Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sweetheart Visit

Dear George,
We had our spring family get-together last weekend when our son J drove up from New Orleans with our granddaughter V and grandson L.  The children are turning nine in September and continue to grow up at a steady pace.  V had a new haircut which was quite “in”, and L had grown 7 inches in the past year.  They successfully completed their first year in their new school (switching from Spanish-speaking to English-speaking).  Their grandfather tested them on multiplication and spelling, and they are definitely whizzes.  Here are some of the things that we did.

On the way up from New Orleans
Our group stopped at Mammoth Cave
That is my favorite spot on earth
J learned it was mapped by a slave

Saturday morning we went to the zoo
The elephant swam in his pool
We saw Fiona’s huge parents.
And the painted dogs were so cool

The children love eating at Skyline
They each had a junior three-way
Chili and cheese is addictive
The energy lasts a full day

From Skyline we went down to Graeter’s
Our street is so good for ice cream
The children lapped up their lemon sorbet
I think they had found their true dream

The children like to search in our attic
They find all this interesting stuff
V picked a pair of dolls to bring home
L seemed to think two were enough

Donna came by for a visit
She brought fresh rugula to share
V showed her all of her animals
Donna thought the children so fair

Our Father’s Day brunch was at Big Boy
Bacon and eggs and French toast
We had two fathers in our family group
And both enjoyed it the most

The Museum Center had costumes from Star Wars
Chewbaca, Yoda, Darth Vader
The costumes were fantastic and elegant
Lord Sith was clearly the nadir

Later we drove to the Valley Thrift
It’s the top of our local thrift stores
V picked out the best bathrobe ever
While I bought a few dinosaurs

We all went for pizza at Deweys
Plain for L, mushrooms for V
The grownups had the Bronx Bomber
We ate every slice but for three

We walked down the street to Toku Baru
J gave the kids twelve bucks to spend
V picked out an incense burner
And L chose spinners by the end

Monday we went to the Sunlite Pool
Though I got us lost on the way
The children loved all the sprays and slides
Coney Island was such a fine day

Katja prepared a filet mignon dinner
It was the very last step of their stay
Our sweethearts set off at nine p.m.
Thirteen hours, they stopped on the way

All of these visits are wonderful
And all of them wind up too quick
The children grow more every single time
Keeping up with the youth is some trick

Monday, June 12, 2017

Best of Friends

Dear George,
My parents were part of such a great circle of friends in Menominee.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it elsewhere.  These were business and professional people who maintained close friendships for half a century or more.  They had regular parties and get-togethers of all sorts – community theater, Great Books discussion groups, poetry and art parties, jazz gatherings, oil painting outings, hunting camp get-togethers, boat trips, golfing, picnics on the Bay, Fourth of July celebrations, Xmas visits, etc.  Part of it was probably due to living in a small town.  People were in close proximity, and there weren’t a lot of big city-like events (e.g., symphony concerts, pro sports) so people relied much more on socializing with one another.  One of my childhood friends told me recently that my father had explained to her that their generation had come of age in the midst of the Great Depression, and, lacking money and job opportunities elsewhere, all of them had remained in their hometown near their families.  Recently, browsing through my father’s photographs, I found a set that he’d taken before an annual New Year’s Eve party at Riverside Country Club.  Here are some of the couples who made up this wonderful social group.

Jackie and Marty Burke

The Burkes lived at Pine Beach in Marinette with their three kids, Skipper (Martin Jr.), Ann, and Robbie.  Skipper was one of my best childhood friends. When we visited, we’d go swimming in Green Bay. 

Florence and Bill Caley

The Caley family, with kids Bill, Tom, and Bruce, lived at Northwood Cove on the Green Bay shore, just north of the city limits.  The Caleys hosted a big Fourth of July beach party each year, and fathers and sons would go to Peshtigo to buy the fireworks.  

Nan and Jes Jacobsen

The Jacobsens had three girls, Nancy, Jeanne, and Mary Nell.  Jes used to get Green Bay Packer tickets for our family, and we stayed at their Green Bay shore cottage during family reunions.  

Vic and Ruth Mars

The Mars, with their kids Mary and Charley, also lived at Northwood Cove.  Vic was a painter; Ruth a gardener.  They hosted a Christmas Eve Party where we children hid behind chairs and sofas and watched Santa’s visit.  (He actually was there.) 

Mike and Jean O’Hara

The O’Hara’s, with their four kids, Terry, Michael Dennis, Kiera, and Sean, lived on the Green Bay shore, and we spent a lot of time together as families, the kids swimming in the Bay or the river.  A Menominee lawyer, Mike served on the Michigan Supreme Court and was a devout Green Bay Packer and Notre Dame fan.   

John and Ruth Sargent

The Sargents, with their son John (and maybe other siblings), were the third family at Northwood Cove.  John was a junior fellow golfer at Riverside Country Club.  When our family first moved to our house on the river and had no electricity, John Sargent would periodically come and start up the gas-powered electricity generator in our garage.  

Dick and Muriel Sawyer  

Dick Sawyer was my dad’s law partner.  The Sawyers, with Susan, Barb, and Chip, lived in a grand house on State Street.  Dick had a hunting camp in the county, and my dad and I joined him for a duck hunting outing. 

Martina and Pat Steffke  

Because of his army assignment in Austria at the end of World War II, Pat met and married Martina, an opera singer.  We ten year old boys thought she was the most beautiful woman we’d ever seen.  The Steffkes, with son Sammy, lived on the Green Bay shore. 

Jean and Margaret Worth

The Worths lived on State Street with their three daughters, Dooley, Ann, and Jeanie.  Jean was the editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader and a prominent U.P. historian.  The Worths owned a hunting camp at Cedar River where we and many other families enjoyed frequent happy outings.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Everyone Loves Fiona

Dear George,
Thanks to YouTube videos, our Cincinnati Zoo’s baby hippo, Fiona, has become the most famous hippo in all of history.  She has over half a million followers on Facebook, and views of her videos run into the millions.  Born six weeks early on Jan. 24, 2016, Fiona weighed less than half as much as the average hippo newborn, and there was grave concern about her survival.  Now her size, weight, and health status are equivalent to hippos born after a full-term pregnancy.  Katja and I check for Fiona updates every day, and I have to admit that I’ve adopted her as my muse.  Here’s my update.

      Everyone Loves Fiona

My wife says Fiona is beautiful
I myself think she’s ugly-cute
She could be hired by Looney Tunes
Such a pudgy little hippo galoot

Fiona was a six-week preemie
They doubted they’d keep her alive
She weighed only twenty-nine pounds at birth
The smallest had been fifty-five

This newborn was too weak to nurse with her mom
The humans took over her care
She got early food through an intravenous tube
For months it was scare after scare

Twenty-five people joined Fiona’s team
Keepers, techies, and vets
They called her “Little Spoon” from snuggling
Perilous work but they had no regrets

Fiona gained pounds, got ready for her pool
She learned how to climb down the ramp
Soon she was paddling from side to side 
As though it were summer camp

Now Fiona’s at home in the water
She glides along the bottom of her pool
Then she’ll come up for a quick snootful of air
Dive back down through her own whirlpool

Fiona’s been learning to run here and there
She’s speedy though not a gazelle
Curious about every new plaything
Which she seeks out to nudge and to smell

This baby is such a good eater
All day long she has formula and hay 
This week she reached over two ninety pounds
She will wind up three thousand, they say

Her parents are Bibi and Henry
Together they weigh three point five tons
This youngster must get bigger to be with them
So she won’t be squashed by their buns

We keep a close eye on Fiona
Her YouTube videos are grand
This hippo’s the source of our smiles and laughs
When we meet her we’ll do a handstand

Monday, May 29, 2017

Some Marriages Could Probably Use Recycling

Dear George,
Here is a recent conversation that Katja and I had when we were leaving for Frisch’s for breakfast and I was putting paper and plastic into our recycling bin. 

(D puts pizza box into the regular garbage can instead of the recycling bin)
K:  You should put that in the recycling.
D:  No, it’s got food on it.  It can’t go into the recycling.
K:  It doesn’t matter.
D:  It does matter.  No food in the recycling.  
K:  That’s not true.
D:  It is true.  (Pointing to lid). It says so right here on the recycling container. 
D (getting into the car):  One of my pet peeves is people who don’t follow the rules about recycling.  (long pause). I’m just going to go over the rules.  Paper and plastic go into recycling.  But not if there’s food on them.  No food on paper plates or on plastic containers.  And no caps from plastic bottles.  Or from glass bottles.  And no plastic newspaper bags.  Or styrofoam.  Or other stuff that should go in the garbage.  Like broken appliances. 
K: (silent, no response)
D:  Another problem is when you mix together garbage and recycling.  There’s newspapers and banana peels, all mixed together.  Then I have to sort it out.  And newspapers in the trashmasher.  We could recycle about ten times as much if we followed the rules.  
K: (silent, no comment.)
D:  I can tell that you’re listening very carefully and are committed to following the recycling rules.  
K: (laughs.)  
(End of conversation until we arrive at Frisch’s)

As you can see, this was a very productive two-way discussion.  Our recycling ought to go a lot better now.  Whew, I’m glad I brought this matter up!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Everything There Is To Know About Zumba

Dear George,
Now that I worked up my courage and went to a couple of Zumba classes at the fitness center, I decided I should learn more about it.  Here is what I found out.  

What exactly is Zumba?  Google says: "An aerobic fitness program featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and performed primarily to Latin American dance music."
How did Zumba get started?  In the mid-1990’s 16-year-old fitness instructor Alberto "Beto" Perez in Cali, Columbia, forgot his music for an aerobics class he was about to teach, so he went out to his car and got a tape of his favorite Latin dance numbers and used it to do a salsa-like workout routine.  His students liked it so much that he added it to his gym routines and named it "Rumbacize".  Perez moved to Miami in 1999 and, when his students there were equally enthusiastic, he renamed the class “Zumba".
What does "Zumba" mean?  Some say Zumba is just a fun word that sounds like Rumba.  Others say Zumba is Colombian slang for “buzz like a bee” or “move very fast”.
How much is the Zumba business worth today?  It’s the world’s largest branded fitness program.  It’s worth over 400 million dollars.
How many people do Zumba?  Zumba classes are currently taught at approximately 200,000 locations in 180 countries.  About 15 million people participate.
How many Zumba classes are there in Cincinnati? lists over 280 Zumba classes in the Cincinnati metro area.  
What dance styles are incorporated in Zumba?  Salsa, merengue, samba, hip-hop, raggaeton, cumbia, soca, cha-cha, tango, mambo, and others.  Also squats and lunges.
Are there different types of Zumba classes?  There are nine different types of classes, designed for different ages and levels of exertion.  For example, there are classes for children (Zumbatomic), classes for seniors (Zumba Gold), resistance training classes (Zumba Toning), classes in the water (Aqua Zumba), and circuit classes (Zumba in the Circuit).  
How intense are Zumba classes?  Classes usually last an hour.  According to WebMD, Zumba is an interval workout, involving a medium intensity level.  The classes move between high- and low-intensity dance moves.
What areas of the body does Zumba target?  Many Zumba dance steps emphasize the hips and midsection, helping strengthen the core.  Dance moves also help work the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.  Traditional Zumba doesn't target the arms, and it's not focused on back muscles.
How many calories does one burn?  About 500 to 1000 in a one-hour class.
Does Zumba have health benefits?  According to WebMD, Zumba helps weight loss, reduces blood pressure and bad cholesterol, increases good cholesterol, and lowers the risk of heart disease.
Do you need to be a good dancer?  No dance experience or skills are necessary.  In Zumba classes people don't have to move exactly like the instructor.  It's more like club dancing where you move to the music in the way you want.
Do men do Zumba?  The official line is that 20% of Zumba participants are men.  However, instructors are more likely to estimate 5%.  In general, men are less likely to participate in fitness groups, and that’s particularly true of dance fitness groups.  Male instructors and participants are much higher in Latin countries where males are
encouraged to dance from an early age.
Can older people do Zumba?  Because there are different class options, Zumba proponents claim that it is safe for all ages.  Also a good thing about Zumba is that you can set your own pace, increasing or decreasing intensity in a way that works for you.
What kind of clothing should one wear to do Zumba?  Just about anything as long as you can easily stretch in it.  The company did launch a clothing line called Zumba Wear in 2007.  Today Zumba clothing is an 80 million dollar business.
Do any famous people do Zumba?  Here are some well-known Zumba-lovers: Jennifer Lopez, Jackie Chan, Madonna, Jordin Sparks, Vivica A. Fox, Natalie Portman, Olivia Wilde, Kirstie Alley, Emma Watson, Shakira, Victoria Beckham, Wyclef Jean, Toni Braxton, Rapper Pitbull, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Eve Longoria, Zooey Deschanel, Halle Berry.
Can I try doing Zumba at home?  Along with DVD’s, there are tons of Zumba videos on YouTube.  One website that offers “10 of the Best Zumba Workouts” is  
What if I want to do Zumba  on my cruise?  Royal Caribbean offers a cruise centered around Zumba dancing.
And what Zumba's slogan inspires us?:  "Ditch the Workout -- Join the Party!”

SOURCES;, "Zumba Fitness: Sure It's Fun But is it Effective?";
www.confessions of a, "What to expect at your first Zumba class;", "What Is Zumba Exercise?”;, “26 Celebrities Who Zumba”;, “5 Fun Facts About Zumba”;, "All About Zumba Class";, "What is Zumba?";, “Facts About Zumba”;, “10 of the Best Free Zumba Full-Length Video Workouts”;, "Zumba";, "Learn about Zumba”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom Memories

Dear George, 
If my mother (Doris L) were alive today, she would be 107.  That’s hard to imagine.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all together, but Doris died at Marinette General Hospital on April 24, 1986.  To the best of my knowledge, she uttered her last words to Peter and myself: “I’m grateful.”  That sums up a lot of Doris’ nature.  Here are some more memories that come to mind to me on Mother’s Day:  

  • Doris had four kids: David (7/21/37), Steven (2/27/41), Peter (6/9/45), Vicki (2/24/47).
  • My mom was very pretty and full of fun.  She was a teenager during the flapper era of the 1920’s, and I always thought that helped shape the course of her life.  
  • When I was about 4 I attended a community theater performance at the Menominee Opera House, and, when the bouncy tiger appeared on the stage, I hollered at the top of my voice, “That’s my mommy.”  (Lots of laughter from the audience.)  
  • Doris and Grace Fernstrum took Sally F. and myself sledding on numerous occasions at the Tourist Information Lodge with its big hill.   
  • When we moved to the river Doris planted a luxurious garden along the west side of our lawn.
  • Doris also planted a strawberry patch next to our driveway, and we gathered strawberries each morning to put on our cereal.  
  • She and Vic travelled around Menominee County, finding wildflowers along the roadside to dig up and transplant on our property.  
  • When the trillium first bloomed in the spring at Brewery Park, Doris made sure that each of her children in turn brought the flowers to Miss Elsie Guimond, our sixth grade teacher. 
  • Doris stocked a bird feeder outside our dining room window and kept a written list of all the birds she saw.  When a red-winged blackbird appeared in our driveway, she called all the kids to come to the kitchen to see it. 
  • My mom was an excellent cook.  Whitefish, pot roast, meatloaf, venison, duck, Swedish meatballs, and turkey are just some of the delicious highlights that come to mind.  Also strawberry shortcake. 
  • All of our extended family came to our house on Xmas eve.  My bachelor uncle Karl brought extravagant gifts for Doris, Aunt Millie, and Aunt Martha (dresses, jewelry, etc.) as well as for the children. 
  • Doris packed a picnic lunch for our family rowboat outings to Indian Island up the river.  
  • Doris had many close female friends: Jean O’Hara, Florence Caley, Ruth Mars, Nan Jacobsen, Margaret St. Peter, Jackie Burke, Margaret Worth, Martina Steffke, and lots of others.  She and Vic entertained frequently: costume parties, art parties, poetry parties, jazz parties, and just plain parties.  They had a wonderful network of friends.  
  • Doris was officially a member of the D.A.R., though she saw it as a pretty stodgy group and didn’t attend the meetings. 
  • My mother loved jazz.  Her happiest moment that I can recall is when Louis Armstrong’s orchestra played at the Silver Dome, and Doris sat on the edge of the stage, just 3 or 4 feet from the master.
  • My mom had a very deep voice which led to telephone callers frequently thinking that they had reached Mr. L.  She also got a deep tan in the summer, and my father claimed, tongue in cheek, that she was part Navaho. 
  • After three boys, Doris was thrilled to have a girl in the family (my sister Vicki).  
  • Doris had a lot of aphorisms for her children: “Don’t give up, don’t give in”; “Straighten up and fly right”; “Eat your beans, Suzy”; and many more 
  • Doris was one of the best women golfers at Riverside Country Club, and she enjoyed horseback riding at the stables located at the intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Highway 577. 
  • Doris smoked through much of her adult life and wound up having surgery for lung cancer.    
  • She enjoyed drinking Silver Cream beer and chatting with house helper Hannah while Hannah did the ironing.  Their story-telling often took up the full afternoon
  • Doris also loved going to the hairdresser where she would catch up with the community gossip.  
  • Whenever we children went swimming, Doris sat in a lawn chair on the riverbank and kept a careful eye on us.  We weren’t allowed to go in the rowboat without lifesavers.    
  • My mom loved our Irish setters, Mike and Micki.  One time when the dogs got into a nasty fight, she tried to break it up and wound up with a deep gash on her arm.
  • Mike fell through the ice on the river in late winter, and Doris crawled out on her stomach to rescue him. 
  • When my friend Marvin F. set a large box of kitchen matches on fire on our apartment living room floor, he was banished forever when my mother discovered the charred wood. 
  • As a youth, I thought my mother was crazy at times, but, later in life, I discovered all mothers get crazy at times.  After one episode of particularly unruly children, I gave her a note that read, “Don’t give up, don’t give in — Try Wrecks-All” (a play on “Rexall”, our family drugstore name).  Doris broke into laughter and felt much better. 
  • When my mom criticized my handwriting in ninth grade, I stopped writing in cursive for the rest of my life (except for my signature which is indecipherable).
  • Doris was thrilled when Katja came for a visit during our sophomore year in college.  She told her that she was the first girl I’d ever brought home (which, of course, was true).
  • Most of all, my mother had a warm, rich, spontaneous laugh, and we heard that every day of our childhood.