Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

David Brooks is wrong

A fretful sleepless me awoke in a drier version of night sweats. I got up and wrote my next Reader Column. You will only get to peak at its still unedited beginning.

I told Claudia tonight that I thought the reason I’ve been sleeping well for the first time since God knows when, the beginning of my fight for a vote on the Red Plan maybe or, more likely, the emergence of Donald Trump a year before his election, and I thought it was because the Impeachment process had begun and now there was not just hope but the likelihood that America would come of of this new national nightmare with just some scratches and bruises. Or words to that affect.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I have been studying French copiously, and with some success, because its my sophisticate’s version of hiding my head in the sand. Maybe, just like Trump’s first emergence when I sculpted him in his finger pointing fury, I sense that he’s about to pull off a second win. Its a win that the eminently reasonable pundit David Brooks said recently we had little to fear from. Too many Americans don’t want him to be president for four more years despite the economy which a majority of Americans give him credit for. In fact, ………………….

Sorry, no more for now.

Harry’s Diary 1/23/2020

I returned money yesterday…..that’s the next post.

Today I signed up for two more French apps on my cell phone. One allows me to chat with people who will check my French as I check their English. The other is called “slow French News.” My determination to learn French just grows stronger. It is almost purely an academic challenge.

I read about the 400 people, some of whom were quite vocal, at last night’s boundary change meeting. Not only do I have hundreds of posts relating to the issues that were discussed, boundaries, Red Plan, race, neighborhoods, I have experienced even more heated meetings as a school board member about these issues. The most heated was ironically at the same locale when Ordean was a middle school. It had 800 angry parents, double last night’s attendance. My superintendent showcased all nine of the school board members behind tables on a stage in front of all the angry parents. And he deprived us of microphones. I’ve written about that too If you go to his link please click my comment about how much I detest demagogues. Its an anecdote about the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

I listened to the surprisingly stirring history given by Congressman Nadler. Trump should be removed. He’s lucky his party created conditions requiring their Senators to be eunuchs. Later I was impressed by the President’s worst enemy Congressman Shifty Schiff. In Trump’s case it takes one to know know one. In Schiff’s case it takes a prosecutor to unveil one.

After it got repetitive I went out and shoveled snow. When I came back in I asked my wife if there was anything new. She said the description of that Trump’s goons did to the Ukraine Ambassador was shameful.

Mt. Rushmore is weeping.

From Ken Star – GOP expert

The Constitution is unconstitutional.

And this is the second time he’s been involved in one. I am tempted to think he’s a tad hypocritical on this point.

In his first one he gave the Meuller treatment to the high crime of Bill Clinton’s spilling his seed on a grown up women’s dress. …that of course was not the high crime he hangs his hat on. Neither is it the string of Cosby/Epstein-like lies denying having done it. No, like Trump Clinton got into trouble trying to reaffirm the lie UNDER OATH. None of the other lies threatened our Democracy. Just the one under oath.

This is just a quick thought I wanted to unload before I undertake today’s big project. I will be busy today building a maze for my grandson’s first double digit birthday party.

I used to build huge mazes for the Chester Park Elementary School’s school carnival.

Wasscalwy Wabbit

My fingers are itchy enough to tease with stuff that’s been on my mind but only of consequence only to me. I just got the Christmas stuff put away and changed a load of laundry. That led to cleaning the kitty litter box and taking some litter out to the trash and then a reminder of the damage that our rabbits have done to us this winter. Just like the shrews I noted the day after the two foot snow dump our rabbits have had to deal with a lot of snow. When I piled up my elephantine snow I saw hundreds of rabbit turds. Little did I think about them being the remains of my foliage but the picture above shows the wasscal who stripped my “Burning Bush” of bark. I will cut it all down in Spring in hopes that new shoots will spring up. Yesterday I noticed that our cedar trees lower boughs were also badly nibbled having been pulled to the rabbit’s level by loads of snow. I hadn’t dug them out until yesterday. They too have taken a bad hit.

… and those shrews! I assumed I’d mentioned them in the blog but just discovered that that was not the case. I did however, mention them in my Not Eudora column of December 3rd.

Next up french practice…… maybe followed by another post. I’ll add that while taking the kitty litter out I finally resolved just what book to write to save America. Its a challenge that’s been gnawing at me for two years. I hope to begin ….after french, one more blog post and who knows what other distractions. BTW – Chevy Chase, Jerry Ford and the fall of Mainline Protestant Churches were what got me thinking about the book contents.

Keep your middle finger holstered

Donald Trump is counting on all my allies to stoke his reelection with their vitriol. In Trump’s view it will keep his supporters, many of them iffy voters, motivated to come out and vote for him even if the economy takes what now looks unlikely, a stumble. I have been similarly tempted to take offense at the middle fingers Trump’s supporters have pointed in my direction. But its just voting bait. I prefer cool calculated responses.

Not that I’m naive. I think David Brooks is naive. I heard him casually shrug off the possibility that Trump could get reelected on Public Television. I think David is dangerously misguided to adopt such confidence. Donald Trump is like a good surfer in rough waves. He has stayed out of jail for a lifetime by weilding his tens, hundreds and possibly billions of dollars like pugil sticks to keep any and everyone at bay. (I just found this link on pugil sticks and was stuck watching a seemingly unending ad on the Trump driven news source Epoch Times. Talk about a pugil stick)

Until the election I am going to assume that Trump can win. I believe that rational discussion is the only way to calm down middle fingers for Trump. I will be quick to tease, and criticize Trump but not his followers. I hope other Trump critics follow this example but not to the foolish extent David Brooks does.

I’ve not blogged much lately. I’m in a period of blogging remission but there has been plenty to test my patience. I have had Christmas decorations covering my office for a couple days now. I’ve got to put them away and clean all the debris from my office before I return to shooting my fingers off…..holstered or not.


8 days since my last post

Yup, Eight days!

Over those days I’ve been engrossed in imminently bloggable activities. I read the book about Stalin’s Nose. I watched the movie about Harriet Tubman which convinced me I’d much rather have her on the Twenty than Andy Jackson and I’ve watched some of the House Intelligence Committee testimony.

I’m still tidying up after the election. I still have to finalize my finance papers. I need to add the $180.00 I charged to my credit card in payments for Facebook ads. I’m not sure they did much good but it was an interesting experiment. I can’t say that I’m pleased to have paid to advertise on a platform which has no qualms about letting politicians lie through their teeth so long as there is the quid pro quo of money for the dissemination of lies.

I’ve been following the School District which is rather quickly receding from my view. I read Loren Martel’s piece in a recent Reader. I took my time getting around to that too. Loren asked if I’d read it a couple days ago when he dropped of some wires I’d given him for his lawnsigns. He was a little worried I might take some of the things he said wrong. I wasn’t worried and when I finally did read his piece I saw nothing worth quibbling about. He was annoyed that the editors of the Trib kicked the two of us in our behinds by saying our defeat was a sign that voters wanted to put the Red Plan behind them. I can’t say that I disagree with that assessment. I would note however that the recent story about our District being short of room for kids is either confirmation that the Red Plan continues to inflict pain on us or complete nonsense. Perhaps its a bit of both.

As I told Claudia the Red Planners who spent our money told us their demographic analysis showed they were building school for our long term demographic needs. Que the Bwahahahaha sound because our District is claiming our schools are full up and that’s despite 1500 students being pulled out of our schools because of the Red Plan. We should have room for all of them in the Red Planners knew what they were doing. In fact, once again the School Board and the company hired to help redraw our boundaries have been given bullshit info just how many kids our new schools can accommodate. I’d encourage the DNT’s new Education reporter to follow that claim of mine up. Just be glad that we will be getting a new superintendent of schools in June.

Last night I cranked out my second Not Eudora column for the Reader. It will be titled: One Hell of a Candidate. I sent them a graphic to go along with it, to wit:

To Dare Mighty Things

Just in case I don’t get around to the pile up of cars in my head here are a couple of them with a brief explanation.

Photo Above:

I am partial to intelligent kids books about History. I helped out at the Northstar Scholastic Book Sale last week and bought two books which I hope my grandsons will read. Stalin’s nose begins as an idealistic diary from a young boy who has been taught to revere Joseph Stalin. The picture book is a simple outline of the ebullient Teddy Roosevelt. I’ll ask my younger grandson if he remembers the character “Teddy” from when he watched Arsenic and Old Lace with us. That Teddy was digging his way through the Panama Canal.


When I first heard about the biopic on Harriet Tubman I knew I’d want to see it. Its gotten a 92% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes and a respectable plus 70% from critics. Claudia and I were mesmerized. I’m reminded how Snoop Dog dissed Twelve Years a Slave” (a fantastic movie) because he didn’t want to be reminded about that old stuff. I’m glad that old stuff is being rehashed. I grew up with the Little Rascals and Amos and Andy. Those who forget the past or never to bother to find out what it was…. are condemned… Continue reading

A bonehead’s after election analysis

My eight loyal readers might recall that after I blogged the then forbidden info that the School Board had agreed to sell New Central for $10 million dollars I was the first to admit I was a “bonehead.” I even voted to censure myself along with my board colleagues who were eager not to pass up the chance to embarrass me. Well, I’ve just discovered that I’ve been very boneheaded all summer and fall of my school board campaign.

Last night I got a wonderful call from the widow of a former school board colleague who I regularly irritated. She was surprised to see that I was on the ballot and wanted to let me know she supported me and wished me good luck. The only question in my mind was that I knew her address was just east of my 2nd District seat by a block. I mentioned this to her but couldn’t let this cartographic puzzle go.

I slept a little late this morning because at ten PM last night I headed out to retrieve my lawnsigns along all the busy roads that had fallen quiet for the night. It only took me till a little after midnight because I scrupulously avoided putting them in residential spots that would require my having kept much better track of them. I am a committee of one as you might remember. This is one of my hallmarks as a candidate. I don’t leave many homeowners with my unsightly post election lawnsigns stuck in their yards.

Well this morning I spent a little time looking through the Trib’s election coverage especially the precinct by precinct results. Sure enough there was Precinct 3 which I spent not a whit of time campaigning in. They didn’t get my mailing. I had no lawnsigns in their westernmost portion of Lakeside. I got creamed there…..but to be fair I got creamed in every precinct. I took from this the insight that I simply wasn’t going to win.

I was not outspent or out-campaigned. I would have let down my contributors had I sat on my duff so I was busy all through the campaign. I just don’t think the campaign was mine to win. The Trib’s editorial endorsement was not likely what killed me. It may have confirmed for its few readers their own doubts about me but I’m so well known that in 90% of voters minds they didn’t need any confirmation bias to vote for or against me.

While David Kirby may not be a very familiar name Name ID was not my problem. I’ve made my bed and most of those coming out to vote preferred to have me sleeping in a bed of snow. In East Duluth my support of Art Johnston did not go down well. I made a point of mentioning it in my letter to let people know I was proud to support him. Frankly, I think those who came to the polls were just tired of me. “Don’t do away mad, just go away,” would have been their mantra. They may take little comfort in my return Reader column at the end of the week because I explain how I plan to live to age 100.

I think the hardest obstacle for me was that this election was a repeat of the 2017 post Trump election. In that one a tidal wave of people looking for payback regarded anyone who didn’t have the DFL endorsement as suspect. Many of them probably had only a modest idea of what the local non-partisan candidates stood for including me. I just wasn’t on the list. And while that ferocious movement had softened a bit in this election it won’t dissipate any time soon. I simply was not on the DFL and Labor flyers that were sent out.

Loren Martel, who did significantly better than I in his 3rd District race, told me he was worried that my putting up Welty lawnsigns next to Alanna Oswald’s signs would cost Alanna votes. He told me of people who were angry at me for attacking Trump who would then vote against Alanna. Looking at today’s precinct by precinct results I see little evidence of that. However, I would guess that Alanna’s signs probably helped me. She won convincingly after all. The failure of her opponent, a former DFL chairman, to get the DFL endorsement was a much bigger deal. He got labor endorsements but his name was not on the DFL postcard.

I’m pleased with the outcome of the election in several respects. I like all the School Board winners. I feel freed from the last remnants of my fight against the Red Plan. I’m glad I gave my contributors a strong campaign even if I was a bonehead. At the bottom of this post is the map I made at the outset of Summer. At some point I drew a light blue outline on my district and left out precinct 3 which has a light pink border I should have followed. I folded the map and placed it in my office without this significant precinct and didn’t think about it again until I got that call last night wishing me well.I’m not a believer in God or omens but its hard for me not to think some sort of divine intervention diverted me from playing with a full deck.

I choose to take that as a sign that another four years on the School Board was not meant to be. When Claudia told me I was behind two to one with 25% of the vote in I knew it was curtains and stomach dropped for a spell. It only lasted a few minutes. But today it feels more like Armistice Day 11/11/1918. My School Board war is over.

Here’s my map with a faint purple circle around the neglected precinct 3 in the lower right-hand corner:

Happy Halloween as I limp to the finish line

It occurred to me today that one reason I’ve been resisting a last minute campaign schedule is because I worked my tail off at the beginning of the summer to get everything done early so that I would not have to do a mad dash at the end. Even the weather and kids are cooperating. I’ve had very little replacement of my lawnsigns. That’s partly because they didn’t go up until about three weeks ago. I waited so long because I dreaded the prospect of driving around to see if they had fallen. It helps that this time I’m running for a district seat or one fourth of Duluth. I don’t have to drive the entire length of our 26 mile city. The farthest any part of this district is from my centrally located home is about two miles.

Wishing to avoid the planter’s faschitis that afflicted my poor foot two years ago as I went door to door in every neighborhood city-wide, I raised enough in donations this summer to mail personal appeals to 7 of my District’s 8 precincts. I don’t have the money that either the DFL or Labor has to blanket mail the entire City but their school board endorsees only get their name and picture on a post card sharing space with all the other endorsees. A voter has to take the union’s word that the candidate is top notch. But only 30 percent of Duluth employees are represented by unions and, in my experience, only the actual labor officials much care about the union’s endorsement.

I still have forty lawnsigns that I could put up but I’ve been busy with Choir practice, good deeds and fixing up a little Halloween Display……and as always practicing French. In fact French was one of the things I sacrificed early in the summer only spending twenty to thirty minutes on it daily while working on campaign related chores. I’ve enjoyed the hour a day that I’ve lavished on it over the past few weeks.

I did have one campaign chore remaining and I spent my afternoon yesterday doing it belatedly. On Monday I was supposed to turn in my campaign finance papers ten days before the election. However, I came home that morning after discovering that our 12-year-old Camray had a non-functioning gas gauge. We have been talking about replacing the car for a couple years and even looked at some other cars last week. But that last irksome discovery pushed us over the edge and we went out and bought the car Claudia had been keen on. Claudia hates shopping and we bought it on the spot. That left me Tuesday to get the finance forms in and calculated. I’ll have to amend them as I forgot about the $160.00 I just put on my credit card to advertise on Facebook. Supposedly I’m only advertising in Duluth’s 2nd school district but Claudia is skeptical because she told me she has yet to see any of my ads. I’m not sure I’ve seen any of them either.

I may find time to do a little more campaigning if I survive all the Halloween chocolates I’m likely to consume. There will be one last weekend and Monday before Tuesday’s vote. But I might content myself, as I did today, with tidying up our patio for winter.

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 4

I surprised myself and just cranked out a couple thousand words in Part 3. I didn’t in-any-way proofread or polish it. I might just do the same here about my last day in Mankato a little over a week ago. or I might not. I JUST DID IT….BUT I’M NOT GOING TO EDIT IT EITHER.

I drove to a new hotel on Saturday night at a little past midnight. Had I left for Duluth after our dinner I’d have missed a lot of catching up. I didn’t rush to sleep. I still had 1 and a half Otaknams to review to see what my classmates were saying fifty years ago. Otaks…and Old trick. Read the full word backwards.

I decided before I headed to the bluff country east of Mankato to drive along the Nicollet County Road I used to bicycle to look for Rose Breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. It was just North of the Minnesota River opposite Mankato’s Blue Earth County. Along the way I discovered a waterfall I’d never heard of before smaller than the Minneopa Falls on the opposite bank. Before stepping far from the road to take a look I read a modest plaque that mentioned Ray Sponberg who had helped draw attention to the forgotten locale. He was the Father of one of a Senior debater when I joined the team as a Sophomore. She was a very nice person and her father had taken Chartered Live Underwriter classes from my Dad at Mankato State. I snapped a picture of what was once a campsite for Sioux Indians long since banished to the Dakotas.

I meandered for a while along very pretty autumnal roads and then headed to the cabin where the Reunion committee was gathering. I guess my sitting in the High School parking lot gained me admission. It seemed a remote place under a heavy canopy of fall leaves. I’d get a chance to chat with a couple more folks before I left.

One of my classmates who hadn’t come had sent me an email asking if I might go. He’d done the same thing ten years earlier. He too was one of my debate teammates. Its worth mention his story as it will blend into the another story from another absent Debate teammate…..the first girl I ever dated.

I had met M (this time a boy) in seventh grade with I was talked into going out for the Gymnastics team. I could do a front handspring and to be honest I loved watching the gymnasts for than any other athletes at the Summer Olympics. I wasn’t six foot two back then but I was head in that direction and if you know acrobatics height is a genuine impediment.

Our tiny North Mankato contingent was put on an after-school bus that drove us to Mankato’s Franklin Junior High where, between us, we had just enough sad sacks to have a single dual match each year with Mankato’s Lincoln Junior high. The person I remember most from those days was M. He was a skinny awkward kid, who was desperate to prove his worth. He was half Sioux Indian and looked full blooded. He had been adopted by a sturdy German-American couple as an infant. He didn’t tell me this until we were in Debate a few years later but his native ancestry overwhelmed the Scandinavian. One of my high school classmates irritated by M’s fierce determination to be best at everything called him “Red Cloud.” M approached Debate the way he had Gymnastics or getting good grades – with a great deal of intensity. Later before my Dad made me quite Tennis because of a D on a report card we also joined that team. Mike was even more awkward on a Tennis Court but by God he got pretty good at playing a tenacious game of tennis before he graduated. In college we would get together over summers and play chess too. Did I tell you I hate playing Chess with an opponent who has to win? I didn’t care about winning that much but in the college library I once happened on a very slim Chess guide with I checked out and read leading to the only time I ever beat M. Darn it if M.could never remember me having beat him once.

M would continue to be one of my few long standing classmates with whom I reconnected once we got to the email age. He gave Claudia and I an ironing board for our wedding and was one of my groomsmen. My Uncle Frank thought the give was ridiculously utilitarian but we used a lot more than the hoity-toity silver pieces some of my relatives gave us. I think we still have the same one.

M didn’t come to our reunion but we assured each other that we would somehow cross paths again. We’ve done this several times but haven’t managed it. M went on to a career in the Foreign Service and lives out east. We’d started talking foreign policy after our gymnastics practice in 1967. I was spouting Anti-Vietnam stuff that I was hearing from my Dad and our Gymnastics Coach came in and took me on. Today there are not but-in-sky teachers around when we talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan where he spent several tense years.

M had a crush on the debater who asked me out on my first date as a sophomore. She had long straight golden hair and a scandihoovian name. She was in my English class where I impressed lots of girls by giving a humorous speech introducing myself to the class. I was was a class assignment and I was terrified because I had yet to put my Dad’s advice to be a debater into practice to avoid another panic attack. Dad came through again with the advice to joke around. At any rate in the middle of the year S asked me on a date. It was for a Saddie Hawkins Day dance which, just like in the lil Abner comic strip required girls to go after boys for a date. I was so shocked all I could tell her was I’d have to go ask my parents if this was OK with them.

As a few of my loyal readers know my Dad was thrilled with this turn of events. S’s mom drove us to and from the dance and we went out for pizza imbetween. She gave me a traditional compost like corsage and Mr. Frank the Speech teacher was probably Marrying Sam who tied our knot.

S like M (the girl) and M (the boy) were all much better debaters than I was an in no time I became part of the B team.

I quite debate after my junior year having been paired with L now deceased. L. was a “jolly” fat girl who was mercilessly teased in those days before half the school population grew to be plumpish. Her laugh was a defense mechanism used to bat every insult aside as though there was a competition going on. After college she joined a weight reduction program and slimmed down. There is no telling how scarred she was by years of belittling. M the girl also quit debate. S and M the boy continued on and near the end of our senior year M began dating S having developed a serious crush on her. When she broke off with him he couldn’t barely contain his loss.

I didn’t put two and two together until after college when a classmate told me that S had become a major spokesman for the University of Minnesota Gay’s. Thinking back I recalled two possibly tell tale events that foreshadowed this. S once cracked a joke about a nun doing push ups in a cucumber field for sexual release. I think you would have had to be there to see why this odd joke stuck with me. And then in the Christmas Party after high school I was entreated to host S came in and brought a Dylan album to play over and over and over again. She parked herself on the floor for an hour listening to Bob Dylan sing “Lay lady lay, Lay across my bog brass bed.” I was almost too busy cleaning up after my careless classmates to be too annoyed with seeing S remain glued to this song for an hour but I was still a little annoyed with this odd behavior.

Which reminds me of another discursive bit before I wrap up. At the Friday night get together I had a chance to be a bit of a raconteur about my political shenanigans with our old Class President who has dabbled in politics himself, behind the scenes. I told him about my Voodoo experience but had the most time embellishing the story of this Christmas Party. My parents had only a few weeks earlier completely replaced our furniture and installed a new carpet. Someone suggestged that it being winter we start a fire. I put in a log and fired it up……for about twenty seconds when rolling plumes of smoke began flooding the living room. I fiddled with the flue but the catch only spun around helplessly. Scott, later to become a Mankato policeman rushed into the breach and picked up the burning log and dropped it on the new carpeting. Then he picked it up again and dropped it again. Then he did it a third time saving his poor hands from blistering. Then he finally picked it up a final time and rushed to the door to heave it into a snowbank.

Actually Scott was with us Saturday night and he reminded me of this incident. I mentioned how many times he dropped the log in my telling and good cop that he was said. I only dropped it once. “That’s true,” I told him, “but a good story teller never lets that stop him from improving on a good story.”

Well, some years later yet another classmate of mine who was teaching in Duluth told me that S had been a lesbian. It all sort of added up. Sadly, I could see the sense of disapproval in his telling me this. Thank God those days are passing swiftly. But ever since I’ve enjoyed knowing that my first date was a gay woman. And that fact was confirmed by yet another of my original sophomore debate teammates on Sunday as we were sent out on a scavenger hunt. We too had gone out on one date in high school where she had explained how she was stuck attending Mankato State because her Father’s hand to mouth farming operation on a very expensive piece of farm property made it impossible for her to get any scholarships for a more rarefied college experience.

Now on a hunt for a snail shell a feather and some moss she told me how her fiend S stayed close through college a fact I’d been unaware of. And yes S was gay or bi or something. She had been trying to figure that all out. And I was her first date too.

These four largely unedited posts about the glories that are public education sort of misses my intention. However, I went to school with a lot of bright kids who, for the most part, grew up to be bright adults. We were part of the baby boom, at least the white baby boom, who got good schools that took our education seriously. It was a joy to see my old class again.

As I run for the School Board for my eighth time I’ll keep those memories in mind. If elected in two weeks I’ll do my best to do justice for all the kids in the Duluth public schools so that when some of them return to Duluth for a fiftieth reunion it will be as special as my fiftieth was to me.

Alanna warned me

The previous post is about my proposed book. No. I realized early on I would probably not finish it on time. Alanna Oswald, bless her heart, was worried after reading some of my posts on the subject that I would make a lot of folks angry for reneging on my book writing promise. It wouldn’t be that many people. Its less than 75 orders and frankly, most of them would probably forgive me since getting me on the school board is probably their first concern. Continue reading

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 3

Day 3 The fallen, Age of Aquarius, ADHD, Buried history NOTE – I will not be editing this rough draft anytime soon or maybe anytime

This four part (five counting the prologue) was meant to be a reverie of sorts about a glorious public school experience. It should have been continued immediately but already the events are over a week old and I’ve gone on to other things in my campaign for the school board and more agonizing over the malevolent squirrel we have let into the people’s house.

So…pick up some pieces of your diary Harry.

I had agreed to patrol our old high school’s parking lot for three hours of Saturday’s morning directing alums to two classic cars which would drive them around the old haunts of their youth. It was rainy and I hunkered down in my traverse. The seven foot long sign I stuck between through my back door’s window. “Classic car rides” it said, or words to that effect. The temps were hovering just above freezing so I had no plans to walk around. Instead I invited people into my front and back seat to chat while they waited for other’s travels to come to an end.

In no particular order our old Biology teacher Mr. Banwort showed up to do some of the driving. While he waited for some people to squire around I asked him about days past. Later it was John my old classmate who I shared a short contest with over a young and very date-able lady. He asked if I remembered our telephone call. I did and I probably stole his story to tell his fiftieth reunion date.

We were both sweet on the Basketball coaches’ daughter. I must have taken her out on a date at some point because I had her phone number memorized. But like a typical guy I had dithered away the time before Homecoming to ask her to go out on another date. That’s when John called me to ask if she was going with me. I told John I hadn’t asked her yet and we fenced a bit in good humor about who would be going. John suggested that we race for the call after we hung up. I agreed, knowing I didn’t have to look up the young lady’s number. I won. I was smitten. The young lady was the first girl I’d ever kissed after a date. It was a beginners kiss but it was lingering as I tarried on her home’s doorstep. When the kiss came to and end and we said out goodbyes I hopped in my Dad’s car and drove home singing the pop folk-song. Kisses Sweeter than Wine.

I’m not sure if that was the date I had been left seething as we departed the dance in our school’s gym. As we left and headed for the back parking lot of Mankato High a couple unfamiliar guys were holding the door to the lot open. As they apparently let us out one of the fellows with a smirk let the door go so that it hit my date’s shoulder on the way out. I was in a state of shock. Without looking back I realized a gauntlet had been thrown at me to defend my date’s honor. At least that was the emotion surging through me.

“I’m going back to have a talk with that guy.” I told my date as I walked her to my car. She hung on to my arm and said, “Don’t.” Every fiber of my body disagreed with her command and I could barely hear the voice in the back of my head telling me my date was right. A fight would only make her date more miserable however it developed or ended. I didn’t turn back to challenge the beasts and knew I was doing the right thing……It was a right thing I couldn’t get out of my head for the next ten years as I imagined how I would have dealt with the curs. God, am I ever glad I’m no longer seventeen!

But I was a feckless youth. I’d had several dates over a couple months and she still seemed to be a little infatuated with me and that made me uncomfortable. As gallant as I had wanted to be with the door incident I was callow in the “how do I end this” phase of our dating. In my case rather than give some embarrassing declaration I simply stopped calling her. It wasn’t the last time I simply tried to evaporate myself out of a relationship. She was crushed and I when John inquired about our status I told him he was free to move in. God, am I ever glad I’m no longer seventeen!

After the morning car rides the Reunion planners had set up a “Magical Mystery” bus tour of Mankato. One of the features of the ride was a trip past every elementary or junior high school building that any of us might have attended. Not having gone to elementary school in Mankato this didn’t mean much to me but we were encouraged to shout out memories when we passed significant places. I obliged when we traveled past the County Seat. I shouted that when Claudia and I signed up for a wedding license in the building we both had to swear an oath that neither of us were “feebleminded.” Actually, I told the crowd that we “had” to get a license which has a somewhat different meaning than I had intended. That wasn’t true unless my wife’s gestation was arrested for seven years when we finally gave our parents grand-parenthood.

One of our “guides” on the bus gave us bits and pieces of history as we meandered through the town. He had been a drudge in the City Manager’s office assigned the task of drafting the documents that put a “mall” in the middle of our town’s main street. At the time it was intended to spare the City from suburbanizing and expanding its commercial sites out beyond the old town’s boundaries. This failed, of course, while it also put an end to high school kid’s “cruising” the main drag.

Among the other stories he told us was of the hushed removal and hiding of Mankato’s infamous boasting about America’s largest mass hanging when 38 mostly innocent Sioux Indians were hung for their part in the Sioux uprising that distracted Minnesota from the Civil War.

The granite sign was one of the first things I remember passing on the way to our new house in 1963. In the next decade it became a magnet for Red Paint. Not long afterwards an official in the Mankato bureaucracy had the tablet buried in Mankato’s Sibley Park. Later, fearing that it might be dug up and restored, he had it unearthed and driven to a secret spot along the Minnesota River where he dumped it.

I agreed with my fellow Scarlet and our guide that hiding this was not good history. As to the monument’s recovery he told us the official had told him in later years that the location had already been buried with three of the four witnesses. A fourth was being overcome with senility leaving the officer secure in the hope that the location would die with him.

It had been my intention to drive back to Duluth after having dinner with my classmates. Claudia, who remained in Duluth, did not think this was a good idea. So when the reunion organizer told me that I was invited to an after the reunion gathering I found another hotel for Saturday night and extended my stay. That meant I could be leisurely at the Saturday dinner and not hurry home.

More grads made it to the dinner and I got snippets of conversation with many but not all of the ones I would have liked to talk with. One of them was Leenie. I hadn’t seen her since High School to my recollection but I remembered my last summer after high school when a gang of us got together to swim in a local lake and generally pal around in a last burst of camaraderie before we were all cast to the four winds and college.

I’d gathered that her marriage with another classmate had ended poorly and when she showed up I have to say she had a beaten up look to her. I’d find out in the course of our conversation that this had more to do with her having had a double mastectomy three weeks earlier. And she was here.

Her family had been the host of our Australian foreign exchange student, another young woman with whom I’d been smitten. I asked Leenie if my understanding that the two of them didn’t get along had any truth to it. Leenie, told me it was mostly about her mother a very controlling “doctor’s wife.” At one point the Mother had insisted that their guest would have to find other accommodations. Apparently both girls stood together to swat this idea aside. I was aware of just how in-artful American hosts could be. It was a challenge for my family to host an Ethiopian student. The year before that the rich hosts of a Thai student turned him out after the initial excitement wore off and he was taken in by a far more considerate family.

Leenie would have been horrified at such an outcome. She had gone into social work helping at hospital birthing centers and in elder care. It was a far cry from her former husband’s interests. And her former husband was now suffering from senility in a home that bespoke of the good money he earned in Detroit before Americans had to share the automotive pie with the rest of the world. He’d been a car designer.

I asked a couple of folks about one other person who had never come to one of our reunions. It was yet another young woman who had mostly incurred her school mate’s ire but with whom I’d taken up a brief post high school dalliance although that is more than it was.

M was a girl that intimidated the bejesus out of me when we joined the debate team as sophomores. For me it was my Dad’s answer to my fear of ever suffering a panic attack again. I met a lot of my future dates on that team including they young lady would became the reunion host who along with her family moved into my family’s house and then invited me for a Sunday after school reunion gathering.

So many of these stories are tied together by that debate experience and our foreign exchange program. When talking with Mr. Banwort I had mentioned our old coach, a dirty old man if ever there was on, and how he’d told us the ranking of our classmates on the Mankato’s IQ records. My bully was was number two. I suspect M was number 1.

Our coach and the student debaters were pretty quick with their repartee and the coach like to fling insults at M. M always flung another one back quicker and more deadly than any tossed in her direction. I admired her intelligence and fierce self defense. Other’s did not. During our bus tour our guide also commented that M was the first girl to wear a brazier. That is just the sort of thing a junior high boy would notice and not mention until fifty years later. He mother was also a teacher. I expect that this coupled with her brains and the fact that her mother was a teacher all added up to a soup of jealousy and disapproval. I probably didn’t look as cowed by her as I was when we talked and lent a sympathetic ear to the few things she shared with me. When I once rolled my eyes at a comment about having to work hard to get all the easy A’s I saw her earning her response betrayed a little self doubt. She knew who was really smart and it wasn’t her. It was a cousin of her’s that had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. So just as I stood in awe of her she too stood in awe of others.

I still recall defending M. to another of the graduates at the reunion who told me I was a pretty nice guy to stick up for her. I am pretty sure this discussion took place our senior year after M had been humiliated at a gathering of our International club and a large number of foreign exchange students who visited Mankato over the weekend. Despite hosting our Ethiopian student the previous year I’d never joined the International club. When kids signed up to be a host for a weekend I hadn’t done so. But one student from a nearby small town had invited himself to our celebration simply to escape the provincial home he had lived in for that school year. He was Pierre ____ ______ from Paris. He was nothing like the sweet fille from Grenoble my sophomore year. He was a swashbuckler. Suddenly I was asked if my family would take on an emergency guest and we did.

Over the weekend Pierre regaled me with stories of his sexual conquests in Minnesota. He’d had five of them. Never having considered trying to conquer anyone I listened to this cosmopolitan locker talk with interest and muted disapproval. One of his conquests, a virgin apparently, had been a bloody mess. For me this was better than a talking too from a priest on the subject of abstinence. How these young women would fair after his safe return to France I had no idea but I couldn’t rule out a growing Minnesota population at his departure.

Of course, a young woman estranged from her classmates and sophisticate beyond the rest of us was almost fated to fall under the advanced influence of a dashing and confident young Frenchmen. And so in the evening hours of our gathering with the other foreign exchange students the best and the brightest Mankato students noticed a steamed up car on an evening stroll with M and Pierre warming each other up. My friends formed a circle around the vehicle and serenaded them with the best of Rogers’ and Hammerstein. “Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you………”

My last recollection of M. was introducing her to my “fiancee” at the Italian restaurant M was a waitress at. Because I had shown a brief interest in her not long before it was sort of an embarrassing introduction for me. Like always, I’d melted away when M showed me some evidence of being more interested in me than I was prepared to show to her. I’d grown in confidence in college but even so I recalled how much her intellect had intimidated me back in high school. Melting way seemed safer. Certainly as a waitress she was no match for her Rhode’s riding cousin. I don’t know what became of M but that is an unknown chapter I’d very much like to learn about.

I’ve kept the original ideas I wanted to write about at the top of this post. Sorry, its long and I have no intention, now anyway, of editing it. What I’ve written about are the personal events that everyone experiences even while greater forces swirl around them in the world.

I’ve said nothing about the War in Vietnam but I shouldn’t let it go unmentioned.

Two of our classmates who had been Vietnam Era officers, one in the army the other in the navy got up and talked about our fellows who were scarred by the war or simply lucky not to serve in Vietnam. They mentioned the magic draft card numbers that were pulled at the beginning of our senior year that would doom some to the draft. My number, 41, put me at immediate risk of being called up…..except that I had always planned to go to college. The previous generation of WW II vets had graciously extended a 2-S deferment to young men going to college to become the masters of America. It would last me though almost the end of the war so there was no bloodshed for me. We baby boomers were all Age of Aquarius and ideals that required us to put long stemmed roses in the barrels of the guns wielded by our fellows unable to go to college.

Is it just me, or is the echo of that past still with us in our politics today?

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 2

Day 2 Woodland hills in a flurry Friday Nite Lights, all the girls I knew pep fest alikum

I only lasted till ten in the evening at the bar we alums first gathered at. As young people swarmed into the main room I had decided a good night’s sleep made more sense than a late night carousing which, frankly none of my old classmates seemed all that interested in. I would spend most of Friday sealed up in my hotel but I did venture out once. I headed to Woodland Hills. This is the cemetery where my Dad was interred 32 years ago and where I took my Mother’s ashes 27 years later. This was the first time I saw both their names on the bronze marker. With a whipping wind carrying a bit of snow from North Dakota I blinked away a couple tears, kissed my fingers and placed them on their grave. The surrounding hills were full of autumnal colors as they were when my Father was laid to rest. He loved fall colors and I remember trips he took us on in Kansas when we were little to view the sugar maples in Hiawatha and Olathe.

A tour was offered of Mankato “West” which was sundered six years after I graduated when my Sister’s graduating class found itself divided. Half of her classmates attended a newly build Mankato East High School. Today even with ninth graders added to West’s attendance it is a smaller school that it was in 1969. Where my graduating class was 454 (although the number varied depending on which 69 grad you talked to)
The class of 2019 was only 278. It was also larger than the graduating class in the eastern school. If the other three classes were similar then there were only a little over 1000 kids at Mankato West. The total enrollment of three classes in 1969 was probably closer to 1500 students.

Because of radon gas in the buildings nether regions our tour was limited to the top three floors. Continue reading

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details part 1

Prologue. My parents didn’t attend their high school reunions, My wife doesn’t. Three fourths of my living classmates from 1969 didn’t return. I did as I believe I have for the most of them ending in a 0.

Junior High wasn’t horrible but I was a new kid with a funny accent in the middle school years where all the grade school cliques pretty much kept me to myself. I was a tall gangling gymnast but even here I wasn’t that close to my fellow North Mankato Jr. High classmates. I was sent on an athletic bus with the swimmers who practiced at the high school pool while we gymnasts were sent to another junior high to make up a team large enough to field a team for dual meets. There was precisely one dual meet each year with the third junior high in Mankato which had a larger program.

So, when my parents moved out of their cracker box rental at the beginning of my tenth grade High School career suddenly I was plunged into a school with three merging junior highs and ample opportunity to break out of my rut. Continue reading

“Some people will do anything to win the sympathy vote.”

That was the first thing I told Alanna Oswald this morning when I walked into her busy room in St. Luke’s ICU. Unbeknownst to me last Tuesday, when I noticed she was missing from the School Board’s Business Committee meeting, she was a day away from death’s door shaking in her bed from what she thought was a concussion. She was wrong. She was in a state of toxic shock from a runaway infection.

The next evening, the day before I left for my fiftieth High School reunion in Mankato, she rallied enough to send me a text that she had just had half of St. Luke’s emergency staff vacuuming out the poisons in her system which would cost her more than a pound of flesh. She had not yet turned a corner that she let me know might finish her off. Not believing what she told me I asked if she would like me to visit her the next morning on my way out of town. She said yes. I called into the emergency room at a quarter to ten on Thursday and was told she was being attended to and to wait for fifteen minutes and call back. I got an hour of French practice in the waiting room between calls to see if the staff was finished fussing with her. I gave up the ghost the last time I was told it might be another twenty minutes. I stopped an hour out of town to see if she had responded to my text apology before leaving St. Lukes. She had. And her wry wit was fully in tact.

So today, after another bout of texting last night, she told me to come and visit. I got more gruesome details than I probably needed to know but all with the joking soldierly banter of someone at a dressing station having a shrapnel filled arm amputated. Alanna is a pretty jolly fatalist and she at least still had all appendages. She has been told she will be hospitalized for another seven days. She said she was going for a record ICU stay. She will not be at tonight’s school board meeting.

I told Alanna about our candidate’s East High School PTA meeting last night where UMD’s Mary Owen came and read a short statement. It to was full of good humor. Although no one was able to speak for Alanna her absence was more eloquent than any of the candidate’s answering questions.

It was a small crowd of nineteen according to someone reporting back to Alanna. I hadn’t counted attendance in the Media Center and because everyone was spread out I had guessed the number to be double that. In any event, the three remaining candidates were peppered with a steady stream of questions. Judy Seliga Punyko, who knows something about the Board, sent in a question asking the candidates to tell what they had done for the School Board. I was the last candidate to answer so, as the others spoke, I made up a list of a dozen things I had done. I was only able to get through a third of the list in my minute and half response time. Rosie Loeffler Kemp was present too as her former campaign chair, John Schwetman, raced through his answer like a Ronco popeil knife seller at the state fair. He had helped support previous levy campaigns and had kids in the schools.

I was first up in the two minute summation department and with my Symphony Chorus rehearsal five minutes off I stood up and explained my hurry to leave along with parting thoughts. I got unexpected applause as I left the Library. Maybe they were glad to see the back of me. At least that’s the sort of thing I rattled off to Alanna today during my visit. I just wanted to keep it light.

The glory that is public education – through the eyes of a fellow who experienced it.

I should begin this by acknowledging that before I left town I paid a call on St. Lukes Hospital. Alanna Oswald had texted me the night before that she had an advanced sepsis that when discovered led to her immediate hospitalization. “Flesh eating” seemed to be the operative word and she would be hospitalized for weeks to try to clean it all out. I asked her if I could stop by the next morning and Alanna assented. but when I got there I was told to wait another fifteen minutes then another ten then another twenty and when I was told another twenty I realized that seeing Alanna was not in the cards. A team of folks were busy removing the sepsis. I headed south after texting my good wishes and regrets. Alanna explained just how dire her situation was in a text back and then she posted her situation on Facebook.

I’ve said before that Alanna is the best and or smartest Duluth school board member I’ve known over the past forty years. She’s young to me. She was my student thirty years ago. I fervently hope she mends and gets to serve out another four-year term. The drive south was a somber one for me.

My fiftieth high school reunion was extended by a day so I missed church this morning and joined the reunion’s organizing committee for one last gathering under a canopy of fall colors in the Minnesota River Valley. At this moment when I should be hopping into bed I’m instead thinking that it would be nice to write a series of posts. Something on the order of a day’s experience and a lesson learned. What I have come away with is the glory that has been the American public school system. If it has fallen in esteem I can’t help but think it has something to do with the paranoid impulse to close the doors on people who are seen to be not like “us.” Us, being of course, white folks.

There were about 160 of us gathered on Saturday night. If forty percent were spouses that meant that we had close to a hundred classmates gathered. Considering fifty of us have passed from this mortal coil that meant that a quarter of the 400 remaining Scarlets attended on this penultimate night of the reunion.

One of the things that occurred to me and to many others of us during the festivities was our memory that during our Homecomings we always saw our fiftieth anniversary predecessors at the pep fest honoring their return to the old Alma mater. They always seemed so old and frail and we, by contrast, felt quite able. Perhaps we looked as frail to the kids in the bleachers looking down at us or just maybe vast improvements in hip replacements, heart surgery and the like really did give us vigor our predecessors would have been astonished by. For folks on the cusp of age 70 we looked pretty damned good. And we were a pretty smart collection of people. Over the next couple days I learned much about what had happened to kids I left behind.

A couple things. Public School can be cruel. For me High School was a wonderful change from my Junior high school years. Some of those I would most have liked to catch up with did not enjoy my experience. I suspect a lot of folks reviewing their old albums are used to gushy praises. If I can believe my notices I was a fun person and one who was a little bit weird. A lot of girls said I was sweet which I take as code for not dangerous. And I wasn’t dangerous. At least not in that way.

I’m going to lay off campaigning tomorrow and write about the last four days. Claudia decided to stay home and that was a gift to me because it gave me a chance to devote my time to some serious catching up with people I liked and had not seen in decades. I have given it some thought and the following subjects might be worthy of elaboration. But that will be tomorrow’s work

Day 1 National Guard. Wallpaper, Judy the latest chapters

Day 2 Woodland hills in a flurry, Friday Nite Lights, all the girls I knew

Day 3 The fallen, Age of Aquarius, ADHD

Day 4 a reverie in the woods, My first date

Back to my default self and 50 years later

What is a lie? Is an untruth a lie if it is spoken with conviction?

After a day of being wrung out over the Trib’s characterization of me being (As Trump would put it) a “leaker,” I am back to my default analytical mode. Yesterday’s string of six posts had an unwieldy title as it was. A more accurate and more unwieldly title could have been “IF THE DNT EDITORS HADN’T POORLY MISCHARACTURIZED ME IN THEIR EDITORIAL….PARTS 1-6.”

Had the Editors given it a little more thought they might have come up with a more charitable analysis of my occasional dropping of hints about what is actually going on in our School Board and District. They could have called me a whistle-blower. Instead they took the tack that the White House is holding fast to that anyone who points out Presidential duplicity, greed or stupidity is committing treason.

On the other hand the Trib made excellent and somewhat unexpected endorsements. Alanna Oswald was a cinch. They first endorsed her rival four years ago and then thought better of it after the primary. This year’s endoresment simply cemented her status as a worthy candidate. And today the Trib did the right thing. As I’ve told many over the past few campaigns, “if there is any justice in the world Loren Martell would get elected.” As the Trib’s editors note this is his fifth attempt at the Board after four defeats. If Loren is elected he will have bested me. I lost three times before finally winning a School Board seat.

The responsibility of the School Board is a management responsibility. Alanna and Loren understand that after twelve years of School Board members being cheerleaders for superintendents who only selectively told them what they needed to know which in many cases was not enough. David Kirby fell into this habit as well as the Trib’s editorial endorsement of him made clear. His board was forced to pay Art Johnston $55,000 to buy him off of his complaints about having been left in the dark over and over again by Bill Gronseth’s administration.

I like people. Bill came over to chat with me at this week’s Business committee meeting. I was cordial back to him. There is no need for nastiness. But I’ve always been honest and Bill has thrice seen my very bland assessments of him during the School Board’s evaluation of him. Each time I made it clear that treating Board members differently was not acceptable. Bill has done that in spades. Alanna confirmed that yet again when we spoke after her first every Cabinet and Board agenda setting meeting. Bill made clear that it was the Chairman’s call on whether to tell other Board members the details of the District. To which I can only say “SAY WHAT?” Truly since the days of Supt. Keith Dixon “all board members are equal but some board members are more equal than others” to paraphrase Animal Farm.

Its in line with what Bill told me privately when I first joined his Board. He viewed his job as protecting the School District from Board members…….that means he viewed his job as protecting the School District from the citizens, voters and taxpayers. Cordial or not I’ll be glad to see Bill Gronseth’s back. And I hope to serve with Alanna and Loren as we search out a worthy Superintendent for our schools.

BTW I’m heading out of town today to visit my old high school chums for a 50’th reunion. Claudia is staying behind because she is very much a person of today not the past and not my past. She’s accompanied me to my previous reunions. I’m looking forward to it. My high school experience was great after a really lousy Junior high immersion into white Minnesota. That experience has provided me with several humorous remembrances in my Not Eudora column. I’m like my Mother. I find people endlessly fascinating. I’m looking forward to finding out what happened next to my high school acquaintances, at least those who bother to come back. The ones who don’t come back, often because they had lousy memories, are the ones I’ll miss the most. High School can be cruel. I was lucky.

I don’t plan to blog much for the next couple of days but, who knows? I may wake up in the middle of the night with a brain burning to pour out more Lincolndemocrat drivel. Stay tuned.