Monday, October 10, 2016

Seasons on the Menominee

Dear George,
My Poetry Writing Workshop is back in full swing, so I've been re-inspired.  Our first assignment was to write a poem drawing upon the five senses.  I picked my favorite topic and came up with the following result.

Seasons on the Menominee


The ice on the river broke up in mid-spring 
The clattering crystals produced a dull roar
On shore we’d watch what the current might bring 
A bucket, a rope, a boat’s single oar

By May Pig Island turned pale green 
The trillium blossomed at Brewery Park 
Violets and buttercups lit up the scene
Downriver at night we could hear a dog bark

Too cool for swimming, we’d take our green boat
Searching for treasure in a neighbor’s lagoon
Sometimes we’d stop to relax and just float
Listening to the cries of a heron or loon

Swimming began by the first week in June
Steven was always the first to dive in
The shock of the water made young kiddies swoon
We marveled at the goosebumps that dotted our skin 

We swam underwater with eyes open wide           
The view was gritty, distorted, and brown
Sounds were muffled and warped by the tide
We held our breath and worked to stay down

Snapping turtles were life’s greatest fear
They’d swim by at dusk, their noses breathing air
Underwater we feared that these monsters were near
We’d splash away with a shudder and a prayer


Pig Island exploded with colors galore 
The birch were golden, the maples deep red 
At twilight we’d spot two deer on the shore
Or find their shed antlers in the forest instead

The weather turned cool, time for swimming now over
The smell of burnt leaves filled the autumn air 
We searched on the lawn for a four-leaf clover
The sunsets on the river were a glitzy affair

We gathered cattails from the river’s shore
Then left them to dry for eight long weeks
We set them on fire with a joyful roar
And raced round the drive with howls and shrieks


The river in winter was enveloped in white 
And oaks in the forest had shed all their leaves
The sun on the snow was uncomfortably bright
Huge icicles stretched to the earth from the eaves

Tiny chickadees dined at my mother’s feeder
Squirrels gathered lost seeds from the ground
The deer came at midnight to nibble our cedar
The howl of the wind made a ghostly sound

We shoveled the ice for a skating rink 
And built large forts for a snowball fight 
We’d stop by the house for a hot chocolate drink
Then back to the river in the waning light


It’s sixty years since I lived on the river
It’s as fresh in my mind as the day that I left
Poems about rivers always make my heart quiver
That may well explain why I’m feeling bereft

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Curious Case of Smarmy K.: A Moral Story for Our Age

Dear George,
In my school, like schools everywhere, we had an elected student council whose charge was to debate the issues of the day affecting the student body.  Elections were held in first-bell classrooms shortly after Labor Day, and the chosen representatives met every Thursday until school concluded in June. 

In my home room a girl nominated Susan B. to be our student council representative.  Susan was the smartest kid in the group, if not in our entire grade, and she was hard-working and responsible to boot.  A second student nominated Johnny T.  Johnny was an outstanding athlete and one of the most popular kids in our cohort.  Then a kid in the back row raised his hand.  He said he was nominating Smarmy K. (the nickname of a classmate who I will otherwise leave unnamed).  For a moment the nomination was met with silence, but then the room erupted in titters and giggling.  Smarmy was the most unlikely nominee imaginable.  He was looked down upon by virtually everyone.  He was a bully, coarse and vulgar, self-centered, ridiculed girls, slandered blacks and Jews, was hostile toward teachers, and was generally regarded as stupid, if not moronic.  He smoked, he drank, and he spent much of his time scratching his crotch and rolling his eyes.  Nobody expected Smarmy to remain in school much longer, much less be nominated for student council.
The election was held the following day.  Of the 24 votes cast in our room, Susan got 8, Johnny T. got 7, and Smarmy got 9.  The teacher decided that no one had gotten a majority, so she called for a runoff between Susan and Smarmy.  I think she was privately certain that Susan would win.  However, Susan only got 11 votes.  Smarmy got 13.  He became our new representative. 

It had been a secret ballot, and nobody talked much about their choices afterwards.  However, it seemed clear that there were a bunch of angry student voters — angry at the school and the teachers, envious of more successful classmates, and even rejecting of the premise of a student government.  It wasn’t that anybody admired Smarmy or thought he would do an adequate job.  However, voting for Smarmy, and thus electing the worst possible person, was a slap in the face at the powers that be.  I’d like to say that this story had a happy ending, e.g., by Smarmy being transformed into a much improved person by virtue of his new role.  However, to my knowledge, he never went to a single meeting of student council, and he remained as much of an outcast as he’d ever been.  He dropped out of school the following year.  

We were taught in civics class, of course, that democracy is the highest form of government, and our student elections were pitched as a real-life laboratory in democracy.  I did acquire an appreciation for democracy in school, but also some appreciation of its risks and occasional failings.  A successful democracy rests upon an intelligent, informed, and responsible electorate.  An angry and irresponsible electorate, on the other hand, can reap destruction.  Let’s hope that voters won’t re-elect Smarmy K. or his ilk the next time around.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Clifton (Cincinnati) Trivia Quiz

Dear George,
We’ve lived in Cincinnati’s Clifton neighborhood for well over half of our lives, but it turns out there are many important facts about our community that we’ve never known.  Clifton has a long, rich history, and it’s one of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods.  Here is a Clifton trivia quiz that draws from the various sources listed at the end.  Even if you’re a lifelong Clifton resident, this is a challenging quiz.  My personal opinion is that you’re doing well if you get 16 or more of the 32 items, and, if you get 24 or better, you’re ready to be a contestant on a Clifton edition of Jeopardy.  I hope you’ll write down your answers and see how you do.  (Correct answers are given at the end of the quiz.)


1.  Clifton was incorporated as a village in:
(a) 1850; (b) 1870; (c) 1890; (d) 1910

2.  Clifton was named after: 
(a) a wealthy landowner
(b) the first European to reach southwest Ohio in 1642
(c) the highest mountain in the Tri-State region
(d) a large farm

3.  What percent of adults in Clifton ride bicycles to work?
(a) 0.2%; (b) 2%; (c) 12%; (d) 22% 

4.  The longest street in Clifton is:
(a) Clifton Ave.; (b) Lafayette Ave.; (c) Ludlow Ave.; (d) Vine St. 

5.  What percent of housing units in Clifton are occupied by renters (vs. owners)? 
(a) 35%; (b) 51%; (c) 67%; (d) 79%

6.  Henry Probasco, who donated the Tyler Davidson fountain to the city and whose mansion (Oakwood) is on West Cliff Lane in Clifton, made his fortune in:
(a) the slaughterhouse business
(b) the liquor business
(c) the railroad business
(d) the hardware business

7.  13% of adult Cincinnatians have master’s degrees or beyond.  In Clifton the comparable figure is:
(a) 21%; (b) 31%; (c) 41%; (d) 51%

8.  Dixmyth Avenue is named for:
(a) The wealthy family whose mansion anchors one end of the street
(b) Journalist and Gazette editor Richard “Dick” Smith
(c) The famous horse that won the 1898 Kentucky Derby
(d) The Myth of Dorothea Dix

9.  Skyline Chili at Ludlow and Clifton Avenues, the most popular restaurant in the company’s chain, was opened by brothers John and Pete Georgeton in:
(a) 1946; (b) 1956; (c) 1966; (d) 1976

10.  Compared to the city of Cincinnati as a whole, Clifton has a greater % of households with annual incomes:
(a) Under $25,000; (b) Over $150,000; (c) Both of these; (d) Neither of these

11.  What is the most frequent household income category among Clifton residents?
(a) Under $10,000; (b) $20-24,999; (c) $40-44,999; (d) $60-64,999; (e) $80-84,999

12.  Early 1900’s political boss George B. Cox’s mansion is now:
(a) The Clifton public library branch
(b) The Clifton post office branch
(c) The Sigma Kappa Pi fraternity house
(d) Clifton Commons (the neighborhood charter school)

13.  Originally an automobile repair shop, the Ludlow Garage was a rock and roll venue which offered national acts  between: 
(a) 1956 and 1968; (b) 1969 and 1971; (c) 1972 and 1977; (d) 1978 and 1986

14.  The overall crime rate in Clifton is ______ than the national average.
(a) 17% higher; (b) 9% higher; (c) about the same as; (d) 9% lower; (e) 17% lower

15.  How many houses of worship are located in Clifton?
(a) 7; (b) 10; (c) 14; (d) 19

16.  According to local legend, which Clifton landmark is haunted by ghosts?
(a) Arlin’s Bar; (b) Ludlow Garage; (c) Roanoke apartment house; (d) Graeter’s ice cream parlor

17.  According to, Clifton’s Ludlow Avenue has more same-sex couples living together than ___ percent of U.S. neighborhoods.
(a) 62%; (b) 74%; (c) 86%; (d) 98% 

18.  Rawson Woods at Middleton and Warren was donated to the city in 1923 by the Joseph Rawson family to establish a:
(a) wildflower preserve
(b) bird preserve
(c) southern pine and magnolia grove
(d) wildlife sanctuary

19.  Which age category is most frequent among Clifton residents?
20-29; (b) 40-49; (c) 60-69; (d) 80-89

20.  The Esquire Theatre originally opened in Clifton in:
(a) 1911; (b) 1928; (c) 1940; (d) 1963

21.  Clifton has a greater concentration of historic residences than ___ percent of all U.S. neighborhoods.
(a) 69%; (b) 79%; (c) 89%; (d) 99%

22.  The child poverty rate in Clifton is:
(a) 3%; (b) 11%; (c) 23%; (d) 53%

23.  In the 1980s Clifton residents successfully opposed the opening of a  _____ in the Ludlow Avenue shopping district. 
(a) Family Dollar store; (b) Wendy’s restaurant; (c) discount liquor store; (d) Victoria’s Secret

24.  Among Clifton residents, male median earnings are __ percent higher than female median earnings.
6% higher; (b) 18% higher; (c) 25% higher; (d) 41% higher

25.  Clifton residents most frequently identify their ancestry as:
(a) English; (b) German; (c) Irish; (d) Italian

26.  The website AshleyMadison,com, which caters to married people seeking affairs, has 64,500 users in Cincinnati.  Among Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, Clifton ranks number ___ in AshleyMadison use. 
3; (b) 17; (c) 31; (d) 51

27.  What percent of Clifton residents are non-white?
10%; (b) 20%; (c) 30%; (d) 40%

28.  Which of these educational institutions is located within Clifton’s official boundaries? 
(a) Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
(b) Hebrew Union College
(c) University of Cincinnati
(d) All of these
(e) None of these

29.  How many homes in Clifton are worth a million dollars or more?
14; (b) 34; (c) 54; (d) 74

30.  The inscription on the Probasco Fountain in front of the former Clifton School reads:
(a) In teaching others we teach ourselves
(b) Thirsty and ye gave me drink
(c) Teachers open the door but you must walk through it yourself
(d) Where there is love there is life

31.  What % of Clifton children (K-12) are enrolled in private (vs. public) schools?
(a) 26%; (b) 36%; (c) 46%; (d) 56%

32.  Sitwell’s coffee shop is named for:
(a) British poet Edith Sitwell 
(b) a village in Ireland
(c) Sitwell Street in Clifton
(d) a Union Civil War general

ANSWER KEY (numbers in parentheses refer to sources listed at the end)

1.a.  Clifton was incorporated in 1850. (16) 
2.d. Clifton was named after a large farm (Clifton Farm). (16) 
3.a. 10 adults (0.2%) ride bikes to work. (8) 
4.b.  Lafayette Ave. (1.59 mi.) is longest, followed by Clifton (1.39), Ludlow (1.36), and Vine (0.98). (7) 
5.c.  67% of housing units are occupied by renters. (8)
6.d. H. Probasco made his fortune in the hardware business. (2) 
7.b.  31% of Cliftonites have master’s degrees or beyond. (7) 
8.b.  Dixmyth Ave. is named after journalist Richard “Dick” Smith. (2) 
9.c. Skyline Chili on Ludlow opened in 1966. (5)
10.c. Both — Clifton has more “under $25K” and “over $150K”. (8)
11.a.  “Under $10K” is Clifton’s most frequent household income category (17%). (8) 
12.a.  The Cox mansion is now the Clifton Public Library branch. (2)
13.b. The Ludlow Garage was a R&R venue from 1969 to 1971. (6) 
14.a. Clifton’s crime rate is 17% above the national average. (3) 
15.c. There are 14 houses of worship in Clifton. (9) 
16.a. Arlin’s Bar is said to be haunted. (12)
17d. Ludlow Ave. has more same-sex couples than 98% of U.S. neighborhoods. (13) 
18.b. Rawson Woods was established as a bird preserve. (10)
19.a. 20-29 is the most frequent age category (27% of residents). (8) 
20.a. The Esquire opened in 1911. (11) 
21.d. Clifton has more historic residences than 99% of U.S. neighborhoods. (13) 
22.d.  The child poverty rate in Clifton is 53%. (13) 
23.b. Cliftonites blocked the opening of a Wendy’s. (11) 
24.d. Clifton males make 41% more earnings than Clifton females. (4)
25.b. German (20%) is the most common ancestry. (13) 
26.a. Clifton is No.3 in AshleyMadison use. (15)
27.c. 30% of Clifton residents are non-white. (14)
28.a. Only Cincinnati State is located in Clifton (16)
29.b. 34 Clifton houses are worth a million dollars or more. (8)
30.b. The Probasco Fountain reads, “Thirsty and ye gave me  drink.” (2) 
31.d. 56% of Clifton children go to private schools (7)
32.a. Sitwell’s is named for British poet Edith Sitwell. (6)

(1) “Along Lafayette Avenue: Clifton Historic Homes,” by Sue Richmond and Anita S. Marks; 
(2) Cincinnati Historical Society, “Clifton”, pp. 371-391 in “The WPA Guide to Cincinnati,” 1943/1987;  
(3), “Clifton, Cincinnati, OH Crime”; 
(4), “Clifton, Cincinnati, OH Livability”; 
(5), “The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili,” by Dann Woellert, p. 132; 
(6), “Clifton Gaslight District: Tree-Lined and Diverse” in “Walking 
(7), “Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio”; 
(8), “Clifton: Statistical Neighborhood Approximation”; 
(9), “About Clifton”; 
(10), “Rawson House”; 
(11), “History and recognition”; 
(12), “Local Lore: Haunted Buildings of Clifton”; 
(13), “Cincinnati, OH (Ludlow Ave)”; 
(14), “Clifton – Cincinnati, OH”; 
(15), “ Study: Oakley tops Cincinnati neighborhoods for infidelity”; 
(16), “Clifton, Cincinnati”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fall Floral Beauties

Dear George,
The Krohn Conservatory is currently exhibiting its 2016 autumn show, “Fall Back In Time”.  It’s inspired by formal gardens from Victorian England.  If life gets a little oppressive at times, few things are more cheery than photos of flowers.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to Stay Married for Fifty Odd Years

Dear George,

Katja and I had our fifty-sixth wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  We celebrated by going out to dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant on the river.  When I made the reservation, I told the maitre d’ it was our anniversary, and our twentysomething waitress, Ricki, wondered which number it was.  She was very impressed when we told her.  She said she’d never met anyone who was married for fifty-six years.  In her family, she said, everyone gets divorced by age forty, and she’s always wanted to learn the secrets of long marriages.  We were stumped for suggestions at the time, but, now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I’ve come up with a number of tips that I could give to Ricki if we see her again.    

(1) Show  your affection with gifts
Giving gifts is a good way to show love and affection.  Katja is actually much better at this than I am, though I’ve shown signs of improving.  My best success was last Valentine’s Day.  When I heard the doorbell ring, I looked on the porch, and there was a long box from the florist addressed to Katja.  She opened it up, and there were a dozen red roses and a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day from David”.  Since I had no recollection of ordering flowers, this was sort of upsetting.  Katja explained that the roses were a gift from our public radio station in response to her donation, and she’d requested that they send the Valentine’s Day roses in my name.  Katja thanked me enthusiastically, but I felt uneasy about claiming credit.  Guilty that my wife has to send my Valentine’s gifts to herself, I went down the street and bought a frilly card and a $20 box of dark chocolates from Graeter’s.  This time Katja was truly surprised, and she said it was the best Valentine’s Day ever.  Thanks to N.P.R. for getting me on the right track. 

(2) Act more like a boyfriend than a husband
When you go to the Olive Garden and see the gray-haired couples who’ve been been married for fifty years, they usually don’t look that great — gloomy, mute, avoiding eye contact.  It’s much better to pretend that you’re still dating.  I realized this a couple of weeks ago when Katja and I went to the grocery store.  Our usual routine is for each of us to take our own carts and get our own respective stuff (e.g., for me, three bottles of Merlot, 6 oz. of rasberries, a box of high fiber cereal).  On this particular outing I finished first, went through the checkout line, put my purchases in the car, and then returned and joined Katja as she was completing her purchase.  She was in the same  checkout lane that I’d used five minutes earlier.  While Katja paid the bill, I took her groceries out to the parking lot.  Katja later recounted that the cashier had asked her, “Am I hallucinating, or did your boyfriend already go through my line just a while ago?”  Katja confirmed that I had and that I usually finish more quickly than she does.  The cashier said, “Yeah, my boyfriend and I are the same way, only he takes longer than me.”  At first I was flattered that the cashier had mistaken me for Katja’s boyfriend.  Then I wondered if she is a little coo-coo. 

 (3) Celebrate your special married holidays together (maybe even twice)
Along with Valentine’s Day and birthdays, you can also celebrate your marriage on World Marriage Day (mid-February), Wife Appreciation Day (the third Sunday in September), Husband Appreciation Day (the third Saturday in April), Mother’s Day (late May), Father’s Day (mid-June), Sweetheart Day (mid-October), and National Grandparents Day (mid-September).  When I woke up on June 12 this year, Katja said that she was going to make Swedish pancakes for me in honor of Father’s Day.  I’d just been dreaming about breakfast at Frisch’s, so we went there instead.  Normally I order the #1 breakfast (two fried eggs, etc.), but I decided to celebrate Father’s Day with a Spanish omelet.  We sat and read the newspaper and had a leisurely time.  As we got up to go, I commented that it was strange that the newspaper didn’t make a single mention of Father’s Day.  Katja said it’s because it’s such a low-key holiday.  Just to be sure, I called Siri on my iPhone and asked her the date of Father’s Day.  “Sunday, June nineteenth,” Siri replied in her pleasant voice.  June nineteenth?  We were a week ahead of ourselves.  At first I felt foolish, but then I felt good about getting to celebrate Father’s Day twice.  On the real Father’s Day I opted for Swedish pancakes.

(4) A little jealousy is a good thing
Even after fifty plus years you shouldn’t take marriage for granted, and it’s a good sign to be a little jealous once in a while.  I was getting ready to leave with Katja for our Tuesday morning “Learning in Retirement” class at the University when I noticed her attire.  She was wearing her black T-shirt which said “Take a Chance on Romance” and was decorated with hearts and kissing lips.  She’d actually gotten the shirt several decades ago from her Romance Languages department who were using it as a promotional device for their major, but you’d only know that by reading the fine print.  I asked Katja if she thought it was a good idea to wear a T-shirt to our classes which invited romance.  She said yes, that our classmates were so old that they wouldn’t know the difference.  Then she described how a woman and a man in our class had met there recently and now were dating.  I wasn’t thrilled about Katja promising Romance to the public at large, but what’s a husband supposed to do? 

(5) Be good money managers
Money, of course, is a major source of conflict and strain in marriage.  We settled that problem long ago by having Katja take charge of all major purchases.  Except for the grocery store and the gas station, I rarely spend more than two dollars at a time, mostly at the thrift shop.  Lucky for us, Katja is excellent at scouting out bargains.  For example, a while back I decided to go to the antique mall to take some photos and asked Katja if she’d like to come along.  I finished in about half an hour and found Katja just as she was leaving a booth with 9 or 10 cookbooks in her arms.  The sign said 20% off if you buy two or more.  We already have shelves full of cookbooks at home, and I asked Katja how much these were.  She said they were 20% off.  “20% off of what?” I asked.  She said $20 apiece, though some were $10 or even $5.  In a mild state of shock, I protested that she had picked out $150 of used cookbooks.  Just then the dealer walked up and explained what excellent cookbooks these were.  Embarrassed, I wandered off.  As we left the mall, I asked how much she wound up spending, and she said $46.  I was very relieved.  I figured that my protest had saved us over a hundred dollars, and Katja had saved an additional ten dollars with her 20% discount.  That’s practically like making money. 

(6) Support the finer things in life
Having a happy marriage includes enjoying and contributing to the finer things in life.  Katja’s parents were classical music devotees, and she grew up attending the Philadelphia Orchestra and the opera.  I myself am pretty much a low culture type, leaning more toward country singers and boogie-woogie.  Nonetheless, we have been going to the Cincinnati Opera since we came to the city fifty years ago.  I was surprised at a performance of Tosca this summer when I noticed that the program’s list of “Opera Patrons” included our names.  I’d never imagined myself to be a patron.  Apparently it involves giving a donation larger than all of my personal expenditures combined for the last five years.  I asked Katja about it during the intermission.  She said not to worry about it, that it all adds up — e.g., her Opera Guild membership, tickets to the Opera Gala, various other donations, perhaps even the price of our season tickets.  After recovering for a few hours, I decided that it was quite something to be an Opera Patron.  I would never  have accomplished that on my own. 

(7) Be generous toward the  less fortunate
It’s admirable to contribute to the arts, but there are many other deserving charities as well.  I’m always amazed when we get our income taxes done because Katja routinely brings along a couple of single-spaced pages listing donations that she’s made during the year.  Katja recently gave me some stamped envelopes to take down the street to the post office, and I noticed that one of them was addressed to the Paraplegic Firefighters of Ohio (pseudonym).  I asked what it was, and she said it was a check for her yearly donation.  I said, before we mailed it, I’d just like to look up Paraplegic Firefighters on the internet.  It turned out that 80% of their donations go to administrative and fund-raising expenses, only 20% to firefighters.  Katja was taken aback and tore up her check.  Two weeks later she asked me to look into “Homeless Iraq War Veterans”, another favorite charity she’d given to annually in the past.  It was worse.  The top four administrators paid themselves $800,000 a year.  Homeless veterans received zero dollars, and Congress was currently conducting an investigation.  Katja agreed that it was good practice to check out charities.  If we’re lucky, our income tax charity list might drop to a single page.       

(8) Be competent around the house
When Katja goes out of town, I’m always pleased that I’m so self-sufficient in the house.  During her most recent trip I cooked my own meals (using my well-honed microwave abilities), put most of my dirty clothes in the laundry bin, and fastidiously sorted out recyclable items from the rest of the trash.   I wasn’t able to make coffee in the morning, but solved that by going to the United Dairy Farmers store.  Everything else went well until the last day when I set about to do the dishes that had accumulated in the sink.  Unsure how to operate the dishwasher, I decided to do them by hand.  Much to my chagrin, it appeared that we had no hot water in the sink.  I pushed the vertical faucet handle all the way back as I always do, but, even after I let it run for several minutes, it didn’t get any hotter.  I decided to wash and rinse the dishes in cold water.  Once I’d finished the job, I fiddled with the sink faucet a little more.  When I pulled it forward, lo and behold, the hot water started coming out.  It seems I had just gotten the faucet directions backwards.  I guess this means that, after forty years of living in our house, I need a refresher on how various things work.  I’ll definitely be ready for Katja’s next vacation. 

(9) Balance one another out
Marriages are more lively when spouses are different from one another, and that’s definitely true of Katja and myself.  I’m more inhibited, Katja’s more expansive; I’m stingier, she’s more extravagant; I’m more cautious, she’s more adventuresome; etc.  The trick is to balance one another out.  I’m reminded of this each morning when I go upstairs after breakfast.  First I go in the bedroom and turn off the radio, the fan, the ceiling light, and the bedside reading light.  Likewise for lights and fan in the bathroom, the ceiling light in the hallway, and sometimes the TV in the den.  Then I turn the air conditioner thermostat  up from 70 to 73.  A while later Katja will come back upstairs, turn the air conditioner down, and turn all the electricity back on. She’s a turner-onner; I’m a turner-offer.  It’s a good balance.  If it were just up to me, we would live in a silent, dark space in stifling temperatures.  

(10) Be prepared to sacrifice
Stable marriages require self-sacrifice.  Some time ago I complained to a childhood friend via email that Katja doesn’t seem interested in camping any more, and my friend explained to me that, unlike men, most adult women don’t enjoy camping.  This was a surprising idea.  Needless to say, I was delighted this summer when Katja suggested that we follow our Menominee visit with a camping trip in the U.P.  That’s exactly what we did.  The first night went well, and, with the help of an Ambien, we enjoyed a good night’s rest.  The second night, Katja’s sleeping bag slipped off the air mattress, and she spent most of the night on the ground.  The third night her air mattress leaked, and she wound up spending another night on the ground.  I exchanged mattresses with her on the fourth night, but, even so, we both wound up sleeping on the ground on our flat air mattresses.  The fifth night, Katja took charge and we stayed in a motel.  I was amazed that she didn’t complain that much about our sleeping circumstances.  At the end of our trip I asked if she’d like to go camping again sometime.  She said she would, as long as we go camping in Jamaica or southern France. 

All in all, I think these are some very good tips for Ricki and would help her to stay married for at least fifty years.  I do realize that Katja’s been better at almost all of these things than I have, and she deserves most of the credit for our longevity.  However, that gives me something to work on for the next decade.