Archive for the ‘unraveling’ Category

Suomi for Breakfast

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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.

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 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.
DSCN1483.JPG[may click to enlarge]


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.
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 ?




Back Seat of a Greyhound Bus

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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.


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.

Higley’s, dressed for Christmas

Pretty in Pink

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




Lessons in Green Valley

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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.


  • 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.

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.


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.

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.

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


The Legend of Stoney Gilliam, II

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.



save the last dance for me

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


insightout© 2013

In memory  of:

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



Knickers in a Knot

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

* 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.

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


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.



Thoughts while shaving…..

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

A tattered front page section of the Chicago Tribune, dated Monday, April 10, 2000, has served to collect the clippings from a personal bi-monthly trim for 13 years.  This gesture to preserve marital harmony, a ritual of personal hygiene, is for a wife ambivalent about rings: a ring around the bathroom bowl is not o.k.; a ring of the telephone, a nuisance; a diamond ring, well, you understand,….size and clarity do matter.

Lead stories that day; Vijay Singh in his new green Masters jacket and acting AG, Janet Reno, avows the reuniting of 6 y/o Elian Gonzalez with his father in Cuba.

220px-InselianArmed US Marshal forcibly removing kid from Miami relative

It also marked the 84th birthday of my mother, Florence, who had sadly passed away three years prior.  She was a dreadful cook, a world class leader applying guilt on her three sons, and an advocate for both responsibility & independence (translation : ‘do it yourself’).  Although many years have passed, we still recall fondly the little things, unanticipated, unheralded, that she did for us when we needed it most.  Define motherhood.

On a recent drive through the tired and dusty town, Florence, AZ , two photos triggered memories.

The local rag, the Reminder, as in, "Charles, do your homework"

The local rag, the Florence  Reminder, as in, “Boys, do your homework”


The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore

The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore


The ratty double page centerfold in the World’s Greatest Newspaper is a reminder of why I chose to leave industry and embark on a career as a small town pharmacist.

DSCN0224Extolling the virtues of Vioxx in 2000, long before the manufacturer, Merck, withdrew the drug after disclosures that it withheld information about rofecoxib’s risks from doctors and patients for over five years, resulting in between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious heart disease.  Worse, by the time it was discontinued in 2004, it had already caused an estimated 60,000 deaths worldwide.

Although no one in the company ever had to face criminal charges or do hard time, the decision by marketing executives and accounting was quite simple; having sold $ 2.7 billion of Vioxx, the math was easy.  The cost of litigation, executed by our superb, in-place, legal department, is far less than the profitability gained if we continue killing patients rather than removing the drug from the market.  Clever bastards. Define greed.

DSCN0227 Yes, but what if you’re at room temperature, six feet below the earth’s surface ?

Little has changed in thirteen years, as the aptly named BigPharma continues their cabal, possessing the morality and ethics equal to (actually, worse than) the tobacco industry.  Vijay Singh will tee it up in Augusta tomorrow.  I still harbor shame and embarrassment, 45 years later, that I was ever employed by a major drug company.  The hairy stubble will still need trimming every two weeks.  Florence was right nearly all the time; none of her boys are under indictment, incarcerated, facing felony warrants, or on public assistance.  Yet.  If you ignore Social Security.

No doubt what has changed.  Elian is now 19 y/o, we still share the same birthdate, December 7th, albeit 54 years apart, and he’s probably tattooed and driving around Havana chasing skirts and drinking Corona.  Tipo con suerte = lucky guy

Maria Stein and Redhead Lust

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A journey through rural western Ohio, en route to the epochal trailer rally, Alumapalooza III, loses traction when my Lynn, the navigator misses the turn.  Ford may make the ‘Lincoln Navigator’, but we’re driving a ‘Silverado Who Don’t Know’, the pre-GPS version.

The detour in Mercer County leads us to Maria Stein, OH, which every inquisitive traveler might ask, ‘who was she?’  Who gets a town named after them ?  I imagine her to be an attractive redheaded Jewish girl, virtuous to a fault, the incarnate likeness of Iris Ephron, the cute, raven-haired beauty that I lusted over in high school, 1957, petite, sassy, and sexy.  Ok, ok, maybe a redheaded Jew was a genetic anomaly, but she had the “is” and the “it” factor.  Leave it to Bill Clinton to define ‘it’ and ‘is’; my lips are sealed.

Prepare for deflation as there is no Maria Stein, the person, but a town named after a community in Switzerland; Mariastein.  In Ohio, it is home to the shrine of the holy relics (they store desiccated body parts of deceased saints) and the St. John’s Catholic Church in this land of cross-tipped cathedrals.


The church felt odd.  I cannot explain why I walked in, but the doors were big, and open, and the day, a day celebrating memorials.  No one else was there….not even a woman in black on her knees.  Columns with fading paint stood alongside like old comrades.  Most of the place was plain, and worn, and well scrubbed.  The gilt carvings on the walls kept a safe distance.  The smell was not melting wax, not incense, not dust, not humid afternoon sunshine, not anything else I could recognize, but it recognized me.  Call it the odor of a hundred years of prayer.  The aroma of leatherette binding from weathered hymnals, the DNA of a thousand sinners.


A gusty wind from the south stirs the hair on the nape of your neck.  What passes are only what the wind blown clouds have chosen to reveal.  Shafts of sun spotlight tumble-down farms, pastures of livestock, and a lonely farmer tending to endless acres of newly planted grain.


We reach Jackson Center, Ohio, where for decades, no obtrusive progress has been made except for satellite dish installations.  The town has been preserved by middle class poverty, aluminum siding, a few tourist dollars, and an uncommon trailer manufacturer.  The main street is wide enough for a motorcycle to pass a model 9300 John Deere tractor pulling a 15 row nutrient applicator, if you enjoy becoming up close and personal with anhydrous ammonia.


Our destination, a small community of trailers filled with volunteers wearing ghastly orange tie-dyed tees, is gearing up for a week of frolic.  The temporary village flickered silver, the residents in folding chairs, and a nightingale practices her chords under a shimmering canopy of cottonwoods.  The rugs of grass so velvety that one’s mind could roll on them, and beyond them, the sun set and vanished with the warm steady breeze.

(Alert: the following material may be deemed offensive.  If your computer has a parental control option, now is the appropriate time to activate)


The morning erupted in thunderstorms, much needed rain, and the emergence of two very attractive, damp redheads piloting a 4X4 Gator in search of a lost hydraulic winch.  This, as you probably concur, would make a good plot line for a grade-B movie.  Upon confronting the two unnamed individuals, I approached them, camera in hand, and asked if they would like to appear on my internet pornsite. 

After the coy amusement

Then, an unrehearsed audition

Life provides few (tweet translation delete) OMG moments; this required an investigation. Informed, unnamed, anonymous sources of questionable repute IDed the pair as one Eleanor O. and one Lisa F. Although probably an error, those names matched both their passport photos and actor’s guild union cards.

This is going to be a very good week, so help me Iris.








The Bridge to Rochester

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

In brief, my wife, Lynn, terminally ill with a rare, incurable pulmonary disorder, rose to the top of the recipient list for a double lung transplant in June 2011.  In anticipation of her rapidly declining health, we moved to Rochester, MN, in our vintage travel trailer, to await the call..


The scope of her illness, surgeries, prolonged hospitalization, and modest but slow recovery is very personal and not the subject matter.


In a hospital corridor, I had a brief conversation with a chaplain, who described a blog program called Caring Bridge, a personalized patient website to elaborate on your health journey ( imagine facebook ® for the faltering).  This did not interest me at all.  But the tangential reference to bridge, a game I had nearly forgotten and abandoned decades earlier, created a spark.  First, imagine you are living in an aluminum womb, in an unfamiliar city, transients in an RV park. Waiting. Waiting.  Excitement was defined by the weekly visit from the oxygen provider, a new neighbor moving in perhaps with a pet dog to fraternize with my Jack, or a long walk on one of the 85 miles of trails.


On a lark, a search revealed, and, hence, an attempt to find a game and partnership.  What followed was extraordinary.  In lieu of the 24/7 attention necessary for Lynn’s care, bridge became a brief, welcome escape for two to three sessions each week.  No other activity, no sanity safety net, could have cured the loneliness and detachment from friends and family.


My approach to the game, while not flippant, was clearly irreverent.  Urged to join the national club, I soon adapted to the innovative bidding box, and began to explore the game’s progress since Charles Goren, the guru of the 60’s (he died in 1991).  Able to secure games, often at the very last minute due to the vagaries of hospital activity, clinic appts., and the volatility of Lynn’s condition, nearly 40 different partners plunged into the darkness and together we gained an equal number of coveted “points” in the nine months.


The purpose of writing is to quietly honor all my partners and opponents for their kindness.  Every gesture, consolation, pat on the shoulder, no matter how seemingly insignificant, provided grateful relief for a damp hankie in the medical Maytag® rinse cycle.

Joyce W. and Sue G.

As a group, do not be deceived, these people are clever, skilled in skullduggery, and neither generous nor sympathetic while holding 13 cards.  Bridge is war; firearms, knives, and nuclear devices are disallowed and must be left at the door, but who knows, the ACBL rules may one day be revised. At times I felt like the third string place kicker on the HS football team, facing the Minnesota Vikings linebacker defense.

‘Did you hear who has to play with Charlie today ?’ 



However, behind the tableside veneer, I found the players to be fascinating, intelligent, suitable characters in an Agatha Christie mystery, a joy to discover.

Dave H., Arne F., and Nate P., preparing for battle

The polite façade provided cover for hidden modesty:


  • A principal in the largest U.S.A. sweater manufacturer
  • A deposed seed company executive
  • A non-practicing obstetrician
  • A child survivor of parent Holocaust victims
  • A crowned Miss Agriculture, mid 1960s, Iowa State Fair
  • A foreign service officer, post 1983 invasion, island of Grenada
  • A rural, dirt-poor, S. Dakota prairie child, one of seven, in a one bedroom house, one cold water tap, and an outdoor latrine
  • A classmate of Hillary (nee Rodham) Clinton at Maine East High, 1963-4, Park Ridge, IL
  • A PhD, UCLA, molecular biology
  • A retired Manitoban, expert in wildlife photography


Not one, in this educated, learned society of crafty players, admitted to working for the CIA, spending time in the witness protection program, incarceration, or being the subject of outstanding felony warrants.  This does not preclude any absence of guilt.  My secret desire was to become the Pope, but the stodgy church hierarchy insisted that (a) you had to be Catholic, (b) study Latin, (c) unmarried.   Prerequisites designed to eliminate the worthy, sooo…..instead of a filling a vacancy in the Vatican, I’m in a room in Rochester.  And every room has a purple elephant; the RAC meeting room, a haze of magenta.

Profound gratitude to Rich and Sue Greenberg for welcoming us, to Minnesota, their home, and the bridge table.  Words are inadequate for Sue, the officers, game directors, and volunteers who make the game so pleasant….not to be taken for granted, find a moment to thank them, for the least expensive $4 entertainment bargain in Olmstead County.  Better than cheap gin.




The time in Rochester was special; a confluence of memorable events never to be duplicated.  Your time and my space won’t allow the mention of all your names, but you know who you are.  The likelihood that I will continue bridge is less than zero.  I’m told you can play “online”, a few clicks here and there, but  my self-imposed computer time is limited to less than an hour each day.  I’ve confirmed that time and interactions are better spent in the tangible world.  Time, especially in our golden age, is the only thing you own for certain, and the computer is an un-indicted burglar of time.


A personal trifecta ; Lynn’s ongoing care, maintenance of an 1855 farmhouse, and a fleet of old cars in the barn, are schedule enough.  I do read the newspaper bridge column to Jack, but he insists on being south (always the declarer) and seeing all four hands at once, so I have to partner with a stuffed bear.

you reneged again, you’re the jack of spades, this is the jack of hearts”

Since too few fellow players had actually seen my wife, there was speculation that no such person existed, that she was a fictitious character in a contrived sympathy scam.  Below, photographic evidence, untouched, after a Sunday afternoon ride and an hour under the hood sniffing motor ether.


When we return to Rochester for brief follow-up visits to the clinic, I’ll make an attempt to find a partner for a session or two.  When I pull the red ‘alert’ card, it won’t be to describe an obscure convention signal, but to warn the table,  “I’m packing heat in the form of a .357 magnum”.


I’m Fr. Charles and I approve this message.






Blog for sale on eBay

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

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Airstream Life personal blogsite

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Type: celebrity
Yes, you, you can become famous, an actual celebrity, with your own blogsite

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  • Describe in detail your frustration with the *#@! Hensley Hitch
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Plagiarize Hemingway, it’s permissible, he’s been gone for 51 years.

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  Live the life … the Airstream Life!

Everything Airstream, all the time.
Destinations, people, events, tips, buying advice,
humor, and much more!
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Join with other popular bloggers on the same page:

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  • Man in the Maze
  • Tales from the Shop
  • Bert Gildart
  • Vintage Airstream Life
  • Dreamstreamr Odyssey

You will be purchasing the blog of the author below.  

Just think, your very own photograph.  

Your very own bio.  Or you can use mine if it doesn’t embarrass.

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;



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p.s.  please note the date of this entry

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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;