[A sad remembrance from August 24, 2011]

My wife and I have a 10 pound gray miniature poodle named “Daisy.”  To say Daisy is smart would be an understatement.  Daisy is smarter than some lawyers I know and most politicians I know of.  And probably brighter than me on some occasions.  When you talk to her, she looks you right square in the eye as if she’s trying to figure out “just what language is he speaking?” 

Daisy is a certified therapy dog – with the Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago ( http://www.caninetherapycorps.org  ).   Canine Therapy Corps has nearly 75 dogs who work in 15 area hospitals.  It is a wonderful program that provides animal-assisted therapy often in collaboration with physicians and attending staff. 

Daisy went to school for nearly two years to get certified in this wonderful program.  Daisy and Donna work on Wednesday afternoons at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  Since Daisy responds to voice and motion commands (both of which Donna says I have trouble with), Daisy works with stroke and spinal cord injury patients who may need help with speech and movement.  To watch Daisy “on the job” is a treat.  Daisy dances, twirls, sits, stays, barks, marches, and does level 1 calculus all while working with the patients.  When working with children, sometimes a little boy or girl will just want to hold Daisy.  And that’s just fine too.  

When Daisy gets home, she takes off her blue vest and kicks back – knocking down a few liver treats and taking a walk.  Then – exhausted from the day – Daisy heads upstairs to bed to dream of table scraps and fire hydrants. . . .      

On July 19, 2018, Daisy left us.  She was a wonderful dog – who will be greatly missed.   It’s very hard to say “goodbye”. . . . .


Dark Side of the Moon

One of the most poignant song lyrics comes from Pink Floyd’s classic album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”  Pink Floyd’s “Time” offers the quintessential lament over the irretrievable passage of time:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. . . . .
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.                            No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJQnzmH6jgc  

The subtle message.  What will I accomplish today?  Will it be of value?  Time wasted?  Have I missed the starting gun?  We all share similar questions about life.   And its unstoppable passing.  We are on this earth for a reason.  We want to have a positive impact.  Live up to our potential.  Provide value.  Make a contribution.  Yet every day, the sun goes down.  The past is prologue.  And the new dawn begins the first day of the rest of your – and my – life.  And so it is.     

Goethe’s challenges us in a couplet from Faust’s “Prelude at the Theatre” (which has hung for years in my office):   “Whatever you can do, or dream you can. . . . . begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”   


Should a young black man who is sentenced to a year in prison for stealing a car be allowed to return to society? To have a job?  Go to school?  To be forgiven? What about the serial thief who shoplifts food to feed her family? And after serving her fourth sentence for theft – she is released.  How about the 58 year old man who served 35 years in prison for killing a man in a bar fight? Forgiveness? Allowed to get a job? What if the 58 year old became a deacon of the church while in prison? And schools young men on how not to behave? Can we forgive any of those accused by the MeToo movement but not charged with crimes?  I’m just askin’ . . . . .

And then there’s Roseanne. The weirdo comedienne whose big mouth got her in trouble.  And she was fired. And now is despised. Should we forgive her?  Give her redemption?  A second chance?  Jerry Seinfeld thinks so.  So do I.       

Many on the left will spring to forgive those in prison.  Those committing violent crimes.  Those who violate the law.   But those who use a bad word?   Like Roseanne?  Never.  She has apologized.  Tearfully.  Asked forgiveness.  Yet the world seems to have turned its collective back on her.  Not because of criminal activity.  Her crime was – stupid and vile comment.  And freedom of speech is no longer a right according to some.  

I tend to believe that each one of us is more than the worst thing we ever did.  Or said.  And that forgiveness — “Mulligans” if you will (see May 7, 2018) — can be justified.  Mercy – is one of the highest attributes of mankind.  So why not be judicious in its dispensing?  Do you ever forgive a family member or friend for hurtful things said or done?  Then why not strangers when there is genuine contrition.  Sincere apology.  And a sentence has been served.   If you don’t believe that each one of us is more than the worst thing we ever did, then — may you be judged accordingly.    

Save for the Soles of Her Feet

As an Assistant States Attorney, I handled a lot of murder cases.  The files always included in depth police reports, crime scene and morgue photos and a litany of witnesses and grand jury or preliminary hearing testimony.  It was one thing to handle a double homicide at a local bar. Or a home invasion murder.  But the files that were hard to take were those where the victims were children.  I could only read the files for short periods.  Often eyes misty.  And then I had to turn to something else.   

In one particularly horrific case, a 6 year old girl was forced to stand on all fours.  While a boyfriend of the mother would beat her.  He’d use the buckle end of the belt.  And if she cried or whimpered, an avalanche of trauma rained down on the little girl.  He would stand over her.  Waiting for her to flinch.  After months of torture, trauma, beatings and horror, the little girl – her name was “April” – finally succumbed after a punch that split her sternum.  And the boyfriend – Felix F. – was charged with her murder. 

The coroner – always a staple in a murder case – took the stand and testified that the little girl’s hypothalamus had literally disappeared given the daily beatings and chronic fear that she endured.  The good doctor testified – I remember well – that there was not one square inch of her body that had not been brutally traumatized “save for the soles of her feet.”  He was convicted and sentenced to a long term.     

I know.  This is hard to read.  But – what do you do with such people?   

Fourth of July!!

[A Holiday repeat of July 2, 2017]

On this Independence Day eve, here’s a distillation of a few prior posts.  

Fireworks? Firecrackers? Cherry bombs? Should they be legal? In Wisconsin, fireworks stores seem to outnumber cows.  Weekend festivities are often punctuated by the staccato of firecrackers or the magnificent boom of larger devices.

In 1956, the Hungarian Revolution began.  And my 9 year old pals and I learned about Molotov cocktails.  So – we filled a pop bottle with gasoline, stuffed a rag in the top and lit it — tossing the bottle into Weller creek.  WOW!!   Spectacular blast and flames (not to mention the bumblebee whiz of shards of glass and rocks).   

We’d break open firecrackers, shake out the fulminate of mercury powder into cigar tubes with homemade fins, balance them on an incline and then light a fuse sending the “rocket” skyward or sometimes just bouncing along the ground (ending with an enormous explosion).  We would grab handfuls of match books at the local pharmacy and snip the heads off.  And stuff match heads into thin pipes, shaking in the fulminate powder for more incendiary displays.  And bombs.  And cannons stuffed with BB’s held in place by dripping candle wax.  And once a hand grenade – using Slaymaker lock dial.  Every boy had a supply of firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80’s and such.  And my neighborhood was frequently ripped with massive explosions.  

I am keenly aware of all of the arguments of some armchair howlers (“what about accidents?” “they can blow your finger off!”).  Puh-lease.  Wisconsin and 39 other states have got it right on fireworks. Illinois – as usual – marches to the wrong drummer.  On pretty much everything. . . . .   

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”. . . . .