Sunday, December 07, 2008

Of Dogs and Love and Death

My black labrador retriever, Max, is 11 years old this past month. He had a blood test from the vet and although nothing seemed to be too out of whack, given his breed, it should be only a few years (if that) left for him. It is hard to contemplate his passing. As it has been with all my pets. He was a Christmas puppy, purchased 11 months after our aging cocker spaniel had to be put to sleep, while we held her in our arms and cried hot wet tears for her passing. But she was 16 and her systems had failed her badly and there was nothing we could do to stop the pain. I thought I would never get another dog, but my daughter was brilliant in her line of attack. She waited 9 or 10 months without saying a word and then started a quiet campaign of asking for another dog.

It was effective, because on Christmas day, there was a small black furry beast waiting under the tree for her and her two brothers. It was the happiest Christmas of my life. Unfortunately, for the kids and for Max, the marriage lasted only for a year after that. And then we were on our own. But, Max made the very best of it. He is a patient dog, one not given to emotional excess. Although I can tell when he is exasperated with me when I don't walk him because it's too dark and rainy outside, and I'm just home from work, too tired to even fix a decent supper. But he puts up with me and loves me and I will never have a steadier companion.

My first word as a child was 'doggy.' I apparently said it with a soft 'g' but it was definitely my first word. Not ma-ma. From my earliest days I was drawn to dogs and trailed after the neighbor's dog when we lived in Denver, petting him fiercely whenever I could.

We moved to Defiance when I was 3 1/2 and we got our first dog perhaps a year or two later. Her name was Gypsy and she was a dalmation. My younger sister and brother and I loved her wholly and she returned that love unstintingly. There is a picture with the 3 of us gathered around her as she lazes in a round papasan chair, and we all have party hats on, even Gypsy. She was as big as my little brother at the time, but so gentle with us. Unfortunately, she was, unknown to us, deaf, as many dalmations are or were. We could not figure why she would run away from us all the time and only come back when she wanted to . And we lived on a busy street--North Clinton. One dark gray November afternoon, our parents were away and we had a babysitter. Gypsy got out the front door and ran across the street. A car hit her on the way back. We all saw it. The car did not stop and Gypsy dragged herself to the house and up to the porch. The babysitter would not let us bring her in to the house. We were frantic. I was all of 5 and the other two were 3 and 2. I went to the basement and brought up every rag I could find and packed it around Gypsy who was in shock and shivering to beat the band. Still the babysitter would not let her come in. I have no recollection of how long it took for my parents to get home. All I know is that Gypsy was taken to the vet's and several days later, my mother told me she had died. Given the circumstances, it was, in retrospect, a significant event for me.

I wish I could say it was my only experience like that, but it was not. We had a succession of dogs. Punch, another dalmation, lasted less than 3 months because he bit the baby's ear. Didn't matter that the baby kept bothering him. That was enough to get him booted from the house.

Our third dog was a female boxer we named Duchess. She was a beautiful dog who showed up in the back of our house one spring morning with her mom and another boxer pup. My folks found out who the dogs belonged to, and took them back but returned with Duchess. She was a sweet girl, with a taste to chase fast cars. Our family had moved from North Clinton St. and built a house on Elliott Lane, a quiet cul de sac, that unfortunately was just above Rt 24, the river road that led to the dam. We'd had Duchess for about a year, when one day she went missing. I went looking for her and found her body down the hill on the side of Rt 24, where a police car had stopped. The cop knew to follow me home without saying a word to me, because I was crying so hard. He told my mother.

You would have thought that would be the end of it, but, no. Our next addition was a basset hound named Digby. He was a much savvier dog, who liked to wander (my father refused to get him neutered, or the house fenced), but when he did it, he went north away from the traffic and towards Defiance College, where he was found, brought back to us, but he would take off again and again. Eventually he was adopted by a bunch of students there. When one of them was graduating from college and moving back to Canada, he asked if he could take Digby with him and my folks said yes. So, as far as I know, Digby lived out his dog life. He loved to be bathed in the front yard in an old tin baby tub that we had in the garage. And his ears were so long, he'd step on them constantly.

After Digby left, my mother got a flat coat lab, mix puppy from the owner of the butcher shop north of Defiance. We named her Mandy. Mandy was a great dog, very gregarious and loved to be around us kids. In the summer of 1962, went on vacation and when we came back, Mandy had gone into heat. She was the belle of the ball, so to speak, in our front yard. We had dogs lined up from all over the neighborhood. I was in the 6th grade at the time, and can remember looking out of the kitchen window at the ruckus going on, and being told of the reason for the large scal congregation, turning to my mother in disgust, saying. "I'm sure glad humans don't do that." You would have thought that that would have been a teachable moment for my mother, but no. I ultimately learned the facts of life from two 7th grade girlfriends on the bus a year later, to much embarassment and shame. Mandy was allowed to come to term with her pregnancy (we were Catholic after all) and gave birth to 8 or 9 very variegated puppies. We witnessed some of the birth when we came home for lunch on day and it was ensuite. I have no idea how my folks found homes for all of them and I am afraid to enquire more deeply into the matter.

After the puppies were given away, Mandy was fixed and it seemed that she became very protective of us, her real kids. When I was a sophomore in high school, our house caught fire on Palm Sunday. It was quite the excitement in Defiance, because the smoke could be seen for miles. I remember some guy went into our house and rescued, what he thought was our most valued object--our color tv--and when he opened the door to come out, Mandy followed him out. Fall of junior year, I came home from school one day to discover that my mother had put Mandy to sleep because she had bit the tv repairman. No word to any of the kids. She was just gone. She had jumped up on my bed that morning to wake me up with a lick and she was gone.

I didn't wait very long to mount my own campaign for another dog. I think by then I had figured out how to manipulate the Catholic guilt stuff for profit. I was good enough, that I got my mother to agree to to purchase a wire hair terrier that winter. We had to drive east of Toledo to pick her up. Her name was Maggie. And she was a balm to my heart. Maggie moved with us to Rochester MN after my junior year, when my father decided to do an internship at the Mayo Clinic in anesthesia. And Maggie produced Molly, who produced Muffin. By this time I was in college and family dogs were not quite the part of my life that they had once been. But the pattern had been set. I even had a dog in college for a while, until I realized I was not ready for the responsiblity and found a home for him ("Jocko" a cross between a husky and poodle).

I did not bring a dog into my life for eleven years after that, until 1983, when I adopted Sally, a stray cocker spaniel who I had picked up on the streets of Capitol Hill in Seattle outside the Development office of the Seattle, Art Museum where I was working at the time. Sally stayed with me and my then-spouse until her death of old age in 1997, a record of sorts. But if you fence your yard in, and take walks with your dog on a leash, you really can increase their life span. And don't invite tv repairmen to your house, either.

So Max will live out his normal life span with me, and I will be more than grateful for his constant devotion and companionship. One of my favorite buttons of all time goes something like this: "I got a dog for my husband. It was a fair trade."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deutches Bundespost

Helga Burger and her partner, Kristal

Last night, I stayed up late sewing the top of my laundry bag. By hand. I don't own a machine and when I did, it was my grandmother's old treadle, electrified, and I could never find needles for it. I was the only kid in junior high who dropped out of home ec when we got to sewing. I was absolutely bored with the idea of making a dirndl skirt back in 1965. My mother couldn't sew either, so she could have cared less that I dropped out of home ec. She was and is a woman whose favorite cookbook was Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book.

But why I was repairing my large laundry bag was that it had been a gift to me in the fall of 1978 from my friend Helga Burger in Germany. I had met Helga when I was a summer exchange student under the auspices of Youth for Understanding in 1969 in Offenbach. I had originally asked to be placed in France, because French was what I had studied in high school. I spoke no German. When word came that I had been placed instead in Germany, my mother said, "Well your forebears are German, you should be fine." So off I went to Germany without any German language skills or any further thought on the potential problems that might create, where I was to live with the Wade family.

Now life with the Wade family turned out to be not a box of chocolates. To begin with, just getting there involved a a harrowing all day trip on a train from Hamburg to Offenbach (because I had to be placed with a Catholic family, I had to be sent to the center south of Germany because there were no Catholic families to be found in northern Germany per YFU). The train from Hamburg was delayed en route 5 hours. I made it to Frankfurt without a clue as to how to transfer trains (thank you kind guardian angels) and then when I arrived at the train station in Offenbach, there Iwas no one waiting for me and I had no German money nor idea how to use a phone to call them--again saved by another guardian angel who made the call for me. Of course, while I was waiting for the Wades to arrive, several Turkish fellows tried to pick me up quite aggressively. I guess wearing bright yellow Villager shorts with an orange and yellow turtleneck top really made me stand out (once again, no one from YFU thought to advise on appropriate dress). The Turks were scaring the crap out of me when finally the Wades hove into view and stuck me in their car and drove off to their house.

Once arrived, I was informed by Herr and Frau Wade that they had agreed to host me because I could help their daughter, Marita, learn better English before she left in the fall of '69 for a year's exchange to an American high school. Now I was a fairly naive high school junior, who thought I had seen a lot, but it could not compare with their daughter, Marita. Marita was determined to break as many rules as she could. She drank, smoked cigarettes, bleached her long hair, wore slingback high heels with open toes, and most importantly, picked up American GIs at dances because they would buy her things and they were foreign, exotic to her.

So there I was, supposedly helping Marita learn English in a less exciting fashion. And then Frau Wade decided that I could do their ironing for them, as I wasn't pulling my own weight in the family (there were three younger boys who didn't do squat). On top of that Mrs. Wade had a nervous breakdown halfway through my visit which involved locking herself into her room and screaming at the top of her lungs for several hours, and throwing things. Herr Wade was the headmaster of a private boys' school and so most of this was tamped down because it would affect his standing in the community. The boys were a rude bunch, who talked back to their parents without reproach, chewed their food with their mouths open and were considered quite cute by their parents despite their obvious deficiencies in deportment.

My only out during this summer was when I would ride a bicycle to school with Marita to Hanau. Even though it was summer, school was still in session, and though I could not speak or read German, it was thought that somehow by osmosis, I could learn a bit. At school, I made friends with several other girls. Helga was one of them. I brought my 1969 high school yearbook to class and they poured over the pictures, marveling at high school life in America, the music, the weird sports that they didn't have. The girls, in particular would exclaim over one the photograph of one of my classmates at Defiance High School, Barry Schatz, because of his surname. We would spend lunches and breaks together giggling and talking about the boys in their class. It was difficult to communicate, because the osmosis was not working. But we made do with lots of laughter and giggling. Seeing these girls daily for the first month and a half of my visit, kept me centered and able to get through the difficult time I was experiencing with my host family. I can't remember at this late date what it was that drew Helga and I into a deeper friendship than the other girls, but after I returned from Germany we kept up a sporadic correspondence by mail over the years.

Then in 1978, I returned to Europe and enrolled at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel to obtain an LLM degree in international law. During the fall, I took a train to central Germany, where I met Helga and stayed at her apartment for a long weekend. We went to a Christmas fair in the town square and hiked out in the country, after a bit of a car ride to get there. Helga and I were still friends, but things were a bit different. For one thing, at one point during a party Helga hosted, while I was trying to make conversation with a group of women in Helga's kitchen (my German had not improved much in the intervening years), one of Helga's girlfriend's seemed a bit agitated, and at one point grabbed Helga by the crotch while we were talking. Later, in the room I was sleeping in, I was looking at Helga's record albums, and noted a complete collection of albums by a girl group called The Flying Lesbians, or something like that. I put two and two together, and at some point the three of us reached an uneasy truce when I made it clear that I was not angling for more than Helga's friendship, and we managed to salvage and spend a pretty decent weekend together.

As a parting gift, Helga, who worked for the German post office in Offenbach, gave me a large blue postal bag emblazoned with the Deutches Bundespost symbol in yellow, red, and black. I've kept it with me since. It has housed my dirty laundry from Brussels to KY to DC to Seattle for the past 30 years. It was sweet to sit and sew on it last night and remember a friendship that had sustained me through my first difficult time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A real turkey recipe

I've been carrying this recipe around since 1983, when I worked for the Seattle Art Museum as its Grants Writer. A job that paid terribly but put me around wonderful co-workers and fabulous art. Only wish I could have afforded to stay there longer.

I've posted this at blogs I frequent, so you may have read it already, but I want a place I can find it easily, so I am posting it here for all to enjoy. Year after year.

Turkey Dressing

3 eggs
1tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups washed popcorn (uncooked)
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup diced celery
garlic and salt to taste

Mix ingredients well and stuff turkey.

Bake at 350, until popcorn pops and blows the ass off the turkey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rho Epsilon Hork

When I attended college in the early '70's, the Greek system was banned from our campus. That was fine with me, because the college was small enough (2,000 or so) that you really did not need yet another set of artificial institutions to separate and stratify us. We were already stratified among the jocks, the dopers, the pre meds and the power hondos (you know, the guys that ran for student government and had the look of Democrats-to-be--Republicans were in hiding at this point though a YAFfer named Kelly Rask did emerge and was part of the Reagan transition team many years later, but that's another story)

So, rather than sororities and fraternities, we had dorms. And you were known by the dorm you kept. Turck and Bigelow halls were quiet, filled with girls who would pop popcorn on Friday nights, and go to the chapel to listen to a bad folk guitar player and buy Russian tea on Satuday nights.

Doty was also a quiet dorm, but it did have a bit of a wowser element to it. It was a 4 story cement block dorm that had an elevator. When I lived there my freshman year, in the dead of winter in Minnesota, a guy living on the 3rd floor (odd floors for men, even for women) stripped down to a pair of boxer shorts that had been dipped in gasoline. He had rubbed his body with vaseline first, put on the boxer shorts, rode the elevator down to the first floor, set his shorts on fire, ran around the outside of the dorm in the snow with flaming shorts, got back in the elevator and rode it up. That was our entertainment for the night (and actually food for reminiscences on later nights as well). Some of us weren’t even drunk or stoned at the time, but wished we had been. A guy named Ken was subject to a bunch of hazing throughout the year. One time someone stole his clothes as he was showering. He simply wrapped the shower curtain around him when he was done and stomped back to his room. There was also graffiti around dealing with Ken and dead bears, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Dupre was a larger Doty and had a wilder reputation. I remember a classmate came upon a couple wildly making love in the hall one evening. He just calmly stepped around them and went on his way. I will not tell the story about the young girl who forgot to remove her feminine hygiene item before doing the snake dance. This is a family blog, of sorts, after all.

Wallace Hall had its own cafeteria and was a hangout for iconoclasts of all persuasions. One fellow wore a cape and a top hat around the dorm. I stayed at Wally in 2004 for a class reunion and it had been restored to a luster I'd never seen while I was a student there. As I recall, it was seedy, but it you had candles, and curtains and a bedspread made of paisley fabric from India, it could look pretty exotic in the dimness.

Kirk Hall was the dorm all aspired to because it had an interior courtyard but best of all its double and triple rooms each had a common living room and individual bedrooms for each student. Those with good room draw numbers, or the power hondos who knew how to game the system, could be found there.

And then there was the Stadium which were dorms built into the sports stadium that hosted the football games. These were the newest dorms, but they were offset by the fact that they were almost two blocks or more south of the dining commons which meant a trek during sub freezing temperatures for half the school year to get your meals. So those poor folks were in a wasteland left to themselves for the most part. One fellow I knew who lived there, had a Lincoln Continental Mark IV, which was horribly ostentatious for those times. But his dad was a higher up in the Chicago mafia, and that was one of the perks of being his son. My friend would drive his Lincoln up to the dining commons for lunch and dinner and somehow no one ever made a stink about him parking next to the cafeteria.

But the absolute, total bad actor, Animal House dorm was Dayton Hall. Dayton Hall, which is no more, was perhaps the most nondescript of all the dorms, but its residents were determined to make sure that Dayton Hall made itself known to the rest of the college. It was home to the loudest, drunkest, most tripped out students on campus for the most part. And the stories were legion.

First there was the incredible horny man, of whom I've previously written. He took it upon himself to flash as many co-eds as possible during the early, first weeks of college. And then there was Orville, the incredible horny dog. Then there was the time that Phil, a fellow who I shared teaching assistant duties with for a course co-taught by our advisors our junior year, lost some sort of a bet, and as a result had to run through all 4 floors of Dayton Hall naked. He apparently strolled through to really pay his bet off. Last I heard, he was an ordained minister.

There was also the time, Dayton seceded from all the other campus dorms and the picture of them presenting their Declaration of Independence to the student government was on the front page of the school newspaper.

But, finally, what really gave Dayton its ineffable cachet was Lucky Pierre. Lucky Pierre would occur late at night, deep in the darkest throes of winter when everything was dead and boredom was peaking. All of a sudden a clarion call would go out down the floor: "Lucky Pierre! Lucky Pierre!" Like lemmings to the sea, the male and female residents of the floor would open their doors and march to the tv/commons room where they would pile on top of each other and hump vigorously for a period of time, then roll off the squirming mass of humanity and straggle back to their rooms. It was named Lucky Pierre after Pierre Trudeau because those in the middle of the pile, just like the Canadian Prime Minister, got both kinds of action.

Now I started this post discussing the lack of a Greek system. Of course, in the graffiti on the walls you could find "I tappa keg," "I felta thi," "I toka J" and other sorts of satire. But when I graduated from college and went on to law school at the University of Kentucky, another college classmate, Henry, joined me. And so the two of us tried to bring some of the zanyness that we had so enjoyed in undergrad to the stultifying experience of law school life in a southern state.

Now, greek life at the University of Kentucky was the ne plus ultra of social accomplishment. I actually learned the greek alphabet because it was so endemic there. The fraternity and sorority houses were opulent, at least from the outside, and it was clear that everyone knew their place once they had either made it into the greek system or not. And for us law school types, our time in that sunny world had come and gone. So Henry and I created our own legal fraternity. We styled it Rho Epsilon Hork. It was named after a fellow at college who went by the name of Ralph Edward Hork, who was a perennial candidate for student government. He kept running and kept losing. But that did not stop him from advertising in the college newspaper want ads that he was looking for a pair of brown shoes to go with his black suit he planned to wear for inauguration.

However, this was a gradual, organic process of creation. When Henry and I first got to UK, our first act was to run Ralph Hork as candidate for third year student representative to the Student Bar Association. His platform was "shoes." And the person he most admired was, naturally, Harold Stassen. Surprisingly, he won the race. or perhaps not so surprising as I don't recall that there were any other candidates. But the administration decided he was not a 3d year law student and awarded the position to someone else. However, the die was cast, and Henry and I determined that this was not the last REH was to be heard from, hence, Rho Epsilon Hork was formed our second year of law school.

It was a sibling society and motorcyle gang. All members were given the post of president, since it looked good on your resume, and if you graduated ("regraduated" since we'd already matriculated from college) you assumed the position of 'immortal,' since that was the only way up from president. We had secret ceremonies using Ollie Burgers from a short lived John Y. Brown fast food chain called Ollie's Trolley, and in honor of Chief Justice Burger of the US Supreme Court. In case of tie votes, we would flip Justice Burger.

Alas, third year of law school came around, and we decided we had to actually join a real legal fraternity. There were three at University of Kentucky law school in 75-76. Two of the three hired strippers for their rush parties, so that left one that we could possibly join: Phi Alpha Delta. Nobody wanted to be in Phi Alpha Delta at that point, so us REHers took it over as easy as pie. And our year at that fraternity may have consisted of one, maybe two meetings, but we all had officers' titles to affix to our resumes and the appearance of accomplishment.

What was not on our resumes was our most signal achievement, and that was when we nominated Darryl Driver to be our candidate for homecoming queen. You see, it was one of the rules at the University of Kentucky that only the fraternities could nominate candidates for homecoming queen. However, it could be any fraternity, graduate or undergraduate--and as fledgling lawyers, we knew how to do the research on this.

So we got the application and filled it out, and nominated Darryl Driver for homecoming queen. We figured that since he got into law school, his resume and accomplishments were probably just as good, and maybe even better than most of the other candidates. Somehow though, the screening committee did not see it our way, because Darryl didn't even make it onto the Homecoming court. And this being the mid 70's there wasn't a recognized cause of action for sex discrmination that we could bring. For all I know, Kentucky may still not recognize such an action. It would not surprise me in the least.

We of PAD, formerly of Rho Epsilon Hork, took this loss stoically. Beer, with a bourbon chaser as I remember. Or maybe sterner stuff. As the graffiti on the passway from Dayton Hall to Kirk read: "Why are you stoned, when you should be tripping?"

Monday, October 27, 2008


I used to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission as an enforcement attorney in the Seattle Regional Office. It was the smallest of the regional offices, and eventually was closed in 1994, a victim of the Gore project to reinvent the federal government. That story is for another day.

However, because the office was a small one, we knew everyone in it, the folks who audited the broker dealers and the corporations, as well as the enforcement side. As a result, I heard this story from the broker dealer end of the office. It seems that there was a small startup company in the region that wanted to do a public offering to raise money to fund a construction company that would build a new design of cow barn, one that combined energy efficiency with storing the cows in a new and different way. The company called them 'cowdominiums.'

These cowdominiums were circular in shape with a floor that sloped to the inside, where in the center of the room was a hole that had a pipe in it that led to a processing facility for the cow waste. The cows were positioned facing towards the outside of the cowdominium. You see, cows are notoriously inefficient processors of their feed. So the hypothesis was that you could hose the cow waste down the chute, take it out and dry it and reprocess it and then just feed it back to the cows, and they wouldn't notice the difference. Obviously this was pre-prion mad cow disease.

The attorney for the company was named Bruce Butcher (wonderful name, don't you think, for what he was doing?) and he was a true believer. In fact, he was such a true believer that he carried some of this reprocessed cow dung around in a baggie and during investor presentations, he would proceed show how safe it was by eating it!

As I recall, the offering never really got off the ground, so to speak. But in these current perilous financial times, it is always good, albeit rare, to find humor in speculation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stax or Motown?

I went to highschool from 1966 to 1970. I was lucky that I lived so close to Detroit and CKLW, across the water in Ontario, which blasted out the hits of the day in a very wide radius. But at night, because of the AM radio frequencies, we had to pick up other stations, like WLS in Chicago or WBZ in Boston. They were exotic, but not as good as CKLW because CKLW broadcast a steady string of hits from Motown and Stax records in Memphis. And there was no better music to dance to. I had a full length mirror in my bedroom and in addition to using it to roll my hair at night before I went to bed (yes I slept on all those rollers throughout the night--it's amazing what you can do for beauty's sake), I used it to practice my dancing. And man did I practice, because every Saturday and Friday night there was a dance at the Skylark club, and sometimes, you could go to two dances in a night if there was a dance at the high school after the football game.

My parents let me pick one night a week to go out, so it was hard to select. If I went Friday, I would have nothing to do Saturday but if I went Saturday, I had to get up for church on Sunday with the family. It usually was Saturday, however, because that's the night most of my peers were there. Once in a blue moon there would be a group playing, but mostly we danced to records. And when they were Motown or Stax hits we poured out onto the dance floor.

Well, at least half of us did. The guys.....? Let's just say the only dances they were interested in were the slow dances where they could grab onto you for dear life and shuffle lugubriously around the dance floor under the turning mirrored ball. No talent was required then. But most of my friends wanted to dance fast dances and none of the guys were brave enough to do it. So we girls improvised. What we did is form giant circles where we could dance to our heart's content. You didn't have a partner whose steps you needed to match, so you could try just about anything. There were even dances like the pony, the mashed potato, or the monkey that had actual moves to them (the twist was passe by then). But the one I could never do was the skate. You take a couple shift steps to the side, then you raise your following foot and bring it around in a circle behind your other leg. It's hard to explain, and it was even harder for me to do at the time, but man was I jealous of the girls that could do the skate. They made it look so easy.

Around the end of sophomore, start of junior year, the circle started changing. Boys got braver. Or maybe they started drinking and coming to the dances and their inhibitions were relaxed. But whatever it was, when we girls formed our circles for the fast dances, some boys would break through the circle to the middle, wave their arms like they were flying birds and careen about for a few seconds before dashing out of the circle again. They'd get their bravery up to do it every other song or so, and thinking back, it must have looked a bit like an avian mating ritual. But it got them off the hook for looking good while dancing and it gave the fast dances a bit of a frisson of anticipation. Slow songs just did not cut it for 'getting your jams out.' In the end I think Stax beat out Motown because it had a darker edge to it that was more appealing to me.

And if you watch the Sam and Dave "Soul Man" video that is appended to the title of this piece, you can see that the dancer on the left does a modified skate step from time to time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bassets for Obama

Before I had kids, I had a dog, a cocker spaniel named Sally Puddles Muttons. And I used to take her on walks around Greenlake in Seattle. In the fall of 1984 I had a tshirt printed up that said "Dog Being Walked Against Reagan" and I would wear it on our walks around the lake.

I think in light of the new trend in making a dog outing a political statement, I should find that tshirt and cross out Reagan, insert Bush, cross it out and insert McCain.

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Homecoming Week

I went to high school during the last of the traditional times--1966-70 in small town Ohio, where the revolution of the 60's was late in coming, but far overstayed its welcome thereafter. Homecoming was a time for a new outfit, generally a suit, to wear to the Homecoming game and Dance and a corsage in school colors that was one giant mum. You elected a Homecoming Queen and her court: one lucky girl from each of the other classes and spent the time being envious of their selection.

Things got kinda crazy when I moved from a small town high school to a liberal arts college in a large urban area. While my college was known for its academics, it was not known for its sports teams, particularly its football team. In fact in the years immediately following my graduation, my alma mater set an NCAA record for most consecutive losses, that was, mercifully, broken by some other hapless institution of higher learning a while back.

I was recently visiting my alma mater as my oldest son is a senior there. I did not attend the football game because it conflicted with the sports event my son was participating in, but I did learn that one of the football cheers that became popular during my time in college was now a cheer that the football team led off each of its games with: "BLOOD!! BLOOD!! BLOOD MAKES THE GRASS GROW!!!"

This sent me into reminiscing about football and homecoming in college. Because the football team was in such sad shape, the Student Board in charge of these things did not organize a Homecoming Dance and almost no attention was paid to inviting alumni to return to campus for the event. This was immediately following the Kent State massacre and emotions were very high on campus against the Vietnam War, with the thought that the traditions of our forebears were somehow quaint and out of place in the college world of today. We had more important things to do, or so we thought.

My first year at college, there was a homecoming queen, who was elected, iirc by less than 50 votes. She was married. None of my friends went to the games. In my sophomore year, my then-boyfriend, who was a senior, was beguiled into joining the team by Coach Hudson, a great bantam weight coach whose team roster was only 30 guys. The 'dirty thirty' he called them. My boyfriend had never played football before but he was a quick runner and got placed on the special team squad. It was not very pretty. That year the Student Board decided that they would forgo Homecoming entirely, and substitute in its place "Gross Out Week," with the winner of the Gross Out contest being awarded the title of Homecoming Queen. I have no idea how many actual entrants there were in the contest. I am only aware of the winner and the runner up--both male.

Now before I describe the entries/actions of these two individuals, I would like to say that at least they did not stomp baby chickens to death, as someone from Yale had been rumored to do in a similar contest. No these fellows merely used their own bodies, but of course they did it in front of others. I am sure that the Alumni Development part of my alma mater, were they even aware of this, would do what they could to bury it deep, deep where no one could find the records. But I think that is wrong. We ignore our history and as a result are unable to make a frank honest appraisal of who we are and what we stand for. And it makes a damn good story.

The first entrant that I am a aware of is a fellow I will call Stewie. Stewie was known around campus as 'the incredible horny man' because he had a habit, freshman week of wearing a trench coat around campus and not much else. He reportedly did this to impress the girls (remember this was before women's lib had made a dent yet in some colleges and many of us, even girls, just sorta took it in weary stride). Stewie and a confederate appeared in the student dining commons on afternoon as lunch was in full swing and Stewie started belting out "Duke of Earl". Stewie had his trench and shirt and pants on at the time, but tucked within his pants was a dildo that popped out. The confederate knelt down with a can of whipped cream, and simulated a sex act in front of not just the students but a prospective freshman and her mother. It is rumored that the freshman actually did enroll in the college the next year. Stewie was so certain that he was going to win that he promised that if he lost he would suck on a dog. (at the time, I didn't think much of this, as I was in a jaded, so what period--but these days 37 years removed from it, and as a parent and supposedly solid member of society, it does rather make me cringe to recall it).

Well Stewie lost. He lost to another fellow who also performed his act at the student dining commons during a lunch. This fellow was something of a legend on campus. Cross him, and you might walk out of your dorm room to find a hunting arrow embedded in your door courtesy of this individual, who we will call Fred. Fred later went on to medical school and became wealthy as a result of inventing an IUD, it was reported. At any rate, Fred ate a hearty meal with his buddies. At the conclusion of the meal, he removed the china, silverware and glasses from his tray, stuck his finger down his throat, brought up his meal, poured it into a glass, toasted his mother, and drank it.

I thought this was so funny that I wrote home telling my parents about it. They never set foot on campus again. I did not go to graduation, but instead received my diploma by mail. That I do regret. So, as you can see, there are reasons that the Alumni Office is not interested in keeping a full history of Homecoming at my alma mater. But I wonder if those traditions are somehow not continuing on there, deeper under the surface perhaps, but there nonetheless. My visit to the college to see my son did not provide any further insights. And I did not share these with him. Yet.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cracking the Thin Veneer

The McCain campaign is veering into dangerous waters with the personal attacks on Obama for his association with Bill Ayers, his 'otherness' which the crowd takes to mean that he's a terrorist, and his support for abortion rights, which the rightwing interprets to mean he's a baby killer. I would not say that these waters are uncharted however, because this country has a long, shameful history of murders and other criminal actions encited by mob hatred and violence.

When I moved to Seattle back in 1981, one of the books that I read that summer was "USA" by John Dos Passos. It is a quintessentially American book that tells a number of stories about America during the early part of the 20th century. The one that made the greatest impression on me was the Wobblie uprising in Centralia, Washington, around the time of the first World War. (Did you know that they don't teach this as part of Washington history to our students? That shows what power it still has they they try to bury it even now) It's a vividly brutal portrait of what can happen when mob violence is unleashed. And at the end of the uprising, there were mainly IWW members who were dead with one fellow who was castrated before he was hung by the enraged mob of anti worker businesspeople of Centralia, and his body riddled by bullets. Add to that the lynch mob violence in the south that occurred during the same period, where both black men and at least one Jew: Leo
Frank, were the victims here. You begin to see the history that is embedded in our country and the power it continues to exert over some members of our society.

These days, this kind of violence is more likely carried out by a small group of people or one or two such as Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, but they still draw inspiration from and are energized by far right wing ravings similar to those that the McCain campaign coyly hints at these days. The abortion clinic bombers and those that killed doctors who perform abortions, spring to mind as well.

For those of us living in Seattle in 1985, Christmas at that time is a somber memory. That was the year we woke up on Christmas morning to the murder of the Goldmark family by a man who was also unhinged by the right wing, who thought the Goldmarks were Jews. Here is the wikipedia article on it:

David Lewis Rice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Lewis Rice (born 1958) is a follower of the Christian Identity movement who, on Christmas Eve 1985, forced his way into the Seattle home of civil rights attorney Charles Goldmark with a toy pistol and stabbed Goldmark, his wife, and two children to death. Rice, a member of the Duck Club, a right wing extremist organization, erroneously believed the family was Jewish and Communist, and saw the crime as
part of a broader religious war between American Christianity and Soviet atheism. Goldmark and his family had been active in progressive politics in Washington for years, and his parents had won a highly publicized libel suit in 1964 as part of an effort to refute accusations of past membership in the Communist Party. When confessing to the crimes, Rice called Goldmark the "top Jew" and "top Communist" in the state.

Rice was convicted in 1986 of aggravated murder for the four deaths and was sentenced to death, but the conviction was later overturned on the grounds of an incompetent defense. A sticking point of Rice's case throughout the trial process was the psychotic symptoms that he sometimes displayed, and his attorney's lack of emphasis on them. In 1998, he finally pleaded guilty to the crimes in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. He remains in prison serving out a life sentence.

Charles Goldmark was a highly respected attorney in Seattle, where I practice law to this day. These murders were particularly brutal given the time they occurred and the way in which they were done, which I still cannot bring myself to write about. And it was a right wing organization, similar to the ones that are currently ripping ACORN and Bill Ayers,that gave rise to these heinous killings.

I am also reminded of the abortion clinic bombings and murder of doctors who perform abortions that have been inspired by right wing rhetoric that is again making the rounds in the circles of those supporting McCain.

There was a highly regarded political science professor at my college, Dr. G. Theodore Mitau, who was a Holocaust survivor. His main point, when teaching his classes was that civilization is such a thin veneer that surrounds our society, that it can break with the slightest amount of pressure. McCain is truly playing with forces that can break this thin veneer of civilization, forces that he cannot control once they are set in motion. And if our veneer breaks, I am sure that he and his running mate will loudly and longly disclaim responsibility. We cannot let this happen. We must speak out and counter the voices of the mob that would break our civilization.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My maternal grandfather

My grandfather on my mother's side was named Claude Frederick Von Holst, although the family dropped the "von" from the name when they came to the New Country from northern Germany in the late 1800's.

My grandfather was a doctor in Little Falls, MN. He practiced with his brother, Bertram. They had the clinic there and the soon to be famous flyer, Charles Lindbergh, was a friend of theirs. Mr. Lindbergh used to buzz the clinic and wiggle his wings, when they would run out to see the commotion. My grandfather was quite a few years older than my grandmother, Regina Werner, who grew up in Milwaukee, WI and graduated first in her class from the nursing school at Marquette. She came to Little Falls in the early 1900's and lied about her age to get her first job. She opened two nursing schools, one of which was in Little Falls where Claude Frederick was located and eventually time, neighborliness and familiarity created the right factors for a proposal, even overcoming the fact that my grandfather was Protestant and my grandmother was Roman Catholic. The setting was a huge train crash north of Little Falls, where Regina went to tend to the wounded. Claude proposed and wanted to take her away, but the sisters at the hospital where she had set up the nursing school intervened and said, "Please don't go now in the midst of this crisis. If you wait til it's over, we will give you a lovely wedding breakfast." Which they did, after Regina agreed to postpone the nuptials.

My grandfather Holst died several months after my birth in late 1952, so I never got to know him. But I do know that he was a hell of bridge player and he darned his own socks.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Another Kentucky story

Back in 1978, another KY Assistant Attorney General, Sarah W, and I were detailed to a county in Central/Eastern Ky to clean up the docket. The Prosecuting Attorney had been killed in a car accident over the July 4 weekend and things had backed up and the Circuit Judge, Billy Lewis, was riding through. We did mostly misdemeanors in the gymnasium of the local school as the court house was under construction. The cases were tried one after another, and we had a number of spectators watching, sitting on folding chairs and fanning themselves against the heat. No air conditioning, no fans, no jury box, no dais for the judge to sit on, just metal desks and folding chairs for us as well. Sarah was a vegetarian but the only restaurants in the town (there were 3) were deep fry this and deep fry that, so she also suffered from diet restrictions.

In the morning of the second day of trial week, Sarah had a case (with me sitting second chair) that involved a charge of selling a small quantity of marijuana. The complaining witness testified that he met the D on a bridge in the community and purchase a nickel bag of dope from the D. The D, who was representing himself cross examined the complaining witness thusly:

D: Isn't it true that you 'n me have had bad blood b'tween us?

W: W'al ah don't rightly know 'bout that

D: Isn't it true that you tried to set mah porch on fahr?

W: Ah don't recall that.

D: What time o' day did you an' me meet?

W: Ah dunno.

D: "N whut color of'car wuz ah driving when ah sold you that marijuana?

W: IAh don' rahtly r'member

D: How much did that nickel bag cost you?

W: A nickel.

So, the jury came back quickly with a 'not guilty' verdict. Sitting in the audience was a guy named Odell who came up two or three trials later. Odell was charged with assaulting his mother. She testified that lately she'd been taking to see another man, since Odell's daddy was out of the picture and that this man had been so good to her--took her all the way to Fort Wayne--which was the furthest she'd ever been from home. Well, Odell didn't like this and one day he drove to her house, jumped up the steps and burst into her house, grabbed her by the arm so hard it left bruises and said that there would be no one takin' the place of his daddy. She had to call the police to get him out of her house.

Odell was representing himself too, and here were his first questions after I had finished my direct of his Momma:

D: Momma whut time o' day wuz it when ah drove to yer house?

W: [I don't recall what she said]

D: And Momma, what color o car wuz ah drivin when ah drove to your house?

W: !

At this point the members of the jury were laughing, and the judge motions me up and tells me that he thinks I should amendthe assault to driving without a license, as he knew that Odell did not have a driver's license. So, I do as he suggests, amend the charge and the judge directs the jury that they have to find Odell guilty of that. They jury is not happy--I think I heard a few groans but they troop off to the jury room and are back quick as a minute with the guilty verdict--and a $2 fine!

Judge Lewis later writes a letter of recommendation for the job Sarah and I did that week. I think it's still in my KY box of memorabilia. But I heard that the Judge was later taken off the bench for some sort of offense. Seemed to have to do with money, but it's been now, 20 years ago.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kentucky Geography

When I was in law school, one night my friends and I were gathered around a few brews with a little time on our hands and a very detailed map of Kentucky in front of us on the table. We went through the map and wrote down the most colorful town names that we could find. They are an indication of the perverse sense of humor that dogs many who reside in the Bluegrass state and it's time to commit their names to posterity:

Head of Grassy
Monkey Paw
Burna (the writing is unclear on this --musta been after another cool one)
Knob Lick
Eighty Eight
Big Bone
Mud Lick
Mud Camp
Wolf Coal
Kerby Knob

These were obviously done at random, rather than alphabetically or geographically. Do any of you have any other marvelous Kentucky town names?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Divorce Story

This happened 12 years ago and it was not my marriage.

No, my marriage went on the rocks ten years ago thanks to a spouse with a wandering eye and a newly inflated ego. But that's a story for another day, preferably when that person quits running for public office. I need to put this other divorce story into a more permanent format, because as time goes by, memories and details dim, and it is the details that give this particular story a pungent flavor.

This other divorce story has to do with a close friend (we will call him "Tom") who went to law school with me at the University of Kentucky. He was a first year student when I was a third year and we first met when I was looking for timers for moot court arguments, and he happened to fall in my gunsights. 3d years can really be persuasive with first years. Then post law school I dated a good friend of his and so our friendship deepened. I went off to Europe two years later to obtain an LLM in International Law and eventually after his graduation, Tom clerked for a federal judge, and left Kentucky for Tulane where he studied and received an LLM in Maritime Law.

I moved to Seattle in 1981 and worked for a private law firm doing asbestos defense litigation. Not my favorite gig, but it was a job and it made an entre for me into the then rather tight world of Seattle law. Now part of my cases had an admiralty component tied up in them, so I looked Tom up and gave him a call at the firm where he was practicing maritime law in New Orleans. One thing led to another and two years later, Tom and his wife, Heather, moved to Seattle where he started up with a maritime law firm here.

Things seemed to be going great for them from all outward appearances. Tom became a partner at the firm and they had two children. But, things can fall apart and they did. Horribly in this case. Around 1994, Heather got itchy feet, so to say. I suspected as much, given remarks she had made to me at the time, but I kept my mouth shut in hopes that she and Tom would work out their problems. Unfortunately, they did not, in part because Tom, who was working long hours, didn't have a clue as to what was going on.

Eventually, Heather, who was Treasurer of the elementary school PTA where her kids attended, started an affair with the President of the PTA, George, a security guard and policeman wannabe. Heather had a friend, Tiffany, who was also having an extramarital affair at the same time, with Frank. Tiffany was married to a guy who was the locksmith for the Westin Hotel in Seattle. I didn't know that you could make a living as a locksmith for a hotel, but Jose did. And he was a very nice guy.

Well things were falling apart all over the place and finally, Tom was getting very upset and suspicious about Heather and Tiffany because they were going out a lot together and not really saying where they were going and then covering for each other when they returned. One week, Heather casually dropped it on Tom that she and Tiffany were going for the weekend to Leavenworth to get away from it all and just relax and have fun because things had not been very fun for her at the home front and she was tired of being a stay at home mom 24/7 and she deserved some time away.

So Heather and Tiffany drove up to Leavenworth. Tom was really hacked by this time, and decided to take action. Tom dropped his kids off with Jose, got in his car and drove up to Leavenworth to check out whether Heather and Tiffany were actually staying in the hotel they told him they were at. In fact he found their car outside the NoTell Motel, but he also saw George's car parked outside as well. Tom did not go into the hotel and pick a fight. Instead he drove back to Seattle under a full head of steam and told Jose what he had found when he picked up his kids.

Jose then drove up to Leavenworth and parked outside the hotel. He went to the floor the "girls' room" was on (I don't remember how Jose found this out, but with his hotel experience, I am sure it was not difficult), and let himself in, using his locksmith talents, to a vacant room that was across the hall and two doors down from the "girls' room." Then, with the door of the room he was in cracked open slightly, he called their room. Heather answered. Jose asked for Tiffany. Heather said, "Just a minute, Jose, she's in the shower." Then Jose watched as Heather opened the door to the "girls' room" and went to the room next to that and knocked on it. He silently glided into the hall and stood behind Heather so that when the door was opened and Heather was telling Tiffany that Jose was calling, he could see Tiffany wrapped in a towel with Frank sitting on the bed in the room, similarly garbed.

Tiffany looked behind Heather, saw Jose, and gasped, "Jose it's not what you think it is." Jose said, "Right." Left the hotel, got in his car, drove back to Seattle, and the divorces were underway.

I guess the moral of this story is do not fuck with a locksmith. Or an admiralty lawyer.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A fitting remembrance

While I may be a current resident of the upper left hand corner of the map, or as it was earlier described by a Republican back in 1947: "the Soviet Socialist Republic of Washington," I was raised in northwestern Ohio, a rock ribbed bastion of conservatism, even to this day.

My parents were strong Republicans, going so far as to vote their party over their Catholic religion in 1960. I well remember the chant on the playground at elementary school: "Nixon, Nixon, he's our man. Kennedy belongs in the garbage can!" After his defeat in 1960, Nixon visited my hometown of Defiance, OH, several times, given that the outpouring of affection must have felt like salve to his political wounds. And once during that period, I saw him fairly close up. He was staying at my great uncle's house that had been donated to Defiance College for their president's mansion. We lived two blocks east, and I was outside wandering about on a green, spring morning trying to rescue a downed baby bird in the side yard of the president's house, when I caught a glimpse of Richard Nixon going into the house. No Secret Service protection for a former VP and failed presidential candidate at that time.

In August of 1968, I was visiting a friend who had moved from Defiance to Barrington, IL. We took the train in to go shopping for back to school clothes. It was not until we returned to her house that night that we learned how close we had been to the riots surrounding the Democratic nomination. Of course, as the dutiful children of Republican parents, we had no interest at that time in Hubert Humphrey or Eugene McCarthy. We were barred from returning to downtown Chicago and spent the rest of my vacation time in the suburbs. of Chicago. I had made all the purchases I needed at Marshall Field's and Carson, Pirie Scott (but could not afford Saks or Bonwit Teller), so I didn't find it amiss, and only later did I realize the gravity of what had gone on between the confrontations of Daley's police and the antiwar demonstrators.

Unfortunately for my parents, I left home and went to college at a small liberal arts school in a large city courtesy of a full academic scholarship. This resulted in a major rethinking of my world and political views and led to familial ruptures at several points in my life. One of my favorite college recollections is the large bedsheet that was hung from two dorm windows facing a busy street in 1972 emblazoned with the words "FUCK YOU DICK." The neighbors' wrath forced it down after less than a day out flapping in the wind, but the point was made and the majority of the students, the male half of whom had lost their college deferments and become subject to the draft lottery earlier that spring, were extremely unhappy with the election tilt in Nixon's favor.

So it goes and on we went. As the years rolled on and Reagan led to Bush and Bush II, I became even more anti-Republican in spirit and public stance. Then, fall of 2007 and the youngest son came up to his senior year in high school and began looking around at colleges. I contacted a college friend who had years in college admissions experiences and was knowledgeable in schools that my fit my youngest's interests and personality. This friend, whose husband kept a framed copy of Nixon's resignation letter in their bathroom, mentioned Whittier College as a possible 'fit.' I was aghast. Nixon's alma mater might be right for my son? What was going on here? But given my knowledge of my friends' political bona fides and her expertise, I swallowed hard and last fall on a California tour of colleges, we stopped and gawked and talked and walked around Whittier. During the tour, I asked our guide if Whittier had any sort of Nixon building or statue to commemorate his attendance there. "Oh yes," the young guide assured me earnestly, "We have a third floor conference room in the library that is dedicated to him."
"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "that seems apropos. I can live with this college." So I bought a pair of Whittier running shorts. Their team is the Poets. From their namesake, poet John Greenleaf Whittier. I can also live with that.

Go Poets!

And just to add to the cognitive dissonance, there is this to contemplate: