Monday, October 31, 2011


Another Halloween is upon us and we whiffed on it. Frankly, I'm alright with all of it. This year we didn't buy so much as a pumpkin. Usually we get pumpkins at the Fall Fest that we spend with friends in early October. Because we missed it this year, we never really got around to getting one at the store. I stopped by the grocery store the other night, but all they had were Charlie Brown pumpkins, so I passed.

Neither of the kids is interested in Trick or Treating this year. Sarah's too old and Ben said none of his friends are interested in it this year, so we're just hanging out at home. It's a bit of a crossroads for us as a family, and thus a bit bittersweet for me. I've never been a big fan of Halloween, but I did enjoy getting together with our friends Patty and Brad to walk with our kids through their neighborhood. It was sort of our tradition, and this year even their kids weren't interested, with the exception of their youngest, who's birthday also falls on Halloween. She and some friends are going out trick or treating.

In trying to think of some memorable Halloween costumes and events of the past I came up with a few.

There was the year I was trick or treating with Rob and we were followed by a couple of teenagers for the last block or so before we got home. When we got to our house, Rob, suspicious of the teens, took a shortcut up the hill, while I was out to prove that I wasn't scared and kept walking to our steps. At the base of the steps one of the kids stole my bag, and they both took off running. I was pissed and went in and told Tom. He and a friend went out looking for the guy while I followed, but no luck. As I was walking back from then end of the block, I saw the remnants of my bag underneath a parked car. I went and got it and it was all there. All my candy. It turned out not to be a tragic holiday after all.

There was the year that Intelligraphics had a Halloween party with a DJ and I dressed up as the Jolly Green Giant and Donna was the Little Green Sprout. We looked like a couple of trees out there on the dance floor. At that same party I also remember our friend Bill Lee dressed in jail stripes as James Brown, shortly after he'd been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. Bill did an amazing rendition of JB, too.

One year we attended a party in our friend Stephanie's basement and I dressed up as a pirate. I wanted to find a stuffed parrot toy for my shoulder, but all I could find was a grouse or a partridge. Not caring, I taped it on and went to the party. People kept calling me out on it. A few even wondered if I was Dr. Doolittle.

In 1988, Rob, Jane, Paul and Keith came down for Halloween. We spent the night at various East Side locales. The best costume of the trip was Paul's. He had a piece of green carpet with a football field on one side and a baseball field on the other and carried an umbrella spray painted silver. When people asked what he was, he said "The Metrodome". Classic. Creative and classic!

Our kids had some memorable cute costumes, none of which I can find pictures for, of course. One year at a particularly scary house, Sarah and Patrick approached the witch cautiously and when they got their candy, Sarah ran back to us and Patrick froze in fear. We had to go rescue him from himself.

This year Ben did get a plain mask that, when worn with a hoodie sweatshirt is downright creepy. He's using it to scare the kids as he passes out candy.

It's a fun holiday if you keep it in perspective. I'm one who's not into dressing up for it too much anymore. I think it's best left to the kids anyways.

Boooooing off...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time is of the Essence

Had a tough day today with regards to Rob not being with us anymore. It sneaks up on me and overwhelms me when I least expect it. I don't really know how it comes up, but when it does, its not a pretty thing. It does cause me to think pretty deeply about what life is all about, where I'm going and what is important. It may be the only positive thing to come out of the whole momentary deal.

It always dredges up great memories that we shared together, which is a good thing. The down-side to it though is that it sparks me to thinking that we'll never be able to make any new ones. What's done is done. That also is one of the last things he said to me when I was telling him how we'd never have the chance to make new ones as we both reminisced about the past. He said "You can't go back," which is true. I'm not sure that's what I want to do, but my tendency is to color the past better than it was, and in turn, mourn the loss of the good old days. (That were no better than the now new days.)

It's a little like the Ecclesiastes 3 verses that the song Turn Turn Turn was derived from.

  • There is a time to ride bikes to the Mississippi River and throw rocks, and a time to watch the river flow by with your kids.

  • There is a time to share a bedroom with a brother and a time to share one with your wife.

  • There is a time for staying up all night with your brother partying and a time for early to bed because your exhausted from being a new father.

  • There is a time for eating dinner with 6 kids around the table and a time for eating alone on a business trip.

  • There is a time for playing tackle football with your brothers and a time for watching your son play tackle football.
  • There is a time for dating and a time for weddings.
  • There is a time for college and a time for work
  • A time for apartment and a time for a house
  • A time for a new friend and a time for old friends
  • A time for the Beatles and a time for Green Day
  • A time for transistor radios and a time for iPods
Because all things in life are what you make of them. It can be drudgery or joy. The choice is yours. How do you want to live out your days. Your time is short. It may not seem that way. Tomorrow might seem like as far out as you can see. But when you have something as traumatic as losing a sibling at a young age, you see life out a whole lot further and suddenly, every day seems significant. Every week is a big week. 

So my advice to you is to go out and make your life bigger. Bigger than TV. Bigger than the next toy or electronic. Bigger than your car, your house, your school, or your posessions. Bigger.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wrong and Right

From where I stand here are ten things that are wrong and ten things that are right with the world today:

1. That people waiting in line for anything can't leave their cell phone alone for 5 minutes.
2. Drive through lines at Walgreens to get prescriptions. It's no wonder we're sick. We're too lazy to get out of the car. (Have never used the drive through lines, personally)
3. Penalty challenges in the NFL, College Football and many other sports. Spare me the 5 minute stoppage.
4. Intersection cameras. Two words: Police state.
5. Leaf blowers. Can you get any more annoying and offensive?
6. Vat-o-popcorn at the theatres for, like $11.00. C'mon!
7. Talk radio nut jobs. Left wing/Right wing, all of them. Think for yourself.
8. Any TV over 50 inches. Why?
9. Overblown team introductions for ANY sport. I saw the Buffalo Sabres introducing the assistant Medical Trainer over the PA last weekend for their opener. Glad I saw that.
10. College tuitions. Out of site. Education should be affordable.


1. Any free wireless
2. One person, one vote. (Most of the time)
3. Recycling is prevalent everywhere
4. Windmills and CFL bulbs (Love them or hate them.)
5. Hybrid cars
6. National Health Care. The US can learn from Canada and Great Britain.
7. Organic Farming and locally grown food. Support it!
8. Freedom of religion
9. Light rail and bike lanes. (Learn from Madison, WI and Portland, OR)
10. Food shelves

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Patience in the Tempest

I spent much of last weekend fishing for musky in the northern reaches of Wisconsin. The weather was, oddly enough, very fall-like. We left from Waukesha on Thursday morning in a steady drizzle and drove for 5 hours in an almost constant rain. My friend who went with admitted he was in a funk and a bit on the cranky side. We got up to Presque Isle about 2:00 and the rain just kept on coming. It rained so hard and long that we didn't even get a chance to fish on Thursday which was part of the reason behind leaving early. We hung out and watched baseball and football that night with the intention of getting a full day of fishing on Friday.

Friday we woke to high 40's and a light rain and winds gusting 20-25 mph. We got our warm clothes on and covered it with our rain gear. We committed to trying one lake and if that was too choppy or slow fishing, we would try another. We stopped in town and got some live bait, sucker minnows that were $7.50 each. (Yikes). These are big fish, in some cases more than 12" long. Ours averaged 9". The saying goes, "You want to catch a big fish, you have to use a big fish." Sounds logical to me.

We launched on the first lake found a protected shoreline and fished for an hour or so. Then we tried a couple of new spots and proceeded to buck the wind for another hour. Steve's funk continued and he said we should get off this lake, get some lunch and try and adjust his attitude.

After an appetizer sample of fried food and a beer at the Pea Patch Steve seemed to be in a much better state. We headed over to the other lake and launched. We again found a protected shoreline and trolled for a while with no luck. The rain was intermittent, but light most of the time. Because using a trolling motor is forbidden in the waters we were in, we row-trolled. This can be tough in wind, but we were fortunate to have found enough protected shoreline that it wasn't too bad.

We moved to a new location and after an hour and a half were starting to get the feeling that we might be out of luck.

Then the ticking started.

The ticking of the reel usually signals that either a fish is on, or you have a snag. "Fish on!" Steve said. Because I was busy casting and preoccupied, it took me a second to realize that he wasn't kidding.

This is typically when the chaos starts. These are big fish, and because they tend to pull the sucker around and  chomp on it a while, it gives you a few minutes to prepare the boat for the fight and subsequent landing. I reeled in my line and then reeled in the other sucker that we were trolling behind the boat. It's important to have nothing that could get snagged on the line of the caught fish. I get the net ready and Steve gets the pliers, towel and cameras ready.

There was some discussion earlier on who would get the "first fish." Typically we take turns and we usually get one each anyway. It was an unofficial agreement earlier that Steve would take the first fish because he put the most work into rigging up the suckers.

When it was go time Steve handed me the rod and said "It's Rob's birthday. Bring it in." I was moved that he was that willing to let me take the first fish and reach my goal of trying to catch a musky on Rob's birthday. That's what you call a good friend.

I reeled up the slack to the point where my rod tip was in the water, then reared back and set the hook. The fish was quite a fighter as it dove left and right on me. As I recall, it fought a little harder than my first big one two years ago. After a minute it was boat-side and it made one last lunge away from the boat when it saw the net. I reeled him the rest of the way in and Steve netted it. It was a beautiful 34" musky, small by musky standards, but after fishing for 6 hours, I am always relieved to see a fish on the end of any line. We snapped a couple of pictures and set it free. Catch and release is all we fish. These fish are too special to keep. One day it will be someone else's trophy picture.

An hour later we had another fish in the boat, a 30" Tiger Musky.

When that was released, we figured our luck had run out, so called it a day.

Through all of it I became painfully aware of how important it is to stay patient in life's adverse or stormy conditions. If you freak out, throw in the towel or lose your temper, you're likely to miss the joy and happiness that may be as near as the next hour. Any fisherman knows, the worst fishing is typically when the sun is shining and the sky is cloudless. If you tough out the storm, you'll be glad you did.

And glad I was.

I had caught one of the most coveted fish, a fish that was for years the subject of smack talk among the brothers and I had done it on my brother's birthday, while wearing a shirt that was given to me by his wife. In my eyes, there was no place I would rather have been on that crappy day. I was absolutely happy the whole day. Some would call me nuts, but none of it would have happened if I'd had enough sense to get out of the rain.

Blogging off...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Homecoming Revisited (Is that redundant?)

I went to the Waukesha South Homecoming game tonight. It was a 34 - 7 blowout where South was never really in the game. It was much like the other games I went to this year. Tough to watch, over by halftime for the most part. It's not a knock against the football program, but I guess it probably is ultimately.

Going to these games brings back memories of homecoming games when I was a student at Cretin High School. Cretin was much like the Waukesha South team at the time. A not-very-good team in a tough conference. I don't recall seeing them win a game, actually. I would usually go to these games with a few friends, mainly to goof around and flirt. (Which is pretty much what my daughter does at them too, so some things never change.) I'd watch the games of course, but they were always such blowouts that I'd lose interest and end up goofing off...and flirting.

It's kind of ironic because now Cretin has a good team that is consistently in the State Championship game that is played at the Metrodome. They finally won the big game last year after coming in second so many times. It however is a much different scenario now. The program has money behind it, big money. Tuition at the school is considerably (exponentially) higher than when I was a student there. I was able to pay my last two years' tuition by working as a busboy a couple nights a week. Try and find a student that can do that in these times. I don't thing it's happening. Not with what tuition costs.

So it was a walk down memory lane. And we lost, just like we did 35 years ago. Football is timeless.

Blogging off...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mid-life Monday

Had a bit of a mid-life moment today. I was riding home on my bike, like I did last week, and the month before that, and the year before that and the job before that, thinking I've been here before.

No, no that wasn't it. It was the thought that my life has become as predictable and as boring as the morning paper. Yeah, that was more what it was. That was it.

There is a rut in the road from my doorstep to my workplace that my bike tires have worn. I knew exactly what my evening would bring even as far as writing this blog. I knew it would be an evening of a bike ride, a bit of the evening paper and a walk of the dog. Then I'd pick Ben up from practice, eat some dinner, watch 12 minutes of the football game, feel the guilt that I wasn't writing, start writing and go to bed at 10:00.

Tomorrow will be strikingly similar. Strikingly.

What I really want to do tomorrow is Para sail. Or get kicked by a kangaroo in the outback of Australia. Or eat a chocolate covered insect in the jungle of Vietnam in a grass hut. Or ride a Harley out to Seattle and down the coast. Or climb a half dozen of the high peaks. Or sit on a crowded train in Turkey and wonder where I was going to spend the night. Or bike through Tuscany. Or help some Somalis dig a fresh water well. Or get a tattoo. Or catch a marlin in Florida. Or picket with the Wall Streeters in NY. Or bungy jump from the Royal Gorge bridge. Or learn how to do a 90 meter ski jump. Or get snake bitten in a perilous location. Or play receiver for the Packers for one series. Or skydive from a small plane. Or listen to Coldplay at the Opera House in Australia. Or help people stack sandbags to save their house from a flood. Or take a chopper ride in Hawaii. Or learn electric guitar. Or sleep in a mosquito net bed in Mozambique after a day of helping aids patients.

I'd really rather not dodge traffic on my bike tomorrow.

I realize that I have it good, really good. I have a beautiful wife who cares about me and two great kids that are as good as a man could ask for. I have a great job and a nice house in a great city/state. A dog, two cats and a pension.

I also know this is only a passing feeling and is completely unfounded. I have no plans on going through with anything drastic, and if you know me, you know I'm not that way. I won't be running off with the cleaning woman, as we have none. I won't be getting a Porsche Boxster convertible, as I could never afford the insurance and would look pretty ridiculous in something so small. I won't be taking a meditation class as I have inner peace without it.

But by writing it all out, in a way, I feel better already.

Blogging off...