Suomi for Breakfast

August 25th, 2014 by insightout

No attorney in view, the restaurant and bakery in Houghton, a local tradition, is the Suomi. (pronounced Sue Me) *.  The bearded busboy, a student at Finlandia University, is very polite, yet appears a raccoon with distemper.

The no-nonsense waitresses, so quick you feel their passing breeze lift the napkin from the counter; the French toast made from freshly baked cinnamon bread, exquisite. This is Paris, in denim, hiding from polyester vacations.

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Sunday regatta, looking toward Hancock, MI and the Finlandia campus

Since our first visit to the Keweenauw, 2008, the entire peninsula has become more vibrant.  Calumet and sister city, Laurium, on the verge of extinction, are now in resuscitation.  Not hip or trendy, i.e. disney, cruise ship, water park, cookie-cutter franchises.  Tourism, home-grown small business, renewed historical interest in mining, and the abundance of natural beauty trump Priceline.com or Sandals® resorts.  Credit the Pure Michigan campaign.
(full disclosure: I am not an actor or compensated spokesperson)

The entertainment choices, like most university towns, are often unique.  The Festa Italiana in Hancock boasted its headliner, “The World’s First Indestructible Italian Polka Band”, but ran out of spaghetti, overwhelmed by hungry festival goers.  The Michigan Tech Pep Band is reputed to be a techno-geek sensation, but sadly, we arrived a month prior to practice.

band“The ice bucket challenge is for wusses”

DSCN1495Laurium’s own, George Gipp, immortalized on the football field and in fieldstone by Knute Rockne and Ronald Reagan.

DSCN1486The lodge of the Keweenauw Resort, built in the early 1930′s has changed little in eighty years.  Built by the WPA to provide labor for the 80-90% unemployment among miners, it retains the craftsmans’ unduplicated charm to this day. A baked haddock sandwich, cole slaw, chips and beer never tasted better.
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Nearing our goal, the Copper Harbor lighthouse from across Horseshoe Bay as seen August 2008.  A beautiful, lonely, desolate finger into the teeth of northwest winds of Lake Superior.
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August, 2014, same view, Lynn explaining to Mrs. Wilson our first visit with Jack.

We’ve reached our goal, the genesis of U.S.41.
DSCN1830Family portrait; and a vow to one another we won’t wait 6 years to return. 

This is where snowfall is measured in feet, not inches.  Where people think hockey is an actual sport although admit never seeing the puck.  And most important, the natives regard the current frenzy, the ice bucket challenge**, as a thermal joke.  They wouldn’t consider participating unless they needed to warm up.

 

*reputed to be the best breakfast in MI by Rachel Ray, the chatty, chubby, petite Jewish doyenne of kitchen kitsch

**when will this ever end ?

 

 

©insightout2014

Copper Galore

August 16th, 2014 by insightout

The approach to Houghton, MI., along the Portage Lake Channel is attractive, not breathtaking. However, the anticipation of a week on the shore of the Keweenaw peninsula is pure oxygen.

HQ of the copper boom lasting a century from 1845-1945, it is now home to the famed engineering Michigan Technical University (formerly Mi. School of Mines) with a noted alumnus, Julie Estep PhD, the prominent rhetorician. Ms. Estep quietly manages to avoid the public limelight in Chico, CA., along with her husband, Gary, and four dogs.

Add Norman Rautiola, now living in splendor, Montecito, CA, inventor of patented keyless entry into automobiles.  He also developed the electromagnetic field which senses your approach and opens/closes doors and windows. Being the nation’s electronic valet became profitable, which Mr. Rautiola generously shares, in addition to his time and business savvy, with MTU.

In the future, sooner than imaginable, we’ll be traveling in driverless vehicles. Rest assured, his Nartron Corp. will own the patent.

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L-R, Norm Rautiola, Mrs. and Mr. Al Gebeau (Ford Motor, ret.)
Aboard the Keweenaw Star, MTU in the background

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Native copper ore, barely oxidized, MTU mineral museum

Unlike California, the planetary prune, which continues the unsustainable siphoning of the Colorado River, the Keweenaw is surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, the deepest and largest supply of fresh water in the hemisphere.

Add these pluses:

  • birthplace of professional hockey
  • more Finns than a suburb of Helsinki
  • four times the annual snowfall of Buffalo, NY
  • pure water, clean air, no traffic
  • nearest interstate ramp 264 miles;Duluth,MN
  • Scandanavian indelicacy, lutefisk

Quoting* Garrison Keillor ” the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat….not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm”.

Lutefisk may have been solely responsible for the noticeable Lutheran inbreeding of Swedes and Finns.  Who knows?  What is important is that humans are all hybrids, just like our dogs, and you have to wonder…why can’t we get along?

Tribal battles flourish.  In northern Iraq, the Sunnis slaughter the Kurds.  In northern Michigan, factions of the Chippewa, Sault, Ojibwa tribes engage in turf battles for casino revenues.  Everybody is a loser….prisons prosper; substance abuse and depression become the fast track industries.  A solution might be to have warring factions spend a winter together, sharing firewood, skis, lutefisk, and ice fishing huts.

Population growth here remains at zero. No surprise when most activity, in or out of doors, revolves around ice. Californians may be proud of their tan lines, being on a first name basis with cosmetic surgeons, or thankful their homes have not been incinerated in a wildfire or on a mudslide headed for the beach.

No such problem in Houghton, as the natives have an unlimited supply of water to wash and wax the snowmobile in anticipation of another birth controlled winter. We, thankfully, plan a perfect summer week in the community owned waterfront RV park.  The array of local activities has us mouthing at the frost.

Don’t change the dial………

* Pontoon, Aug 2008 Penguin Books®

©insightout2014

 

Back Seat of a Greyhound Bus

August 7th, 2014 by insightout

Apology to the lyricist of “Ramblin’ Man”, we’re on US 41, imagining the early 1950s before Ike and the interstate system.  This road is a north/south noodle, perpendicular to the overly glamorized Route 66. 580px-US_41_mapHaving grown up less than a mile from 41, and only minutes from the view of Lake Michigan’s southern tip, this old highway is a mess; potholes, so deep, the water drains into the South China Sea, or at the least, burns a hole in your patience.

From the Indian Reservation in L’Anse, Michigan to the southern terminus in Miami, the most disgusting city north of Havana, the road is a life sentence with little punctuation.  Perhaps an apostrophe for NFL fans in Green Bay, but little else.  Highway tedium in search of a mood detector.  Anxiety, depression, and aggression beg for the release of serotonin, unavailable from the Walgreen’s or CVS that litter the highway.

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Headed north in Baraga County to the starting line in Copper Harbor, MI., however, is a traveler’s dream: 79 miles forward and 79 years backward in time.  Copper Harbor is in a time warp; souvenir shops with local items made of cedar, the departure dock to Isle Royale N.P., and the ubiquitous physical adventure travelers.  Helmeted.

You recognize them, shrink wrapped like colorful sausages, wearing plastic cycling shoes.  They drive an aging Volvo station wagon with kayaks on the roof and mountain bikes on the trap door.  Bumper stickers; Dukakis/Bentsen in 88, Greenpeace, ‘ I brake for mountain goats’.  With temples beginning to grey, each armed with a personal electronic device, they leave behind the fingerprints of apps, the footprints of consciousness.  No one has told them the news.

Roll over Beethoven.

We’re not ‘riding the dog’, as the title might imply.  This is the first non-medical trip in five years, the Excella awakened from slumber and performing flawlessly, taking a vacation from retirement.  Think of it as a 30 year old Airstream on a Medicare Advantage plan.

A stop for a nap in Champion, MI., pop. 297, is a highlight, the horse-pull capital of the Upper Peninsula.  The only saloon, featuring a sign, both neon and alcohol-free, was closed years ago.  The maple trees are tinged with yellow and red…fall arrives early north of 46º.

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Higley’s, dressed for Christmas

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Pretty in Pink

Headed north to Houghton, at 45 rpm, we’re off to tell Tchaikovsky the news…….

 

 

©insightout2014

Lessons in Green Valley

August 1st, 2014 by insightout

Bridge for the aged.  In a community where the dirt is younger than the residents, Green Valley, AZ.

The contemporary, 2014, game of bridge parallels grade school recess in the 1940′s.  Playground pick-up games of Red Rover, Tag, and Hopscotch by exuberant adolescents allow the teachers to have a well-deserved, twenty-minute, coffee and cigarette break.

Dateline:

  • The Wallace School
  • Gary, Indiana
  • March, 10, 1949
  • Monday 8:15 AM

Hazel Markwalder, 5th grade teacher, former WAVE (Women’s U.S. Navy, W.W.II) is the declarer and on lead;

“Class, please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,

then sing our chorus, with gusto

O Columbia! the gem of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free,
The shrine of each patriot’s devotion,
A world offers homage to thee

Curious I can recall the anthem, 65 years later, to the day, yet forget that a two club response over opener’s no trump is a request for a four card major. Stayman may as well have been Dustin Hoffman’s, Rain Man.

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Being held hostage, without restraints, in a large recreational facility with 100+ senior citizens, is voluntary.  The ratio, 4:1, women over men, is quite favorable.  And, too, makes the room smell nicer.  Estrogen and spanx vs. testosterone and athletic supporters will always end, legally or not, nolo contendere.  We’re here to improve our game of bridge, without being spanked.

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Substituting for Mrs. Markwalder is bridge guru, Brenda Sonderegger, a mixture of histrionics and humor laced with an accent residing somewhere between the south side of Brooklyn and the north side of Savannah.  And, eh, a touch of Canadian.

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L-R, Insightout, Brenda S.

She is patient, thorough, and has at her disposal the despised electronic gadget, PowerPoint®, but (insert smiley face) doesn’t need it.  Look, most of us are at an age where we can’t read the Snellen Chart at the eye doctors’.  The one that starts with the big E at the top.  I’d rather stare at the Periodic Table of the Elements, where, unlike the dictionary, Lithium comes before Lead. So help me Duracell®.

Spicing her anecdotes with mild expletives, she emphasizes the serious nature of the game; whatever their contributions to society, bridge opponents can be an important source of protein.

Around the room, her unpaid elves, all experts, carefully ‘tsk, tsk’ over the shoulders of erring students, while patiently providing guidance to the strays. The atmosphere is electric. Mostly AC.  The cost of this instruction….?….less than the price of a new undergarment.

Ms. Brenda is also a director of sanctioned* games, where everyone, expert and neophyte alike, is admonished to ‘listen up’ for announcements;

  • the hospital and necrology report
  • turn off your cell phones
  • no ‘snapping’ of cards (an irritation to the hearing assisted)
  • no perfume or cologne, please
  • watch the clock

Slow play. If you’re in a 3-way race with a snail and a turtle, and you finish 3rd…it’s time to speed up.  She works the room like the emcee at a Born Again rally.  Halleluiah, Sister B.

As for me, I look forward to the return of  beginner’s class in 2015, as soon as I locate a Spanx for Men store.  If unrecognizable, that’s o.k., just follow your nose; look for the artificially trim guy wearing a girdle and reeking of Chanel #5.

* sanctioned—an adult game, with rules = to tag, red rover, war, and hide & seek, only someone keeps score.  A day at the beach, where every player has different sizes of buckets and pails, yet we all go home with sand between our toes.  Adultery, an unsanctioned activity, down two and vulnerable, may result in a bad board.

credits:
“Bridge is the last game in which the computer is not better”…Bill Gates
Spanx® logo, by permission, Sara Blakely
PowerPoint®, Microsoft Corp.

©insightout2014

Introducing Mrs. Wilson….

July 16th, 2014 by insightout

Wearing nothing but a halter top, frightening full frontal nudity, that which follows may be unsuitable, a rating of PG-55 for the easily offended. A six month Insightout absence, a vacuum created by the loss of family pet, Jack, is over.

The grieving, the failed attempt to establish a website, www.doggone.org, was not working by early April, 2014. A visit to the local Pet Refuge reversed course; a two y/o female (gasp), rescued and fostered by a loving couple, was available. With zero Westminster breeding, and much more likely the result of hasty, unplanned dog sex, she appeared to be 12 pounds of terrier exhibiting a less than subtle attention-deficit disorder; imagine popping corn in a microwave.

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Naming her would be a hurdle. Calling her Orville Redenbacher would cross a sexual boundary. And maybe subject her to a suit from Old Orv’s intellectual property lawyer. Her markings were similar, in miniature, to those of a famed pinto pony, Scout*. Once again, crossing the gender line, nixed Scout. Monikers like Butterscotch and Cafe Au Lait sounded curiously Starbucksian. No thanks a latte.

To those of you familiar with the geography of southeast Asia, her dorsal fur resembled Malaysia to the east and Sumatra to the west….but who would name their dog “Strait of Mallay”?

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Days after the ‘adoption’, when she failed to respond to a command, my friend said, “can’t you call her by name” ? How dumb is that…naming your dog, Byname. Better that, I suppose, than Beyonce.

And so it went for a week. During a quiet moment of contemplation, our eyes deeply embraced, I realized this furball, like Jack before her, was destined to transform me to a better self. Behind that cornea emerged the vision of Washington Grade School, Hammond, Indiana, 1953, and a 14 y/o dyslexic kid. A chronic troublemaker whose future changed when an elderly teacher, Margaret Wilson, triggered his discovery of mathematics.

Who among us has not had a life altered, by a thoughtful, caring person with no intension of personal gain, yet who never lived to witness the ripple on the pond.

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The gratitude and fondness for one lady, a silver-haired arithmetic teacher, sixty years later, has never waned.

In remembrance…..meet Mrs. Wilson ⬇

Airborne, on a favorite beach, the deserted north shore of Lake Huron

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* Tonto, sidekick to the Lone Ranger

 

©insightout2014

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam, II

January 16th, 2014 by insightout

The dash warning light is real.  Within minutes the truck has lost  power, reducing 70 mph down to 25 mph, so I choose to turn on the warning flasher and ride the shoulder.  Sans a GPS, I can only estimate that the next town, Springerville, AZ, is fifty miles distant.  Although the very large array of radio telescopes passed an hour ago may be able to detect visitations from other galaxies in the universe, I have zero bar cell service.

For more than an hour, rumble strips, a sick engine, and a few passing cars are all that are seen and heard. 35 miles on the clock.

And then, an angel.

A white SUV slows as it passes then pulls aside and awaits the sick driver and sicker truck.  Her name is Karla, a solo road warrior, with an innate trust for a fellow traveler in distress.  I could be Ted Bundy, serial killer, in disguise, armed and dangerous, a felon preying on good samaritans, but Karla didn’t hesitate. No questions asked, she tries her cell phone, to no avail.  However, her car is equipped with On-Star®, a clever satellite service that promptly answers and offers to call a AAA wrecker.  We part with a warm handshake, and within an hour the truck is loaded onto the flatbed tow, headed for the recommended service center, Round Valley Garage, Springerville, Arizona.

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Stoney Gilliam is stoic, soft-spoken, a weathered mechanic choosing his words carefully and sparingly.  He has the rugged good looks of NCIS’s Mark Harmon.  A late afternoon gaze at the truck through piercing eyes from under an old baseball cap and the computer scope reveals a very serious NG…failed injectors at 193,000 miles.  This had happened once before, in 2008, a whisper above 100,000 miles, and a shadow past the seven year  extended warranty.  GM, sympathetic, politely punched my tough s#it card, and wished me better fortune in the future.

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dateline: Springerville, AZ

nearest big box store, Show Low, AZ, 48 miles away

closest interstate ramp, I-40, 82 miles distant

Stoney’s son drives me to the vintage, 1960s, El-Jo Motel, conveniently located adjacent to a favorite local saloon/eatery, The Safire.  Not a misspelling to be confused with the lovely blue gemstone, The Safire had once been named The Safari, but a Phoenix restaurant of the same name requested the name be changed to avoid confusion.  Fat chance.

The claim to fame for the Safire; the Duke, John Wayne, frequented the place in the 60s.  He had been part owner of a large ranch just west of neighboring Eagar, AZ.  The cheeseburger was delicious, but the seat in the  dining room booth still retained the sculpted shape of the Duke’s rump, like the trusty saddle on an old gelding.

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The Duke, after lunch at the Safire

I spend the next morning, on foot, exploring the town.  A walk to the airstrip, a visit with the ladies in the Safeway store, the local museum where everyone important was named Udall, McD’s for an egg mcmuffin, and a brief busman’s holiday at the Western Rexall.  This is a hardscrabble town with little veneer.  You don’t live here to be monetarily rich.  Five interviews with ‘locals’ were consistent.  You’ll find characters, but no drunken Toronto mayor, or a Jersey FatGov; people seem to enjoy the isolation, fresh clear air, no parking woes, no traffic, and very little crime.  Everyone knows who you are, what you drive, and where the herd of elk was last seen crossing SR 180.

Because the repair, a 14 hour task, and parts would take several days to arrive, over a weekend + the vicious storm covering most of the U.S., Stoney offers to drive me to Show Low that afternoon, both to rent a car, continue on to Phoenix, and meet my wife, Lynn, arriving by air.  He promised me, unequivocally, he would have the truck ready in a week, and would not release it until he was certain it was 100%.  Believe me, his word is gold.

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L-R, Stoney, Chas, and the mended Silverado background

Strange, this bump in the road, a major inconvenience when I needed it the least, enriched my life, reinforced my faith in the basic goodness of people, and lead to quiet contemplation on the ride on AZ-80 from above the Mogollon Rim down to the Valley of the Sun.

Becker Butte Lookout

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Straight from the pages of Arizona Highways, the breathtaking scenery is as welcome as the thirty minute stop to remove fallen rocks.

Below, a genuine American Indian princess and AzDOT employee shares stories and candy with me while waiting.

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My sincere thanks to the support team and I wish them all the best:

  • Karla 
  • The wrecker driver with a clean sense of smell
  • Stoney, Nicole, their son, and staff at the RVGarage
  • The ladies at the El-Jo and the Paint Pony Lodge, in Show Low
  • Show Low, AZ., Hatch Toyota rental rep, Jolene Dailey, for the Rav4, efficiency, and a smile that can melt gloom and lighten the room
  • Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and her avalanche stories

A trip planned to cover 1800 miles in four days had turned into an odyssey of 2400 miles, over 14 days, sleeping in nine different beds, losing seven pounds, five days of food poisoning, and a small dent in the travel budget.

It was worth it.

 

insightout©2014

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam

January 14th, 2014 by insightout

In the rear view mirror, what once was referred to as a cold front, then redefined as an arctic blast, has now morphed into a Polar Vortex.  The weather media have fallen into the exaggeration trap of their newsy colleagues who have given us the fiscal cliff, quantitative easing, the dreaded taper and the nuclear option.

Embarking on a four day, mid-winter, cross country trip over the Great Plains is always an adventure.  I make my first overnight stop, a popular, cheap hostelry that rhymes with No Tell Kix (to avoid being sued).  This in memory of my dearly departed dog, Jack.  This chain allows pets because they place you in a room with linoleum flooring.  The bath towels, roughly the size of a diaper, have the absorbency of a sheet of cellophane.  R.I.P. little Jackster, it’s only for one night.

Miles southwest of Albuquerque, I’ve taken an L-shaped route off Interstate-25, the hard right turn westerly on lonely U.S. Highway 60, which slices through the heart of parched, west-central New Mexico. The loneliness from Socorro, NM to Springerville, AZ, 154 miles, is palpable; should this desolation escape you, do not drive, get breathalyzed.

These San Agustin plains were chosen for a radio astronomy observatory because the isolated location away from large population centers, and the partial shielding effect of the surrounding mountain ranges.  This is peculiar to New Mexico, the state known to issue driver’s licenses to extra-terrestrials.  Locals of every ilk, perhaps on uncontrolled substances, enjoy regular visits from inter-planetary friends. This gives credence to the state motto warning: Land of Enchantment.

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I have, however, taken a personal turn for the worse.  A three course tamale dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque has tasered my gut lining from the tonsils south, septum to the rectum.  Urgency rhymes with emergency.  From the glove box of my aging Silverado diesel, a spare roll of TP and bottle of hand sanitizer become my two best friends. With only a single passing car every 1/2 hour, the entire county has become a personal port-a-potty.  Toxicity without vanity, I harbor some shame that this is not a ‘best practice’ health and sanitation policy.  Here, however, only the neighborhood rattlesnake population would issue an APB, a toxic intruder alert.

Next stop, Pie Town, NM, an unincorporated bend in the road, a cult restaurant, the Pie-O-Neer, and a clean restroom.  DSCN1314DSCN1315

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Saying grace, PieTown, 1940, before dessert

I pass on America’s favorite dessert.  The combination of red chile, tamales, clostridium difficile, and cherry pie might translate into the first nuclear disaster since the Fukushima tsunami.  I opt for a single bottle of Coca-Cola to ward off dehydration.

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30 miles west, in truly, the middle of nowhere, the worst is yet to come.  The dreaded “check engine” light illuminates the dash………..

 

…to be continued

 

insightout© 2014

 

 

 

save the last dance for me

December 28th, 2013 by insightout

Jack…..January 1, 2004-December 28, 2013.

He arrived at our Airstream 8 years ago, 20 pounds of sleek black hair, lightning quick on four legs, a small mixed breed without aristocratic provenance…simply a 2 y/o terrier pup rescued from an Indiana shelter by a caring high school English teacher.

He soon adapted to our habits and quietly, systematically, tranformed us into the pet owners he knew we could be.  He walked me daily.  Everywhere and anywhere, never allowing me a measure of physical decadence nor denying him the joy to discover the infinite aromas in the real world.  We were a team, Jack and me, and then we rested.

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Accomodating to golf on TV, which he found quite boring

Jack became a friend to everyone, a special intoxicating presence, who knew when, and where, and how much, the human world needed him. He had an aura.

Charisma.

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Play ?  Nothing better than a day on his beach or chasing a squirrel

In the past month, in blatant disregard of the dogma, ‘you can’t teach an old dog a new trick’, Lynn had, with the aid of a few treats, taught him how to dance.  No threat to Astaire and Rogers, they managed a nice tango together.  At the least, they thought they could dance.

He was, like so many family pets, a dog for the ages.  My constant companion for eight years, connected together at the heart, the emotional vacuum will heal over time.  It must.  Those of you, like us, who have outlived their special companions, know the emptiness.

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Jack, on duty 28Aug 2011, 9 days before Lynn’s transplant call,

               he sensed the future before everyone else

He had watched over Lynn during her most trying days, allowing her spirit to soar when she needed it most.  The intimacy, while snuggling together, created a bond like mother and child, one they shared to the very end while she caressed that face during his final breaths.  The breaths that ended too soon.

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One little kiss, no more

The tears we are shedding…..they are the tears of joy and happiness, thankful for the years he gave to us.

For Lynn, she’ll never forget, Jack saved the last dance for her.  Tiptoe to heaven little guy, you were the very best.

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insightout© 2013

In memory  of:

Heinz, Kramer, Yooper, Sage, Teddie, Sandy, Louie, Brandy II, Cinch, Ruby, Penny, Norah, Zimba

 

 

..❡…repeat the sounding joy…∲

December 17th, 2013 by insightout

From our holiday letter, Christmas past, little has changed.

Ah yes, zero visibility, howling wind, and an arctic clipper courtesy of  the TWC storm d’jour.  I’m reminded of the iconic Burl Ives compelling us to have a ”holly, jolly Christmas” as my 5 HP snow thrower rumbles past the large holly bush.

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Yesterday, 17Dec2013, the bush, the granary, 8″ snow

For those who might enjoy a sprig of branches and berries, they are available, free, under the popular “u-pick” format, no limit. Note our GPS reading, Lat. 41.7222, Long. 86.3497, Elev. 725′. Although no biblical documentation exists, the three wise men, too, must have had a Garmin or how else could they have traveled the great distance from the east and managed to locate the baby Jesus?

My holiday speculation; the star of Bethlehem was the first TV satellite.

Fast forward three years.

Lynn remains stable, yet fragile, as we prepare to celebrate by sharing our new holiday tree, made of re-bar.  Yes, the identical reinforced steel rods used to stabilize concrete bridges. Enough, please, enough of this sentimental, tear producing tangent, before we all lose it.

3′ high, created by Karen Ruihley, the artiste sister of our brother-in-law, relatively speaking.  Imagine what a Lincoln arc welder and an acetylene torch can do in the hands of a genius.  Alert; maintain a safe distance when she’s armed with a chain saw.

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             Christmas portrait, 2013

                             Top:  Lynn

     Bottom: L-R, the Re-Bar tree, the Jack, the Chas

 

The Grinch, in my estimation, was sappier than a Hallmark card, a real softie. Sure, I may have the personality of a walk-in refrigerator, promising no one a gift exchange, other than donations to the grandchildren’s education.  The economy, should it depend on my ilk ( be assured, others cringe at Christmas), would croak louder than an opera bullfrog.

The fat lady would be unemployed.

On food stamps.

Please, insist on observing the constitutional separation of church and retail. That applies to Santa, who, receiving residual annuities from every major advertiser, needs to start paying taxes.  And go on a diet for the grossly obese to reduce his blood pressure and A1C levels, while a bunch of underpaid, non-union, dwarfs do all the work. Scoundrel.

The guy is 3 to 4 hundred years old, can’t afford a Gillette razor, eats chocolate, and never gets older.  He’s making a list and checking it twice?  Huh?  After centuries of practice, he can’t get it right the first time….add senility to his medical profile.  Time to do a transportation upgrade too.  Pan fry that wretched herd of hat racks, including the alcoholic leader with the inflamed red nose.

You may have discerned that I am imbued (whatever that word means) with the holiday spirit, no bahs, no humbugs, while cozily enveloped in the warmth of burning embers from the fireplace, so please join along as I croon that old Bing Crosby holiday favorite;

“I’m dreaming of a white tire iron…..”

 

©insightout2013

 

Knickers in a Knot

December 10th, 2013 by insightout

* a quaint britishism 

Lynn decided that WE needed to go to Chicago for MY birthday…you understand, shopping, the Art Institute, elegant dinner at a 4 restaurant, a stay at the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, which we were assured is LGBT friendly, yet maintains a no pets policy.  Transvestites are o.k., ear mites are not.

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Uniformed Doormen : when you lack the strength to push a revolving door

Convincing birthday boy that the outing was not a violation of our agreed upon, “no gifts, thank you” policy.  Rather, an experience, a memory to cherish forever (or noon a week from Tuesday, whichever comes first).

We shopped at two stores, The Disney and The American Girl, commercial shrines to the pre-teen and younger set. Employees with Mickey Mouse ears failed to control the enthusiasm of hundreds of little snots in need of ADHD meds and kleenex.  We’ve come a long way since Lionel trains, Lincoln Logs, and Daisy BB guns.  Nothing, in either store, made in the US of A…100% China.

The prized, memorable moment; upon checking in, the desk clerk (a recent grad majoring in leisure and entertainment, University of the Painful Truth) proclaimed, ‘sir, you’re all checked in, room #1130, and parking, only $42′.

I remarked that was much more reasonable than I had expected, really, only $42 for the room.

“sir, the room charge will be applied to your Visa card,  the $42 is for overnight parking only, and must be paid in cash”

********************************************

Days later, an e-mail request from

Expedia

requesting a first-person, customer review, so the following was submitted;

Millennium Knickerbocker, Chicago

Superb location, the ‘Knick’ has a definite European appeal. The restoration, replicating the ambient charm of 1927, was no-expense-spared and all first class. Yes, yes, the elevators are small & intimate, however, the on-board women all smell fresh and alluring, and they look as good as they smell. Why would you want an elevator with a two ton load limit ? Carrying a dozen, plus-size, weightwatcher rejects on a shopping frenzy does not convey holiday intimacy, even if you take a freight elevator.

The rooms are comfortable, very clean, with all the amenities you might expect, but rarely use. My wife and I, both in our mid-70s, did not avail ourselves of the bathtub gin in the fridge or the pay-to-play adult movies. But we thought about it. That, and sex in the tub……

The stay was delightful and the Knickerbocker will remain our first choice.  And look, I think most of the women on the lift were women. It’s not like I did a TSA pat down to check.  Or requested a DNA sample, photo ID, and the last four digits of their social security number.

24 hours later and this automated reply:

Your hotel review needs revision!  Oops! Looks like we need you to revise your review before we can post it on our website.

 

So, there you have it, the subject title for this essay: youll-never-get-your-knickers-in-a-knot2 Dont-get-your-knickers-in-a-knot

Having submitted a descriptive and honest portrayal of our hotel ‘experience’, it apparently did not meet the Expedia standard of suitability. I reviewed the rules/guidelines but failed to perceive where I’d gone astray.

My final word for your website police: WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get.  I’m elderly, approaching 80 y/o, retired, and adhere to the 1st year med student mantra..’do the patient no harm’. If you deem the submission (as it appeared above) as harmful, why not employ a niceness editor to eradicate wrongdoing?  Kind regards to all the staff at Expedia. Enjoy the upcoming holiday season, the winter wonderland, the serenity evoked by the baby Jesus, and quiet reflection on the Constitution’s 1st amendment.  And may all your knockers be in a knit.

Boy, I can’t wait for Christmas.

 

©insightout2013

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;
E-mail cspiher@aol.com