Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 1990

As Andy soon takes over the family room with his videos, I move my boom box to the living room so I can do some taping.  I also do about four loads of wash.  During the afternoon, I watch Nickelodeon's countdown until it's time for us to go out.  One particular episode of Bewitched has me in stitches.  (A carved wooden figure conjured up by Endora causes everyone who comes close to it to speak his mind.)

We spend most of the evening at Barb Worcester's.  I smash one of the van's side-view mirrors trying to negotiate my way around her building.  Maybe it wsa the martini as much as the tight space.

Eddie sleeps through most of the night, and Andy is on his best behavior.  We stop at Larry and Martha's on the way home.  It's a crowded house party.  JoAnna is in her element, which leave me to keep an eye on Andy.  I gently squeeze her shoulder on my way to pick up our coats and announce, "It's time to leave."     

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30, 1990

We all sleep in this morning.  That is, I don't get up early enough to do any taping.  I spend the morning reading the newspapers -- not much of interest -- and finish Hot Money, the first Dick Francis novel I've read.  After lunch, I remember I have some pictures to pick up.  The change in Eddie's appearance in less than two weeks amazes me. 

We take down the Christmas tree, and once again the living room is returned to its pre-holiday configuration.  I experience that vaguely melancholy feeling about the passing of the season and the imminent return of a regular schedule.  Due to the nature of my Christmas vacations as an adult, I haven't experienced this sensation as strongly as I have this year since high school.

For supper, I eat an enormous amount of barbecued chicken legs and wings.  Gin always whets my appetite.

Eddie has a rough night.  He keeps JoAnna up most of hte night.  Andy wakes up crying; he's wet the bed.  Surprisingly, I wake up at 7:30 feeling refreshed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 29, 1990

I wake up early and use a couple of solitary hours to record music.  I spend the day reading, helping Andy with his United States puzzle while holding a cuddly little Eddie Guy, and playing Casino with JoAnna.

I get some fresh air during the afternoon scraping the ice off the sidewalk.  I drive to the hardware store to buy three bags of salt and a new snow shovel,  having irreparably damaged one while shoveling us out of a record snowfall earlier in the month.   By late afternoon, JoAnna is complaining about cabin fever, so I suggest we play Casino.  I'm still in the mood for four more days of seclusion at home.  By next Wednesday, I'll be ready to go back to work. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 28, 1990

A change of pace for this leisurely week.  I go to work.  Surprisingly, Eddie get up without a struggle.  I drive him to daycare, then myself to the library.  It's a surprisingly busy day, but I find time to open and sort my mail, write an article for next week's newspaper, begin an order of classic paperbacks, and reserve a few CDs to satisfy my still-growling taping appetite. 

Driving to Kids' Play to pick up Andy, I negotiate treacherous streets, which are being glazed by a freezing rain.  JoAnna had supper ready when we return home.  I hear nothing about a trip to Two Rivers.   The weather precludes this weekend option.  She wants to see her Grandma Richard before her imminent, it seems, death.

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26, 1990

Monday afternoon I do some last-minute Christmas shopping at Hilldale, after which I stop at the library and find a note from Mark regarding the heating system. So that's why I pay a visit to the library this morning, to follow up on this and order C-fold towels. Back home I finish reading The Joy Luck Club and start The Thief of Time. After lunch, I take a walk to the drugstore and Sentry. It's a long walk for such a cold day. I'm relieved to return home.

After supper, we have company. Eric and Cheryl stop by for a long overdue visit. Eddie is awake the entire time and is a complete angel, so contented, so lovable we don't even give our guests a chance to hold him.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25, 1990

Andy comes to our bedroom first when he wakes up instead of checking under the Christmas tree for evidence of Santa's visit.  Andy's abundance comes to an end, although he still checks the perimeter of the tree for more.  The books on tape don't hold his attention as much as I want them to.  Very quickly, he's planted himself in front of the TV.  More videos. 

I read, play with Eddie during his occasional waking time.   We receive a mid-afternoon phone call, a woman's voice asking for Eddie.  At first I think it's a wrong number, or maybe a joke, but then Kim identifies herself.  The major news is that Barb plans to fly out here.  Dad's not up for the drive.  At 75, road trips are an unwelcome occurrance, no matter what the destination.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24, 1990

Our guests have plans to leave early. Angela needs to be back in Manitowoc by mid-afternoon; she's participating in a church Christmas program, something that may never be in Andy's future the way his parents have been avoiding a religious commitment.

While Angela sleeps in and Andy watches videos, the adults sit around the dining room table, drink coffee, and talk. By late morning, it's a nuclear family holiday: Dad, Mom, and their two sons. It's a circumstance I want to last indefinitely. No work, co commitments, but with our paychecks rolling in on a regular basis.

We enjoy a leisurely afternoon on a cold, sunny day.  We open our presents that evening.  Andy has so much to unwrap.  Jo gives me a beautiful leather jacket.  She loves her (expensive) mohair sweater.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23, 1990

The morning starts out typically: coffee, newspapers, relaxing. Then we wait for the arrival of company. Cindy and Mayra are first, but they don't show up until two, a couple of hours JoAnna's prediction.

It's a full house by midafternoon: Larry, Alice, Albert, Angela. After dividing our time between the family room and living room, I prepare dinner: ham, baked potatoes, broccoli, spaghetti squash, Caesar salad. We open presents afterwards. Andy and Angela hit 112 on the decibel scale, emjoying each other's company. Eddie's up late, but he still has a good night's sleep.

December 25, 1990

Andy comes to our bedroom first when he wakes up instead of checking under the Christmas tree for evidence of Santa's visit.  Andy's abundance comes to an end, although he still checks the perimeter of the tree for more.  The books on tape don't hold his attention as much as I want them to.  Very quickly, he's planted himself in front of the TV.  More videos. 

I read, play with Eddie during his occasional waking time.   We receive a mid-afternoon phone call, a woman's voice asking for Eddie.  At first I think it's a wrong number, or maybe a joke, but then Kim identifies herself.  The major news is that Barb plans to fly out here.  Dad's not up for the drive.  At 75, road trips are an unwelcome occurrance, no matter what the destination.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22 (A Meatball Disaster)

Tuesday night I prepared spaghetti and meatballs for supper. As I’ve done dozens of times, I used Romaine Stanton’s recipe for meatballs from the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church cookbook. Perfect results every time.

Until this week.

“These meatballs taste different,” JoAnna observed after taking a first bite of one.

I had noticed the same thing. Not only was there an odd, impossible-to-specify flavor, the texture was off-putting, like a cross between a dense sponge and small, soft rubber ball.

Undeterred, JoAnna ate all three meatballs that I’d served up for her, but I couldn’t finish the first one.

“I’ve completely lost my appetite,” I sighed, putting down my fork and pushing my plate toward the center of the table. “What could have caused this disaster?” I continued. “I’m sure I didn’t forget any ingredients.”

I even double-checked the recipe to verify. A cup of cracker crumbs, ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs (beaten), 1 cup milk, and the rest of it. I retrieved the milk container from the refrigerator, took off the cap, and sniffed the contents. No sour odor. I had just purchased the cheese that morning – along with the pound of ground chuck. While mixing all the ingredients, however, I had noticed that the meat had seemed a little uncooperative, as though unwilling to mingle and tingle.

Romaine's page

“It’s gotta be the meat,” I said. “After all, it’s the main ingredient. It’s not the cracker crumbs that give them flavor.”

I purposely prepared the full recipe, which makes 24 meatballs, so we’d have leftovers – I was particularly looking forward to a sub sandwich on a French baguette – to get us through today as far as meal planning was concerned. So much for that idea.

As Tuesday evening progressed, JoAnna and I monitored our bodies for menacing rumblings, fearful that two cases of food poisoning might be on the horizon. Fortunately, everything remained calm.

Until yesterday afternoon. For JoAnna, anyway, when she found herself having to make frequent trips to the rest room at work. Once she returned home, she spent another 15 minutes in the bathroom, followed by an evening on the family room couch with a afghan wrapped around her.

Maybe it was a delayed reaction to the meatballs. Maybe it was just the slightest touch of the flu. Whatever the case, JoAnna felt 100% when she left the house this morning. Now, of course, three days before we leave for Paris, is NOT the time to get sick.

From now on, I think I’ll purchase all of our meat from Knoche’s Food Center and Butcher Shop, a still-surviving version of Foreman’s “little store”, just a 5-minute drive from our house. Its prices for meats – nothing is pre-packaged -- are very competitive, and they always have three or four specials going on simultaneously. As for everything else they have in stock, it’s best to shop elsewhere.

Related post:
(Not Swedish) Meatballs. (5/14/2009)

December 22, 1990

I wake up early, before 5, and quickly decide that I'm too bright-eyed to go back to sleep.  I spend most of the morning racing my eyeballs to the last page of Presumed Innocent.  Did Barbara really murder Carolyn?  Just now clever is Rusty? 

While the rest of the family takes an afternoon nap, I go shopping.  Sears provides a bonanza for Andy:  two pairs of jeans, a blue sweat suit, and t-shirts.  But no snowsuit.  I walk to the other end of the mall and find no activewear for my wife, but on the return jostle, I find just what I'm looking for at Au Cotton.  Suncoast actually has a post-natal exercise video. 

On the way home, I stop at the library and expect to see a stack of CDs, but only one is on my desk.  I don't even check it out.  During the evening, it's TV and a half-hearted start at The Joy Luck Club.

Along the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania

A series of photographs taken during a walk on a beautiful day in October 2008.

The new Hickory Avenue bridge with downtown Warren -- generally referred to as "over town" -- from Crescent Park.

The Bridge with the 400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue West in the background.

Warren sports a more modern look just east of the Bridge.

The bend of the river just west of the Bridge.   Definitely a more timeless look within this frame.

The railroad bridge from the north side of the river, just west of the Bridge.

The bend of the river and the Hickory Street bridge from a vantage point across the street from St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

From the top level of the Clark Street parking ramp.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21, 1965

After school on Wednesday there was basketball practice, which turned out to be my last. After practice the whole family went to Allie and Katharine's for supper. Paul Swanson's were there. I have to leave for my organ lesson at 7:45. After my lesson I went up to the high school since there was a dance. I must have danced 6 fast dances in a row with Sandy. I also danced with Judy Berdine and Bonnie Edison. After the dance I walked home with Mike.

This is the 1953 Chevrolet....

December 21, 1990

Andy and I skip breakfast so we can get to the hospital by 9.  Within 90 minutes of our arrival, we're on our way back home -- the four of us.  We stop at the library first so I can pick up my paycheck and show off Eddie.  Andy and I spend the afternoon running errands.  He wasn't too keen on going with me, but JoAnna wouldn't have it any other way.  I pay our property taxes at City Hall, vacuum out the van, drive to the credit union to cash my check, and buy groceries for the holiday weekend.  I spend the evening reading Presumed Innocent and enjoying the opportunities I have to hold Eddie.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20, 1990

Despite my late bedtime, I'm unable to sleep much past 7. Andy sleeps past 8. I'm on a flexible schedule, in no hurry to leave the house. I fix us pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast and drive Andy to day care around 10.    After a stop at Pic-a-Book to stock up on reading materials, I visit JoAnna.  Both she and Eddie are doing fine.  Except for a mid-afternoon walk to Taco John's, I remain in her room until it's time to pick up Andy.  We return to the hospital immediately as I plan to use the basket of food JoAnna received from the hospital as the fixin's for Andy's supper.  Jo's only visitor is John Dickert

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19, 1990 (The Birth of Eddie Nelson)

Sharon, despite the hesitation in her voice, is gracious enough to consent to our request. JoAnna and I arrive at the hospital shortly after midnight.  My gut feeling is that we have a long day ahead of us, but how wrong I am.  The intensity of Jo's contractions increase steadily.  Once we're in the birthing room, I'm ready to crash but quickly realize that I need to be an active participant.  I remember the head nurse who helped Jo with her breathing during Andy's delivery and use a face-to-face approach to guide her through her breaths.  She nearly loses it worrying about the doctor's timely arrival, but she manages to hold and once she starts pushing it's a matter of minutes.  I have a moment of concern when the head resembles a failed meat loaf, but then I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking at.  Once the baby's head is visible, I see a look of determination that easily matches JoAnna's.   Then there's a pause, and I feel there's too much blood.  A few more pushes and the genitals are in view. 

"Eddie's here!" I announce.

His skin and hair color appear to be much darker than Andy's intro into the world and initially his face seems plug ugly.    For the next two hours, Eddie shows himself to be Mr. Mellow and as beautiful and healthy a baby as Andy was.  While I'm holding him, I get the feeling that he hears me.  The few times he opens his eyes, I swear I see a glint of recognition.  Hi Dad!  I was concerned that the birth of a second child would be a less emotional experience -- what first-born child wouldn't feel that way -- but the more I hold Eddie, the more I stare into his florid but perfectly formed face, a unique feeling of joy spreads through my body.  As Eddie was being delivered, I was practically running in place.  If only the camcorder had been set up to record the entire scene.  Once I left the hospital, I felt the best thing to do was to avoid sleep.  Once I shared the news with Greg, I informed Andy of his new status as big brother.  His response?  A negative one, but I wrote it off to sleepiness.  He slept in until 8 and once he was awake wasn't convinced of the need to get dressed right away.  We ate breakfast at Perkins and then visited Mom and Eddie.  Andy proved to be a hyperactive chatterbox, but adorable nonetheless.  He really is proud to be a big brother.

1953 Chevrolet: Why is it, wherever people travel, you see more Chevrolets than any other car

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18, 1973

Once again home again as I must continue to refer to it. When I am in Pittsburgh, I will occasionally call that home, but here is what the meaning of home is truly all about: a rug on the floor, a clock on the wall, comfortable furniture, immaculately kept rooms with nothing out of place. It is not really MY home, but "home" nonetheless, home because of the warmth given off and the people who inhabit it. I hadn't planned on leaving Pittsburgh this early. In fact, I had considered waiting until the 24th, which would have only given me extra time to work on my Billboard project and spend my evenings getting stoned and listening to music. Which reminds me that I never did fully complete my last entry. I became so involved with my post-graduate school plans and the lack of money that will accompany that time. Before I begin another tirade, let me find that lost thread.

December 18, 1970

Ralph leaves for vacation, and I am relieved.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Glamorous Movie Stars or Famous Baseball Stars: You Make the Call

I had a View-Master when I was a kid but spent my "pleasure-packed hours" -- more like a few dozen rather than hundreds -- looking at national park scenery and the like.

Baseball stars?  Mom!  Dad!  How could you deprive me?

December 16, 1988 (Snowy trip to Two Rivers)

Only two of us at the library during the afternoon. Slow enough day not to worry. Sheila's artichoke dip tides me over. Leave for Two Rivers at 5:30. I'm in a foul mood for the first half of trip. A light snow had fallen all day. Conditions are treacherous in patches. Windshield washer doesn't squirt. Andy's fussy and we have no raisins. Stop at Delafield exit for snacks, dinner at Hardee's. Arrive at 10:00, fifteen minutes after Andy falls asleep.

December 16, 1979 (Movies @ the Library)

During the month of December, on consecutive Mondays, the Oshkosh Public Library has been sponsoring a Marx Brothers film festival: Animals Crackers, Horsefeathers, Duck Soup, and Monkey Business. Some extra money was left over in the programming budget so I decided to extend our usual Monday night movies another month with this miniseries. The attendance has been good but not as outstanding as I would have originally predicted. Oshkosh is not much of a movie town. It's even rubbed off on me. I haven't been to a recent theatrical release in over a year. Of course, much of that has to do with the poor quality of movies lately and the high cost of tickets. The Midwest has yet to hear of bargain matinees or of dollar movie theaters for second-and third-run features.

Yesterday's Marx Brothers offering was Duck Soup, my personal favorite of their ten or so films. Last week the audience roared its way through Horsefeathers; this week, although the audience appeared to enjoy the movie, the reaction was surprisingly subdued. Marx Brothers comedy relies heavily on the verbal interplay among the actors, especially in the scenes with Groucho. (The presence of Harpo allows the films to incorporate some inventive sight gags.) Perhaps the crowd was more in the mood for slapstick.

December 16, 1970

Start reading again, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15, 1973 (A Dream)

It was in the balcony of some auditorium. It could have been the old church, but the layout was not quite the same. I was ushering people to their seats. Denise Johnson was there and I escorted her to a seat halfway down the aisle. Each participant in the event or service was given a sleeping bag. Barbara Bruno came in while I was busy and seated herself next to Denise, to whom she was talking in the most strident of voices. I went down to give her a sleeping bag and ended up explaining to her how it was operated, where the zipper was and that kind of thing. I looked down to the main floor and sitting in a curved row of chairs was Val Franklin. There were two other people, both male, sitting with her, whom I did not recognize.

December 15, 1965

Thursday morning I walked up to the high school. In English we had to read our limericks that we wrote for homework. Mine gave the class quite a charge.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14, 1999

We have an infestation – although that’s probably overstating the actual conditions -- of little moths. About a month ago, we’d see these critters flitting around the kitchen. When JoAnna checked the cupboard where we store our cereals, Bisquick, and flour, she found most of these items to be contaminated. We threw out every open package, emptied the cupboard, and cleaned it thoroughly. Since then we’ve found the moths all over the house – in the bedrooms, the living room, the family room. They are always single sightings. Fortunately, they don’t travel in packs. The worst day was the Friday of our card party, which the moths blessedly decided not to show up for, saving us the embarrassment of having to give an explanation to our guests. Since then, we haven’t seen too many of them. I asked the Orkin guy this morning during his monthly visit. (We’ve stuck with an indoor and outdoor spraying program ever since a major ant infestation a couple years ago, which quickly eliminated the problem. The one time I considered dropping the service, the ants started to show up again. I’d swear they were on the Orkin payroll.)

In fact, there was even a moth attached to the ceiling of the hallway, which I pointed out to him, having refrained from killing this evidence when I first spotted it a half hour before his arrival.

“You’ve got Indian meal moths,” he quickly diagnosed.

I told him how we had addressed this problem.

“You did the right thing,” he said.

He suggested we monitor things for a month and, if conditions don’t improve by then, said we might want to consider a spraying of the interior of the cupboards. I hope we can avoid doing that.

At the library today, I found a book entitled Pest Control for Home and Garden that had four pages of information under the topic of “Pantry Pests”, where the Indian meal moth was featured. What I read here confirmed what the Orkin guy told me: dumping and cleaning first, chemicals as a last resort.

Now you’ll never want to visit us, thinking we live in a roach motel! I would like to know how these moths got into the house in the first place.

December 14, 1980 (Letter to Michael)

Michael Kanter and Tony Szczygiel, on the occasion of Tony's marriage to Andrea Szalnaski.

The post office keeps returning all the letters I've written and mailed to you. I just can't figure out this mystery. Every letter is stamped "undeliverable" to the point where the return address is nearly blotted out. In fact, the last letter was returned with a note scrawled on the reverse of the address side of the envelope: I wouldn't deliver this piece of mail with a ten-foot pole. It sounds like you're planning to stiff your letter carrier again this year. Haven't you heard of the holiday spirit -- of greed on earth, goodwill to me? This time I'm going to tape a ten-dollar bill to the envelope -- think that'll be enough? -- to insure delivery. Next year, though, you're on your own.

Even though it was a very brief reunion, I enjoyed the opportunity to see you and Elizabeth again. Your gray hairs were quite noticeable. I hope you plan to do something about them. I know a certain individual -- think he goes by the name of Ronnie, some airhead who's the latest rage in Washington -- who could probably give you a few pointers.

Seriously now, what are your plans for the Cambridge store? Personally, I'd like to see you become involved in a less tension-producing pursuit. Since I plan to be around for awhile, I'd like to have certain good friends of mine do likewise. No matter that the reunions are becoming too infrequent.

During the past month, I've started to look at my surroundings much differently. I haven't been able to pinpoint the source of this transformation. Perhaps it's just a logical and natural personal development. Oshkosh has been very good to me. I have a job that I enjoy and am excelling at and I've formed some very close friendships. When I study the situation more thoroughly, though, I realize that I don't want to be just a librarian for the rest of my life.

I also see that the activities my best friends and I are involved in are leading us nowhere as far as any intellectual gratification or fulfillment is concerned. We drink a lot of beer, we smoke a lot of dope, we party a lot -- mindlessly, as if we're stumped about how else to spend the time -- and we play a lot of cards -- sheepshead, mostly. It's good for a lot of laughs, but I'm finding myself becoming rather bored. I look at the people I hang around with -- mostly couples, interestingly enough -- and see very few signs of ambition or adventure. It's getting to be the same old shit. Too predictable.

Lately, I've attempted to make myself somewhat scarce without arousing any suspicion. ("What's the matter, he's too good for us all of a sudden?") I've started to tackle some more ambitious writing projects, outside of the usual journal entries and correspondence. Yesterday I mailed a 900-word essay to the Chicago Tribune using the recent publication of The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty as a jumping-off point. It's not a book review. More like musings on the state of the short story in American literature. The Tribune prints a weekly column on its editorial page for which it solicits essays form its readers. What have I got to lose, I figured. At this point in time, I really needed a small project for which I could discipline myself.

Less than a week ago, I began writing a short story, somewhat autobiographical and based on a recent incident in my life that helped to lead me to this present re-evaluation. I foresee problems with the ending, but so far I'm quite pleased with what I have written.

Enclosed are a few prints from some slides you might enjoy. Keep them. I had extra copies made. The wide-angle lens makes a bit of a difference in normal picture-taking. Hello Elizabeth, Kathy, and, ah...what's the status on the new arrival?

Keith's Magazine on Home Building: A Bungalow of the Western Type

Antique Home Style.

California Bungalow Architecture.

Seattle, the 21st century bungalow city.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13, 1979

Barb arrived home yesterday evening quite late. It must have been close to midnight. At the time, I was reviewing the prints in my photo album again. (How many times do I have to marvel at what a darling little boy I was?) Immediately I sensed something was wrong. Even though I never saw Barb before she shut herself in her room, I knew a black cloud was hovering over her. When I awoke the next morning, it had not dissipated one whit. What I should have done is ignored her and simply gone about my business of preparing to leave for work. Instead I had to egg her on subconsciously. I talk to her because I hate to see her in such a mood, yet I realize my words only serve to antagonize her.

All day long I replayed our morning conversation. At one point, I contemplated a firm approach, which basically would consist of a demand to move out and interact with other people on a personal, day-to-day level. It occurred to me that living with an older brother might be emotionally and psychologically crippling for her. I considered this approach frequently last winter when Barb's roller-coaster moods were at their most uncontrollable. It's pure fantasy, though. I'd never have the courage (or stupidity) to make such a bold and heartless declaration.

When I returned home from the library, Barb had dinner (and an apology) waiting. Enchiladas. I knew it! As long as I maintain a fair and level-headed position in all matters affecting my relationships with others, I need not worry about the temporarily erratic behavior of those dear to me. Barb realizes that she acts irrationally whenever she allows the pressures in her life to overwhelm. To be able to recognize such a fault is an indication that progress is being made.

The two beers that accompanied my supper left me feeling extremely lethargic. Why not give this evening over to completely kicking back, I asked myself. Another stunning defeat for will power. I rolled a couple joints, fed the Charlie cassette into my music box, and browsed through the most fascinating book I have encountered all year: Edsels, Luckies, & Frigidaires: Advertising the American Way. The book is copiously illustrated with examples of classic advertising covering a period of one hundred years. Being in a rather stupored state of mind, I had to postpone reading any of the text. This is a book I'd love to purchase for my personal library.

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12, 1973

I'm sitting here not knowing whether to write or shiver. Yesterday Mike arrived to spend a few days. When I awoke I felt decent except for a slight sore throat. During the morning I drove to Squirrel Hill to do some shopping. Back home I read while waiting for Mike to arrive. I had to work for part of the afternoon, so Mike accompanied me. I felt giddy the entire time and noticed a flu sickness coming on. At 4:30, I told Mike I needed to take a short nap. Walking home, I was raped by the wind. I felt as wispy as gossamer. Back in my room, I fell to the bed and wrapped the blanket I had retrieved from the car around me. It was the blanket from Atlantic City and there was still sand in it. Mike started to read, but I knew he must have been bored stiff. Before I mentioned that it would best if he just left, Mike himself made the move. There was no other choice.

I was out of it for the rest of the night. I was physically unable to raise myself. As much as I wanted to change my clothes and put on my thermal undershirt and crawl underneath the covers, I just could not motivate myself. It was similar to the feeling that a heavy acid trip gave me, the mind and body totally spaced-out and magnetized to a certain sound or visual. The flu trip, though, is an agonizing one, while the acid trip is usually a joyful one. I remember the time I was sick in February of my junior year at UB. The day the sickness really hit me, I made the decision not to attend classes. My twelve "free" records arrived from Columbia and the sickness has wearied me to such an extent that I couldn't make the effort to listen to any of these new albums.

Mom called me about 8 and that seemed to take me out of a drifting course toward sleep. At least the call made me feel bereft of a much-needed and longed-for sleep. She instantly knew I was ill from the sound of my voice. She called me since I haven't written in some time. Doubtless, she felt guilty for calling me when I was so intent on getting some rest, but then how many times do I retire at 8PM. Eight AM has been my bedtime more often than eight PM over the past few years.

At 9 I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be getting any sleep for awhile, so I did some reading. At 4:30 I was awakened by some hammer-like pounding coming from #5, that fucking weird person Milo. He was making frequent trips up and down the hallway, walking with what sounded to be a slight limp. Earlier in the evening, someone had knocked on my door, but I had been trying to sleep and didn't feel like getting up to answer. Maybe it was Milo, but what would he have wanted. Making all that noise at 4:30 in the morning convinced me that it must be attention he is craving.

December 12, 1965

After school on Monday there was basketball practice. I couldn't do much because of my toe. (Saturday night I limped all the way home in agony because of the pain.) I told Mr. Shantz about it and he took a look at it. I had to give my toe a whirlpool for about 10-15 minutes. After supper, Dad made arrangements for me to see the foot doctor. He was the same one that I went to before. He cut away some dead skin and taped up my two little toes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10, 2004 (The Mosaic Stained-Glass Jesus, Part 2)

The Mosaic Stained Glass Jesus, Part 2.

On Wednesday, I received a phone call from the person who had previously complained to another staff member about the “Christian iconography” in the library.

“You mean the stained glass Jesus,” I clarified, trying not to sound smart-alecky.

The caller, who identified himself by name – Ken Green – right up front, prefaced his concern with a glowing and detailed assessment of all aspects of the library: the staff, the collection, the level of service, the furnishings, the adjacent parking lot, and both the interior and exterior design of the building itself.

“Your facility doesn’t even have the feel of a library,” he noted somewhat cryptically, without offering any further explanation.

He sounded like a movie critic reviewing his all-time favorite film.

Hearing such fulsome praise about the library, though, made me prepare myself for the other shoe to drop, as the saying goes. Most people are content to say, “You have a wonderful library,” and leave it at that.

Mr. Green then offered what I considered to be a fallacious analogy: the placement of the Ten Commandments in Alabama state judicial building by Chief Justice Roy Moore.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any comparison at all,” I countered. “That was one item on display that the judge had tried to make a permanent exhibit. The piece of art in question here is part of a larger exhibit that includes a variety of themes. There are pictures of a tiger, 2 German shepherds, a Mexican scene, and even something abstract – although it looks like it might be the rays of the sun. And by the end of the month, all of these items will be gone. It’s just a temporary exhibit. In fact, all of our exhibits are up for no more than a month or two.”
Mr. Green wasn’t buying my explanation.

“But you’re promoting a particular religion,” he insisted during his voluble response.

“Just because there’s a picture of Jesus in the library doesn’t mean we’re promoting Christianity,” I replied. “We’re not promoting tigers or German shepherds or Mexican landscapes. We work with the Madison Art Guild and other group to allow artists the opportunity to display their work at the library. It has no direct bearing on library service.”

I’ve encountered this argument before. Some people – a very small minority, fortunately, most of whom live outside of Middleton’s service area – feel that libraries are promoting abortion or witchcraft or teenage sexuality when books on these and other hot-button topics are found on the shelves. Ideally, library collections are developed to contain all points of view on a particular topic, not by the personal views of the librarians, though I’m sure that’s not always the case. As a colleague of mine often states, “Libraries should have something to offend everyone.”

Our phone discussion continued for another ten minutes, with Mr. Green becoming increasingly exercised by my unwillingness to embrace his rather extreme points of view. He launched into a spirited defense of the separation of church and state as set forth in the U.S. Constitution – at least as he interpreted it. The more revved up he become, the more difficult it became for me to hold up my end of the dialogue. Our conversation had turned into a one-sided diatribe. Whenever I managed to express my opinion, he would recklessly paraphrase the words I had just spoken.

“So you’re saying…..,” he would assert.

Time for me to bring this phone call to a close, I told myself after he did this a third time.

I quickly came up with what I thought would be a good exit strategy.

“I think what I should do is call the city attorney and get his take on this issue,” I told Mr. Green.

“What’s his name?” he quickly shot back.

Reluctantly, I gave it to him, as well as the phone number at which he could reach him.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Green seemed eager to continue our debate. I was on the opposite end of that spectrum. Using great restraint, I managed to break our connection without having to hang up on him, though I’m sure I left him in a ranting mood.

As I replayed this phone call in my mind, I had the distressing feeling that he wasn’t done with us yet.

I received an unexpected phone call on Thursday afternoon, a few minutes before the start of my reference desk shift.

The woman identified herself and the organization she represented: the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago.

I immediately discerned the reason for her call. Mr. Green had obviously lodged a complaint with them.

“We were informed that a statue of Jesus has been put up in the lobby of the library,” she explained tentatively, as if embarrassed by the absurdity of this report, but feeling a need to check it out anyway.

“Let me assure you. It’s nothing like that,” I responded with a chuckle in my voice.
I then gave her my measured version of events, which she received with an audible sigh of relief. The woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, mentioned that she is from the Madison area and is familiar with the Middleton library.

“It sounds as though you’re well within your rights,” she summarized.

I’m sure nothing will convince Mr. Green that this is the case. At this point, I’m almost eager for him to call me again, just so I can gloat. Rest assured, though, that I’ll refrain from expressing that emotion and conduct any further business on a professional level.
I found some interesting information on the Anti-Defamation League’s website. Recently, there has been a discussion on a library listserv to which I subscribe about the appropriateness of Christmas trees in libraries. One librarian asserted that Christmas trees are “overt displays of particular religious significance.” Not so, according to the information provided by the ADL, in a series of guidelines entitled “The December Dilemma”.

In the context of displays on public property, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Christmas crèche standing alone is impermissible, but a Christmas tree is permissible because it has become such a secular symbol of the winter holiday season. It also has found that a Chanukah menorah is a symbol with both secular and religious meanings, and its display on public property within a predominantly secular display is permissible.

Each year, the City of Middleton has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the first Sunday of December, an event that the more politically correct City of Madison studiously avoids. We’ve never had a tree in the library, though. In fact, we don’t make any effort to decorate for the season. It seemed to be an unwritten rule that was already in place when I started to work here in 1986, and I’ve never had any reason or inclination to challenge it. When I lived in Oshkosh, the Friends of the Library purchased a huge tree and placed in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the front entrance. One year we even had carolers as part of the “unveiling” program.

December 10, 1979

8:00 Eight hours of sleep is more than enough. Read Strangers in the Land, p. 77-96.
9:25 yoga. David Grisman Quintet
9:45 set up book shelf in front of my bedroom window. Breakfast
10:30 Happy the Man
10:55 Shower, dress for work
11:05 Four Tops Greatest Hits
11:30 Leave for work
1:00 Deliver radio spot announcement to radio stations. When I return to the library, Shelia asks me the day's date. I had signed out the van for Monday, the 17th. Tom had already signed it out for 1:00 p.m. today. He was not pleased.
3:00 Gloria and I compose a letter to Jim Coughlin to recommend the formation of a committee to study a more equitable approach for a county-wide library levy.
4:30 Haircut. Walk to Tortilla for dinner.
7:00 Susie and Jackie are at the movie, Shall We Dance
9:30 Four Tops Greatest Hits. Letter from Dan.
10:20 Flash and the Pan. Write notes on some Christmas cards.

December 10, 1973

Last night when I was working in the library, Dr. Kryzs asked if he could speak with me. Adjusting to the surprise with various thoughts of what he might have to say, I walked with him to the tables by the periodicals. He then showed me these notecards on which he had started to list ideas for ways in which to revamp his course. We talked about the improvements that had taken place in the course after the midterm, the fear of certain students about the professor's possible vindictiveness, and the biased nature of the evaluations themselves. He seemed sincere in his efforts to institute change into the course structure and that impressed me tremendously, especially the fact that he would approach me with his tentative changes. The term has proven to be a see-saw experience with this man.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9, 1981

I sat down and looked Dick directly in the eye.

"Dick, how much longer do you plan to stay around?"

That led off a bizarrely interesting hour conversation, the conversation that I fantasized about dozens of times. We discussed the dress code incident, which I was introduced to at my first department head meeting, telling him his handling of that fiasco led to a damaging and irrevocable loss of trust and respect. We discussed his "chatterer" qualities. Dick confessed to being lonely: Genie works a different shift and most weekends to boot; Gregg is in his own apartment now; Thomas is extremely busy with his various high school activities. I can't really sympathize. Springfield provided me with all the loneliness I could handle, but I put the time to constructive use.

Colored Lights

Bare Tree

Sports Center Update: Prius 5, Matrix 1

Christmas in the Neighborhood