Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Scream, You Scream...

The Ideal Dairy, Highway 577, Menominee, Mich.

Dear George,

If I try to imagine what heaven is like, I get a picture of winding gold-paved streets lined on both sides with gigantic self-serve ice cream stands. There’s every conceivable flavor, from mocha bean to maraschino cherries in peanut butter; gallons of toppings; and an endless supply of whipped cream, peanuts, bananas, and M&M’s. Nobody watches over you, and it’s all free. You can eat as much as you want. I guess that vision means that there’s hardly anything that’s as pleasurable as ice cream. That feeling is undoubtedly due to my family history. My dad was born in Marinette, Wisc., so we children were born with DNA from the Dairy State. We ate lots of cheese in our house, my parents’ favorite being Steve’s Cheese from Denmark, Wisc. Katja and I still buy a couple of bricks of Steve’s Cheese every time we pass through the Green Bay airport. As kids we guzzled down big glasses of milk whenever we were thirsty. Every couple of days the Ideal Dairy delivery man pulled into our driveway, picked up the metal rack of empty milk bottles from the utility room, and left a half dozen new quarts. Each bottle had an inch of thick cream at the top, and you needed to shake it well to get the milk and cream mixed together. The motto on the Ideal bottle read, “For Mothers Who Care.” We youth would question our mother about whether that was really true, and she would simply smile.

The Ideal Dairy was up the road from us on Highway 577, right at the city limits. It was good for milk, but it was sensational for ice cream. My father would bundle the family into our car and take us to the Idol, as he called it. They would have about twenty flavors on hand – the conventional ones, e.g., vanilla, chocolate, strawberry – plus numerous specials of the week. My favorite was Lemon Flake. I still salivate when I think about it. Since I left Menominee in the mid-1950’s I’ve never seen anything that comes close to the Ideal Dairy’s Lemon Flake. Their ice cream cones cost two dips for a nickel, and we were allowed to get four dips as long as we could eat it all. When I became a teenager I’d ride my bike home from school past the Ideal, buy six dips of Lemon Flake, and balance the whole thing while I rode home steering the bike with my left hand and eating my cone with my right. My dad always observed that ice cream was a dairy product and hence one of the healthiest things you could put into your body.

At home we frequently had ice cream for dessert. Vic would ask ahead of time what we wanted him to pick up at the grocery store, and we always wanted Sealtest Neopolitan since you got chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla all in one. As the oldest child, I had the task of dividing up a pint for the four children. Vicki and Peter were the youngest, so I’d split off a third of the pint and divide it in half for them. Family rules then called for me to split the remaining ice cream into two parts and give my younger brother Steven first choice between the pieces. You never saw such precise cutting. It was usually impossible to tell which slice was larger, but, if I made a slight mistake, there would be a lot of hooting and hollering. One time I took our two-thirds of the pint and split it into two drastically unequal parts, e.g., 80% and 20%. Steven was taken aback and didn’t know what to do. He sat and looked at it for quite a while, laughed nervously, and finally took the 20% piece for himself and gave me, his older brother, 80%. I felt a twinge of guilt, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Our most thrilling family ice cream outings would occur when my dad would take us all to town to my Uncle Kent’s Menominee drug store after hours. Vic had a key to the front door, and we’d all go in and run to the soda fountain. We were allowed to be totally in charge of making our own ice cream sundaes. The only rule was that we had to eat everything we made for ourselves. My typical sundae would have six or seven different scoops of ice cream with multiple toppings, e.g., chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry, strawberry, pineapple, peach, caramel. Sometimes I’d bring along a ripe banana to turn it all into a gigantic banana split with whipped cream topping and nuts. In my entire life I can’t think of anything as exciting as being let loose in the soda fountain. This is probably where my fantasies about heaven come from.

Softserve ice cream was invented when I was a teenager, but it was viewed with disdain in our dairy-oriented culture. It might have actually been banned in Wisconsin. It was definitely the case that margarine was illegal in our sister state. As a consequence, some enterprising soul opened up a Margarine Store at the foot of the Interstate Bridge in Menominee so migrants from Wisconsin could cross the bridge and buy the forbidden substance. Even in Michigan the margarine was legally required to be white rather than yellow to avoid any suggestion it might be equivalent to butter. There were no softserve stores in Marinette. Our local Menominee softserve shop was on Ogden Avenue, five or six blocks down the street from the Interstate Bridge. It’s still there, some sixty years later. As a teenager I’d ride in from river house on my bicycle, looking to see if there were any girls to talk to on Ogden Ave. and wind up buying a softserve cone. On the way back home I’d have to pass Riverside Cemetery on a moonlit night, and I’d pedal as fast as I could. I still can visually recall the terrifying scene.

In college Katja asked me to teach her how to drive. I tried riding with her once as her teacher, but I couldn’t stand it emotionally. Instead I gave her the keys to my car with its automatic transmission, and she drove by herself four blocks straight down Yellow Springs Avenue to the Dairy Queen stand. She’d enjoy a cone, then make a U-turn and drive four blocks straight back. After weeks of solo practice sessions she’d become a reasonably proficient, self-taught driver, at least as long as it involved going in a straight line down the street to the Dairy Queen. She waited to get her driver’s license in Menominee because they didn’t ask you to parallel park and, as the prosecuting attorney’s daughter-in-law, she count count on being treated with kid gloves by the police.

After we got married and moved to Ann Arbor, we’d always have a half gallon of ice cream in our refrigerator freezer. Once in a while, I’d eat the entire half gallon in a single sitting. One year I went in for my annual physical exam, and my doctor asked me about putting on weight. He wondered if I were eating a lot of sweets. I told him no, I never ate any sweets at all. After a short pause, I mentioned that I normally eat half a pint of ice cream for dessert each day. The doctor looked at me incredulously. He asked if I didn’t consider ice cream a sweet. I said no, that ice cream was a dairy product. It’s just about the healthiest thing you can eat for your bones and your teeth. The doctor shook his head. He didn’t realize that that’s what you learn when you grow up right next door to Wisconsin.



P.S. I assume that the title of this posting is self-explanatory. Just in case, it refers to the first two lines of a poem that we used to chant in unison as children:

I scream,

You scream,

We all scream

For Ice Cream!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Costs of Dominance

Mike (left ) and Duffy at the Clifton fountain

Dear George,

One can learn a lot from watching dogs interact with one another. Our sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy, have such different personalities, and that plays out in their every encounter. I used to think that all social behavior was learned, but, because of the dogs, I’m much more struck by the role of genetics. Katja bought Mike and Duffy when they were eight weeks old, and it seems to me that they’re pretty much the same way that they were in infancy. As puppies, Duffy was the alpha dog from the very start, pushing Mikey around with his aggressive behaviors. Mike has always been more gentle and laid back. Here are some of the concrete ways that the dogs differ in adulthood:

Duffy listens to a sound in the forest

What Duffy does more of:

Goes out the door first; comes back in first

Goes up and down the stairs first

Leads the way on the street

Pulls harder on the leash

Starts eating more quickly; finishes eating first

Pees first; poops first

Plays with (and thinks he owns) all the toys in the house

Chases and retrieves the thrown ball

Starts the barking at dogs passing outside the window

Acts more aggressively toward dogs on the street

Is wary of other dogs, avoidant, hyper-vigilant

Is more cautious toward strangers

Occasionally attacks Mike (over food, toys, excitement, etc.)

Is terrified of skateboards and firecrackers

Mike takes a rest break

What Mike does more of:

Submits to Duffy (usually)

Goes up to people on the street

Approaches other dogs

Plays more with their sister Sophie when Sophie visits

Licks little children on the face

Likes to wiggle through people’s legs

Lies on his back with his four paws in the air

Licks humans’ toes

Is calmer and more mellow in public

Various social psychologists have suggested that there are two major dimensions of human social relationships, (a) dominance-submission and (b) affection-hostility. These seem to apply to dogs too. Duffy clearly occupies the dominant position in our household’s two-dog pack; Mike, the submissive position. This is evident in just about everything. Toys are a salient example. Duffy considers just about all the toys in the house as his own, and Mike puts himself at risk of attack if he so much as approaches a toy on the floor. Duffy spends hours playing with his rubber kong, pushing it under a cabinet or a pile of clothes to present himself with a challenge. Mike lies passively and watches his brother play. Just recently Duffy has allowed Mike to have one toy of his own, a hard white ball with purple bumps in it. Mike takes it into the bed out of Duffy’s view, grasps it between his paws, and licks it with enthusiasm and apparent gratitude for his good fortune.

Duffy (left) and Mike at Mt. Storm park

On the affection dimension, Mike is unquestionably the friendlier of the two dogs. While both dogs act positively toward Katja and myself, Mike shows more friendly behaviors toward other human beings and other dogs, and consequently he receives more friendly responses in return. Duffy, by comparison, is wary of contact and more aloof. I think it’s likely that Duffy sees new contacts as a contest for domination and consequently finds them dangerous. So when strangers come up to pet the dogs, Mike readily moves toward them, while Duffy tends to move away and stand behind me. Usually I tell people that Mike is my friendly dog, Duffy is my shy dog, and it’s better to pet Mike than Duffy.

Duffy (left) and Mike on Ludlow Avenue

In these ways, then, the dogs live in two quite different worlds, both with their own sets of rewards and costs. Duffy enjoys various benefits of high status, e.g., ownership of valued objects, first priority in just about everything, exerting control and getting his way. But, at the same time, the world is a dangerous place for Duffy, since he has to establish his position through physical aggression and is consequently more likely to be the recipient of aggression. Particularly in the outside world, where adversaries are unknown and dominance relationships are yet to be established, Duffy is continually on guard and anxious. Because the world seems so hazardous, Duffy experiences a lot more tension. He’s probably a candidate to get an ulcer.

Duffy (foreground) and Mike on the creekbed at Mt. Airy Forest

It might seem, at first glance, that Mike loses out. He doesn’t get to play with the toys, he doesn’t get to retrieve the thrown ball, and he has to wait for his second turn at the water fountain. Basically, he has to submit to Duffy’s superiority in most areas of their daily lives. Mike, however, does receive a lot more social rewards. Because he’s prone to submission, he doesn’t elicit competition or hostility from others, and consequently he approaches other people and dogs (and is approached by them) with a more relaxed, unthreatening air. Thus, dominance proves to be a two-edged sword. In effect, Duffy gets the physical rewards, Mike gets the social rewards. Duffy also incurs a lot more overt costs by virtue of being leader of the pack. It would be nice if it were possible to be both dominant and to give and receive a lot of affection. But apparently the world doesn’t operate that way. I think that both Mike and Duffy enjoy pretty good lives. But they are markedly different.



G-mail Comments

-Vicki L (11-26): Hi D, Given your current theory, how would you compare the costs/benefits of your and Steven's

differing personality styles? Eager to hear. Hope you had a wonderful trip to N.O. and a festive Thanksgiving. Love, Vicki

Peter's Postcard Legacy: Part 1. Steven

Steven in his backyard, Bellevue, WA

Dear George,

My brother Peter produced a major family photography project in the early 2000’s. He gathered together negatives of photos that our father Vic had taken in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Peter turned these into black and white and color postcards which he then mailed weekly to family members. Peter was an excellent photographer himself, and, after a while, he started including his own photos in his mailings. All in all, his postcard collection is a priceless family legacy. I’ve put a lot of Vic’s photos which Peter resurrected on this blog previously. Now I’m going to post some of Peter’s own photos. Many of these were of his three siblings and their spouses and kids. Here are some which are centered around our brother Steven (and assorted loved ones), taken by Peter mostly in the 1990s. With the tragic, painful losses of my brothers Steven and Peter in 2005 and 2006, these recorded memories take on a powerful, emotional significance.



Peter, Steve, Vicki

I think this picture epitomizes Steven. He was the most fun member of our family, and his warmth and energy spread to everybody around him (as you can see in my brother Peter’s and my sister Vicki’s reactions). Some years ago Pat J., the wife of Steve’s best friend in Menominee, said that her husband’s happiest times were when Steve came home and got together with him. I can attest to that – those were many of my happiest times too.

Steve with Doris, Bob P., and Vicki

Steve and his chums formed a prominent, occasionally rowdy in-group in their high school years, and he kept up these close ties throughout his life. Here he is with long-time friend Bob P., who became a local football coach, our mom Doris, and Vicki.

Steve and Margie at Cloud 9

Steve and Margie met when they were in college, fell in love immediately, and married soon after graduation. We all were thrilled. They were a perfect couple, good-looking, super dancers, full of spirit and good humor. In the late 19660’s they moved from Michigan to Seattle, where Margie specialized in teaching English as a second language in elementary school, and Steve was a lawyer for a major law firm, handling environmental cases.

Margie with Jennifer and J

We started having family reunions at my parent’s home on the Menominee River in the late 1960’s, an annual tradition that bound Steve’s, Peter’s, Vicki’s, and my families together. Here’s Margie with her their first child, Jennifer, and our son J at river house in about 1972.

Vicki, Dave, Steve, and Katja on a night out in Costa Rica

Steve organized a family vacation outing to Costa Rica for his siblings and their spouses in the late 1990’s. It was our biggest family trip. Peter took this photo on one of our visits to a local nightclub. Spirits were running high.

Steven L., sports fisherman

Steve loved boating and fishing, going on regular weekend expeditions with friends to Puget Sound and even to Alaska. Peter took this photo when he and Steve vacationed together in Acapulco. At first we thought that Steve had landed this trophy swordfish, though Peter later admitted to a bit of trickery in the shot.

Steve, Jennifer, Win, Margie at home in Bellevue, WA

Steven was utterly proud of his three children, and he talked about their activities and accomplishments in every conversation. Jennifer, who has perhaps the best sense of humor in our family, grew up to be an award-winning art teacher. Here she is with her husband Win and her parents at the family home in Bellevue.

Greg and Steve

Here’s Steve and his firstborn son, Greg, at one of Greg’s art openings in Seattle. Greg is engaged in more ventures than just about anybody: active in Seattle’s arts culture, the founder of a glass cemetery monument company, the proprietor of two premiere Seattle nightspots, and most recently the new manager of our family property in Birch Creek, MI.

Jason and Hilary at their wedding

Steve and Margie’s younger son Jason has continued our family’s strong ties to nature by being a forester in the Olympia, WA, area (and has been known to hike through the mountains from Canada to Mexico). Jason and Hilary (also a forester) got married in 2002 in Hilary’s home town, Baker City, OR. Peter was there to take this photo.

Steve, K, J, and Gayle

Steve, always youthful in spirit, chummed around readily and smoothly with the younger generation. Here he is with our son and daughter-in-law, J and K, and Peter’s wife, Gayle.

Peter, Steve, Margie (more good times)

Peter was four years younger than Steve, and he greatly admired and emulated his older brother as a kid. They were best of friends as adults. I think this picture was probably taken in Seattle on one of Peter’s visits there. Looking at it, I’m reminded how much I’d like to be with my brothers again.

G-mail Comments

-Phyllis S-S (11-25): Dave, What terrific brothers you were and what lovely memories. We’re still stuffed from Thanksgiving. Phyllis

-Jennifer M (11-24): I’m glad you have these photos to remind you of the good times you had with your brothers. I hope your trip to NOLA is creating good memories, with good photos, of your time with the youngest of your family.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Late Night/Dark Self

Dear George,

Sometimes I get a little too upbeat when writing blog items. I suppose I’m trying to be positive, but I’m not sure that’s my true nature. When I was a college sophomore, I read a lot of Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and fancied myself a member of the Beat Generation. I spent most of my spare time dwelling on the meaninglessness of life. It was depressing, but it seemed like one should accept reality. Then I went to grad school, got distracted, and simply forgot for a long time that life has no meaning. For some reason, life seemed to have gotten plenty of meaning, even if it really didn’t. Recently, though, I’ve found myself staying up late at night, trying to recapture some of those tortured adolescent feelings. Late night is good for that. It’s dark, silent, a little scary. Katja and the dogs sleep soundly, there’s rarely any traffic outside the window, and one is alone with oneself. As you get tired, your mind starts wandering, your daytime defenses fade, and you’re more in touch with your angst-ridden self. In an effort to get in closer touch with my dark side, I’ve been writing late night poems in free verse. Here are a few.



Almost Wednesday

Tuesday’s almost gone

We’ll never see it again

Watch the pale moon rise,

Forget the dismal past,

Wednesday might be better

Or, more probably, even worse.

Distant Voice

I can barely make out my mother’s call

From far across the field.

She speaks in an ancient dialect.

I cover my eyes and ears

Blocking out the sounds.

I can’t bear the thought

Of returning to my beginning.

Cleaning House

They told me to throw my stuff away

I threw out the alarm clock and the scissors

But they wanted more

Two pairs of socks, a deck of cards, a broken pencil

They wanted my heart and soul

So I threw them out too.

Innocence Unspoiled

Yesterday I saw a butterfly

Resting on a daffodil

Fluttering its yellow black wings.

Truly a creature of beauty,

But what does it know of anxiety or guilt?

Pasta Regrets

Three days I went to the store

Searching for Sally, but she never arrived.

I bought cheap macaroni instead

I boiled it so long, it tasted of rot

If only Sally had been there.

Sad Morning Sight

Seduced by a whiff of cheddar cheese,

A small mouse lay impaled in the trap.

Frozen legs, stiff tail, vacant eyes.

One minor mistake can last for eternity.

Futile Quest

I tried to hop on one leg

For three hours, maybe four

Around the edge of Dunlap Square

The adults ignored me

But two young boys started hopping too

Near the end my leg buckled

They carted me away

And locked me in a windowless room.

I never saw Dunlap Square again.


I went last night to the well,

And drew a pail of icy water.

Inside was a disembodied head.

Eye sockets empty, mouth hanging open

Yellowed teeth

Disgust and shock, I threw it back.

But then I drank the water.

Inner Noise

Sometimes when I get distracted

I look inside my mind

To find some clue of the world’s condition

Last night I saw three dogs barking at a toadstool

It’s so confusing, in there in my mind

Too many men and women, so much talk

You can barely hear your own voice

I struggle for clarity

But then I give up and hide in the cellar.

Too Clever a Cat

I saw this bird standing on my lawn

A cat saw it too, though the bird seemed not to notice

The cat crept up, slow, slow, slower

The bird stood transfixed

Suddenly the cat pounced

Whoosh, the bird swallowed the cat.

Cats shouldn’t be so relaxed about vultures.

G-mail Comments

-Jennifer M (11-20): I like the poems. And the images. Here’s my thought for you: After our walk today, I raked leaves while Rosie killed a snake.

-DCL to Jennifer (11-22): Raking and Rosie would be a good topic for a poem…

-Vicki L (11-18): Hi David, Your creative self is certainly having a field day. Despite your 'embracing the Shadow' in many of these poems, I find them filled with the bittersweet richness of living. I'm happy for you. I particularly liked: Distant Voice, Innocence Unspoiled (I'm frequently angry with butterfies; also squirrels); Sad Morning Sight (this sentiment, I believe, was inherited from your father); Inner Noise (I keep trying to convey this experience to my therapist but I don't get far:) Too Clever A Cat (Very engaging, paradoxical and mysterious. Upside: life is full of the unexpected; downside: be ever vigilant - the world is unpredictably dangerous? Or perhaps: usual victims can be predators or defend themselves; usual predators might bite the dust.) Thanks for your prolific contributions - so great. I spent much of the afternoon interviewing some strange dude about Medicare options. Perhaps I should write a poem about that? Much love, Vicki

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

J's Twin Cities Photos

The Green Bay shore, Menominee, Mich.

Dear George,
I haven’t gotten up to Menominee for three years. Our son J, though, flew up from New Orleans in August, along with his cousins Greg and Jennifer (from Seattle) and Abra (from Santa Cruz/Philly). The younger generation of nine cousins and their spouses are taking over the ownership and management of my parents’ Birch Creek farm property from my siblings and myself, and J and his cousins met there to do some sprucing up and renovation. J sent along photos he took of Menominee, its twin city Marinette, and Farm. Here are some favorite places.

This view in downtown Menominee looks out onto Ogden Avenue (now 10th Ave.), with the First National Bank building at the left and the Stephenson Building just beyond it. Washington Grade School, which we all attended, was just behind the Stephenson Building, though it’s long gone.

This was my grandfather’s drugstore building on Electric Square (now the Subway Sandwich Shop). In our grade school years my brother Steven and I ate lunch there every day in Uncle Kent’s office.

The Menominee marina is a major stopping point for boaters from Chicago, Milwaukee, and other Lake Michigan ports. We’d go fishing for perch at the marina and swim at the breakwater next door.

In my youth the Lloyd Building was the home of the Montgomery Ward department store and our town’s biggest movie theater. I saw my first nighttime movie there, “Meet Me in St. Louis” starring Margaret O’Brien.

Jozwiak’s tavern is our favorite local family gathering place (for Wabashes and beer by the pitcher). We’d hang out with my mom and dad in the 6-person booth at the rear.

Here are Farm workers Greg, J, and Abra taking a break and enjoying a softserve cone at Colonel K’s.

Dunlap Square is the center of Marinette’s downtown business district. We’d go to the movies there as kids, then stop in at Goodfellows cigar store to buy some penny candy.

Lauermans Department Store (left), now extinct, was the region’s most important shopping destination. I liked to visit the Boy Scout department in the basement and look at the camping gear.

Marinette and Menominee have grand old public library buildings dating back to the turn of the last century. Our Aunt Martha worked at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette which was donated to the community by lumberman Isaac Stephenson in 1903.

Mickey-Lu’s, home of the world’s greatest cheeseburgers, is often the first stop for our family travelers driving into Marinette. It was there in my childhood years and seems to be doing even better today. There mere thought of Mickey-Lu’s makes me salivate.

My parents moved to their renovated Farm property in Birch Creek, about five miles north of Menominee, in the early 1970s. Here’s Birch Creek Road.

The farm house was built in 1886, fifteen years after the Peshtigo fire inundated Birch Creek. It’s hard to describe how gratifying it was for Vic and Doris to live here.

Here’s the Farm living room where we spent a lot of happy moments, kidding around, admiring our children, drinking beer, sharing reminiscences.

Not to mention the pool room, site of much family competition. Steven was indisputably the family champion.

My dad, with construction expertise and skilled labor from Jim D. and George J., built rooms for music, art, reading, and sleeping in the barn’s interior.

Here’s some of my dad’s stained glass work which brightens up the barn’s interior. Farm was a all-consuming, rewarding project for my folks, and they would be thrilled by its adoption by their grandchildren.

[All photos by JML, August 2011]

G-mail Comments
-Phyllis S-S (11-16): Dave, Love the photos - Justin looks more and more like you. And the drugstore - I'd heard so much about it, lovely to finally see what it looks like. Happy Thanksgiving - Phyllis

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bits of Autumn

Dear George,
We’re approaching the tail end of Autumn and have been enjoying one of Cincinnati’s most pleasant times of the year. Our summers tend to be hot and humid; our winters, gray and slushy. Autumn (and spring) are optimal – moderate temperatures, lots of sunshine, good for outdoor outings. Our furry sheepdogs benefit most. Their energy levels pick up as the weather gets brisker, and we take longer and more pleasurable walks. The leaves have turned, acorns have fallen, and the squirrels are busy gathering up their stores for the winter. Flocks of birds have been heading south. Our neighbors’ pumpkins are out on their front stoops, getting a little saggy by now. The dogs and I went camping at Winton Woods last week, and that will probably do it for the year. Though we can see cold and snow in the offing, we’ll be enjoying this luxurious season for a couple more weeks. I’ve been trying to capture some of its flavor with my camera. Here are a few pics.