Monday, September 30, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Monday morning, JoAnna and I were watching the Weather Channel, checking on the progress of Hurricane Georges as it churned its way across the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward the so-called Redneck Riviera. We stayed tuned through the local forecast. Another warm day. The high temperature near 80 degrees.

“Isn’t it ever going to cool down?” JoAnna addressed the question to the TV screen.

Her answer arrived two days later. I looked out a window at the library shortly before 12:00 today. What’s going on here? I wondered. It looked like the end of the world was approaching, the darkness more appropriate for midnight than noon. A heavy rain fell for the next hour and a half, delaying my walk home for lunch. As soon as I stepped outside, I sensed the departure of our lingering summer. The cool, crisp fell of the air announced that fall had arrived, a late but most welcome appearance, as far as JoAnna and I are concerned. This evening at Eddie’s soccer game, I enjoyed the feel of a cool breeze on my face. I liked the fact that I was wearing a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve pullover shirt and could have even thrown on a jacket without looking overdressed. Both JoAnna and I have had enough of summer.

Eddie is bringing home very good grades on his schoolwork. Lots of papers marked “100”, “Great Job”, “Wonderful!” We’re so proud of him. He’s still taking special reading and written language classes and will probably continue to do so during all of second grade. He’s making great strides, though, and working very hard at it. He spent 45 minutes at the kitchen table Monday evening completing a homework assignment, answering questions from a “Frog and Toad” book he was reading. JoAnna and I are giving him lot of encouragement. Eddie the perfectionist tends to get easily frustrated when he has difficulty sounding out a particular word of grasping a concept. We help him to keep focused on what he needs to do.

We still need to keep a pretty tight rein on Andy when it comes to his homework. If left on his own, he tends to let things slide. This y ear, his teacher deducts 11 points (one letter grade) for each day an assignment is late. So far Andy has (needlessly, carelessly) let this happen twice. Now we make sure to check his take-home folder and assignment notebook each night, review his homework once he’s completed it, and recheck his folder before he leaves for school to make sure he hasn’t left anything behind. There’s probably a better way to teach responsibility but for now we need to use this hands-on approach.

Tonight I helped Andy study for a science test he has on Friday. He read the section of his textbook dealing with movements of the earth and the moon, and then I asked him questions. Based on some of his answers, I wouldn’t call Andy the most careful reader in the world. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow night.

Eddie’s soccer team lost their second game in a row tonight, somewhat of an unusual streak for them. It was a close game, the score being 2-1. Eddie played great defense in the second quarter, probably saving 2 or 3 goals as a result of his aggressive play. His coach gave him a high five as he ran off the field. Eddie looks much more confident playing soccer this year than he did during his first two seasons – and even since the beginning of the season. Last year he seemed to drift in and out of the games, depending upon his mood. The past few games, he’s really been fired-up and focused.

Andy’s football team has an 0-3 record, mostly the result of a weak offensive line. Consequently, they haven’t been able to move the ball. Defensively, they are improving. They lost this past Saturday 13-0, so they are able to keep their opponents from running the ball at will. Next Monday basketball registration begins. This year Andy has the option of trying out for a traveling team, which, of course, he wants to do. If he makes the team, it means more games, more travel, more schedule juggling. The league covers a three-county area: Dane, Sauk, and Columbus, I’m guessing.

On the final day of September, most of the leaves here remain on the trees and green. I’ve seen only a few splashes of color in our neighborhood – and throughout Middleton and the west side of Madison, for that matter. I suspect we might have a very dull display of fall colors this year.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On This Date in 1998

JoAnna and I have just finished helping the boys with their homework.   Eddie had to answer some question from a Frog and Toad book he was assigned to read.  He spent almost 45 minutes at the kitchen table working on this.  I helped Andy study for a science test he has on Friday, asking him questions from the chapters he was assigned to read.
Right now I’m watching the Giants-Cubs game out of the corner of my left eye.  Chicago has a 2-run lead in the bottom of the 6th and are threatening to score again.  I thought Lance Johnson was a dead duck as soon as he decided to go to third on Sosa’s single up the middle.  What’s most amazing about this game is that the Giants have yet to get a hit.  Trachsel, the Cubs pitcher, has walked 5 and hit 1.
Mom, I’m sure you were extremely disappointed with the way the Mets finished their season, losing 5 in a row when they had the wild card spot almost in reach.  I read an article in the New York Times last week that described how opposing teams play harder against the Mets because of their dislike of Bobby Valentine.  

Yesterday I started listening to The World According to Garp by John Irving, a book that was published in June of 1978, a few months before I moved to Wisconsin.  I think it made the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best books of the 20th century, one of the 50 or so books I hadn’t read. JoAnna said she read it when she was in college, one of her favorite books from that time in her life.  I’m finding it to be such a good book that I’m almost tempted to read it myself rather than have someone read it to me.  But not tonight.  Right now, I’m going to close this letter, then watch the game while listening to Garp and folding laundry. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Our fundraiser for Jon Erpenbach turned out to be a big success. It was scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 Friday evening. By six o’clock the house was packed. The block between Hubbard and South Avenue was solidly lined with cars on both sides. We were lucky that summer weather has continued through late September. In order to conserve space for mingling inside our house, we placed the sign-up table in the driveway, an area where half our guests ended up congregating after Jon and others addressed the crowd. Our guest of honor was Senator Herb Kohl, who is also the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was introduced by County Executive Kathleen Falk, whose campaign committee JoAnna served on. Also making an appearance was Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district in Wisconsin. Jon’s sister, Mary, is Russ Feingold’s wife, so actually both U.S. Senators were represented. The event raised more than $3,000 for Jon’s State Senate campaign.

Both boys had activities Friday evening, so I was in and out of the house. I dropped Eddie off at his soccer practice at 5:30 and picked him up an hour later. Andy returned home from football practice at 6:15, and I dropped him off at the high school football field at 6:45. The Middleton and Cross Plains youth football teams were being introduced before the start of the high school game. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it back in time for the pre-game ceremonies.

Andy and I stayed to watch the game, which was halted before two minutes had run off the clock – right after Middleton scored a touchdown. There was a lot of lightning in the southwestern part of the sky, and the officials didn’t want to take any chances. At the time, it was hard to tell if it was coming our way or not. After a half hour of waiting – and watching the lightning move off to the east – play was resumed. As they did the previous week, Middleton scored seemingly at will against a weak opponent, Madison East High, in this case. As the second quarter ended, the score was a lopsided 41-6. The lightning has also started to return, faintly visible in the east, at first, and the moving along in an arc to the north. The sound of thunder became more frequent and immediate. A very light rain started to fall as the clock counted down to 0:00. We wouldn’t have seen a second half even if we had decided to stay.

I had told Andy that we were leaving at half-time, a decision that he did not like. Fortunately, the other football parents I was sitting with in the bleachers had the same idea. Before we left, though, Andy said he had to “do something”. I watched him walk to the other end of the bleachers and wondered if he was going to try to pull a disappearing act. So I followed his trail. When I caught up with him, he was talking to a girl who is in his class at Elm Lawn. Her name is Kira.

Andy played football at 10:30 Saturday morning against a team from Stoughton. From a distance, they seemed to be evenly matched, but once again the Orioles’ (Andy’s team) offensive line could not open any holes for the runners. I think they managed only 2 first downs the entire game. They lost 13-0.

We listened to the Badger game on the way back to Middleton and then tuned it in on TV once we got home. As far as the sportswriters and fans were concerned, it was the team’s first big test of the year, a Big Ten season opener against Northwestern. Wisconsin took control of the game from the start, which made for uninteresting viewing. I had chores to do anyway. I cleaned the window s—inside and out – in the ”master” bedroom and then mowed the front yard. JoAnna did a lit drop with Jon, and the boys mostly hung out at home, although Meaghan did drop by during the middle of the afternoon. It was a warm, muggy day, just downright uncomfortable for this time of year, so I kept my chores to a minimum. Shortly after 5:00, Eddie convinced me to take him to Elm Lawn so we could fly a kite, a cheap plastic model that I bought last spring and had been collecting dust in the garage all summer. We had it up in the aira for more than 20 minutes. 

JoAnna and I went out on a “date” Saturday evening, Andy given the responsibility of being in charge while we were gone. We saw the movie, There’s Something About Mary, which has been the big surprise hit of the summer. Although we did notice a few 10 year olds in the audience, it’s a movie that I’d never take Andy to see. It’s hysterically funny – I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard – but rather crude and, at time, profane. The humor is inappropriate for pre-teens. It’s also not for adults who are easily offended. I’m sure the religious right considers it just another example of what’s wrong with Hollywood. There are no “family values” to be found here. The filmmakers obviously had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks while making this movie. Nothing is taken seriously. It’s comedy that pushes the adjective “off-the-wall” to new heights.

I was up at 6 o’clock this morning, eager to attack a list of chores that I didn’t want to have spill over into the afternoon. But first I did 20 minutes of Walkfit and fixed a batch of blueberry muffins, from a box, for the family. Andy was up by ten of 7 and immediately parked his butt on the family room couch to watch TV. Eddie made an appearance a half hour later. By 8:30 JoAnna had hardly stirred. Once she got up, shortly before 9:00, she complained about not feeling well and went right back to bed.

So what chores did I tackle on Sunday? More window cleaning. Washing the mildew off the side of the house. (The bedroom portion of the house is what I accomplished today.) Planting crocus, narcissi, and scilla campanulata bulbs – a couple dozen altogether – in the front yard. I finished up in time to take a much-needed shower before the Packer game.

After Carolina scored a field goal and touchdown to take a 10-0 lead, JoAnna started to get nervous. “I had a bad feeling about this game,” she confessed, wrapped in a blanket as she lay on the couch in the family room, still feeling out of it. But then she always says that whenever the Packers get off to a bad start. After another interception of a Favre pass, she turned to another station and watched some old movie for awhile. I moved to the quiet of the living room but then rejoiced during the last three minutes of the game, JoAnna figuratively biting her nails the entire time. And the Panthers almost tied the game as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

So it was a busy morning, lazy afternoon. While I was doing my chores, the weather couldn’t make up its mind. It was cloudy, with a promise of rain one minute, clearing and pleasant the next. The afternoon turned beautiful, with a clear blue sky, comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and a pleasant breeze. After being outdoors for three hours with my gloved hands in a highly caustic cleaning solution for the first 90 minutes and my bare hands in the dirt the rest of the time, I just wanted to enjoy the interior comforts of home.

Andy and Meaghan played for awhile during the morning, but she had to go back home less than an hour after her arrival as it was her mom’s birthday and her grandparents were visiting. Andy spent the afternoon with Matt Ziegler a classmate and soccer teammate, at his house and out and about riding their bikes. They stopped by the house once to get a drink of water, and I could have sworn I saw a third person with them. A girl. Less than a half hour before his brief midafternoon appearance, the phone rang and a girl’s voice – not Meaghan’s – asked “Is Andy there?” I figured it must be Kira.

To take away some of the mystery of this new person in Andy’s life, I’ll tell you that Kira is in Andy’s class at Elm Lawn. I wasn’t aware of her existence until a week or so ago. According to JoAnna, she’s Andy’s girlfriend, this bit of new from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, i.e., Andy now admits to having a “special” friend of the opposite sex. Meaghan’s always been just a pal. At least that’s the way Andy sees it. Young love comes to Mayflower Drive.

As I did last week, I went grocery shopping after dropping Eddie off at soccer practice, a habit I need to break. Both this Sunday and last, the store was mobbed, people blocking the aisles with their carts every twenty feet as they have their noses pressed up against the displays as if they left their glasses at home. Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait at the checkout line. J

JoAnna made pork chops and fried potatoes for supper. Because of our busy schedules, Sunday is the only evening when we can count on having a family meal. While I cleaned up the kitchen, JoAnna helped Eddie with his homework. He also read the first chapter of a book entitled Little Bear without any assistance from Mom.

“I didn’t lose my patience,” he told me. He does have a tendency to get easily frustrated when he stumbles over words he doesn’t know. That has been part of his problem at school. He reaches an impasse in something he’s working on and simply shuts down, unmoved by any encouragement that his teacher offers him. Although Eddie has completed just the first week of his drug therapy, we haven’t noticed any side effects. His pediatrician said there might be a tendency for him to “crash” at the end of the day, but we haven’t noticed that. We only give him the medication on weekdays, since it is the school environment where Eddie has most of his behavioral problems, although we do see examples of his impulsiveness at home. Fortunately, Eddie is a very bright kid; he soaks up information like a sponge. Otherwise, his tendency to get distracted by other things in the environment at school would leave him with huge gaps in his learning.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Today started our cloudy and remained that way in spite of the promise of afternoon sunshine in the Weather Channel’s forecast. I drove to Portage this morning to attend a continuing education workshop sponsored by the South Central Library System. I took a scenic route on the drive back to Middleton. County Highway U literally snakes its way through the rolling terrain southwest of Portage, following the path of the Wisconsin River, although the river is only occasionally in view. I had never been on this road before and was entranced by the vistas it offered. With numerous 90-degree turns and squiggles, I couldn’t linger on the panoramas. At the tiny community of Merrimac, located at the western point where the Wisconsin Rivers bulges into a good-sized lake, I took the car ferry across the river. The ferry is nothing more than a barge that can accommodate a maximum of 12 cars. It’s free and cut about ten miles off my return trip.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started one of my annual projects: cleaning the mildew off the sides of the house. Starting with the front of the house was intentional. We’re hosting a fundraiser for Jon Erpenbach’s tomorrow evening, and I don’t want our guests to find dark blotches framing the front door. Our guest of honor is Senator Herb Kohl, who will be introduced by County Executive Kathleen Falk. We’re expecting a good turnout. JoAnna’s not preparing any of the food for this shindig. No time, for one reason. (She worked late again last night.) She ordered some meat, cheese, and vegetable trays from the deli department of a local grocery store.

I was supposed to make a budget presentation to the city’s finance committee this afternoon, but two members couldn’t make the meeting, which meant there was no quorum and business could not be conducted. I’m rescheduled for Tuesday. The library’s budget proposal includes a request to open the library on Sunday (September through May) and the hiring of a ¾-time Young Adult Services Librarian as well as some additional support staff.

After yesterday’s Cub’s debacle, Mets fans are probably somewhat heartened going into the regular season-sending series with the Braves. Actually, I think the Giants have the best chance of winning the wild-card spot. They play the weakest team. But then those games don’t always play out like you’d expect. Who would have thought the Mets would have been swept by the Expos at home. Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing an all-Texas World Series: the Astros vs. the Rangers. The Yankees have certainly cooled down during the past month, which I think makes them less of an automatic shoo-in. Boston is in its usual September swoon, still struggling to clinch the American League wild card. If they do make it into the playoffs, I predict they’ll fold like whipped egg whites in my cottage-cheese pancake batter. (A recipe I haven’t made in 15 years, I bet.) Cleveland’s lucky to be in a weak division. The Rangers seem to be the team of destiny, getting their act together in a most timely manner with an impressive three-game sweep of the Angels.

In the National League, San Diego seems to be on a momentum-killing slide, and whoever wins the wild card has no chance against Atlanta or Houston, who I hope will not be paired against each other in the first round. Based on what happened last season, I don’t think baseball understands how to do pairings in scheduling its playoff games. The two teams with the best records should play the teams with fewer wins. That’s how it works in basketball and hockey, and I’m pretty sure football follows this same game plan, too. 

Well, enough rambling for now. It’s time for me to get ready for bed, but first I’m going to have some graham crackers and mile.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On This Date in 1998

I sent you one of my regular reports just two days ago. Here I am back on the computer again, ready to transcribe the continuing saga of Life in Middleton. I thought I’d try a change of pace tonight by using different points of view, none of them my own.

If Andy wrote you a letter about what happened in his life the past two days, it might go something like this. 

After school I rode my bike to the library. I can’t go ho mater school now because I went to Meaghan’s house yesterday and didn’t let Dad know where I was. He was home from work since he had to work at the library in the evening. He called Meaghan’s house at quarter to four to find out where I was. I told him I’d be home in time to get ready for football practice, but before I knew it, the phone rang and it was Dad again. He sounded mad. He asked me if I was planning to skip practice. I just lost track of the time.

While Dad was at the reference desk this afternoon, I sat in his office and finished my math homework. I called Meaghan and she stopped by the library for awhile. She had to leave at 4 and go back home since her dad was giving her a ride to karate. I checked some books out of the library before going home. Dad didn’t make me stay there until he left. Even though I’m not supposed to, I watched TV until Dad and Eddie came home. 

Dad was cleaning the mildew off the front side of the house when I asked him if I could play outside. Meaghan came over and we played catch with the football in the street. Dad kept looking over at us, but he didn’t say anything until Meaghan missed a pass and the ball started rolling down the middle of the street just when a car started coming up the block. That’s when Dad told us to play in the neighbor’s yard. T hey have this big open space that they let us play on. We walked over to Meaghan’s house and played catch on the street in front of her house. Her street is only a block long so there aren’t as many cars on it. When it started to get dark, I saw Dad riding his bike down the streets, and I knew it was time for us to go home. Once Dad cleaned up the kitchen and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, we played State the Facts. It’s a game like Trivial Pursuit only all the questions have to do with states and cities. At 8:15, Eddie and I took a bath and then the three of us all sat in the living room and read. Mom worked late and didn’t get home until quarter to 9.

And here’s Eddie’s spin.

Dad picked me up at After School at 5:30 and as soon as I saw him I realized I was going to have to walk home. He had his brief bag slung over his shoulder. IF he had driven the car, he wouldn’t be carrying anything. It was a nice day to walk, though. I carried my jacket for awhile but asked Dad to take it when we were about halfway home. Although Dad seemed eager to start washing the outside walls of the house, he asked me what I wanted for supper. I told him pancakes even though I had them for breakfast the other day. He made the batter thick, the way I like it. I ate four big pancakes. Dad was impressed. When Meaghan came over, I went outside to play catch with her and Andy. They even let me walk with them to Meaghan’s house after Dad yelled at us not to play in the street. I was in my room for awhile when Andy and Dad started playing this board game that we played the other night, but I decided to join them since there was really nothing to do in my room. I answered a couple questions that Andy didn’t know, like Los Alamos was the place where the first atomic bomb was made. Instead of taking a shower, Andy and I took a bath, but we didn’t stay in the tub as long as we usually do. I looked at a Waldo book while Andy and Dad read. Mom came home about 15 minutes before it was time to go to bed. She tucked me in. A few minutes later, Dad turned on my light and turned off the Beatles tape I was listening to and said I had to do some homework for my special reading class. I had to read off a list of 7 words and then read 5 sentences that used these words. Dad had me do this twice, and I think he was very pleased with how well I did. He even had me spell the words without using a piece of paper, and I got every one right. Dad gave me a big hug and some words of encouragement before he turned off the light, turned on the tape player, and left the room.

Friday, September 20, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Eddie’s team, the Sailfish, lost their soccer game yesterday, 1-9, a tough defeat against a team that I thought was a little too aggressive for its age. One of the Sailfish parents served as a referee, (since the high-school-aged kid who was scheduled to do this didn’t show up? I don’t know). He tended to be a little bit loose with his calls, probably not wanting to appear partisan, letting the opposing team get away with two hand balls within the first two minutes of the game before he finally whistled a penalty. The kids on the opposing team used their hands a lot throughout the game, both to stop the ball and to push the Sailfish away from it. At the same time, though, Eddie and his teammates looked a bit lethargic. It was a warm, muggy day, unusual weather for the middle of September, and the game was played from 12 noon to 1 p.m. The missed at least three good scoring opportunities, including a penalty kick in front of the goal as a result of a blatant hand ball.

Andy’s team went down to defeat, a 14-0 shutout. JoAnna reported the offensive line was ineffective in making any holes for the running backs and in protecting their quarterback, who was sacked at least three times. Andy played fullback for much of this game, usually getting tackled at the line of scrimmage. At least they played better defense than the previous week.

The four of us made a trip to Milwaukee County Stadium yesterday. During the soccer picture-taking Saturday morning, I talked with someone who had taken his twin boys to the game the previous evening. He said they left Middleton at 5:00 and at twenty to 8 were still in traffic on I-94, the stadium barely in view. Inching their way to the parking lot, they listened to the game on the radio, and when Mark McGwire came up to bat in the 1st inning, hoped that he wouldn’t hit a home run. (He complied, hitting one later in the game once they had reached their seats.) We had already adjusted our departure time before this conversation, figuring we should be on the road between 3:30 and 4:00. We made good time all the way to the Milwaukee city line, experiencing heavy traffic at times but nothing that slowed the flow below 60 miles per hour. At the intersection of I-94,I-89, and U.S. 41, the traffic came to a standstill, no doubt backed up all the way from the stadium exit 2 miles ahead. We took U.S. 41 north to Bluemound Road, which parallels I-94 into the heart of Milwaukee. After a stop at a Subway to get something to eat, we resumed our trip to what we thought would be a quicker route to the stadium. Wrong! We hit stop-and-go traffic at 64th Street, our destination being a right-hand turn off 50th Street. It took us 45 minutes to travel 10 blocks, our right-hand, eastbound lane of Bluemound resembling a line of parked cars most of the time. To help pass the time, we listened to the radio and JoAnna and I read the books we had brought along. Around 54th Street, I noticed someone standing at the entrance to a church parking lot holding a large sign that advertised parking for $5. Luckily, I was able to quickly switch lanes and make a left-hand turn without causing an international incident. From here it was about a mile-long walk to the stadium. The parking lot we were looking for couldn’t have accepted us since it was filled to capacity. As we walked through it on the path to the stadium, the air with thick with the smell of charcoaled meat. People sat in large circular clusters of lawn chairs eating and drinking and talking while others were content to lean up against their vehicles and watch the passing parade of people. We had actually hoped to approximate the experience of tailgating by eating our submarine sandwiches and some other snacks we had brought along, but the boys and JoAnna ended up eating their subs en route. I wolfed mine down once we parked the van.

We had tickets in the upper box section, almost even with the foul pole down the third base line. We got to our seats about a half hour before game time, not in time to see any batting practice. It was obvious from the way the stadium seats were starting to fill up that this game was a sell-out, as was the entire 3-game weekend series. (Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs play at Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the Brewers are very likely to draw more than 250,000 fans during this five-game stretch.)

The Cardinals already had a 2-0 lead when McGwire stepped into the batter’s box for his first at-bat. The crowd cheered and rose en masse and stayed on their feet, eagerly anticipating home run #65. The first pitch was an inside fast ball. A collective, elongated “boo!” swirling through the stadium. The second pitch hit McGwire, and the crowd expressed its disappointment (more boos, that is) as the Cardinal first basemen trotted to first base.

So how did the evening proceed?

Let me put it in baseballese for you.

HBP. K. K. K. K.

McGwire batted again in the 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 9th innings. Each time the 54,000+ in attendance rose to their feet and cheered lustily. Each time, after his first at-bat anyway, McGwire struck out swinging, looking off-balance, confused, and, as he walked back to the dugout, a little forlorn.

Along with thousands of other fans, we bought a camera along. From our vantage point, McGwire, big guy that he is, will look like an insignificant speck in all of the pictures we get developed. I also took a few pictures of the new stadium rising impressively beyond the left-field bleachers. I found it interesting that the only brickwork in place is that which can be seen from the TV cameras placed behind home plate. I’m sure that was in intentional decision on Bud Selig’s part.

During McGwire’s at-bats, I tended to watch the seats on the right-field side of the diamond rather than keep my eyes on the batter. As soon as the pitcher released the ball, a multitude of camera flashes created a strobe-like effect. I wonder how many people ended up with pictures of the back sides of someone’s head?

Yesterday was also Fan Appreciation Day at County Stadium. Lots of prizes were awarded, including a new car. We stayed around through the end of the drawing, which meant that by the time we got back to the van, it was nearly midnight. We came close to winning once. I can’t remember what was being given away now, but the announcer called out upper box 28 – our section, JoAnna and I noted excitedly, exchanging hopeful glances – row 2. Our bubble burst. We sat in row 5.

I haven’t told you the final score yet, which gives you an indication of how insignificant the game was outside of charting McGwire’s progress into the record books. Brewers lost , 7-4. If this had been an ordinary game, if McGwire played for another team, for example, County Stadium would have been a quiet place, with probably not much more than 10,000 fans in attendance. We certainly wouldn’t have been there except for the draw of this season’s home run derby.

Leaving Milwaukee was a breeze. We encountered no delays at all. The boys conked out once we hit the Interstate. JoAnna returned to her book, one from her growing library of Civil War titles, the dome light on her sight of the van not interfering with my ability to see the road. She fell asleep during the last third of the trip.

Eddie’s had a busy day today. I’m surprised he’s not draggin’ his little tail yet since he was up so late last night and was out of bed before 7:00 this morning. He and JoAnna walked ion a parade in Monroe this afternoon, Eddie wearing this rollerblades actually. As soon as he returned home, he had to get ready for a soccer practice. Meaghan was here during the early afternoon but otherwise Andy was on his own, watching TV mostly, surfing between his favorite shows on the Disney Channel and whatever football games happened to be on. I finished reading a book I had started last weekend. Freedomland, by Richard Price, one of my favorite authors, his latest novel a variation of the Susan Smith story, the woman from South Carolina who blamed the death of her two children on two phantom black men but had actually drowned them herself by pushing her car into a lake. Price transfers the setting to Dempsey (actually Jersey City) New Jersey, where his previous novel, Clockers, took place. Then I started to read a 1994 novel by Rick Moody, The Ice Storm, which takes place in 1973 in suburban Connecticut. The book was well-reviewed and made into a highly praised movie last year, which I didn’t see. Neither of these books would likely appeal to your reading tastes, Mom.

I didn’t spend all day on my butt. I trimmed some branches off one of the silver maples in the front yard and did some cleaning and reorganizing in the garage. I went grocery shopping during Eddie’s soccer practice, taking advantage of some coupon specials in today’s paper. Supper was informal – feed yourself, basically. Andy and I played catch with the football for awhile this evening, until I complained of not being able to see the ball very well in the evening’s diminishing light.

Late this afternoon, JoAnna rearranged the living room so that the dining table is straight out from the fireplace and the area where the dining table used to be is now our “study”, the cherry desk and one of the upholstered chairs and the ottoman now located there. It’s an unusual arrangement, but we like it. The boys, too. It makes this area of the house look huge. How we need to repaint eh built-in cabinet doors and remove and replace our wine rack and glasses and tea sets with books to give the study more of a library feel. I’ll send you some pictures once we have the project completed.

Time to get the boys to bed. Then I think I’ll kick back on the couch, put on some music, and read for awhile.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On This Date in 1998

JoAnna and I are navigating a split sports schedule this morning. She and Andy are in DeForest, about fifteen miles northeast of Middleton, for Andy’s second football game of the season. Eddie and I will be leaving the house within a half hour for his soccer game. Earlier this morning, he had his team and individual pictures taken at Elm Lawn School.

Eddie scored his first goal of the season on Wednesday. Unfortunately, no one from the family was there to see it. JoAnna was at a meeting of the Dane County Airport Commission, of which she is a member. I was teaching a class, as guest lecturer, at the library school. Andy, who had accompanied Eddie to his game, was off playing with some of the siblings of Eddie’s teammates.

As has been our habit on fall Friday evenings, we attended Middleton High School’s football game yesterday. Last week Middleton played at Sun Prairie, a perennial “Big 8” conference power and were manhandled in a 28-7 loss. Middleton won the conference championship last y ear, not to mention the Division I statewide honors, but this year looks like a rebuilding season. Last night, they demolished Madison LaFollette by a score of 57 to 13. Halfway through the third quarter, the public address system announcer explained that the remainder of the game would be played with a “continuous clock”, i.e. no time out for first downs, out-fo-bounds plays, dropped passes, etc. Otherwise, the game would have lasted for more than 3 hours.

Soccer has definitely cut into the quality of the Madison prep football program. The four high school – Memorial, West, East, and LaFollette – are usually at the bottom of the standings. LaFollette’s program is especially weak, their record so far this season a dismal 0-4, with no hope of a victory in sight. One of the Madison newspapers recently ran an article about the glory days of Madison high school football, which are now more than 20 years in the past.

Hairpin Turn, Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts (Postcard Series)

The Mohawk Trail through the Berkshire Hills

But not the hairpin turn, unfortunately.

Here we go.   But filmed while parked.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Yesterday was a day of frequent interruptions at work. I made a quick midmorning trip home to retrieve some meeting notes on my desk. Minutes after I returned to work after my lunch hour, I received a call from the Orkin guy, who needed to get into the house to administer this month’s ant bomb (which has been very effective, by the way. Since the unusual midwinter invasion we experienced in early 1997, we have had very few intruders.) Andy called me at 3:15 asking for a ride home. “It’s pouring outside,” he reported, although that’s not the conditions I encountered as I walked to the car. An hour later he called to say that he had left his mouthguard in the trunk of the car. “Maybe you should ride your bike to the library and retrieve it,” I suggested. But his ride to football practice was expected at any minute. It’s a good thing my job (and my position) allows me some flexibility with my comings and goings.

I’ll close for now.

P.S. Mom, what do you think of your grandson the football player?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

On This Date in 1998

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to the sound of rain, which has continued unabated throughout the day. It’s not a drizzle, but a steady, drenching rain that has plenty of dry earth to soak into. Up until yesterday evening, the texture of our back yard resembled concrete. I could have cut a two-inch-square chunk of soil out of the ground, thrown it against a hard surface, and watched it shatter into a million pieces. The hardness of the soil and the lack of precipitation – it’s been very dry here during the past month – has resulted in a slowdown of the lawn repair I initiated earlier this year. I’m still trying to get the grass to bounce back from the trampling it received during our Bastille Day party. Only a couple additional efforts at reseeding and a daily watering has kept a section of the back yard from returning to the big, ugly patch of bare earth that taunted me at the beginning of spring.

After a call from Eddie’s teacher and a visit to his pediatrician last Friday, JoAnna and I decided to have Eddie take the drug Ritalin as a way to control his behavior. He’s already been sent to the principal’s office twice this year, and I’ve had two phone conversations with Mrs. Magnuson, his teacher, about how things have been going in the classroom. She reports that Eddie has had good days and bad days, occurring in no predictable pattern. On bad days, he cannot control his impulses. On Friday during recess he hit someone with a stick. Rom her perspective, Mrs. Magnuson did not think it was deliberately malicious. His teacher is also concerned about Eddie missing a lot of work at school due to his inability to focus. He finds, as she phrased it, a lot of things stimulating in the environment. In other words, he’s easily distracted.

JoAnna and I are starting to see more frequent examples of Eddie’s impulsiveness, his ability to become easily frustrated, and his contrariness at home. At soccer practice, too. When I picked him up Sunday evening, I learned that he had refused to run a lap with the rest of his team at the conclusion of the practice.

If you recall, Eddie and his teachers (not just classroom but art, gym, music, as well as his special reading class) participated in a 4-week-long Ritalin blind test this past May. One week he took the drug, the following week a placebo. Only the doctor knew which was which. Based on his review of the results, he said that Ritalin had a very obvious stabilizing effect on Eddie’s behavior. When the doctor asked Eddie is he would mind taking the drug, he answered, “No, ‘cause I won’t get in so much trouble.”

Eddie will start taking Ritalin next week. His teachers will start to keep a record of his behavior this week, which will be used as a base line for measuring any changes that take place during the drug therapy. I hope that this will not turn out to be the long-term solution for Eddie’s difficulties in school. One of the fulltime staff members at the library told me that her son was on Ritalin for 9 years, from 4th grade through high school. I’m hoping that’s not the path that Eddie will have to take. Yesterday I placed a hold on a book that might offer some alternatives to Ritalin: The Myth of the A.D.D. Child: 50 ways to improve your child’s behavior and attention span without drugs, labels, or coercion. It’s not that I’m questioning our pediatrician’s diagnosis. He certainly hasn’t pushed us into taking this route, but I’d still like to investigate the options that might be available to us. At the same time, I won’t be accepting at face value everything I read about the alternatives to drug therapy. A lot of nonsense manages to worm its way into print. It is obvious to the doctor, as well as to JoAnna and me, that Eddie has some ongoing problems that are not related to (or cannot be blamed on) the different personalities of his teachers. The impulsive and other behaviors that Eddie has demonstrated consistently throughout kindergarten, first, and now second grade point to a deeper problem. We’re just thankful that Eddie has been able to maintain a very positive attitude about school. It would be an especially onerous situation if we had to struggle to get Eddie out of the house each morning, if attending school was an activity he was determined to eliminate from his life like a bad dream. Yesterday after I dropped the boys off – rainy day taxi service – I parked the car in the school lot and walked to Eddie’s class to deliver the behavior monitoring form to his teacher. When I returned to the car, I found a mother standing between her van and my car gently coaxing her distraught daughter, who looked to be a first- or second-grader, to leave the passenger’s seat. I caught a glimpse of the girl’s face and saw a mask of sorrow, eyes reddened by crying. The open door of the van was position in such a way that I was unable to get into the driver’s seat of the Saturn. The women immediately noticed this and, closing her door slightly to give me access, said almost apologetically, “We might be here for awhile.” Both Andy and Eddie have always been enthusiastic about attending school. It has sometimes been a struggle getting them off in the morning, but that’s never been a ploy to avoid school.

We celebrated Andy’s birthday yesterday. Meaghan joined us for dinner: lasagna, tossed salad, garlic bread, and a white cake (with those little rainbow color bursts in the batter) with cherry (!) frosting for dessert, a menu selected by the birth boys himself. Andy loves the basketball pants. In fact, he tried on a pair on Saturday afternoon when I took him shopping for new jeans. He was disappointed when I vetoed the purchase, but he was very mature about hearing the word “No” for a change of pace. No whining. No pleading. If he had persisted, I might have blurted out something like, “You can’t get them because that’s what Grandma and Grandpa got you!” But I was able to preserve the element of surprise. We got him a Packer jersey (Antonio Freeman) with a white turtleneck and a long-sleeve navy blue shirt that JoAnna thought would look especially good on him.

In spite of the relentless rain today, Andy’s football practice wasn’t cancelled. I picked up the boys a little bit earlier than usual, their coach not being a sadist. I covered the upholstery of the Saturn with blankets and towels, which was good planning on my part. Otherwise, the interior of the car would have become a disaster area. The boys – Andy, Drew, Cole, and Riley – were thoroughly drenched, a bit muddy (not as much as I expected, fortunately), and slightly chilled, but were in surprisingly high spirits. In spite of the weather, they seemed to have enjoyed themselves. It was a chance to slop around with compunction.

On Saturday evening, JoAnna and I attended a reception at Music Hall on the UW campus, which was followed by a preview of an opera-in-progress, based on a controversial 1954 film that was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. (Neither JoAnna nor I have seen it, but I did place a reserve on the video version that the Madison Public Library owns.) The story deals with the anti-Hispanic racial strife that occurs in a New Mexico zinc mine when union workers organize a strike. Most of the singing is in English, although some of the lyrics are in Spanish. The program was made up of selected scenes from the opera, so the story the audience heard was quite disjointed. The voices of the UW students who made up the cast were outstanding and made the evening worthwhile.

And what about the boys when we were gone? Andy is now our designated babysitter. JoAnna and I were gone from 6:45 until nearly 10:00. When we returned home, everything was as we left it. We told Andy that if everything goes smoothly we would pay him $3 an hour, below the market rate for a regular sitter but not a bad starting rate for someone just shy of his 11th birthday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Summer doesn’t seem to want to leave us, and I have mixed feelings about that. The weather of late has resembled a stretch of warm (and dry) late July. I feel like I am living in some fantasy called the Endless Summer.

On the plus side, we can pretend that Middleton has been moved about 10 degrees latitude south and that winters, or at least severely cold weather conditions, are a thing of the past. The leaves remain on the trees as if they’ve been superglued to the branches. Raking leaves is a distant chore (and, oh, how I wish that could always be the case!). The coleus and impatiens in the back yard are getting even more bushy and colorful. The boys can leave for school in the morning without having to wear a jacket.

On the minus side, the mildew on the sides of the house proliferates at a faster rate, expanding the scope of one of my annual outdoor fall clean-up projects, pulling on a pair of rubber gloves and scrubbing the painted surfaces of the house with a TSF-PF solution. The interior of the house tends to retain the heat of the day which makes sleeping conditions less than ideal, even with floor and window fans in operation.

JoAnna continued to be plagued by headaches, which she attempts to eliminate with megadoses of Advil or aspirin. JoAnna and I are both four-seasons people. We like it here along the 43rd parallel. I wouldn’t mind daytime temperatures in the high 50s to low 50s – sweater weather, or conditions where I don’t mind wearing a shirt and tie to work.

Last weekend, which included Labor Day, was somewhat of a football festival. We attended the Middleton High School game Friday evening. (They lost to a Belvidere, Illinois, team with a very effective running game, one that the Cardinals couldn’t shut down until late in the 3rd quarter, too late to make a difference in the game.) Andy played a scrimmage Saturday morning in Cross Plains against the other St. Francis Xavier 4th & 5th grade squad. (They won 20-6.) Parked in front of the TV, we watched the second half of the Badger game Saturday night, the Packer game Sunday afternoon (although JoAnna was the only family member who was there from start to finish), and the first quarter of Monday Night Football (at Andy’s insistence). So far this weekend, we have reduced our football-related activities. Andy’s team played its first regular season game yesterday, against a larger and faster team from Poynette. (Although, interestingly enough, the biggest kids were slower than our guys, and not that hard to block, according to Andy, and the littlest kids were faster.) Andy’s team was definitely outclassed during the first half on the short end of a 26-8 score. During the first quarter, Poynette seemed to run at will, pushing our defenders aside as if they were mere inconveniences. Our defense couldn’t stop them, especially on sweeps to the right, and our offense just couldn’t move the ball. I have to admit that I, along with some other parents, were surprised at how big some of the opposing team members were. A parent whose son played last year said we’ll make this observation all season long. The biggest kid on Andy’s team weight 125 dripping wet. Poynette appeared to have at least a half dozen kids who tipped the scale at 140 or more. Andy weighed 103 pounds three weeks ago, but football practice has reduced the size and jiggle of his little jelly belly, so I would guess he’s even dropped a few pounds since then. Fortunately, St. Francis allowed only one score during the second half. They had scored a touchdown late in the 2nd quarter on a broken play, a 60-yard run that probably should have been a loss considering the number of defenders that swarmed around the call carrier. Overall, it was a good game for St. Francis, a toughening experience.

Andy played a great game. He was the center on most of the offensive plays and the right end on more than half of the defensive plays. He had a lot of playing time. He also kicked off twice. From the evidence of the enclosed photographs, you’ll probably agree with me that he looks quite impressive in his football uniform. 

After a couple days of hysteria, it seems like the media – at least the print media; television will never get the true picture – is giving the Starr Repot some thoughtful consideration. First of all, I don’t think everyone is accessing the Internet or poring through special edition supplements to learn the details of Clinton’s dalliance with Monica. I find it so ironic that the family values-professing Republicans are gleefully promoting a report that contains what some pundits refer to as pornographic material. It’s a smart approach for the G.O.P, though. They understand that if anything will keep the American public titillated, whether they will admit to it or not, it’s a juicy sex scandal. On the other hand, most of the Republican leadership realizes that they can’t push this thing too far. The recent change of strategy is reflected in a headline in today’s New York Times: “Playing It Safe, Republicans Try Silence”. At least the reporter hinted as to why this is being done. “Republicans want to deprive President Clinton and the Democrats of ammunition to portray the Monica Lewinsky scandal as driven by partisan considerations to undermine Mr. Clinton.” Of course, that’s what the Republican strategy has been all along. What amazes me about the special prosecutor’s zig-zagging tactics is why everyone isn’t asking the question: How did we get from Whitewater (the original focus) to Monica Lewinsky? Well, there’s very obvious answer to that question, but it’s not necessarily the right one. Sex sells!

Based on what is happening in politics locally, I am still fairly confident that the Republicans are going to stumble and lost whatever advantage the Starr report might have given them. In the 2nd Congressional district, both the Democratic and Republican primaries were highly contested. On the Democratic side, Tammy Baldwin won what some consider an upset over former Dane County executive Rick Phelps and current state senator and blowhard Joe Wineke. On the Republican side, in a field of six candidates, a moderate women with pro-choice tendencies (Jo Musser) squeaked out a 500-vote victory over a mouthpiece of the Christian right (former Madison firefighter and minister – and how these guys have the chutzpah to anoint themselves is beyond me – Ron Greer, one of Reggie White’s newfound buddies). Rick and Joe quickly lined up behind Tammy in a show of unity. The Republicans had to cancel a unity breakfast when Greer requested a recount. Tommy’s lack of support for Musser might have also played a role in this decision. The rest of the country, especially Democrats, could learn a very important lesson based on what happened here after the primary election.

Even though Tammy is very open about her sexual orientation, I don’t think that is going to be a negative for her in the November election. She has a very strong, enthusiastic, and youthful core of supporters, which is probably the main reason why Dane County set a record for a turnout in a primary election. Her very effective campaign organization will continue to build on this strength.  Even though we supported Rick in the primary, we have given our unqualified support to Tammy.

Oh, by the way, I need to make a room reservation for Wednesday, October 14th. I’m conducting a workshop at the Manitowoc Public Library the following morning, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and I want to spare myself from having to get up at 5 in the morning to get to my destination on time.

We’re all doing well here. Everyone’s in good health. The boys keep busy with school and sports. JoAnna, of course, continues to gear up for the first Tuesday in November. I’ve been very productive lately, even finding time to read two books a week during the past month.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Madison Central Library's 1st Floor Leisure Seating Area

A partial view.

The section of the library at the corner of West Mifflin and North Henry, where the adult nonfiction collection used to be shelved in the library's previous incarnation.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

On This Date in 1998

A holiday postscript.

Labor Day was a very lowkey holiday for me. In fact, I was on my own from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Andy spent most of the day with Meaghan and Matt at Meaghan’s house. She has a trampoline set up in the back yard, which seemed to be the big attraction today. I could hear their voices occasionally seep through the open windows and sliding glass door of the family room. Matt’s name might be unfamiliar to you. He’s a classmate of Andy’s and was also on Andy’s soccer team the past two years. He’s playing soccer again this fall, on the team that Andy will play for next spring. He lives about three blocks from our house.

JoAnna and Eddie traveled to Janesville to walk in the holiday parade there as part of the Erpenbach contingent. The parade started at 1:00, but it was 2:30 before they got moving. Obviously, a big parade.

I spent the day doing a variety of domestic chores and other activities. Laundry, which I just finished folding before sitting down at the computer. Reorganizing our bookcases, of which we have half a dozen of various sizes. Watching the Cubs-Cardinals game while eating lunch. (I missed seeing McGwire hit his 61st home run when it happened. I saw it on replay at least four times.) I even took a bike ride, taking a circuitous 20-minute ride to the library to pick up a book on tape. I had left in my office on Friday. Late this morning I finished listening to The Road to Wellville, by T. Coraghessan Boyle, a sometimes uproariously funny novel that skewers the health and nutritional fads of the early 20th century as promoted by John Harvey Kellogg at his Battle Creek, Michigan, sanatorium. The book is very well research, has at least a half dozen fully-developed, three-dimensional characters, and creates a wonderful period atmosphere. Boyle has a very literary style of writing but is also a very good storyteller. I think you might enjoy this book, Mom.

JoAnna and Eddie returned home shortly before 4:30, just in time for Eddie’s soccer scrimmage. Instead of watching him play, JoAnna and I did a lit drop for Rick Phelps, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District. Tomorrow is the primary election in Wisconsin, and that is one of the key races in the Madison area.

We had some friends here yesterday for a chicken barbecue. JoAnna made pasta and cucumber salads, and that was all we needed. (Our guests brought four pints of different varieties of Michael’s frozen custard – our favorite.) It was hot and sticky, so we ate on the patio, the bugs leaving us alone until we had finished eating. We moved inside around 7:00 and played sheepshead for a couple hours. Just a friendly game. No money exchanged hands.

I found it interesting that both boys wanted to be part of the group last night. Andy actually joined us during the meal and participated in the conversation. Before playing cards, we watched the Chiefs-Raiders football game, and Andy was practically giving us a play-by-play. I’m surprised he didn’t put on his uniform.

It cooled down today, although the weather was still very pleasant. Good sleeping weather is in store for tonight. The temperature is going to sip into the mid-40s.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On This Date in 1998

It’s the middle of the afternoon. Andy is resting on the family room couch and watching TV, his energy level drained as a result of a football scrimmage he played in this morning. Eddie’s in another part of the house, listening to a Beatles tape on my Walkman. JoAnna is at the Erpenbach’s helping to pain campaign signs for Jon.

Yesterday morning I stopped at the house on my way to a library meeting in Monona. As I approached the side door, I could hear very loud music spilling out of the open kitchen window, where Boxer was stretched out on the sill.

What’s going on here, I wondered. Did Andy and a bunch of friends skip school and decide to have a party? Nah, he’s not old enough yet to pull that kind of stunt. (And, hopefully, he’ll be responsible enough never to consider such delinquent behavior.)

Or maybe JoAnna and Hall had another, perhaps final, go-round.

As I was unlocking the door, I noticed that Boxer had a spooked look at his face, as if something had startled him and sent a jolt from his whiskers to the end of his tail.

“Hello, anybody home?” I called out after closing the door behind me. It was an inane thing to say since no one would have heard me anyway.

I walked toward the source of the noise, realizing in two steps into the kitchen that our Bose radio was shaking the walls of the living room. Having developed his ability to leap from a sitting position, Boxer has become skillful at springing onto higher surfaces, wanting a change form always viewing his world from floor level. He must have jumped on top of the bookcase on which the radio sits and accidentally turned it on as he was padding around. He must have also pushed the volume bar. What a shock that must have been for him. I’d like to replay that one and tape it for America’s Favorite Home Videos. It would be an instant classic.

I can’t even remember what I returned home for now, but it’s fortuitous that I did. Otherwise, Kitty Meowsers would have been headbangin’ all day. Andy must have used the radio last since it was turned to a station that JoAnna and I don’t listen to. Our letter carrier might have raised an eyebrow as he dropped off our mail. And Andy might have had second thoughts about entering the house when he returned home from school.

My meeting ended at 1:00, and it was very tempting to play hooky for the rest of the afternoon. We were heading into the Labor Day weekend with perfect summertime weather conditions: a clear sky, temperature around 80, low humidity, a light breeze. Great beach weather. Good day for a bike ride. However, I did have some loose ends to tie up at work, so I made the library my destination, although I did squeeze in a few stops along the way, mostly to stock up on a short list of food items.

Andy was at football practice when Eddie and I returned home at 5:30. He changed into his soccer uniform, and I drove him to his practice. Then I mowed the front yard, which has responded pretty well to my summer-long efforts at reseeding. Last year at this time, the lawn was starting to look like a wasteland. This year a few small bare patches remain, but viewed from the street and even the sidewalk, the lawn is a very healthy and attractive shade of green, with few weed visible.

After I finished with this chore, I quenched my thirst with two large glasses of ice water. I had a half hour to kill before picking up the boys at football practice in Cross Plains.

I wondered if the Cubs game was on TV. During my scan of the sports page I had noticed that Chicago was playing at Pittsburgh. A 7 o’clock starting time there would mean the game had started. I grabbed the remote and pressed the “on-off” button. While waiting for the picture to come into view, I heard the Three Rivers crowd cheering wildly. Something big has happened, I thought, and, sure enough, there’s Sammy Sosa rounding third base, doing his home run trot. #57, which gives him the Cubs’ season record, held for nearly 50 years by Hack Wilson. (I’m too lazy to get up and verify how many years it’s been.)

Eddie had big news to share with me when I picked him up at After School yesterday. All week JoAnna and I had been helping him study for his end-of-week spelling test. Considering the difficulties he’s had so far learning to read, we thought a spelling test could be a very frustrating experience for him. Each night we quizzed him on his list of words: class, fat, have, as, land, ant, band, ask, fast, tag.

I have to admit that his spelling test wasn’t on my mind when I walked into the school. I had to think a moment when he burst out, “Guess what, Dad? I aced the test!”

He was so proud of himself, and deservedly so. That first evening – Wednesday - -he started to balk when I sat him down at the kitchen table for his first practice test, but I think JoAnna and I made him realize the importance of preparation.

Andy’s football team played their first full scrimmage today – four 9-minute quarters against the other St. Francis Xavier 4th & 5th grade team. Andy played center on all the offensive plays an did a great job. His good friend Riley is the quarterback. Andy has attempted a point after, which missed by inches; he kicked an excellent punt, and even kicked off once. In this league, teams do not run the ball back on kick-offs or punts. The ball is played where it is downed, or the receiving team gets ten yards if a player catches the ball on the fly. That’s why Andy’s punt was so good. He kicked it to the right side of the field, where no one was covering. Oh, by the way. The final score? Andy’s team won, 20-14. Next Saturday, the team beings its regular season schedule of games.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Harvey's Famous Restaurant, Washington, D.C. (Postcard Series)

Lost Washington:  Harvey's Restaurant.  (Greater Greater Washington, 6/23/2009)

  • 1820.  Original construction.
  • 1866.  Remodeled as Harvey's Ladies' and Gentlemen's Oyster Saloon.
  • 1932.  Building razed.  Harvey's moved to Connecticut Avenue next to the Mayflower Hotel.
  • 1970.  Moved to 18th and K.
  • Now a long-gone favorite.

Scenes from the Past...Venerable Harvey’s Restaurant Remembered.  (TheInTowner, 5/13/2011)

Virginia Maier Petersen (1917-2013) Warren High School Class of 1935

When Virginia was a very popular girl's name.  (It currently ranks #579.)

One of the top hits of 1935

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Al. Ringling Theater, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Al Ringling Theater

Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania: Mt. Pleasant House on the Left (Postcard Series)

History of Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania.    After the Civil War the Poconos became a vacation destination for many New Yorkers and Philadelphians. In 1886 the Mount Pocono Railway Station was built. The railroads brought thousands of tourists to the Delaware Water Gap and Mount Pocono. The hot summers in New York and Philadelphia were stifling. Tourists could travel by rail from New York to Mount Pocono in a little over four hours. City dwellers loved the cool summers in the Pocono Mountains. Families would come to the Poconos for the entire summer, while husbands commuted back and forth on weekends. 

Huge resorts were built, The Kittatinny and The Water Gap House were built in the Delaware Water Gap and The Montanesca Hotel and The Mount Pleasant House were built in Mount Pocono. The Resorts were grand in style and had the latest technology . . . . like pure mountain spring water, long distance phone service, elevators, steam heat and electricity, a rarity for its time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

On This Date in 1998

With the new school year more than a week underway and Labor Day still around the corner, it seems as though we’ve been given a bonus week on the calendar. We’re still enjoying summery weather of the most pleasant sort. Warm, dry days that keep the sweat glands from overworking; cool, comfortably nights that provide ideal conditions for sleeping.

The boys’ casual attitude in getting ready for school on Monday morning resulted in a family meeting that evening. JoAnna generally leaves for work around 7:00, which leaves me on my own to get the boys in gear. It took a lot of prodding on my part. I practically had to drag Andy out of bed. Repeated requests to make their beds and brush their teeth went unheeded. The boys conducted a search of the house for their shoes. Andy ended up riding his bike to school, but I had to drive Eddie since there wasn’t enough time for him to walk there. By the end of the day, the boys had received some hard and fast ground rules for the next nine months. No TV on school nights, a rule that had already been in place. Lay out the clothes you are going to wear to school the next day before going to bed. Lights out at 9:00. Get out of bed no later than 7:00. Get dressed and make y our bed. Have some breakfast, a meal that Andy would rather skip if given the chance. Make sure you have everything you need for school, i.e. gym clothes, band instrument (for Andy – he’s taking up the trumpet this year), homework assignments, papers that need a parent’s signature. Get to school on your own power, unless it happens to be raining or severely cold. Two days later, the boys have shaken off their morning lethargy – Monday morning they were sitting around the living room like it was a Saturday – but still try to slide by with a minimum of effort. Their beds weren’t made this morning, a fact that I didn’t notice until I was out of the shower and the boys were off to school.

I had a big surprise waiting for me when I went home for lunch yesterday. I walked in the side door and found JoAnna in the family room, watching an old movie on TV, just like it was a Saturday or something.

“I quit my job,” she informed me. “I just can’t work with Hal anymore.”

They’d had a big disagreement over the phone earlier in the day. Hal has to be in control of every bit of business that takes place within the office. He definitely is a micro-manager, where JoAnna trusts her staff enough to delegate assignments and expect that they’ll get done on time. JoAnna and Hal have had arguments about this before, but yesterday JoAnna reaching the breaking point. She was obviously having second thoughts about walking out, though, but certainly not on account of Hal. Her biggest concerns were letting down her staff and her clients. She made a couple phone calls to her most trusted staff members and then had a long, close to an hour, phone conversation with Hal. Since I had a meeting in the morning and was working the reference desk in the evening, I had decided to work a split day. Stretched out on the couch in the family room while reading a book, I couldn’t help but overhear much of JoAnna’s end of the conversation. She wasn’t giving Hal an inch. She didn’t have to ask for her job back because I don’t think Hal ever thought that she’d really leave, but JoAnna was not shy about letting him know what she felt was the most productive working environment.

When JoAnna first hit me with the news of her quitting, though, I mentally started to tight the family belt immediately. Let’s see, we’ll have to get Eddie out of After School. We don’t need the Maids to do our housecleaning anymore. (Did I mention that JoAnna hired a cleaning service to come in and do general housework every two weeks?) Before I could answer the question, Am I going to have enough money in my payment to take care of the mortgage and all the other bills, I decided that I didn’t want to think about the possibility of becoming a one-income family anymore.

But now everything is back to normal. Or at least I still think it is. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. I do think that JoAnna will be looking for another job at the beginning of the year. Hal’s a very hard person to work for. If I had someone like him on my library board, I’d probably go bonkers.

Andy is practicing football three days a week – Monday, Tuesday, and Friday – and has games scheduled on Saturday. Just a scrimmage this week. Even though he’s only in 5th grade, he looks like he belongs in a football uniform. At least Saturday’s scrimmage, he played well on both offense (tight end) and defense (tackle). We’ve worked out a car-pooling arrangement with a group of parents; otherwise, I’d be making three 14-mile round-trips to Cross Plains per week. With our cooperative delivery and pickup schedule, I have the Monday and Friday after-practice taxi service. You’d think the boys would be tired out after a two-hour football practice, but I had a carload of 4 very wired boys on the trip back to Middleton. By 9 o’clock, though, Andy is usually just a eyelash from sleep. At least since school has started, once he gets ready for bed, it doesn’t take him long to crash. Eddie still takes awhile, but now that he has a tape of early Beatles songs to serenade him to sleep, he’ll stay in his bed instead of walking back and forth between his room and the bathroom or his room and the living room or his room and Andy’s room.

It’s time to pick up Eddie at After School. I might add a postscript later.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Newburyport Turnpike, Newburyport, Massachusetts

The Newburyport Turnpike:  A historic road.  (Wicked Local Saugus, 9/14/2007)

Excerpt: The saga continues with the advent of automobiles in the early 1900’s and the rebirth of the turnpike. The road was widened and paved in 1922 and grass plots were used to separate the lanes of traffic on either side. The Newburyport Turnpike was designated as Route 1 in 1925. In the 1930’s construction began to replace the level road crossings with overpasses at Essex, Main, and Walnut Street. The M.D.C. extended its parkway program into Saugus with the creation of the Lynn Fells Parkway which connected the Turnpike with Melrose. The Frank Bennett Highway, or Route C-1, was built from Saugus to East Boston and dedicated in 1937. A rotary had to be constructed to accommodate the new roadway.

Greetings from the Maine Seacoast (Postcard Series)