Tuesday, September 9, 2014

a low voice in the basement

Adventures in Building Management, Part LXVIII

Last Saturday. A memorable day, but not in a good way.  The phone line was not working. I was verifying the connection, because no phone company kid under the age of 70 could understand the old Bell System cable bundles that deliver the Internet and Phone service in our 1925 bank building.  There are numerous logical breaches, undocumented splices which undermine the original Bell Telephone order of things - a blue wire goes into a wall, for example, and emerges red with white stripes.  So, I was crawling around on the floor of my office like the serpent, trying to make sense of it all through the copper boiler pipes, other cables, holes in the walls, lighting, sound, and other studio cables.  It's like trying to trace a single thread of linguini through the Alfredo sauce. 

All together, now:  What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

In squeezing behind the console, I jostled an already-stressed wooden shelf system, and now it began a low, relentless, painful groan.  Wrenching myself out from under the console, I stood up just in time to see an entire 6 ft section of shelving weaving over, starting to lean into its final descent - a kamikaze dive to oblivion.  It's all my equipment!  My babies!  Two ancient 75 lb. reel-to-reel tape decks, an amplifier, cassette drives, and a vintage pre-amp.  I managed to swing the shelf upright again, but as soon as I let go, gravity had its way, and my moral support was the only thing keeping my beloved tape decks from crashing themselves into sad little heaps of irreparable scrap metal.  I frantically one-handedly disconnected all the power and audio cords in anticipation of rescue.  I wedged a ceramic tile shim into the shelf. First one deck and then the other. After the weight was alleviated, I left the shelf on its own, and great was the fall of it

And that probably contributed to why the phones were sounding so weird that day.

The phone rang - it's one of those modern beige table models with a lucite rotary dial.  A voice came through the crackling, a lady's high voice with a heavy foreign accent. All I could make out was:
"I have a low voice in the basement".
I thought it was a telemarketer, but although I couldn't understand what she was talking about, this lady knew too much to be a telemarketer.  So I didn't hang up.  
"Is this Gaddy, maddy to Joss Barka?"
Well, yes, I'll admit that was close enough for me: Gary married Joyce. 
"There's a low voice in the basement."   
So, I shout through the static  "Who is this really?
 " the Petting Saloon" 
"The WHAT?"
"The Petting Saloon, not Chinese restaurant, but the next store after on the end"
"Oh, the Eyebrow Studio!"  I don't see what's a Petting Saloon, whatever that is. Jani is OK at English, really, but with the crackling phone lines, she sounded like an entirely different person.  We got down to the problem at hand:
"A low voice in the basement". 
OK.  ENOUGH ALREADY! This I gotta see. Who ya gonna call?  Voice Busters!
"I'll be right over".  
I entered the heavily-incensed salon. Jani pointed calmly to the basement stairs. "There."
As I descended the stairs, I could indeed hear the low voice - an eerie groaning, much like the leaning shelf I had just left. The sound modulated and ululated - as if someone is working in the next room with a floor sander.  But there was no next room in the basement, and no floors to sand. The noise was emanating from the water pipes, and the low voice was vibrating the whole building. And with nobody using any water, how was this possible?  I finally traced it to a Chicago faucet with a failing washer - the miniscule water leakage slipping through the washers was enough to set up a resonance. Shut off the water supply valve to the sink, and the small voice was stilled.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Tale of the Desert

A tale of 1001 nights.  Somewhere in the vast Arabian desert.

The travelers were crossing the vast desert.  After laboriously laborng through the shifting burning sands in the dazzling sun all day, they found that they had not reached their destination. They had taken the wrong way, and were lost.  The moonless night was an inky black and silent, and the lost travelers, their water supply exhausted, sat down to rest, dreading the coming of the dawn of what would surely be their last day on earth.

"I can take you where you wish to go"  The voice of a stranger startled them from their weary reverie. A mysterious slender figure in a robe the color of the sand had suddenly appeared before them.

"Follow Me" the new guide ordered in a soft voice like the falling of sand through the fingers. Still stunned from the weary trek of the day, the travelers stood up, and followed him.  The night was so dark, the guide's robe was barely visible to them. The followed closely, lest they lose him. The desert was eerily silent. The party came to a small hidden oasis.  Water issued from a small heap of rocks.

"Drink", the guide commanded.The travelers drank gratefully, and fully of the black waters.

Their thirst satisfied, they all sat in the darkness, resting.

"Now, I bid you,

fill your pockets with the rocks of this spring. As many as you can carry - take them with you.  My promise to you: In the morning you will be both joyful and sorrowful."  The travelers did as they were bid, filling the pockets of their garments, and their travel sacks, with the smooth stones.  The group resumed the desert journey, following the guide, afraid that he would disappear and leave them in darkness.

The stones were very heavy. Some of the travelers grew weary, and could no longer carry the stones. They slipped some rocks out of their pockets, and cast the rocks aside, leaving the stones behind along the way.

Finally, the party reached the edge of the desert in a familiar place, with no idea how they had ever made it through the desert night.  When they travelers turned to thank their guide for deliverance, he had vanished.

Weary, the travelers made camp, and slept deeply and peacefully until morning.  Awakening in the dawn of grace, they looked around them.  As they looked in their pockets and sacks, they were indeed both joyful and sorrowful. For the rocks that they had blindly filled their pockets with in the darkness were in reality nuggets of purest gold.  Joyful at the beautiful treasure they had acquired, and sorrowful that so much, so very much,  had been left behind along the way.

And, so it is with me, and my Flowering Cacti.  When I planted the seeds, at first they would not come up, and then when they did finally germinate, they grew into little furry-leafed weed-looking things. And then yesterday, they started to bloom - beautiful delicate yellow flowers. Now I wish I had planted more of them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

goodbye eleanor

Norm and I have been friends since the first day of first grade. August.  School out. Almost every day, we'd go swimming.  And sometimes we'd go all the way to one another's houses.  Norm lived on a six-acre mini-farm on the Rock River.  I had a large family (5 kids), but Norm had an even larger family (5 kids, uncle, and some grandparents, numerous cats and chickens).

Norm's family lived in a two-story farmhouse in which every square inch of space was utilized. There was so much always going on at Norm's place.  Much of Norm's family's subsistence was self-generated. There were gardens, berry bushes, apple trees, chickens, and lots of work to do. The kids were expected to help out with the family survival.  They all pitched in on the weeding, vegetable processing, gathering eggs, and canning.

But, when the chores were done, in all fairness, the kids were free to, well, to be kids.  Doing what kids would do given the endless frontier of a six-acre plot full of buildings there was a hatchery, chicken coops, sheds, cats, fishing worms, and mysterious piles of things. We'd invent things, build things, pull nails from old boards in a fallen-down shed, explore along the river, go fishing.  Once we built a wooden sailboat, and sent it out.

Besides his main job, Norm's father had various part-time jobs he did for people, sometimes for barter. He had been a cook in the Army. So he knew a lot about bulk foods, and how to make meals for hungry masses.   I remember once he came home with a covered pail full of freshly-squeezed milk, cream floating on top.

And Eleanor made sense of it all.  I called her Mrs. L---, Norm called her Mom.

Eleanor would oversee everything to do with the home. With the daily melange coming in to her pantry, she made every meal into a feast.  Green beans, fresh tomatoes, huge chunks of baloney, blocks of cheese, buckets of milk, freshly caught fish, fresh eggs, chickens.  She baked bread - her bread was out-of-this-world good, and would hold its own even in the 21st century where "everybody's a gourmet chef". And her cookies - "Now THAT'S a cookie!"  "Have another one!" You never left her table hungry.

Eleanor Lorenz (1920-2014)
The kids in Norm's family were brought up right, with strong work ethic, and valuable skills, aptitudes, and an attitude of cooperation. Together they made it all work.

In the late 1960s the upbringing was put to the test when the farmhouse was almost destroyed by fire. The brothers pitched right in and re-built the farmhouse, better than ever.  Two of the brothers went on to become building contractors. The sisters became teachers. Norm became a TV producer in Madison.
Me, Norm's sister Pauline, and Norm
serenading at the skilled-care center - 2003
The family, now grown, stayed very close, and would come together for the numerous family rites of passage, marriages, children, baptisms confirmations, graduations.  And when Norman's mother and father could no longer keep up the place, the kids were right there to aid the passage to a new life, retirement community, and finally, a nursing home.  Norm's mother became one of the most remarkable patients at Marquardt Manor in Watertown, and the staff all loved her.  Even when she could no longer talk, she communicated goodwill to the staff and family.

Eleanor always liked music. Church music, secular music.  Back in the farmhouse days, they'd gather around the piano. She loved it when Norm sang "You Load 16 Tons" for her. And "Mairzy Doats". The family would gather in her room in Skilled Care and sing for her.  Even when she couldn't give voice to her feelings, you could always tell she appreciated the music, because she was tapping her toe in time. The family gathered in her room over the past few weeks, as they always have, they sang together, they held her hand. Now, Eleanor has left us. But in some ways, she will never leave us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The People on the Bus

The Pittsburgh Ave turnoff, part of the 15 route.
I've been off of work a few days this week - between assignments. The special project ended early, and it's too early to start filling in for vacationers. The special project ended early partly because we are such an awesome team - worked myself out of a job... but i'm catching up on the Project O' the Day at home. I've been installing light fixtures, cleaning up the studio, I've got a ceiling fan to install (I hate ceiling fans - you get close enough to adjust them and WHAP you get it on the side of the head.)

In my travels this morning, my old familiar 7am Number 15 bus passed the corner exactly on the 41st ring of the Immaculate Conception church bell, as always.  Why does God have to ring the church bell 41 times every morning at 7 o clock? Although I've had some pretty nasty bus rides on the way home, the ride downtown in the morning is usually very pleasant, and the same people get on and sit in the same places every day. We don't talk much, but if we meet in the course of the day downtown, we exchange a look of "Hey, aren't you, you know, from the 15 bus in the morning, yeah, that guy who sits in the bench across from me in the back?"

Real life characters like the Expectorator - He gets on the bus at the same stop that I do.  He works for some logistics company headquartered Downtown.   Explaining that he has sinus problems that medical science cannot remediate, while we're waiting, he proceeds to cover the entire bus stop area with loogies.To his credit, he doesn't do this on the bus.  Wipe your feet, everybody.

And the Engineer. The engineer always sits in the same spot, right behind the side door.  He always has his nose in a very technical looking manual, different manual every day, but it's always pages of very technical diagrams and tables. He's probably the one they come to when one of the big machines starts going "Pocket-a-pocket-a" 

The Packer Guy - He Dresses in Green and Gold year round, and makes me wonder whatever happened to Jeff Kaufman, a guy I went to grade school with. It's not him - Hey Jeff, where the #$%# are you nowadays?  Packer Guy will cheerfully engage anyone in conversation about the Green Bay Packers. There's always something new in Packer Land.

Madame Librarian. She wears a skirt just below her knees, thick glasses, and very heavy looking boots. She sits oblivious to her surroundings constantly reading a different book every day.

Tall skinny young guy,  lanky, big thick glasses, usually wearing horizontal stripes, and a scarf in winter - Tell them the search is over - we've found Waldo.

Garlic Man - 'nuff said. We feel your presence, Dude.

Der Kommisar - He never speaks, he never smiles.  Tall, wearing a beret. He strides purposefully, with a sense of divine right to his seat, sits down, pulls out a tablet computer and with a regal flourish gestures the computer to do his bidding.

The Snow Queen - This is a case of extreme body language. This woman seems to know me, and makes a point of ignoring me.  I come in all full of  "Good morning" to the bus driver, with nods to some of the other regular passengers, but even this slight bit of camaraderie, though not directed at her, causes her stiffen in her seat, and her head snaps over to look out the window. I have never spoken to her. She works in my building, but always uses the elevator to the upper floors. In her 50s, meticulously well-dressed, straight blond medium length hair combed into frightening symmetrical regularity. At the bus stop, she stands on the line of the curb, staring straight ahead. I guess she's just shut herself off from all of us, it's not directed at me particularly. Hello, in there!

And, as I'm writing this, the agency called, asking if I can start working again, day after tomorrow.  Here we go again!

Monday, July 28, 2014

puppy biscuit

I got there early - the perfect start to the day. Made some coffee and headed out to the courtyard area in back of the store. The morning sun filtered through the verdant green of the asparagus ferns. Outside in the fresh morning dew, the ferns and kalanchoes were doing just great after their recent re-potting. The marigolds have
recovered from their recent battle with rabbits who thought it was the breakfast buffet.  It's been a traumatic season for the white marigolds; their first week out, they were dug out and cast aside by a squirrel who thought there was a damn nut down in the pot. Squirrels are evil vermin, and Syd (the wonder cat) spends a good deal of his day looking out of the window, just hating them. 

And, then there are the "flowering cacti". Regular readers of Excelsior recall that last Winter, I purchased a packet of "flowering cactus" seeds from Amazon, and finally, in late April, they germinated, and turned out to be these furry-leafed things.  These look nothing like the "flowering cacti assortment" pictured on Amazon, but, I'll welcome the little dudes. They're very enthusiastic, and have very deep root systems. 

Then my morning photo-expedition was slammed back into reality. Puppy Biscuit. "We need to move those patio edge blocks. They're ugly just sitting there"  If that means nothing to you, follow this link and read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Do it now. It should open up in its own window.

And so - by order of Her Excellency - the beautiful scalloped patio edge blocks have been listed for liquidation at a shamefully sacrificial price on Craig's List. For details, and more exciting photos of the blocks, follow this link.  

And thank you for shopping at Gar*Mart!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

gentlemen, please

My cousin Percy will be coming to visit the States this summer. Perceival J. Thudbury, Viscount Lord Duke of Slackenshire. "Lord Percy", his chums call him. 

Lord Percy lives across the Pond, you know, that's what the Brits call the Atlantic Ocean. He didn't want to arrive for Independence Day. Percy gets kind of skittish when the conversation turns to whom we are celebrating independence from. The course of human events, you know.
Lord Percy is a gentleman's gentleman, of course. His title requires that he keep up the appearances - polo ponies, fox hounds, livery (I think livery is a sausage, similar to a Banger). One never knows when Prince William will drop by for tea. He always keeps a few crumpets in the larder at Thudbury Castle just for such an occasion. 

Well, I'm planning a real Royal Welcome to show him that we Americans are not all those back-slapping, beer-swilling, loud, friendly, gun-toting John Goodman type characters you see in American movies. We have our gentlemen, too, and I'm going to prove it to His Lordship.  

There's a place I'd like to show him. I saw it from the bus on the way to work. (Yes, Percy, we take the bus here in the USA, too. Although most of them don't have the Upper Deck).  One visit to this place should show him once and for all that we also have gentlemen in the US. Why, yes, Your Lordship, here is where our gentlemen congregate in Milwaukee. There are enough gentlemen, in fact, that they have formed a Gentlemen's Club, and on occasion guests are welcome.

Imagine, a place where a Gentleman can feel at home. I've never been inside, but I'm sure that this club is just overflowing with politeness and Gentility. At every doorway the gentlemen tipping their tophats, "No, after you"  "No, please, after YOU" "Rather.  I INSIST". 

And surely, the gentlemen are all queuing up in the pump room, in their top-hats, adjusting their monacles, and quaffing ales while exchanging pleasantries about the weather, and relating tales from the last fox-hunt. "Tally ho, old sport!"

I didn't have time to visit the Gentlemen's Club in advance, to check it out (I have to stand in queue this week to renew my concealed carry permit).  So I rang them up (called them on the telephone).  I talked to the owner, who said his name was Seymour Heine. Fine German gent, you'd expect that in Milwaukee the Germans will lead the way to gentlemanliness, home of the Beer Barons, and all. He said of course there was a "cover charge". Certainly it's gracious, though, for them to extend temporary memberships to gentlemen and their guests - collecting a few token shillings at the door to keep out the commoners. Bully strategy, that.

And, besides the camaraderie of being with other gentlemen, the Club furnishes entertainment - folk dancing! Some of the finest dancers from Eastern Europe will present their routines. In the main hall, the Pole Dancers step through the traditional Eastern European dances of Poland.  And then, in the annex, the best of Scandinavia. Seymour said you'd have to pay more to see a Lapp Dance. No doubt the colorful costumes that Laplanders wear for their dances are quite costly, or quite dear as Lord Percy would say. But how often does my old chum visit?  Nothing too good for his Lordship on his occasional visit. I'm sure everything will be just as smashing as Seymour described it. I can't wait for our Gentlemen's Night Out.  Percy will be so surprised...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


The "4th of July" Parade - Independence Day. Childhood memories, family traditions, and perhaps a quiet moment of patriotic reflection - examining the ideal and renewing our responsibility, because liberty is a constantly created privilege, and not an entitlement. It is a delicate balance not maintained by trampling on the liberties of others. "I pledge not to take yours, and you will certainly not take mine."  

Or as General John Stark, a revolutionary general from New Hampshire put it: “Live Free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils.” 

Here's a take on our annual Independence Day Parade, set to excerpts from one of my favorite compositions "Night Passage" by Kamran Ince. I was trying out a new version of my favorite video editor "Power Director 12" by LG. I highly recommend it, it's versatile, and inexpensive - Power Director gets the most from your computer.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chariot of the Damned (damnatorum quadrigae)

I was still getting over last Wednesday's bus ride home from Downtown.  You know, the one where the bus is SRO, mostly due to the selfish people who believe that their backpacks have a right to a free separate seat, to allow their hands free to flick their fingers at their cell phones. And then a guy and three ladies get on.  He looks like the fat guy from Hangover, and he's joking loudly with the ladies, who are trying to get him to control himself. So, encouraged by all their negative attention, he starts singing West Side Story - the whole thing.  He doesn't sing that well, but he's very loud.  The Jets, Tonight Tonight, but by the time he got to Maria I had to get off the Ship of Fools.  He tried to get his women companions to do backup vocals, but they were too embarrassed

So, now, every time I step on the bus, I've been dreading the encore performance of  "I Feel Pretty".  Well, I was about to learn, there are worse things happening on a crowded buses than choreography in the aisles. 

Today's bus was monumentally late - more than 20 minutes. This bus almost crossed the line where it becomes The Next Bus.  The bus was Standing Room Only again, though only half full, because of the back pack people. Stinking Room Only, thanks to the bus's air conditioning being broken, or maybe it was set to some boardroom's idea of a temperature that would ensure a sustainable future for the planet.  The board-room fat-asses who make such decisions about bus climate should be required to ride in the buses they are controlling. And it stank (stunk?) - - we're talking Cleaning Cages Day at the Monkey House of the County Zoo.  The windows in buses no longer open. And oxygen masks do not drop down from the ceiling.

I found a sideways seat near the back and sat down. After I had sat down, a guy on the back bench tells me "Just so you know - there was a guy throwing up in that seat just 20 minutes ago. I think they got it all cleaned up, but just so you know..."  Oh, great, The More You Know, eh buddy. I can't wait to get home and burn my clothes. At the next stop, someone in front of my seat got off, and I slid into that seat instead.  Someone else sat in the seat I had previously occupied.  I counted down - 3 - 2 - 1 , and right on cue behind me I heard  "Just so you know, there was a guy throwing up etc.", and the next victim of the throno et vomens jumped up and stood for the rest of the ride. 

Meanwhile, the bus which is already running over a half-hour behind, is being over-run by Special Needs. Bicycles coming on and off the front rack.  A wheelchair - that means at least two minutes lowering the ramp, clearing out the handicap area, fastening the wheels, folding the ramp back up.  That's OK, nothing the bus line can do about the ADA.  But, two blocks later, the wheelchair guy wants to get off. Dude, you wheeled yourself for more than a block to get to the bus stop, is a two-block trip on a bus really necessary? You coulda been there already!

Then a lady boards shoving a stroller.  But there's already a wheelchair in the handicapped spot, so Baby goes in the aisle. Of course, Baby had to take a dump.  As we know, babies have many ways of notifying us of such things.  First there is the ear-splitting shriek.  How can a baby keep up such volume without tiring or even taking a breath? My head is hurting. And then Baby sends out the second notice - the nostril-melting stench. Back in the vomit section, it's getting pretty hot without the air conditioning. The vomit guy keeps re-telling his story but only after people sit down on the seat.   And the baby is still letting out that endless piercing scream.

Finally I was released at my stop.  As the bus stank and screamed off into the distance, I did not feel Pretty and Witty and Wise.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day, Random Thoughts

Random Notes - I've been working overtime, in addition to restoring a vacant rental unit in my spare time, so

I've only had a chance to jot down a few random notes over the past few weeks.  Sorry. And some nice all-American shots from today's Independence Day Parade.  Happy 4th!

The Mail Room
One day at my job, I was filling in for someone in the mail room. As the workers sort the incoming mail, they have a chance to exchange ideas and gossip. Fake names throughout.

Leona: "I hate it when I'm dreaming about shopping - I can never find anything."
Judge Konkel - I always enjoyed riding with him
in past parades, playing "God Bless America"
on my accordion.

Most of the people in the mail room have children.  The general consensus of movies was focused on between Transformers and The Avengers, movies patterned after superhero sagas and comic-book franchises from the 1950s, reworked by Baby Boomers. I've been pretty quiet, since I don't really watch that many of that sort of fantasy/action movie. So, Leona asks me:  "What kind of movies do Old people watch, Gary? Westerns?" Ya! old people.

Yvonne: "If you have a sexy dream about an ex-boyfriend, should you tell your current boyfriend? If you tell him, he gets all jealous and riled up, and for what? It was a dream. But if you don't tell him, I feel funny about that too, you know, not being totally honest with him."

Police Roadblock

My neighbor was walking her dog the other night.  She took little Muffy on his customary constitutional route, and encountered a police barricade. There was some domestic dispute or another that the police were working on, and they wouldn't let her through. Despairingly, she pleaded  "But Muffy can only poop in Bay View!"

and for all you vegetarians... our Rutabaga of the Week

After such a week, a man follows me into the Piggly Wiggly. "Are you the brown mini-van guy who just came in here?"  Well, yeah.  He told me that I was wrong to be driving in the right-turn lane.  I believed that the right-turn lane was where I belonged, since I was turning right. Apparently this gentleman did not believe that. Is he going to hit me or what?  Watch it, he's starting to stammer and drool. Something that seems a good idea behind the wheel, now begins to pale in the light of reality.  And I'm beginning to figure out who this guy is.  He was the one from the corner,  the one trying to turn left, crossing six lanes of traffic to get into the right turn lane, and everybody else better get out of his way.  Well, the law states that than turning onto another road requires that you turn into the closest encountered lane, and then signal lane changes until you arrive at the lane you want to be in.  So, it's him that's wrong, not me. But one thing I've learned is that you can't discuss legal fine points with a rutabaga, so I didn't enter into such a discussion. He turned around abruptly and walked away.  All done. Ya can't fix stupid.
Have a Safe and Happy Independence Weekend, everybody!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

lucis et musicae ♫♪♫

In the conscious interval which we refer to as real life, one of my past part-time occupations was making liquor deliveries for a wholesaler. At the time, I was in my twenties, and making my living by working three or more part-time jobs, at three different times of the day. Not always on the same day, but there were times I got off my 8-hour night shift job as a hotel clerk, and barely had time to change into the clothes of a liquor truck driver, for an 8-hour shift of throwing around cases of booze. I could do this because I was in my twenties, but sometimes after being up 24 hours or more, things began to look kind of vivid and dream-like.

One customer stop was a large liquor retailer occupying the entire building of a re-purposed J.C. Penney store built in the 1940s. The entire lower level was used as a warehouse, and not open to the public. There was a very wide stairway to bump the cart full of cases down (gently of course - Bob our boss really hates the smell of pre-maturely dispensed liquor on the customer's floor, because the customer won't pay for that, and Steve would start yelling...). Most delivery destinations had dark, narrow uneven wooden stairways to squirrel away their extra cases, but the lower level of the old Penney's had been used as retail space. The building
was built into the side of a hill - this gave a delightful surprise - as you arrive in the basement, you are greeted huge windows spilling glorious amounts of morning sunshine into the lower level.  

So, one fine day in the late 1970s, I was walking into the light, rolling a hand truck with a stack of brandy cases over to the pallet area where the brandy was stored. The unexpected brilliance of the basement was in its own way uplifting. When you haven't slept in 24 hours, the oddest things will uplift you. At just that moment, the tinny voice of John Lennon came from a tiny radio somewhere in the basement, singing "Strawberry Fields Forever".  In an unexplained way, the music blends with the sunlight, and becomes one of the most powerful sources of emotional and spiritual liberating energies in existence.  I felt lighter for days. Somehow the music blended with the light had overcharged my senses, arcing at the terminals.

That is a moment I have remembered for the rest of my life. 

One of the things I enjoy most in my interval of existence here on Earth is the delightful way that music blends with the light, smells and events of a moment and preserves the entirety so perfectly. Simply recalling the musical passage can vividly re-store the entire memory, to bring levity and hope to one of life's darker, more silent moments.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Stop it! I Can't Afford Any More Savings!

I decided that I would be doing my weekly shopping at Pick n Save this last weekend, because of the low advertised price on pork ribs.  Call me sentimental, but somehow, it just doesn't seem moral to be buying pork ribs at Piggly Wiggly.

My wife suggested "Before you go, why don't you look at those online coupons to see if there's anything?  Oh sure, you can do everything on the Internet. Our neighbor buys his groceries from Pea Pod.  Just click click click, and the next thing you know, a green truck is making ruts in the back alley and leaving soggy cardboard cartons outside the door in the rain... another story.

But I tried the on-line coupon section of Pick n Save.  It's called "E-Clips". Turned up about $6.00 worth of coupons for things I was going to buy anyway; things on the list.  Just click the little "E-Clips" box, and the virtual coupon is invisibly added to your Player's Card, and pops out at the checkout counter, right in the checkout lady's surprised face.  Great thing, this technology.

Arriving at the store at about 8:30 am, I went over to the Crest Toothpaste, knowing I would get my 75 cents off when the time came to pay for it.  To my dismay, I found that the price of the toothpaste had been marked up $1.25 more than it had been two weeks ago. This not only wiped out my 75 cents savings, and cost me more, but think of the poor starving children in Korea who don't have Pick'n'Save cards - they would be paying full price which has been artificially marked up to anticipate the coupon.   Same deal at the Old Spice shower soap - It was marked up a dollar, but the invisible coupon would protect me from that, leaving me paying the same high regular price.  Well, l had to have the soap, just trust me on that, so I bit the bullet. But, I found out when I got home and looked at my register tape that I had not even received the shower soap discount because the coupon offer was for two packages, and I had only bought one.  Why didn't my little invisible coupon speak up, in its squeely little coupon voice, that I had to buy two? But that would have been weird, come to think of it, a little voice in my pocket, people just wouldn't understand... So, I paid the artificially marked up FULL PRICE. (I expected to be paying $2.50 after coupon, and instead I paid $4.29.) About halfway through shopping, I gave up on seeking out the "e-clips" list, because the Markup Guy had already been to all the coupon items to mark them up.  So, when it comes to "E-Clips", turns out I was the only one getting e-clipped.

Thanks to Mouseprint.org for photo
And now the final indignity - Again with the Miracle Whip.  They're always manipulating the Miracle Whip. It should be listed on the commodities exchange. As we all know, Miracle Whip is packed in "short quarts", that is, two ounces short of a quart.  That's Kraft's fault, and I don't hold Pick n Save responsible for that.  But, how can Pick'n'Save justify a "regular price" of $4.99?  Who pays $4.99 for a (short) quart of Miracle Whip? Surely, not a Piggly Wiggly shopper! Luckily, this item was on sale, no coupon needed,  so I was able to get it for $2.98, what it's really worth. But, according to the register tape - a "Total Savings of $2.01"!  Spare me, please! Why not mark it up to ten bucks, before marking it down?  They could have taken credit for even more savings!

So, "blind, but now I see",  I had a higher than average grocery bill, although I was treated to total "savings" of $50.14.  As Miss Daisy said to Morgan Freeman:  "Take me to the Piggly Wiggly."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sleep Soldier Boy

Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, the beginning of summer was by the Memorial Day Parade, staged by the various veteran's groups (VFW, Amvets, American Legion . . . ). Traffic on Main Street would be blocked, and we would gather quietly on the Main Street Bridge. There was a ceremony conducted by the veterans, and always began with the pledge "as long as two comrades remain...".  At the time, we even had World War I veterans marching in the parade, and now, if the tradition has continued, there are many more veterans.  Many more.

At the end of the remarks by whatever dignitaries were present, a song was sung in a brittle tenor voice "Sleep Soldier Boy Sleep On..."  It was touching because I could imagine that he actually knew the Soldier Boy personally, either a son or a buddy.  After the song, a floral wreath would be tossed off the bridge to float down the river, as the color guard gave a 21-gun salute. The pigeons who lived below the bridge would all fly out around the wreath as it headed down the river. 

"Your journey is ended; your work here is done. Sleep soldier boy and rest. "

Here's a video from another small town's observance (unknown town) featuring the song by a much younger vocalist. Thanks to "cdb913"

To the soldiers who believed that there is still something worth fighting and dying for in this world -- Thank you.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Unknown Soldier's Grave

I used to play this song on an old phonograph in my grandfather's basement. It's a sentimental song from the 1920s, sung by Vernon Dalhart. I think of it around Memorial Day.

Thanks to 12345678903991 for the video.

There is no picture on this video, but the sound is very authentic.

Vernon Dalhart

There is a spot so sacred, covered over with flowers and wreaths.
Beneath a stone, there sleeps alone a boy who no more breathes.
He gave his life for freedom amid the battle's strife,
But flowers and praise can never raise this soldier back to life.

Somebody's boy is sleeping in the Unknown Soldier's grave.
Some mother's boy, her pride and joy, marched away both strong and brave.
There in the raging battle, his life he could not save,
And now far away he sleeps today in the Unknown Soldier's grave.

Oh, mother dear, so tender, do not shed a single tear.
Our nation's love and gratitude are his each day and year.
There is no death in Heaven, no thought of tears and pain.
No storm and strife can come in life where the Great Commander reigns.

Somebody's boy is sleeping in the Unknown Soldier's grave,
Some mother's son whose work is done, sleeping where old glory waves.
Maybe he's yours, and maybe mine. He'd want us to be brave.
He earned his rest and sleeps with the blest in the Unknown Soldier's grave.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Pit is Opened

Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.
The Pit was re-opened last week.  The 8 ft x 10 ft. chasm that totalled at least one car last winter.  The DPW machines came and tore it open again.

One calm below-zero night last January The Night Watchman noticed a natural gas smell in the road, and after a night of jackhammers and flashing yellow lights, there was left the gaping 8X10 ft chasm, covered by a few pieces of plywood, and surrounded by barricade flashers and barrels.

Of course, in our neighborhood, arrival of road barrels signals the beginning of a round of Bar-Time Bowling.  The sight of an upright barricade, especially with a flashing yellow light on top, stirs up the primal machismo in a homeward-bound bar-room patron.  By morning all the barricades are down.   Only the plywood remained.

Plywood is no match for the gravity we have here in Milwaukee. You ever notice that traffic bridges are not made out of spans of 3/4 CDX plywood? There's a reason for that.

While waiting at the bus stop, I saw a car going across the unprotected plywood.  The plywood popped down into the hole, and the car, deprived forever after of the use of both right wheels, barely coasted into Steve's parking lot; a plaintive little whistling sound came from one of the deflating tires, and later in the day, the car was pronounced TOTALLED and hauled away to the bone yard.  Shortly after this incident, the hole was stopped with asphalt, and there was once again peace in the valley.

But then came the pink paints of spring, as it was written on the road, so shall it be. Two days later, the entire block was covered with an assortment of cones, barricades, and flashing barrels. In a dangerous-looking configuration of traffic, the pit was re-opened on one side of the road, taking out the parking lane, bicycle lane and the southbound lane.  The remainder of the road had the southbound traffic barely 18 inches away from the northbound traffic, separated by skinny traffic cones, was the southbound lane, which used to be the southbound parking and bicycle lane.  This close proximity did not promote camaraderie among the neighbors, who still insisted on maintaining their accustomed 30 mph speed limit in both directions.

So where did the bicyclists go?  Through the stop signs, like they always do.

And the pedestrians accustomed to starting their jay-walking waiting in the parking lane?  Well, I haven't seen Dennis for a few days, hope he's all right.

So, one would think that such a precarious traffic arrangement would inspire drivers to caution.  They were inspired all right - IT'S TIME FOR SATURDAY NIGHT - BAR-TIME BOWLING - EXXTREME VERSION!  Sunday morning, the street looked as though there had been a massive aerial drop of traffic barrels.  Knocked-over barrels surrounded the Pit, affording some protection to the sober. The barrels on the ends of the block were knocked over, the barricades surrounding the Pit were flattened, and the median cones were mostly missing, or lying on their side.  One cone came loose from its foot, and seemed to point the traffic into various head-on collision patterns, depending on how the wind blew. Reminiscence of the Spielberg picture, Gremlins.

So, now, the pit is once again closed, but the barrels remain - for the entertainment of bar patrons, I presume.

And that's how we do it in Milwaukee.

Monday, May 19, 2014

opere angelorum

They say, be careful what you ask for. If you ask a question of the cosmos, sometimes the angels whisper their reply softly with the gentle affirmative caress of a late-afternoon breeze. "Yes, my child".  But, there are other times.  The angels aren't always listening to Enya records.  Sometimes, they need to be heard more clearly.  Sometimes they all have to get together stomping their feet and whacking their tambourines, and shouting  "HELL, YES, DUDE!"

In a post last week,  I was commenting on how my temporary job status had deteriorated.  I received an insulting job offer, for less money, fewer hours, and more inconvenient hours than anything I had ever received from the temp agency.  I drew the line, and said I would not accept this step downward, but then I started questioning my actual value as a worker, and my self-esteem plunged.

So, the following morning I was rolled out of bed at quarter to six a.m. by the cheery ting-a-ling of my telephone.  It was Hank (not his name), my boss from the digital imaging assignment, the organization from which I had formerly received an impending full-time job offer.  Hank wanted me to fill in for some absences, and put in some time on a long-term project that is due at the end of the month.  I was so eager to return, that I arrived on-site one bus early, hit the coffee shop, and shot up the elevator.  There is so much joy in this job, in my cubicle on the 13th floor overlooking Lake Michigan

After an all-too-short day, I was standing at the bus stop, beside the Wells Building, waiting to go home.  A woman in a beige trench coat, mid-fifties, approached the corner, waiting for the same bus. She walked up to me, as if to speak, but then turned around abruptly, and stood next to the building a few steps down.  But then, she changed her mind, and came back up to me.  She said, "OK I have to tell you. Did you ever have a day that was so filled with joy that you just have to tell someone about it?".  Suppressing a grin, I said, cautiously, "I had one of those, once.".  "Only once?.... " But she saw I was kidding.  She proceeded to tell me how she once had a temp assignment with a company she just loved working for, but then had to leave due to a long-term medical issue.  Today, however, she received an assignment for the very same job, and it was for her a triumphal return to a blissful workplace experience.  We continued talking as the bus came and picked us up.  Her assignment may also develop into a full-time position for her at the same organization.  Sound familiar? 

How could this be? Why me? Why today? Very seldom does anybody walk up to someone at a bus stop, much less someone with a complete mirror image of an almost parallel life.

So, what more could possibly go right with this day?

Although I didn't know it until the following morning, when I checked my email, Excelsior has acquired another regular reader. As the (now) four of you know, a regular reader is one of the most powerful affirmations a great journalist such as myself can receive, that someone is out there listening. And she is a writer, with two published works, and a blog which I found to be a welcoming collection of escape into a new world of imagination. I plan to do lots of reading there.  Samantha Mozart is her name (follow link). While you're there, say "Hi!" to Moriarty. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Job Offer

view of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago
from Union Station
I've always gone wherever the agency has sent me. Up until today.

My regular readers (and you three know who you are) know that I was turned loose on the world after my 30-some years of managing a contractor's office.  I finally ended up as an office temporary. I've had some glorious assignments, including a digital imaging gig in my own cubicle nest to a window on the 13th floor of a prestigious Downtown Milwaukee skyscraper. My last assignment lasted about 2 months, counting the part-weeks.  I was even put on overtime during the height of a massive secret project.  And before I left, the office manager informed me that The People In Chicago were considering me for a permanent position that will be opening early in summer.

Then, as often happens, the assignment ended, and I was once again leading the carefree life of the janitor/handyman in commercial rental properties that my wife and I own. This can get quite desperate, money-wise, but the next assignment always comes just in time.

Yesterday, I got a call from the agency.  "How would you like to work in the First Wisconsin building?" "Great - get me up in the clouds!" - 20-some stories taller than the 411 building.

"It's general office type work - I'm sure you can handle it, based on the good reviews from  your last assignment."  "Yes, yes, send me!"

:"Oh, by the way, it's part-time - seven hours a day" "Well, I suppose they'll insist on deducting a lunch too, so it would actually be six and a half hours a day, probably some Dickensian task-master that expects 8 hours' worth of work in 6 hours - I can do that!"

"And, it's second shift - 3 pm through 10 pm five days a week."  "Well, seeing as how it's such an inconvenient time of the day, must pay a lot more."

"Actually, it pays less than we've ever sent you out for"  "Time to weigh some pros and cons - I'll call you back and let you know."  My mind started reeling as I began to imagine myself as a second-shift worker.

With me on second shift, all activities in my Real Life would all be curtailed. This Thursday for example, my wife's store is staging a fashion show for a suburban event. She can't do it alone. And musical rehearsals -  two shows coming up, and the only time people can come to rehearse is evening hours.   Meeting with tenants for repair/maintenance issues.  And on and on. The "supper hour" is the main time when I see my wife, even when I'm working at home. Under the new hours I would see her rarely.  And the "part-time" aspect of the job, at a very low rate, would bring in less money than I'd ever made in a week. The only "part time" aspect about this job is the hours on the clock - going to/from work by bus, getting ready, coming home, will take the same amount of time out of a week that a full-time job would take.

So the question came down to this:  Would I give up Life as You Know It in exchange for making less money than the lowest-paying assignment I have ever worked, at an odd and inconvenient time of the day?

somewhere in Chicago - ever notice that
sometimes the pictures have nothing to do
with the story? 
How much could I put up with, without refusing work from the agency?  I'd never refused a job before - I'd like the agency to view me as versatile, hardworking, and dependable. Although the answer was obvious, it was still an agonizing decision.  At the end of The Day I Said "NO", I went to bed exhausted.

I hope this does not discourage the agency from offering me future assignments.  Nevertheless, deciding not to accept this assignment has, in its way, affirmed my self-esteem. My time has value, and I do not feel compelled to trade my life for ever-decreasing compensation.

Thank you for shopping at GAR*MART

Friday, May 9, 2014

Music in the Celestial Spectrum

This is beyond accordion music. The 21st Century Accordion Ensemble is not just your everyday stage full of flailing reed-squeezers. Their arrangements are written by virtuoso Bayan accordionist Stas Venglevski. The precision of the execution (under Stas's direction) is breathtaking.  And then to have Milwaukee's foremost chanteuse, Robin Pluer, join them onstage as a surprise guest - - well, let me tell you, the musical high point of the year, and I'm talking goosebumps and emotional clouding of the camera viewfinder.

All I can do is stand by and humbly whisper "Thanks".

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vet Gets His Wings

It was a ripped-up morning. I'd just fought my way toward Office Max on 27th street, and when I got to the intersection, instead of 27th street, there is a mile-long bank of dirt and gravel next to a gaping trench.  Apparently, the city no longer welcomes people from east of 27th Street.  I finally found a breach in the embankment, and, feeling like I was in an ATV instead of a Mini-Van, I crawled through.

Office Max was empty except for staff  - what a surprise. While digging for my change, I found the elusive grocery list -  I couldn't seem to locate the blasted thing while I was at the Piggly Wiggly earlier.  Two items had been forgotten -  Salsa and Italian Sausages. 

So, since I was already through to The Other Side of 27th Street,  I navigated over to Pick'n'Save using access roads and alleys. The usually busy Saturday morning store was very, very quiet. Amazing what a difference a road makes.

No people, but; still a checkout line. Taking up about three carts' worth of space was a shopping cart made to look like a plastic automobile, with two children in it.  The children leaned out of the car's windows and waved.  "Hello!", OK so "hello" already, now shut up.  But they kept it up.  I was just about to go to another longer but more quiet line, when an older man in a motorcycle jacket with a huge US flag on the back got in front of me,  waving back to the kids. "Hello"   He kept returning their relentless salutes until their father finally shut them up, and moved ahead to bag his order.

When things quieted down, I noticed how loosely the jacket fit the old biker.  He had a scraggly once-blond beard, and, judging from the jacket, he must have weighed lots more at one time, in a burly beer-guzzlin' biker way.  He was apparently a regular, and talked to the cashier as she was checking out his purchases, chicken breasts and bread. As she was bagging his purchases, my salsa and Italian sausages drifted down the belt and stopped directly in front of him.

Amazed, he dropped mid-sentence, stopped talking to the cashier.  With a tone of amazement he turned to us both, and exclaimed "Whoa! All the Good Stuff!.  I could eat a whole jar of this salsa and nothing else!  Doctor at the VA says I can't have that any more.  Sausages, too.  No pork chops, no gravy, nothing spicy, everything has to taste the same."

"Well, what can you eat?" asked the cashier?

Turning around with his bag, the flag on his jacket waving so much more freely than it once had on his frame. "Well, I'm sprouting feathers, with all the chicken I gotta eat.  I'm gonna grow wings, pretty soon, I guess."

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Smell of Dirt

I smelled the dirt today.  I didn't hear the robin yet, but the smell of dirt was reassuring that winter's almost over. Well, it's almost April, let's get with it - the ferns need a little heat.  

When I was at college supposedly studying electrical engineering, I would take a bicycle out to the edge of Madison every chance I got, just to experience the smell of a feed and seed store in spring. I grew up in a small town with strong agricultural roots. Even the people in town would grow huge gardens, so the Rock River Coop and Globe Milling Company were places patronized by both farmers and town people alike. (why yes, there was Midwest Lawn and Garden as well, but this is my history, so let's keep it pleasant).

In the late winter and early spring, the dominant smell inside the seed center would be seed potatoes  and onion sets in burlap sacks. Although both potatoes and onions can be grown from seed, the preferred way in my upbringing was to get some seed potatoes and onion sets from the feed store.  
Seed potatoes are, essentially - just - - potatoes. You'd pick your variety from exotic names such as Katahdin, Kennebec, Yukon, Norland, and many others. You cut the potatoes up, each eye would form a plant,  and sturdy potato plants would grow from the eyes of the potato pieces.  Same with onion sets - they were tiny onions. Both sold by the pound, real cheap.

So, what is Dorm Boy doing out at the LL Olds Seed Company out on the edge of Madison on a Saturday morning? Getting back to his roots, or, tubers, to be perfectly correct. The smell of LL Olds building was a comforting anchor to something constant in a fast-changing world. Breathe deeply the darkness of the potatoes, the pungent onion sets, the smell of burlap and the dirt, and you are ready to get planting!

Planting proved a challenge for me, a college student has little arable land in his dorm room.  I had lots of grow lights, clay flower pots everywhere, and elaborate trough arrangements to handle watering. Building Maintenance would always shake their head when they saw my room. I grew geraniums, tomato plants, and a few cacti. 

The urban gardening experience would serve me well in later life - pausing after college before taking off in the wrong direction, I did a four-year sentence in Midwest Lawn and Garden in Watertown, Wisconsin, another story altogether. But I'd do it again!

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Juice of the Cacti

The amazing power of the Juice of the Cacti.  If it's good enough for the Yack'Wee Indians of Paragwah, think of what it could do for you! W.C.Fields, an expert on Miracles of Medical Science gives a 45-second presentation on this miraculous plant:


So, I decided to grow my own Cacti.  Turning to the Amazon, I found, for 18 cents plus shipping charges of 23 cents (41 cents total) I ordered "50 flowering cactus seeds".  Since Last February the lowest postal rate is 49 cents - how can this be?  I really expected to hear nothing back. 

Not really expecting anything, but still hoping that I would someday grow cacti from seed, I read up on growing cactus seeds.  The cactus seed is to be placed ON the soil, not in it.  The brilliant sunlight of Paragwah must be what activates the seed.  Keep the future bed of Cacti evenly moist until germination is complete.  

A small package arrived from Paradise, and the postage had only been 23 cents. (HOW? Does the packet travel through time on its way here?).  And inside the envelope, a small foil packet containing well over 150 grains of cactus seed.  Also, a packet labeled "Safflower" which is going to be an enormous flowering plant in the thistle family. That was too much excitement for one day, so I put that packet aside until such time as I can plant the seeds outside, imagine if the safflowers spring up in the middle of the night -- that might even frighten Syd the fearless wonder cat.

So, I've done all that was asked of me.  On top of the soil, not buried, evenly moist, and in the sun - my bed of cacti.  It's been about four weeks now since I first put the seeds onto an evenly moist pot of Stern's succulent mix.  After about two weeks, I noticed a small spherical object, which was a pale yellow, and never changed color or size.  I didn't want to touch it, not knowing how sensitive the baby cacti are, and there was only one of the little round things.  So there have the seeds sat sown in their consistently moist bed, for over two weeks.

So my question is this:  is this a future juice-filled succulent specimen of cacti?

Or is it a piece of vermiculite swelled up from the even moisture of it all that has popped out of the potting mix?

Tell ya more when I know.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

lux ex tenebris

For 30 years, I sat at a 1970s modular desk, staring at a fabric-wallpaper wall. A little slit of a window half-buried behind the rack of dot-matrix printers was the only indication of an outside world.  Then, one day, the company went out of business, my desk was sold in a large auction lot, probably used for scrap, because it was so heavy.  I was free to go, and after finding out how willing businesses are to talk to a 60-year-old about employment, (they're not interested - really they're not), it was decided that my lifetime of skills was best put to use as an office temp. 

An entire world opened up to me. The things I had been teaching myself in my windowless void were all job skills that allowed me to fill in as a temporary worker anywhere with minimal training. Telephone, computer, Excel, mail processing, graphic layout, digital imaging, it all came into play. Each assignment presented its own new challenges and opportunities.  It has never paid much, but it's all I can get so far. I love the work, and I love the people I meet along the way.

So, last Thursday I took the bus downtown, a half-hour early so I could sip coffee in the cafeteria for awhile and watch the sun rise over downtown before going up to work. There are dress codes, and everybody looks professional, cogs in the vast urban machine. Then up to my work-station on the 13th floor. This week I'm a digital imager, in a white cubicle right next to an 8-foot high window overlooking Milwaukee's Downtown-East. The glorious sunshine of a Milwaukee Thursday morning bursting through the window, making everything brilliant. 

The office manager stopped by just after I arrived. "Hey, Gary, just so you know, tomorrow is a casual day - you can wear jeans to work. Man, that's so bright - you can lower the blind, you know..."

Derek (not his name) didn't understand my answer. Dress casual after working 30 years in a dark dank hole in West Allis? Shut out the sunshine of a brilliant new day of opportunity?  

What I said was, "No thanks, Derek. I'm livin' the dream!"

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What the....

I still don't believe this really happened.

I was across the street in the apartment, packing a lunch for my wife (When you run a business you can't punch out for lunch.) The phone rang. My wife. "There's a guy with a pickup truck shoveling snow onto our sidewalk" "Onto our sidewalk? From the city?" "No, just a plain pickup truck." "I'm on it." Dropped the knife in mid-butter, and slammed on my coat.

And there it was, right in front of our store. One of those oversize black pickup trucks that's always cutting in front of you on the freeway.  And in the bed, full to the top, snow, half unloaded.  A fairly large dullard in a plaid coat was shoveling snow from the bed onto the sidewalk in front of my wife's store.  I was mad.

"TAKE IT DOWN THE ROAD!" said a voice I had never heard before.

He looked up briefly, stupidly, and got another shovel-full ready to fling on our sidewalk.

"NO! You're not going to unload that in front of my building!"  I was not to be ignored. I stood between him and the sidewalk, so he couldn't unload.

"It's not illegal. It isn't your property out here." he said in a stupefied voice.

Then I did something stupid. I let myself get drawn into a legal discussion with a rutabaga.  I explained to him: "For your information, we pay excessive property taxes for this property. We pay extra property taxes for the business improvement district this property has the misfortune of being located in. If I don't keep this sidewalk clear, I will be fined. This sidewalk is as much my responsibility as the building. For all practical purposes, it is my sidewalk. And you will not be dumping any more snow here. Verstehen?"

"But I don't want it in my truck."  That was about the stupidest goddam thing I had ever heard, and let me tell you, I have been to Home Depot, so I know stupid when I hear it. He didn't want it in his truck. That could be said for a  lot of substances, and at this point I suppose I was fortunate that it was snow that he didn't want in his truck, and not something else. 

He scooped up another shovel full out of the bed, as if nothing had been said.  Hello! is this thing on? I grabbed the other end of the handle just above the scoop, and slammed it down on the truck bed. For a moment I thought he was going to take a swing at me.  At this point I did not care if he did.

"I'll call the cops." Idiot said, in a stupid whiny voice. He pulled out his cell phone and poked at it. He wasn't really calling the cops.  But I ran over to the store entrance, and hollered the license number to my wife. Teamwork.  She phoned 911, because the crime was in progress.  911 said it wasn't a life-threatening emergency, but would send a squad anyway.   "I'll come back when you're not here and unload some more."  Is that it, Buddy? If you can't do something stupid, then let's be saying something stupid. Stupid never sleeps. He got into his stupid truck and drove it about a block down the road.

Meanwhile the police stopped by, Officer D'Amato (not his name), got the details, told us we were completely in the right.  Finding out that the truck was still in the neighborhood, the officer went down to witness this record-setting stupid for himself.  

Officer D'Amato called us back and told us he had spoken with the guy, and yes, this was truly an idiot of monumental proportions, and from Mukwonago, no less. (for those of you not from Wisconsin, that's pronounced "muh KWUH nuh guh".)

Officer D'Amato told the idiot three things.

1) Putting snow from your pickup truck on somebody else's sidewalk is LITTERING - $175.00 fine
2) Threatening a store owner to come back and litter his prooperty is DISORDERLY CONDUCT. - another $175.00 fine.
3) If anything should happen to our store during non-business hours, guess who would be suspect  #1, and get a ticket? That would be YOU, Mr. Mukwonago.

And that's how we do it in Milwaukee.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.