Category Archives: Harry Welty

Sex Education

One of the most engaging articles in the Sunday paper was written by an intern for the Duluth Budgeteer, Ryley Graham. It was about her appreciation for books written by today’s crop of American female comedians. Her story began with a bunch of rednecky old men who saw Ms. Graham reading Amy Schumer’s recent best seller “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.” . They let Ryley know they approved because Schumer was very funny and joked a lot about sex. That they were a bunch of red neck’s made no difference. Ms. Graham appreciated such books for a different reason. They are full of useful information. For instance, Schumer’s book has been controversial and contains anecdotes that none of the geezers probably ever heard about. Schumer’s candidly describes waking up to find her boyfriend stealing her virginity without asking permission. The memoir leaves it up to the reader to decide whether this was an act of rape or not.

I wrote about Schumer once before on the blog and the topic led me to use an all too common four letter word that I only use sparingly here. (A quick check suggests that this is only the 30th time that the word shit has made it into my blog either on its own or in compounds like “bullshit.”) That’s out of 17,598 posts or once every 586 posts. I’m not particularly prissy but after inflicting my fifth grade potty mouth on Topeka, Kansas, my Dad advised me not to waste perfectly good swear words through overuse. He said that if I wanted to catch people’s attention I needed to use them sparingly. Hell, (to use a word I’m less fussy with appearances in over 200 posts), young people today don’t think twice about using these words. I hear them shouted out by partying college students many a spring and summer night when my windows are open for the fresh air.

It’s a three letter word that had parents panicked during my junior high years “sex” as in sex education. Half of the parents were afraid these classes would give kids ideas. The other half were afraid that if we didn’t inflict the class on their children their children would inflict a lot of embarassing questions on them. A number of male comics have made hay with this subject through the years but female comics have been slower to follow suit. I’m not sure if this is because women want to appear demure or if they thought the “ick” factor would drive away the male half of their audience. But Ryley’s old farts haven’t been deterred. Yes, even the Chainsaw Massacre of subjects female business can catch a guy’s attention more successfully than the self submitted porno videos that litter the Internet.

Yesterday I finished reading American Rose to Claudia. Its a biography of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. I found it in a thrift shop this summer and to my delight it dished about a lot of historical characters I’ve been reading about lately as well as vaudeville, and burlesque. It makes clear that Gypsy mythologized her life while giving new meaning to the term “stage mothers.” Her Mother was a lesbian/psychopath/serial murderer. Trust me, none of that got into Gypsy’s self created mythology. Gypsy and her sister survived one helluva childhood.

Gypsy was a product of those bad old days before sex education classes. You know, the Era of brothels, madams, back alley abortionists and casting room couches. I doubt that the departure of Roger Aisles will put an end to that Era and God knows, today a pernicious new sex trafficking epidemic to taken root. Thank goodness the idea of “fallen women” is being put to rest by women like Schumer. She might even kill off “slut” or force us to find an equivalent term for men that doesn’t leave us jealous or in awe of them. Talk about bragging rights Casanova claimed to have gotten his own daughter into bed.

I was in junior high when Sex Ed classes relieved my parents from the responsibility of embarassing me but just in case my folks had no objection to my seeing the movie Gypsy should sex ed fall short. Heck, my Aunt and Uncle were sophisticates and when they were visiting Duluth they took in the Saratoga as many young couples did in the Mad Men Era. Myth or not I suppose seeing the movie was every bit as edifying as anything I learned in Sex ed. It wasn’t graphic; and it was a myth; but it also gave my parent’s way of giving me a preview of coming attractions. Today Amy Schumer fits that bill.

Gypsy was famous for giving her audiences as little sex as possible and performing a parody of strip tease with a wink and faux blushes.
I prefer the candid conversation prompted by today’s young comics who don’t wink and who leave all the blushing up to me.

Unto the fifth generation – Not!

My children are as allergic to today’s GOP as though it was a toxic substance. If it had not become the party of God and the vulgarian, double talker, Donald Trump, they might have become fifth generation Republicans.

Using the best examples from my family’s history I’d like to talk about the preceding four generations.

The Grand Old Party began its life a few years before my Great Grandfather entered New York harbor from Ireland in 1860 one month after Lincoln’s election and two months before his inauguration. “What’s the news?” called a passenger on his ship as they passed an outward bound vessel. “South Carolina has seceded from the Union,” was the reply. Thomas Robb was twelve years old. It would be four years of war plus seven years of Reconstruction before he could cast his first vote as a naturalized citizen.

Thomas was the son of a protestant land manager who had threats made against his life by Irish Nationalists. The men who left that threat attached to a prize bull they killed were largely Catholics in Ireland and Democrats in America. It’s not surprising then that Thomas would vote Republican.

If he had any doubts about his party’s virtues one incident sealed his thinking. Continue reading

Zero Hour’s beginnings twelve years ago

Tonight I decided to look through old scribblings of mine thinking that I might be able to cobble a book together for use in a possibly nefarious activity in the near future. I discovered a 2002 column I had written for the Duluth Reader during my four-year stint as a columnist. The column presaged the email I’ve been receiving for the past couple weeks from students and parents trying to save the zero hour.

In 2001 I labored long and hard to pass an operational levy. It was an uphill fight. I remember PTA President Judy Seliga-Punyko telling me that she wouldn’t vote for it. She was mad that the school board hadn’t acted on my idea to slim down from three high schools to two high schools. I thought her reasoning was nuts. The following year after the failure of the levy we put an end to the seven period day. Years later Judy’s memory of the loss of the seven periods involved my being on the School Board when it happened so that I could take the blame. She had no memory of voting against the referendum that would have allowed us to keep it.

Well, I’ve pasted the last half of the column below which deals with the Union’s crocodile tears about having lost the extra period. The column begins with my mulling over another run for the legislature in the 2002 election. I eventually did run and lost – one of my thirteen electoral defeats. I think its 13. Its hard to remember them all.

Here’s what I wrote about the “seven period day.” Or, if you’d like, you can read the whole original column:

Last week I bumped into my old nemesis Frank Wanner, the teachers’ union president, a fellow who helped put me in the minority. While my feud with Frank was put to bed two years ago my feud with the folks he helped elect lives on. Well, it’s true that one of them was defeated last year, but the three-high school supporters still have more votes. Frank was very cordial and suggested that we get together. I promised to call.

The next day I had to leave a message with him because he was holding a press conference about saving the seven-period day. I sure wish he’d done this before we finished registering students for a six-period day! When my wife saw him on the news she said, “No wonder Frank was so friendly!” The next day I left another message for Frank.

The weekend was blissfully free of politics (except for some email) until we joined friends for an Easter Dinner. Our friend’s son is interested in political science. He told me that Frank likes to bad mouth SUVs in class. Apparently my website gets discussed too. That explains some of my email.

Frank called me back on Monday and we agreed to meet at Bixby’s. I told Frank that I’d heard that he hated SUV’s. He smiled and asked where I’d heard this. I told him that I had my sources.

We talked about his seven-period day proposal which he assured me was not a negotiations ploy. I prefer to take him at his word. The DFT wants high school students to be able to take up to seven classes a day. Many students, teachers and parents are convinced that this is a key to getting into their preferred colleges. Whether it is or not the six-period day is our response to financial hard times. I told Frank what I keep telling the Board – if we had two high schools we could keep seven periods. Frank didn’t disagree. Ah! But I’m in the minority!

If I could just get elected to the legislature maybe I could do something about school finance. I’m sure not having much luck on the school board.

on National Teacher’s Day

After eight hours of lying in my bed waking periodically so that my night’s sleep only amounted to four or five hours between long stretches of mulling over the future of the Duluth Schools I woke to find that it was National Teacher’s Day. I also found that Snoopy was done with his May dances having danced up a storm two days in a row. By May 3rd he was done with it.

Well, I’ll pick up where the Snoopster left off on May 3rd. with a rumination about a special teacher.

I moved from Kansas to Minnesota at the beginning of seventh grade and learned to my shock that I sounded like a southerner to the kids in North Mankato Junior High. They called me “Reb.” I was invited to my first fight within weeks of my arrival. I almost immediately was exposed as being near sighted and had to wear cardboard sunglasses to school and endure other indignities for the next three years. It was life out of a Beverly Cleary book.

I doubt that after she retired Mrs. Jones, my English teacher, would have had much of a recollection of me but I’ve never forgotten her. She was the teacher who on November 22nd, after an uncharacteristically lengthy absence from class, returned to tell us solemnly that President Kennedy had been shot. She made us learn the spelling of unexpected words like Albuquerque and “Rottweiler.” I remember her telling us of a girl tormented by a boy, who had asked Mrs. Jones for advice. Mrs. Jones advice was very funny. The next time the boy tormented the girl his victim told him in a serious and as complimentary a tone as she could muster, “You know Billy, you are very cadaverous.” Thinking he had been paid the highest compliment without having the slightest idea what the word meant the tormentor became more of a source of amusement to his victim than a menace.

Mrs. Jones was fascinated by the events of the world and made us read her classroom copies of the Reader’s Digest. I can’t forget reading about the Stanleyville Massacre and the vision of European’s stranded in the Congo surrounded by crowds of Congolese who cut out their livers and passed them around to eat before their dying eyes. For generations Africans had shared the livers of lions in much the same way to take on their power. Now they were taking on the powers of their hated colonizers. I remember reading the novella The Snow Goose , a story of another outsider, a hunchback, who bravely rescues doomed men at the battle of Dunkirk. And I remember reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I don’t read much fiction but I read this book carefully and was prepared when Mrs. Jones gave us a thirty question test on the story.

A day later Mrs. Jones announced to the class, with great satisfaction, that two students had gotten perfect papers on the test and asked the kids to guess who the smart kids were. All the popular or smart kids were guessed but all the guesses were wrong. Mrs. Jones announced that Jim Koeppen and Harry Welty had gotten perfect papers. Funny, I’m getting tears in my eyes thinking about my old teacher’s humanity. I was a kid who needed to be something other than a dorky newcomer with a funny accent and for the rest of that class I was I was a smart kid.

Its funny how such small tokens of generosity can stay with a person for a lifetime. Thank you Mrs. Jones wherever your spirit rests.

I fought the law

As I was belatedly putting away my Mother’s christmas ornaments this morning I was thinking about how strange it is that I’ve developed a reputation for being something of a hell raiser. I don’t think I’m a whit different inside than I was back in my school days. Back then I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes.

I still remember the most daring thing I did all through-out high school that violated school policy. As a senior I let myself get badgered into taking a fake hall pass into Mrs. Beech’s classroom to give to Barb Shelhorn. It was spring so I almost got through four years of high school without a misdemeanor but I let Jim Robinson harangue me into it. I was minding my own business, probably in a study hall, when he handed me a pink hall pass with Barb’s name and some forged adult’s signature. He asked me to go to Beech’s class, knock on the door and say I had a pass for Barb. Mrs. Beech looked at me hard when I did this but let me come into her class to give Barb the pass. Barb left with me and met Jim in the hallway.

It was not exactly Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off. Sample Dialogue: “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t come to the door right now. I’m afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences.” But today I’m rather more enamored of Ferris at least compared to the stifling of creativity by orthodoxy.

Ah, but pardon me. I must go out an buy the latest copy of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. It’s in its 11th edition. I did like to sing “I fought the law but the law won” by the Bobby Fuller Four but I’m still not a rebel. It was a horrible song and so damned singable.

Taking a pin to my pompous balloon

Yeah, this email reaction to my white lie post from a sympathizer just about sums it up:

“Harry, except for talking too much, you are a real asset to our community.”

My Buddy was a little less charitable offering me an alternative adage:

“Bullshit might make the grass grow green, but . . .”

He refrains from completing his proffered quote but I imagine that it would conclude something like this: … too much will kill the grass.

My Buddy gets great satisfaction from his disgust of bullshit. I rather admire him for that.

Meanwhile yet another ally heading off to the DFL convention today to choose between Sharla Gardner and Rep. Simonson for the State Senate endorsement sent me a very interesting Q & A. It was with the Author of the book What’s the Matter with Kansas which skewered Republicans. He’s got a new book out now skewering Democrats.

Maybe my real quarrel is with all the college-educated folks who insisted that spending half a billion bucks on new schools would lead to nirvana. Of course, at the time, all I could think of was the children’s fable about the Emperor’s new clothes. I’m sure the King’s courtiers and counselors all went to Ivy League schools and were pained to hear that only dolts could not see the King’s regal new attire.

BTW. I had great fun yesterday reading Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax to kindergartners through 2nd graders at Lakewood Elementary for Earth Day. It taught me that there are some things we really don’t thneed.

Thinking in Adages

I was named after a man my Dad was profoundly disappointed in, his father, Harry Welty.

There is it. After a couple hours of fervid thinking about anything and everything other than a memoir I woke up with a good first sentence for such a thing. I’m not sure of a second sentence to follow but it might be something like – I have lived with deep regret since his death thirty years ago that he left this world burdened with a profound disappointment in me too.

Although the second sentence is still in doubt that first one so naturally leads into a first chapter that it almost seems like a magic incantation. But I’m not here at my computer to write that chapter, let alone an autobiography. I feel immensely rested despite a mere four hours of sleep. I didn’t even toss and turn in the hours that followed. My mind simply raced from one potential post to the next. My dedicated readers will recognize this. War and Peace was a mere 560,000 words. It is dwarfed by this blog in verbiage if not content. This is my sanity. I pour some small portion of what’s on my mind in here to prevent me from hearing voices in my head.

Yesterday I thought of a good adage and, before forgetting, typed it into an email and pushed send to myseslf. This is it: “White lies are like clouds. Stack enough of them on top of each other and they won’t let any light in.” It could almost go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that recent events helped condense that bit of cumulus in my head.

In my first blog post yesterday I included about six titles for posts I wanted to write. I got to four or five of them. One had a list of miscellany that I didn’t get a round to blogging about. This morning has left me with a great many more among them, Why I didn’t check to see if my sister was OK after the Earthquake in Equador; An official record of how shot up my Grandfather was after WW I; How to keep Kansas sod from rotting when you are building a house; and this one – How Chair Harala and I are keeping it civil under our current duress. I’m sure the 375 readers this month who, according to my blog stats, spent over an hour reading my blog in a single sitting would like me to expound on that. In due course. In due course.

Yesterday I came closer to settling my future finances, raked the yard, worked into the night answering email and writing up what my church’s men’s club plans to do in the future for the Bulletin and joined my wife to watch the last 45 minutes of Some Like it Hot. What a funny movie that is and, for me, it keeps getting funnier. The host of TCM told an anecdote about it afterwards I found charming. Its director, Billy Wilder, screened it in front of 600 people who sat through it in stony silence except for one fellow who laughed all by himself all the way through it. The guy who laughed was one of my first television crushes, Steve Allen.

There, that does it. That’s all the stuff that kept me awake. Oh, except for mentioning that I will be spending Earth Day at Lakewood School reading Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax to first and second graders. That alone should make up for all the things I couldn’t stop thinking about while not tossing and turning – how I screwed up as a new teacher and disappointed my Dad on the eve of his death.

That was just one teacher’s travail. Now I feel like an entire school district’s fate hinges on how well I navigate the next few weeks – or years. As Jana Hollingsworth once told me: “It’s all about you.” Only, as far as ISD 709 is concerned, it really isn’t.

“Fair enough”

So, where have I been for the past couple days? I have a post with nothing in it lined up to talk about the persecution of Art Johnston by a gold star teacher. I know what will go there I just haven’t found the time to write it yet. The person who prompted my last post cut me a lot of slack for not polishing up my posts by accepting my excuse that I was too darned busy to fuss about editing so many words. “Fair enough” my critic wrote. But, I have worked harder for the past month trying to smooth out the worst shambles in my writing. too much is at stake for me to lose credibility with new readers unaccustomed to my blithe disregard for well written posts.

I have been, Well, busy. Continue reading

“I never met a man I didn’t like.”

I took this maxim to heart when I was a kid. I’m not sure how its author, Will Rogers, got into my head. Rogers was a rope trick vaudevillian from Oklahoma and became something of the Nation’s conscience through the Depression. He was killed in a plane crash before World War II but still his memory hung on so that I was well aware of him as a kid. I never saw his movies, I never read his newspaper columns. I only heard him in snippets. He was a gentle political commentator who said famously, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” He was so All American that he was part Indian. (I should go check Wikipedia to make sure I’ve got this all down right but if I’m wrong my Buddy or someone else will correct me and I’ll duly note it in some future blog post.)

My late night writing about Art Johnston, and Cheryl Lein and the current campaign for a new and improved school board must have been stewing in my head all night. I woke up with that quote in my head. The first time I heard it, back in my elementary school days, I decided that’s how I was going to be: I’d never meet a man I wouldn’t like.

Some men, and lately a few women, have made that a challenge. Continue reading

Fond Farewell’s- Morgan Park

Today’s paper has a story about the closing of the 99-year old Morgan Park School and today’s open house where alumni and others can get one last look at the school. Aaron Schweiger is hoping to have better luck wooing MP residents than he had with Rockridge’s neighbors. The Open House will be run from 10AM until 3PM.

I started substitute teaching the last year that Morgan Park was a high school and I often subbed for my friend, DFL Senator Sam Solon, while he was in St. Paul legislating. Sam taught social studies there. Later I got a two-year gig teaching at the school where I had Alanna Oswald (Then Rogers) in my class. Before that I had taken my Proctor boys swimming teams to the MP pool for swimming meets. It was brand spanking new in 1976.

My Dad died just after I finished my last year teaching at the school and learned that I wouldn’t be getting tenure. Had these twin blows not occurred I wouldn’t have become a snow sculptor. Life goes on.

I need a rainy day

Claudia asked me why I was pacing the kitchen this morning. She didn’t realize I’d hopped out of bed at midnight too agitated to sleep on my brand new pillow – one that wasn’t crushed flat. I thought running a few errands at Walgreens might work of my restlessness. I should have just started blogging but I couldn’t quite convince myself that looking at a bluescreen was the thing to do. Instead I slept fitfully on and off on our couch till the early hours then paced as I made my morning coffee….. Claudia has given it up for tea to get a better night’s sleep.

I’d just picked up the Trib and saw that the local Edison Board is planning, in large part, to sever their connection with the national Edison corporation. Its been on their minds to do this for many years. Now it will be done in tandem with their setting up their new high school.

Its going to be a sunny day and my grandsons are coming over so I will limit my blogging despite an avalanche of things to shoot my fingers off about. Tomorrow it looks to rain. Maybe I’ll be able to work off my pacing instinct then. But let’s just see if I can work on tomorrow’s foundation till the boys arrive.

The first time I desperately wanted to write

Claudia and I took six or seven years to decide whether to bring children into this crazy world. It meant a couple strong hints from my parents with baby booties in Christmas socks. When it happened Claudia’s Mother who had experienced the glass ceiling was a little distraught for her daughter thinking she had given up the possibility of being anything other than a wife and mother.

Babies can make everything OK. When our daughter was born we made plans for her baptism at our church, Glen Avon. My Grandmother had sent me the Christening dress she had been baptized in back in 1900. That in turn had been sewn by her great grandmother who was born about the same time as Abe Lincoln and the War of 1812. I loved the thought of putting our daughter in it for the next baptizing. (Ah, Pandora is playing the theme to the movie To Kill a Mockingbird)

My parents weren’t particularly fussy about religious stuff and a baptism was not a draw for them. Neeither was Claudia’s Mom all that churchy but she wanted to fly up on Saturday before hand so she could be there with us. Her new husband Charlie was a pilot. He would fly them up as well as his grade school daughter. Saturday was gray and drizzly and we got the word that if the weather was bad (Charlie wasn’t rated to fly instruments) they might end up somewhere else until the sky cleared.

Claudia and I along with our new baby went up to Butler’s Air Terminal (If I’m recalling the name correctly) to wait for their arrival. After an hour beyond their scheduled arrival time we were getting worried. I’ll cut to the chase here. Charlie got them all killed. We didn’t know this for some time and the next 24 hours were seared in my brain for months to come. Every minute by minute detail, was lodged in my head and seemed dreadfully important. I thought I ought to write them all down for, I don’t know, posterity I guess. As the months slipped by the details blinked out but I could, even now, tell you a lot of details about the Civil Air Patrol, A funeral service filled with all the kids in Christie’s fifth grade class and one body not so badly disfigured that an open casket for one of the three deceased was possible, bears covering the bodies they found at the crash site with leaves, Neighbors bringing us casseroles, Months of clearing out Shirley’s home and settling her estate.

My grandmother’s christening dress still hangs in one of our closets never used by us. Even so, it brings back memories. It took me ten years to start writing and that required an Apple Computer and software that allowed me to correct my copious keyboarding mistakes. Those are still plentiful as are poor story telling which requires some serious proof reading. There are no spell checks for sloppy prose.

There are a lot of epigrams about how writers can’t be trusted. I can’t recall the one I had in mind by a quick google search found, “A writer is always selling someone out.” That’ll do. I still apparently want to write pretty desperately. I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t blog for a while. I also get anxious because of how far behind I feel.

My Mother-in-law would have been a very cool Grandmother. Damn Charlie. He wasn’t rated for instruments.

Wrassling

The string of seven and eight hour nights worth of sleep keeps chugging along. I must be doing something right. Recently I got two thousand dollar pledges to help with Art’s legal fight so that put me in a good mood. I’ll have to write and send out a first fundraising letter soon now that my time is getting freed up. Claudia does want me to check with attorneys to make sure there is nothing illegal about my helping a friend and colleague beat back an inquisition.

I spent an hour this morning in the cool spring air beating the heck out of cushions and pillows to get rid of dust mites. Every little cloud of dust that wafted over my patio from each whack with my old Wilson tennis racket was gratifying. I gave up with about 70% of the cushions complete and blisters had set in. I turned then to finishing the last of the newspapers that I have been stock piling.

One of them contained an obituary/story I found interesting about Vern Gagne. It reminded me of a handful of related stories about the world of professional wrestling I grew up with.

I remember driving through rural Missouri on a family trip in grade school when my Dad pointed to a car with a big handmade sign over its trunk. It announced the car’s driver “Haystacks Calhoon”. Dad told us that Haystacks was a professional wrestler and I was pleased to see a celebrity even if I didn’t know exactly who he was. We Kansans pronounced it “wrassling” and its practitioners were “wrasslers” even when you spelled it the right way with a “t.”

I paid scant attention to the professional wrestling shows broadcast out of Kansas City, just enough to know the sobriquets (nicknames) of a half dozen of the colorful characters who preened before their adoring fans. I was surprised when I moved to Minnesota in seventh grade to see a whole new cast of characters on the local wrestling shows. That’s when I learned that the whole nation was divided into a dozen wrestling fiefdoms each with its own world champion. That sort of championship, along with the histrionics of the athletes I would have preferred to be stoic, confirmed my disinterest in their world.

I really didn’t need to hear my physical education teacher, Luverne Klar, telling me in high school that professional wrestling was phony. He had been one of the light-weight wrestlers on Vern’s University of Minnesota Wrestling team. Mr. Klar never tired of telling his classes how disgusted he was with the sham. He never forgave Vern for becoming a millionaire by claiming that professional wrestlers were serious athletes. Claudia had him for homeroom and didn’t much care for him but Mr. Klar once defended me from a bully and I had a sort of soft spot for the old curmudgeon.

Then I found myself in college with the son of Vern’s business partner, the wrestling “promoter” Wally Karbo. Wally’s shtick was to complain about the bad wrestlers and how he was going to deal with them for their bad behavior. He had no grace or wit but the seriousness of his boring complaints was oddly entertaining. His son, Steve, caught my interest immediately because of the association. Steve joined my fraternity as a pledge immediately after I went “active.” He was several years older than me and had just come back from Vietnam.

I immediately took a dim view of him because of my goody-two-shoes remove from this father’s shallow and seedy world. But Steve had a few surprises for me. He once told me of an epic drunk while he was in Vietnam in which he commandeered (stole) a jeep and drove it around all night in a stupor with a loaded M-16 intending to shoot anyone who tried to stop him. He swore to me that had he been stopped he would have killed somebody but such was his luck that no one bothered him and he quietly, if drunkenly, returned the jeep.

I’m not sure why it came up but one night I began reciting the famous soliloquy from Hamlet: “Time creeps by in its petty pace” that Mrs. Fitzsimons had required her English students to memorize in my senior year of high school. I only memorized that single verse for a C, much to Mrs. Fitzsimons’s disappointment. I refused to memorize two more Shakespearian sonnets to get an A for that unit. She told me they would enrich my life but I’m not a fan of memorization. I still don’t know the 23rd Psalm or the Apostles Creed – by heart anyway.

It had only been a year since I’d memorized my Hamlet so I could get through it but stopped about twelve lines on where my memorization had ended. I was trying to impress the Vet with my superior knowledge. And then Steve Karbo continued the recitation. He must have recited two or three pages of the text at breakneck speed before I was sufficiently humbled. Lesson learned. After that I was happy to work for him at the local armory when he put on a wrestling card although I did feel a little sorry for Scrap Iron Gadasky who was a regular loser on every card he wrestled.

There is one more story concerning Steve involving the most shocking bit of personal history I’ve revealed on my blog but, as this is an election year, I feel no need to complicate my notoriety or the political task I have set for myself. I’ll wait until I write about my Mom if only my fellow board members stop giving me so much reason to write about them.

I’ll mention the last time I met Steve about thirty years ago. It was at a country club in Mankato. He was nervously popping pills when I asked him if he’d managed to achieve the ambition to become a millionaire before age thirty. He told me he had managed that.

Steve died a few years later. Heart attack I think.

My Fraternity

The last post is the first one in nine years to have mentioned the name of my college fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. This is the second. Searching the blog I only found two mentions of the phrase “my fraternity” in previous posts. One is unflattering the other harmless. I spent four years with some of my brothers and have complicated thoughts about my time with them – too complicated for a simple post or two.

Recent events in Oklahoma have been on all fraternity men’s minds lately. I’ve been so preoccupied I have probably paid less attention to them than most. I mentioned to one of the fellows while in Mankato that I found it ironic that it had been an SAE (Sigma Alpha Epislon) chapter that had its members shout racist stupidities. That’s because forty years ago, just after many national fraternities (including mine) had dropped their Aryan membership requirements, it was our local SAE chapter that pledged a black fraternity member. Then my brother explained that the offending Oklahoma chapter had a black member!!!!!! I’ll let the exclamation points speak for me. Continue reading

Goodbye Mom

Short posts are easy. Long ones take work. When I have something I want to say well I often fail to do so because I crank them out and then fail to edit them because of time. That was the case the day after my Mother died in December. I wrote a 2,500-word post that contained all the information I would need to have a splendid little memory but when I read it last week saw how rough it was. I had thought about sharing it with my Mother’s friends but even the hour I took to start editing it was not nearly enough.

The reason I looked at it again was the fruition of long talks with my brother about putting her next to Dad in Mankato’s Woodland Hills Cemetery. Somewhere in the files I’ve preserved over forty years is the reading I cranked out a day or two after my Dad died. (One of the reasons I am so eager to have a proper place to organize and store forty years-worth of memories. Maybe I’ll also find the remembrance he wrote the year before to read at my Grandmother’s memorial.

On that occasion 27 years ago I headed up to Mankato State’s library and hopped on a Mac computer and cranked out about seven pages of text only to have the computer seize up with about ten minutes left before the library kicked me out just before I got the chance to print it out.

Unlike that earlier time my Brother and I had made no plans to hold a memorial for Mom. It had been years since my Mother had lived in Mankato and we weren’t sure anyone would show up. We did, however, settle on a date. Our fraternity was holding a fiftieth Anniversary Gala of its founding and although between us we had only attended two “Founder’s Days” in the intervening four decades we thought a March date seemed fortuitous. I’d contacted the cemetery and arranged for an early Saturday interment. Continue reading

Throttling the Grizzly

Just short of 2AM I was in the midst of a colorful dream too peculiar to make sense of the details. I had been watching ant sized people conducting business on a lake surface which had frozen overnight. I was waiting to see if any of them fell through the ice when suddenly a huge wave washed over the ice from the appearance of what looked to be a twenty foot grizzly bear. I rushed from my home downstairs and out a back door onto the shore of the lake. As I did so the bear suddenly rose up from just below me and I reached for him to throw my arms around his head to protect the people below on the ice. Reaching for the bear over the side of my bed woke me instantly. Second night in a row for a 2AM wake up.

Last night I couldn’t bring myself to blog or read a backlog of newspapers. I threw on some cloths and hiked up Woodland Ave past the new Dinkytown and spent the early morning walking under the stars until daybreak. Tonight I laid in bed with a lot of thoughts to accompany me. When I was younger and slept through the night more predictably I thought sleep was greatly over rated. Lately I’ve read far too many news stories on the “science” of sleep and the conclusion that not getting enough shortens one’s life. Rats!

I’ve never been one to see much in dreams. Perhaps my Grizzly was the School Board but that’s an analogy that is too easy. Dealing with it won’t be easier if I stare at this blue screen any longer at 3AM. I just had a good yawn. Maybe all the other posts I imagined typing up will drift away if I try to catch a little more shut eye. Another yawn……Let’s give it a try.

Sticks and Stones

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I said I wanted to write about Charter Schools. I even spent fifteen minutes at my Rockridge meeting talking about them this morning. But a piece of paper I’d jotted a dozen different subtopics on has gone missing. In my consternation I grabbed a snow shovel and spent better than an hour trimming away some of the snow and ice that has crept up on my home. Then I started thinking about an old friend and my Mom and a possible series of articles I could write about name calling from my own experience. I might collect them for a book or submit them to Duluth’s own Reader Weekly. Sadly the publisher of the Reader seems to be worried that my writing for his publication might put his publication in a fairness doctrine bind. Other School Board members might demand equal space. Oh well.

I’ll call my old buddy Joe. I got an email from him a week ago which I haven’t read yet.

It contains a long and dry exposition on the looming threat of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan as the US begins its withdrawal. It was published in a foreign service magazine. Joe should know what he’s writing about. He was a State Department economics expert who put in a couple years in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the worst of the IED years. I’m afraid his email is now on my backlog of things to attend to if I ever drain the swamp. Damn alligators.

I met Joe when I was a peripheral kid in junior high. A friend, my only school friend in junior high, talked me into joining the school’s gymnastic team and since I could do a handspring I thought that was just the ticket for me. I lettered in gymnastics several years in a row along with track once or twice making me one of the letteringest kids in North Mankato Junior High. (It was really Garfield Junior but everyone had forgotten the poor martyred President’s name by 1964.) Continue reading

Can the GOP take West Duluth? and a reminiscence

I think so if two serious challengers run write-in campaigns in Kerry Gauthier’s district.

I don’t know how many “conservative” votes there are in the old Jaros/Munger house seat. When I ran a campaign in the area back in 1980 I discovered that Richard Nixon only got 23% of the vote in far western Duluth. That was 1972 and the biggest ever blow-out Presidential election in America’s modern history. George McGovern got three times as many votes as Nixon in west Duluth. That’s a tough district for any Republican.

I’d guess that the four decades that have passed have taken a lot of old New Dealers with them. Today a good Republican should get an easy 35% of the vote out west especially in a Presidential election year.

Gauthier’s name will be on the ballot even though he’s decided to “withdraw.” I’d be surprised if he got much less than ten percent of the vote. For argument’s sake lets assume that he gets 7% and the Republican, Mr. Silver, gets 30%. That would leave the two (so far) write-in candidates fighting over 63% of the available vote. It would take a near miracle to get that many voters to cast a write-in but if that happened one of the newcomers would have to clean the other’s clock. Could an assistant fire chief pull such a thing off over a sitting City Councilor? Could the reverse happen?

The Republicans are in deep doo doo (Broadkorb, Sutton, et al) all across Minnesota this year but I’ll bet some Minnesota Koch-brother-type would love to kick in some money to see at least one satisfying and unexpected GOP victory this year.

I’d like to add one more thought.

To my mind no one has been irreparably hurt by this incident except Mr. Gauthier. Thomas Huntley called him a “child molester.” From what I know about this day and age in America and what I know about most boys over the age of 17 I find that description a stretch not withstanding my previous description of the young man as a “boy.”

So let me follow with a personal story.

When I was 20 years old I got a chance to be an intern in Washington DC. I lived in a run-down block about eight blocks from the Capitol Building. Next door was a gentrified house lived in by two gay men, both college professors as I recall. I was living next door in an ancient town house in a room I painted black and white. (The radiator was zebra striped) I’d been in the city for about a month when I decided I needed to cook something and bought a cake mix. When I realized I had nothing to bake it in I got the crazy midwestern idea of asking my neighbors for a baking pan. The first two doors I knocked on got me nowhere but the third door, the next door, brought results.

An effeminate man answered the door and was delighted with my request. He invited me into a house with a lot more class than my grubby black and white. When I returned the pan a few days later he and his partner invited me to have a martini (my first) with them. They took me to a very cool backyard patio/garden showed me a platter of ripe tomato slices collected from a nearby Farmer’s Market and we had a very nice chat.

I asked my housemates if they thought the neighbors might be gay when I got back later that night. To their credits my housemates were indifferent. I got invited over several times afterward and was introduced to a number of men who seemed like sophisticates. One was a British fellow who had been the premier danseur for a Parisian Ballet Company. They were fairly interested in me and my drudge-like work in the bowels of the Congressional Office Buildings. The subject of marijuana came up. I told them I’d read a survey that summer that reported that something like 70% of the staff of the Congress admitted to using grass. Even in the office of my conservative Republican Congressmen the staff was so casual that all of the staff under the age of 30 (including me) confessed to the Administrative Assistant to having used grass. Some of the fellows at the party had usedJus grass, one expressed interest and another was a little shocked by the subject. It was a good chance for me to reciprocate for the martinis I had been served a month earlier and I offered to bring a dime bag over for them to sample. They thought it a capital idea so I did and we toked up.

In some ways the evening ended rather poorly. Marijuana has a tendency to make folks a little paranoid and that was the affect on me this particular night. I was surrounded by five pretty harmless gay men who were obviously interested in me. When I was sober this was not a problem. After the intoxication kicked in, however, one of them, produced a kitten and placed it on the sofa next to me. When the hand petting the kitten went astray and rubbed against my knee I mumbled an excuse and abruptly left the house.

I felt a little bad about my hasty departure the next morning. Even so we stayed on cordial terms although I only stopped by their house once more to say goodbye prior to flying back to a new school year at Mankato State. Both the partners mentioned that they would be in Europe the following summer and invited me to be their house sitter. I rather liked the idea.

My father did not. I’d told him the men were gay and it was likely their friends would drop by. My Dad was alarmed enough about the offer that I sent my old neighbors my regrets. They were honest regrets.

The point of this is that even though I wasn’t at all interested in sex with men had I been this would have been a comfortable a place to do some exploring. The primere dansur told us a very funny story about his youth in the Paris Ballet. He told us that all the ballerinas tried to have sex with him because, in the trade, it was considered good luck to sleep with a virgin. All the gay men at the party in D.C. thought this was very funny. Of course, as they all appreciated, the primere’s good luck was wasted on him as he was really not into ballerinas. On the other hand, had it been me in Paris I suspect I might have acted with a little more enthusiasm had a ballerina placed a kitten on the couch next to me.

Kerry Gauthier is close to my age and I know that he lived through a couple cruel decades as a young man where shame and humiliation were about the best he could expect in the way of public support. He says he’s suffered from addictive behavior for the past thirty years which may be evidence of that cruelty. I’m pleased that we seem to be heading to a new more enlightened age. I wish Mr. Gauthier well and I wish the same for the young fellow who answered his ad. They both deserved better than a public rest stop.

Word Search of the Day

Mea Culpa

I make my share of mistakes. I don’t worry too much about misspellings, typos, and other pretty constant static in my blog posts. I’ll occasionally find a blooper and quietly correct it. For instance yesterday when I was going through “uncategorized” posts which I had simply forgotten to file in one or more of the topical categories on the right side of the blog I found one that mentioned Der Spiegaj…….Oops. I meant the German publication Der Speigel. I changed the j to an l without remarking on the correction.

When I do make substantive mistakes I take pride in noting them even when it burns a little to admit my human frailty. I just ran into an old post called “I stand corrected” and it made me wonder how often I’d used the phrase. Then I wondered about how many other ways I could locate past apologies for providing misinformation in the past.

Here are a few other trite phrases I’ve used to correct past posts.

I stand corrected

I was wrong

my mistake