Thursday, October 31, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Happy Halloween. The boys and I just returned home after nearly an hour and a half of canvassing the neighborhood for trick-or-treat goodies. There is now an extra-large Tupperware bowl filled with candy – as many as 200 fun-size bars and other assorted packaged sweets – sitting atop the refrigerator. The boys found only nine items they didn’t like: 2 Mounds bars, 4 Almond Joys, 3 Baby Ruths, candy bars that both JoAnna and I gladly accepted.

The Middleton High School football team has made it to the second round of the playoffs. Tonight they are playing Wisconsin Rapids at home. We were about to leave the house shortly before the 7 o’clock game time until the phone rang. More than a half hour later, JoAnna is still on the phone. Different caller, same conversation. From my eavesdropping, it sounds as if the get-out-the-vote effort in Manitowoc is not going well. Some people aren’t sharing information as to who is being called and what wards have been assigned poll watchers on election day. Manitowoc is a critical area for one of the state senate races.

As a result of this news, JoAnna has decided to spend Sunday, Monday, and part of Tuesday in Manitowoc to provide some hands-on coordination. She has the advantage of not being seen as an outsider. Two Rivers is located just north of Manitowoc on Lake Michigan. Earlier in the week, she had mentioned the possibility of having to make this trip, so this change of plans came as no big surprise. JoAnna will stay with Cindy while she is there.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The New Super Highway near Paxtonia between Harrisburg and Indiantown Gap, Harrisburg, Pa. (Postcard Series)

Harrisburg is the county seat of Dauphin County. 

Harrisburg demographics 2010

On This Date in 1998

We “fell back” last night, reverting to Central Standard Time after returning home from a family outing: 5 o’clock mass at St. Bernard’s (granting Mom her wish), dinner at Old Chicago, dessert at Michael’s Frozen Custard, and video rentals at Blockbuster. The boys and I used up our extra hour right away, Andy and Eddie staying up until ten o’clock (eleven o’clock officially) watching a video in the family room while I read in the living room. The movie they were watching, The Bushwhackers, a misadventure starring a way-too-manic Daniel Stern (the tall, skinny bad guy in Home Alone) about kids at a summer camp, was so lame that I couldn’t tune its nonsense out. JoAnna decided to add her hour to a good night’s sleep.

Back to the present. JoAnna just left for work. (It’s a few minutes before 9:00.) The boys are watching TV, and I’ve already been able to check off a few chores on today’s to-do list. No big plans for today. I’ll probably take the boys shopping to buy Halloween costumes. Party City had a glossy flyer in today’s paper showing their entire inventory, or so it looked. Target is next door and I have a short list of purchases I want to make there.

Our beautiful weather continues. Yesterday was ideal – clear sky by the early afternoon, temperature in the low 60s, just a slight breeze, thin cloud cover every now and then, with scattered showers in the forecast. Our late-October warm spell is supposed to continue through Wednesday.

The Orioles, Andy’s football team, tied their final game of the season yesterday, 6-6, which gave them an 0-6-1 record for the season, excluding an exhibition game they played under the lights last Tuesday evening against the 5th graders in the Middleton recreational football program. (They lost bragging rights, 24-7.) Andy played fullback and tight end, positions he had played mostly in practice. He did a great job, catching two passes for a total of about 25 yards. On the second reception, he was a single defender away from running 50 yards for a touchdown. I don’t understand why the coach didn’t put him at this position more often, especially since it was one that Andy expressed an interest in from the first week of practice. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, in yesterday’s game, Andy accounted for half the Oriole pass receptions for the entire season. The offensive line was generally so ineffective that pass protection was not a term in their vocabulary. I had planned to bring along my camera to the game but, unfortunately, left home without it. Watching the game along the sidelines, I was positioned for a great shot. Andy showed no fear. He held onto the ball tightly and charged ahead for as much yardage as he could mange until he was tackled, seemingly not worried about being hit.

From football to basketball. Tonight Andy has try-outs for the 5th grade team in the Tri-County league, which would be a step up for him: more games, travel to venues beyond Dane County. If he doesn’t make the cut, he’ll play in the recreational league as he has done for the past three years. Eddie decided he wasn’t interested in playing basketball, but we did, with his permission, sign him up for indoor soccer, which starts in early December.

I was the featured speaker at the Friends of the Library annual meeting yesterday afternoon, which was scheduled to start one-half hour before the kickoff of the Wisconsin-Iowa game. This was the first time the Friends had attempted a program of this nature, and I was pleased at the turnout. About 20 showed up for a short business meeting and my presentation on how the library will eventually expand into 10,000 square feet of unfinished space on the lower level. Even though the library is only 8 years old, Middleton’s service area has grown dramatically in that time and it shows no signs of abating. Use of the library has more than doubled since 1990, and we’re actually running out of space in some areas. I just bought some shelf extensions for the adult audiovisual collection (videos and books on tape, specifically), but this purchase is only a short-term, stopgap solution.

Our current long-range plan for library service covers the years 1997 to 2001. It is here where we address the development of a plan to use the unfinished space on the lower level and a reconfiguration of the main level. Our plan for years 2002-2006 will address the implementation of this plan. Ten years ago, when we were putting the finishing touches on the original building program statement, we thought we’d have sufficient space for 20 years. In fact, some futurists would have told us that we’d have much more space than we needed, since library as they were then configured, shelves filled mostly with books and other print materials, were becoming obsolete. There was, and still is, much talk about virtual libraries, where the connection between people and information is exclusively through computers. I would have predicted then, and I stilt predict now, that this revolution will never happen. Books have been around for 500 years and are not going to suddenly disappear. The participants in the focus group discussions a consultant conducted for the library last year made this fact very clear. As much as people appreciate the improvements that technology has made possible in libraries, access to information that would have taken weeks to obtain through our traditional interlibrary loan channels, they still expect the focus to be on books.

Earlier this year, the library board hired the architectural firm that designed the library to create a public service floor plan for the lower level and recommend a better means of access between the two levels. I shared the 3rd revision of this plan with the group yesterday. We based our reconfiguration of library services on one of the most frequent complaints we have heard since day one – “The library is so noisy.” And you probably recall from your visit in 1990 that the current plan is a very open one; except for a change in the color of the carpeting, there is no physical division, for example, between the children’s area and the rest of the library. The reality of supervising a space three times the size of the previous library with a very small increase in staff dictated the need for this openness, for using shelving and other furnishing to set off the various sections of the library. As a result, the library is indeed a very noisy place at certain times of the day: during story times, after school, and into the early evening, practically all day on Saturday. Based on our collection and staffing size, we are the most heavily used library in the state. Libraries in Middleton’s circulation range of 350,000 to 500,000 items annually, generally own twice the number of books and other materials and have 50% more fulltime equivalent staff.

Seeing the need to create a quiet study area in the library, we have decided to move the following pieces of the library’s service program to the lower level: the reference desk, the reference collection (including special collections for consumer information, careers and education, personal investments, and business directories), CD-ROM databases, internet computer stations, back issues of magazines and newspapers, and the adult nonfiction collection. This area will also include a variety of small clusters of seating: tables, study carrels, and upholstered chairs, similar to what we already have now. The lower level will also include a small meeting room, two study room, and a Middleton local history room. In a separate area, we plan to create Friends of the Library store out of the unfinished space that they currently use for their book sale room.

How to connect the two levels? Well, we currently provide access to the lower level via an elevator and stairwell from the main lobby, but since this route bypasses the circulation desk, we needed to consider an alternative. What we plan to do is create an additional stairwell where the reference desk is now located and add a second elevator at the east end of the building. (I hope I remember to include a photocopy of the floor plan. That might help you visualize what I’m describing to you here.) The reconfigured library will still have just a single circulation desk. Creating a second one on the lower level would make the library’s operative too staff-intensive. A self-service checkout unit will be provided on this level, though. (We introduced this service in August. People who have no fines or other stops on their library cards or items on hold to pick up are now able to check out books, magazines, and videos on their own. The machine doesn’t accommodate books on tape or compact discs yet. Self-service now accounts for 8% of our monthly circulation. Some people are intrigued by the new technology; others use it to avoid waiting in line to have a staff members check out their materials. )

Those in attendance at yesterday’s Friends meeting responded positively to the plan. I felt a sense of relief as the other staff members working on this project, as well as the members of the library board, feel that we are very close to a final plan. The next step will be to reconfigure the main level. In this space, we will be able to expand our children’s area and provide more space for the display of our popular materials: new books, paperbacks, and audiovisual.

With JoAnna planning to work yesterday afternoon, Andy agreed to watch Eddie while I was at the library. Then Meaghan showed up, and I didn’t want to leave the three of them at home. Twenty minutes before I needed to leave the house, Joey Kracht invited Eddie to play at his house. The Krachts, whose son Alex is Andy’s age, used to live down the street from us, and the boys would play together all the time. Since they moved to another neighborhood in Middleton, their play dates have been more infrequent. Eddie is usually content to entertain himself or join Andy and his friends at school to play with him. I encourage him to invite one of his friends at school to play with him. (Picking up where I left off five hours ago.) This is another example of how different Andy and Eddie are. In his free time, Andy always has to be in the company of friends.

Like today. As soon as we returned home from buying Halloween costumes – the Grim Reaper for Andy, a Star Wars stormtrooper for Eddie – Andy called Meaghan. (Party City was a popular place. In spite of their huge selection, many costume styles were either out of stock or not available in a particular size.) The kids have been playing street hockey on rollerblades for most of the afternoon. (Most of their playing surface is limited to the driveway, actually.) Matt Ziegler just stopped by to join the fun.

I’ve tackled a variety of chores today. I spent a couple hours outdoors, the sky a gray dome by the time, pulling up annuals, cutting down the peonies, sweeping off the patio, and reorganizing the shed to make room for some patio furniture. I started packing for the WLA conference, for which I plan to depart early Tuesday afternoon. My first commitment, the WLA board meeting, is scheduled to begin at 6:00 I washed or cleaned off Andy’s football gear – pants, jerseys, pads, helmet – and put most of it into a grocery bag with this Thursday’s schedule for equipment check-in, which Grandpa Richard will have to drive Andy to, since I’ll be out of town and JoAnna not doubt working late. No school on Thursday and Friday, by the way, due to Wisconsin’s annual teachers’ conference. Traditionally, it has been held at the same time as the library conference.

I still need to go grocery shopping, but that can be postponed until tomorrow, if necessary. I don’t mind leaving Andy and Eddie at home together but feel very strongly that either JoAnna or I have to be here when any of the boy’s friends are present. That’s especially true right now, when one false move – stumbling over our uneven driveway or some other version of wipeout – could result in a serious injury. Fortunately, the kids don’t seem to lose sight of safety issues during their games.
You asked for gift suggestions, Mom, and maybe I can append a few to the end of this letter. I won’t be able to get the boys’ attention for another hour or so.

While working outside this afternoon, I started to listen to the book on tape version of The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, another classic novel, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that I previously had no interest in reading. I can see why it’s such a popular books; the story is a very compelling one.

Eddie just walked into the room.

“Aw, I want to go on the computer,” he whined. “You’re always on the computer.”

I guess it’s time for me to close.

Monday, October 21, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Thank God it’s Wednesday! That exclamation will give you an indication of how busy this week has been already. A year ago, JoAnna and I would have been at our wit’s end trying to juggle our schedules, as if we were trying to keep balls and plates and flaming batons in the air at the same time. At least now we can leave the boys on their own, if necessary.

With two weeks left before election day, it’s crunch time for JoAnna. She keeps telling her guys, “You won’t see much of me between now and November 3rd.” Late October is also a hectic time of the year for me with city budget deliberations and preparation for the annual library conference.

Middleton’s personnel committee met on Monday at 5:30, which meant I had to pick up Eddie and bring him to the library since no one was at home. Andy was at football practice. JoAnna had to make a trip to Janesville. I knew Eddie would be hungry so I stopped at the house to fix him a sandwich, grab a container of yogurt and a handful of Oreo cookies. Earlier in the day, I had signed him up for a half hour of computer time so he’d have something to do other than page through books. (Not that he objects to doing that.) He attends a religion class on Monday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30, and St. Bernard’s is only two blocks from the library. Not sure when the committee meeting would end, I asked a staff member to remind Eddie when he needed to leave. She volunteered to give him a ride, since a busy University Avenue separates the library and the church. And, during this time of year, it’s dark by 6:15. As much as I want the boys to develop a sense of independence and responsibility, there are times when the overly protective parent in me takes over.

At 7:15, the library request had still not been discussed. The committee stalled while going through the Public Works part of the agenda. I left the room to call the library from a pay phone in the lobby of city hall and asked Liz if she would pick up Eddie and drive him home. I figured that Andy would be back from football practice by this time.

Fifteen minutes later I was on the way home, very pleased with myself. The personnel committee had approved all of the library’s personnel requests to open the library on Sundays during the school year. Of course, that’s not the final verdict. I still have two more hurdles to jump over: the finance committee and the full council.

I was surprised to find the house dark as I pulled into the driveway. Andy should certainly be home by now, I thought. The phone rang within 5 minutes of my return. I expected to hear Andy’s voice. It was Liz, calling from the library, which momentarily confused me. She and Eddie couldn’t get into the house. I told her (and Eddie) that I’d leave the patio door to the laundry room open. (She had attended our Bastille Day party this year so I figured she knew what I was talking about.) They only tried the two front doors. Eddie did not want to venture into the darkness of the back yard. So I drove to the library to pick up Eddie, swinging by St. Bernard’s to see if Andy had decided to attend his religion class. Last week he attended in his football gear, minus the pads. One of his best buddies is also in the class. For that reason, I don’t think our Lord Jesus was the main draw.

Once Eddie was back home, I decided to check voice mail. Sure enough, there was a message from Andy. “I’m at Riley’s house,” he informed me. I grabbed my car keys and made one final taxi run. Kathy Farrell, one of the football practice carpool parents, had waited to make sure that Andy could get into the house when she dropped him off. Andy tried the two front doors, both locked of course, and he, too, was afraid of the dark. We leave the back door open so he doesn’t have to worry about keeping track of a house key. He usually forgets to bring it to school with him and has been known to misplace a key every once in awhile. (What was that remark about developing responsibility?) Anyway, when Andy found himself locked out, Riley invited him over to his house.

At 8:30, I tried to get Eddie to focus on his homework. Each week he receives a sheet with 6-8 vocabulary words and 12-15 sentences from his special reading teacher. Each night he is supposed to review this assignment for 15 minutes. After an unusually hectic day, Eddie was unable to focus and became a little ornery. I knew if I pushed the issue, I might observe a full-blown tantrum. We found some time Tuesday morning during breakfast.

Tuesday’s finance committee meeting was scheduled at a time when I was supposed to be driving Andy to Cross Plains for a “non-conference” football game, the St. Francis 5th graders against the Middleton 5th graders. With some critical budget requests on the line, I couldn’t miss this meeting. Fortunately, Andy had good news when he called me after school. Kathy Farrell, one of the carpool parents and a teacher’s aide at Elm Lawn, volunteered to pick up Andy at 5:15. I was just about to contact her when Andy called. Whew! I thought. One less thing to worry about.

Since I usually work on Tuesday evenings, JoAnna had already agreed to follow her usual schedule and pick up Eddie. If I hadn’t been saddled with any commitments, though, she would have taken advantage of another opportunity to work late. The finance committee last an hour; I expected that we’d go until 7:00. More good news. Although the committee didn’t take a vote, the preliminary discussion indicates that the library’s two most important capital budget requests (a library materials theft detection system replacement and a divider for the lower level meeting room) will remain intact.

Due to the earlier than anticipated adjournment, I drove to Cross Plains and arrived in time for the kickoff of Andy’s game, his first game under the lights. With his team down 8-0 at halftime, I returned, as planned, to Middleton for the council meeting, since a resolution to exempt the city from the county library tax was on the agenda. Routine business. I didn’t expect any problems, but always like to be in the audience just in case a question arises. I walked into the council chambers five minutes after the start of the meeting. I sat down next to the police chief, who leaned towards me and whispered, “Don’t get too comfortable. We’re almost done.” The council had already voted to approve the county library tax resolution, no questions asked, as the library board had recommended. I could have stayed at Andy’s game, and watched the Orioles go on to a 24-7 defeat. They’re still without a victory, and their last game of the season is this Saturday.

Although JoAnna won’t be home until late tonight, my schedule for today and the rest of the week is a breeze. No more agonizing over how to get the boys from here to there and back home again. I can relax this evening, help Eddie with his homework, then put up my feet and read a book in the solitude of the family room after the boys go to bed. I’ve been able to complete all my conference preparations – board meeting outline on Tuesday, keynote speaker introduction on Wednesday, President’s report for the WLA business meeting on Thursday, and Presidents’ luncheon remarks on Friday – at the library. I keep all my notes and other papers organized in a three-ring binder. I’m ready for business.

We’ll be seeing you soon. Actually the boys and JoAnna will see you sooner. I’ll be in Lake Geneva by the time you arrive on Tuesday. Guess I’ll see you on Friday afternoon. How about if we celebrate my 49th birthday that evening?

By the way, I was very impressed with the Manitowoc Public Library, although I probably would have arranged some of the shelving and displays a little differently. When I first walked along the mezzanine, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu. As far as the interior is concerned, there is a slight resemblance to the older library. I mentioned that to a staff member who had invited me to present the workshop, and she said the same feeling struck her.

JoAnna and I certainly appreciate your willingness to help us out next week. I know the boys are looking forward to Grandma and Grandpa’s visit.

intercontinental Highway near Boulder Dam (Postcard Series)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chestnut Street, Kimball Hotel and Y. M. C. A. Springfield, Mass. (Postcard Series)

The Kimbell Hotel opened in 1911.   Now the Kimball Towers Condominiums. 

On This Date in 1998

At 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning, the house is eerily quiet, at least until a tape on which I recorded Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue rewinds. JoAnna went to her office and won’t be home until 6:00. I gave the boys money to go bowling, the Sport Bowl being just a short walk from the house. Andy’s friend Matt dropped by at quarter to ten. He and Andy played a raucous game of rug hockey in the family room until JoAnna returned home from church. She fixed herself a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, and even though Andy had recently devoured a serving of syrup-drenched pancakes, and Matt had eaten before the left his house, the boys fixed themselves what JoAnna was eating. I haven’t even had my usual 8 sections of grapefruit yet; a half-glass of apple cider has been my only nourishment so far today.

Eddie and I enjoyed a quiet, pleasant, relaxing Friday evening together. We sat on the couch in the family room, a bowl of popcorn between us. He watched the Cartoon Network while I read. I was intrigued by this cable channel’s approach to programming. They don’t simply throw, willy-nilly, three cartoons into a half-hour time slot. Friday evening featured three Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons directed by Tex Avery, a filmmaker whom most animation aficionados would place in the pantheon of auteurs, along with Friz Freleng (Bugs Bunny) and Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker). (The auteur theory, by the way, is a view of filmmaking, usually associated with live-action films, with directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford and Martin Scorcese, in which the director is considered the primary creative force.)

Eddie, of course, is not watching these cartoons at the same level that I am, my point of view refined over 40 years of fascination with popular culture. I’m sure that he’s as discerning a viewer, though. My guess is that Eddie is not so much interested in the cartoon’s storyline as he is in the – and here I’m going to throw another French film term at you – mise-en-scene (pronounced MEEZ-ahn sane), the physical setting of the action. Eddie has created this huge file of mental images that he effortlessly riffles through whenever he sits at his drafting table and begins a new drawing.

We took two vehicles to get to Andy’s football game yesterday morning. Andy had to be at the field 45 minutes before the 10:30 kickoff time. If we all drove together, Eddie would get bored and in a complaining mood by game time. The Weather Channel predicted scattered showers (my emphasis), and with the sksy looking overcast but not anywhere near threatening, I left the house wearing jeans and a short-sleeve t-shirt. At the end of the first quarter, we heard a single clap of thunder and saw a flash of lightning. A light rain began to fall. I thought the game might be delayed, but the thunder and lightning went away, as if God had immediately answered the coaches’ and parents’ prayers. During much of the second and third quarters, the Orioles played in a driving rain. I mean, it poured! Fortunately, JoAnna had brought along an umbrella and a poncho, and offered me the latter, so I was able to keep dry above the knees. Eddie wore a windbreaker without a hood. He and his friend Garrett enjoyed themselves for awhile, but the brisk wind was probably bringing on a case of hypothermia. Eddie was soaked from head to toe. When he pleaded to go home, JoAnna was happy to oblige.

The Orioles got trounced, 39-0. From start to finish, the team looked disorganized and mostly disinterested on both offense and defense. This was their 6th loss without a win. I think the team lost its spirit before the end of the 1st quarter, as if someone had suddenly popped the balloon of their hopes for a 1st victory. JoAnna and I aren’t sure if it’s a collective lack of talent or poor coaching. Andy still seems to enjoy the experience, though. He hasn’t made any negative comments or tried to weasel out of going to practice.

Andy had only 15 minutes to get ready for Tim’s birthday party. Tim and Andy became good friends in the 3rd grade, a relationship that cooled a bit during 4th grade, but now seems to be warming up again. Tim lives with his dad and stepmom in Middleton during the week and with his mom and stepdad in Verona on the weekends. The party, of course, was in Verona, which is a 15-minute drive from Middleton. On the way home, I stopped at Cub Foods and made a major purchase of groceries. The West Towne area was clogged with traffic, most of the western half of Dane County deciding that shopping was the best way to spend a rainy day. Andy heavy rains continued into the late afternoon.

We hosted a sheepshead party Saturday evening. Jon and Kathy Erpenbach brought along their two children, Joey, 6, and Amy, 3. They get along so well with Andy and Eddie. Some of JoAnna’s staff members showed up: Julie (and her husband, Ron), Emily, Jen, as well as two other Capitol people (legislative aides): Andy, whose Mom is a librarian, and Scott, who does a dead-on Frank Sinatra imitation. (Based on the one time that I tested his knowledge, he seems to know every song that Frank recorded.) It wasn’t a late night. Both tables shut down prior to 11:00.

Mom, did you ever read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I finished listening to it on the drive back from Manitowoc on Thursday. It’s a book that remains very popular 45 years after its initial publication, a fact which intrigued me. What is it about this book that makes it so enduring? I wondered. The answer: Betty Smith writes a very compelling coming-of-age story and her depiction of New York City in the 1910s provides a fascinating glimpse of that city’s history.

A Sunday evening postscript

Andy played soccer this afternoon. Matt’s team, which is the team that Andy will play on next spring, was short a player, and Andy was happy to fill in.

I did notice the article in the Warren newspaper about sidewalk replacement. We had a portion of our sidewalk replaced soon after we moved to Mayflower Drive. Our assessment by the city was $80 per square, if I remember correctly. We’d like to get our driveway replaced next spring. I’m sure that won’t be a cheap project.

I clipped the article about the Watson Home. I knew very little about the history of the place, so I found it informative reading. And unless it was shortly after we first moved to Warren, I don’t remember ever being inside the building.

The Buffalo Bills are turning into giant-killers, knocking off another undefeated team today. The mood is a little tense in Packerland after Thursday’s loss to the Lions. JoAnna wondered if Favre might be abusing drugs again, but the local sportswriters point to the Dorsey Levens injury, which left the Packers without a running game and puts more pressure on Favre to do it all. Brett looked like the greenest of rookies against the Lions. He was intercepted three times, but I saw at least three other passes that should have been picked off.

Andy was just demonstrating his dance moves, with Will Smith’s “Men in Black” on the stereo. He looked ready to strut his stuff for the girls. What a guy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Miniature Golf Course, showing Berkeley Carteret Hotel, Asbury Park, N. J. (Postcard Series)

Welcome to the City of Asbury Park

Asbury Park Public Library

On This Date in 1998

Eddie and I are going to spend the evening at home since he isn’t in the mood to attend the high school football game. I’m content to stay in myself. I worked an abbreviated schedule today – from 8:30 to 2:00, no lunch – as I had a series of errands to run and rides to provide that would take up most of the latter half of the afternoon. Cash my check. Refill Eddie’s Ritalin prescription. Pick up Andy and drive us to Best Buy to pick up a birthday present for his friend Tim. (I allowed myself the indulgence of buying 2 CDs for myself, the first time this year I bought any new – or old music. Dale and Lar might also enjoy and music on Urban Hymns by the Verve and Great Divide by Semisonic. ) Return home so Andy can change into his football uniform. Drop him off at the high school football field, where the orange and white Oriole teams will be playing against each other in a short scrimmage during the halftime of the sophomore game. (The high school also has a freshman team, so there is no junior varsity, per se.) Buy stamps and mail a stack of bills at the post office and drop off the water bill at city hall. Pick up three pirs of slacks at the cleaners. Pick up Eddie at After School and then return to the high school football field where the scrimmage in already in progress. I decided not to buy $3 tickets for a series of plays that will be over in a few minutes. From a distance of 70 yards, it’s hard to tell what is going on. After Andy’s teams poses for pictures (for what purpose, never did learn), the boys and I return home via McDonald’s drive-through. Before Andy can chow down his McNuggets and French fries, I have to drive him back to the high school where the 5th through 8th grade band members will be practicing for their pregame show. (It’s a homecoming weekend.)

JoAnna just left for the game a few minutes ago. She and some other people will be distributing candy while Jon Erpenbach, our state senate candidate and hometown boy, greets the crowd. (Jon is a 1980 graduate of MHS.) 
Tomorrow, as you’ll learn in a later report, is going to be an even more hectic day. Right now I’m a paragraph or two away from sacking out on the couch and starting a new book.

I spent Wednesday night in Two Rivers with Larry and Alice since I was conducting a workshop at the Manitowoc Public Library Thursday morning. Larry talked about his latest health problems. For most of this year, ever since an afternoon of bowling during a visit in Florida with Bud (Alice’s brother) and Shirley (Larry’s sister) in February as he pinpoints it, he has been bothered by arthritis. During his worst attacks, he is practically immobilized; he can barely move around with crutches. He’s taking medication, which seems to make his face puffy. Either that or he’s put on some weight this year. Alice seems to be doing well. She hasn’t smoked a cigarette since New Year’s Eve and here I thought she wouldn’t last in a smokeless environment through the spring.

The two main topics of my workshop were conducting a reference interview and integrating electronic reference sources into the library reference services program. The library system, headquartered in Manitowoc, is the smallest one in the state, but 20 people attended. The visit also provided me with an opportunity to see Wisconsin’s newest public library, a 52,000-square-foot facility in a downtown redevelopment area just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan.

When I picked up Andy at school yesterday, after he completed his duties as a school crossing guard, I almost didn’t recognize him. I watched a strapping young lad emerge from the school and walk toward the car. He wore a red polo shirt with a school band logo, the style of shirt having a lot to do with his more mature look, with shiny black knee-length gym shorts. His calves have the well-developed shape of an athlete’s. His short, dirty-blond hair stuck out of his head like nubby sunbleached quills. He carried his trumpet case in his right hand, and his walk exuded a sense of confidence. Of course, I knew it was Andy all along, but he seemed to have climbed a few rungs up the ladder to maturity all of a sudden.

I feel the same sense of pride and wonder observing Eddie. I accompanied him to his Cub Scout meeting last night. He looked so assured in his navy shirt and orange scarf. When I look at pictures of the boys from three or four years ago, I never fail to be amazed at the changes that have taken place. If it weren’t for all the pictures we have, I’d probably have trouble remembering the boys when they were toddlers. When I do the math for 11 times 2, that is, Andy when he’s twice as old as he is now, I want to slam on the brakes and let the engine idle in neutral for awhile. I wish our lives weren’t on the fast track so often.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Volusia County Court House, De Land, Fla.

Now home to the Museum of Art.  The Volusia County Historic Courthouse in downtown DeLand is a significant local landmark with its Neo-Classical architecture, fluted Corinthian columns, copper-clad dome and grand rotunda topped by a stained glass dome. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Over the Tree Tops": World's Highest Artificial Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan (Postcard Series)

Pine Mountain Jump,

On This Date in 1998

And it was. A Subway kind of evening, that is. For the boys, anyway. Around 7:30, I called JoAnna at her office to get an indication of when she’d be home. She was just about ready to leave, actually, and asked if I could pick up a couple entrees at Grand China, a take-out restaurant just three doors from Subway, while the boys ordered their subs. If this family is any indication, no wonder the Madison area is such a mecca for restaurants.

The boys camped out in the family room. Being the wonderful big brother that he is, Andy allowed Eddie to be part of the group. JoAnna and I adjourned to our bedroom and watched the Badger football game, which was broadcast locally even though it was being played at home. Exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking game. Wisconsin looked unbeatable in the st quarter, taking a 14-3 lead, then the game took a 180-degree turn as the Boilermakers scored one touchdown and two field goals and knotted the score at 17-17 at the half. The third quarter looked like a continuation of the 2nd, with Purdue moving the ball effortlessly. Fortunately, turnovers prevented them from scoring. Then late in the quarter the Badger offense fired up after the defense intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, Wisconsin taking the lead for good. The Badgers are off to their best start (6-0) since 1993, when they last went to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin does not play Ohio State this y ear, which would probably have been the showdown game of the Big Ten season.

Another gorgeous day today. JoAnna convinced all of us, Matt included, to attend 9 o’clock mass. (His family belongs to St. Bernard’s parish.) Andy, Matt, and Meaghan played together all afternoon, mostly at Meaghan’s house. With Dad as his chaperone, Eddie spent an hour rollerblading up and down a section of Elmwood Avenue, soliciting popcorn orders for a Cub Scouts fundraiser. The goal for each scout is $63 and he exceeded that by $27, and that’s before he’s made visits to the library and to JoAnna’s office. Eddie is a member of troop 340, which includes 6 other second-graders from Elm Lawn school. He was a Tiger Cub last year and really enjoyed the experience.

Once Eddie and I returned home, he watched TV but I tackled a more ambitious agenda. I continued to clean the mildew off the exterior of the house. I mowed the front lawn, a chore I thought I’d be done with for the year, but the unseasonably warm weather keeps the grass growing as if it’s mid-June. Most of the leaves are still on the trees and green, an unbelievable scenario for this time of year.

JoAnna worked almost 8 hours today. She returned home in time for a spaghetti dinner, which included salad (the already chopped up and bagged variety) and garlic sticks (the Pillsbury variety). The sauce was courtesy of Paul Newman, but I actually boiled water to cook the pasta. 

Everyone else is in bed right now. (It’s 9:20, and a few minutes ago I turned off the mute when I noticed that Atlanta’s bats had finally come alive.) The boys, of course, should be in bed, but JoAnna complained of having a stomach ache (is that a bad review of the meal I fixed?) and a general rundown feeling. I’m sure I’d feel the same way too if I hadn’t taken a real day off in more than three weeks. I’m glad the election is less than a month away.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Home Office of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield (Postcard Series)

Mass Mutual, where my Uncle Ed Pearson used to work once upon a time.

On This Date in 1998

Although the week started off on a soggy note, the gray dome of the weekend remaining in place, we found ourselves basing in warm sunshine by Thursday. It was tempting to play hooky, but I had a full schedule: a meeting of LINK, the automation consortium of which Middleton is a member, in the morning; a staff meeting in the afternoon, and a stint as guest lecturer for a class at the library school in the early evening.

When I dropped off Eddie Thursday afternoon, the living room was sset up with lights, microphones, and a camera. JoAnna and I had offered Jon Erpenbach the use of our house to film a commercial for his Senate campaign. It was shot just inside the front entrance, a moment in the life of a candidate knocking on doors to introduce himself to the votes, Drew’s mom, Kathy, filling the role as the woman of the house. (Drew, if you recall, is on Andy’s football team, and Kathy’s husband, Brian, has been one of Jon’s best friends since high school.) The boys would have jumped at the chance to be in this commercial, but their services weren’t needed this time.

Yesterday I worked from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. without a break, but by the time I returnred home it was too late to do anything outside. Before picking up Eddie, though, I did take care of one chore on my household to-do list. I cleaned Eddie’s bedroom windows, inside and out. The two of us stopped at a fundraiser for 2nd Congressional district candidate Tammy Baldwin on the way home, where we met JoAnna. Andy, of course, was at football practice, and it was my turn to pick up the boys, so I had to leave in the middle of Tammy’s remarks, a political pep talk, for the most part.

The Middleton High School football team traveled to Beloit yesterday. We aren’t big enough fans to follow the team on the road. If Andy continues his interest in the sport and plays on the team when he’s in high school (which is only 4 years away!), then we’ll make the road trips. Middleton lost a heartbreaker, 14-10, Beloit scoring a touchdown with one minute left in the game. The loss eliminated the Cardinals from the state high school playoff picture. Last year, Middleton won the Division A championship, so for some fans, this season has been a letdown. The coach’s wife even wrote a letter to the local newspaper, complaining about callous and degrading remarks uttered by fans during the games, loose-tongued people who obviously didn’t realize who was sitting near them.

As a result of conflicting schedules today, I wasn’t able to see Andy’s game. The Orioles traveled to Sauk City, 20 miles northwest of here, to play an undefeated team that had beaten their previous opponents by an average margin of 30 points. We saw Andy’s defensive coach (and his family) at Pasqual’s last night after football practice, and he mentioned to us how big some of these kids were, about 8 tipping the scales at 140 or more. (Where do they find these kids?, is what I want t5o know. I used to think that Andy and his friend Ross Hellenbrand were big for their age. Maybe in Middleton, but not elsewhere, it seems.) Consequently, I was pleased to learn that the Orioles lost by a score of 7-0. Andy played both offense and defense today and, according to JoAnna, looked like he was really into the game. A couple times on offense, he was wide open, but the quarterback was unable to get off a pass in time. The offensive line remains the Orioles’ Achilles heel.

Eddie played in a soccer tournament today, a total of three games between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. His team, the Sailfish, tied the first one (2-2), won the second (1-0), and tied the third (2-2). With ten seconds left in game 3, the Sailfish had a golden opportunity to score, the right forward having an open shot 4 feet in front of the goal. He could have dinked the ball through. Unfortunately, he got way too much loft on his kick, and the ball bounced off the wooden frame at the top of the goal. Everyone on the sidelines groaned. The team had made a furious second-half comeback from a 2-0 deficit, and it would have been great to see them snatch a victory just prior to the game-ending whistle. Eddie played defense most of the day, a position he enjoyed and at which he excels. At Wednesday’s game, his coach raved about Eddie’s tenacity. He exchanged high fives with him as Eddie ran off the field at the end of the game. Then, as we were walking back to the car, I overheard him say to his assistant coach, “If it hadn’t been for Eddie’s defense, we would have really been out of that game.” As it was, they lost 2-0.

One of the side benefits of the Ritalin is that is has made Eddie a more focused soccer player. Last spring, and even at the beginning of the season, his head would drift in and out of the game. Now he plays with a little more intensity and with a greater awareness of where he is supposed to be in relationship to the ball. Of course, the primary reason for this drug therapy is to improve Eddie’s classroom performance, and already, during the first three weeks of his being on medication, we feel that he has made big strides. Eddie has been able to stay focused while working on his nightly homework assignments. We haven’t had to deal with any outburst caused by his frustration when something doesn’t come easy for him. I should probably call his teacher ext week to see if she’s noticed any corresponding improvements at school. We’ve had no reports of classroom disruptions or recess run-ins. From this evidence you can see that we’ve been operating on the no-news-is-good news principle for the past three weeks. Tammy Baldwin’s fundraiser was hosted by the boys’ pediatrician and his wife, and he was pleased to hear our report about the positive steps that Eddie had made. And it’s not just related to behavior. His reading comprehension increases each week. His special classes, 45 minutes each day with a reading specialist in a small-group setting, are really working wonders for him. It also helps him that JoAnna or I, depending upon who’s home, work very closely with Eddie each night, giving him encouragement and praising his hard work.

Surprised about the results of the second round of baseball playoffs so far? The Padres certainly made everyone sit up and take notice with their two-game sweep of the Braves in Atlanta. And now I see the Padres have a one-run lead going into the bottom of the 7th. In San Diego. With the fans tasting the possibility of a sweep. The Fox network is certainly not looking forward to a San Diego-Cleveland World Series, since those two cities represent relatively small markets. The Yankees, of course, guarantee at least respectable ratings, and the Braves have developed a national following as a result of their presence o Ted Turner’s Superstation. I’m hoping that Doc Gooden can put another nail in the Yankee coffin tonight. And you know he has to be motivated to do so, after being considered expendable by Joe Torre.

Earlier in the week, I investigated the possibility of consolidating three of our loans: mortgage, auto, and personal equity line, which add up to around $1,150 in monthly payments. Our bank is offering what they have dubbed a “Turbo” loan – faster approval, less paperwork – at an interest rate of 6.99% for anything between $75,000 and $99,000. The current principle on our debts adds up to $70,700, but the extra $4,300 will allow us to get the kitchen remodeled: new flooring, baseboard, countertop, and refaced cabinets. With a ten-year repayment schedule, our monthly payments will be $870.

Andy’s friend Matt is sleeping over tonight. Meaghan is here now and the three of them are playing games – until a few minutes ago Slap Jack, it sounded like, and now they are setting up the Clue game board right next to me in the family room. Eddie’s on the sidelines, of course, wishing he could play, but I told him to watch the first game to get an idea of how it is played and maybe he can join the second game, if their collective attention span lasts that long.

JoAnna went to her office after dropping off Andy. She probably won’t be back home until 7 or 8. It’s almost 7 right now so I should think about supper. Let’s see… we had Mexican last night, and JoAnna ordered pizza for delivery on Thursday, and I treated the boys to McDonald’s on Wednesday after Eddie’s soccer game. (This fast-food review will give you an indication of how busy this week has been.) Looks like it might be a Subway kind of evening.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Cooler weather has finally arrived. Nighttime temperatures have dipped into the low 40s since Thursday. By Saturday morning, the cold, damp air had started to seep into the house so I turned on the furnaces. Both of them – we have a separate unit for the family room – fired up immediately and kept the boys from walking around the house wrapped in blankets. Such unhardy boys.

Friday evening, I arrived in Cross Plains a half hour before the end of Andy’s football practice, as it turned out, so I sat in the van and listened to book on tape I’m currently in the middle of. (The World According to Garp, by John Irving.) Andy thought his practice might be shorter than usual, since it was the day before a game, but that was just wishful thinking. While JoAnna spent the evening with some members of Jon Erpenbach’s campaign committee putting together yard signs, the boys and I hung out at home, ordering a couple pizza for delivery (pepperoni for them, chicken with garden vegetables for me) and then settling in for the evening in front of the TV. The boys gave television their full attention, while I used it as background noise while I read. (Straight Man by Richard Russo, which focuses on the ups and downs - -mostly the latter – of a 49-year-old chair of the English department at the fictional West Central Pennsylvania University. The author has a very wry sense of humor; I usually find something to chuckle about on every page. Russo has written 3 other novels, most of them set in the Mohawk Valley region of New York State, an economically depressed area between Utica and Albany. One of his books, Nobody’s Fool, was made into a very funny movie starring Paul Newman a few years back. It’s one of my favorite movies of this decade.)

Saturday was a cold, raw, wet day. Eddie’s soccer game was cancelled. It started raining late Friday evening and continued through the night and didn’t let up until midafternoon. Football, of course, is a different matter, and Andy’s game went on as scheduled. The Orioles played on the east side of Madison, on a wind-and-rain-swept field that provided no natural or man-made shelter from the elements. I wore my Goretex jacket and kept my hood up through most of the game. My extremities, especially my fingers, started to get numb by the 4th quarter. Andy and his teammates held up very well against the elements, I thought. In fact, they almost walked away with their first victory, but they couldn’t hold onto a 7-6lead with only three minutes left in t the game. As soon as we returned to the car, Andy demanded that I turn up the heat, which was my top priority, too.

During Andy’s game, I listened to the Badger football game on the radio. I’m not sure what’s defective – the headphones or the Walkman unit itself – but the sound kept going on and off, as if someone was annoyingly flipping a light switch. Until midway through the 3rd quarter, it looked as though Wisconsin was going to go down to its first defeat, but the team exploded for 21 points and held on to win their 5th game in a most dramatic fashion.

I was offered the chance to purchase 4 tickets to the Badger hockey team’s first game of the season, an exhibition game against Notre Dame. Since it was also the first hockey game to be played at the Kohl Center, UW-Madison’s brand-new, $76-million sports complex, I quickly pulled out my checkbook. This special event, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game, featured the unveiling of the five banners commemorating the Badgers’ NCAA championships and an introduction of past starts from the 1960s to the present. The main event, though, turned out to be a little disappointing as the Badgers lost 2-1. Both their passing and fast breaks seemed a bit tentative, whereas Notre Dame, not really a college power in hockey, played in what looked like mid-season form. We had great seats, just 4 rows up from the ice. JoAnna flinched every time the players bumped each other into the ”glass”. Up close, these bumps sound like the most painful of bonecrunching hits. I better understand now why hockey players wear so much padding. It’s a violent sport, just a few steps away from a human demolition derby on ice skates.

The game was not a sellout (14,500) but still attracted 13,400 fans, according to the summary in today’s paper. That’s amazing for an exhibition game. Until this season, the Badgers used to play hockey at the Dane County Coliseum, which seats just under 8,000. The games were almost always sellouts there. It’s an indication of how popular hockey is here that an arena seating almost twice as many fans will have no problem selling out during the regular season. 

It was nearly midnight by the time we got to bed last night. Everyone but me slept in later than usual this morning. I was up at my usual time, shortly after 6:00. The day started out cool, cloudy and windy, and remained so until the middle of the afternoon. JoAnna was at her office from noon until five. The boys and I went to see the first showing of Antz at the newly remodeled Point Cinemas. Eddie had expressed an interest in seeing this moving after seeing ads for it on TV. Like Toy Story, it’s a computer animated feature that uses the voices of well-=known stars. Z, the main character, is the voice of Woody Allen, whose self-effacing, sometimes cerebral style of comedy, which permeates the story of this ant world in revolt against an evil general, is not a logical choice for a film that is pitched to kids that are Andy’s and Eddie’s ages. In fact, this was a movie to which parents were bringing preschoolers. Within the first half hour, I sensed an undercurrent of restlessness in the audience, which was confirmed by the boys’ capsule reviews as we walked to the car after the movie was over. Most of the movie took place inside an anthill; as a result, the screen seemed dark and out of focus except when the ants were in close-up. The ants had a very familiar look about them, too. One might have assumed that the queen bee had somehow been inseminated by E.T. Most of the ants had wide, flat faces and very large eyes; their bodies seemed to move in a slightly mechanical, herky-jerky motion. Considering the theater was nearly at capacity, I would guess Antz will do well in its initial weekend but might have trouble sustaining an audience. A similar movie, A Bug’s Life, is scheduled for release around Thanksgiving, and ,after today’s trip to the movies, Eddie reported at the supper table that he has no interest in seeing it.

We had our usual Sunday meal together. I fixed baked chicken, dipping the pieces in a cornmeal mixture before they when into the oven, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and crescent rolls (the Pillsbury variety). The boys have worked on their homework tonight, Andy finishing a book report that is due on Tuesday and Eddie reading his nightly requirement of 15 minutes.

The TV is off, of course, since tomorrow is a school day. I think the Astros-Padres game is on right now, but I haven’t been watching much of the playoffs this year, which is somewhat ironic, I suppose, in light of the fact that 1998 has been a year of resurgent fan interest in baseball. The Yankees and Braves have already won their series, as expected. Someone tell the Rangers to not even bother next year. One run in three games. How pathetic. And the other Texas team can hardly do much better. It looks like we’re on track for a New York-Atlanta showdown in the World Series. I don’t see this as being a year for upsets. (Of course, I’m making this prediction just so the Cleveland Indians show me up!)

I just tuned in the Sunday night football game and watched a tropical storm in progress. Kansas City just received 5 inches of rain in one (!!) hour, resulting in a suspension of the game. Turning to the local Fox affiliate, I see the Astros are just about ready to throw in the towel. I suppose the Bills upset of the 49ers has Buffalo all excited. Unfortunately, today’s game will probably turn out to be the highlight of their season. Most of Wisconsin will be tuned to Monday Night Football tomorrow for what should be a hard-fought contest between the Packers and the Vikings. Andy will probably plead to stay up past his usual 9 o’clock bedtime. So much for this weekend update.