Saturday, August 24, 2013

On This Date in 1998

We are suffering through some uncomfortable weather. Since the middle of last week, hot and sticky conditions have settled in like an unwanted guest. Yesterday JoAnna and I could find no relief even with all the fans blowing. I sat outside in the shade and read for awhile during the late afternoon, but it actually seemed cooler indoors. Andy was the only smart one among us. He went to the pool during the evening. Sitting at the kitchen table in front of her laptop computer, JoAnna was working on some campaign stuff that she needed to finish for today. I thought I’d mow the lawn but wasn’t in the mood to sweat more than I already had. Eddie vegged out in front of the TV, having spent an hour and a half on his rollerblades earlier in the day.

Middleton’s Good Neighbor Fest took place this past weekend. The family made a visit to Fireman’s Park, where the food tents and rides and everything else are set up, after Andy’s football practice Friday evening, which meant we didn’t get there until 8:00. While the boys explored the midway area, JoAnna and I had a fish fry at one of the food concessions, played four games of bingo (no winners(, and visited the beer tent (where we just had one apiece). I had given Andy $20 as a reward for his responsible behavior during the week, staying home with Eddie and avoiding any disastrous consequences as a result of this experiment. I gave Eddie $10. How much did the boys have at the end of the evening? $0. This was another experiment, one in which I was pretty confident of the outcome. I just knew the boys would blow it all in one outing. In the future, I’ll ration their financial rewards.

I worked on Saturday, my first (and only) weekend assignment this summer. JoAnna and Eddie accompanied Andy to his weigh-in for football. On the first day of practice, August 11th, Andy weighed 105 pounds. Since then he’s dropped two pounds, which means that he can play any position on the team. 105 is the cut-off, i.e., anyone who weight more can only play an offensive or defensive lineman position. Considering all the food that Andy has packed away since our return from Warren, I have to conclude that Andy is burning up a lot of calories at his football practices. His midsection seems to be firming up; it’s not as gelatinous as it was even halfway through the summer. The jelly belly is disappearing.

JoAnna was in a lethargic mood when I returned home from work late Saturday afternoon.

“I could never live in the South,” she said, an indirect reference to the oppressive weather. Nevertheless, around 7 o’clock, she joined me on a walk to the library, where I picked up and wheeled back home an antique book cart that was going to be used in the Good Neighbor Fest parade. We didn’t eat supper until after 8. I picked up some sautéed vegetables and rice at our favorite Chinese restaurant and McDonald’s for the still gastronomically fussy boys. They love those chicken McNuggets.

JoAnna and I attended the mayor’s breakfast Sunday morning, a traditional Good Neighbor Fest event to which department heads, local elected officials, committee members, and their spouses are invited. The new city administrator was introduced to the group, as he had just accepted the position the previous day. He won’t start his duties here until early November. He was my first choice, so I was very pleased that he found Middleton to his liking. He’s currently the city administrator of Evansville, a community of 4,000 about 20 miles south of here. If you recall, we walked in their parade earlier in the summer to distribute campaign literature for Jon Erpenbach.

As we did last year, a library contingent walked in the parade this year. Two of us carried a banner (“There’s No Place Like the Middleton Public Library”, tying in with this year’s fest theme of “There’s No Place Like Home”, three other pushed book carts (two new models plus the antique one that were loaded with books discarded from the Friends of the Library sale), and the rest of us distributed candy. We wore tan shirts emblazoned with a picture of the sun and the words “Middleton Public Library” and black baseball caps with the library’s name in yellow lettering, The parade route extended for about a mile and a half, and we walked it in 90-degree heat and high humidity. Fortunately, there was a rather strong breeze that provided us with some relief, but most of the group seemed pretty well beat by the time we reached the end of the route.

So between Walkfit and walking in the parade, I certainly got my exercise in for the day. Except for a few minor indoor chores and a trip to the grocery store, I didn’t do much bur read about 100 pages of another book by Russell Banks, the author who is giving the keynote address at the Wisconsin Library Association fall conference and whose books I plan to have read by that time. Rule of the Bone, published in 1995, is a coming-of-age story centering on the adventures of a 14-year-old homeless boy (although in the first chapter he still resides with his mother and step-father) who lives in the eastern Adirondack region of New York state. The book has been very favorably compared to Catcher in the Rye. Earlier in the week, I finished Banks’ epic (758-page) Cloudsplitter, which has sparked an interest on my part in the life of the abolitionist John Brown. Not that I wouldn’t recommend either of these two books, Mom, but there is another title I wanted to bring to your attention, a book I listened to earlier this summer. Snow Falling on Cedars is set in the year 1954 on San Juan Island in the state of Washington. The story centers on the murder of a German-American fisherman and the arrest of a Japanese-American resident of the island and is complicated by a previous conflict their families had over a small parcel of land. It’s a beautifully written book wherein character development takes precedence over the plot. And the story’s ending is very satisfying. The book has been made into a movie, which is to be released sometime in December.

School starts in three days, although on Wednesday JoAnna and I will attend 1½-hour orientations in both boys’ classrooms. We’re hoping Andy will have a good year, that he’ll keep up on all of his homework and generally develop a more serious attitude about school than he did last spring, when his third-quarter grades demonstrated a lackadaisical attitude which we found troubling. My gut feeling with Eddie is that we are still going to have problems until his reading skills are on a par with the rest of his classmates. He gets so frustrated with himself sometime, to the point where he just shuts down and wont’ respond to his teacher or, as was the case last Thursday, with the tutor that we scheduled 4 sessions with prior to the beginning of school (at $40 a crack). This fall he’ll still be involved in a special program with the teacher’s reading and speech teachers 30-45 minutes each day. I just hope that Eddie can make his reading breakthrough before the end of the year.

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