Thursday, April 28, 2011


Sometimes someone does something courageous and good for you and you don't realize what it is they've done until much later.  And sometimes you don't even get the chance to thank them; sometimes it's too late. Sometimes it's over 40 years before you realize it at all....

Herbert Richter was one of my favorite grade-school teachers.  He taught 8th grade at St. John's Elementary School, and he was the principal.  After grade school, he initiated me into the mysteries of the St. John's Church Organ.  And in 1966, he was our math teacher.   The New Math had been taught us since the 6th grade. We all knew what subsets were, how to describe a Venn diagram, and other pre-high-school algebra skills, variables, and the like.  Statistical skills and talents were developed that made us feel very smart and superior to our parents, because the ostentatious terminology sounded very learned. The parents were just adders and memorizers, not real mathemetical geniuses like ourselves.

But one day, Mr. Richter passed out what he called "the Webster".  It was an old blue "retired" arithmetic text, either authored by someone named Webster, or published by Merriam-Webster; I've forgotten which.  The Websters could not be taken out of the classroom - they were never to be taken home.  Thinking back now, I believe that Mr. Richter went out on a limb to teach us arithmetic from the old books, and he was counting on us to "keep a low profile" about what we were studying.  In all probability, he was going counter to the school board and the "progressive" things the faculty learned at teachers' conventions. Mr. Richter was taking a career risk to teach us from these books.  .

And what were the arcane teachings contained in the Webster, that three years of New Math did not teach us?  Mysteries, witchcraft and voodoo in the numbers!  Converting fractions to percentages using long division.  Compound interest.  Rates and ratios, weight and measurement conversions and tolerances.  Discounts, accounting, multiplication by tables.  And by learning these applied concepts, reviewing by relentless application of the basic add/subtract/multiply/divide skills that we had learned in the first five grades.

When we got to high school, the educators said about us that we were behind in basic algebraic skills.  Still, we caught up, and when the final grades were added up, many of us from St. John's were close to the top of the class.  And, we possessed some skills that could only have been obtained by having been in Mr. Richter's class.      

Thanks for taking the chance on us, Mr. Richter!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

April in Wisconsin

OK, then.  There are some of our readers who are displaying photos of their flowerbeds.  Beautiful Clymenestra, Amarylis, and Roses.   To these readers I warn that the following photos may be shocking, so grab a Mint Julep (or a Lone Star) before looking any further.

I was so inspired to hear from my friends that the earth was once again in bloom.  I couldn't wait to get up this morning, and fill my lungs with the fresh dew-moistened blossom-scented air of Spring At Last!  I threw open the front door this morning to get the paper, stepped out into the silvery dawn, and saw: 

I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm
I’m as jumpy as puppet on a string
I’d say that I had spring fever
But I know it isn’t spring 
--- Rodgers and Hammerstein

Little Darlin - It's Been a Long Cold Lonely Winter -- the Beatles

balloonMan       whistles
e.e. cummings
April 18, 2011

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Thousand @$%$ Points of Light

In the last two weeks before the opening of Joyce's store, I received a new work order.  The Lady of the House declared that it would be Just Beautiful if we could have her mother's chandelier in the new store.  And, before you can say "Yes, Dear!" I was heading down into the basement vault, to retrieve it.  Although it had been 12 years, my remarkable archiving system was able to turn up the box within 30 seconds.  
That was the easy part.  The next step was to clean it.  It was brass with little chains of crystally marble sparkly things.  Hundreds of the little buggers, and all with a coating of dust.  This was not going to be a problem solved with a spritz of Windex, oh, no.

 So, I suspended it from one of the garment racks, and began to dismantle it.  A flood of jarring memories of the Night of the Lucite Lamp haunted my every destructive move.  The angels shouted "No! You'll never get that back together again"   But, doggedly, I persevered, and eventually achieved total disassembly.    There are so many little pieces... so many....
The "bones" looked like brass tarantulas crawling up the chains.  The brass parts cleaned up fairly easily with lots of Windex, and a few paper towels.
But, then there were those "Thousand Points of Light".  All off those little hangy thingies were very delicate, and couldn't just be wiped off.  I soaked them in a very strong hand-destroying solution of distilled vinegar and ammonia with warm water, and let the little things dry on a fluffy pink terry towel.

Once the little glass buggers were dry, I had to re-hook each one individually back on to the tarantula family. I was a bit late for supper, but.......
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Just Because They're Your Friends

It was the grand opening of ALANA my wife's women's apparel shop.  Besides validating her confidence in the clothing items she had chosen, the Grand Opening also showed us how important good friends are.  Many people came to the celebration not for the clothing, but as a gesture of friendship. 
Here's Hendy (coming in with Bette) just to say "hi".  Bette donated a one-hour performance of old favorite songs, and Hendy sang a few numbers of his own
and Karl, a retired engineer from, guess where . . .  He enjoyed the music and a hot juicy cup of coffee.  Karl presided over our concert series, a few weeks back, while we attended the wholesale market in Chicago.  And, he fed the cats!  He's got Syd's vote...
A L is a musician with multiple bands in the Milwaukee area.  He and Kathy dropped in to see how things were going.  Kathy had a look around the store, but A L went out front, where Winston was waiting.
Winston wanted to come over and wish Joyce a good start with her business. He barked in the door but didn't want to come in.
Good friends make good things possible.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bay View Graffiti April 12, 2011

Today's post is a message from all the Bay View businesses who were visited by the pathetic gang-banger wannabe, the sad little hip-hopper wannabe, and the third little mouth-breathing loser who went cruising through Kinnickinnic Ave neighborhoods at 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning April 12 with their little paint cans defiling business property as they sauntered along the avenue.  

We saw the movie from the security cameras, and we're not frightened, we're just annoyed.  Hope they catch your sorry asses.  Here are some photos that may help:  

C'mon, Bay View, let's turn these hood shots into mug-shots!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alana - The Grandest of Openings

It's all kinda a blur - it went so smoothly, the time just evaporated before our eyes.  We planned our Grand Opening celebration for Joyce's new store in grandest style, and the attendance and positive support were phenomenal.  Models and music and food and fun.  More on the clothes at Joyce's department -  We're going to try to feature something every day, so keep checking it.  If you subscribe to Joyce's posts on Facebook, the daily entries are echoed there as well.  There are still some technical issues with duplicate posts. Patience please.
There were a few things that didn't get done - we had no phone line for credit card processing or talking to the outside world.  And a certain Demon Valve was not working - parts did not arrive in time ....

Joyce's friend Greg from Wild Flour Bakery gave us a wonderful assortment of cookies, muffins, and Danish rolls.  And at two o'clock on Sunday, April 10, 2011,  two days before Joyce's birthday, it began with music:

Bette Larson started off the entertainment in the common atrium with her sophisticated piano and vocal sparkle.   That's her friend Jim Henderson in the safari helmet.  He did a few vaudeville numbers with Bette, to the delight of the ever-growing audience.

Nathan Qi, who has been doing recitals at our studio at the age of 8, performed selections by Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven.  It is amazing - this was his first concert on an electronic keyboard, and he was superb.
And our dear friend Jude Kinnear serenaded us for an hour.  Cutting-edge original pieces delivered with an intimacy that sounds like it's coming from inside your own head.  And she re-discovers classics - from the Monkees to the Moody Blues, she brings new aspects to familiar old pieces.  And my favorite - her heart-rending version of Baby It's You!

Then, of course, there were the in-store activities, which only Joyce could preside over.  Men kind of avoided that part of the Skylight Court. "You just go look, Honey - I'll stay out here and listen to the music and have a cookie."   Yes, it was a veritable feeding frenzy in there - not for the timid.
And the models had fun with Joyce's fashion discoveries:

Winston the Dog barked in the front door, but he didn't come inside.  Thanks for coming, Winston. He went for a walk with A.L., his Dad, while Momma shopped.
More reports on the Grand Opening in weeks to come - we've got so many fond memories, photos, and videos to share.  I know Alana will be a big success.  Thank you, Joyce, for bringing all the good times to life

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chicago -- Our Way

Ah,--April! A week before our Grand Opening.  So, since we have no idea what we're going to sell this spring, because we're barely open, what else to do, but go to Wholesale Market, and pick out the Fall Fashions.  That's how far ahead we have to plan, because that's when the orders must be placed.

But, wait!  This is one of our weekends.  What better way to prepare for a frantic weekend of choosing from among the 4000 vendors, making crucial decisions, only a week before the store opens. After a week of waxing floors, installing fixtures, and a certain Demon Valve, it's time to switch gears.

One must be prepared.  So, I headed for --- ta DAAA!   My workshop -- of course to round up my plumbing tools, because one of the !!#$@ toilets started leaking all over the place and had to be taken apart.  So instead of getting all the notes and contacts and computers in order, I was up to my elbows in Home Improvement.  I suppose I should be happy it didn't happen in the morning...

But at last, we fell over from exhaustion, and woke up the next morning for our transport to the train station in Chicago - Union Station.
 And then, two frantic days of talking to old vendors, meeting new ones, looking at what is new for Fall, as opposed to something the vendor was just trying to pawn off on us.  It looks a lot like shopping, but everything has part numbers, delivery terms, and order constraints.. 
 He looks a little dazed by the second morning.
 As opposed to being energized  by the whole thing
A very well-done fashion show after breakfast.
And finally, home.  Fall over, Rinse, Repeat.....

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Alana - One Week Away!

In just a week, we'll be opening Joyce's new store.  They applied the sign to the windows this week:

Joyce is busy at arranging, pricing, unpacking shipments, and planning the Grand Opening reception.

Here's Dave the Sign Guy.  He's always got the state-of-the art technology at his fingertips.  Even when on vacation, he's checking up on the hi-tech advertising display systems in places like Vegas.  He does all our signs.  We have an electronic marquee, many metal litho-like signs, and the main facade of the Joyce Skylight Court -- All by Dave at Signarama.

And me, I've got half the parts for replacing the Demon Valve - still waiting for the circuit board, and hope it comes in time.  And cleaning, waxing floors, moving furniture, assembling, window washing, installing phone jacks, and trying to set up the computer stuff, credit card processing - keeping out of trouble.

I've started a page on Facebook for "Alana Women's Apparel". I'm new to Facebook, and, apparently, in order for the page to achieve super-powers, it must have at least 25 "Like" votes. Nothing personal, but if anybody who reads this has a Facebook account, could you please click over to the Alana Women's Apparel page and "Like" it? 

Also, check out the new blog -  Joyce hopes to post new arrivals, fashion coordination tips, and reminiscences of the modeling industry.

The New Face on KK - It's a whole new adventure!