Monday, July 29, 2013

Leslie Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida (Postcard Series)

On This Date in 1998

I was a little concerned about Boxer yesterday. When the boys and I left the house, he was at the foot of Eddie’s bed, lying on a folded-up blanket. When I returned home for lunch, I found it odd that he didn’t pad into the kitchen and meow for attention while I fixed myself something to eat, which is his usual habit. When he really wants me to get the message, he’ll roll onto his back and expose his underside, where he likes to be stroked. I walked through the house looking to find him and, oddly enough, he was still on Eddie’s bed. He wasn’t sleeping, but he hardly moved when I entered the room. I thought he might be sick, but I didn’t see any indication of that. Do cats run a fever? I don’t know. It might be a good idea if I learn to recognize the symptoms of sickness in a cat. By the late afternoon, Boxer had moved to another part of the house. He hasn’t slept with JoAnna and me lately. He will sometimes sleep on one of the boy’s beds, but he seems more independent now. He doesn’t try to rouse me out of a slepe at 5 in the morning too much anymore. We haven’t had to take him out of the room and close the door for a couple weeks. Saturday morning, when I was just starting to wake up, he jumped on the bed and approached my head, breathing what felt like a snort of air into my ear and then licking it. I just repositioned myself.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Andy’s select baseball team played four games over the weekend at a little league complex on the east side of Madison, in the shadow of the hulking Oscar Meyer plant. The four diamonds, each intended for use by a different age group, have not been well-maintained. The field Middleton played on was uneven, especially in the infield. There is a bit of a dip in the grass between the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box. Home plate appears to be sinking into the dusty ground. Many ground balls took weird hops, so fielding was a challenge throughout the weekend for all the players involved. 

Middleton’s first game, scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday -- no sleeping in this weekend – was against Madison West. It turned into a rather tense contest, primarily due to the nastiness that boiled just under the surface of the West coach. At one point, he made a big deal about a bat that one of the Middleton players used. As it turned out, it was larger than was permitted for use in the tournament, 2¾ inches in diameter, 2¼ being the maximum allowed. The Middleton coaches and players were unaware of this rule. A couple innings later, one of the West players slid so hard into home that he broke the catcher’s leg. (We didn’t know this at the time, but it was obvious that Billy was in a lot of pain. He was writhing on the ground, calling out, “Get it off me! Get it off me!”, referring to the shin guards as one of the coaches attending to him quickly discovered. He had to be carried off the field.)

At this point, the mood turned sour. One of the more outspoken Moms made a suggestion from the bleachers, directed at the West coach, that his team play a clean game. “We don’t need this kind of stuff,” she said to sum up her impromptu remarks, which were delivered without the use of profanities or a sense of anger. Both her husband and high-school-age son play in organized leagues, and she was just flat-out disgusted with what was happening on the field. One of Middleton’s assistant coaches tried to talk to the West coach, but the first thing out of his mouth was, “ Oh, you’re still mad about the bat being thrown out of the game.” Which was already forgotten about on our side of the field. To make matters worse, the umpire was this meek, barely competent teenager, who had trouble keeping track of balls and strikes. When questioned about a particular pitch late in the game, he responded, “It was a strike. I think it was a strike.” 

“If you’re going to be wrong, you might as well be wrong with authority,” was a comment one of the parents shared with the rest of us in the bleachers. 

The rules of the tournament had been changed at the last minute. Stealing, though not leading off, was allowed. Runners could advance on a passed ball or wild pitch. Middleton had never played this type of ball before and became rattled in the early going of their first game. As a result, West scored none of their first 4 runs on rbis. Nevertheless, Middleton hung tough, losing the game 7-5 against a team that went on to win the tournament.

By game 2, which started at 4 in the afternoon, Middleton had learned to run the bases with a little more abandon. They sprinted to the next base whenever it was open and the ball got by the catcher. Andy pitched the second half of the game. I wondered how he would adapt to the pressure, but his control was excellent. Even during the regular season, if he missed a pitch, it wasn’t by much. He pitched 2 innings of shutout ball and looked ready to do the same in his third inning, but the rightfielder dropped an easy flyball and that seemed to bug Andy a little bit. After Andy loaded the bases with a walk, the coach brought in a reliever who recorded the final two outs. Andy’s clutch basehit in the 5th, with two outs and runners on second and third, provided Middleton with the margin of victory, 8-6. JoAnna and I were very proud of him. We both considered it his best all-around game of the summer.

As the ball field was only 20 minutes from Middleton, we went home between games. I ran some errands and did some yard work, which included planting more perennials along the south sides of the house in an effort to add some red and purple to the preponderance of yellow and orange. JoAnna went shopping, a couple light-weight suits for her trip to Washington, D.C. at the top of her list. The boys stayed indoors and watched TV, and for once I didn’t begrudge them their lazy time in front of the tube.

In order to get my 20 minutes of Walkfit in, I got up at 5:30 Saturday morning. I looked in on the boys and was surprised to find Eddie missing. He was asleep on the couch in the family room, the TV tuned to the Cartoon Network, his favorite cable channel. Later, I tried to determine how long he’d been there, but he wasn’t giving me very good answers to my questions. He probably didn’t look at any of the digital clocks on his walk from the bedroom and the family room and has never been a very good judge of time anyway. 

Sunday started out just like Saturday, except that Eddie stayed in one place throughout the night. Andy’s third game of the tournament started at 8 a.m. Middleton played a team from South Milwaukee and pounded out a 20-1 victory. The other team only had one player who could throw the ball with any zip, and even he wasn’t that effective. Game 4 started at 2 p.m. so we had some time to return home, get something to eat and do whatever. Middleton played Windsor in the slat game, taking a 8-3 lead into the top of the 6th. Windsor rallied for two runs and had the bases loaded by the time the final out was made.

JoAnna is in Washington, D.C. for the next few days. Until Thursday. She is part of a continent representing various political groups meeting with the President’s advisors to talk about the fall campaign in Wisconsin. It sounds like the White House considers Wisconsin a key state in the upcoming elections. Feingold is running for re-election to the Senate and, according to the polls, has maintained a lead over Mark Neumann, a conservative Republican from Janesville who is giving up his seat in the 1st Congressional district. Judy Robson, a Democrat from Beloit who currently represents that area in the State Assembly, is the front runner for Neumann’s seat. 

Eddie is becoming more insistent about wanting to play hockey, even though his ice-skating skills are minimal. He has skates but with the warmer than usual weather we had wasn’t able to use them this past winter. JoAnna suggested he trying playing on a rollerblade hockey team – a friend of Andy’s does that – so now he’s been spending a lot of time on his rollerblades. In fact, on Sunday evening, he went to a friend’s house about six blocks away – without letting us know where he was going.

 Here’s a picture of the boys at 7 o’clock on a weekday morning. Our second effort to provide the boys their own bedrooms has produced mixed results. Usually it’s Andy who sleeps in his own bed throughout the night. Eddie will either try to join his brother in bed or sack out on the futon, which is now in Andy’s room. Their mattress: the blue rug. Two pillows and a comforter are their only dreamland accessories. This arrangement went on for about a week in July. Since we separated the boys, Eddie has slept in his bed maybe 25% of the time. We haven’t figured out his problem yet. I thought he’d grow out of it by now, but that hasn’t happened. Another question for our pediatrician.

Andy’s sleeping pattern is changing. As the summer progresses, it has become harder to wake him up. He’s learning to sleep in. I never get to work before 9:00 as a result. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule. Otherwise, I’d be out of a job.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Barbara Larson Hecei (1936-2013) Warren High School Class of 1954

In case the print is too small.  Dark, flashing eyes . . . soft-spoken . . . pleasant disposition . . . divides her interests.
A popular song in the spring of '54.

Barbara.  The name never reached #1 but it had a long run -- 31 years -- in the top 10.  (It currently ranks #900 and is dropping like a stone.)

Grant Greene (1942-2013) Warren High School Class of 1960

This song was in the top 10 when the class of 1960 graduated.

Grant.  A name of consistent, though middling, popularity.  (It currently ranks #163 after peaking at #115 in 1997,)

Monday, July 22, 2013

On This Date in 1998

“The summer is going by so quickly.” I hear this comment frequently -- at the library, at one of the boy’s baseball games, waiting in a check-out line at a store and eavesdropping on a conversation. I look at a calendar and see that the end of July is approaching, that school is just another month away, and am tempted to agree. But then I review what has transpired so far this summer, and the end of the past school year seems remote. On the evening of the last day of school, June 3rd, the boys and I (and Meaghan) traveled to County Stadium to see the Brewers play the Braves. In my mind, that’s already a long time ago, certainly not a dim memory yet but there’s so much to go back over to get there.

It has indeed been a full and active summer so far. There are a lot of highlights to recall: Andy’s first baseball tournament, helping Ron and Julie put together their deck and then a couple weeks later christening it with a sheepshead party, small-town parades and distributing campaign literature, the 5th of July bocce ball tournament and cookout at Lance and Sue’s as a warm-up to the Rhythm and Booms fireworks display, a trip to one of the water parks at the Dells, our evening at the American Players Theater, the Bastille Day Party (perhaps the peak of the summer season), lots of visits to the pool, and baseball baseball and more baseball. We've been having a great summer.

I think all the activity, combined with a later bedtime, is starting to take a toll on Andy. He is beginning to develop the art of sleeping in. This morning, he was still asleep at quarter to nine. Eddie had been up for at least an hour. Cartoons are still a strong enough incentive to get him out of bed. Since I wanted to get to work, I told Andy he could walk to Sauk Trail school, where his Camp of the Trails program is based, whenever he felt ready. He decided to get up, but I was perfectly happy to let him sleep in longer if he wanted. He was a select team practice tonight, his final Little Buck League baseball game on Friday, and another tournament this weekend which will involve two games on Saturday and at least one game on Sunday. Fortunately, the tourney is being held on the east side of Madison so there’s no travel to speak of. The kid’s going to be exhausted by Sunday evening.

Eddie played his final game of the season last night and showed some noticeable improvement in his hitting. Last Sunday the boys and I went miniature golfing at Vitense Golfland in Madison. Afterwards, we hit some balls in the new batting cages area there. Eddie tried the slow-pitch softball speed and connected with almost every ball. This experience obviously made a big difference in his confidence at the plate yesterday. I even got into it, swinging the bat and ripping the balls into the net and remembering with fondness all those crazy softball Tuesday in Oshkosh.

I missed most of Andy’s game, including the two innings he pitched. According to JoAnna’s report, he worked his way out of a bases’ loaded jam in the 1st and struck out the side in the 2nd. His team, the Road Kill, won 2-1, a real squeaker. The team’s last three games have all been 1-run affairs. They won the previous two 7-6 and 4-3. Not as much hitting during the second half of the season. Every team’s pitching (and fielding) has definitely improved.

Did Al and Cyndi leave an address with you? If so, make sure you relay it to us during your next phone call. I have some pictures from the Bastille Day party I want to send to them. 

My mom is eager to see the boys. We’ll be leaving for Pennsylvania on either the 2rd or 3rd of August, depending upon the results of Andy’s baseball tournament that weekend. I stay in Warren until Friday. On the drive back to Wisconsin, I’ll be stopping in Lorain, Ohio, to attend the bat mitzvah of a very good friend of mine from high school. She underwent a bone marrow transplant last year, and after that harrowing experience I guess she decided better late than never. JoAnna will accompany me the following weekend to pick up the boys. During the week that I’m there, the boys and I will be staying at Lar and Kim’s cabin, located about 5 miles north of Warren along a narrow, tree-shaded road and next to the proverbial babbling brook. It’s a very picturesque setting. Remind me to send you some pictures when we get back.

Thanks again for helping to make our Bastille Day party such a special event. We really enjoyed your

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saratoga Race Ways, Night Harness Racing Track, Saratoga Springs, New York (Postcard Series)

On This Date in 1998

My face is less red, more brown today. I’ve been applying a moisturizing oil on a regular basis, which I hope will prevent any peeling.

Eddie’s baseball game was rained out yesterday evening. When I left the library, a solid bank of very ominous-looking steel-gray clouds was approaching from the west. Rain started to fall shortly after the boys and I returned home and continued off and on, mostly on, until dusk. The weather also kept me from doing any yardwork. JoAnna made pizza when she came home, one vegetarian, one mat, which provided us with leftovers for lunch today. I read the newspapers while everyone else watched TV. Around 7:30, Andy asked me if I wanted to play cards. The boys and I played rummy, crazy 8s, and war – a few hands of each. I quickly got killed in the last game of war and left the boys to fight it out between the two of them. Surprisingly, they even agreed to my suggestion that we turn off the TV. They’ve been into the Disney channel lately, and I’m tired of seeing their insistent promos for the kiddie group N’Sync, a Backstreet Boys offshoot, 5 teenage boys with major prepubescent appeal. None of them plays a musical instrument, at least not onstage. They look as though they lip-synch to prerecorded music and chug their way through a series of choreographed moves designed to elicit screams from the mostly female audience. Milli Vanilli was more influential than people give them credit for. An N’Sync concert was televised this past weekend, which was must-see TV for the boys. In fact, last week Andy complained, “Grandma and Grandpa don’t have Disney,” meaning that the Disney channel isn’t on their cable system. This concern of his was relieved when we decided not to go to Two Rivers last weekend. Albert’s idea of a surprise party didn’t seem to be going anywhere, to nobody’s surprise. JoAnna had to pick up Boxer at the vet’s at noon on Saturday. He spent an evening way from home after getting declawed (and seems to have adjusted very well to it).

After checking her calendar, JoAnna said she can accompany me on the return trip to Pennsylvania. That was a great relief to me since I wasn’t looking forward to making that trip by myself. I probably won’t get back to Middleton from my meeting in La Crosse until 5:00, so it’ll be close to 6:00 by the time we’re on the road. I’m not sure if we’ll try to do the trip in one stretch. We’ll make the return trip on Monday, which means we’ll have at least one full day to visit. Maybe we can have a picnic at the cabin.

A month or so ago, I was asked to give a short talk on the Declaration of Independence to the Optimists, a local service club. My first reaction was, “I enjoy reading about American history and have for more than 20 years, but I’m certainly not an expert on the Declaration.” I thought of an angle which would allow me to promote the services of the library at the same time and decided my talk would involved how I research my talk by using a variety of library resources. My sources include reference books, such as the World Almanac and the World Book Encyclopedia; history book from the library’s collection, including a recently published title, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, wherein the author claims that, contrary to the longstanding acceptance of most historians, Jefferson should not be considered the author of this document; books reviews of American Scripture obtained through a full-text database available on the library’s computer system; an article on the signers of the Declaration from the December 1962 issue of American Heritage, one volume of an entire run of this magazine that was donated to the library a few years ago; a title from the Giants in Political Thought series, an audiotape collection; a video on Thomas Jefferson’s life, and a variety of information gathered from the Internet. It’s been fun putting this talk together.

I’ve been reading the Times Observer article with interest. What it boils down to is an equity issue. Let me use Middleton as an example. Residents of the city of Middleton pay $24 per capita to support the public library, which is slightly below the state of Wisconsin average. Why should neighboring municipalities pay nothing or even $12 per capita and expect to receive the same level of service? Fortunately, we don’t have to wrestle with the kinds of issues that Warren County is dealing with. The Dane County Library Service reimburses the 18 public libraries in Dane County for non-resident and cross-municipal use. This year, Middleton received $285,000 for extending library service, the majority of it the result of our serving as the far west side branch of the Madison Public Library. If we didn’t have this kind of arrangement, we’d have to implement a fee system. The problem as I see it has to do with the county commissioner form of government. Two votes can determine policies and programs for Warren County. Two much power in too few hands. 

Public libraries have never been “free” operations. In Wisconsin, the allocations come primarily from local and secondarily from county governments. We get no direct state or federal support. Pennsylvania’s system of funding is different, though I don’t know enough about it to go into the details. I’ve always wondered about the funding sources for the Warren library. If I recall correctly, it is referred to as the Warren Public Library Association. There are no local library associations in Wisconsin, as far as I know. It’s never been clear to me how that structure differs from a library that is almost wholly funded by tax dollars. I thought I read a quote by the library director that 21% of the Warren library’s revenue comes from non-tax sources. That’s unheard of in Wisconsin. I suspect the Warren library must have quite an endowment fund. Even growing up, I was impressed by the number of gift books that were added to the collection. The Times-Mirror would regularly publish long lists of recently added titles. And I don’t recall a library having so many gift plates on the inside covers of the books in its collection. It seemed like every other book was in memory of someone or purchased with special funds.

It’s a shame that the county can’t work cooperatively with the library. Youngsville, Sheffield, and Sugar Grover are battling over their little pieces of turf to no one’s benefit. Public libraries in Wisconsin have been working cooperatively for more than 30 years, in some cases. Middleton is a member of the Dane County Library Service and the South Central Library System, the latter a consortium of 47 public libraries in 7 counties. As a result, we are able to provide a level of service that would be impossible if we were on our own. Our computer catalog provides access to the holdings of 30 libraries (most of the smallest libraries in our system are not yet automated) totaling almost 2,000,000 items – books, magazines, videos, compact discs, books on tape, etc. Items requested from other libraries are oftentimes here within a day or two. If we went back to the old days, the people here would revolt. OK, now I’m sounding like a commercial, but Wisconsin really does have an excellent network of libraries. As a result, I have had a richly rewarding professional life for the past 20 years here. (20 years! That just floors me sometimes when I ponder that number in the context of where I’ve been.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Entrance to Memory Park and City Creek Canyon, Salt Lake City

On This Date in 1998

I feel somewhat lethargic today, drained of energy after a weekend that consisted of a lot of sun and water. Perfect weather conditions beckoned us outdoors, and we couldn’t resist the lure. My arms and shoulders are also a bit sore as a result of reacquainting myself with a baseball bat on Saturday. The details are forthcoming.

In my previous letter, I mentioned the possibility of a visit to the county fair last Thursday evening. We didn’t go. On the drive home, I asked Andy what he wanted to do.

“Stay home,” was his response.

I wasn’t surprised, considering his busy week of baseball, two games in two nights with another game and a practice still to come. We didn’t veg out the entire evening, though. Soon after JoAnna returned home from a meeting, somewhere around 7:30, Andy suggested we ride our bikes to Old Elm Lawn so he could practice his pitching and batting. I’m always happy to oblige when it comes to baseball.

Andy played in another exciting game Friday evening. He pitched the first two innings, giving up an unearned run in the first when a ground ball, a potential third out, went through the shortstop’s legs. The Road Kill won in the bottom of the sixth on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded. The ball was hit to the second baseman, and he didn’t try to make a play at the plate. If Andy’s team hadn’t scored, the game would have ended in a draw. No extra innings in the Little Bucks league.

After the game, we joined a group of parents and kids at Damon’s for dinner and trivia. The group included two couples, two (divorced) moms, and 6 boys (Wesley from Andy’s team; Wesley’s brother Kyle, who is Eddie’s age; Ross Parks, and Ross Hellenbrand). Both Rosses have played on the T. Rex’s, Andy’s soccer tame, since its formation when they were in kindergarten.

Andy had a select team baseball practice Saturday morning. During that time, I made three stops on the east side of Madison to return items that people loaned us for our party. A table and 8 plastic molded chairs. Two chafing dishes. A bug fogger. JoAnna and Andy went golfing in the afternoon (par 3). Eddie and I went to the pool, where we stayed for nearly four hours. JoAnna and Andy were supposed to join us after their 9 holes, but both preferred to rest. Andy was sacked out on the family room couch, and JoAnna was stretch out on top of the bed. We had a light supper: French bread, cheese, fruits, including watermelon, cantaloupe, and grapes. We weren’t in the mood to cook or even fire up the grill. After Andy and I conducted another pitching and batting session, the family went to Michael’s Frozen Custard. I had my first turtle sundae of the season, at least I think it was my first.

On Sunday I was hoping to get some yard work done. I need to do a little “patching” in the front yard. Andy and Eddie had different ideas. While JoAnna prepared a salad for dinner and washed the kitchen floor, the boys and I went miniature golfing at Vitense Golfland in Madison. Eddie actually stayed even with Andy and me during the first 9 holes but lost his focus a little bit during the second 9. Before leaving, we tired out the new batting cages. Baseball: fast, medium, and slow. Softball: fast and slow. At first I just watched while Andy took some swings (a 50-cent token buys 12 balls), but then I decided, “Hey, this looks like fun, I want to try it myself.”

I chose a slow-pitch softball cage and was soon reliving my glory days on the Pot Luck Food Buying Club team in Oshkosh. Both boys expressed surprise at how hard I was hitting the balls. I was a little surprised myself considering how long it’s been since I’ve swung a bat. Eddie wanted to get into the act, and even though a sign said no one under 9 years old was allowed to use the batting cages, I told him to put on a helmet and try the slow softball pitching. He did very well, rarely missing a pitch. We spent $20 rather quickly here and on the walk back to the car, started talking about next week’s visit.

Before returning home, we stopped at Dunham’s, a sporting goods store, where Andy bought a bat and a helmet. The latter will be useful to have when I pitch to Andy. I’ll be less concerned about an errant fastball. Andy and I spent the entire afternoon at the pool. Eddie’s visit was interrupted by a trip to the county fair, where he and JoAnna were helping out at the cub scout booth. Not wanting to ruin her “do”, JoAnna opted to visit the pool later in the afternoon.

Today my face is on the reddish state, but there is no sting or pain involved. I probably should get into the habit of using sunblock. At least I’ll be out of the sun for the remainder of the week. More hot weather has come our way. We’ll hit 90 degrees today and tomorrow, but by Wednesday things will cool down a bit. 

So, outside of the basics of keeping up with the laundry, tidying up the house, and vacuuming, the weekend was pretty much all play. Not that I had any pressing chores to tackle. I can work on the yard a little bit at a time in the morning, after my Walkfit exercise and before I shower and get dressed. I can usually fit in 30-45 minutes of chore time when I get up with the alarm at 6:00. Occasionally, though, I’ll sneak in a few extra minutes of sleep.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Philip Jewell (1942-2013) Warren High School Class of 1960

The #1 song when the class of 1960 graduated.

1942. Born when Philip was a relatively popular name.

Social Security:  Popular Baby Names
Current (2012) rank:  409

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vista of the Majestic Grand Teton (Postcard Series)

On This Date in 1998

Relief has arrived. Yesterday we received an unexpected break in the weather. The Sunday forecast for this week was a steady diet of high temperatures in the 90s. High humidity, too, of course. After two days of hot and muggy weather, the temperature remained in the 80s yesterday, and the evening was actually quite comfortable while we watched Andy’s baseball game. Thunderstorms had been predicted for the late evening but never arrived. Now the rest of the week is doing to be pleasant: sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s.

In order to beat the heat at home, we keep the house closed up during the day. That deprives Boxer from sitting on a window ledge, but it also keeps the hot air from seeping into the house. The four silver maples in our yard provide an umbrella of coolness. Without them, the house would be baking in the sun all day. During the evening, we run window fans in the bedrooms and ceiling fans in the dining area and kitchen. I think I neglected to mention this in a recent letter, but a couple weeks ago, JoAnna and I installed a ceiling fan in the kitchen. Ourselves. Without assistance. Successfully. It certainly made a difference when JoAnna was doing all her cooking and baking for the party. Our kitchen tends to trap heat. The fan helps to disperse it. Anyway, we were quite pleased with ourselves over what was admittedly was a very modest project, but then neither of us is the handiest person in the world.

Last night Andy’s team – they dubbed themselves the Road Kill at the beginning of the season – played the only undefeated team in the league. In their first meeting in June, they lost 11-8, and Andy’s pitching performance was a little shaky. He was the starting pitcher in the rematch, giving up 3 runs in the first inning. He pitched well, but the opposing team was getting the bat on the ball. Two hits to the outfield got past the defense, and the runners were able to take an extra base. One of the balls had an outside chance of being caught, although it would have been a tough play to make. Andy shook it off and came back to strike out the side in the second. Johnny Strnad pitched the next two innings, giving up one run in the 3rd. In the bottom of the 4th, the exploded for 5 runs, Johnny hitting a tripe with the bases loaded. Johnny is the team’s best player, but he hasn’t always performed well in clutch situations, but last night he redeemed himself and really smacked the ball. Wesley Bonebrake pitched the final two innings, making things interesting in the top of the 6th when a single and a couple walks loaded the bases. The other team scored just one run. Final score: 7-5. It was a very exciting game, and the boys, of course, were happy to beat the 1st place team.
Andy plays three games this week – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday – and then has a select team practice on Saturday morning. The select team played Tuesday evening against a team from Cross Plains, a community seven miles west of Middleton. Initially, they thought they’d be playing against another select team, but that wasn’t the case. As a result, it was a very one-sided affair, Middleton winning 21-3. Andy pitched the second inning, striking out the side. I was at a library board meeting and JoAnna was at a fundraiser. The swimming pool served as Eddie’s sitter, a situation that he enjoys as he’ll always run into someone he knows there. He doesn’t enjoy watching Andy’s games and gets bored trying to find something to do. JoAnna and I didn’t make precise arrangements as to who would be where during the evening. The board meetings sometimes run past 8:00, but Tuesday’s was adjourned at 7:40. I thought I’d better check on Eddie at the pool since it closes at 8:00. He was still there, and we found JoAnna at Andy’s game. If the meeting had run past 8:00, Eddie would have been standing around for while wondering where his ride was.

Andy’s activity at the Camp of the Trails this week is canoeing, so he is spending a lot of time outdoors. At the beginning of the week, I was concerned about the heat and humidity sapping all of his stamina before Friday. Another reason I was happy to see cooler weather arrive. Andy did complain about being tired yesterday morning but got out of bed with no prodding this morning. Eddie’s group went to the county fair yesterday, which may be our destination this evening. He wants to go on the rides. 

With all this activity later in the day, evening mealtimes are difficult to arrange. Monday was on the order of serve yourself. After Tuesday’s baseball game, I detoured through McDonald’s drive-through on the way home. The boys ordered their regular fare. A chicken McNugget happy meal for Eddie, with barbecue sauce and a Coke. A 5-piece McNugget with a super-size fries and a large Sprite for Andy. JoAnna asked me to pick her up two chicken fajitas. I opted to fix myself a turkey and cheese sandwich fired up with Pelligrino peppers at home. Last night, we went to Culver’s, actually eating our meal at a table inside the restaurant. JoAnna has a meeting tonight, so the boys and I will get our dinner at one of the concessions at the county fair. At yesterday’s game, one of the parents talked about getting a group together and going out after tomorrow’s game. We’ll most likely be in Two Rivers on Saturday for Larry’s surprise birthday party, which Albert is arranging. That means a surprise party is an unlikely outcome. JoAnna called her sister Cindy yesterday, to ask if we could stay at her house in Manitowoc. Cindy said, “Sure, but I probably won’t’ be around Saturday night.” 

“Albert definitely isn’t communicating with Cindy about this party,” JoAnna concluded after relaying this news to me.

As much as I’ve encouraged her to take the time off, JoAnna doesn’t feel that she can get away during the week of August 2nd. Here’s how our schedule is shaping up.

Friday, July 31. I have to work, as I’m only one of three people scheduled to be at the library. Three staff members are on vacation that day. JoAnna and Eddie will leave for Two Rivers to attend the Richard family reunion.

Saturday, August 1. Andy’s select baseball team plays a tournament in Reedsburg. 

Sunday, August 2. Depending on how the team does, the team will continue their tournament play. If the format is like the Beaver Dam tourney, they’ll play at least one game on this day. From Reedsburg, we’ll drive to Two Rivers, long before dark, I hope.

Monday, August 3. The boys and I will leave for Warren. Depending upon our Reedsburg departure time, we may try to drive through Chicago and find a motel in western Indiana. Our expected time of arrival should be late afternoon.

Friday, August 7. I’ll probably leave for Lorain, Ohio, since I want to attend Renee’s bat mitzvah the next day. It starts at 9:30. From here, I’ll continue on to Middleton.

Friday, August 14. I have to attend a Wisconsin Library Association board of directors meeting in La Crosse, which will add a couple hours to my return trip. The meeting will probably last until 3:00. My destination will be central Indiana.

Saturday, August 15. If I’m lucky, I’ll pull into the driveway at 4 East Third Avenue during the early afternoon. I should be able to stay over through Tuesday, making the return trip with the boys on

Tuesday, the 19th. I have a meeting on Wednesday that I can’t skip out on. Thursday is our annual staff in-service workshop at the library. Then before you know it, school starts. But we’re not there yet. Plenty of summer left. Let me back up and enjoy the present.

Two letters this week. Now you can plan your calendar.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

On This Date on 1998

At the halfway point, this summer is shaping up as quite an exceptional one. This past weekend was especially enjoyable since the focus was on our (third) annual Bastille Day party. 

Thursday morning I had LINK (library automation consortium) meeting at the public library in Wisconsin Dells. At 12:30, I met JoAnna and the boys, plus Meaghan and Joey Erpenbach, 6-year-old son of Jon and Kathy, at a prearranged site, and we spent the afternoon at Noah’s Ark, a mammoth water park. (And I do mean huge!) I kept an eye on Eddie and Joey at one of the smaller wave pools and a kiddie play area, while JoAnna and the two older kids went on some of the water slides. The boys and I eventually explored other areas of the park. We took a leisurely ride on a large innertube, floating along a shallow, canal-like channel called “The Lazy River”. We waited less than a minute to get a tube. The lines for the slides that we saw during our walk were long. I think the boys would have become impatient waiting 15 minutes to do something. At 3:15, we regrouped with the other half or our party at the wave pool where we had started out. Everyone but Andy, that is. As four o’clock approached, Andy was still nowhere to be found. JoAnna and I started to worry that something might have happened to him. All of a sudden, I noticed the distinctive lime green of his swimming trunks and breathed a sigh of relief. As it turned out, he had been waiting for us by the concession stand, taking Mom’s instruction of “we’ll meet back here at 3:15” too literally. She didn’t mean at the exact point she was standing when she uttered these words, but that’ show Andy translated them.

I drove back to Middleton along, Eddie wanting to be in Joey’s company and Andy not wanting to split up with Meaghan, who was going to a Brewer game as soon as she got dropped off. Because of the delay in waiting for Andy’s appearance, JoAnna had to get home pronto. I wanted to stop and get something to eat, as I’d had only a grapefruit for breakfast, a small piece of coffee cake at my meeting, and no lunch, since the meeting ran longer than expected and I couldn’t join the other librarians for lunch. I was starving and felt a headache coming on, so I stopped at a McDonald’s and ordered a couple chicken fajitas (the only thing on the menu that I actually like) and a lemonade to go. I almost chugged the entire contents of the cup, so thirsty was I after spending 3 hours in a very warm sun. I could feel the heat rising off my shoulders and back as I drove along U.S. 12, skirting Baraboo and the Devil’s Lake region, taking the scenic, though shorter route instead of joining the speed demons on the Interstate. Once again I hadn’t used any sunblock. I accepted the full-ray treatment.

I expected to see a dark blue Buick in the driveway when I returned home. JoAnna’s folks and Albert and Cyndi were spending the weekend with us. We needed to be on the road at 6:00 to get to our evening engagement on time. “It’s unlike Larry and Alice to be late,” I thought. Then I realized the cause of their delay. Albert, the “Herman” of the Richard family. JoAnna, of course, expected all along that her family would be arriving at the last minute.

Our destination: American Players Theater, near Spring Green, Wisconsin, about a 45-minute drive from Middleton. APT is an outdoor amphitheater that specializes in Shakespeare and other classic plays. They produce five plays each season, with an overlapping schedule so that most of the plays are put on throughout the entire season, which this year runs from June 11 through October 4. APT has been in operation for 15 years and survived some financially and artistically shaky early years. Its operation is now on a solid foundation. I’m almost embarrassed to say that this was only my second trip there.

We arrived 45 minutes before showtime (7:30), which gave us time to enjoy a snack of bread, cheese, fruit, and wine that JoAnna had packed in a picnic basket. Dozens of picnic tables are found in clusters along the shaded, uphill pathway leading the parking lot to the theater. All of the tables seemed to be occupied b y the time we arrived. Fortunately, a group was packing up as we approach the table they had been using.

It was a beautiful evening to watch a play outdoors. The temperature was in the low 80s and a gentle breeze was blowing. Because of our delay in ordering tickets, we were in the last row of a section that provided pretty much of a straight-on view of the stage. The setting is intimate, so there are no bad seats. The theater itself accommodates 600-700 people, I would guess.

We saw “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, a noted British author/playwright/poet and bon vivant. “Earnest” is considered to be his masterpiece. It was written in 1895 and wickedly skewers the British upper class. Two cases of mistaken identity give the play its momentum. More than 100 years later, the play is still very funny, even for someone who might know nothing about the British class system. The audience laughed uproariously at times, and the actors’ excellent sense of timing kept any of the lines from being drowned out. All of the actors are professionals, and the small cast (7) of “Earnest” was splendid, very much a crowd-pleasing ensemble.

Halfway through the first act, a full moon started to rise above the tree line a little bit to our right. It added an almost magical touch to the night.

We returned to a somewhat messy house. We’re not that happy with Ross, our current regular sitter for the boys. Ross is only three years older than Andy, and JoAnna and I agree that we need someone who can provide more discipline, especially as Andy becomes more intransigent about following orders from his parents. (I’m sure that sentence has a familiar ring!) Andy and Eddie almost see Ross as someone to pal around with. They were set to play baseball when we left the house. Nothing that the boys touched during the evening had been put away. The kitchen was in disarray. Jess, our previous regular sitter, had always been good about cleaning up after himself and the boys. (Although when we mentioned this to his parents Saturday night at our party, they half-kiddingly said, “Doesn’t sound like anyone we know!”) It wasn’t that we returned home to a disaster. JoAnna and I need to find a sitter with a better sense of responsibility. Of course, this fall we begin our experiment with Andy and Eddie staying home on their own when we go out. At least for short periods of time. Then we’ll learn how responsible (or irresponsible) Andy can be.

I had to work on Friday as I had been invited to attend a business meeting of the WLA Foundation, the fundraising arm of the organization. That only took up an hour of my morning, but I returned to the library to cover for lunch breaks since we were a bit short-staffed that day. I didn’t get home until nearly 2:30 and found JoAnna, her mom, and Cyndi busy with food preparations for the party. I had a number of errands that took up most of the rest of the afternoon: pick up a tent we had rented (a 20’ x 20’ white-topped canopy), make a beer run and pick up the wine that JoAnna had special ordered, get jelly wicks for two chafing dishes, buy shrimp and spicy sausages for a couple dishes that JoAnna would be preparing later in the day. Andy had a baseball game at 6:00. JoAnna took time out from her work to accompany her dad and brother and me. Cyndi was taking a nap, after a hectic day at Wisconsin Dells, an outing she and Albert took with the boys, their second visit to the Dells in two days. They rode on one of the “ducks” and went to Robot World. Alice kept an eye on Eddie, who had his eyes glued to the TV.

Andy’s team had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, Andy having scored one of the runs. Their third pitcher of the game, though, had problems with control. He was letting go of the ball too soon most of the time, so his pitches were inside, sometimes on the back sides of the batters. He actually hit two batters. Toward the end of the inning he started to lose his composure, but the coach, who was umpiring at the time, gave him the necessary encouragement to stick it out. The team couldn’t rally in the top of the 6th and lost the game 5-2, only their second loss in 10 games so far this season. Later the coach told me that if he had realized Andy had some relatives in the stands, he would have let him pitch.

After the game, we returned to the house and ordered a couple pizzas for delivery. JoAnna resumed her cooking and baking. Cyndi made placards for the various dishes that were going to be served, so that our guests would know what they were sinking their teeth into. Al worked on the menu that I enclosed with this letter.

Sleeping arrangements for the long weekend were as follows: JoAnna and I gave up our room for Larry and Alice. Al and Cyndi slept on the futon in Andy’s room, and the boys slept together in Eddie’s bed, which is where Andy has been sleeping for most of the last couple weeks anyway. Eddie still doesn’t like being alone in his room at night. A couple weeks ago bought a Coleman air mattress (double size) and a battery-operated pump. When I tried to fill the mattress Thursday evening, I couldn’t get the pump to work, so JoAnna slept on the couch and used my sleeping bag and pad, which had been in storage for more than 12 years, and I slept on the floor. One of my errands Friday was to stop at K-Mart to exchange the pump. Fortunately, I had kept the sales receipt, although the clerk never asked to see it. I held it in my hand throughout the transaction, but I could have been holding my list of errands for all she seemed to care. Friday night we were able to try out the air mattress, which we found comfortable, certainly much better than the lump mattress folded away in the family room couch. The last time we sued it, I couldn’t sleep at all. That’s why we bought the air mattress.

Saturday morning and afternoon were devoted to party preparations. I mowed the front yard, even though I had just done so on Monday. The rain and humid weather we had through mid-week must have created greenhouse-like growing conditions. We set up the tent (the centerpiece of our back yard on Saturday as you can see from the pictures) and I did some last minute weeding along the south side of the house, along the path all our guests would take to get to the back yard. I also had another series of errands to run. Experiencing no complications or setbacks, we were ready to party in advance of 4:30.

Along with the pictures, I’ve enclosed a copy of the invitation we mailed out and the menu we had displayed on a signboard in the driveway. After having been driven indoors by thunderstorms the past two years, we were hoping for perfect conditions. And we were blessed. The sky remained cloudless all day. The temperature was right around 80 degrees. The humidity was low. A gentle breeze kept the air moving. We had fogged the yard a couple times during the early afternoon and lit citronella torches and candles about an hour before the party started. That effectively kept the bags away until dusk.

Our party has turned into quite a production. Extensive menu. Canopy seating and serving area. A separate bar table. People made frequent comments as to how much planning must have gone into the party. And indeed there was. Our expenses easily exceeded $500, but that was of no concern to us. This is our one big event of the year, and we’re not about to cut corners.

There were probably 50 to 60 people in our backyard during the height of the party. In fact, unlike the past two y ears, people didn’t must make an appearance. They enjoyed the setting and the food and the interesting mix of people – and didn’t want to leave, which was fine with us. We wanted people to have a memorable evening. One of the most commonly asked questions I heard was “How old is that maple tree?” People were impressed with its girth and span. I also heard many positive comments about the landscaping, a nice reward for the hundreds of hours that JoAnna and I have put into improving our yard.

It was a wonderful event. Everything proceed just as we hoped it would. Among the guests: Mim and Tom, Carolyn and Jim. I don’t know why it took us three years to invite them. We also invited some of our neighbors this year and some couples associated with the baseball and soccer teams.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and the other enclosed materials.

We send you our love and love forward to seeing you soon. Right now our estimated day of arrive is Monday, August 3. I’ll try to give you an estimated time of arrive in the next letter.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crosby's Motel, Alma, Georgia (Postcard Series)

The author Harry Crews is from Bacon County, in which Alma is located.

Harry Crews (1935-2012).  The New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On This Date in 1998

This past weekend started out on an early, quiet note. I stayed home on Friday since the boys didn’t have a Camp of the Trails program due to the holiday. I was hoping for a beautiful day so that we could hang out at the pool during the afternoon after a morning of yard work (for me, of course) and television for the boys – what else?!!) Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. Around quarter to nine, as a matter of fact, if was pouring down rain, the proverbial cats and dogs, and the sky remained overcast for the rest of the day, with a lighter rain falling intermittently. What to do to pass the time? Well, the boys still had the option of television, obviously. For me, I found other choices. There always seems to be a load or two or laundry to do, so I tacked that and a few other light household chores. By late morning, I was feeling bored and housebound, but it was too wet to do anything outside. Even with a pause in the rain, the conditions were too click and muddy for a trip to a baseball diamond so that Andy could practice his pitching and both boys could take batting practice. I wasn’t in the mood to read – in fact, shamefully, I’m not even halfway through the book I started over a month ago. Giving in to a feeling of laziness, I lay on my bed, grabbed the remote, and zapped on the TV. I probably tuned it to the Game Show Network. I can’t remember now. I ended up dozing off for nearly an hour.

During the afternoon, after a week of insistent pleading on Andy’s part, I took the boys to Kohl’s to buy them new shoes. It was a necessary and not a frivolous purchase. It doesn’t take those two very long to beat up a pair of shoes. I ended up spending almost $110. I had vetoed a trip to the mall, The Athlete’s Foot, specifically, where I could have easily spent $150, so I should be thankful for a department store like Kohl’s that has a good selection of merchandise at affordable prices. By the way, Andy’s wearing a size 8 (!) now. I don’t doubt that he’ll be my size in less than 4 years – height, weight, and shoe size. Actually, since he’s almost 11, make that prediction in less than 3 years.

JoAnna returned home from work late Friday afternoon with takeout from our favorite Chinese restaurant, one entrĂ©e with scallops and vegetables and another called steak orange, breaded pieces of beef in a tangy sauce with orange peel. Naturally, you don’t eat the orange peel, but it does give the dish a very distinctive flavor. The boys, who don’t even care for egg rolls, popped a frozen pizza into the oven. We talked about goint out to a movie, but nobody could agree on what to see so we stayed home. Shortly before dusk, when the sky finally started to clear, I put on a pair of old sneakers and raked up three huge piles of creeping Charlie in the western third of the back yard, the next area for reseeding attention. I’ll have to ask Larry for the best solution in eliminating this pesky and extremely invasive weed. So far I’ve been mostly successful in keeping it from the new grass that I planted during the past couple months, which, to my satisfaction, continues to thrive.

We walked in another parade on Saturday the 4th, this one in Evansville, a community of about 4,000 located about 20 miles south of here. Starting time: 10 a.m. Once again, the adults passed our football schedules promoting Jon Erpenbach’s Senate candidacy and the boys, just Andy and Eddie this week, on their rollerblades, passed out candy. JoAnna had left the house early to pick up Julie, since her husband Ron needed their vehicle. Julie, by the way, is Jon’s campaign manager. (She actually works for JoAnna, and this is her big assignment for the year.) Fortunately, we were near the beginning of the Evansville parade, entry $48. The entire parade included more than 200 entries. From the look of the entries that I saw – or didn’t see – one band, no floats – it looked like a yawner. The parade was routed through an older area of town where many beautiful, well-maintained homes are located.

The boys accompanied Mom to a second parade in Brodhead, a community of a similar size another ten miles south and less than six miles from the Illinois border. This parade started at noon. My family rejoined me at 2:00, which gave us plenty of time for an outing at the pool, the weather having improved greatly from the previous day. It was overcast, and even a little cool, during the Evansville parade. Better for us. Not so good for the spectators lining the route, many of them wearing jackets and even a few wrapped in blankets, although I thought that was overdoing it. The afternoon provided lots of warm sunshine and the chance for me to get enough sun on my chest and stomach to feel a little tingle later in the day.

Either Mom and Dad were too lazy or the boys were really pulling our strings, but our Saturday evening meal was a take-out order from Subway. Hey, it’s summer and a holiday weekend to boot. We had a big party ahead of us so cooking out didn’t have a whole lot of appeal. Again, we had a quiet evening at home.

We spent Sunday from 3 until 10 at Lance and Sue’s, friends of ours who host a party each year to coincide with the Rhythm and Booms fireworks display, which the city of Madison promotes as the biggest and best in the Midwest. (They might be right.) About 30 people were there, mostly adults. With two exceptions, l this was a group of younger couples and singles whose childrearing years are, at a minimum, two years in the future. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Ron and Julie have a baby within the next three years.) We sat around and talked, played cards, and set up two bocce ball tournaments – singles and doubles. I missed the first one since the boys wanted to check out the rides and amusements at Warner Park. JoAnna always passes on this diversion. It’s definitely rink-dink stuff. Even the boys lost interest after an hour of wandering around and emptying dad’s wallet of $20. The “midway” games are so expensive, except for the ones that involve tossing ping-pong balls into glass bowls or jars. (11 balls for $2.) Those are the ones I encouraged Eddie to play. Andy, of course, wanted to shoot a basketball (2 throws for $2) and guess the speed of a baseball he pitches (3 for $2, the guess coming after the first two balls are thrown.) Eddie won a goldfish. At least I think it was a goldfish. It was handed to him in a plastic bag filled with water tinted with green food coloring. (Green + gold = Packers, I suppose. I just figured that out right now. Duh!) I almost made him give it back, wondering to myself, “What are we going to do with this?”

“Hey, we have a friend for Boxer!” I told the boys, as we left the park, imagining the cat’s reaction as soon as he saw this little morsel.

Back at the picnic, we put Eddie’s prize in a safe place.

In the doubles bocce tournament, Andy burned up the course. He and his partner beat Dad and his partner in the first round, Mom and her partner Lance – the host, who set up the course and had finished second in the singles event – in the second round, but lost the final 10-8. Lance has a huge back yard, not particularly wide but very deep. Using space belonging to two of his neighbors, he set up an “18-hole” bocce course, complete with a water hazard (a kid’s wading pool), uneven terrain, and trees blocking a few of the “pin”. Somebody should market this idea.

As the dusk settled over us, we gathered in the front yard for the fireworks. As was expected, it was a spectacular display lasting for 30 minutes and accompanied by music broadcast over one of Madison’s radio stations. All the neighbors had their radio blaring, too. All in all, a very enjoyable day, but the killer, as always, is getting home. In Lane and Sue’s immediate neighborhood, we were stuck in traffic for at least an hour, despite our efforts to park the van in a place that would provide us with the best chance for a quick getaway. Yeah, right. What were we thinking. 250,000 show up for this event. It took us two hours to get home. Under ordinary driving conditions, the trip takes 15 minutes, at the most. The beginning of the designated route for Middleton traffic (and to other points north and west) was clogged by drivers coming from the other direction using both lanes. I was tempted to make a few comments as we literally inched our way along, but two words made me keep my mouth shut: road rage.

I thought we had left the fish behind in Lance and Sue’s back yard, but JoAnna found it in the van Monday afternoon when she was taking out some stuff we had missed Sunday night. Amazingly, it was still alive. We put it in a glass container, then placed it on a cupboard out of the view of Boxer before leaving for the boys’ baseball games. When we returned home, Eddie found the fish on the kitchen floor, unmolested. Baggy – we had already named it – had jumped out of his container and make what must have been a spectacular dive onto the linoleum. It must have already been dead when Boxer happened up on it or else Boxer just wasn’t interested in such an itty-bitty thing. Eddie took the loss very matter-of-factly. I guess we’re not fish people. 

Eddie’s baseball coach is such a jerk. I had no idea why he accepted this responsibility in the first place. He arranged a list of volunteer assistant coaches to help out. There was no way I could help out and now I’m happy my schedule is so busy. The assistant coaches have been left in charge. The head coach arrives at games late and leaves early. Yesterday he left during the middle of the sixth inning (and these are only six-inning games) and asked someone to drop off the equipment at his house. Julie Novinski, one of the moms and the wife of Andy’s baseball coach, has kept track of the line-up and keeps the kids organized in their batting order on the bench when they’re not in the field. I know she’s biting her tongue, and I admire her for stepping in and keeping things running smoothly. From what Julie said, I guess a number of parents have already called the organizers of the baseball league and said don’t let this guy coach again. And he’s got a kid on the team who’s a real whiner. Fortunately, the coach’s attitude hasn’t affected the players’ enjoyment of the game. Eddie is always excited on a game day and he and his teammates always play with enthusiasm.

Andy’s team is 7-1, and he’s been pitching on a regular basis and doing quite well. His hitting is improving, too. His games are a lot more interesting to watch, as the boys have developed some skills and a more advanced understanding of the game. In Eddie’s league, some of the kids still have trouble e throwing the ball.