Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Filling up the empty nest

After four years on his own our son is moving back for the summer. The nexus of his lease ending and making plans for next fall put him on a collision course with bumming with friends, moving home, or living on the streets. I’m glad to say his old room beckoned and he moved his stuff back during our gardening mania. It’s the temporary end to our empty nesting.

I asked him to leave his bed alone until he moves back on the first of June. For the past week it’s been the place where I’ve been sorting documents relating to the Boyd Scandal. I’ve got to move it somewhere else but since my daughter’s bed is full of the stuff related to the Duluth Schools Endowment I’ve got nowhere to put the Scandal stuff. God forbid that I would put it in files. However tidy that would be it would threaten to put it out of my mind.

Except for the bed my son’s room is packed with four years of stuff. I won’t be able to help my son move it out of his room until I clean up the attic today. I can’t get into the attic until I move the mattress and bed spring that he brought back away from the door to the attic. And the attic is so cluttered from a winter of haphazard storing that it has to be cleaned up first. Then there’s cleaning the garage and the basement workroom…. There’s just no end of chores standing in my way of getting this Boyd book written.

At least the garden is finished and after last nights thunderstorms we should have four or five days of glorious weather. I just hope I’m not tempted to go agate hunting.

Memorial Day

A little before 6AM I got up and raised the flag over our front yard. It was foggy and the harbor fog horn was blowing. Most Memorial Days past we’ve been out of town so our flag has had to wait for Flag Day or July Fourth to be unfurled. Its supposed to be sunny through the morning and then we’ll get a good chance at thunderstorms.

The paper has Memorial Day stories about the Purple Heart medal and the Langhorst family who lost a son in Iraq. I learned one thing new from the paper. My Grandfather got his purple heart in 1932, years after he was wounded in WWI. The US gave thousands of the medals to World War One’s wounded retroactively when it decided to reintroduce the medal that George Washington designed for the first American War.

The Trib also has pictures of the 96 Minnesotans who have died in Iraq. The proper etiquette for flags on Memorial Day is to begin the day by raising them only to half staff. This is meant as a tribute to the people who have sacrificed, for the nation.

There were other troubling stories in the paper. One covered the Marine unit that apparently killed two dozen Iraqies indescrimately after a marine had been killed in an attack. Another was about how Iraqies have been so numbed by their travails that they seem indifferent to the massacre. Finally there was the story about the tribal chief who stuck his neck out to help Americans fight terrorists and was just gunned down for his troubles. Its a good thing our President has finally shown some humility. I hope he didn’t get a scolding for it from the Vice President.

All I’ll have to dodge today is dust and pine needles. Four days of gardening has slowly transformed the yard for the summer. We have eight tomato plants two eggplants, peppers and rhubarb and what seems like thousands of flowers. I hope its a sunny summer.

My bet with Will

I had lunch with my old buddy Jerry and Will Munger Jr. today. We got talking about the race for Congress in the 8th District and I said that Oberstar was lucky that Grams picked such a crumby year for Republicans to run against him. When he asked me how much Oberstar would win by I predicted that it would be less than 60%.

Will asked how come. I said that Grams would campaign hard name recognition and money and that Oberstar was a poor campaigner. I said that prognosticators who kept pointing out that Oberstar hadn’t gotten less than 65% of the vote since his 59% showing in 1992 didn’t appreciate how weak his opponants had been since 1992. Off hand I can’t remember a single one of his more recent challengers.

Will bet me a dinner that Grams wouldn’t get more than 40% of the vote. I told him that I’d be willing to bet that Oberstar wouldn’t get 60%. I pointed out that the difference was that I expected there could be an independent candidate in which case neither Grams or Oberstar would make that percentage. Will said he’d probably lose the bet. I hope so. I’d like a free meal.

As for 1992. I remember that election very well. I was an independent candidate running aginst both the Republican, Phil Herwig, and Oberstar. I got 7 percent of the vote and a fellow named Floyd Henspetter got 3%. I stopped running when the local Ross Perot people got mad at me. I’d listed my party as the “Perot Choice” party. I hadn’t asked anybody’s permission so that riled them up. this year I figure an independent candidate could do even better. Its likely to be an anti-incumbent election.

George Pal not George’s Pal defeats the Screwball Army

The growth of information available on the Internet continues to amaze me. A few years ago I don’t think I could find this little factoid. Now there are numerous references to it. This is what I was looking for:

In the late 1950’s I would go home from school for lunch. I had an hour, a real “lunch hour.” It was long enough to grab a bite to eat and watch Topeka’s local kid’s afternoon TV show with the puppet “Charlie Horse.” It was mostly a stream of old cartoons introduced by Charlie. They were cartoons from the 30’s and 40’s like Bonzo, Felix the Cat and Betty Boop.

I recall an stop action cartoon in which an army of nuts and bolts goes on a rampage. I was perfectly aware that it represented the Nazis because the echos of WW II were still so close. A number of years ago I saw snippets of it again on some PBS program but until I typed in “stop action” and “cartoons” I had no clue how to find out about it. That’s changed. The cartoon had the improbably title: “Tulips shall bloom” because it was set in Holland. The nuts and bolts are the “Screwballs Army” but they lose when the rain falls. Sounds like the Eastern campaign.

I was hoping to find the animation imbedded somewhere but for the time being I could only find this page with pictures and a brief plot description of the toon.

For my money it sure beats some of the toons like the Smurffs and He Man from my children’s cartoon Era.

Making this user friendly for my more senior readership

I’ve had a few older folks tell me that they’re having a hard time navigating through my stuff on the Upper Great Lakes Scandal. Don himself reminded me that almost anybody connected with it is at least sixty years old. Don is 79.

For starters I’m going to change the category from “Old News” to “Don Boyd Scandal of 1977.” That’s more specific. I may also try to separate the Old News/Don Boyd page from the rest of I have over 4,000 pages in Snowbizz and its probably as confusing for newcomers to the Internet to make sense of my web site as its been challenging for me to make sense of the thirty-year old UGRLC scandals.


I gave up a little past midnight last night trying to insert the sample of the FBI letter to Don Boyd in the second to the last post. I’ve spent a couple hours this morning trying to do the same thing. Maybe the server at my website is off its game. I’ll keep working on it through the day.

Oberstar’s endorsment

Today the 8th Congressional District DFL endorsed Jim Oberstar at their Convention. I had been tempted to distribute a brochure with the lovely picture of Jim hobnobbing with all the Republicans during one of their crudest bids for votes in the last couple years but eventually decided that there was little to be gained by this.

Besides’ since I was spending the last half of the week with my better half in the Twin Cities while she attended her safety convention we extended our stay through Saturday to stay with my brother and his family. Family should always trump politics.

In the morning my Brother took me and my niece for a drive around his neighborhood in the Minnetonka, Wayzata area. When we drove into a particularly secluded and well healed neighborhood I saw the names of all the residents on a little directory of the neighborhood. I’d seen rustic signs like that in cabin country before but never in a really tony neighborhood. One of the names was John Dasburg.

I haven’t followed the NWA news carefully enough to know who’s leading the corporation today as it struggles for survival but I sure recognized that name. How many John Dasburg’s there are in Minnesota I have no idea but it’s probably not many. Certainly it’s not many who live in three, four or five million dollar homes which is what all the homes in this little haven looked to be worth.

So, even though I didn’t go to that DFL convention I still managed to feel a little connection to the Congressman today since he has worked so closely with NWA over the years. A quick check of the Internet demonstrated that Oberstar had received a small contribution from Dasburg on at least one occasion, that being in 1997. I’m sure if I took the time to look I’d find other donations.

Lots of people give Jim contributions. I even saw the President of my old high school Senior class among the contributors in 97 and he was listed as having given even more to Oberstar on this report than Dasburg had. 

When I got home I set to reading all the local newspapers I’d missed while I was away. Tom West of the Budgeteer had some interesting insights to share about the Grams challenge to Oberstar. I rather think West would like to see Grams do well but he was honest in pointing out some of our ex-Senator’s liabilities. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t quite realize how empty a shell Oberstar is. Lucky for Jim it’s going to be a good year for Democrats running for Congress.


Blogging away from home

The worst part of blogging away from home is using the smallish keyboard on our new laptop. My big clumsy fingers punch all the wrong buttons or keys.

When I’m at a hotel and try to log on in the morning before work all the business types doing they’re last minute work before they head off to do battle clogs the wireless connections I’m still getting used to. I’m in the second day of a four-day visit to the Twin Cities and I have a few comments to make. I’ll see how long it takes to upload this now that its 9:30 in the AM.

Good Long Day

Late last night I worked on my Reader column. It’ll be a doozee. I sent it in an hour ago after sleeping on the last few edits but I’m not ready to upload it to my website yet. Just be patient.

The Northland Reader is undergoing staff changes. Richard, my trusty old editor is stepping to the side. He’s still working in the wings but a new, possibly temporary, editor sent us an email asking us to turn our columns in almost four days earlier than I used to. Even Richard had been trying to push our deadlines up. I was probably the most laggardly of the columnists.

Fortunately, I have a number of ideas circling my head so if I’m forced to push up the deadline I should be able to manage.

I worked on the column yesterday afternoon after a mile swim. My better half and I both went to the fitness center together. Afterwards we found a new restaurant on Superior St. Its a great place! Va Bene. Its manager rushed over to give us instructions on ordering which you do from the counter. He suggested ordering one course at a time. Its italian themed. I had a lovely soup and panini – pear and proscuitto and goat cheese and finished with a chocolate gelato. I skipped the wine so as not to dry out my vocal chords. The fellow sitting next to me in the Symphony Chorus told me that alcohol and coffee are killers. I abstained from the sauce to give my all to Verdi’s Requiem tonight. “Tuba mirrum spargens sonum.”

Claudia is on the Symphony Board and we were invited to dine at the Kitchi Gammi Club just before the performance. I went in my tux. Claudia said they would expect me to serve. Ha Ha Ha.

I ordered a bison ribeye but thought better of it when our waitress heaped praise on another 20 oz steak that was on special that night. I wasn’t that hungry but when another diner ordered a half portion I regretted that I hadn’t thought to do the same. A couple minutes later the server popped back and explained that the chef could only do this if someone else ordered the other half. I jumped at the chance and said I’ll take it.

When, ten minutes later, the server brought me my dinner and explained that it was my Bison ribeye I was a little flummoxed as were the other’s at the table. When someone commented on this she explained that my half portion of beef would be up shortly. Heck, I only had ten minutes to wolf down the ribeye before rushing off ahead of the others at the table to get to my seat on the risors. I had to start eating while everyone else waited to be served. Then when I was almost done my second meal arrived.

After the Verdi Requiem and lots of emoting and bellowing and an exhausting round of applause from an appreciative Duluth audience we went to Pizza Luce to hear my son’s band Sight like December. One of his bandmates, the violinist, conveyed his best wishes for my singing tonight at the DECC before I had gone on. Afterwards it was my time to reciprocate. They were really groovin and the audience was getting into it. I told him after their set that they sounded great. He told me he knew I was lying but thanked me for the thought. Lousy little cynic!

I’m leaving shortly for my Brother’s house in the Twin Cities (one of the suburbs actually). My niece/god daughter is having her first communion today and I must be there. Its a big event in the Catholic church and all the little girls will look like brides. My niece is determined to wear the dress she wore as the flower girl at my daughter’s wedding almost three years ago. I hope it still fits.

Family Gossip

I got a flurry of email yesterday concerning a proposal to set up a center for the history of World War I, named after my Grandfather George Seanor Robb, at his alma mater Park College.

I forwarded the email to eight siblings and cousins for their feedback. It would be an honor. The Center would be associated with America’s only museum devoted exclusively to World War I which is in Kansas City. My Grandfather shipped out to the great war from Kansas City. In fact he had written to a “mormon girl” hoping to meet her at KC on his way to New York. Somehow he missed her in the hustle and bustle of the station. He may have been thinking of proposing to her but that did not happen. When she wrote him later to tell him that a wealthy, older, New Yorker had proposed to her my Grandfather wrote back from the trenches of France and told her that as he could not be certain of returning home she should accept the marriage proposal. Had she waited for my Grandfather I would never have been born.

I know this story because my Mother loved to tell me stories about her family. I guess you could call it gossip but my Mother so loved her family warts and all so that what she told me never seemed like gossip with that word’s spiteful overtone. Even so, not all the stories were flattering. This is the email I sent my second Cousin this morning.


I’d love to see that letter. I’ve wondered about Mina for years. Mom had some stories about her and the family.
I believe her husband, Mr. Burke, was disabled. That may be too euphemistic a way to put it. I think Mom reported that one or both of his legs had been amputated. Mom never met him and I have no idea how long he and Mina were together.
Mina was the oldest and from what I understand the least popular of the Robb kids. She was close to her temperamental Father, Thomas, and regularly tattled on the boys who often got lickings because of her. I think she was supposed to be very bright.
She apparently made it her responsibility to make sure that her sickly ,maiden, sister Susie got an education and a teaching degree which, as we all know, Susie put to formidable use keeping errant, third-grade, Salina boys in line.
Apparently homemaking was not Mina’s cup of tea. On one occasion, perhaps before WW I her little brother, George, helped her clean up her house. Grandfather was disgusted with the state of its house keeping, it being the human equivalent of the stables that Hercules cleaned out in one of his seven labors. He told sister Susie that he “would never take a wife of his” into Mina’s house and I don’t believe that he ever did.
He did visit California once and Aunt Susie evidently warned Mina to clean her house like crazy so as not to appall her little brother. Evidently Mina must have worked feverishly to pass muster because Grandfather never expressed any disapproval of Mina’s California home.
Mom remembered meeting Mina’s daughters at some point. I’ve got their names somewhere in family records and a few years ago I googled them but since I don’t know what their married names are I have no idea where they are now. If I find some clues for you perhaps you could follow up as California is a likely place for their descendents to be hanging out. I’d be fascinated to hear any recollections from Mina’s side of the family story about her ratty little Robb brothers. My guess is that three generations on their Kansas stories have been all but washed away.”

People have always been too obsessed with being remembered for being paragons of virtue. Frankly paragons are boring. I wouldn’t mind meeting one but I wouldn’t hang out with them. I’d prefer a person with a little vinegar in their veins any day of the week.






Breakfast with a convict

Last year I wrote a column about an ancient local political scandal involving Jim Oberstar’s questionable funding sources for his 1974 campaign. I mentioned Don Boyd, a fellow who was accused of, but never found guilty of, embezzling a million dollars from the government. A few days after my column hit the stands I got an email from Don suggesting that we meet over a cup of coffee. He’d written a book. He did spend time in prison but not for stealing a million bucks. (There’s always something a fellow can be found guilty if you’ve got the help of a willing perjurer)

Sitting in prison and having his family’s honor tarred gave Don a lot to reflect on. If Don was innocent, as I rather suspect he was there could be a good book in it.

Unfortunately, Don hasn’t written it. His head is too full of details and at six or seven hundred pages no one but a crank like me would ever read or publish it. So I’ve decided to give him a hand. I’ll have more to say about this in my next Northland Reader column. Let the chips fall where they may.

No time to blog

I’ve just started two posts on topics so big it would take a day to edit my thoughts into coherence. I’ve saved but not published them in case I decide to attempt the editing.

I need something bite sized to start blogging this week so I’ll just list today’s preoccupations. At noon I’m gathering with some like minded folks to figure out how to organize next Tuesday’s meeting which is intended to kick-off an effort to raise millions of non tax dollars for the Duluth Schools.

Sometime between now and tomorrow night (when I go to a begining ballroom dance class w/o my dance partner) I have to write my column for the Reader.

Tonight I’m spending three hours rehearsing for my choral part in the upcomming Verdi Requiem with the Duluth Symphony.

I will probably have to skip my church’s men’s group dicussion of Deitrich Bonhoffer at noon tomorrow in order to get my Reader column written. Meanwhile I’d really like to finish the Erdman book “Misquoting Jesus.”

All the while in the back of my mind I’m trying to figure out how to tell my wife that I want to spend the summer doing an incredibly hair brained thing. I’m just too chicken to do it right now. Maybe one of my readers will broach the subject to her.

Lesson in the Sub Caucus System

Like the Republicans the Democrats that met at Woodland Junior High managed to put the platform on the backburner. In the case of the Republicans the platform is kept like the Ark of the Covenant and trotted out for modest amendments during convention years.

There were a hundred or so resolutions handed out to the delegates to vote on but not debated. When the convention neared its end they were collected. There was a line for us to indicate whether we wanted to debate them but we never got any debate. A 50% vote would be required to be passed on. I have no idea what passed.

I told Craig Grau that the convention seemed to confirm Will Roger’s comments from the thirties. It was not exactly disorderly but it was only loosely stage managed. The sub caucus system was the most mystical part.

About 20 of the 172 delegates lined up to announce the category of their sub caucuses. Some were for one candidate, some for a couple candidates, some were for issues some for candidates and issues. To elect a delegate to the next level of convention each subcaucus to gather 8 participants.

I jumped from one to another mostly interested in finding other centrists. The biggest group of the eventual six or so was led by AFSCME. The whole process was like a party mixer.

I was content to watch and didn’t try to get elected to the next level so this is the end of the convention system for me this year. Maybe I’ll get farther in 2008.

Off to the races

I’m off in ten minutes to the DFL District Convention. I’ve got an early meeting of the Rules Committee to attend.

Listening to Weekend Edition on NPR was a treat. A very interesting commentary by Joe Klein on how consultants have ruined politics…Amen. He made an surprising comment about Dubya. I think I agree….its too damn late though.

And a bio of the composer of “Brother can you spare a dime”

And an interesting tidbit on the iconic 60’s lefty and victim of the HUAC, Lillian Hellman, who did her best to keep Martin Luther King and later the NAACP from being given the bequest from Dorothy Parker’s will. Today’s leftists ought to look to her example for a little taste of humility before getting too puffed up about the self righteousness about religious conservatives.

A Good Reading

The Sedaris reading was great fun. Its the first reading I’ve been to since college when I heard Dick Gregory. Guess I’m just not the literary type.

He began with an animal story he’d just written about a mother crow and a mother lamb. Well written and with enough of an “ick” factor to make it memorable. He got a rise out of the largely urban audience when his crow asked the sheep mother whether she had eaten the placenta. Then the crow made the contemporary scornful comment about straying vegetarians who dismiss their straying. After that reading he mentioned that a young woman who was the daughter of a hippy had told him at a recent book signing that her father had cooked and eaten her placenta.

I couldn’t help but remember my Mother telling me about the Doctor in War torn Europe bringing a surprisingly regular supply of meat home for the families dinner. He was an obstetrician and it kept his family alive.


David Sedaris

I’m going to hear a reading by David Sedaris at the DECC tonight. Never heard of him? He’s a hoot. Sometimes an x-rated hoot.

This one isn’t x-rated and its a Christmas classic. Santaland Diaries was recorded on This American Life in 1996 at the beginning of his story telling career. Be patient. It starts after a four minute introduction. Its worth the wait.