Friday, November 28, 2008

Hopefully, Spelling Is Not a Requirement for These Jobs

I found this list this morning of Lotta's goals. Lotta is going to be eight in a few weeks.

They are:
Music Composer
Photographer (this one took me a long time to figure out)
Host on a TV show
Manager (of what I do not know. Hopefully not a Taco Bell. No offense Taco Bell Managers)

Monday, November 24, 2008

These things do not remain

Maybe it is the coming on of Thanksgiving, or the thought of how much has been lost and gained in the last year, but I find myself searching through landscapes and buildings that exist only in my mind these days.

I was a child in the late sixties and early seventies. First generation off the farm on dad's side of the family, an extra generation removed on mom's side. A city playground was exotic to me, but a barn, a chicken coop, a dynamite shack - all abandoned - were my familiars.

Suburban homes are tombstones to those places, now. It's not worth grief or a maudlin sensibility but it comes to me that my children haven't the faintest notion of these places.

My grandfather quit farming sometime before I was born. The father of eight, but only two boys, no body wanted his farms. My aunt and her family lived at one but didn't farm it, Grandpa and Grandma retired and lived at the other. Some of the land was used for gravel pits, some for shacks that were specially built to store dynamite road crews were using to carve new roads into the limestone bedrock of the state in the 1950's. Snowmobiles, old cars and furniture were stored in the barn.

I don't know how many years passed between the last cow to have lived in Grandpa's barn and the time that I came to know it. Great big hewn log beams were still whitewashed down below by the cow stalls. Hay decayed on the dirt floor. A manure smell still clung to the timbers, with a topnote of dust and straw. That barn and the dairy barns of today have little in common.

At some point in the middle of the last century, the old highway that passed just outside Grandpa's front door was moved. They ran it along side the railroad tracks that divided the farmhouse from the barns. The new highway was just feet away from the big red barn with the "King Midas" flour sign painted 20 feet high on the eastern side of the barn.

There were 1000 abandoned acres for playing in. There were those dynamite shacks I mentioned. They were gunmetal gray and had no windows, but one small tightly locked door. The rumor was that if we searched the area we might find a stick or two of dynamite that fell off a truck once upon a time a long long time ago. Never did.

The gravel pit had giant piles of gravel. I've never slid down a mountain scree, but as a child knew how to slide down gravel. It gave way under your feet, you dig your heels in a little, bring your feet to parallel with the earth, not the hill. Were the gravel was dug were ponds. We were told they were as deep as 90 feet. Swimming was not allowed. I remember being with my dad on at least one occasion were strangers had to be yelled at, told to get out of the ponds before the sheriff was called and trespassing was charged. There was never any real trouble.

At my cousin's house there was a chicken coop. Plastic forts and 'play structures' have nothing on the beautiful simplicity of a chicken coop for a playhouse. The scale was perfect for little girls. There were windows, both at our eye level and up near the top. An old abandoned silo housed only bats. Dares were made about who could go in and for how long.

Old cars were another thing. There were abandoned cars to make forts out of everywhere. Like skeletons, the stripped out cars didn't offer clues about what they had been if a former life. But I'm guessing old Buicks or DeSoto's from the thirties. They were so commonplace then that it is sometimes catches me that my kids have never been in an old stripped out car. There were at least two in the woods behind my house. There was a junk pit next to my friend's house. In that was a Volkswagen Beetle. At the edges of my memory are so many old trucks. Some working, others not. Cracked leather over horsehair seats, dust and grease. If you bottled the smell, I'd buy it and sit on my porch remembering a child's eye view petulant gear boxes, cigarettes, rolled up sleeves, itchy seats where tears showed springs and stuffing. Rust and hope.

There were cellars. In cellars were salamanders and low ceilings and dark corners. At one farm of a not-relative but damned close, the men spent parties down in the cellar, near where the farmer put up wine. Nobody drank that wine, we heard it was godawful from our folks. But down there inside the cellar built up of field stones, ones that actually did come from out of the fields the farmers tried to coax from land poured over by glacial till, there was a smell of grapes and yeast and lime mortar and dirt. And that night's spilled beer. Kids liked to hang off the wooden stair rail and eavesdrop on the men. Until we gave up trying to translate their stories or spot the funny part of the story that got them all laughing. Then we'd run outside beneath the halogen light that formed the big greening circle around the yard, the darkened edges of it evoking mystery and danger. Run, run out into the dark, it is time for 'moonlight starlight'. A million places around the farmhouse to hide in the dark, listening for Olly olly ump ump free.

And we ran.

If I could find the road back to a soft June night, under a farmyard light inside its circle, outside of it beneath stars, pumping my legs and screaming and running back to 'home', right now I would take that road. I would like just a little visit back. Only for the evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Five Years Out. Two Months In. Conclusion: Work Sucks.

I have been working part time since my daughter started kindergarten. I am in a very unusual position of having gone back to work for the guy I hired nine years ago to take over my job. At this point I'm sure he views me as subordinate to him, because in the interim my parents, who started the business, sold it to my brothers who each have a 40% share and to republican dude who has a 20% share.

I haven't being doing the job that I did way back when. I've been going in to do the financials. For two months it has been breaking my heart to see what this guy has been doing to the company that my dad built from the ground up. In essence, Mr. Republican Dude is returning it right back to the ground from which it came.

Everything blew up on Tuesday. No sense going into it here, just suffice it to say that at a point where he insulted MY intelligence by admitting that he was incapable of doing something therefore so would I, too, be incapable, I asked the accountant to explain the checks written out by Republican Dude to himself on a Cost of Goods Sold account and not a reimbursement account. It was not a clear accusation of theft, but a point of incompetence with serious repercussions. And I was making the point that both RD and the accountant are not doing their jobs.

Well, today I go back to work. Bet they're going to be happy to see me, eh?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Senator Palin Stevens Loses in Alaska

Look, I never went in for the fables the right wing told about Sarah Palin. Every single trope they threw up was easily dispelled by facts. The right loved to tout her resume as a corruption buster. Yet in the middle of the Ted Stevens Corruption Affair she would not commit to condemnation of his activities until the court rendered its verdict.

As grown ups we know that there is a valley vast and wide between the truth and what is actionable in a court of law. I believe that in ethics circles (not recently traversed by republicans) the term is impropriety or the APPEARANCE of impropriety. Palin could have, ball buster she's supposed to be, declaimed Stevens merely on the appearance of impropriety.

Well not only did Stevens get busted for felony indictments while our Sarah did nothing, now it seems the angels have found way for Stevens to lose his election bid.

There will be a D behind the name of the Senator from Alaska, one Honorable Mark Begich, which means that Mrs. Palin cannot dismiss Stevens and claim the job for herself.

Now, lets all sit back and see how she (retroactively) tackles this corruption.

Car Trouble. (Or, Can You Drive With Your Nose Up in the Air?)

There's a commercial on television that shows young girls playing. The voice over talks about how she was your friend when you were young and how together you got in all kinds of trouble that your dad secretly laughed about. The commercial urges you to call her.

Whenever I see that ad I think of my childhood best friend. Except that there is no way that I could ever call her. Nor would I want to. When I was thirty I made the mistake of marrying her brother. Eighteen months later he had a new girlfriend and I was asked to leave.

She never spoke to me again. She never called during the divorce process to say...what? Anything, I guess. She could have said she was sorry that I was going through a hard time, without being sorry for being related to an asshole. Assholes, by the way, were in extreme abundance in her family. That was ten years ago.

I was relieved after my divorce to move away from my hometown so that I wouldn't have to run into any of the ex's relatives, most especially my childhood friend, and to a lesser extent, her parents. But five years ago we moved back. I'm just blocks from my high school alma mater. I can refer to the house I live in by the name of the family who we bought it from and people know where I live. Last month I skipped a funeral where I knew my ex or members of his family would be, but otherwise our paths don't seem to cross.

Two years ago I was in a car accident. I was in Milwaukee, about 90 miles from home, when a woman ran an intersection and T-boned my car. The police officer took me to a car rental shop and arranged for my car to be towed to the auto body place. The car rental agency sent me home with a PT Cruiser.

If any of you own PT Cruisers or are fond of them, I apologize in advance. I don't like those cars and having to drive around in one for six weeks didn't improve my opinion of them. Call me snobby, but I was embarrassed to be seen in the car. Had it said "LOANER CAR" in great big letters on the door that would be one thing, I probably wouldn't have minded. But as it was, when I had that car it looked like it was mine own. My taste.

My daughters take dance classes at a studio that shares the building with a gymnastics company. One night after dance class I saw my childhood friend's husband watching their children in gymnastics. Every week after that I tried to time my exit so that I wouldn't run into them, rushing my girls out of their dance shoes and into their parkas and fleeing for the parking lot.

One night the timing was off. As I was getting into my PT Cruiser, I looked up and saw an enormous Cadillac Escalade parked too close to my passenger side. Inside was you-know-who staring down at me and my little PT Cruiser.

I've no idea what she was thinking. I don't know if I imagined scorn or ridicule. It was the last time I saw her in person.

The question at the end of this story is: Who is the biggest snob?

I think, though I would never never ever want to be seen in an Escalade either, the answer is probably me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Hope It Doesn't Hurt (Maybe They Have Nicely Scented Lube)

There's a beautiful old hotel in Milwaukee called the Pfister. I never gave the name any thought until Beck came to Milwaukee for Summerfest and on a national interview claimed he was a little nervous to be staying in a luxury hotel called the "Fister".


We are going there tonight for a little fete, called the Lombardi Challenge. It's a fundraiser with a silent auction, dozens of restaurant samples and wine tasting.

I believe I'll open my gullet, but tighten my sphincter.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remember the "Glamour Don'ts"?

Oh, anonymous politician, what were you thinking?

(From a post at the Glamour-Do Princess Sparkle Pony's House. Go see what Condi Rice has gone and done to herself. Extreme Makeover? You decide.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Those mavericky maverikkkers 'll be right back! Ka-pow pow!

Click to embiggen

If not for that liberal media, you'd believe that John McCain lost ...why? It's too bad GDP is already in widespread use as an acronym because The Grand Delusion Party seems just about right.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Say What?

There's been a lot of chatter in the last few days about how a resurgent democratic party should treat the republicans who've just gotten tossed. I'm going to bet that no one ever told Newt Gingrich when he took over a republican congress in 95 that he ought to play nice. Demonizing the opposition was chapter one of his playbook.

Two of the conversations on this topic can be found at D-Caps place as well as D-Cups.

As far as republicans being utterly clueless and tone deaf, you've got to read this letter to the editor in my morning paper. Amazing me and that guy even exist on the same planet!

Too bad respect didn't extend to Bush

While your recent editorial urging the country to "pull together" following the election was right on the mark and appropriate, we should not overlook what we've witnessed over the past six or eight years. That has been the constant uncivil, cruel and disgraceful attacks launched against President Bush.

He has been disparaged, vilified, disrespected and demonized without end by commentators, political pundits, editorial cartoonists and late night comedians, among others.

Lost in this frenzy of ridicule is the fact that many of our country's current problems either existed long before Bush came to office or were beyond his control.

We do need more civility and respect for one another, as your editorial stated. It's just too bad such generous thoughts were not put forth long ago on behalf of President Bush. I'm sure the political right will give our new president better treatment and the respect he deserves.

- Fred Wagner, Clinton

I bet that this guy just HATES that he lives in a town named "Clinton".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Up The Stairs the Slaves Laid

This morning I heard Donna Brazile say that the steps of the Capitol were laid by slaves. Nearly 200 years later, a black man is going to climb those stairs, raise his hand and take the oath of office to be the president of all of us.

Hope may take a few hundred years to float. But here we are.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Little things you should know

It's election night. Here in my area there was a bomb threat that sent all the voters in a 75% dem ward to a new polling place. I volunteered at the office where ALL of the Wisconsin voters who needed voting assistance or a ride to the polls had their phones mysteriously fail this afternoon.

Think the republicans love a clean campaign?

(FYI: calls were not being received at the Statewide Obama campaign number today. BUT- people who called and asked for rides to the polls and were disconnected by phone failures, we got their numbers and we called them back.)

Maybe in four years from now we will welcome everyone's vote. Maybe by then Americans won't hope that the way to power is through suppression of the will of the American people.

We Voted.

The alarm went off at 5:30, but I was already awake. (The end of daylight saving time helped). I made breakfast, coffee, got the paper. Woke the kids. We did our usual morning routine, just an hour earlier than we normally would.

Then we went to our polling place to be there when the doors opened at 7 am.

The line was long, but our volunteers were organized. We saw lots of neighbors in line too. Some who've got McCain signs out, but others who we know are Obama supporters.

Lotta came to my booth with me. I showed her the ballot and pointed to Barack Obama's name. We have a paper ballot thats marked with a number two pencil. You fill in the center of an arrow that points to the candidate's name. My votes all went to democrats, but I fill each one out anyway.

My daughter saw me cast a ballot for the first black candidate. She saw me vote to re-elect our openly gay congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin. None of these votes were probable, if not impossible, when I was seven years old.

I took the girls door-to-door canvassing on Sunday. I really want them to remember this election. Even when they are 95 years old, I want them to tell their great-grandchildren that they helped elect Barack Obama. Lotta will say she saw my vote. She'll say she put it into the counting machine for me.

Ima went in the voting booth with her father. "Who'd he vote for, Ima?" I asked.

"I don't know" she said, rolling her eyes. "I can't read!"

"Well did the name start with an 'O' or an 'M'?"

Ben, the republican in the house, laughed. "That's why I took her with me. So she wouldn't know."

"This is a historic vote, Ben. Don't you want your girls to know how you voted?"

After telling us he voted for a man, that he voted for a man with an 'A' in his name, that he voted for a man with an 'A' in his name who is running for president, he broke down and told us he voted for Barack Obama.

I hope many many more of us vote for Obama than for the other candidate with an 'A' in his name.

Peace, friends. I hope tomorrow brings us joy.