Sunday, September 30, 2007


We assume that the cooler weather hinting at coming winter has put the cats into Mighty Huntress mode. Cassidy sits on the deck staring intently at the birds at the feeder, and she stalks the longer grass along the side of the road, pouncing on something invisible to the human eye from time to time.

Besides mice and the bird, we have now been treated again to snake gifts. Sundance brought in a little brown garter snake -- maybe eight to nine inches max -- right after dinner tonight. Tom saw it and indicated that it was my duty to do something about it. Sundance had dropped it on the dining area carpet, but then took it over to the living area to see how it would unfold. I scooped it up and took it out to the deck. Dancer began crying, so I scooped her up and took her to the deck to continue her investigation of the serpentine mysteries, but she ignored the snake and ran back into the house to complain. I explained to her that we did not want snakes inside, but I don't delude myself into thinking I convinced her.


I don't know how many of y'all read Rusty's stuff that he writes for the local paper (and for which he keeps winning awards) -- or how you get the honor of being on the mailing list, if you don't. But I'm willing to intercede for you if you are interested. After all, he's a cousin on both sides.

His piece about cats today made me laugh because I had just seen a sign at a craft place that said, I love my Cat. My Cat doesn't care.

Through a glass darkly

I stole this picture from Tom's blog for your amusement. I mentioned that last week we went to a special presentation of H. H. Bennett's photos at the museum as part of a fundraiser for the Stewards. The photos were meant to be viewed in 3-D, so we had to wear these glasses to get the effect.

Tom is right above the head of the guy in the middle of the front and I am to Tom's right wearing a black shirt -- that's my half face. Unfortunately the photographer did not capture the beautiful tartan tie I was wearing. Wear a black shirt, a tie and flaky polaroid glasses and you look pretty scary, like someone out of The Sopranos or The Godfather. I don't look very entertained in this picture, but it was actually a great evening.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

St. Michael (not me!)

Today, September 29, is the day Catholics celebrate the archangel Michael, and I got several feastday greetings from Carmelite friends. This icon is one that Fr. Michael Berry, another Carmelite, gave me a few years ago for Christmas.

I wound up going chair shopping with Tom in Madison today. He bought four nice oak chairs for the dining table. Coming back with them in the truck, we missed a turn and wound up taking the Merrimac ferry across Lake Wisconsin. It is a very short trip but a nice change of pace. It was a bit of a cloudy day, but otherwise beautiful.

Early this morning I was awakened by -- ta da! -- the smoke alarm low battery alert going off in the guest room. This is the room where I caught the bird yesterday that Tom had thought was the smoke alarm. I guess it is time to change all the smoke alarm batteries. I put new batteries in all of them at about the same time last spring, so they should all be due.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Details at 11:00

Well, it's only ten...

Further critter doings: A whole flock of starlings settled into the trees and then across in Jerry's field to make a racket this evening. According to the book, this is typical autumn behavior, so we will hope it is over soon.

We saw the (or an?) albino squirrel today down by the intersection of Berry Road and Birchwood. I hadn't seen it for quite a while.

There was a beautiful big harvest moon out as we drove over to Baraboo tonight. Last night it was as full as the one in the picture, but tonight it had begun to wane a bit.

Mama called and left a telephone message that she has been trying to e-mail me about Glynn's death but assumed I hadn't received anything since I hadn't replied. I did get a message tonight and wrote back to her. I also went online and found his obituary and signed the online guest book. Glynn and I were both 1950 babies, me in May and he in December.

Cat and bird

Last night Sundance woke me with a hiss and some scratching of my arms. I don't know if she had had a nightmare or if I had rolled in the wrong direction or moved my arm and disturbed her. Anyway, she drew some blood and I am just grateful she wasn't sleeping curled up my my face as she does a lot lately.

When I came home from work this afternoon and took off my long-sleeved shirt, I saw the scratches and went to get some antibiotic out of Tom's bathroom. On the way there, I noticed a shadow moving under the blind in the guest room. Turns out it was a sparrow -- how it got in is a mystery. Probably a cat brought it in, but it wasn't very ruffled. Tom does have a habit of leaving the door onto the deck open a bit for the sake of the cats, and the bird may have flown in on its own.

I scooped the bird up with a faux Tupperware container that once held take-home Chinese food and released it. Tom had been hearing chirping back there all day apparently, but he thought it was one of the smoke alarms signaling that a battery was low. Whenever he went to investigate, the bird shut up and so he couldn't figure out what the problem was.

And that's the critter du jour story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Excitement in the neighborhod

Before dinner, while the chicken was baking, we went to look for Oprah's place again. This time, armed with very clear instructions from Rich, we found it, just about five minutes away from us. We stopped outside the entrance, and I took a picture of the house from the truck with Tom's digital camera. The house sits up on the side of a hill and has a big gate marked with a capital O. We didn't hang around to take a picture of the gate. There was also a Beware of Dog sign that we took seriously. Although I did note that the gate was open.

When Tom went to download the picture, the batteries had been dead -- no picture! We'll try again, but to be honest, there's nothing special about it. Just another big house.

It is football season, of course, and homecoming season, and over the last few days a lot of houses around here have been toilet papered. If you have a teenager in school, you got wrapped. The Fosters have Kevin, and Jerry has Hannah, so those two Berry Road landmarks got hit. The rest of the houses are either full of old coots or young coots with babies, so we escaped. Birchwood Road and Lyndon Road, though, bear the marks.

PS -- The prison break in Huntsville made the Baraboo newspaper.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Skitter and cluck

About 1:00 in the morning, a thunder storm came through. It woke me up, and I heard one of the cats skittering around in the living room, usually a sign that she has a mouse. A bit later, the activity shifted into my room and I could see a small dark shape lying on my carpet. I got up to go to the bathroom, and sure enough, there was a dead mouse and a proud cat. I didn't bother to pick it up, and a few minutes later the cat took it back out to the living room. This morning there were a few remnants -- mouse paws, a bit of head and spots of blood on the floor.

Tom saw two female turkeys stalking around the front yard this afternoon, clucking away. We watched them for quite a while from the windows, and he could hear another turkey calling from somewhere. I went out to the garage and saw that there were four younger turkeys with the others. When Tom came out, they noticed us and took off running and flying. Cassidy had been out clawing on the bench earlier and had sauntered casually away, acting totally indifferent to the huge birds. But as soon as they took off, she came running back out of hiding. Sundance had sat up and watched from the safety of Tom's office windows the whole time.

We see turkeys year round, but it does seem particularly harvest-time to see them now.

It must have gotten Cassidy's hunting instincts up, because a few minutes later she brought in another dead mouse and ate it on the living room floor. This time no playing with it, and all she left was the head and bloodstains.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wynne Farm

I came home at lunch to see Tom watching the news -- and it was about Huntsville and the prison break. At first I wondered if it were at Goree and if I would see pictures of Southwood Drive, but then they said it was north of town. Steve Yarbrough, Randy Clark and I worked at Wynne Farm the summer of 1969. I don't remember much excitement... for which I am grateful. The place had been obtained by the state in 1883 for sick and disabled prisoners, and most of the inmates when I was there were either there in order to be close to better medical care or they were part of the data processing unit that had been established.

Harvest home

Another sure sign of the season around here is the appearance of corn shocks in people's yards and tied to the lamp posts around town. Since the corn is all brown and dry, a few pumpkins and other gourds add color.

In just a couple of days the corn fields -- already in sad shape from the summer drought -- turned completely brown. Often in the field right next to a cornfield, the pumpkins were peeping through the drying vines, waiting for the pick-your-own people to show up. Almost as diversely hued as sumac, the pumpkins range from yellow to a bright red-orange and the occasional odd white or pinkish.

When I first was assigned to Wisconsin back in 1985, I thought that the state had a thing for Halloween because of all the pumpkins and things around. Later I realized that the real tradition -- which does include Halloween -- is an agricultural community's celebration of harvest for many weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day

Beautiful day today with lots of activity. The morning was filled with a number of phone calls and a couple of visits. The guy who built this house had asked to show it yesterday to a couple from Minnesota who plan to move to the area. He may build for them and wanted them to see some of his work. It gave us a good excuse to do a good house cleaning -- even the closets -- so it worked out fine that some other folks who had never been here chose today to drop by. We had already done a basic straightening up for a meeting Tom had here Thursday night, so it meant there was time to do some of the extras like patio doors, scrub the kitchen sink and such.

A friend of Tom's came by after church and I visited with them for a short while before going to the library in Reedsburg. On Main Street I passed the 90th Meridian Marker -- Reedsburg is on the 90th Meridian, exactly one fourth the world around from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England (0° longitude). This means that the clocks here are in perfect sync with the sun for Central Time. According to the marker, the exact spot is 325 feet to the east, but I guess that is in someone's yard and they wanted people passing through to know.

The Second Annual (that's right -- two, count them, two!) Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River Festival was at Bowman Park in the afternoon. A warm but dry 80° brought out a small crowd to hear some music, look at the kid's art and photography exhibit, bid on some interesting auction items (including, Vince, four tickets to the Notre Dame - Navy game) and eat the rafter's dinner. The rafter's dinner was basically a barbecue sandwich (beef or pork), cowboy baked beans and cornbread -- with sugar, naturally, these people not knowing any better.

Tom had designed the certificates for the art/photography contest winners and also was taking pictures of the event. He bid on a couple of items, but didn't get either of them. At least he bid the price up so the Stewards got more on the deal. The crowd, as I say, was small but enthusiastic and the Stewards were pleased. Last year the weather for the First Annual Etc. was terrible, so they expect to have raised at least twice as much with this year's effort.

Rich and Peggy, our neighbors from across the road, dropped in towards the end to listen to the music and to buy some raffle tickets. Neither they nor I won any of the door prizes, but Tom got a gift certificate to Pedro's Mexican Restaurante -- one of two touristy Mexican restaurants in the Dells, neither one being anything that a Texan would consider Mexican food. Peggy likes it because they have a gazillion kinds of margaritas. Of course, Tom doesn't drink any more than I do, but, hey! It's a free meal. Peggy was hoping someone would win one of the fish fry prizes, but despite the large number of them being offered, we didn't luck out. (Or, it being fried fish, maybe we did luck out.) Friday night fish fry is a big Wisconsin tradition. In some parts of the state, it's a fish boil instead. I can't imagine anything less appetizing!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Later Saturday

Well, it seems the way to get people to comment is to whine (Tom's term...)

And when the mail came today, it included a rebate on my computer (the notorious Circuit City case) and a check from the Carmelite Institute.

Anyway, this evening we went to the slide presentation on the photography of H. H. Bennett, and it was great. It turns out that many of his photographs were taken to be viewed in 3-D, like the old stereoscope viewfinder toys. Hard to imagine that this was in the late 1800s. Anyway, the couple who put the slides together had done a great job of selecting music to go along with it, and we had a nice tour of the museum afterwards. Definitely worth a visit when you're in town, assuming that it is open at the time.

Part of the history of the Dells captured in Bennett's photographs was the life of the raftsmen who brought the pines down the river. As a tie-in to that, they distributed tin cups like those the raftsmen used, and tomorrow the meal the festival is offering is a raftsmen's dinner -- served on tin plates with beverages in the commemorative tin cups. I don't think we get to keep the plates, though. I understand that they are being lent to the Stewards for this event (at least, that is the hope) by one of the local restaurants -- Paul Bunyan's Famous Cook Shanty Buffet.


Kristin commented that I make life sound simple.

That must be because I choose fairly simple things to blog about here. Life, as we all know, is not so simple.

I have health issues at 57, side effects from meds that I have to take, prescriptions that cost more than I like and no real health insurance. I can only afford a cost-reduction plan and the local hospital/clinic gives you a third off if you don't have insurance. Come next spring I have to have a colonoscopy and that will set me back a few thousand, most likely.

Work... well, it's not the best fit in the world but there are not a lot of options in this area.

No one seems interested in publishing any of my fiction -- neither novel or short stories, although I get friendly rejection slips.

When I left the monastery, I did not ask for any financial assistance and there is no pension or such connected with having been a priest for thirty years. I will have social security, but I am having to try to build up a retirement fund pretty quickly and without making big bucks. Thanks to Tom's generosity in covering so much of my ordinary living expenses, I am able to sock away a lot of what I earn, but I usually feel like I am living on the edge financially. About a quarter of my earnings come from the Carmelite Institute teaching that I do, but they are usually months behind in sending a check.

And don't even get me started on religion or politics!

Tom has occasion to comment that I am pretty grumpy. Take a week of stressful work, add a semi-nausea due to being in the sun after taking a pill I have to take and mix in some frustration over other stuff and you wind up with a grumpy old man. The fact that I know I am grumpy and don't like it just makes me grumpier.

So it is simpler to write about foliage and cats and powwows.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The temperatures have been bouncing all over this past week -- from the upper 30s to the mid 80s -- but the foliage has definitely begun to turn. This is a picture of a road near here in Lake Delton. We are getting some nice reds, lots of gold and orange. The sumac runs the gamut -- from yellow through deep gold to orange to bright red to a deep purple.

The little crabapple tree that Tom planted in the front yard has a lot of small crabapples on it, a good sign that it has survived the summer and will be blossoming next spring. Tom has been collecting seed from the cosmos and daylilies to plant for next year. He has mowed down the wildflower beds in the back around the deck, which makes the place look much neater. The ones in front are still flowering and I think they won't be cut until he has the last seed. The tomatoes and peppers were ruined by the frost and those plants will probably be next to go. Tom had planted flowers alongside the veggies, but it sounds like next year he is going to plant them separately. The hens-and-chicks that Helen brought us are doing well, although their flowers are almost hidden by the cosmos that are overshadowing them. I am not sure if they will make it through the winter.

The birds are still frantically eating us out of house and home. I assume they are packing on some energy to fly south, but it seems like a Catch 22 situation: if they eat enough to put on some fat for energy, they will weigh more and it will be harder to fly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Ahoy, me harrties!

In case you were not aware of it, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

According to Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, but in this case, why not?)

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD) is a parodic holiday invented in 1995 by John Baur ("Ol' Chumbucket") and Mark Summers ("Cap'n Slappy"), of the United States (pictured), who proclaimed September 19 each year as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate. For example, an observer of this holiday would greet friends not with "Hello," but with "Ahoy, me haarrty!" The date was selected because it was the birthday of Summers' ex-wife and consequently would be easy for him to remember.

So now you know.

Monday, September 17, 2007


This morning I looked out into the back yard and saw a coyote trotting through it. Everyone else around here says they hear coyotes all the time at night, but I usually sleep with my white noise machine going and hear nothing outside unless it is a major storm. So it was kind of cool to see one.

We used to see them early in the morning from time to time when I was at Mount Carmel in Dallas. I remember one winter morning when I was still a seminarian, we had gone out early in the dark to get in the car to go over to the Discalced Carmelite nuns for Mass, and when Fr. Mary Phillip flipped on the lights, two coyotes were staring at us about ten yards away.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ups and downs

Well, a second night at 30 degrees meant when I went outside this morning, the begonias are pretty much begone and the tomato plants are looking bad. We figured we were done with them anyway, but there are a cluster of green ones that may survive to be fried. If I can find a simple recipe that doesn't actually involve doing things that the doctors don't want old coots to do -- like frying. I imagine there are baked green tomato recipes, but I doubt they will have the same zing. Tom is due back from Chicago by dinner-time Monday, so if I get home from the office in time maybe I'll do some pseudo-fried green tomatoes and do something with the pork chops he thawed for Friday but never got around to cooking. He does most of the cooking, and the least I can do is occasionally have a hot meal when he gets back from a long trip. When we first moved up here, I tried to do my share of cooking on the weekends, since I worked during the week, but I think he was not impressed with my efforts. Over time, he seems to have taken over the kitchen duties altogether. I get the clean-up, naturally, but he does the hard work of putting the evening meal together.

It was cloudy most of the day, but it got into the upper 60s and tomorrow is supposed to hit the mid-70s -- with a good chance of thunderstorms, lest we get complacent.

I went into Reedsburg in the afternoon -- partly because they have the only local public library that is open on Sundays but also to do some casual exploring for Oprah's house. I have been warned not to give any spcifics if I do find it, out of respect for her privacy, so don't go expecting a map with a big red arrow if I have any luck. I did sight a house that could fit the vague description I've heard, but I also saw lots of houses that, IMHO, indicate that plenty of people have way overbuilt, and I am not sure how much of that is ue to the mortgage situation of recent years. This is not a particularly prosperous area, but there are a lot of folks from elsewhere who built McMansions for retirement or vacation homes up here to be near the golf courses, the hunting and fishing and the water parks (for the grandkids, I assume). It makes for some interesting interactions at the town meetings, or so I hear from Jerry. You have the old farmers struggling to stay alive financially but sitting on a fortune in land value, the fairly well-to-do who want to have their own places in the country and pay low taxes but expecting a level of public services more appropriate to a city budget, and also wanting the farmers to sell land to folks like them but not to build anything on the farmer's own property (like for a son or daughter's family) that might spoil the view from the McMansions.

And here you thought it was only in places like LA that people wanted to know why we can't just all get along!

The Fly and other Creatures

Last night while we were watching a DVD, we kept getting dive-bombed by The Fly. I say The Fly because there seems to be just one, and with an entire house to buzz around in he/she insists on hovering wherever one of us is sitting. We tried fly swatting without success, and this morning The Fly was still in possession of the inside airways of The Lodge.

Tom's solution was to pack and leave. Well, he was leaving anyway for Chicago. Today is his 60th birthday, which he had forgotten (so he claims) until I wished him a Happy Same, and then Helen called to wish him Same as he was pulling out of the drive, having taken six or seven attempts to actually get out the door without having to come back for something. He told her, as he had told me, that he didn't want anyone to remember because they might feel obligated to do something for him. He told me that his family does not do things like Father's Day or birthdays. I notice that what he means by that is they don't do his birthday, etc. because he doesn't like to be made a fuss over. Whatever. He always remembers everyone else's birthday, including mine, although I have to admit he sometimes remembers after it is past. [He can't help remembering mine on time, since I get cards and things from other people and he picks up the mail.]

The cats realized something was afoot because Tom was running around packing, and any incipient change in their lives makes them restless. There was more than the usual let-me-in-let-me-out action at the back door. Fortunately he will only be gone today and tomorrow, and I will be here most of today. The thing that really seems to throw them off balance is when no one is around much during the day. Since they sleep most of the day, I am not sure how they know this, but they do. They deal with it by being clingy and demanding the rest of the evening.
[I know, I know. Tell you something I haven't griped about before. Sometimes I am like an old 8-track tape: push a certain button and you have to listen to the whole song, whether you want to or not.]
The change of seasons and the sudden change of temperature brought on some painful joint episodes, and since I couldn't drink Granny's Rheumatiz Medicine even if I had some, I had to rely on other things. This morning I seem to have weathered the worst of it, but the last few days I have not been up to snuff. Maybe all the walking -- not really all that much -- at Wo Zha Wa yesterday was a mistake. Tom had a cold coming on, and there is nothing grouchier than two old coots who aren't feeling well. It's probably just as well he left town for a bit.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Howdy, neighbor!

I've been hearing from Tom and others in the neighborhood that Oprah Winfrey owns a home in the area, not all that far from us. [I freely admit that the people who tell me this are the kind of folks who would have sworn to me when I was ten years old that there really were snipes in the woods at night.] It may be true. Tom's theory is that she likes to come up here and golf occasionally, and there are certainly enough golf courses around us. One thing that makes me suspicious is that the directions I hear are pretty ambiguous and never include something simple like an actual street name. Tom took John looking for it the other day, and even though he claims to have seen it before, they had no luck. I think this may provide an excuse for some foliage-viewing trips around the hills over the next month or so. Maybe by Thanksgiving, it can be added to the tour for guests.

Wo Zha Wa

We didn't get there soon enough to park within ten blocks of the action. I don't know what the final crowd estimates will be, but Wisconsin Dells was a mob scene this morning. I'm sure the business folk are going to be pleased as punch.

We went first to the arts and crafts fair, with Tom continuing to look for his cow paintings. No such luck. I mentioned that the people who do them are not that far away in Spring Green, and he could just drive down there. But he claims half the fun is in the hunt. Whatever. The cow, to nobody's surprise, is the state domesticated animal of Wisconsin. The state undomesticated animal is the whitetail.

After finding nothing to buy at the arts and crafts fair, we headed over to the flea market. An interesting group of vendors, I must say, including one guy who loudly proclaimed he needed us to buy his stuff because he's a libertarian and had to get out of town. We managed to get out without buying anything there, too.

Then we wandered up and down Broadway a few blocks. All the stores are having sidewalk sales, so the sidewalks were crowded with stuff and people. Tom tried to buy tickets to a special show that the H. H.Bennett Photography Museum is having next weekend as part of the Stewards of the Wisconsin Dells Festival, but he didn't have enough cash. It's a fundraiser, so the tickets are rather steepish. He plans to go back early next week.
H. H. Bennett is an important 19th-century photographer whose work made the Dells a tourist destination over a century ago. He invented the process for stop-action photography and proved it in 1886 by taking the photo you see everywhere up here of his son jumping onto Stand Rock. It may not be obvious from the picture, but Ashley made it. I understand his father made him jump it about a dozen times to make sure he got a good shot of it. Today they have dogs jump the chasm for the tourist trade, and a dog and its trainer recently fell due to a missed signal. There's a net these days, though, so no one was hurt.


As I write this it is 8:37 a.m. and 38 degrees, heading for a high of 61. When I looked out this morning, if we had pumpkins, there would have been frost on them. There was frost on other stuff. The predicted low for last night was 30. Not a hard frost, no limp and blackened plants yet.

But summer is a-going out. We will have some more warm days and Indian summer is a glorious time in the midwest. A bit of color is showing in some trees already, and by mid-October it is usually spectacular. (Although we don't have the sugar maples to produce the reds one sees in New England. Hint to the Brooklyn Branch: Do a foliage drive up into the Adirondacks if you get a chance when the colors are peaking. Texas has nothing like it.)

So we come to the time of year when, instead of keeping blinds closed to keep out the sun and keep in the cool, we open the blinds to take advantage of solar heat. The house is positioned to take advantage of the sun, with over-sized windows. It makes for a warm and bright feel at least.

Despite the chill, today is sunny and there should be a big crowd at Wo Zha Wa. We are heading in early to look over the flea market and other stuff while it is still possible to find a parking place within ten blocks of the activity. The parade isn't until Sunday afternoon, but we are doing the other stuff today because Tom heads to Chicago tomorrow to see some of his kids, check out Rebecca and David's new place and have dinner with his former in-laws (he calls them "ex-laws"). The Anastaplos have a Sunday night dinner tradition of gathering at George and Sarah's, along with whoever knew what other guests would appear. When I was living in Hyde Park, it was frequently part of my Sunday agenda. George (who is about Daddy's age) was almost always working on a talk or a new book, and he would introduce the strangest topics at times for dinner conversation. The first time I went, he had me sit next to him so he could talk about science and religion. I felt a bit like I was taking an oral exam. He is a law professor, after all. Only later did I learn that he was pumping me for ideas for a conference he was preparing.

Well, off to Wo Zha Wa. I have made my bed and Cassidy has already taken possession for the day. At some point, Sundance will sneak in and they will share it because my room gets the sun at this time of year.

Details at eleven...
[One of my friends has a signature line on his emails that says, "World ends at 9:00. Details at 11:00!" (Hi, Karl! How was your second brush with a Texas hurricane?)]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rolling on down the road

Well, they really did get moving on Berry Road. Yesterday they put down an undercoat or some such thing and today put on a top layer. Of course, one odd thing about it is that the newly topped part of the road goes from Birchwood, past Tom and Steve's property line and then stops. Berry Road, as I think I have mentioned before, although not all that long, lies in three jurisdictions: the Village of Lake Delton (the first quarter mile or so this side of Birchwood) the Town of Delton (from the Village portion up to the end of the Scharbach parcel) and the Town of Dellona. Dellona had fixed their end up -- that is where Jerry's farm is -- a few years back, so the new part ends at the Town line.

Town in Wisconsin (like much of the midwest) doesn't mean exactly what it does in Texas. Up here a town is a civil division smaller than a county, but excluding lands that are part of incorporated villages or cities. They provide many similar services including road maintenance. So you wind up with a stretch like ours that is partly the responsibility of a village and partly of a town -- in this case, two towns. This also means when snowplows come through, they don't necessarily do the entire road at once, unless the towns have their acts together and are cooperating. The Dellona end of Berry usually gets a better snow removal job than the Delton end. (I shouldn't say that, since I am a resident of Delton -- the Town, not the Village of Lake Delton.)

To add to the general confusion, Wisconsin Dells -- which is my mailing address, but not where I actually live -- is a city, but it is also the general term used to refer to the area as a tourist destination, which includes Lake Delton. The Dells more specifically refers to the formations along the Wisconsin River. What is now the city of Wisconsin Dells used to be Kilbourn City, but it changed its name in 1931. The fire department and the library still carry the Kilbourn name.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A New York minute

Tom used the expression "New York minute" in his family blog about the road repair -- the point being that around here we are more laid back and the work won't be finished in a New York minute.

It reminded me of an incident when I was visiting the monastery at Marylake some years ago. I had poured myself a bowl of coffee -- the Carmelites used to drink coffee in these huge WWII Army surplus cereal bowls, but that's a story I'll save for another time. Anyway, I poured the coffee, went to the freezer to get an ice cube and dropped it in.

Old Brother Victor from Oklahoma looked at me over his thick eyeglasses. "You drink Yankee coffee, huh?"

"Yankee coffee?"

"Yeah, you don't have the patience to let it cool off on its own."

Yankee coffee. New York minutes.

Are the Brooklyn Broccolo's adjusting to that time difference?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Wednesday in Wisconsin

John left for Chicago this morning on the eleven o'clock bus. He left with shined shoes, a fresh haircut and proper clothes for some job interviews he has coming up. He's a smart and funny young man, but I think he found life here at The Lodge a bit boring. Of course, he doesn't drive, which meant he had his 60-year-old father and me for companions most of the time. Not a thrill a minute for a 22-year-old guy.

The road people were making preparations to do some serious repairs when I got home this afternoon, and I expect the next few days will include detours and tar splashes on the car.

I finally gave up on the Jonathan Kellerman mystery I've been reading for the book club. I have probably read enough to discuss it, but it got rather absurd in the middle and needlessly convoluted. I'm a big fan of Agatha Christie, but even her books are tedious when she starts dragging in international conspiracies.

I also turned in The Heretic Pharaoh, a biography of Akhnaten, often called the world's first monotheist. [That's him in the picture.] The book was fairly interesting but I found some of the speculation about a possible connection of Akhnaten and Moses more than a little specious. I checked out Northrop Frye on Shakespeare to serve as my "serious reading" for a few days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Since the Muslims like the Jews use a lunar calendar, their holy days migrate around the calendar. This year, right after the sixth anniversary of the tragedy of the Twin Towers, sundown on September 12 marks the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadan, dedicated to prayers, fasting, charity and self-accountability. I note that observant Muslims are called to fast not only from food but to abstain especially from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backstabbing, and gossip, things they are to avoid, of course, throughout the year.

When the fast and accompanying festivities end next month, the greeting will be Kullu am wa antum bi-khair -- May you be well throughout the year.

Happy New Year!

In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation. -Leviticus 16:24

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on September 12, the first of Tishri. L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem -- May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Tom tells me that the rabbi at Hillel House at the University of Chicago announced that Rebecca (Tom's daughter) would be providing food for everyone during the holy days -- about twelve meals for a couple dozen folks. Becca was a bit surprised to hear this, apparently. [If I understood this correctly.]

I also learned that there is more than one "New Year's Day" in the Jewish calendar -- sort of like we have a new fiscal year and a new school year in ours: "In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time)." [From Judaism 101 website on the holiday]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Come again another day..

It began to rain sometime in the night and has pretty much kept it up all day. Sometimes light, some times a bit heavier, but steadily. It made for a dreary drive to work, and this afternoon when I went to run errands at 3:00 p.m. it was a wet 54 degrees.

I dropped off a book I just read at the Dells library -- very interesting book by Bart Ehrman on how the Bible came down to us through generations of copyists, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Because it was so rainy out, I stayed and read a short story by James Joyce -- "The Dead", last in his collection called The Dubliners. I attended a play based on it several years ago in Chicago and was unexpectedly moved to tears. Joe is reading it for his literature class, so I thought I would refresh my memory. The play was clearly only "inspired by" the short story. The bits of the play that stick most firmly in my memory are not found in the story at all. I checked out the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius for bedtime reading. I am trying to finish reading a mystery for my book club meeting next week, but I am not enjoying it much. The theme this time is detectives who are also psychologists, and none of the suggested books looked appealing. But I don't have to like the book to talk about it.

Driving back through Wisconsin Dells on this rainy school-in-session weekday was like riding through a ghost town. During the summer, it may take more than one change of the traffic light to get through an intersection, blocked as they often are by pedestrians and vehicles trying to make a turn. Today I saw less than half a dozen people on the sidewalks and there were no cars in sight when I made my left turn onto Broadway, the main drag.

This weekend , if the weather cooperates, it should be full of people for Wo Zha Wa Days. Wo zha wa -- at least so it is alleged -- is Ho-Chunk for "Let's have fun", sort of like New Orleans says Laissez-faire les bons temps rouler: Let the good times roll. Wo Zha Wa serves as the traditional end-of-season, all-items-must-go trinket sale, fall festival, whatever roundup in the Dells. My favorite part is that the library will have its fall book sale.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

To everything there is a season

One sign that the seasons are changing -- besides the fact that we are supposed to have a low of 43 degrees later in the week and tomorrow's high is supposed to be 62 -- is that the bird feeder is suddenly active with birds we haven't seen for a while. This morning I saw a tufted titmouse, then another, then yet another. Even the goldfinches on the thistle socks are getting pretty aggressive with one another, and the hummingbirds are hovering around flowers that look pretty far gone to me.

This afternoon we went down to Madison so Tom could take John shopping for clothes. He got a couple of jackets, some shirts and a gray suit. He wasn't sure about the suit, but the price was right, it fits and it is 100% wool. Couldn't hurt, right?

He and Tom also picked up some books, and at Half Price Books I got some CDs on John of the Cross by Susan Muto -- marked down 80%. I will listen to them on the way to and from work for the next week or two. I have read a lot of her stuff and may not learn anything particularly new, but since I teach a couple of courses on John of the Cross, I need to keep up with the resources out there.

And that was the excitement of the day. Looks like leftovers tonight for supper.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River

I believe I promised to put up a link to the website of the Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River, the group Tom belongs to and for which he has been doing so much work designing their site.

So go here to check it out. There are still a few things to be fleshed out, but this gives you an idea of what they are about and also gives you some more images of the Dells themselves.

I "borrowed" their logo for this post, and I may have to remove it later. Look fast!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Night at the Movies

With John visiting, Tom thought we should do something for entertainment, so we went to see 3:10 for Yuma at the Desert Star Cinema. It cost three adults about $25.00 -- just for admission to the theater. Fortunately we had just eaten dinner. I think if we had wanted popcorn it would have meant checking with a lawyer friend who handles bankruptcy.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


As soon as Labor Day is over and the tourist crush around the Dells is gone, at least during the week, the road crews are out to do what they can before the weather turns wet and cold. Right now there are three big sections of Berry Road that have been ripped up and all the traffic lights at the Wal-Mart intersection are down as well as those on both sides of the overpass to the interstate. Today coming home from work, I thought I would skip most of that by coming through town -- only to wind up in a one-lane only stretch before I even got to where I thought the construction was going on.

I shouldn't complain about them taking care of the infrastructure, of course. We were talking with Helen and Jay last night about the Minnesota bridge that went down in their area, and wondered what would happen if we lost the bridge over the Wisconsin River that goes into the Dells. We could still get there, but...

I expect it will all be passable by the time the Brooklyn Broccolo's hit town in November.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Middle of the week

This morning when I got to the office, Joe asked me to type a short paper he wrote for the Modern Literature (Before 1945) course he is taking at Boo U. In Wisconsin, people over 60 can audit courses free at schools that are part of the University of Wisconsin system, with the permission of the professor. Usually there is room, and this semester Joe is taking a course with a heavy emphasis on poetry at the beginning.

So I typed up his paper from his draft and made some editorial suggestions. Then he wanted to discuss what I thought of the paper itself. Yeah, that's what I want to do -- give my opinion of my boss's writing style! But we had an interesting conversation about a poem by William Butler Yeats, although it meant I did not finish the billing I was trying to get done for Evelyn's guardian ad litem work. Realizing he had taken up so much of my time, Joe then decided to blow the rest of the morning by having me go online to find and print out moussaka recipes for him. He raises sheep and was looking for more dishes that use lamb. I told him that we have a Greek cookbook at the house -- Greek Cooking for the Gods -- partly because Helen 's dad is Greek and she learned to cook some Greek dishes, passing the recipes and tricks along to Tom. When she gets in tonight I intend to have her look over the recipe in the cookbook and tell me if it is any good.

Because we were not sure when Helen, Jay and John would arrive this evening, Tom decided to make a spinach salad for dinner, figuring it could be served whenever they get here. This is a good idea, except that now the house smells of bacon, which is not helping my hunger pangs as we wait for them.

More later...

Everyone arrived about six. We had dinner and then watched a DVD of Greater Tuna, the play that Tom and I saw a few weeks back over in Baraboo. I still think you need to be a Texan to get some of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More visitors

Today I went back to the law office and Tom cleaned up the guest room, preparing it for Helen and Jay to use when they come by tomorrow evening to pick up Buddy the Dog and to drop off Helen and Tom's younger son John. John is the one who graduated from college last May. He has been staying with his older sister and her husband while working in Chicago and is now heading up north to spend some time with his father.

Helen and Jay have been back east, and I expect them to be exhausted when they arrive tomorrow. They will have driven from Ohio to Chicago, had lunch, visited with various friends and family members, packed John's stuff and driven four more hours to get here. Thursday they and Buddy the Dog will pile into the car and head back to the Twin Cities.

I went into the Dells this afternoon to return a couple of library books. It was strange to find the streets no longer crowded with tourists even on weekdays. The season is not quite over, but with kids all back in school, the busy times shift mostly to weekends. I picked up a book about Wisconsin curiosities and learned that the rear end of the badger that sits atop the statue on the capitol building is the highest point in Madison. I know you wanted to know. The state motto is "Forward" so the statue holds an arm out pointing ahead rather than up, as is often the case in such figures. That is not so clear in the photo, nor is the badger on top of her head, but look closely. This is the Badger State, named not for the animal but for the nickname given to early miners who carved out caves in the side of the hill for a place to live.

I heard from the Carmelite Institute today. I had forgotten that besides their national conference they had to move into new office space this summer. That explains why Mary had not sent me the grade sheets for the students I had last spring semester and for which I have been asking her since June.
I would like you to think I am being conscientious for nagging them about sending me the grade sheets, but the truth is that I don't get paid until the students complete the work and the grades are in. So it is not totally altruistic on my part to get the grades recorded.
One new student I will have this fall is a med student at Johns Hopkins Univeristy. Since this is a distance learning graduate program, most of my students are overseas, but so far I only have folks in the States this semester.

Monday, September 3, 2007


Our plan to attend the Baraboo River Encampment -- a re-enactment of a nineteenth century traders' camp -- was a bust, the event having ended before we arrived. Our other trips for the morning were more successful as we visited two small local parks with Indian mounds.

The first one is a wayside between Wisconsin Dells and Portage and a place I often drove by when working for hospice out of the Portage office. It has been closed until recently when the land was returned to the care of the Ho-Chunk Nation. According to the sign it is a "sacred cemetery and religious site", consisting a a few effigy mounds that were designed apparently to be seen from the Wisconsin River. The plan is to clear out tree growth that now blocks that view.

These sorts of mounds are not particularly high, the effigies being only raised a foot or two about the surrounding area in most instances. Archaeologists admit that they are not sure of the significance of most of the designs. (Where is Indiana Jones when you need him? Harrison Ford, BTW, is a graduate of Ripon (Wisconsin) College where he was Tom's brother Steve's roommate.) Some are burial sites for an individual, some for groups and some are not burial sites at all.

The other small park is outside Baraboo, Man Mound. The effigy of a man is easily discerned, even though the lower part of the legs have been destroyed when a road went through. Michelangelo and I both remarked that we are surprised it was not named "Devil Mound", given the horns on the head. Also, the area already has a popular tourist attraction at Devil's Lake, so it seems like it would have fit a local theme. The image of the outline of the figure that I got off the website is pretty faint, so I hope you can make it out. It is 179 feet long.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


When I called Mama and Daddy this morning, as I do every Sunday, Mama was out getting the fried chicken for the church potluck and Daddy was asleep. I woke him up long enough to tell him that I was just checking in. We were getting ready to eat breakfast and head out for the day. He said he had told me everything he knew when he said, "Hi", so I let him go back to sleep.

We went to the Black River Falls Labor Day Pow Wow, and it was an interesting experience. Besides the druming, singing and dancing, there were a few traditional ceremonies that were more than performances for the public. One young man had just completed boot camp and is preparing to go to Iraq. He was honored in several ways for carrying on the warrior tradition of his people, and other tribal members serving were mentioned by name. There were a lot of veterans and they had a big role in the program. They have a Memorial Day Pow Wow, too, and one could have thought this was it.

It was particularly fun to watch the little children participate in the dancing. Very small ones -- two years old at the most -- with their parents, teenagers, adults and even elders. There was one group of elderly ladies, each more serious looking than the next, that Tom called the Hyde Park Matrons.

From there we stopped at an "all-town" flea market in Hatfield. The population sign at the edge of town said "Hatfield, Summer 5,000; Winter 50". That tells the whole story.

Back home to let Buddy the Dog out, eat Tom's stir fry and an unplanned viewing of the Sound of Music on the television. I was clicking through the channels before dinner and came across it. Then after we ate, Michelangelo wanted to watch "just a little", but we wound up watching the whole thing. I suppose I first saw it in Houston over forty years ago...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Further details

I took Buddy the Dog for a walk and we saw two sandhill cranes circling and landing in the field just up the road. They make a very strange sound. Tom and Michelanagelo got all the light bulbs needed for the car, and we managed to get to Prairie du Sac in time to catch the parade. This was the biggest crowd in quite a while by all accounts, possibly the largest ever. It was a beautiful day to be out, it is the Labor Day weekend and the weather having been so unpleasant lately, especially in the southern part of the county, I think everyone wanted to take advantage. We watched the beginning of the chip tossing, but didn't hang around for the entire event.

Tom and Michelangelo each had a pork-chop-on-a-stick -- a "traditional" fair food around here. Deciding to eat something healthier, I chose a turkey sandwich on pita bread. It was undoubtedly the only healthy item available and also pretty tasteless. They bought t-shirts -- "Chips happen" -- but did not buy the cow-chip shaped hats that were going for fifteen bucks apiece.

On the way back we stopped in Baraboo to discover that everything downtown -- not that much to begin with -- closes by 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. We managed to sneak under the wire to get something cold to drink at a candy shop where Tom got some plain licorice and Michelangelo got a chocolate bar. I was too cheap to buy anything but gracious enough to sample theirs.

Then home to fix the car lights (them), eat lasagna (all of us), sit out talking on the deck (all the humans, Buddy the Dog and Sundance) and bring this up-to-date (me).

And to all a good night.

Head Blade

Michelangelo, as I mentioned, teaches at a Catholic boy's school in Chicago, and last spring they did a fundraiser for cancer research. Participants agreed to shave their heads and they signed up sponsors. Tom and I both donated in Michelangelo's name, and the website for the project (click here to read more about the overall organization) posted before and after pictures to prove he had gone through with it.

Before (Okay, so you can't tell much from this picture... except that he's a bit strange.)


Since this was some months ago, I assumed he had let his hair grow back but he showed up still bald. In order to maintain this sleek look, he shaves his head, naturally with a Head Blade (The sport model pictured is the one he uses). You just hook your fingers into it and zoom-zoom over your scalp.

While that little blade thing is cute, Michelangelo also arrived in his real car with a broken headlight, a taillight and brake lights that were not working. Even as I write, he and Tom are over at Wal-Mart looking for whatever they can find to fix the brake and taillights. The headlight needs a replacement bulb at the very least for a temporary fix and the entire headlight needs to be replaced. It remains to be seen what this does to our Cow Chip Throw plans...

Details at eleven.