Sunday, April 25, 2010


Dear George,

I’ve always had difficulty with authority issues.  It probably stems from some sort of glitches in my upbringing, since our deepest formative experiences with authority figures involve our parents.  Whatever the case, I’ve always responded to police, teachers, bosses, etc., with a dysfunctional mix of fear, distrust, resentment, and avoidance.  I was reminded of that this week after a series of minor mishaps or transgressions.


On Thursday evening I went to Fernbank Park with Donna and the three sheepdogs for an early evening hike.  Fernbank has a long open area along the banks of the Ohio River with a quarter-mile forested nature trail at its eastern end.  Despite a leash law with a $100 fine, I usually let Mike and Duffy run free in the woods if there aren’t too many people around, and I did so this time too.  As we were returning to the beginning of the trail, Donna called my attention to an approaching man who appeared to be in a khaki uniform.  I put the dogs’ leashes back on as quickly as I could, then looked up and realized that it was a park ranger.  As he passed by, he said gruffly, “You have to keep those dogs on a leash.”  I said, “Yes Sir,” and thought to myself that we’d have to start following the rules since we probably wouldn’t get away next time with just another warning.  I felt gloomy since Fernbank was a favorite destination, and it now it felt unwelcoming and hazardous.


Yesterday morning I left the dogs at home and drove over to St. Bernard, a blue collar community just north of Clifton, to take some photos.  To me, St. Bernard has a small town 1940’s feel about it – sort of like an urban version of Menominee – and there’s a lot of picturesque scenes if you like off-kilter things.  I’d taken about 150 photos and was just about to take another in a back alley when a police car slowly passed me, came to a stop, and then backed up. The officer rolled down his window and asked me what I was doing.  I said I was taking some pictures.  He asked if I were doing that for somebody.  I said no, just for myself – that I just like to take pictures.  “Why is that?,” he asked.  I was sort of stuck for a reasonable answer.  Finally I said that I just like to take pictures of different neighborhoods.  He told me that somebody was going to call the police on me.  I asked why they would do that.  “Because they want to know what’s going on,” he said.  Then he begrudgingly said he guessed it was o.k., though it seemed pretty clear that he preferred that I go take pictures in some other community.  I took another photo as he drove off, but his warning put a damper on my enthusiasm.  I didn’t quit right away, but I started keeping an eye out for “crime watchers” who might be calling the cops.


Last night we went to the theater at UC.  As we were driving home on Martin Luther King Drive, I saw a long line of orange traffic cones and a man holding a sign that said, “Sobriety Check Point.”  I was just approaching a road to my right that turned into Burnet Woods, and, for a fleeting moment, I thought of making a run for it.  I thought better of it, though, since a manned police car was parked just behind me, probably waiting to follow drivers who try to evade the checkpoint.  I started running through in my mind the various defenses I might offer when the police pulled me over.  My fantasizing was a bit excessive since I’d only had one glass of wine five hours earlier.  As it turned out, there had been a huge car crash at the far end of the checkpoint, so they weren’t stopping any cars anyway.  Whew – a narrow escape!


I’ve attached a few of my photos from my St. Bernard expedition.  I consider these rare and personally priceless since I won’t be going back to St. Bernard again.



G-Mail Comments:

-Phyllis SS (4-26): Hi Dave,  Please, please don't let some jerk policeman intimidate you.  You have every right to photograph St. Bernard and the photos are lovely.  pss

-Linda C (4-25): dave, i think you should go right back to st. bernards and take more pictures and have a little micro reciever in your pocket, and if anything is in the open than you should take as many as you wish, i might leave the playground alone, even tho it is  hardly illegal, why don't you look for flags, american flags are good because they are never in the condition they should be, take pictures of people coming out of the bar, who was the statue of, that was good take a few more, and a closer up of the window shop, so i can see the fucking wigs, now i am mad too. otherwise it isn't like i don't like the blog, i do, but this town hasn't seen a murder with a camera for a long long time, maybe now is the time. linda

Friday, April 23, 2010

Are Dogs Human? [Well, I'd Have to Say So!]

                   Rosie is a Mixed Breed (50% Terrier, 50% Human)

Dear George,

Often I walk home from the office with a friend who I will only identify as Rosie’s mother.  Rosie is a mix of terrier, border collie, and some other stuff, and she is one of the best jumpers and howlers in our neighborhood, as well as being quite intelligent.  Every now and then my friend winds up an anecdote about Rosie with the statement, “but, of course, she’s just a dog.”  This is confusing to me, and I typically respond, “Well, she’s more than a dog.  She’s pretty much like a human being.”  Rosie’s mother thinks that’s foolish, although, the more I’ve thought about this matter, the more certain I’ve become.  (Note:  When I mentioned to Rosie’s mother that I was writing this letter, she asked me to clarify that she is not Rosie’s mother – she is Rosie’s owner.  She claims that Rosie is a stray and that her mother, in fact, is long gone.  I guess that’s a way of looking at it, though it’s not how I like to think about it.)


To address the dog-human question, consider our sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy.  The other day I made a list of all 85 of their body parts (e.g., teeth, ears, liver, kidney, eyelids).  Human beings have almost all the same body parts.  They might have a few extra as well (e.g., wrists, earlobes), but one would have to conclude that, anatomically, people and sheepdogs are impressively similar. 


Next I made a list of all the things that Mike and Duffy had done so far that day (e.g., ate breakfast, played with their toys, looked out the window, taken a nap, lay on their back, had a bad dream, asked me to take them out, went for a walk together, said hello to passersby).  I was excited to realize that we do all those things too – people and dogs, pretty pretty similar.  Though I do do some other things that the dogs don’t (e.g., play Suduko), the more essential to survival our behaviors are, the more we are alike. 


Thinking there might be some semantic questions involved, I looked up “human” in the Oxford English Dictionary.  One stated meaning is “Having or showing the qualities distinctive of or commonly attributed to human beings.”  I guess just about everybody who knows them would consider Mike to be clever, laid back, and friendly, while his brother Duffy is bossy, impulsive, and anxious.  Human qualities?  You’d have to say so.


While all this was pretty conclusive, I performed the ultimate test by checking the Internet, doing a Google search on the phrase “dogs are people”.  I got 53,200 hits.  This included a paperback book titled Dogs Are People Too by Ron Truscott, available for $19.95 from Amazon.  “Dogs are not people,” in contrast, elicited a measly 16,900 Google hits.    

                     Is Duffy Catching Up on Health Care Reform?

The heart of the question boils down to how we treat dogs.  We can treat them as if they are just dogs or we can treat them as if they are humans as well.  At Rosie’s house, she is not allowed on the couch or in her masters’ bed.  While she enjoys a comfortable life, Rosie does get treated like a dog.  At our house, on the other hand, Mike and Duffy are not only allowed on the couch and the bed, but they are lifted up onto the bed and given first choice about what space they would prefer to occupy.  A neutral observer might conclude they are not only treated like human beings, but they are treated better than the human beings are.  (Among other things their owners talk to them on the telephone, sing songs to them, and constantly tell them how amazing they are.)  There are, of course, occasional exceptions.  This morning the Time-Warner guy came by to fix our cable TV.  Mike and Duffy got unusually excited, barked at the top of their voices, and leaped up and down at the guy when he stepped into the house.  I wanted to explain to him that, underneath all that fur, the dogs are basically human beings, much like ourselves, and that there’s nothing to worry about.  However, I decided that the technician, frozen with fear, would not hear my message.  So I locked the dogs in the bedroom.  Once in a while you have to treat them as though they are dogs, even though you yourself know better.



G-Mail Comments:

-Phyllis SS (4-24): Dave, I agree.  But, did you hear about the Supreme Court decision re: lst amendment rights and animals this past week?  It was terrible for animals - heartless judges.  pss

-Linda C (4-23): of course they are human, just before art died he told me he thought i should get a dog. so for the holidays ben and theo got a mutt that we had to pay for, he is really smart and i think sometimes all that inbreeding isn't good, jayme and ben are going to the teach him manners class…  by the way , i think the proper term is dog companion, not owner or even mother, maybe your friend can handle the companion term, and that dog is really cute… what did the dog think of the health care argument, he was looking so intently, as always love the blog and pictures  linda

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Baby V at 18 Months: Mum Mum Linda's Report (photos by KKB & JML)

Dear Dave.

I told you I would tell you details about V’s stay with us in Half Moon Bay.  She came in really late and then adjusted to the time change so well, and mom K** said she did when she got home too.


V seems like such an independent child.  She can amuse herself and is not one of those whiny kids.  She saw her cousins Ben and Theo at night --  she called them Baaaaaan and Feo the whole time they were here,


I think she found Ben the most fascinating, and he really played and read to her.  One time I heard him say "V are you sure you want me to read you this book for the fourth time -- can't we read another one?"


As soon as she was lifted out of her pac and play in the morning. she started to call the boys and went down the stairs in search of them.  She has this thing if you are sitting on the floor she just comes and sits in your lap.  I had gotten her a cheap doll and a doll stroller; she did play with that a lot.  Ben tried to help her put the dog in and for a few minutes Bubbles........let himself be pushed.  V was talking so much and would try to say any word you would say to her.  For a few months K** said she thought V was saying my name but it sounded so much like mama that I thought K** was wrong,  K** would say listen to it.  iI is just a little different then mama.

So this time she called me mum mum clear as a bell, even though I had always said grandma to her,  I guess that was what she had been trying to say.  She would enter into block playing with Theo, and even he said she was good at it. They made a number of things, and she was real careful with putting the block on the higher one.  Up it went, and when it fell, she didn't cry, just started to make a new one.


 V loved the little dog, Bubbles and would drag him around a lot.  He never growled, just let her carry him.  She was into going around in circles with Theo and then acting like a drunken sailor, and she loved dancing with Ben.  She would follow Ben around a lot.


I took her to the store to buy her a pair of shoes.  I told the woman -- she owns the store and we know each other -- that it seemed her foot was fat, but it worked out good to put on a shoe that then had a strap over the top that could be adjusted. V loved the shoes and was very compliant about trying them on.  We finally asked her to pick between the three pair, and she picked a green pair with flowers,  She would look at them and say “dis” for the green one,

I decided to buy her the brown too.  She got a white helium-filled balloon as a result of her purchases.  She really liked it, and I tried to put the string around her hand, but no, she wanted nothing to do with that.


We got in the car, she got the balloon and I could see in the mirror that she was biting on the balloon at the spot it was tied to the string. I told her to take it out of her mouth.  I would look and she would have taken it out but then she wouldn't look up front, just the view from the side and put it in her mouth again.


Many reasons she should not be biting on the balloon, so I stopped the car and said 'V, I know you heard what I said, I am going to take the balloon away from you and put it in the front seat and we we get home you can have it back.’  She shook her finger at me and said no no no, but she didn't cry.


When we got to the house I said in a happy voice, ‘Here V, now you can have your balloon.’  I got out to get it and give it to her and take her out of her car seat, but she had her arms folded, her lip out in a pout, and when I said, ‘Here is your balloon, Honey,” she shook her head no.  What a character,  She finally decided to take it after all, but she is really funny when things don't go her way -- she doesn't really cry.

One evening the boys wanted K** and V to go to Kevin’s apartment, right down the street, to see the huge war fort etc. they had made out of legos  They kept showing her all their things, and she would look and act interested, but we didn't think about letting her bring her own toy down to play.  Finally she got her blanket.  She wrapped it all up and then rocked it like it was a baby doll.  She is just so damn smart.

 She would play with the toys and have them say things or attack or be nice.  She was getting out spoons to feed them, etc.  It was really cute.  She did ask for her dad, and I think when they got home she was really glad to see him.  She loves loves the books and never wants to let you stop reading them.

 Love to you and Katja,



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sheepdogs in the Wilds

Dear George,

Mike, Duffy, and I are just back from an overnight camping trip to Miami Whitewater Forest, the start of the new season.  I took some photos which give the flavor of our outing.  Here they are:

Hardly anybody was there on a weekday, so we got our choice of campsites.  We chose #113, definitely one of the best.

After setting up, we took a walk on Oakleaf Trail.  Mike and Duffy have been here many times, and it’s one of our favorite places.

The forest was covered with wildflowers, turning it into a virtual fairyland.


Plus many flowering trees were at their spring peak.  

The Canadian Geese were honking wildly, but the dogs showed no interest whatsoever.

We saw quite a few exotic wildlife, including this very strange duck.

Mike was his most contented when he got to be on the bench.

I made a dish for dinner called Crazy Dad’s Deluxe, and it turned out to be a big success.  Maybe I’m becoming a pretty good campfire cook.  

Being in the tent together at night is one of the best times.  Duffy loves it, though Mike seems grumpy.  Maybe it’s because Duffy takes over the entire dog bed.

This breakfast doesn’t look that good, and it tasted worse.  I guess I have a ways to go.


Mike and Duffy’s most anxious time is when I pack up the campsite, leaving them in their pen till the last moment.  I would never forget them, but they aren’t so certain.



G-Mail Comments:

-Linda C (4017): these are such wonderful pictures, this is one of the things art loved to do, go out and stay in the woods, usually with truman the dog,  i just never liked it. it is so beautiful in ohio right now with the lime colored leaves.

-Donna D (4-16): Great pictures, David!  Especially your colorful!!!

-Ami G (4-16): Dear David:  I think the duck was a swan!  What a nice outing with your boys!  Love.  Ami

-Phyllis SS (4-16): Hi Dave, Your dinner photo does look like the food is delicious.  Love the photo of the swan - very beautiful.  What fun.  Outdoors in the beautiful weather.

-Vicki L (4-15): Hi David, I'm really loving your new 'photo journal' style. I shouldn't be  surprised that you have such a photogenic eye. We could've opened a family photography studio called "Lund***, Lund***, Lund***, Lund***, Lund*** and Lund***Studios". (I wouldn't be amongst those included). Nor do I make a very good subject (unlike Mike and Duffy)....some other person always appears as an overlay on every shot taken of me and to boot, she's always older and less attractive than me. Today, I was greeted by the husband of a couple I see who began by saying " You're such a big part of our lives, I just want to take a picture of you....I was mortified, unable to speak while he fumbled with his camera. It was a shakey session at best. Say 'hi' to the fam. Love, vicki

-Jennifer M (4-15): It looks like a great trip!  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tax Time

                    American Taxpayers 1972 [D, J, K]

Dear George,

When Katja and I were in graduate school, taxes weren’t much of a problem.  My meager grad stipend of $1450 was tax-free, and we only had to declare Katja’s $2000 part-time salary from Faber’s Fabrics.  I filled out the forms each year, and it was a breeze.  It didn’t seem much more complicated when I took my new job at the University of Cincinnati, though I now had a salary of $9,500 a year.  I again did the taxes the first year.  In the summer the IRS called me in for an audit.  It seems I had misread the instructions and computed a deferment five times higher than it should have been.  The IRS guy was very accusatory and obnoxious, though his supervisor read my nonverbal cues and concluded I was innocent but dense.  The next year I decided not to take any risks, so I took our tax info to H&R Block in Northside, and they did the job for $10.  Katja wasn’t pleased.  The H&R Block office was a small storefront lodged between a bar with a large Hudepohl sign and a used furniture store.  She thought we could do better.


Katja took over the taxes the next year.  That was fine with me since financial matters felt too adult for me anyway.  The next thing I knew Katja had hired a lawyer at Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister to do the task.  If you were from Cincinnati, you would know the name, since it’s the family firm of President William Howard Taft, Senator Robert Taft, Governor Bob Taft, etc., and the law firm for many of Cincinnati’s major corporations and their CEO’s.  Our household income had climbed to nearly $14,500 a year, but it was unclear to me why we needed the most prestigious law firm in the city to handle our financial affairs.


Katja has taken care of our taxes ever since, bringing our stuff to lawyer Teddy N.  at Taft et al. on an annual basis.  This year she thought that I should come along, so I did.  The firm’s 95 lawyers occupy the 18th through 20th floors of the US Bank Building on Fountain Square.  We rode up the express elevator, and the elegantly tailored receptionist called Teddy to meet us.  Though I hadn’t seen him for 15 years, he was very cordial.  We walked to his office, admiring framed original prints by Picasso, Dali, Calder, and a host of contemporary artists along the way.  Katja had brought all of our financial documents in a paper bag decorated with a Bengal tiger, and she laid them out one by one for Teddy in what looked to me like a random order.  She was thrilled when Teddy said the info was complete, this apparently being the first time.  Our business completed, she and Teddy chit-chatted for a while.  Teddy’s older son’s owns a Tibetan Mastiff which had recently won Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club show  The son was leaving shortly for China to get a new Mastiff.  He’d recently had a new Mastiff litter of 13 and was shipping dogs to Chile, Australia, and other faroff places.  He was flying with one of the puppies to Santiago.  Katja updated Teddy on our sheepdogs, explaining that I was taking them to Mt. Airy Forest a lot.  Then, at Katja’s prompting, I explained that I’d gotten our current will off the Internet, but we were wondering if somebody at Taft/Stettinius might help as draft a more professional version.  Teddy was glad to oblige since they handle some very complicated wills.  We exchanged friendly goodbyes and made our way out.  My main conclusion is that it’s a good thing that Katja’s around to take care of this stuff.




G-Mail Comments:

-Donna D (4-12): You have become so wise over the years.  What a great picture!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sophie, Looking Her Best for Easter Sunday

Dear George,

Here is a photo of Sophie, all decked out for Easter Sunday.  This was taken at Eden Park.  It was a beautiful spring day, and the park was filled with people, many in their finery from church.  Compared to her older brothers, Sophie is definitely the most independent of the three sheepdogs.  She runs around more, wanders off at greater distances, and goes crazy when she sees a squirrel, even if it’s forty feet in the air. When the rest of the group takes a break from walking, Sophie lays down in the grass to take a rest or finds some dirt to roll around in and get cool.  For this picture she found some good stuff outside the Playhouse in the Park to decorate herself with.  A man from the Playhouse walked over to meet the sheepdogs.  It turned out that he was an actor playing Superman in an upcoming theater production.  Mikey was the friendliest, Duffy the most standoffish, but it was Sophie who got the most attention from Superman because she was looking so cute.



G-Mail Comments:

-Linda C (4-7): Great photo.

-Jennifer M (4-7): What a funny dog!  (Notice how I didn't say "girl" or "person" because she's not?)

-Donna D (4-7): I love this!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter At Our House

              First Presbyterian Church, Menominee, Mich.

Dear George,

Our family went to church only once a year, on Easter Sunday.  We were members of the First Presbyterian Church on Ogden Avenue.  The minister, Reverend Buzza, was the father of Peter’s best friend, Johnny Buzza.  I’m a little unsure of the exact title, but my dad had been appointed a deacon (or something comparable) in the local Presbytery.  He credited his churchly status to his job as Menominee County’s prosecuting attorney.  As an elected official, he needed to belong to a church to garner votes, and his visibility in the local legal system was welcomed by the minister.


My dad felt negatively toward organized religion.  This was a consequence of some early life experiences.  His father and my grandfather, Victor August L. Sr., was the owner and operator of the Main St. drug store in Marinette and a member of the Swedish Lutheran church.  VA Sr. was a gentle, responsible, and thoroughly respectable member of the Swedish community.  Local doctors, however, insisted that he keep his pharmacy open seven days a week, including Sunday church mornings, and, as the only pharmacist available, this meant no church attendance for my grandfather.  The Lutheran minister used a lot of pressure to force VA to close his store on Sundays, but my grandfather couldn’t do it without losing much of his drug business.  Failing in his efforts, the Lutheran minister denounced my grandfather from the pulpit and banished him from the congregation.  From that point on our family became heathens who were destined for hell.


My father’s childhood hurt, though, didn’t keep us from enjoying Easter.  Celebrating Easter went on for days prior in the school system, and Good Friday was a public school holiday.  At home we spent lots of time dying and painting Easter eggs, and the Easter bunny himself made annual visits to our house, hiding chocolates and candies around the house or out in the front yard.  One year Vicki, as a little girl, received a live Easter chick as her special present, and she loved it so much that she squeezed it to death that very same day.  It took her years to recover (and I’m not sure she ever did).


Our family’s Easter Sunday church outings were not particularly spiritual.  Steven and I spent a lot of time in the pew poking at one another and giggling.  Eventually, our parents placed us on opposite sides of their seats to eliminate the fooling around.  We were always extremely interested in our dad’s contribution to the collection plate, which amounted to what seemed to us a very sizeable check, e.g., a hundred dollars.  My father wasn’t normally a big spender, and we found this incomprehensible.  He finally explained that, since we only went once a year, he gave his entire year’s donation all in one shot.     


Many years later, my mother died, and her remains were cremated.  We had a private family service of sorts at Farm.  Someone – it might have been Vicki – expressed a need to have a religious figure present, and my dad contacted the current Presbyterian minister, by then Reverend Rank.  We gathered in the front yard where my mother’s ashes were to be returned to the soil.  My dad explained that religion had not been a significant part of their lives together, but he appreciated the minister’s willingness to join us.  Reverend Rank was very helpful – not a lot of godly stuff, but an authentic effort to learn more about our mother and aid us in expressing our feelings.  Steven, very emotional about our loss, was initially uncomfortable about this, but soon he and all of us were sharing stories and feelings.  Atheists or agnostics or whatever, our Presbyterian connection proved to be a good idea.




Thursday, April 1, 2010

Washington School Days: 9. Sixth Grade -- Big Shots

          Steve & Dave going to Washington School (VAL photo)

Dear George,

A significant feature of one’s school career is starting out at the bottom, then gradually ascending to the top, then starting out at the bottom all over again.  At Washington Grade School, sixth grade was the temporary top, and, once there, we enjoyed being the biggest and oldest kids, reveling in the admiration of our underlings.


Miss Elsie Guimond taught the sixth grade at Washington, and she was the school principal as well.  I remember her as being pretty old with gray hair and glasses, though she was probably about forty when I was in her class.  Miss Guimond was regarded by our parents as the best teacher in the school.  She was serious and strict, but she cared a lot about her students and got the best out of them.


One day one of the kids in the class, who I will call “K” for the sake of anonymity, was up at the blackboard doing an arithmetic problem as the class watched.  As K struggled with the problem a pool of yellowish liquid began to form on the floor, and soon it was a couple of feet in diameter.  Somebody noticed, whispered and pointed to his neighbor, and soon the entire class was watching in total absorption.  Miss Guimond realized what was happening, took K by the hand, and hurried from the room.


The class collapsed in hysteria.  Oblivious to K’s feelings in the matter, we thought it was the funniest thing that had ever happened.  “How could K not feel it?” everyone wondered.  “Who is going to clean it up?”


Miss Guimond returned.  She had taken K to the rest room, then sent K home for the day.  She had a lengthy discussion with the class.  We learned some physiology – what the bladder is and how it can betray you.  We learned how you can do certain things and not even know you are doing them.  We learned a lot about unkind remarks and how ridicule can hurt people.  We learned that we were responsible for helping one another feel o.k. about oneself.  Miss Guimond was clear and to the point.  I doubt if anyone every said anything to K about the incident and maybe not even to one another.  But, I must say, the whole episode made for one of our important lessons in the sixth grade.


Later in the year I began drawing cartoon pictures of my classmates.  I loved comic books, and all I wanted to be in life was a cartoonist.  I made a “picture map” of the classroom, drawing a caricature of each of my classmates accompanied by some sarcastic or insulting name.  I didn’t show it to anybody, but I found it was pretty amusing.  At first Miss Guimond was missing from the picture, so I put her at her desk at the back of the room and named her “Old Miss Busybody.”  I felt a little guilty about this since I admired Miss Guimond, but I didn’t want to be a wimp, even to myself.


As luck would have it, the picture fell out of my pocket at recess.  Later in the day I learned that Jackie P. had found it and given it to Miss Guimond.  I couldn’t believe it.  Jackie claimed he wanted to get the picture returned to its rightful owner, but I knew a vicious act when I saw one.


I don’t know how offended Miss Guimond was, but she did bring the picture to the class’s attention.  First she read off people’s derogatory names, and at the end she revealed that I was the author of this travesty.  She pointed out that the only person I’d given a positive name to was Mary Beebo (“Teeny Tiny”), and she wondered if, perhaps, I might be in love with Mary Beebo.  Everybody laughed, even Mary.  Then she asked me who “Old Miss Busybody” was.  I tried to joke my way out of it, claiming it was Dick J’s new baby sister, but Miss Guimond wouldn’t let me off the hook.  After sufficient public humiliation, she did finally add that it was a creative effort, but I still felt totally embarrassed.  From then on, I confined my cartooning to portraits of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito.





*This story employs pseudonyms.