Wednesday, August 30, 2006

a memorable year

For various reasons, the year 1969 is one to remember. Some of the things that happened:

January 12, the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III
12, Led Zeppelin's first album is released
20, Richard Nixon is sworn in as President
28, my 21st birthday
30, The Beatles last public performance

February: nothing happened in February. It's too short a month

March 1, Mickey Mantle retires
2, first Concorde test flight in France
3, Sirhan Sirhan admits in court to killing Robert Kennedy
10, James Earl Ray pleads guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr.
18, secret bombing by U.S. of Cambodia begins

April 4, Dr. Denton Cooley implants the first artificial heart
29, the first anniversary of the broadway musical "Hair"

May 10, battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam begins.
19, Mary's 21st birthday
26-June 7, John Lennon and Yoko Ono stage their "bed-in" on Montreal and record "Give Peace a Chance."
June 8, CBS cancels "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"
23, Warren Burger is sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
28, Stonewall riots in NYC start the modern gay rights movement

July 8, the first troop withrawals from Vietnam start.
14, "Easy Rider" premiers
18, Ted Kennedy drives off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island killing Mary Jo Kopechne
20, Appollo 11 lands on the moon and Neil Armstrong takes the first steps on the moon

August 4, Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam representative, Xuan Thuy, begin peace negotiatiions in Paris.
9, Charles Manson cult kills 7 in LA
14, British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland
15, the Woodstock Music Festival begins on Max Yazgars farm in upstate New York
17, Hurricane Camille hits Mississippi and kills 248

September 2, first ATM is installed in New York
5, Lt. Wm. Calley is charged with 6 counts of premeditated murder in the My Lai massecre in Vietnam
7, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" airs for the first time on the BBC
24, the Chicago 8 trial begins in Chicago
26, The Beatles last album, "Abbey Road", is released

October 9, the Natiional Guard is called out to quell the "Days of Rage" riots by the Weathermen over the Chicago 8 trial
15, the "National Moratorium," peaceful anti-war demonstration draws hundreds of thousands of participants
around the country
16, the "Miracle Mets" win the World Series 4-1 against the Baltimore Orioles
31, Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

November 15, 250-500 thousand protesters gather in Washington DC for a peaceful anti-war demonstration
19, Appollo 12 lands on the moon for the second manned flight and walk on the moon
21, ARPANET, the precursor of the internet is created

December 1, the first draft lottery since WWII is held. My number is 78
2, first Boing 747 flies from Seattle to NYC with 191 pasengers on board

I'm sure there were many other happenings of note during the year 1969. This is just a sample of what we experienced then.

The only other really significant occurrance was at the end of August. On August 30, 37 years ago today, I had the good fortune and good sense to get married to the person who is undoubtedly the better half of this union. Mary and I celebrate our wedding aniversary today for the 37th time and hope for at least 37 more. Love isn't adequate to explain our years together, our relationship. I'm not going to get all maudlin and sappy, but I know that without her in my life, I am nothing. With her, I am fulfilled. I wouldn't change one minute of the past 37 years.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

1st anniversary

One year ago today, my son Jonathan married Katie. It was a terrific wedding--a beautiful bride, a handsome groom, a wonderful setting. The fact that I was the officient at the ceremony only made it that much more special for me and, I hope, for Jon and Katie. After the ceremony we, of course, had a reception and celebratory dinner for the 150 or so guests who were there to enjoy the occasion with us.

During the course of the dinner there were various toasts given to the newly married couple--the best man had his say, the maid of honor said a few words, the father of the bride had his opportunity, and then it was my turn. I love having the opportunity to get up in front of a group of people and show off a bit. I have a bit the ham in me, I guess. I really enjoy the chance to perform, and will prepare well in advance so that I don't get up and embarrass myself or anyone else. So when I knew I would have the chance to offer a wedding toast, I prepared for several months in advance.

The following is the toast I gave on that occasion. And, yes, I performed the entire thing from memory. No notes. As a matter of fact, I still remember every word of it and could give it again right now if lightly persuaded. Instead, though I will let you read it at your leasure. And remember, it is meant to be spoken, not just read.


Everyone please lend me your ear
while I utter some words you may want to hear.
I’ll spend a few moments acting the host
while I offer up this wedding toast.

In my hand I hold
a paper with words supposed to be told
to this man and woman on occasion of marriage.
And to ignore these words would be a miscarriage
of judgement, good sense, and all that’s right.
So I’ll take the liberty and recite if I might
these words of advice and helpful council,
because these two here need every ounceful
of help they can get.
So listen you two and don’t forget
these words written for you here on this paper
as you embark upon this marriage caper.
So without hesitation and further ado
I’ll empart this wisdom written for you.
For in neglecting to do so I would be remiss.
So the words on the paper go something like this.

It’s been a tradition at our family nuptials,
when all gathered together we lift our cupfuls
of wine or booze or whatever we drink
and salute those two who seem to think
that marriage will be fun.
So by the time I’m done
all you in this room
will have toasted the bride and groom.
But before that’s accomplished, be it resolved
we’ll have had some fun with the two involved,
and given advice and a warning or two
about what they should or shouldn’t do.

Now it’s been said that marriage is the ultimate sharing
of two people’s love and mutual caring.
And in my experience it’s been that and more.
She makes all the decisions, but, hey, who’s keeping score?
Just don’t make the mistake after settling down
that everything’s cool on this marriage-go-round.
It’ll take a huge effort on both your parts
to make it work with heads and not just your hearts.

So now for Jonathan my son,
some advice you should heed,
so by the time I’m done,
you’ll know how to succeed
in married life.
To avoid the strife
that will come along
this adage will help keep your relationship strong:
It’s been said that he who admits he’s wrong when he’s wrong
is indeed a wise man.
He who who admits he’s wrong when he’s right
is indeed a married man.
So, Jon, when the arguments rage
be quick to assuage
her emotions and feelings
by admitting your dealings
are truly at fault.
That should put a halt
to all the fussin’ and messin’
and provide for you a valuable lesson
that the best part of fighting
is the chance of igniting
a making up session.

And you know that she’ll have all that girly stuff
sitting around, all that pink lace and fluff,
that eventually you’ll cry enough is enough.
I’m a man
and a fan
of real manly things
like sports and fast cars,
champioinship rings
and beer drinking in bars.
I need basketball, football, baseball and golf,
I want bowling and volleyball,
and more and more golf
But you know she’ll get her way
when you try to take away
all her treasures so pink.
So for a moment sit back and think
of how lucky you’ll be
if you give in ‘cause you’ll see
that you’ll then get more than enough
of all that really good girly stuff.

Now one more thing for you to remember,
no matter the season,
April, July, October, December,
the only real reason you have for your life
is to love and cherish your newly gained wife.
Place her always first, second, and last
and you’ll see it will come to pass
that if she’s convinced that your love
has put her far above,
then she’ll contrive
to make you the happiest man alive.

So now, Katie dear, we turn our attention to you
we’ve talked to the Jon, told him what to do.
And while we did that I’m sure you surmised
that your turn would come to get some advice.

Now I may be old fashioned at heart,
and some here have called me a grumpy old fart,
but I’m a real fan of the old fashioned vow
that this new generation in the here and now,
with their feminist rights
and equality fights
refuse to say.
I refer, of course, to the vows to love, honor, and obey.

Now Katie, let’s examine these three
and see what their meaning might be.

Now the first one is love,
and some people swear by God above
that they’d never forget that feeling profound,
once they get through messing around.
But we all know that love is much more
than a romp in the hay and see who can score.
It’s that feelling that comes from deep down inside,
a place to retreat when you just want to hide
from all of those everyday worries and woes.
And when love is for real it just always flows
in torrents and streams.......
but now it seems
I’m getting poetic.
So to sum up my point, Katie,
don’t get a headache.

Honor is next on this list of three.
What can I say.....hmmm......let me see.
I guess the point I’d like to make.
is that withholding honor would be a mistake.
Because it seems to be much like respect
and that’s something a man has a right to expect.
Honor means stepping aside now and then
to defer to his judgement as one of the men.
It means leave him alone when he might be annoyed
about something that’s happened and he’s not overjoyed
about what he must do
to make it all new.
It means that when he seems to be down
just give him a chance, he’ll come around.
Let him make the decisions--it’s all up to him.
If they’re wrong he’ll sink, if they’re right he’ll swim.
You’ve got to be smart in this honor game,
just stand aside, let him take the blame.
He’ll think he’s the greatest ‘cause you’ve let him be.
But whatever you do, Katie, don’t let him see
that while his own praises he chants
it’s really you who’s wearing the pants.

The last of the three I’m happy to say
is the vow you should give to always obey.
This one is probably most dear to his heart
because it makes him feel that he has a good part
of the power to rule as a man, not a mouse,
and reign as a king in his castle, his house.
So when from his throne, “jump” he decrees
the wife should immediately fall to her knees,
then obediently start without gasp or sigh
to jump in the air without asking “how high?”
And when after eating your evening meal
since you did the cooking you may feel
that he should help out by washing the dishes.
Just remember you must bow to his wishes
when he says “get back in the kitchen
and stop all this nagging and griping and bitchin.”
It won’t pay to creep off in a slouch
when he says, “you clean it up, I’ll nap on the couch.”
Now these examples may be extreme
but to keep your lives on a steady beam
I’d advise that you do as the king does rule,
and you’ll find my advice won’t make you a fool.
Instead you’ll find if you use your head
and obey his decrees just like I said,
in time I’m sure that it will be seen
that if he reigns as king, you’ll reign as queen.

Well, so much for advice for you to ignore.
I could go on and on and say so much more.
I suppose there are many things I could have said
on this day when you wed.
But for the sake of brevity,
I’ll dispense with the levity.
and say to Jonathan my son
today you are fully a man.
And as best I can
as father to son
I salute the man that you’ve become.
And Katie, I know it’s with enormous pride
That Jonathan takes you for his bride.
And it’s with tremendous pleasure
that I welcome you as our new family treasure

So now the time has finally come I think
to lift up our glass, but before we drink,
we’ll issue just this one reminder,
that happiness belongs to the finder.
And wish you joy in this new life
you’ve chosen to live as husband and wife.
May your path be straight and wide and smooth
and may each whispering breeze serve to sooth.
And may all your problems disappear
like the melting snow in the Spring of the year.
And may God provide each day a key
to unlock the door to serenity.
And like a garden filled with summer flowers,
after a day of gentle showers,
May your life together glisten and shine
with green grass and butterflies and things so fine,
that you could never fail in your quest
for love, long life, and happiness.

So now that a year has gone by, let's all lift our glasses once more and drink to Jonathan and Katie as they celebrate the successful conclusion of their first year together as husband and wife. Here's to many, many more happy years together.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

til next time

Is there anything more wrenching than taking your daughter to the airport to send her back to California after having her here for a week. On the way home from the airport, Mary was sobbing unashamed, while I clenched my jaw tightly to keep the tears away. The week went way too fast. There are still more conversations to be had, still more bike rides to do, still more kayaking on the lake at still more sunsets, still more s'mores to make at the bonfire while enjoying the sparkling stars shining just for us. All those simple pleasures take on such a huge significance when you can no longer do them. The time goes by before you realize that you haven't said all there is to say, you haven't hugged enough, or laughed enough. All we can do now is look forward to the next visit--either her coming here to Wisconsin or our traveling to California--that will hopefully occur before another year goes by.

Excuse me now while I wipe away the tears caused by her leaving once again.......

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


It's later. Cocnsiderably later. We've had such a busy, family filled week, that there has been no time for blogging. And I wouldn't trade these days for all the gold in Ft. Knox.

Not that we've done anything particularly unusual or special during Carrie's visit. We drove the couple hours to the lake, talking all the way. The talking hasn't stopped since. We kayaked around the lake, talking all the while. Rode bicycles for a couple hours, the talk drifting in the breeze behind us. We sat at he bonfire, the talk sparking along with the flames. Ate s'mores and drank peppermint, talking with our mouths full. Spent happy hour with the neighbors and good friends, talking some more. Watched a couple movies and even tallked during them. We talked while taking photos of the lake and birds and each other. Talked while preparing dinner. Talked while completing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle (yeh, between Carrie and me, we finished it. Didn't I mention in one of my previous posts that we share a brain?). And we talked while doing nothing at the dinner table long after the dishes had been cleared.

The only reason we are not talking right now is because Mary and Carrie drove into town for some girly purpose that I am not privy to, leaving me alone to talk to myself and to you.

...will continue more later. The talk is about to start again..........

Sunday, August 20, 2006

family intact

She's here. Carrie arrived right on time, even a little early, yesterday from California. We then went to a restaurant for dinner where we met Jon and Katie. We spent the next couple hours talking and laughing and reuniting. It was so good to have both my kids together around the dinner table just llike when they were growing up. Only this time the conversation ran from both of their college teaching experiences to the state of the economy to the stories of their childhood. We now have a full week of Carrie's company at the cottage........more to come.........

Saturday, August 19, 2006

it's all relative

The other day, while cutting the grass at the cottage, I somehow managed to set the lawnmower on fire. Don't know why. Don't know how. But all of a sudden as I was cutting through some long grass along the road, the mower started belching smoke. And, you know, where there's smoke, there's fire. In a few seconds the entire lawnmower was flaming brightly and spewing black smelly smoke. It was really quite amusing actually. Nothing I could do about it. The gas tank was nearly full so that fed the flames and, of course, once the flames reached the oil in the engine, that just created a more and better fireball. It burned for a good twenty minutes until all that was left was a charred carcass and a pool of black melted plastic on the driveway.

No big deal. It was a cheap push mower that I used just for trimming around the trees and along the edges where the riding mower doesn't work so well. I went to town and bought a replacement the same day.

Came home from the cottage yesterday to find the roof still leaking where a dormer meats the roof. Had a roof repair specialist here last week to work on it while we were gone. He claimed to have found and fixed the problem, so I was a bit surprised to find it leaking again when the rain came down yesterday. Called him and told him the problem was not solved and he agreed to give it another try this coming week. No biggy. It will get fixed sooner or later.

A couple of dopey problems that normally would have me gritting my teeth and trying hard to control my blood pressure. But it really doesn't matter much right now because my daughter is coming today from California for a weeklong visit. We haven't seen her since last August when she was here for her brother's wedding. A year is a long time to go without seeing one of your children. So those petty little problems can wait. I have a great week coming up and I aim to make the most of it.

It's all relative.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Talking with Al

Another perfect summer evening found me sitting by the bonfire stargazing, as is the wont of the indolent. While considering the state of the world, the connection I was having with the universe was interrupted as He quietly slid into the chair beside me.

"You really like staring at My stars, don't you?" The voice was Heston-like in timbre and gravity.

"Yeh, they seem so perfectly situated for staring."

"They are one of My better efforts." He sounded nearly boastful.

"Unlike some of the other messes we seem to be dealing with," I jabbed.

"Those messes are your doing, not Mine."

"Oh, so as soon as things start going to hell, You fucking back out of any responsibility for it? Kind of chickenshit of You, isn't it?"

"Watch your language, Bubba, and the attitude. I could turn you into a toad, you know. Or a Republican."

"Sorry. I've been under some stress lately, you know."

"Of course I know. Being who I am, I am omniscient."

"Then you know the reasons for the stress I'm feeling."

"Sure. The Middle East, Arabs and Jews killing each other, a useless war in Iraq with your national leaders with their heads up each others' butts, Shi'ites and Sunni's in a civil war, nuclear threats from North Korea, genocide in Darfur, terrorist attacks around the world, malaria and AIDS killing millions in Africa while children starve, stem cell research being stymied by nearsighted and narrow minded politicians who claim to be speaking for Me, the increasing cost of medical care and drugs, with the obscene profits made by the drug companies at the expense of everyone who needs their product, and the usual petty concerns of daily life. Oh, yeh, and the Brewers losing season and the woeful state of the Packers offensive line. That about covers it, doesn't it?" His ho-hum, bored tone of voice had me concerned.

"Well, don't forget this Parkinsons Disease bullshit You saddled me with." I sounded a bit petulant.

He raised an eyebrow and inclined His head in my direction. "Yeah, threw you a curveball there, didn't I? You were getting pretty smug and content with yourself, so I thought that would get your attention."

"Consider my attention got." I intently stared at the sparkling night sky, avoiding looking at my Companion, figuring if I actually saw Him, I would have to be dead. And I'm not quite ready for that yet. So I meekly inquired about some of the things I had been contemplating when He joined me next to the fire. "You know, uh, well, of course You know, I've been wondering about whether there is intelligent life on any of those other stars and planets I've been looking at."

"What makes you think there is intelligent life on this planet?" I could tell He was messing with me. He had that sarcastic tone my wife gets when she is messing with me. You don't think they're.........nah, too obvious. But, still, I have never seen them both in the same room at the same time.

"Point taken, uh,... what am I supposed to call You? People use so many different names when they talk about You and talk to You: Yahweh, Jehova, Christ, Allah, Vishnu. You must get confused all the time. How do you keep it all straight?"

"It doesn't really matter what they call Me as long as they call. And when you call Me, you can call Me, Al"

"Sounds a lot like a song lyric."

"Where do you think the inspiration came from?"

"So, ok, uh, Al, what's with all the mayhem going on in your name? All the people on opposite sides who use You to justify their actions can't all be right. Who's side are You on, anyway?"

"Oh, no, I don't pick sides. I gave all of you the capacity to reason, to choose your own way, to determine right from wrong. If you decide to use Me to justify your actions, that's just being lazy and not taking responsibility for yourself. "

"But, can you at least give me a hint about how all the wars, all the stife, all the disease, all the catastrophes, all the suffering we perpetrate on each other turns out?"

I thought I heard a muted chuckle coming from his direction. "What, and spoil all the fun? No way."

"Fun? You call all this shit in the world fun," I fumed, steam spouting from nostrils. "You really are fucking with us, aren't You? You find Your creation amusing? You're laughing at us while we try so hard to destroy our world? I always thought You were a loving, beneficent Deity, but I may have to rethink my opinion."

"Oh, don't go getting your bowels all twisted. I don't enjoy all the atrocities you inflict on each other. I don't like seeing My creation desecrated in the name of progress. But I gave you all the ability to think, to choose to do what you want with what I gave you. The fact that you all choose wrongly much of the time only makes me cringe a little, since I also see all the good you are capable of doing, all the love and caring you share with each other, all the respect and gentle nurturing you give each other. So, yes, I find all your stupidity somewhat amusing, since I know you are better than that."

"You mean there is hope for us?" I was almost begging for reassurance.

"There is always hope. Without hope, despair would destroy you. I won't let that happen. And remember, being omniscient, I know how it all turns out."

"But you're not going to tell me, are You?"

"What? And spoil,,,,"

"yeh I know," I interrupted. "all the fun."

And just like the wispy smoke from the fire, He was gone. But those stars definitely seemed to shine brighter all of a sudden.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

twilight zone?

On a clear and quiet summer evening, the air is still and the lake is smooth as glass, reflecting the setting sun. A few birds dart back and forth gobbling what few mosquitos have the misfortune to be about. The bonfire is blazing and its crackling symphony is a counterpoint to the rustling of the trees. The Bass are jumping and bellyflopping among the lily pads, snatching the low flying bugs that the birds have missed. This is what we see from our cushioned perch on the deck:

An idyllic setting. In front of us the lake, along side us good neighbors, behind us our modest but comfortable cottage, and beyond that the green grass extending along the driveway past the row of evergreens to the quiet country road that leads to our llittle bit of paradise.

All seems ideal, when in the distance we hear the faint ringing of chimes tinkling the unmistakable ditty, "Popeye the Sailor Man." Have we suddenly been transported into another dimension? As the chiming comes nearer and gets louder and louder, we wonder if Rod Serling will emerge from behind the evergreens to introduce us to the Twilight Zone. Have aliens descended from the mothership seeking our leader, Popeye? What is the source of this incongruous disturbance?

It's only a misguided mobile ice cream vendor, who obviously made a right turn when he should have gone left, for there is no business to be had on this midweek evening on our road, when the weekend cottagers and their ice cream licking offspring are gone. Now, if he was offering adult beverages of the alcoholic variety, he would have made a big sale at this adult's place, since he scared me into drinking, thinking about aliens approaching and Twilight Zone conundrums.

As the confectioners conveyance rolls on by and the chimes doppler after it, I reach for the comfort of the brandy bottle and, pouring a generous medicinal measure, I return to the solace of the birds and jumping fish and the setting sun and the undisturbed surface of the lake, and know I have certainly only imagined the whole thing. The schnaaps helps.