July 31, 1945

My father would have turned 61 today. In memory, here’s a piece that my Aunt Virginia posted at her site a few weeks ago: her memories of growing up with Dad.

July 31, 1945
Hospital stays in that day were much longer than now, so I suppose the date is actually around August 10, 1945. 

We tiptoed around the house, everything had to be quiet.  My mom tied a hankie around my nose so I wouldn’t breathe out any germs.  I quietly approached the bedroom and under the window was a basket, and in the basket was a tiny new baby.  It was a brother.  I looked at him, but I dare not touch him, I might give him some germs that were on my hands.  He was so tiny and looked so sweet, how I longed to touch him, but that must wait. 

As he grew older (at about 9 months) his crib was kept in the living room.  He learned that by standing up and pulling on the edge of the crib and wiggling back and forth, that he could make the crib move, and that is just what he did, from one end of the living room to the other.  The only problem, at one end of the room there was a wood stove.  I always worried that he would run into the stove and get hurt but he never did. 

As he grew older he would follow me whereever I went.  I loved my little brother and played with him by the hour.  We made mud pies  (without germs. of course) and we made roads in the dirt with his roadgrader and dump truck, my big brother helped us and we built a road from the house to the woods which was over a quarter of a mile away (I’ll probably get some feedback on this) but we drug the hoe behind us to scrape the ground wide enough for our trucks.  There was a cowpath most of the way so it wasn’t too hard. It went through the barnyard, down the lane, through the woods and over to a patch of timber which my father was having someone log it.  The big firs were on the ground and there were little houses to be made under the limbs that were held up by their branches.  There were logs (little short limbs we would cut with an ax) and bring them up to the house to be put in the log pond that my older brother had dug and filled with water.  We played for hours. 

Soon he was old enough to enjoy the Bobsey Twins (books) and I read to him by the hour.  We were together almost everywhere.  I remember one time we were staying at my aunts house and we found a tame chicken. We played with it and dressed it until the poor thing died. Of course we had to have a funeral.  My cousin (who is a preacher today) preached his first funeral sermon that day and after the burial and so much mourning. We decided to play funeral.  We took turns being the dead one and the only thing we could find for a casket was the bathtub. So first one of us and then the other would take turns being dead while they other would solomly and mournfully sing “Jingle Bells”  (the only reason I know this is because my aunt told it many times in my hearing) 

For many years while we were growing up we would stay with my aunt for a couple weeks. We would look forward to this vacation with anticipation. We turned summersalts and cartwheels on the lawn in the evenings. One evening as he was teasing me I went running around the house to get away from him and straight into my boyfriend who had arrived and was talking to my dad at that moment.  (Pop still teases me about that, the problem is, I didn’t know he was comming and was caught in my playclothes, not dressed up at all) 

As we grew older Steve and I would talk together about our plans and dreams for the future.  I got married at 16 and Steve worked for my husband peeling cascara bark during one summer. He went away to school and we sold his VW for him. He wrote, I wrote.  He just loved my first baby and would carry her around when ever he could.  He was a great tease and of course would tease my little girls till it was a fright.  He would tell them he would put them on the roof of the house if they wouldn’t be good. Of course they loved him dearly in spite of all the teasing, there was no one like uncle Steve. 

Time goes on, he fell in love with a pretty young lady and was married, had his own children and they grew up.  The day came when he told me he had cancer and of course after a long hard battle he was gone, and all I have today are memories, but, Steve…

“I’ll Always Remember”

Happy birthday, Dad.

Too Tired to Sleep

I’m trying to recover from Blogathon by sleeping in this morning, but it’s difficult.

For one thing, it’s light outside. I have an eyemask, but the light still seeps through.

For another, I had a hell of a lot of caffeine last night. My body is shaking.

Plus there’s the fact that Tiffany got the keys to her house last night and wants to move today. She’s scheduled everything very tight so that there’s no margin for error. And yet the movers are providing error. Kris says they’re not able to mover her today for some reason. Now they’re just running late. She could use my help!

The cats aren’t co-operating either. I’d been sleeping for a couple of hours when Kris came into the bedroom. “Hon, wake up. You have got to see this.” What I had got to see was Simon, outside the bedroom, sitting on the balcony. We have no idea how he got there. “He was sitting on the planter box outside the kitchen,” Kris said, “and then the next thing I knew he was on the roof of the front porch. And then he was here.” We wrestled with the balcony screen (it’s large, and sharp, and cumbersome) until we had it free, and then Simon just stood up, looked at us, and traipsed into the house. “Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.”

And, finally, now that I’ve finished pouring my soul into Get Rich Slowly, I want to spend a couple hours putting the finishing touches on Animal Intelligence and spend a few hours getting Four Color Comics back in shape.

But what I really need to do is sleep.

Funny Money

I need your help. I’m looking for funny stories about money.

Blogathon 2006 is tomorrow, and I’ll be writing for 24-hours straight at Get Rich Slowly. My theme will be Funny Money. I’ll highlight stories and anecdotes and websites about money that are funny in some way. I mean both funny “ha-ha” and funny “strange”.

Examples include:

  • The old lady who had three million dollars in cash, but who kept it strewn around her house (which was filled with cats), and who died living as a pauper, nobody aware of how much she was worth.
  • The inept bank robbers in my neighborhood who stole construction equipment in an attempt to steal an ATM. (True story — I’ll have to see if I still have the newspaper article.)
  • Urban legends.
  • Video clips from YouTube.

This video clip from NBC’s The Office is an example of something that might work.

Because I’ve made this change of plans with less than 24 hours to go before Blogathon starts, I need your help. If you know of a strange money tale or a funny story, please let me know!

(Also: it’s not too late to pledge your support. I currently have 26 pledges totalling $558. Pledges as small as $1 are appreciated. The money will go to help provide books for poor children.)

And the Chicken Shall Lie Down with the Cats

[photo of chicken walking among kittens]

Here is a photo of the chicken that has decided to live with our kittens.

From the left, you see Max (who suspects this bird may be good to eat), the bird (whom we call Chicken, even if she’s not), and Duke (who looks a little wary here). The three often eat together in perfect harmony. Today they were milling around the shed, waiting for me to feed them. Unfortunately, I spooked the bird by hanging around with my camera, so I didn’t get any pictures of the group feed. Maybe tomorrow.

Help Me Name Weblog #7

Okay. That’s it. This is the last straw. I’m starting yet-another weblog. I need help with a name, though. Kris thinks my ideas are dumb. So what’s good?

To be clear: this weblog will feature stories about animals, and especially about animal intelligence. Sure, I’ll post cute pictures of ducklings and videos of funny cats, but mostly I’m just going to post stories about animal intelligence.

If this weblog takes more than an hour a week, I’ll quit. Seriously. I intend to use it simply as a gathering place for all of the animal intelligence stories I find (and that are sent to me — you guys are great!).

My top name choice right now is “Animal Minds” (which would be hosted at animalminds.org). My second choice is “Smile on a Dog”. If you think those names suck, then give me some better ideas.

The end.

(Yes, this will be my zillionth blog.)

In Search of Mr. Misty

When it’s hot during the summer, Custom Box Service takes ice cream to its customers. Or, more precisely, J.D., acting as an agent for Custom Box Service, takes ice cream to its customers. I fill a couple of coolers with popsicles and ice cream bars, and then drive around the Willamette Valley, acting as a sort of Santa Claus in July.

“Do customers really like the ice cream?” Tiffany asked the other day.

“They l-o-v-e the ice cream,” I told her. And they do. They rave about it. They talk about it for the rest of the year. As soon as summer arrives, they begin asking me when I’m coming with ice cream.

Yesterday I drove through Estacada to Sandy to deliver ice cream to a good customer. It’s a long drive, and I soon realized that I was peckish. I’m trying to start yet-another-diet (Diet #774), which makes me feel the absence of the food acutely.

When I stopped to buy the ice cream, I looked longingly at all the tasty foods: roast chicken, Chinese buffet, frozen pizzas. Yum. The ice cream sounded especially delicious. Outside in the fiery heat, I contemplated taking a tithe from a box of popsicles, but opted against it. I made my delivery and chatted with the customer, watching while he opened a fruit bar and slowly slurped down the sugary goodness. I wanted one. Badly.

Back in the car, I realized that what I actually wanted was a lemon-lime Mr. Misty from Dairy Queen. Yum! I thought about how icy cold the Mr. Misty would be. I thought about the sugary water. It sounded like heaven.

I had a mission: find a Mr. Misty.

On the way out of Sandy, I watched for a Dairy Queen. None appeared. “No matter, maybe there’s one in Boring,” I thought. There wasn’t. “No problem. I know there’s one in Damascus.” The five miles between Boring and Damascus seemed to stretch on forever. I imagined the sharp ammonia-like flavor of the fake lime juice. I imagined the inevitable throat burn.

Cresting the hill into Damascus, I smiled at the sight of Dairy Queen’s red roof. I pulled into the strip mall and then noticed: it wasn’t a Dairy Queen! It was a McDonald’s. What the hell?

“Surely there’s a Dairy Queen in Clackamas,” I thought. But there wasn’t. I was beginning to get a little desperate. Luckily, I was close to home, and I knew where the Dairy Queen was in downtown Milwaukie. I drove there quickly only to find that the Dairy Queen had been replaced by a mortgage broker. What the hell?

I wanted to cry, but I refused to give up.

I zipped down 99e at 60mph (in a 45mph zone), willing to risk a ticket. I wanted a Mr. Misty! At last I found a Dairy Queen in Westmoreland. Rather than go to the counter, I pulled up to the drive-thru. It was here that my troubles began. The line did not move for five minutes!

At last the line crept forward. I placed my order: “A medium lemon-lime Misty Slush, please.” When had Dairy Queen changed the Mr. Misty to a Misty Slush? Craziness!

The server repeated the order, confused: “A lemon-lime…float?” What the hell?

“No. A Misty Slush,” I said. “A Mr. Misty.” And make it snappy!

My ordeal was not over. I sat in line for — I kid you not — another fifteen interminable minutes. I was on edge. I was like a heroin addict looking for his next hit. I fidgeted. I played idly with the radio dial. I held the steering wheel in a death grip.

But, at last, I got my Mr. Misty. Green and delicious.

Or was it?

Actually, it was cloyingly sweet and tasted hardly of lemon-lime at all. Had they redone the formula when they changed it to a Misty Slush? No matter, I drove home, slurping it down. My throat burned — such delicious pain.

The War Against the Heat

Yes, living in a hundred-year old house has its pleasures. The house has character, from the hobbit-hole window to the beautiful hardwood floors to the balconies and porches. Unfortunately, living here also has its problems.

Take the weather, for example. I’ve already written about fighting the rain — both flooding and leaks in the attic — but fighting the heat can be just as challenging. Our home sometimes seems like an oven.

Yesterday Kris and I fled to the movies to escape the heat. (We saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which isn’t very good. It doesn’t make much sense. Anthony Lane’s review is pretty good.) Today we enjoyed an air-conditioned restaurant (and a bad meal) and some time in the mall. You know things are bad if I’m going to a mall.

It’s too hot upstairs for me to sleep, so I’m bedding down on the love seat in the parlor. This isn’t ideal. Unless you’re a mosquito. In that case, it’s as close to ideal as you’re ever going to find: a large, juicy man full of sugar. Yum. Why not bite him? Many times.

My feet and legs itch like crazy from all the bites. I’ve applied calamine lotion, but so far it hasn’t worked worth beans. The ball of my left foot is so swollen that when I walk, it feels like I’ve got a stone in my foot.

Kris is taking a long-term approach to the heat. She’s decided that maybe we could plant a tree in the yard, preferably a fast-growing shade tree. She spent an hour tonight making a list: sycamore, chestnut, oak, hawthorne, etc. etc. Of course, the tree solution won’t help us for, oh, maybe five or ten years, even if we plant it this fall. But still, it’s a start.

Now it’s time to go apply some mosquito repellant.

One Nation

text by Kris, links by J.D.

My fifth grade teacher was a wonderful man to know, though I once saw him use his cane to hit a classmate of mine.

This was back in the day when corporal punishment was allowed in schools, so it wasn’t as shocking as you might think nowadays. I can’t remember what the classmate, Lester, did to deserve it, but it must have been something quite provoking, because Mr. Poore was not generally an active man. He could barely walk. Once seated each morning, at his teacher’s desk in the front of the classroom, he didn’t get up until recess. Yet his mastery of a room of ten-year-olds was absolute. We respected him too much to fool around. We took turns fetching various items for him, or passing out division quizzes, or collecting reading group textbooks. When the time for recess arrived, Mr. Poore would painfully make his way out the door where he had parked his sky-blue golf cart. As we kids amused ourselves with Chinese jumprope, games of Uno, four square or tetherball, he would zip over the asphalt keeping an eye on our activities. By the time the bell rang for us to return, he would again be seated at his desk, immobile until lunch.

For all his obvious disability, Mr. Poore was a passionate man. He made us passionate about learning. He spoke to us about things he thought were important in a way that made us feel worthy of listening. I’ve been thinking of Mr. Poore a lot this week as our Congress tries to pass legislation that would bar federal courts from having authority to rule on constitutional issues regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. This is an attempt to prevent the courts from ruling, as they have in the past, that the recitation of the Pledge in schools is unconstitutional because of the inclusion of the phrase “under God”. It was exactly this phrase that so bothered Mr. Poore.

“Those words don’t belong,” he would say forcefully. “They were inserted later. It was a mistake.” He encouraged us to think about whether we wanted to say them or not. When we recited the Pledge each morning, his voice louder and prouder than all of our smaller voices combined, the absence of his own voice as he left a pause for those words was alarming. As we all faced the flag, us standing, him seated, we tried not to notice who was saying it and who wasn’t.

At one point we must have studied about the fifties and McCarthyism, because it seems I’ve always known that “under God” was added at the height of anti-communist Cold War hysteria. The addition was heavily campaigned for by a Catholic fraternal order called the Knights of Columbus, who thought that a patriotic American should be a person of faith, opposed to all forms of communism, socialism, secularism, deism, agnosticism and atheism. Other religious groups supported the change, maintaining that it would help root out godless communists who would refuse to recite the new pledge. Eisenhower signed it into law in 1954.

It amuses me now to know that the Pledge was originally created by a socialist in 1892.

I have no idea of Mr. Poore’s religious leanings or political affiliations. He may have been a godless communist. But he was a man of integrity. On the day he hit Lester with his cane, he later apologized to the whole class. He said he had been wrong to do it, and he hoped Lester, and all of us, would forgive him. When Mr. Poore died shortly before the end of that school year, we felt utterly abandoned. His golf cart sat untouched at the edge of the playground. Our substitute teacher, to whom we were merciless, recited the full Pledge. The rest of us did it Mr. Poore’s way.

[Note: There is now a new by Kris category in which you can find her two previous entries: My husband, he chef and Vintage film sampler: what to watch when you don’t know what you like.]

Why We Fight

Tonight Kris and I watched Why We Fight, the 2005 documentary about the United States military-industrial complex. The filmmakers ask: Why is the United States fighting in Iraq? More generally, they wonder why this country seems obsessed with a policy of Imperialism, a policy promoted by every President in the last forty years (except perhaps Carter).

Why We Fight uses as a touchstone the Farewell Address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a speech made in 1961. Here’s an mp3 of the entire thing, and here’s the relevant excerpt:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three-and-a-half-million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

[The second half of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address cautions against the rise of Federally-funded scientific research. He was wary of this marriage, too.]

Why We Fight explores the consequences of having ignored Eisenhower’s warning. Our nation is now controlled by the military-industrial complex. The budget is dominated by military spending. The government is beholden to the companies that manufacture armaments. There is a vast and complex web of spending and mutual support that perpetuates a need for more fighting, the use of more weapons.

This may sound like some sort of conspiracy theory, but it’s not. It is simply a statement of facts. It’s our interpretation of these facts that gives them value. For you, this military-industrial complex may be a much-needed safety net. But for me, as a pacifist, as a thinking person who opposes our invasion of Iraq, as a citizen disgusted by the enormity of the military budget (especially at the expense of other programs), I find the military-industrial complex abhorrent.

I was especially pleased that the one of the commentators in the film provided some brief historical context for the 9/11 attacks, context that seems sorely lacking in nearly every discussion of the event. (For more on this, read How did we get here?, a compilation of the research I made in the days following 9/11.)

Here’s the trailer for Why We Fight:

Why We Fight is an interesting film — one that will go unwatched by most Americans — but it is not wholly successful. Its many subjects do not seem unified. The film never seems to make a point, to arrive at a conclusion.

If you’re interested in a sobering evening of reflection about war, I recommend watching Why We Fight with the recent The Fog of War, in which former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara discusses the nature of modern war. The Fog of War is a great film (my review).


J.D.: Good grief — you’re addicted to NPR.
Kris: There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s like being addicted to carrots or something…