid myself. It was the late 1970s, and I had just made a major career change - I quit a dead-end job at a Watertown Lumber Yard.

I simply couldn't stand not working, so I immediately set up a number of part-time jobs to support my life style such as it be. I worked on the night shift at the local Best Western Motel, so my days were free for other jobs.

I had a 10-room apartment on Main Street in Watertown, WI. Ten rooms, yup. I lived above an office supply store, and they let me work down there, too, unpacking shipments, and doing janitorial work, as credit toward my $110.00 per month rent. And I shoveled snow for them and the tavern next door. The tavern paid in whisky, and that was a good arrangement, if you ask me...

Then I added a day-job two days of the week working for Minning Liquor Warehouse. I loaded trucks, and soon I had my own weekly delivery route. And sometimes my old buddy Norm Tessman would need some help. He ran an emergency towing company, so when a car slid on the snow and ran in the ditch, I was the guy who dug down under the car to attach the winch hook. (now why was THAT job open?).

Then there were the music jobs - music is what keeps people going when sleep is short and times are tough. I played piano at the Feed Bag Restaurant and Bar on Friday nights, and on Saturdays I would play accordion at Teggatz's tavern (the guy downstairs).

My run-down apartment on Main Street had 10 rooms, and huge skylights! I had a music room, with an old piano in it, a bedroom, a living room, kitchen, separate pantry, one room which I just used as a closet, and a purple room I didn't use for anything at all! What a feeling of wealth!

I had a collection of old faded maroon stuffed furniture with broken springs, you sank down almost to the floor - talk about some serious comfort! I was very poor, very tired, and also very happy.

As Peter Berryman of Madison said: "Music will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no music."

By the way, the lady in the photos is Miss Riley. She was very smart and independent. More on her some other time. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, and thanks everybody for your kind birthday wishes!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the leaves

The following was written by a German pornographer in 1928. It is my personal all-time favorite literary passage.

The leaves were falling from the great maple at the meadow's edge. They were falling from all the trees. One branch of the maple reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow. Two leaves clung to its very tip.

"It isn't the way it used to be." said one leaf to the other.

"No," the other leaf answered. "So many of us have fallen off tonight we're almost the only ones left on the branch."

"You never know who's going to go next," said the second leaf. "Even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still very young. You never know who's going to go next."

"The sun hardly shines now," sighed the first leaf, "and when it does, it gives no warmth. We must have warmth again. Can it be true, can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we're gone and after them still others, and more and more?"

"It really is true," whispered the second leaf. "We can't even begin to imagine it, it's beyond our powers."

"It makes me very sad," added the first leaf.

They were very silent a while.

Then the first leaf said quietly to itself, "Why must we fall? What happens to us when we have fallen? "

The second leaf replied, "We sink down ."

"What is under us?"

The second leaf answered, "I don't know. Some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows."

The first leaf asked, "Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"

The second leaf answered, "Who knows? Not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it."

They were silent again. Then the second leaf said tenderly to the other, "Don't worry so much about it you're trembling."

"That's nothing," the first leaf answered, I tremble at the least thing now. I don't feel so sure of my hold as I used to."

"Let's not talk any more about such things," said the second leaf.

The other replied, "No, we'll let it be. But-what else shall we talk about?" It was silent, but went on after a little while, "Which of us will go first?"

"There's still plenty of time to worry about that," the other leaf said reassuringly. "Lets remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we'd burst with life. Do you remember? And the morning dew and the mild and splendid nights!

"Now the nights are dreadful," the first leaf complained, " and there is no end to them."

"We shouldn't complain, " said the second leaf gently. "We've outlived many, many others."

"Have I changed much?" asked the first leaf shyly.

"Not in the least," the second leaf said. "You think so only because I've gotton to be so yellow and ugly. But it's different in your case."

"You're fooling me," the first leaf said.

"No, really," the first leaf answered eagerly, "believe me, you're as lovely as the day you were born. Here and there may be a little yellow spot. But it's hardly noticeable and makes you only more beautiful, believe me."

"Thanks," whispered the first leaf, quite touched. I don't believe you, not altogether, but I thank you because you're so kind. You've always been so kind to me. I'm just beginning to understand how kind you are."

" Hush," said the other leaf, and kept silent itself, for it was too troubled to talk any more. Then they were both silent. Hours passed. A moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the treetops."

"Ah, now," said the first leaf, "I . . . "

Then its voice broke off. It was torn from its place and spun down.

Winter had come.

From the book: "Bambi", by Felix Salten written in 1928

Monday, November 22, 2010

the freezer

Last Friday my wife mentioned to me: "Oh, I forgot to tell you, the Building Inspector was over by the Chinese. They moved a shelf out of the way and there was a hole in the wall, and you can see pipes and wires and stuff in there. Inspector's coming on Monday. It's behind the freezer. "

Two words can push me down into the darkness of the pit of despair these days. "Building Inspector" and "the freezer". And so, I was called yet again to visit the Freezer.

Background - part of the commercial rental complex we took on in 2003 is a Chinese restaurant. Although it's one of the cleanest, best-run, and most successful Chinese restaurants in Milwaukee, the building itself still has some on-going problems. The main problem - RALPHY. Ralphy the Patch-Meister! Ralphy the King of Schlepper-ness. Thirty years of Ralphy (the previous owner of the building) takes more than a few years to undo. There are remote corners of the building where things come undone by themselves . . . The Freezer is the most formidable of these. You can always count on something to go wrong at The Freezer. An ancient metal covered walk-in cooler, in the back corner of the storage room - with failed compressors and restaurant storage above. Bad things happen around the freezer. . .

I remember the time the roof drain backed up, and the water somehow found its way into the building - next to the freezer - The restaurant owners called - terrified. I remember holding a piece of rain gutter to lead the water to a floor drain until the inrush of water subsided enough to assess roof damages.

Last August was when we discovered that Ralphy had anchored the suspended ceiling grid to the ceiling plaster, rather than to the stud structure of the building. How did we make this discovery? One of the bolts gave way, and it caused a chain reaction of course. A major section (8 x 12 feet) of ceiling came crashing down above the freezer. The heavy plaster ceiling fell down on top of the suspended grid ceiling, destroying everything.

Left in the aftermath was a tangled heap of plaster, wires, ceiling tiles, and despair on top of the freezer. The restaurant opened late that day, while we cleaned it up. The next week I spent mostly on top of that freezer, cleaning up, and rebuilding. It was August -- the restaurant's air conditioning doesn't reach into the storeroom, much less above the freezer. Yup, it's hot. From the top of the freezer to the roof was a spacious 3-1/2 feet The new ceiling grid is installed at 2 feet from the top of the freezer - a rather cozy workspace. I shared the top of the freezer with a growling old compressor - this ensured that the temperature never got below 90 degrees.

Working on my knees, with my head ducked down, experiencing over and over the intense feeling of un-pleasure one gets from kneeling on a screw. So, sometimes I would work on my back - you might think it is more comfortable to work that way, but there are conduit boxes and BX cables on top of the freezer trying to take out my kidneys with every move I made.

And in the distance, above the droning thrum of the compressor, everything is shouted in Chinese. The restaurant is run by a Chinese family, and only the ones who know English are the ones directly in contact with the public. Before I discovered this, I had wondered to myself why these people were so agreeable. Whatever I would tell them, they would smile and nod. I felt completely isolated, as one in a far country.

I remember the ultimate moment of despair. I was almost done with the new ceiling grid, lying on my back with a BX cable digging into my shoulderblades, and the compressor blowing a 95 degree blast of dusty air at me, daring me to breathe. I noticed that a bandage one of my left fingers from the day before had slid off due to perspiration. I remember thinking to myself "O, No, Now that's going to get infected" as I paged ahead in my mental calendar for piano engagements that might be affected. Then I realized how hopelessly far from home I really was. I bet Steve Allen never had a "top of the freezer" moment with his hands. . . Maybe it was just the dust of the ceiling tiles making my eyes water... maybe not.

Though your dreams be tossed and blown. I believe Rogers and Hammerstein had the Freezer in mind when they came up with that phrase. Though your dreams be tossed and blown. - Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone.

soon - fixin' the hole...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Next Chapter - Alana

Alana. It's Alana. The name of the new store on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View, in the Joyce Skylight Court is Alana.

Since we completed the rehabilitation of the Joyce Skylight Court, we have been waiting for the business climate to improve to the point where people can once again have the confidence to take a business risk. While we were waiting, Joyce thought it would be an ideal time to try out a life-long dream of hers. Since the shopping center was sitting there costing taxes anyway, why not launch a ladies' clothing store in one of the units? It would be a show of confidence in the community, and would encourage other businesses to rent the other available units.

.... And so, we present -- Alana!

"Alana" means "the precious awakening". The name is derived from German and Hawaiian roots, a derivation of "Helen" (Joyce's mother) and "Alan" (Joyce's husband's middle name. That's me).

Joyce is more than qualified for this new role, having spent her entire life in the fashion industry. She has hand-selected an assortment of clothing and accessories from select fashion designers which meet her own high standards. Joyce knows how to make you look good.

I've been busy with the thousands of details which don't fall directly into the fashion category, but are all necessary - occupancy licensing, graphic design, web site design, credit card processing setup, store fixture acquisition, not to mention travel arrangements and communications (Joyce does NOT email). And getting Joyce in contact with designers and trade shows to select the merchandise. Thousands of details remain, and yet, somehow we will open in December, without having to quit my "day job".

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Stage Guy

This year my wife and I couldn't afford to go on a summer vacation trip. We usually go to Las Vegas, and we're usually lucky enough to pay for the trip in winnings, but didn't want to take the chance, this year. Thanks, O.

But one of the free things in Vegas is - the latest in the new technology. Five years ahead of everybody else in display technology. I saw my first LCD advertising kiosk in a casino in vegas. They had those color LED billboards and full-color giant motion screens 'way back in the 1990s. And the first place I saw stack-coupled LCD screens was in front of a "gentlemen's club" on Fremont street. I didn't get the chance to go in to see what other wonders they had within - my wife was with me.

And now you see it everywhere. Entire stage sets made out of stacks and stacks of LCD screens coupled seamlessly together. On some shows, the screens and LED displays have completely replaced all the backdrops and lighting on the stage. "America's Got Talent" and "Dancing with the Geezers" are the best place to see examples of this state-of-the-art technology. Floodlights that tint themselves to any color completely without gels or the excessive heat once associated with theatrical lighting. Probably all pre-programmed and automated and sequenced as well, so all the producer has to do is to call up a program sequence on his computer, and the show will run, practically without the aid of the actors and performers.

But, as I was explaining this to Jill, my co-worker, she raised an interesting question. "What about the guy up in the rafters shaking down the snow flakes? You know, that old guy in the janitor suit with the white moustache? Where's he, now, huh? What are they going to do for the snow scene? "

I suppose once the new wave of technology has completed, and the latest tsunami recedes a bit, there will once again be an appreciation and rediscovery of old-fashioned stage-craft, and the guy will again have something to do.

Friday, October 22, 2010


My favorite inventor is Thomas Edison. He invented the machine that brought us The Beatles, Caruso, Paul Whiteman, Rhapsody in Blue, and so many other countless phonograph moments.

But yesterday was the anniversary of a different invention - the invention of the electric incandescent light bulb. On October 21, 1879, Thomas Edison invented the first long-lasting GE electric light bulb. Coincidentally, it was also the first time a woman was heard to say "TURN OFF THAT LIGHT AND COME TO BED!"

Before Edison's time, every time someone had a brilliant idea, they'd have to watch out for the wax. In colonial times, at a time when the Forefathers were coming up with the Federalist Papers, the Articles of Confederation, The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and endlessly on - a copious cascade of great ideas. And, because there were no light bulbs, each and every time someone had a good idea, a candle would light up over their head. So spoiled are we with our light bulbs, we can't imagine.

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison -- same deal. Every time one of the Founding Fathers came up with a great idea, there would be that candle. (And there was also a time crunch -- they all died in their forties back then, so there wasn't that much time to work with). It had to be hard on the old noggin - the slightest bit of jostling, and a darn candle is going to burn you with melted wax for sure right in the middle of your epiphany.

But, our Founding Fathers were not deterred. They devised hairpieces made of white asbestos, and with these, they could come up with all the ideas they wanted, and not worry about the dripping wax from the candles over their heads. One guy would say, "Hey, let's hold a few truths to be self-evident" -- and that was enough to send them all scrambling for the wigs.

All the Founding Fathers wore this protective headgear, as you can see from the actual photograph above. All, that is, except for Ben. Oh, no, the protective wigs were not for him - he was a daredevil! And we all know what happened to him - The Old Brazilian Pate-Wax!

Life Liberty and the Perfuit of Happineff!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Lousy Goose

The beginning of a beautiful Fall day. In the chilly early-morning sky Milwaukee's lone Canada goose as honks his way to the pond at Humboldt Park. Most geese are migrating this time of the year. The hauntingly noisy V formation of geese migrating to a warmer place down South heralds the inevitable change in the weather.

But in Milwaukee, the geese found it convenient to live here year-round. They like it here as much as the rest of us do. The migrations were daily, as the geese commuted from Lake Michigan, where they sleep, to the Milwaukee County Parks where they live and play.

Their life-style would be boring for us. They eat. They poop. They go to the park. They eat grass. They poop. And twice a day, they commute. They sleep in the rocks of the Lake Michigan breakwater. And in the daytime they fly over to the park, where there's plenty of grass to eat. There are ponds and lagoons to float in, and just flap their wings with joy at their care-free existence.

Until last June. One idyllic luxurious emerald-green sparkling morning in June. Milwaukee county workers rounded up the geese, killed them, and fed them to the homeless. Here's a link to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if you don't believe me. Now the homeless are getting fat and lying all over in the parks, smelling and snoring. Who are they going to feed them to?

The paper said the geese were a hazard to the airport. I'd rather have the airport over-run by Canada geese than TSA agents. Perhaps they were honking too much on their cell phones about frequent flyer miles, or delayed flights. And always pecking at the Blackberries.

So, now there is one goose for all 953,328 of us. I don't feel compelled to share him with the suburbs. Honk away, little goose. Have a pleasant, though lonely, day at the park. You beat the bastards, for now.

if you have a blog you'd like linked to my front page, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

it may be Public, but it's NOT Transportation!

***warning to norman - "Cranky Old Man" post***

I was in a hurry to get to work this morning, you know, the Day Job where I work like crazy and then the Government helps itself to half of the money I earned, to be spent on things like road construction and public transportation?

The entry ramp to the freeway was blocked off, supposedly to be repaired. But there was no repair work apparent, not even Government people standing in day-glo vests around a truck talking on their cell phones. So I couldn't get on the freeway. Hope that some day they may get a hankerin' to do a piece of work there...

And I took the side streets 10 miles to work, mainly Lincoln Avenue. And half of that time was spent behind a City Bus. Public Transportation. It lumbered along at about 10 miles per hour - at first I thought I was in a parade. But then it kind of pulled off to the right - not enough that I could get past it. I waited patiently for the wheels of the bus to go round and round again...

A picture of a sneering attorney looked back on me through clouds of black smoke. So conscientious of the carbon footprints of others, the government spends our money freely on studies to desecrate lakeshores and parklands with noisy windmills, yet the government can't keep the buses from exhaling thick clouds of black smoke at each corner, like oversized bloated insolent cigars blown in our face.

I'll tell you all what it's like on the inside of those buses another time, but for now i'll leave you with the oxymoron. Public bus systems are not really public transportation -- that would involve people leaving somewhere and arriving somewhere else. Buses are the OPPOSITE of transportation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Written Excuse

Sorry not to be posting here on Excelsior - I was on a personal mission. It's so rare that I get to work on a video edit until it's done without some home-repair thing breaking down. I'm a constant slave to that evil and cruel deity Yugata, when I'd rather be a willing servant to the fair goddess Yuwana.

I'm rather proud of the following video, promoting an upcoming concert. It was done with a home camcorder and a scaled-down home video editing program called PowerDirector. There are about 100 individual steps to comprise these two minutes, but all that counts is the end product, which, although still a bit clunky, is the best editing i've done to date. Views best in full-screen mode.

It's so much better than the last attempt at promoting this fine group ( ). The quality of the video I had to work with was far superior, because at least I had a tripod to steady things, even though the zoom was not working properly.

However, the improvement is due mostly to suggestions from life-long TV guy, and my best friend since first grade, Norm Lorenz. Check out his blog at Norm will be back after his computer is fixed. Someone clicked on a Global Warming email, and the carbon footprint was enough to overwhelm his virus checker and paralyze his hard drive.

And, since my voice-over wife was too busy to record the tracks this weekend, (don't worry, she'll never find me here on Blogger!) I had to raise Richard Nixon from the dead to do the announcement clips..

Come to the show, November 5th, if you're in Wisconsin!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

benign for the USA

Today's headlines declare that this year's "hurricane season is benign for the USA", that is, not as many hurricanes as the Predictors predicted.

But now, what about those Predictors? These are the people who work for the media, who make a living by churning up our fears, justifiably, or not, and using our fears to sell us Toyotas. The Predictors get all the benefits of a dire hurricane season - before the wind even starts blowing. Viewers grasping and gasping at their every word, and then when viewers are properly hammered into a quivering fear-filled pulp, they peek out meekly from under their sofas, and there on the TV is the Ford Guy swaggering around grinning under his hat-brim and selling us F-150s. What has this to do with hurricanes? It's not hurricanes - it's FEAR, and FEAR SELLS! People are addicted to fear.

And what if the predictions are just . . . plain . . . wrong? What if, every year since Katrina (which they did NOT predict), what if the Predictors predict a hurricane season which is projected to be much, much worse than Katrina? But, what if -- just speculating here -- what if the season does NOT meet the Predictors' quota of mayhem and destruction? What if it's just a peaceful season, with a few major storms, but nothing totally devastating. What, then? Well..... nothing - that's what! The Predictors go on as if they hadn't even said anything about any hurricanes. "What hurricane? What prediction? Who can predict the weather, certainly not me! Are you prepared for the worst Winter in 1,000 years? "

Well, I'm the one standing up in the back, holding them accountable, asking the question. How could your predictions have been soo far off? How is it the East Coast is still there? And how does it apply to their credibility - other things They've predicted? I hope that some day they'll be found out.

Well, gotta cut this short and head for the basement. A guy with a very colorful moving map of our area, filled with swirling blinky-lights and red blotches just spotted some "potentially tornadic cloud cover" in the next county. . . now I wish i'd bought an F-150, I could outrun it....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mi So La - Re Fa Re So So

This is where humor originates. The ability to laugh at one's self, and the ridiculous and pathetic situations one gets one's self into.

Have a happy weekend. Take time to laugh.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God Stopped By Last Night

Early morning. Tucked behind the iron mailbox at our front door, was a small folded piece of paper. A note from one of the tenants? Package attempted delivery? No, this came from "higher up".

Drat! God had been there once again in the middle of the night, and we missed him again! Why doesn't He knock, like in the picture? Behold, He stands at the Door and knocks. No, God had an important message for us, but He couldn't be bothered with telling us personally. He gets in these "Hate and Run" moods, sometimes, then He just leaves a note.

"God left a note again, last night."

"Again? and He didn't knock! We would have heard him. What is it this time? Is He hating on the gays again?"

"No, this time, I think He's got us!"

In the past, God had been castigating us for things we didn't do. Abortions, homosexuality - Even though the things He was angry about were things we hadn't done, He had wanted us to persecute people who were exercising their choices for reproductive freedom or choice of life-partner. But this time...

"It's the martinis that are setting Him off, now."

I showed my wife the paper which Hate-and-Run God had left us. That relaxing moment of twinkling ice at the end of a 12-hour-plus day was what He was now after.

"Did He say why? Remember, His Kid used to turn water into wine a few years back. Did He forget that? Where does He get off prying a martini out of my hand?"

"Apparently - He quotes the prophet Habakkuk --"


"Habakkuk - Old Testament Prophet. Remember - Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai or something like that. Habakkuk said - here let me quote - 'Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, and makest him drunken also, that thou may look on their nakedness.'"

"Go on, does God really think we're doing that sort of thing? I'd like to see you even try looking on your neighbor's nakedness. I'd give you such a one...."

"Well, next time He comes over, I hope we hear him. We could ask Him in for a martini."

Thanks for listening and contributing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jack Frost is Painting the Leaves

The first song I remember from my childhood was sung by my mother. I remember, it seemed like some miraculous transformation -- my mother was suddenly expressing a thought in a song.

I was looking out the window of our house, I was barely tall enough to see out. The leaves of the tree outside were suddenly not entirely green anymore. Instead of green, they had become yellow and red. When you're only on the second or third time around the calendar, the transformations of the seasons are a novelty - you don't get it all the first time around....

My mother came up behind me, kneeled down, and sang softly in that voice by which I have always remembered her:

"Jack Frost is painting the leaves
He's painting them all over town

He's painting them red

He's painting them yellow
And even painting them brown"

I remembered so vividly every word set to music. I questioned my mother thoroughly about who this "Jack Frost" was, and when could I watch him work... Did he use a ladder? How could he see if he painted at night? Hush, Child. Just listen to your mama.

Thanks for listening and contributing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Man in the Moon as He Sails the Sky

Max Wincell was kind of scary. I was in 3rd grade, and Max was now in his second year of 3rd grade. Previous encounters with Max had involved Max hitting me. Once we had met him in a park downtown, my sister and I, and he had hit us both. But now, I was almost home, safe on my block, when Max called me by name. How had he remembered?? I was paralyzed by fright when Max ran up to me.

"Hey, I just moved in over on Davis Street" (2 blocks away) "Aren't you that kid who plays piano?"

-- gulp --- Oh, no! my short life flashed in front of me, in a nightmare vision of a future filled with daily poundings. But this was different. He was new to the neighborhood, and now, things had changed. Now, I was now one of "his people". The incidents of the past had been forgotten, as if they had never happened. I certainly wasn't going to remind Max of those.

We played together, hung around together, and then he did a shocking thing. He politely introduced himself to my mother. Max wasn't the sort of person you mentioned to your parents. He was more of the sort you snuck out to hang around with when you were being rebellious. My mother was bowled over by the hospitality, and if Max were around on Saturday, she'd invite him to stay for lunch. He certainly knew how to play the "nice boy" when necessary.

Max, it turned out, didn't have much of a home life. He'd always had to seek his friends one by one, which was hard when his father kept moving from place to place. Max had no mother that he spoke of, and his father was not home much. His house was a cheap wooden pre-fab, and his father's current live-in girlfriend (Max called her "the housekeeper") didn't want us hanging around the house.

Max was smart, although he didn't have very good grades. He never did homework, because he wasn't welcome at home, but he remembered everything we learned in class. He was especially fond of a song Miss Schlueter had taught us in music class. We'd sing it as we roamed the streets after dark, looking for trouble.

"Oh the Man in the Moon
As he sails the sky
is a very remarkable skip-per

But he made a mistake
by attempting to take
a drink of milk from the Dip-per!
a drink of milk from the Dipper.

He dipped it into the Milky Way
and slowly and carefully filled it
but the Big Bear growled

and the Little Bear howled

and frightened him so that he spilled it

and frightened him so that he spilled it.

I think of these nights when summer's gone, and the air is crisp with fall, and a faint smell of leaves burning somewhere. I think of when Max showed me how to howl at the moon.

Thanks for listening and contributing. On Twitter, they call me @dimbulb52.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Witch's Polka

It seems like a long time ago, but it was only 12 years ago. I was the music director for some of the musical comedy community theater productions of the legendary Gil Shine. Time spent working with Gil was time spent learning a craft. I learned things about writing, comedy, staging, and publicity that serve me to this day. Gil is on his next assignment, now, and I'm sure that God is getting a laugh about Gil's first-rehearsal talk, the part where he says "when you're in one of my plays, I AM GOD! JESUS WAS JUST AN EMISSARY!" And I picture a row of angels, all flipping their wings in UNISON. "AGAIN -- FROM THE TOP!"

Marian always had her own sense of timing. Gil hated that, but realized what a tremendous stage presence she had. Marian could take the most unimportant role and make it into the center of attention - as those who worked with her always said "that's just Marian!". People would come to a show with Marian in it, just to see Marian.

The play from which this one-minute video is taken is a Halloween musical comedy production. A simple plot, for children of all ages. One of the witches is having her three hundredth birthday, and the other witches want to throw a surprise party for her. A running theme: Marian is always offering to play her accordion for the party but all the other witches keep telling her "NO!" . "but why?" whines Marian. And the answer is always "Because you're not any good at it". At the end of the play, the party of course, and Marian sneaks back from behind the curtain to present, as a surprise to everyone - her Polka Band. That's me on accordion, and Rob as the Mummy playing drums.

At I'm @dimbulb52, but i'm usually in trouble over there for not posting enough.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

O'er the Lamp Parts We Watched

One day I was being helpful around the house. A rare occurrence because usually I've got to be helpful in one of the rental properties, some smelly garbage disposal or leaky toilet seal, you know, the good stuff.

I noticed that Joyce's lamp had gotten dusty on the inside. You could see the dust clearly, because it was a clear Lucite lamp, and years of being next to the heat radiator had let dust settle on the inner surfaces of the lamp. The Art Deco Lucite Floor Lamp that Joyce loves.

So, lovingly, tenderly, I wrapped a paper towel soaked in Windex around a wooden ruler, and used it to remotely reach in and clean the inner surfaces. There were a few corners that I couldn't reach with a ruler, so I loosened up one of the nuts holding the end pieces on. The end piece of the Art Deco Lucite Floor Lamp that Joyce loves. I heard a terrifying sound:


Now, when you're working on something so close to Joyce's heart, and something goes "dink", that is a grave sound indeed. In unscrewing the nut, I had loosened a metal bolt from the other side, and a little 6 inch shaft of metal had slipped out. I picked it up, and when I went to insert it, I noticed that the lucite holes did not line up as they had before. I turned the lamp on its other side for a closer look. A shower of small Lucite blocks fell on the floor. The horrifying clatter of course attracted the attention of my wife.

"What are you doing, there?" from the other room.

- gulp - "I noticed that there was a little dust inside your Lucite Lamp, so I'm just *dusting* it a bit, Honey."

Meanwhile, I loosened another nut, in hopes of lining up the first one, more of those clacking sounds, like the Wind Chimes of Satan, as the pieces fell all on the floor, much to the delight of Gondi the Evil Cat, who started batting the little pieces around the floor.

New approach. Take a deep breath.

I intentionally loosened all the nuts in the whole lamp, unscrewing everything that could be unscrewed. I loaded everything into a five-gallon bucket, and took them downstairs, because I could not work with my hands trembling so. There were close to two hundred pieces when I had finished.

I cleaned all the pieces with dishwasher liquid, and laid the pieces of the corpse out on the table: a very apprehensive moment indeed, while I waited for them to dry. I showed Karl and Fred, my so-called friends, and they both shook their heads and volunteered to be pallbearers when Joyce found out that I had murdered her lamp.

I let the pieces dry overnight, and the following day, I re-assembled them, skilled artisan that I am. With a sigh of relief, I screwed in a bulb and plugged the lamp in. Nothing went wrong. Nothing was missing. Nyah Nyah, Karl! In your face, Fred!

This was the luckiest day of the year. Of course, I told Joyce that I had disassembled the lamp on purpose, for maximum cleanage! How differently things could have come out. How my life could have been changed for want of a small single block of lucite!


Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Crazy Carousel of Time

Each of us is given the same amount of time. To get the most out of the small amount of time you have, sometimes planning and prioritization are required. Deadlines have to be met and time-consuming preparations for future deadlines must be accommodated. In the meantime, there are the demands of the moment, choices that must be made. Knowing how much time each thing you want to do is expected to take is the most important step in planning your time effectively. And there are things that can be overlapped.

There are times I can successfully keep multiple operations going all at once. For example, if there is a rehearsal going on in the theater, I'm cleaning the backstage area during the same time, since I've got to be there anyway, a video edit is rendering on one of my computers, and I'm taking incoming phone calls. Sometimes these individual and precious little pieces of time can be very tightly nested into a super-productive evening. And sometimes, they can come crashing down into an ugly shambles. Monopolistic phone calls are the worst culprits. Biting my tongue to keep from saying " a matter of fact, I really don't want to spend the next hour and five minutes listening to the details of your personal life. I have a personal life of my own."

(There are certain natural combinations of activities that work really well together, for instance, writing blog entries, and the "day job")

There are times when a conflict arises between the volume of stuff that needs to be done and the time allotted in which to do it. It is important sometimes to stay in time, to meet, for example a show deadline. When the lights go up, the stage set had better be finished, even if some of the paint is still tacky. Sometimes, to make all the puzzle pieces fit, more drastic measures have to be taken:

But then there is that aesthetic thing. If you compromise a job too much, people will notice. Too many jigsaw pieces with corners bashed off, and the overall puzzle picture will suffer. My friend Norman produces commercials for a Madison television station. He's constantly under pressure to meet impossible deadlines. He has a saying, and it's written on the wall of his office:

choose any TWO"

Thanks for listening and contributing. I wish I could tweet on the run like Lydia... I'm @dimbulb52

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moon Acre

I found this last night, while moving boxes around in the basement to build some more shelves. Yes, I own an acre of the moon. I bought it in 1972.

Wandering and wondering around Madison in the springtime of 1972, at the end of a year that left me spinning. My life had been permanently left its orbit and spun off in a strange direction, a direction which was not the direction everyone else had planned for me. Barry made me laugh, and he made me think, he ridiculed people who take themselves too seriously. So I bought a moon acre. And I've never regretted it.

A man in a silver space suit, Barry McArdle, was selling real estate on the moon. The moon. Why was a lunatic in a silver suit allowed to sell entire acres of the Moon for only one dollar per acre, and only one acre per customer? Barry answered the question himself: Why not me?

Thank you Barry. Although I may never get to walk on my moon acre personally, someday, somebody's gonna be walking on my acre of the Moon!

Barry wrote a book about his adventures on earth. I'm going to buy it.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Whirl and Spark

Remember these? They were made out of tin, and sold for fifteen cents or so at Woolworth's.

A plunger operated a gear mechanism that spun the wheel around. A flint like those used in cigarette lighters would spin against a piece of sandpaper on the wheel, causing sparks to radiate from the whirling circle. There were ports in the wheel, with red and blue light gels in them, to color the sparks as they came out. It was quite magical, especially in the dark. We used to like to take them in the clothes closet and shut the door so we could see them better in the daytime. I suppose Mother wouldn't want us making sparks in the closet for any extended period of time, but we got away with more, back then.

I remember the smell of them, a metallic ozone smell like nothing else on earth.

I'm reminded of all this by something I saw on the way to work. Those new LED light bars that the police are using remind me of those magic spinners. Every time I see them. I suppose if I saw them in my back mirror on the roadside, I might think differently. But maybe if I should ever be in such a situation, and mention it to the officer, it might make a difference. "Excuse me for interrupting, Officer, but did you know what those red and blue strobe lights on top of your car remind me of? .... " Maybe that would not be a good time to mention it, after all...

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Thursday, September 16, 2010


Here's some arithmetic for you, very round figures, you can do the exact ones if you want to research it yourself.

People in the United States: 200,000,000. Of these, only 100,000,000 pay taxes of zero or greater. So, every time the government spends a billion dollars, that's 1,000,000,000 divided by the 100,000,000 taxpayers, or TEN BUCKS EACH. Not much, until you think of how fast the Government can run through a Billion - what is it, 10 seconds or so?
Of course, if the government can't afford it - that is, if they can't shake us down IMMEDIATELY for the $10,000.00, they take out a loan from the Federal Reserve - a private bank, and then we each owe $10,000 each PLUS INTEREST. The spending never stops, and the increase in spending never stops, and, lately, the increase in the rate of increase hasn't stopped.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Obamanation - Imaginary Careers

They did it to us again! The Government has lied to us again, in order to re-brand its failure as success.

According to today's New York Post, ==LINK== election poll workers are being counted as new arrivals in the national work force. A poll worker who has served in this capacity for many years stated that this is the first year that they are required to be fully registered with the IRS, as if they were permanent workers, even though their "career" only consists of one day of training and one day of Election Day duty.

This is the same strategy that the government used last winter, when they counted the temporary census workers as part of the permanent work force.

Manipulating the statistics does not create jobs. Taxing and bleeding the employers and penalizing them for their success does not create jobs. Stripping workers of benefits by the Socialist Health Care mandate does not create jobs. What creates jobs is when people have confidence that they can control the money they have worked for.


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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hammer Man

We live in an old bank building, built in 1925. My wife (the designer) and I (cheap labor) have divided it into apartments upstairs and a concert/meeting hall downstairs. Sometimes it's fun to look beyond all the renovations at the parts of the building that haven't changed.
Many years ago, I was painting a hallway with frosted iron-frame windows, all very heavy-duty and unchanged since the time the building was built. An old tape machine keeps me company when I'm doing these manually intensive chores. Large coffee cans hold endless collections of cassette tapes. On this particular day, I was playing a collection of music from the mid-20s, by Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, and others. There was a strange resonance, the music sounded so poignant, as if the building was listening, too, remembering when it was first built. The Merchants and Mechanics Bank of Bay View was the place where Bay View workers took their hard-earned paychecks. They were a hard-working lot - many steel factories and foundries supported the area's workforce.

One of them remains on the front of our building - a blacksmith with his hammer and anvil commemorate the original purpose of the building. Although thousands of people pass by the building every day, when I point this guy out, most people say "I never knew that was there..."

Thanks for listening and contributing. All dm's answered promptly. @dimbulb52

Monday, September 13, 2010

Truth Doesn't Burn

God's Dumbass Hijacks 911 Remembrances

Muslims Destroy Synagogues; Burn Jewish Holy Books
Orthodox Jewish youths burn New Testaments in Or Yehuda

All in the name of God. WTF?

In my opinion, those who burn books have never read the books they burn.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free " - Jesus, quoted in one of the books that has been burned in his name.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'm @dimbulb52 on Twitter, and will respond to all direct messages, although I haven't had the time to visit with all those wonderful folks, of late...

Saturday, September 11, 2010





Emerge. And See

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, wish I had time to I'm @dimbulb52

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reverse Prosopagnosia

The strange things that wake you up at night.

Little Red Riding Hood. A strange little girl with a basket of goodies for her grandmother, encounters a wolf - a talking wolf at that - in the woods, and then she suffers a strange case of reverse-prosopagnosia.

The wolf, as you recall had preceded Red to Grandmother's house, and devoured the unfortunate beldam - swallowed the old biddy whole! But then things get really strange!

What was it that kept Red from recognizing her own grandmother? She wanted to believe that the person in Grandmother's house was indeed Grandmother. And then to take her "grandmother"'s word for it that the noted changes in Grandmother's features were actually improvements on the Grandmother she knew and loved. "The better to see you with, My Dear!" Indeed.

Perhaps Red was motivated by guilt, for not having visited her Grandmother as often as Grandmother would have liked. Perhaps her selfish life - indulging in cable TV and WI-FI while Grandmother is living in the fifteenth century on her wooded lot, which would be the site of Condos in the not too distant future. Was it her dereliction of grand-daughterly duty that kept Red from recognizing a wolf in her grandmother's bedroom?

Perhaps it was the memory of the wolf, a talking wolf at that, that she met in the woods - that set her off. Red was so subliminally shocked that everything and everyone after that looked like a talking wolf to her. And, when she arrived, why wouldn't she have mentioned the talking-wolf incident to the one she supposed was her grandmother? Nooo! As if nothing had happened, she reaches into her basket - "Grandma, I've got a bit of old cheese for you, and a jar of pickled pig's feet -- your favorite!"

And why would the wolf, with an entire grandmother flopping around in his guts, why would he still be hungry after all that?

I'll spare you the part about the axeman coming in and disemboweling the wolf....

The whole thing doesn't wash. I'm sorry, I don't believe any of it.

thanks to for the illustration.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Voices

This summer I was lucky enough to meet up with Trefor Williams, who is the driving force behind the Milwaukee Metropolitan Voices, a 26-voice choir made up of music enthusiasts of all types and all ages. This group is devoted to excellence in whatever music they undertake. Broadway shows, operas, and popular music all provide inspiration for the dynamic performances delivered by this group.

Graciously, they offered a performance at the dedication of Joyce Skylight Court, our latest rehabilitation project. Joyce Skylight Court is a four-unit commercial rental unit with a spacious indoor common area and an outdoor courtyard area, where the concert you see below was filmed.

Here's a promo video we are distributing for the upcoming show. Feel free to share the video and attend the show.

And Trefor Williams is the most easy-going and completely insane soul to work with in setting up the shows. It was a pleasure, Trevor - we're all a bit crazy when it comes to music. More on Milwaukee Metropolitan Voices at

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Friday, September 3, 2010

The First Song

Here's a video I never thought would be made. My wife decided in 2003 (she's the one that likes to play Monopoly with real houses) that we were going to buy a run-down multi-use building (wish I could be more specific... most of the things I have called it over the years are unprintable).

After seven years of hauling, demolition, building inspectors, enviro cleanup, scrap contractors, excavation, construction, building inspectors, reconstruction, building inspectors, contractors, architects, plumbers, building inspectors, electricians, building inspectors, masonry contractors, and a few who were just plain idiots, including building inspectors, on August 18, 2010 we threw ourselves over the finish line, and hosted a dedication concert for the new facility.

Along the way, we made a few friends, met a lot of schnooks, spent a lot of money and time, and the neighborhood for the most part loves the upgrade of their block.

Over the next few weeks I hope to feature more before/after photos - it is quite remarkable what Joyce has done to create this marvelous facility. But, for now, since music is just about the only thing of enduring importance in our lives, here is a 2-minute video of the first song that was sung in the Joyce Skylight Court. Thanks to Trefor Williams and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Voices.

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trim the Old Man's Toenails

Every night when Syd (a REAL cat) and I are trying to get some sleep, we here this constant "tap-tap-tap-tap" "tap-tap-tap-tap". Gondi the Useless. Gondi the Suckup. Mama fell asleep on the sofa, and Gondi got bored, so Gondi came to circle around the bed like a poltergeist.

Gondi has never read Robert Frost -That cats should "be silent like a snowfall", or some damn thing, here's the quote -- I'll Google it . . . . ok I was wrong, it's Carl Sandburg, and it's Fog, not snow. (I'm not as perfect as I imagine myself):

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Well, Gondi doesn't sit there looking over harbor and city. He paces frantically back and forth. and he's an Old Old cat, and his claws stick out too much, so when he gets on the laminate floor, it's definitely not a "silent haunch" moment - it's more of a 'Fred Astaire on mixed medications' sort of sound - he goes "tap-tap-tap-tap" an uneven spastic sound that wakes up Syd, and Syd wakes me up. "Gary, he's at it again" We'd just like to take the useless old cat and put him out on the back porch, but Mama would surely put both of us out on the back porch permanently if she caught us doing that to her "iddle boy". So, we endure, Syd and I, and eventually the aging neurotic sissy gets tired and goes back to the sofa, where he belongs.

And, yesterday, it was decided to give the bony old rattletrap a manicure, pedicure, claw-acure, whatever the devil it's called. And Steffie, Joyce's friend, was standing by to take pictures with her cell phone of the Blessed Event.

Ah, "Sleep in Heavenly Peeeyeeece!" At Last! Good Night!

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"They" say . . . the Science of Hot Weather

"They" say: it isn't the heat, it's the humidity. I don't know about you readers (and you three know who you are....) but for me, "They" are wrong - it's the heat. When it's hot, I'll do what I have to do, but I do it so much more *s l o w l y*. There's a certain outdoor temperature, typically in the mid-80s, above which all ambition simply ceases. I will do only what I have to do. In scientific terms, this is known as the "DO" point.

And I can safely say that I get everything done that I want to do, as well. The trick to getting done everything you want to get done is simple:

want less

Lower your expectations. So, when I want to do nothing because it's so @$% hot, well... nothing's exactly what I set out to do, and by golly I git 'er done, too.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Angels Among Us

I offer the above photograph as proof positive that actual angels walk the earth. Real angelic beings -- quietly going about their angelic business, doing good with an occasional mischievous twinkle in their eye.


The question hung in the air. If the Mrs. didn't get the answer she wanted, there was going to be scolding...

"... I distinctly remember putting that loaf of rye bread in the cart, Luv. Beefsteak rye, the kind you like, with those obnoxious caraway seeds in it.... well, maybe I'm thinking of last week..."

"I unpacked the groceries myself, and there was no bread in there. And you forgot the garlic powder too. You're such a schleppoch sometimes..."

"Recall, dear, I had to do the shopping very very early in the morning, because this is the Saturday I had to go in to work. "

"Well, you always have enough time to chat up the grocery store ladies... Was Jan there? With all the other old farts lined up in her lane to wish her good morning??? And who's that other one, the one who packs the bags -- Sherri?"

"I'll look in the car, maybe it fell out of the bag." ... That week I had to go to the bakery for some rye bread.

Another Saturday, another grocery run. When I checked out, Jan accosted me: "Did you eat a lot of bananas this week?" Such a strange question, I was momentarily speechless while she reached into the bottom of her register drawer, and brought out a small white register tape with a short grocery list on it:
  • Beef Steak Rye
  • El Rey Garlic Powder
  • 8 oz Whole Mushrooms
  • 5 Bananas
I had left an entire bag of groceries sitting on the counter the previous week! And Jan and Sherri had taken the time to write down everything in the bag on a register tape, so I could retrieve it the next time I came in. So, I took Jan's list, and went on a mini-shopping trip to retrieve the forgotten items. It was very moving that anybody would take the time to do such a kindness for me.

Of course, now every time either one of them sees me at the grocery store, they're sure to remind me "Be sure you don't leave your groceries lying around after you pay for them, Gary!" Never will I live that one down. But I love them both. Really. Angels walk the earth. Look carefully, and you may meet one today.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bill is Gone

It's a sad day. My friend - everybody's friend -- Bill Pokel - died suddenly yesterday.

He was an elementary school principal in a central Wisconsin town. I met him in college, through my buddy Norman. He was a nut case like the rest of us - never taking life too seriously, and yet that was the most serious part of it all. Through mirth and mayhem he helped the University of Wisconsin Marching band maintain its reputation for wild fun.

Bill once traveled down to Milwaukee to see a play I had written. He starred in many community productions in his own area, and so it was quite an honor to have him attend one of ours.

And as an educator, he wanted all the students within his reach to share in the joyous transformation that can be worked upon the world through the arts.

Bill's final lesson - appreciate people while you have them with you.

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just What You Need

Over the past few years, I have been working on the development of a commercial rental rehab which creates new commercial spaces in the form of an indoor mini-mall. The building is wedged in between two non-perpendicular streets, and has a very odd shape. It makes for interesting shaped units, but now the project is to map them out for prospective tenants. They all ask for detailed dimensions of the units.

I have made many attempts at the floorplan project, trying everything from drawing programs to spreadsheets. The space defies drawing with its non-perpendicular angles and non-rectangular shapes. And to draw it to scale is a project that even had the architect scratching his head and coming back to re-measure. So, when I found a program that will solve my problems effortlessly, I've become a walking info-mercial. A program called Easy Blue Print is specifically designed to make floor plans.

With Easy Blue Print, the project was actually fun! I did my main project over the course of three weeks, a half-hour here and fifteen minutes there before I left for work in the morning. Menus and functions are intuitive - this program was designed by people who make floor plans, and know how important it is to get the job done fast and accurately.

Trial version -

Here is a program that not only draws to scale - it is particularly designed to draw real walls with real doors. The walls have thickness, and the inside/outside corner thing that just drives me crazy is taken care of automatically. The true door radius (opened and closed) is taken into account whenever a door is drawn. You tell the program that you're working with inside dimensions of the room, and that's what the program will base its calculations on. And you can "tweak" the drawings if your measurements were not quite on the right scale of precision. If you "move" a wall, everything attached to it will miraculously re-size to accommodate.

There is an on-screen help feature that KNOWS what you're trying to do, and can show you a small animated video of how to do the most complex operations. And if that isn't enough, the professional version comes with the full attention of the development and support team. I ran into a few difficulties, and within half a day of submitting a question, I received a personal email response from a tech services professional.

One note about the demo version - it is lacking some of the capabilities of the full version, but TRUST ME - the Professional version gives you EVERYTHING you're wishing for while working with the demo version - and much more.

Thanks to the folks at Easy Blue Print I have created a set of detailed drawings in an image-map presentation for our web site. BEHOLD!
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Chef Food Waster

Another summer, another season of Foul-Mouth Food Waster, Gordon Ramsey. For those of you not familiar with his program, Hell's Kitchen is a competitive cooking show that seems to come around every summer, just as we thought it was gone for good. My wife makes me watch it - she claims it is her interest in cooking that attracts her. But Hell's Kitchen has little to do with fine cooking technique, and less to do with entertainment.

Hell's Kitchen follows the familiar tiresome format of turning something enjoyable into a competitive cutthroat alpha-male sport. Chef Ramsey pits the competitors against one another in various fine-dining restaurant situations. The contestants are filmed night and day as they compete, backstab, and whine their way screaming through dinner service to elimination. Contestants are chosen for maximum confrontational value, and they are eliminated or spared from elimination based on their ability to sell Toyotas and I-phones for the sponsors.

It is sickening to watch Chef Ramsey on the rampage picking food off of a plate and smashing it down on the counter, scattering it everywhere just to emphasize a foul-mouth screaming point for the audience at home. More food goes into the wastebasket every show than an average family eats in a month. How many times does the "F#$%ing Risotto" have to go into the garbage?

The well-heeled cosmopolites in the trendy urban neighborhoods in which the "competition" is staged wouldn't care if the food at which they turned up their noses is thrown away and wasted. The best for them, and to hell with the rest! If the meat is slightly over-done, or not tender enough, THROW IT AWAY!

I was brought up never to waste food. If all the food is not used, we save it for tomorrow. Meat juices become gravy, leftovers become casseroles - because food is a blessing that is not bestowed on everyone equally.

Half of the food produced in the USA is thrown away - not eaten. And yet, there are those who go hungry.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ancient Mariners

Having conquered and established dominion over the Watertown Municipal Swimming Pool, by daily attendance, and successfully doing cannonballs off the High Dive, Young Gary and his life-long friend Young Norman looked for other seas to conquer. One of them said to the other - "Let us build a sailing ship that shall navigate Silver Creek, and the mighty Rock River!" So, off to father's workshop, they crafted a worthy vessel out of a piece of board, sawed to a point at the front, and a mast made from a clothes rack dowel, with a Viking sail cut from a red t-shirt and some lath-boards. Without a rudder at first, and in later designs improved with a rudder, they nailed a ball of kite-twine to the front end and the magnificent craft set sail! A good portion of the rest of summer was spent exploring. Exploring the various mysterious and dangerous riverbanks of Watertown, Silver Creek, the 4th Street Bridge, Riverside Park, and even Rock River Above the Power Dam (which ran past Norman's back yard).

To have it all and realize it at the time - that's true happiness.


From the film: "Tom Sawyer" aka "A Musical Adaptation of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer" - 1973
(Robert B. Sherman / Richard M. Sherman)
Charley Pride & Chorus

Chorus Singing:

Oh, a river's gonna flow
'Cross the land
'Cross the land
Oh, a river's gonna flow
To the sea
And a boy is gonna grow
To a man
To a man
Only once in his life
Is he free
Only one golden time
In his life
Is he free

Charley Pride:
River runs warm in the summer sun
River runs cold when the summer's done
But a boy's just a dreamer
By the riverside
'Cause the water's too fast
And the water's too wide

Then the world turns around,
And the boy grows tall
He hears the song
Of the river call
The river song sings,
"Travel on, Travel on"
You blink away a tear,
And the boy is gone

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Illegal Memories

I have never been a cigarette smoker. I was a pipe and cigar smoker at various times of my life. Once I was curious about cigarettes, so I bought a pack. They tasted nothing like they smelled - they tasted kind of dirty, compared to pipe smoke. So I decided to leave the cigarette smoking to the cigarette smokers. I did not decide to ostracize and persecute those around me who enjoyed smoking. I tolerated them, and that's how liberty works.

I've always liked the smell of a burning cigarette, though. It's the smell of someone enjoying a singular bit of pleasure and relaxation. My mother used to smoke when we were children, and someone burning a cigarette early in the morning can still bring back memories of being the first one up, and having Mom all to myself.

Whenever I want to evoke the memory and spirit of my grandfather, I have only to find and ignite a White Owl Ranger. (for those who dwell in caves, the White Owl Ranger is a Cheap Cigar). For days afterward, I can live in the blue haze in which my grandfather dwelt.

And the mysterious smell of a tavern in the morning with its mixture of cold musty basement air with hints of stale beer and thousands of cigarettes burned away -- maybe it's not a part of everyone's life, but it's a part of mine.

My first trip to Las Vegas was such an eye-opening experience. Just walking into an old casino and taking in the hazy blue air, the years fell away. I realized at that moment that something precious had been taken away from me, and it had been taken so gradually that I hadn't even noticed its departure. There's still a little liberty left out there in Vegas. Places where people can indulge themselves, without fear that the Nanny Police will indulge their little quirks by stomping out the pleasures of others.

Society is dominated by cowardly bullies - "I don't like it, so you can't have it!" seems to be the rule of the day, and - one by one - these cranky paltry prissy pet peeves are coming to the forefront. Each time they make an advance, another precious liberty is eroded away, a freedom gone forever.

So this week, it's the Wisconsin smoking ban going into effect in all "workplaces" of the state. You want details? Google it! Tonight I think I'm going to enjoy a hot summer night of watching the traffic go by in front of my building with an old cigar I've been saving for just such an occasion. While I still can.

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