Wisconsin Supper Clubs

[A summer repeat from 10/6/16]

Have you ever been to a Wisconsin supper club? If you haven’t, you’re missing a major life experience. Wisconsin supper clubs have a presence in most parts of (duhhh) Wisconsin. Little, sometimes out-of-the-way towns will have good restaurants that feature four course meals: soup; salad; main course; and dessert. And of course there’s the obligatory beverages: beer; spirits; and jug wine (though sometimes one is surprised by a genuine “wine list”).

When you enter a supper club, you usually pass the bar.  The trick is – do not pass the bar.   Ever.  There’s a protocol.  In most places, you go to the bar, say hello to the bartender and indicate you would like a table.  He (or she) will then give you the once over.  Make a mental note that you want a table.  And ask if you want a drink.  You must always say “yes” to the drink.  Or you may still be sitting at the bar at closing time.  At some point, a table will open and you’ll be escorted into the dining room. Immediately a relish tray, menus, water, bread and butter will be plopped on your table.    

Menus contain the usual assortment of two, four and no-legged protein.  My suggestion is go for the fish.  Usually perch or walleye.  Interestingly walleyed pike from Wisconsin may not be served in Wisconsin.  Walleye all comes from Canada.   Regulations. . . . Your entree includes mashed or baked potatoes and vegetables (sometimes canned).  Soups are usually onion or some “cream of” soup.  There’s often a salad bar. Served salads can be disappointing.  If that’s the option, have the blue cheese dressing.  I mean – what the hay?  But the spigot is on — from bar to your table so you may have as much fire water as you want.  Dessert is usually a chocolate sundae in a shiny tin cup.  

I’ve been to my share of supper clubs – mostly in Door County and Northern Wisconsin.  Guide’s Inn in Boulder Junction and Birmingham’s on County B north of Sturgeon Bay are favorites.  These are two I would go back to again.  And again.  And order the fish. . . .     

Happy 90th Birthday

Donna is the one in our family who normally initiates birthday (or greeting) cards. She buys them at the card store (selecting the perfect card for the occasion), she addresses the envelope, fills out the card with a touching message, includes a check for special birthdays for kids, seals, stamps and sends it off.  At most, she will ask me to sign the card or draw and color one of my artistic creations (see post of November 16, 2017).  

There are, though, times when I will send off a birthday card on my own (cue the trumpets).  When I do, the card  doesn’t show a puppy dog.  Or a mountain scene.  Or offer a “Best wishes on this special birthday” message.  I have a supply of “Happy 90th Birthday” “Happy 95th Birthday” and one or two “Happy 100th Birthday” cards stuffed in my drawer.  They’ve been there forever.  Along with some birthday cards that are (these days) not sendable.  If y0u get my drift. . . . . .  

I usually have no clue as to whose birthday is when.  But if Donna reminds me that it’s someone’s birthday, I may groan.  Go up to my desk.  Rummage around a bit.  And dash off one of the “Happy 90th Birthday” cards to one of my fraternity brothers or golfing buds (who have a sense of humor).  In most cases, the “90th Birthday” business is these days fifteen to twenty years off from the actual birthday.  If I want to add pizzazz to the card, I may draw a line through “90th” and scribble “Ooops – 91st”. . . . .   


[A summer repeat from April 16, 2012]

Can you say “Anna backwards“?  The usual response is “Anna.”  But the correct answer is “Anna backwards.” 

Anna is a “palindrome” (it is a word that reads the same forwards as backwards) just like Otto, Eve, Hannah and Elle.  “Anna sees Anna” is a palindrome.  “Did Hannah see bees Hannah did.”  Sure she did – backwards and forwards.  One of the first palindromes I learned was “Madam I’m Adam.”  Then there was “A man, a plan, a canal – Panama” referencing Teddy Roosevelt.  I began using palindromes for tutoring at Chicago Lights Tutoring (see prior posts).  “Read this backwards” I would say to the student.  And get blank stares.  And then suddenly – the lights (and smiles) went on.  🙂

Cigar?  Toss it in a can.  It is so tragic.

Enid and Edna dine.

Hey Roy!  Am I mayor?  Yeh!

My gym. 

Never odd or even. 

Now I won. 

Too bad I hid a boot. 

Was it a car or a cat I saw? 

Too hot to hoot!

Live not on evil.  

Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.

So Ida – Adios. 

Tuna roll or nut?

Stella won no wallets. 

The earliest recorded palindrome dates to 79 A.D.  In Latin, it is “Sator Arepo tenet opera rotas” (“the sower Arepo holds works wheels“).   The longest palindrome?  It’s 17,826 pretty random words.   No I won’t repeat it here . . . . .

They Dwell Among Us

[A “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” repeat – minor edits – from August 16, 2013]

I’ve seen silly emails circulated with this title.  I always delete them as I’ve felt the stories are so far fetched as to be unbelievable.   Until Monday. 

Scout’s Honor.  I was on the train on Monday.  Heading home after a long day.  The train was crowded with a few folks standing in the aisles.  This 30’ish woman sits down next to me. She takes an orange VISA credit card from her purse and – holding it in her hand – pulls out her cell phone and dials a number. And then in a voice loud enough to be heard 3 or 4 rows away, she says she has a question on her credit card.   She needs detail on the last dozen or so transactions.  And she repeats the card number into the receiver. THEN (as if that’s not enough) after a pause, she repeats a family name and a calendar date (presumably security codes). THEN (of course) she read off the three digit security code on the back of the card (“uhmm lemme see. . . two three eight . . . yes – THREE eight“). For the next 15 minutes, with phone shouldered to her ear, she proceeded to dialogue on the telephone in this highly public place about questioned purchases (one charge was – I kid you not – 9 cents).  She’s writing them down.

We do not need – or want – educational tests or intelligence tests (other than citizenship) for a person to vote.  But maybe there is something to having a “Stupid” test.  This woman would be the poster girl.  Then again, we have no Stupid Test to be a Democrat (or Republican) in Congress.  Or to serve in the White House. . . . .  

By the way, I just bought a great bunch of new books on line, some shoes for Donna, a new Martin guitar, I booked us a trip to Europe and I . . . . . OOOOPS  . . . never mind. . . .    

Chinese Style

The Berghoff Restaurant at 17 West Adams Street in Chicago is an old, German, family restaurant.  The Berghoff has been in business since 1898.  It is where the classic “Men’s Bar” survived until 1969.  The Berghoff received liquor license number One in 1933 when Prohibition ended.  And three classic scenes from “The Dark Knight” (Batman) were filmed there. 

I recently hosted three attorneys from Beijing for meetings in my office. At the conclusion of the meetings, I offered to take them to lunch. They accepted and we walked across the street to the Berghoff.

We sat down at a table and perused the menu.  I asked my guests what kind of food they liked.  None had any limitations.  And no particular preferences.   They smiled.  And suggested I order for them.  Talk about pressure. . . . .  So I ordered three meals:  a duck platter; stuffed sole; and a sausage trio.  And we placed the three plates in the center of the table and dined.  Chinese style.   I stifled my appetite a bit – deferring to my guests.  Bottom line – everything was devoured.   But it did have me wondering how many times in its 120 year history the Berghoff had seen Chinese style dining with Chinese visitors. 

Frankly I like Chinese style dining.  Next time Donna and I have dinner with you, don’t be surprised if I reach across the table and fork a slice of your filet.  Make sure you order it medium well . . . . .  

The Albatross

I have spoken about my near miss of a hole-in-one. And my not-so-secret passion for par 3’s (“Five Feet from Glory”). I’d love to have a hole-in-one. But what sticks in the back of my mind is the rarest of golf shots — an “Albatross.” A double eagle.

A double eagle is 3 under par on any given hole. It is a hole-in-one on a par 4 and a “2” on a par 5. They are a rarity — even on the PGA Tour. The first double eagle on record was scored by Tom Morris, Jr. (1870 British Open – Prestwick). The longest albatross was scored by Andy Bean on a 663 yard par 5 (no. 18; Kapalua) in 1991. The longest double eagle/ace was by Robert Mitera on a 447 yard par 4 (1965).

Double eagles are not child’s play. Yet the youngest golfer to score one was a 10 year old girl. Line Toft Hansen scored one in 2010 in a Danish juniors’ competition (419 yard; par 5). In tournament play, 602 doubles have been scored since the first in 1870. The last one I watched on t.v. — Louis Oosthuizen on April 8th in 2012 on number 5 at the Masters. The only Tour player to have scored two in Major tournaments was Jeff Maggert (’94 Masters and ’01 British Open).

Only one golfer is known to have scored a hole-in-one and a double eagle in one round. Coach John Wooden of UCLA did it in 1939 (Erskine Park G.C. South Bend) (a good trivia question).  

I’ve read that the odds of a double eagle are one million to one (judging by the score of my last round, I should’ve had one. . . .). A hole-in-one is a mere 40,000 to 1.  If you want to watch a few on the PGA Tour, check out  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKNs2jvmUYA  

I’d love that hole-in-one. But I’d love a double eagle even more. Maybe if I play from the ladies’ tees. . . .

Torn and Restored Paper

[A magical repeat from December 19, 2011]

This is a cool effect on which I’ve gotten a lot of mileage over the years. 

THE EFFECT:  Sitting in a restaurant, take a cocktail napkin and shred it to pieces.  You ball it up – and slowly begin to open a fully-restored cocktail napkin.  Your hands remain above the table at all times. 

THE TRICK:  Before you start, quietly (and unobservedly) take your own cocktail napkin, put it in your lap, open it, ball it up and secret it in your hand by your thumb.  You’re now ready to go.  Announce that you have a trick that will amaze and astound.  Ask for a cocktail napkin, open it all the while keeping the balled up napkin under your thumb.  No one will see it because it is small and any slip will blend with the other.  Shred the napkin and ball it up with the whole napkin.  Put them together and hold the two in front of everyone’s eyes.  The audience will “see” only one balled-up napkin.  Though you know that the torn napkin is on one side, the whole one on the other.  Reverse them and slowly begin to open the whole napkin.  Any dropped pieces can be picked up and reintroduced onto the torn side.   Once open, you can drop the torn ball in your lap or on the floor.  And take a bow. 

You MUST practice a dozen times or so (in front of a mirror) before attempting to wow the crowd.  And (raise your right hand) you may not tell anyone how it’s done.  

Perhaps some of you know that magicians actually run in my family.  They have to if they want to survive. . . . .


Speaking of golf, when I’m with my buds on the golf course and we tee off on the first hole, a “Mulligan” is frequently offered for an errant tee shot.  We call it a “breakfast ball.” It’s a do-over.  Even if we’re playing for a few coins, it’s “hit another – nobody saw that first one.” 

Wouldn’t it be nice if in life we had do-overs? Mulligans? For errant words or deeds?   We do in a way though the granting of a do-over often lies in the province of the recipient of the errant words or deeds.  It’s called “forgiveness.”  I’m sure we all have things we’d like to do over.  Words.  Deeds.  And we’re all grateful for the granting of forgiveness (or lack of ill consequence).  I’m sorry . . . . It’s okay.  No worries

But today, the poison of political correctness can sink careers.  Free speech is being crushed.  Do overs?  For the wrong word?  Forget it.   Accusations are often enough to destroy a life.  

I’ve said some dumb things and done some even dumber ones that I’d like to call back.  But in the words of the great poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Our futures lie within our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think twice before we act — or speak.  And knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – a reason to consider the granting of Mulligans to others.   

Edward Everett Hale

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) was a prominent Boston theologian and author.  He penned the classic narrative – The Man Without a Country (1868) — the story of an American Army Lieutenant who renounces his country during a trial for treason.  The lieutenant is sentenced to life at sea — never again to hear news about or the word “America.”  The story was designed as an allegory about the pains of the Civil War. 

From 1901 to 1909, Hale was the Chaplain of the United States Senate.   While Reverend Hale was serving as chaplain, he was asked if he prayed for the Senators.  “No,” he said. “I look at the Senators and I pray for the country.”  Given the current chaos, perhaps we might all profit by extending similar petitions. . . .

As a collector and dealer of historic autograph material, Edward Everett Hale was long a focus of my collecting.  Over the years, I acquired nearly 400 of Hale’s original letters and signed first editions.    How I started collecting Hale’s original letters is a story in itself.  Among the letters were perhaps a dozen small cards – each carefully handwritten – with Hale’s favorite advice – “Look forward and not back.  Look out and not in.  Lend a hand.”  I couldn’t agree more. . . . .