What are you doing today?

I found myself surrounded by seven white gowned nurses at the Memorial Blood Bank this morning while I was the sole donor. It made my 95th donation special. I agreed to let a newbie do the honors for practice. Her name was Mary Ann so I started serenading her with the old Harry Belefonte song similarly named while she swabbed my arm with iodine. She told me her friend’s Dad always sang that to her.

A more seasoned white coat said “Hello Harry” and asked why I wasn’t singing. (She’d been gone when I struck up my Caribbean tune) So, I sang a verse of the old Hank William’s song “Its a good day.” Then I improvised a quick line. “Its a good day for taking a draw. Its a good day, you won’t need a straw.”

Twice I was asked by different nurses what I had done so far and what I was going to do with the rest of the day. I guess that’s how they keep donors calm. For my first sixty pints that was a good strategy but, although I always tell them I’m a wimp, its no longer hard to drive up to my bloodletting.

I’d already told them how my day began with some photos of the lunar eclipse.

So, I told them what I’d planned.

1. Turning in a campaign finance report (I’m doubt they had the faintest idea what that meant. I’ll turn it in tomorrow fingers crossed, a day late.)

2. Doing some writing (This is it)

3. Study French on my cell phone. (I spent two hours on it and I’m suddenly getting the hang of it. A month ago my plan was to try to spend half an hour a day though to summer)

4. Reading some history (I’ve come to the last 100 pages of the book Fierce Patriot that I bought last week in Arizona. Yesterday it was something I riffed on as I typed up my next column for the Duluth Reader. I turned it in two hours past the deadline so I don’t know if it will get published.)

5. Avoid all the strenuous activities they always tell me to avoid. (Then I spent an hour shoveling compacted snow off my driveway and sidewalk)

6. …and best of all. Spend the night with my grandsons. We missed them all last week while away and hope we will still be able to recognize them when we pick them up to stay the night with us.

Dirty Dealing

Its going to be a quiet and a long day. We’ve done all the sight seeing we are going to do and we will fly out of Las Vegas at 11 PM. We will arrive in Duluth early tomorrow morning. I went to bed last night reading through some of the used books I bought last night.

The book about Jewish pirates looks to be the most captivating. The one on a war between England and Scotland seems a bit more restrained. I haven’t peeked into the book on the Roman citizen Cato but the book Fierce Patriot about William Tecumseh Sherman looks to fit into my immediate reading. For one thing my Grandfather George Robb was intensely interested in the Civil War. This book promises to be one more undoing the southern historical romanticism that glorified their lost cause and vilified Sherman as a monster. It also mentions something that was probably not a feature of the histories my Grandfather read – little salaciousness. Cump, it seems, was a ladies man. History books that strip important people of the basic features of their personality don’t do history justice.

I woke early and read the New York Times and some NPR stories then decided to see what my stats said about blog readership. In doing so I looked at what my readers were leafing through. One reader found Lets Make a Deal a 2008 post riffing off the Red Plan’s architect Keith Dixon’s claim that the building plan would only cost a laughable $125 million. He passed on this gross fraud in a Duluth Budgeteer article that can no long be found on the Internet. (I’m sure I have a copy of it in my clipping collection)

It was unresearched fake news hyped by the clueless but shrinking Duluth News Tribune Empire. Its one of the memories that makes their sniffing today about the school board looking to the future most annoying. The people of Duluth will find it difficult to fix their schools until the Red Plan is finally paid off after today’s Kindergartners graduate.

I didn’t find a single story in the DNT worthy to read on line this morning. It used to take me two days to read through a couple weeks of Tribs after I came back from a vacation. I should manage the last seven days worth in about as many minutes when I return tomorrow.

I finished my first book of the year

It was great. Author Richard Rubin set out at the turn of the century to see if he could find and interview veterans of the Great War. Like me he had a grandfather in that war but never asked him much about it. The centenarians he found gave him a rich and profound understanding of what it was all about. The last of them, Frank Buckles, got the second to last chapter and his was quite a story of not one but two world wars.

Among the more suprising things Buckles told Rubin in answer to a sort of mundane predictable question was that he didn’t think the war and his experiences made the world a smaller place. This was just after Buckles told his interviewer that the most astounding invention of his 110 years on the planet was in the writer’s pocket – a cell phone. To explain why he mentioned a friend who had taken a call from his grandson in the China Sea on board a ship from and to a cell phone.

So, I expected what Rubin expected to hear – that the world was much, much smaller. But, No. Buckles said after the war it was a much bigger world. Before the war he came from a small town in the US and that was his experience. After the war he had been introduced to a much larger and fabulously more interesting world. I could relate. That’s why I study geography and history and its why the world will keep growing on me. After visiting the London Bridge yesterday I stopped at a used bookstore in Bullhead City and bought a hardcover about the Renaissance wars between Scotland and England a few decades before Cromwell decorated the bridge with severed heads. Now, more of the world beckons me and that book only cost me two dollars.

I believe I’ve explained previously that the book on the Doughboys is intended as research for my book on my Grandfather. Among my contentions will be that we can learn of a more civilized era when (at least among white Americans) we were vastly more tolerant of each other’s opinions political and otherwise. I say that despite the conversation my twelve-year old self had with my Grandfather during which he warned me that the greatest political mistake of his life was voting for a Democrat. He voted for Woodrow Wilson. He got my grandfather’s vote because he promised to keep America out of war. Even though Wilson proved unreliable my Grandfather was quick to volunteer and serve in the bone littered trenches of Northern France.

Despite this my Grandfather did not dislike, let alone vilify, Democrats. I hope the book I write, should I forge on, will show that Americans of my Grandfather’s Era set a good example from which the next generation of Americans can learn.

That was the view from a men’s room window by the London Bridge…

… in Arizona.

Here are some of the other sights from yesterday traveling along the lower Colorado through Needles California.

This is the Bridge carted over from London and reassembled in about 1978 at Lake Havasu.

Thomas Cromwell had it decorated with about 30 heads on pikes during the Civil War.

Here’s a pretty scene from the window along the old Historic Lincoln Highway where the beat generation got its kicks……on Route 66.

Here are some of the hungry burros at Oatman where Californian’s and other passersby look through weathered old tourist shops.

I bought my grandsons some huckleberry flavored grizzly bear lolly pops.

Dam pictures and Pictographs

Last August Claudia and posed on the deck of our cruise ship in front of China’s Three Gorges Dam. One of the best pictures of us ever. The photo above is more prosaic standing in front of Arizona’s Hoover Dam.

Traveling has not been conducive to book writing but it has been for a little sight seeing. We’re staying within sight of the Colorado River in Bullhead City, Colorado. We traveled a short distance away to Grapevine Canyon in Nevada to look at some local pictographs. Here are a few of my cell phone pictures.

A Win for Equity in Duluth

The Duluth School Board is off to a strong start. Last night the new board swept aside Supt. Gronseth’s and David Kirby’s and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s objection to fairly distributing the Compensatory Ed funding..

It was important that Member Sandstad brought the motion and that it only started with an 80% figure for schools “earning” the funds keeping them. The new board members all voted in favor despite some early indications that they might heed the Superintendent’s reluctance.

Once again there was a good story in the Trib which gave tenacious Alanna Oswald much deserved recognition for the change.

I watched much of the public comment remotely from Bullhead City, Arizona, until I was called to dinner. I’d been following the push by the Equity group which I thought would fall through after Art Johnston and I were defeated in our reelection bids. Fortunately, my prediction proved far too pessimistic. The vote was unanimous.

You can watch the meeting here. So far 56 folks have watched some portion of the meeting online. I don’t know how many were present at the meeting but 20 people spoke in favor of Sandstad’s proposal.

Jana’s replacement

Adelle Whitefoot wrote a short story on tomorrow’s School Board meeting which will consider Nora Sandstad’s proposal to direct 80% instead of 50% of Compensatory Education funding to the schools which generate them. Good for Nora.

I emailed a comment to Adelle on the story. “Good work.”

As for Jana, Rick Lubbers informed us that she and another reporter were going to become part of an investigative reportorial team. Good luck to them both and Dig, Dig, Dig.

No getting away from you know who

We’re at 3 minutes left of the jags/patriot game. As I typed Brady passed for a touchdown and the lead. I’ll try to finish this up before we find out if the Jags can pull off a Taye Diggs.

Claudia and I hiked through about five casino’s today. We quit because Claudia thought they all looked the same and she found it dispiriting. I would have continued although I doubt I would have seen anything terribly different in any of the remaining twenty casinos.

Last night, as I waited by the Luxor’s Security deskfot them to review the tapes of taxies disgorging us from their front entrance half an hour earlier, the guard at the dext told me she’d talked to lots of people coming back after a five year absence who marveled at how much the City had changed. For me it had been fifty years. On that occasion my Dad led his three kids and wife through a couple of Casinos to gawk much as Claudia and I did today. Back then the Casinos were marked off limit for kids and my Mom was not thrilled that we were all inside where we were not supposed to be. As I told the cabbie last night I remember being about sixteen and noticing all the pretty hostesses with topless dresses with their backs to me. I also remember hoping they would turn around. The didn’t and we got out of the danger zone before any harm could be done to my innocence.

OOH. Brady is going to the Superbowl. That would be my perfect matchup with the Blue state Vikings. I’d love for us to upend Donald Trump’s favorite team and quarterback…….hope I haven’t jinxed them.

Well, back to the quick tour…Here are a couple of cell phone picks which our President also managed to crash.

First the view from our window this morning……looks like Disneyland but it the Casino Excaliber.

On our way to the other neighborging Casino the Mandalay lately in the news for the most recent mass gun slaughter we peeked into a story dedicated to all things Trump. The Sales lady demonstrated one of the more disturbing items of merchandise:

Finally its worth noting that of all the fantastical casinos like New York New York…….

None of them was more pedestrian than the umpteenth Trump Tower situated in the center of every driver’s field of vision (naturally) on the Strip.

His is truly the log in my eye.

Cheap Schools

Did I comment on Jana Hollingsworth’s recent story about Equity? It was essentially a summary of everything reported in the past. The Duluth Schools doesn’t offer equitable treatment for its students. That would require money we spent on the Red Plan……although that was not a big part of Jana’s story. Maybe we’ve gotten to the point where that fact goes without saying.

Well then, and this is Harry Welty speaking once again. The cure for this is more money…….money unlikely to come from the legislature and unlikely to be authorized by Duluth’s voters in a referendum any time soon especially with the refusal of the old School Board to sell Central for $14 million to Edison a couple years ago.

Which segues nicely to today’s Hollingsworth story about the futie six-year effort to sell Central to someone other than another school system.

The story offers no hope of a sale. It even suggests, to me, that our Administrators were not quite as forthright with us when I served on the Board and there were three board members willing to sell the property. Perhaps the most noteworthy comment in the story came from Nora Sandstead. The story reports thusly:

Sandstad also noted that she would entertain “a very low offer” if it came with property tax revenue.

“That’s much more beneficial than a one-time $15 or even $20 million payment,” she said, referring to Edison’s offer. Public schools don’t pay property taxes.

I texted back to an interested person who noticed Nora’s willingness to unload the property on the cheap. I said that it looked like she preferred to sell the property at a loss just rather than live with the embarrassment. I think voters will keep that attitude in mind when Nora asks them for an excess operational levy.

Cheap date in Vegas

We made it. And contrary to my Brother’s evaluation the room in the Luxor is nice – especially for $78 bucks a night and our round trip air fair wasn’t half bad either. This is my first visit to Las Vegas in 50 years and that will be worth a little more exposition in a later post after some Harry’s Diary preliminaries.

I am treating this week as a working vacation. Our stop in Vegas for two nights is simply a locale for my brother-in-law to pick us up for our stay in Bullhead City Arizona which to my knowledge isn’t a great tourist draw. I brought my computer in the hopes of extending my daily book writing. The fewer sights to see the more I should be able to crank out rough draft-wise. And I hoped to write on the flight. I reviewed the timeline I’d composed a year ago of my grandfather’s years through his return from World War 1. Each point on the ten pages is sourced to some document I’ve accumulated over the years. I should have a productive week. It almost didn’t come to pass.

My lap top is fairly large and it barely fit on my lap on the flight. I cranked out a page or more but it was a hassle so I set it aside. Then on the taxi drive to the Luxon I got so engaged in joking around with the cabbie that I left the computer in his back seat. After a three hour wait I got it back at midnight. We got to watch a lot of tipsy late-night denizens of Vegas walk by in unflattering skin tight slacks on precarious skyscraper stilettos. When I was reunited with my precious cargo we headed to bed.

By the way, I’m composing this during the third period of the Pats Jag game. We walked around four of the strip’s hotel casinos this morning watching clusters of football enthusiasts in various sport’s bars as the game progressed. We will skip any shows tonight to watch the Vikes. Fingers crossed we will get one more game with the team before the season is over. Without any gambling either this will be one of the cheapest visits any couple ever had in the this great money magnet.

Nuts to Crack

I may take my computer with me to Nevada and Arizona in a couple hours. If I do I may manage to keep posting about a quick visit to Las Vegas (two nights) and Bullhead Arizona (5 nights). Sans my school board obligations we are getting a little fancy free. My brother in law is setting up shop in Arizona for a couple months and we decided a visit to 50 degree temps might make for a nice change of scene. Ironically, in another week we’ll be flying back to Arizona, Tuscon this time, to attend a memorial service to my Dad’s last remaining sibling, my Aunt Mary. Then before February is out we will visit my father in law in Florida and take our Grandchildren for their winter break to soak up some sun and maybe get a peek at Universal Studio’s Harry Potter compound.

The challenge will be to keep up some daily writing on that book. Yesterday I only managed half a page. I got to his enlistment and couldn’t recall the many day by day moves he made. However, I had put them all in a chronology a year ago. I just printed it out and will follow it to continue my rough draft while traveling…..if I can find time. I also hope to keep up my daily French lessons. Fingers crossed that will be another trip later in the year.

One of the remarkable things about some people’s retirement is that it hardly frees up any time. Busy people keep busy. In my case I’m only freed up to spend more time on other preoccupations. I dished out chicken noodle soup yesterday at the Soup Kitchen and the night before attended the Reader’s “Best of” Award ceremony at the Depot. Now that I’ve rejoined it as a columnist I even was called up to say hello during a break in the award presentations. I was handed the latest Reader with all the winners that night but only just now began paging through it to my column. That’s the one the Reader titled “Poor Reading a Tough Nut to Crack.” As I continued paging through the tabloid I found the same title again this time over Forrest Johnson’s column. Oops. Forrest was writing about the National Union of Friendly Americans. I’m not a member.

I’ve got a week to come up with a new column for the Reader. Maybe I’ll find it at the Hoover Dam…..if the Government hasn’t shut it down. Those pesky Republicans can’t wait to deport all those English speaking children back to their parent’s home countries after we spent billions of dollars educating them to be useful Americans. Now that’s poor thinking.

“How many Trumps does it take to change a light bulb?”

“We’ll never know, because after he screws something he gives it $130,000 not to tell anybody.”

As someone long scornful of Donald Trump I had to laugh at that Colbert joke on last night’s Late Night. On the other hand most of the rest of Stephen’s all too easy shots in the fish barrel were more dispiriting. I once found some refuge in late night comics dishing back to President Trump the same crap he spews out every day. Its getting old now even if it seems ever bit as necessary as it did with his inauguration.

My inclination is to blame this on what the Republican Party has become more than the man who can not grow up to his unexpected responsibilities. Heck, all he wanted from his run for the Presidency was to buy Fox News. Now he has to turn his campaign straw into gold like a Trumpelstiltskin. Republican hatchet-men made their party vulnerable to the hamstring Republicans that, while representing about ten percent of America, have the power to throttle any useful compromises. The call themselves “freedom Republicans.” Their self identification reminds me of the old union complaint about right to work laws being right to starve laws. Its so ironic that the un and underemployed blue collar workers who might once have brandished this accusation at Republicans now vote with the same Republicans that exported their jobs overseas.

I published the full email I received from the fellow who once hailed me as “Handsome Harry.” It seems to be a precursor of the anonymous pro-white flyers being sent to the Iron Range and St. Cloud. My old friend seems to think its OK to distinguish “good” black people from the bad ones by calling the bad ones like our 44th President a “nigger.” I think he’s got his head up his ass. No doubt Donald Trump would have included my old ally among the “good people” protesting at Charleston. I can’t help but think that in 1921 my old friend might have been caught grinning in that old photo of satisfied citizens next to the downtown lamp post where Clayton, Jackson and McGhie were lynched. They hung the alleged rapists of a white girl with all the ceremony that Donald Trump used in full page ads in New York Daily’s calling for the execution of five innocent black kids for a rape they didn’t commit. Talk about generating “fake news.”

My friend keeps sending me links to news reports extolling the virtues of the anarchic Trump Presidency. The six or seven points my old friend makes are echoed in a long series of letters from Trump supporters who were highlighted in the New York Times a couple days ago in letters that saw no need to spew out the “N word” I so loathe. They testfiy to Trump’s “Vision, Chutzpah and Testosterone.”

There is not a single one of the talking points that aren’t deeply flawed, at least as I see them. I’ve probably found fault with most of the arguments somewhere in my blog at some point over the past two years. Taken together they make clear the guilt the Republican Party should shoulder for where America is right now. The folks who believe this Fox/Limbaugh embellished twaddle are rightfully angry that the nation’s politics are so dysfunctional. They are dysfunctional because the Republican Party hatchet-men began creating a class of No Nothings who could be counted on to primary out all moderate Republicans to extinction. The Republicans who are now called moderates would have been regarded as hardliners when I began easing away from the GOP in the early 1990’s. For ten years before that it was irritating to go to political conventions where the other side regarded a pro-choice guy like me as a baby killer or worse a “Mass Murderer.” Today’s pro-lifers are so committed to a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v Wade that they have no problem with designing an elective system that discourages untrustworthy Americans from voting and gerrymands districts and that denies a legitimately elected President from having the Congress consider his appointments for vacant judgeship’s in Federal Courts.

I suspect like my old ally the self identified “Freedom Republicans” feel they are sticking up for the “little people.” Funny, but that’s just how the supporters of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro view themselves all the while preventing the majority of their country from electing a more representative government. That’s the rot that the Republican Party has wrought.

Five more pages!!!

Oh, there will be a mountain of fact checking and editing ahead of me but, By God, I’ve just cranked out five more pages of my Grandfather’s story. I have no idea if I can keep this up daily like my cell phone French lessons but I’m crossing my fingers that I can. I obviously have deeply embedded this story into my head. Now I just have to shape it like one of my snow sculptures into a respectable package…..providing I can get to the end of the story.

I still have more writing in me but I’m going to head downstairs and offer to keep reading that book on World War 1’s last soldiers to Claudia. I’ve got that, another hour of French and a party celebrating the Duluth Reader ahead of me. I like keeping busy.

One last school related obligation to attend to

An email I’ve just sent to Lowell Elementary School:

Dear Lowell Community,

Last year I was contracted to help build a snow sculpture for Lowell by a purchase of my services in a fundraiser to pay for mulch replacement. I was surprised a month or so ago to learn that Principal Larva did not know of this.

We are about to get 20 inches of snow according to recent forecasts and that will make for excellent snow sculpting conditions. I am open to any number of ways to honor my commitment. I could make something of my own design all by myself or I could do the same for any reasonable subject requested for example a school mascot.

I would also gladly work with students to show them how I sculpt and how they can sculpt. They could make their own sculptures with my direction or work with me to make a larger one.

The ideal conditions would be a period of just above melting temperatures which might require a little flexibility for scheduling. The teachers and or PTA might like a hand in thinking how best to redeem my obligation. Please email or call me at 218-***-****. I will be out of town next week when the snow flies.

Harry Welty

Duluth Reader Redux

The heading I proposed as the title for my column today in the Duluth Reader was “Not Eudora Redux”. The editors chose another for me: “Poor thinking a tough nut to crack”. Its not what I would have chosen but oh, how true it is.

I’ve been talking to Bob Boone off and on since after I took a photograph of a dead Palestinian during my Peace Studies Class in the Holy Land. I thought my post in Lincolndemocrat.com on this lesson in Peace might make a good column – maybe several. But Mr. Boone is a man with too many distractions, so nothing came of it although he did let on that it wasn’t a bad idea. Continue reading

The “subsequent post” mentioned previously that will not do justice to the subject

So the Trib did cover the biggest news related to the School District. Our Board faces a $4 million dollar deficit. I’m the one who should be doing cartwheels since I didn’t get reelected to face them. (that’s a reference to the previous post)

I do have some related news/thoughts on this subject prompted by text messages and email sent me by others but, tempting as it is to tell you about them, I won’t. I’ve got a book to write. I’ll just follow this up with my column in today’s Duluth Reader then its back to the past.

OH YEAH. I ALMOST FORGOT. YESTERDAY I MET WITH THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S “LEADERSHIP DULUTH” COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION. THEY HAD ASKED IF I WOULD OFFER THEM SOME INSIGHTS ON THE BIG EDUCATIONAL ISSUES FACING DULUTH AND I WAS HAPPY TO OBLIGE. I DESCRIBED THE DISTRICT’S FINANCIAL HURDLES AND THE ISSUE OF EQUITY AMONG OTHER THINGS. WHEN THEY ASKED WHO I THOUGHT MIGHT BE GOOD SPEAKERS TO TALK TO FUTURE LEADERS ABOUT THE SUBJECT I SUGGESTED FORMER SUPT. MARK MYLES AND FORMER DFT UNION PRESIDENT FRANK WANNER. I ALSO SUGGESTED THAT IT MIGHT BE DANGEROUS TO PUT BOTH MEN IN THE SAME ROOM TOGETHER.

What to scribble?

The Reader did publish my column. I began it by writing a bit about the Reader’s publisher Bob Boone. I wondered if that might lead to its being scotched but no, Bob is a big boy and could manage the tiny bit of scrutiny I directed his way. Although to be honest, calling Bob “distracted” was hardly the worst thing you could say about a fellow. I plan on attending his annual soiree at the Duluth Depot tonight for the first time. All of us “columnists” are invited. I’ll see if he gives me a hard stare.

Actually, I wrote the column in hopes that it would give both Bob and his readers my excuse for not becoming a very dedicated reporter of Duluth’s politics. My druthers, as any of my blog’s readers can tell for themselves, is to heap abuse on the big shots in the national scene. I have to live with the locals and that can be uncomfortable. Golly, one of the locals I’ve nitpicked turns out to have become part of my extended family. We are suddenly both great uncles to a little fellow that is new to the world. Yet our relationship is not the closest. I heard that after the recent election he told someone he was so tickled with the results that he could “do naked cartwheels down Superior Street.” How can you hold a grudge against anyone with such a whimsical a sense of vindication – especially a family member?

Besides writing, or at least writing well, with all its fact checking is time consuming. The post I never bothered proof reading a couple days ago, despite a promise to do so, took 45 minutes to compose. It would have taken another 45 to edit it to my satisfaction. I’ve got several more such posts in mind for today but composing them and doing them justice would take several hours. I only have so much writing in me and as I’ve repeated ad nauseam I’d like to write a book more than daily posts. In fact, yesterday I sat down for several hours and cranked out three pages of that book about my Grandfather. That was just the rough draft part. If I did this every day for the next five months I’d have 450 pages to edit. That would take just as long but I’d like to have a book ready before the centennial anniversary of the battle in September that resulted in my Grandfather’s being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

So, I will do a disservice to a subsequent post about the School District and then see if I can crank out another three pages for that book – concerning my Grandfather’s attendance to a Missouri academy/college in Parkville Missouri. Today he’s one of the schools most illustrious graduates. Ah, but thats for the book not the blog.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."