Monday, March 29, 2010

My Night on Murderers' Row

Dear George,

I don’t get to go out by myself that often, but one of the more memorable occasions occurred some years ago when Katja and I went to a downtown wedding.  The bride was the daughter of one of our Sociology Department acquaintances, and they held the reception in the Queen City Club, a gathering place for Cincinnati’s hoi polloi.  There were a couple of other Sociology faculty members there, but most of the 150 or so guests were complete strangers to us.  It was a fancy affair, with a sit-down dinner and an open bar.  I was surprised and impressed with my ability to down double-strength Manhattans with only the mildest of apparent effects.  Dinner was a long time coming.  More Manhattans, then glasses of white wine, and all of it topped off by an extra scotch-and-soda that one of our tablemates had received by mistake.


After dinner the dancing began.  My Sociology chums soon left, but I took Katja out onto the dance floor, and we twirled the light fantastic.  The liquor had given me newfound grace and enthusiasm.  After several dances, Katja said that she would like to go home.  “What,” I exclaimed, “it’s only 12:30!”  I was ready to dance till the wee hours, but Katja had had enough.  We danced one more number, and she repeated her wish.  I wasn’t very accommodating.  “I’m not going.  I want to dance more.”  Katja begged and cajoled, but we had reached a stalemate.  Finally, expressing my deepest feelings on the matter, I announced that I would rather stay and dance than remain married.  That made an impression on Katja, and she departed, taking the car and going home by herself. 


The band played on.  To my disappointment, I found no available partners, so I settled back in an easy chair, Manhattan in hand.  Finally the musicians announced that it was the last dance.  I went over to the bar to get one more drink, but the bartenders decided not to give me one.  The crowd was leaving, so I made my way downstairs and out onto the street.  Maybe I’ll catch a bus, I thought, or maybe just walk home (though it was four miles).  I focused on the bright red dome of a prominent downtown skyscraper and began making my way in what I felt to be a northerly direction. 


My story at this point is incomplete because the next thing I knew it was an hour and a half later and I was no longer downtown.  As I came to my senses, I found myself slumped against the back of a bus shelter at the corner of 12th and Vine in Over-the-Rhine.  Over-the-Rhine is the poorest and most deteriorated neighborhood in Cincinnati’s inner city.  It’s long been the city’s center for drug trafficking and prostitution, and just last year an FBI report identified the immediately adjacent area as the most violent neighborhood in America, based on homicide rates and violent assaults.  These facts were not in my mind.  Instead I thought how fantastic it was to be in Over-the-Rhine in the middle of a Saturday night.  Two prostitutes kitty corner from me were hollering at cars and negotiating with johns.  A bunch of black guys of various ages were loitering outside a mean-looking bar across the street.  Some guy came racing past me, either in pursuit of someone or running away.  How exciting, I thought.  It hadn’t yet dawned on me that I sort of stood out as the only white person in sight, as well as the only person wearing a black pin-striped suit and a red and yellow tie.


As I was taking all of this in, an unkempt African-American man in his 30’s or 40’s sat down beside me and started talking.  Cincinnati, he noted, is a “pretty tight place” (something to do with cops and street life).  He introduced himself – “Charles,” in from St. Louis – and we shook hands.  “I’m Dave,” I said.  “I’m from Clifton.”  Charles talked for a while.  He was pretty incoherent, and I wondered if he were psychotic.  He asked me why I was there and wondered if I’d had a fight with my wife.  Pretty astute for a crazy person, I thought to myself.  Then Charles said, “You are in the wrong place, man.  You are not going to get any bus here.  The buses quit running at midnight.  There are only two things that are going to happen to you.  Either the police are going to take you in for being drunk, or you’re going to get robbed.”


These were new ideas to me.  I leaned back against the fence to take a rest and think things over.  Charles persisted.  “The police have already come by once and looked you over.  They’re making their rounds.  Next time they will absolutely pick you up.”  This was a disturbing thought, and I woke up a little more.  “If they don’t get back in time,” Charles continued, “you are going to get robbed.”


All of a sudden, the fascinating loiterers on the street took on a menacing cast.  “I am not going to rob you,” Charles reassured me.  “I’m not into robbing people.  But a lot of people around here are.”  This was starting to be less and less fun.  I wished that a bus would come, but I realized that Charles was right.  At least he seemed to be looking after me, so I wasn’t alone.  I turned to say something, but Charles had gotten up and was talking to another man down the street.  They were both looking at me.  Could they be trying to figure out how best to help me?  I wasn’t sure. 


Well, I decided, if I am going to be robbed or arrested here, maybe this is not the place for me.  So I got up and started meandering in a zig-zag course down Vine Street.  Charles noticed from a distance and gave a yell, but, by then, I was a quarter of a block away and wasn’t turning back.  Just then a taxi passed me by.  Here was a new idea.  I waved to another oncoming cab with its “vacant” light on, but the driver didn’t stop.  A third taxi approached, and I stepped into the middle of the street, waving my arms.  The driver mercifully stopped.  “Ludlow and Whitfield,” I said, and that’s the last I remember about that trip.  Once home, I tipped the cabby seventy cents, went in the back door, lay down on the couch, and slept till 10 a.m.  Katja was remarkably tolerant.  Later I heard her talking on the phone to our son J, explaining that I was a first-born child and probably hadn’t had much freedom in my life.  I’d say that’s true, but now I’m not even sure that I want that much freedom.




G-Mail Comments:

-Donna D (3-31): you think that guy was an angel?

-DCL to Donna (3-31):  Nope (I think he was getting ready to rob me).

-Jennifer M (3-29): WHEN did this happen?  Did I know you and you didn't tell me at the time?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our Late Night Outing

Dear George,

Katja woke up on Thursday morning feeling terrible.  She was having cold chills, felt nauseated, and had a pounding headache.  She called in to work to say she wouldn’t be in and went straight back to bed.  Her forehead felt warm, but we can never find our thermometer when we need it.  I put an extra down comforter on the bed, and Katja went back to sleep.  By early afternoon, the cold chills were worse.  Katja later said that “chills” was a misnomer.  It felt like death itself was permeating the core of her body.  She put on wool socks, a wool cap, and a fleece jacket, but even this didn’t help.  I went to CVS Pharmacy and got a thermometer.  Katja’s temperature was 102.  She called Dr. Rapkin, her primary care physician.  By the time the doctor called back, Katja’s temperature had risen to 103.1.  Dr. Rapkin said to take two Tylenol, see if the temperature broke in the next couple of hours, and, if it didn’t, go to the emergency room.  I called Jennifer, our friend and private medical advisor.  Jennifer isn’t exactly a doctor or a nurse, but she is an experienced mom of two children and a medical sociologist, so I get most of my medical opinions from her.  Jennifer said 103.1 was extremely high for an adult and she was surprised that Dr. Rapkin hadn’t sent Katja straight to the emergency room.


By suppertime Katja’s temperature had dropped to 99.6, and we decided that her fever had broken.  Then it fluctuated between 100 and 101 for the rest of the evening.  Katja said she would see Dr. Rapkin in the morning and went to sleep early.  At 1:30 a.m. Katja woke up, shaking uncontrollably and complaining of freezing.  I took her temperature and it was 104.  Thinking of Jennifer’s comment, I said we should go straight to the emergency room.  Katja didn’t want to.  A few minutes later I took her temperature again, and the second reading was 104.6.  I said we had to go.  Katja said she was too sick and too tired – she wanted to wait till the morning.  I grabbed some slacks and pulled them on over her nightgown, then some sneakers which I didn’t bother to tie.  I put a pair of jeans over my pajamas, added some moccasins and a sweatshirt, and we hurried down to the car.  The dogs were confused and agitated, jumping up on us, trying to help.  I sped up Martin Luther King, running two red lights, and soon we were at University Hospital’s emergency entrance.  Because of her titanium knee, Katja set off the metal detector at the door, but I told the security guard she had a fever of almost 105, and he let us through.  He asked if I were a UC professor, and, as I hurried by, he said he’d taken my social psychology class.  I said that’s great.  I stepped on Katja’s loose shoelaces as we hurried to the reception desk.  The staff member responded immediately when I told her of Katja’s temperature and took her straight into the examination room.  I wanted to come too, but she said they’d call for me if they needed me.


An hour later I joined Katja back in the emergency ward area.  It was like a beehive, filled to capacity, with people racing here and there.  Katja’s bed was behind a little curtain, though it offered minimal privacy.  We could hear the conversations on all sides and learned about people’s alcoholism, DT’s, drug usage, and marital problems, plus a lot of screaming, shouting, complaining, and demanding to be let out.  The ER doctor said that Katja’s vital signs looked o.k. and that her temperature had dropped to 101.  They planned to admit her to the hospital, but they didn’t have a room with a bed yet.  Eighteen people in the emergency room were waiting for beds, but they didn’t have any.  Katja’s test results were due back at 5 a.m., and she encouraged me to go home.


When I came back at 9 a.m. Katja was still stuck in her emergency room cubicle and still feeling lousy.  She was, however, better than she had been.  I could tell because she asked me for a large lemonade with extra ice from Frisch’s.  They still hadn’t found a bed by late morning when I left.  Finally Katja called me about 4:00 and said they’d found her a room, over fourteen hours after her arrival.  I drove over, but, as I approached the parking garage, I realized I’d forgotten the lemonade.  I drove the mile back to Frisch’s and got it, and Katja was very happy.  She’d been diagnosed with a gastro-intestinal infection which had spread to her kidneys, and they were doing a culture from her blood to identify the bacteria so they could target it with an appropriate anti-biotic.  On Monday afternoon Katja was discharged from the hospital.  She was very happy to see the sheepdogs, and they were thrilled to see her.  Her fever was gone, her anti-biotic was working effectively, and, except for some major fatigue, she seems to be progressing well.  Katja had only good things to say about her hospital stay.  She liked the doctor, the nurses, the food, her room with a view, and even the transportation guy who brought her in a wheelchair to the car.  In fact, she seemed to feel it was a lot like being at a resort.  However, I don’t think she plans to return any time soon.





-Linda C (3-28):  my god, what a night, why isn't J** your number one call for illness? i called K** to see if art was really dead , the title made me think you had done something wild and crazy and gone to a night club, guess not. lol linda

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Mystery Object: Will You Be Stumped by this Quiz?

Dear George,

With inspiration from the younger generation (e.g., Jessica, Chris, J & K), I’m getting more involved with photography these days.  I’d forgotten how much it leads you to attend to your visual surroundings.  Below are some recent images I’ve taken.  I think they’re enjoyable in their own right, but they also offer a challenging puzzle.  Here’s the task:  All nine photos were taken outdoors within 150 yards of my house.  And all nine are interconnected in some way, i.e., make up a single “object”.  That object can be described by a five-letter word which includes the letter “T” but not the letters “K” or “N” or “A”.  Take a look at the images, one by one, and see if you can figure out the five-letter word that names the object.  Nobody has gotten it after looking at only four images, but everybody has gotten it with all nine.  Let me know if you figure it out by the fourth image or before.


Task reminder:  What is the five-letter word which describes the “object” that connects all these photos?

Voila!  It’s a S-T-U-M-P.



G-Mail Comments:

-Linda C (3-22):  Dave, I am shocked that as a nonbeliever I saw Mary the virgin mother's face in some of the pictures.  I don't want to tell it tho since church people will go to your house to see it too.

Is this a lot like a Rorschach test?

Picture number 1 is obviously a vagina with a fistula running to it and a very very serious condition that needs to be attended to immediately!

Number 2 is a turtle wanting to get back in his shell, but is too frightened to move, I hope the shock of the camera does not kill him since turtles live a very very long time.

No. 3 is really very lovely, did you go to a lot of band shells and mix the photos together, what a great idea.

No. 4, where did you travel to?  The photo of the little monkey peering out of the large round opening to his cave is amazing. What kind of monkey is he?

No. 5, This confused me, a Roman number 2 on the arm of the chair, but what happened to make the chair twist like that, unless it was just that, it was caught up in a twister and came looking like that.

No.6, a crab trying to flee, his crab leg has been partially taken off but  he is still a survivor.  Was that taken out here?  It could have been

No. 7, a pig telling his babies to get back into the house or the big bad wolf will come and blow the house down.

No. 8, a horse and buggy struggling through Russian winter, the owner has heard he is on Stalin’s list and he is trying to get to the dacha in the woods , I am afraid he is going to fail, he has been thrown out of the buggy and his hand is trying to reach the white loop to help him get back on. If he doesn't make it he will be killed rather than a decade in Siberia.

No 9  I  only see the alien creature trying to get away from you and the landscape is not recognizable to me

What is this statement TASK REMINDER ?  Was this a task?  George, I am sorry but I think David temporarily slipped back in his old persona as a professor,  I have to reread to see if the word  TASKMASTER appears, it is too bad you are gone because I know you would lighten him up a  little

As ever Dave, I loved the blog

AMY R TO LINDA (3-22): Linda, Do you know how much I love your mind?  This is one of the funniest things you've ever written.  Amy

-DAVID L TO LINDA (3-23):  Hi Linda,  This must be a good Rorschach test.  It certainly produced some excellent interpretations from you.  Now I can see all these things too.  Dave

-VICKI L (3-22):  Cool quiz, Davey.

-TERRY O S (3-22): Hi -  I got it after three (stump, precisely!) - the mushrooms were the telling clue! In retrospect, I understand the significance of ruling out a word with "K," "N," or "A" - as in trunk!  Best, Terry


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Signs of Spring

Dear George,

Winters were harsher in the U.P. than they are here in Southwestern Ohio.   Even though Menominee was located on Green Bay and thus more temperate than inland areas, it wasn’t unusual to have temperatures below zero and two-foot snowfalls.  My childhood friends and I simply decided that we weren’t going to let the weather keep us from doing stuff outdoors, and I’ve been pretty much impervious to extremes of heat or cold ever since.  This year, though, we had record snowfalls and prolonged periods of ice and cold temperatures.  I think I’m tolerating bad weather less well than I used to.  This is due in part to the problems of managing large, high-energy sheepdogs who are prone to tug at their leashes and are difficult to manage on treacherous sidewalks.  Whatever the case, Katja and I are definitely eager for spring.  Our last remaining snow melted a week ago.  While there are only occasional buds on the trees and the forest still looks brown and gray from a distance, a closer look reveals that warm weather is definitely on the way.  I spent a couple of mornings in Burnet Woods this past weekend recording some of these first signs of spring.  Here are a few photos to brighten up your day.



P. S. More spring photos are posted at

G-Mail Comments:

-Vicki L (3-20): Hi D....  The genes of your parents are coming through in those sweet spring photos. Abra sent me one of crocuses pushing through the snow in Philadelphia. I remember how thrilling those signs were after the arduous winters. Blooms are exploding around here and I'm sneezing like a fool.

So happy about my new little baby, though. Love, Sis

-Jennifer M (3-17): I love the closer look.  It's evidence that we've put a long winter behind us!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Banana Reveries

Dear George,

I see in the paper that the number of people in their late 50’s who smoke marijuana has gone up 350% since 2002.  That’s because those aging baby boomers are returning to habits they developed in their youth.  Katja and I, a decade older, basically missed out on the whole counterculture drug revolution.  When we graduated from Antioch College in 1960, I don’t think a single student on campus had ever tried marijuana.  There simply was no system of distribution on college campuses at that pristine time.  A few years later, Antioch had become the drug capital of southwestern Ohio, but we had already moved on to the serious grind of graduate school in Ann Arbor.  We kept reading in the local newspaper about marijuana arrests of  Michigan undergrads, but we didn’t know anybody in town who had tried pot, and, while curious about these new mind-altering substances, we lacked the connections to do anything about it.  Then one day I saw a story in the Ann Arbor News which reported that one could get high by smoking banana peels.  That was interesting.  Maybe this was our chance to experiment with drugs.   The reporter even  gave instructions.  I showed it to Katja, but the notion had no appeal to her at all.  I pointed out that smoking bananas was perfectly legal, as well as relatively cheap, and I proposed that we try it.  Katja raised her eyebrows and made a funny face, but she did drive over with me to the supermarket on Packard St.  As I paid for my purchase of 17 bananas, I asked the cashier if they’d been selling a lot.  She said they actually had, though she didn’t know why.  I smiled knowingly.  Then we stopped at the Blue Front magazine store at the corner of Packard and State where I purchased some Zig Zag cigarette papers.  I felt self-conscious doing this since there was only one obvious reason for such a  purchase.  I looked around carefully for NARCs before I asked the clerk for the item.


Back home, I checked the recipe again.  It said you only use the peel of the banana and throw away the fruit itself.  As virtually penniless grad students, three bunches of bananas did cost something, so I ate the seventeen bananas for my lunch.  Seventeen is quite a few – you should try it some time.  Then I scraped the stringy fleshy part off the inside of the banana peel, threw it away, put the cleaned out peels on a pizza tray in the oven, and cooked them on low heat for two hours.  Finally I crumbled up the dried out peels into tiny pieces and rolled a bunch of cigarettes.  Despite her reluctance, I got Katja to share the first one with me.  She’d been smoking Black Russian cigarettes with her friend Murielle, but she’d never really learned how to inhale, and the banana peel cigarette made her choke.  She exclaimed that it tasted awful.  I smoked the rest of the cigarettes, drawing the smoke deep into my lungs.  They did taste pretty bad.  I was already feeling sick from eating seventeen bananas, and smoking the peels only made me sicker.  I didn’t know exactly how to tell if I were high, but I was pretty sure that this was not it.  After an hour of unsuccessful effort, I went to bed and stayed there for the rest of the day


Later, disgusted with the experiment and our waste of money, I re-read the newspaper blurb.  I was shocked to find out that I’d made a big mistake in preparing the banana peels.  The article said to scrape the innards off the peels, throw the peels away, and bake the innards.  Instead I’d thrown the innards away and baked the peels.  I’d done the whole thing backwards!  That’s why I didn’t get high, I thought to myself.  I considered starting over again, but Katja was discouraging, and I didn’t want to spend the money for more bananas.  I finally concluded we’d had our shot, and destiny had decided that we weren’t ready for a radical life style change.  That was the end of our venture into hallucinogenic drugs.


Now it’s 45 years later.  Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on “smoking banana peels,” not knowing whether there would be any historical trace of this brief fad or not.  Much to my surprise, I got 106,000 hits.  I didn’t read all of them because the first ten explained that smoking banana peels was a hoax perpetrated on na├»ve and gullible youth in the 1960’s and 70’s.  If kids had had any experience of getting high, the Internet accounts said, it was probably due to indigestion from eating a lot of bananas.  That made me feel better.  I was relieved to learn that it didn’t matter whether I had smoked the dried out banana peels or their innards.  I guess I’d had an authentic banana high experience after all.




G-Mail Comments:

-Amy R (3-15): This is so great.

-Linda C (3-15): dave, I love this story, however ruth and susan and I did not miss that age and would/could have a lot of explaining to do, which unfortunately I told all under a light anesthetic to my colonoscopy doctor. (and later the colonoscopy doc had a lawsuit against him which I dismissed immediately).

-JML (3-13): great story dad. I seem to remember some elements of this story from my youth but not the whole deal.  a follow up story that i'd like to see might include some of your tennis playing adventures with george.  again, I remember some elements of that but not the whole deal. great blog today. thanks, j**

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Snapshots: Other People's Lives

Dear George,

They held the Moeller Antique Show this past weekend.  A curious thing happened.  Despite almost never missing one of these shows over twenty years in my quest for antique postcards, I nearly didn’t go this time around.  I think it’s because of the Internet.  I spend so much time with virtual images these days that my interest in hard copy versions seems to be flagging.  I did go though.  Dealers had a lot of postcards, but the item that caught my eye was a big box full of old photos.  Postcard collectors typically branch out into other sorts of paper ephemera, and I’ve been accumulating people’s snapshots for some time now.  Katja can’t imagine why I like other people’s photos, but I think photos always have a lot of emotional significance, and I like collecting big batches of them.  Here are a few of my buys from the Moeller Show.

Here we have a carefully coiffed woman with her carefully coiffed white poodle.  The seriousness of the portrait conveys her love and pride for her elegant pooch.

You can’t go wrong with person-dog pictures.  This one’s more spontaneous, and the girl is ready to rough-house with her canine companion.

Cats, in contrast, prefer their own private portraits.  This animal, majestic as can be, is staring down the photographer and is clearly in charge of the situation.

I picked this because it has such a sweet feel.  Dad is probably taking the picture.  Mother and daughter are in a cuddly pose, the girl looking secure and happy, the mother warm and serene. 

The photographer here is probably a spouse or close friend.  This lady seems supremely content, enjoying her coffee with cream and her morning newspaper.  She knows some secrets of happiness.

Here’s another happy woman with a mischievous grin.  Who wouldn’t be smiling if they had a sensational hairdo like this?

Not everybody’s overjoyed.  This Polaroid proves that blondes have more fun.

This couple is back from their successful fishing expedition.  The man is quietly proud, the woman pleased.  Because my brother Steven was an ardent fisherman in Seattle, I like to collect photos of people with their caught fish.

One important truth I’ve learned from other people’s pictures: Humans and dogs are always happy with one another. 



Friday, March 5, 2010

Sheepdog Winter Olympics

Dear George,

I mentioned some time back that both of our sheepdogs have hip problems.  Mike was born with hip dysplasia, and his condition is more serious than Duffy’s.  But they’re both showing signs of arthritis, and, since they’ll turn eight next month, it’s gradually getting worse.  We were scared out of our wits a few weeks ago when Mike couldn’t get up from the kitchen floor and screamed in extreme pain when we tried to lift him.  The vet gave him painkiller and anti-inflammatory shots and suggested resuming the laser therapy treatment he’d done last summer.  He was better as soon as he had gotten the shots, but we’ve been holding our breath and going easy on exercise.  He’s used to getting hour-long walks several times a week, and it has seemed unfair that only his brother has gotten to go.  Our winter snow season is coming to its end, so I just decided to take a chance and bring both dogs to Mt. Airy Forest for a good hike.  It worked out fine.   It was like a Winter Olympics outing for doggies.  They skated a bit on the icy trails, and they used their big paws as cross country skis as we went up and down the hills.  Or at least that’s how I liked to think of it.  Here are some pics from our outing.

Mike and Duffy travel together as a pack.

If they get too far ahead, they’ll stop and check my whereabouts.

Usually they’ll come running back.

Or sometimes Mike just sits and waits.  

Duffy gets very vigilant in the forest.

Both dogs hear things I can’t hear.

And, of course, there are lots of interesting things to sniff.

Sometimes I think they are actually posing for the camera.  Here’s Mike.  

When we get close to the car, Mikey races ahead.


And that was the end of our expedition.  Next time: Spring!




Gmail Comments:

-Kiera O (3-15): Hi David, I loved the photos of Mike and Duffy (of course I thought of Mickey and Mike!). I have a friend whose Golden Retriever suffered from hip dysplasia. She and her husband opted for surgery. Very expensive, but in their case, anyway, it worked (well not their case Luma's--the dog's-- case) I also loved hearing about yours and Katya's recent dance adventures.

Happy spring, Kiera

-Linda C (3-6): The dogs are beautiful and I wish for snow for a week

-Jennifer M (3-5): Cute pictures of the doggies in the snow.

-Donna D (3-5): Great!  I love your remarks on each pic.