Monday, January 30, 2012

Duct Tape: A Force for Good or Evil?

Dear George,

There’s sure been a lot of news about duct tape lately in Cincinnati. I didn’t even know that much about duct tape until Katja brought some home from her agency (where it’s manufactured by blind workers). It didn’t take long for me to discover its wonders. I accidentally sat down on top of my ninety-nine cent reading glasses and broke the frame in two, but duct tape and a paper clip put it back together in a jiffy. Then, sadly, my toenail cut a hole through my brand new running shoes, but, voila, a duct tape patch inside the shoe sealed it perfectly. When I ran into the rock wall while backing our car out of the driveway a section of the front bumper got dislodged, but a couple wrap-arounds of duct tape made it as good as new. Since then I’ve repaired a hole in my tent roof, a latch on my digital camera, a postcard storage box, and numerous other items I can’t even remember. In the process, I discovered what many people already know – that duct tape is probably the most significant human creation since the invention of the wheel.

I was feeling excited about our lives being transformed by duct tape when I ran across a rash of recent news stories in the Cincinnati Enquirer . The first one, just last week, was about Mary Beth Ryon, a 21-year-old worker at the Maple Leaf Day Care Center in Andersonville Township. Mary Beth, it turns out, was having trouble getting a 16-month-old baby to sleep at nap time, so she taped him to his sleeping mat with duct tape “to get him to calm down.” Mary Beth has since retired from her child care career, but the company is installing video equipment to prevent any more baby duct taping.

Once aware of the possibility of immoral duct tape behavior, I did a Google search, restricting myself to Cincinnati area news for the month of January. I quickly learned that duct tape isn’t just used to discipline tiny babies. Mack Mollwitz, 39, of suburban Barkley Township was arrested for abusing his own 13-year-old daughter. According to a Jan. 20 Enquirer story, Mollwitz bound his daughter's hands and legs with duct tape, locked her in a dog cage, threatened to electrify the cage, photographed her, and got her brother to post the photos on Facebook. A classmate saw the pictures and called Children’s Services. Mollwitz's lawyer claims this was just "a joke that got out of control."

Then my search grew uglier. In a Jan. 16 Enquirer story, it was reported that Randolph Zyam, 63, from our affluent suburb of Blue Ridge went to the house he’d been sharing with his ex-girlfriend to retrieve his belongings. He got into an argument, taped her eyes and mouth shut with duct tape, beat her repeatedly, and dumped her at the front door of the neighborhood hospital. As bad as this story was, the duct tape picture got even worse. On Jan. 4 a local judge sentenced Thelma Blank, 52, to life in prison. Blank had kidnapped a Northern Kentucky millionaire for whom she worked, duct taped him to a chair in her basement while she pilfered his money, left him to die, then burned up his body in Indiana. Her niece testified, “She’s a very nice person, loving.” I guess duct tape can lead even the most decent people astray.

Now I don’t know what to think. I did a Google search on “duct tape ethical issues,” but didn’t turn up much. I did discover that a popular college fund-raising gimmick is for students to tape their professors to walls or ceilings, with organizers selling strips of duct tape to use for this amusing stunt. Even though the professors are volunteers, the web-site didn’t think this was healthy since it can result in rashes or broken bones, or, in severe cases, in loss of circulation and dehydration, causing death.

I guess duct tape can be a force for good or a force for evil. It just depends. I would think that, in real life, beneficial uses of duct tape probably outweigh violent, destructive ones. It’s just that duct tape homicide gets so much more public press than more mundane examples. I don’t think duct tape should be banned outright, and it would be cumbersome to register duct tape buyers or prohibit purchases by convicted felons. Maybe the best step would be to add a warning label on the packaging, e.g., something like “Use Only on Inanimate Objects – Do NOT use on Human Faces or Limbs.” This could be accompanied by a picture of a teenage stroke victim. Maybe one of our socially conscious Ohio state legislators will pick up on this issue. In the meantime we’re storing the duct tape at our house in a padlocked cabinet.



*Pseudonyms are used in this story

G-mail Comments

-Donna D (1-31): unbelievable. donna

Friday, January 27, 2012

O.E.S. Princess

Sophie, age 9 years, 2 months

Dear George,

Sophie recently came over for a long weekend while Donna was in Nashville and Chattanooga visiting her kids. Sophie always brings a breath of fresh air to our household. She’s more perky and energetic than her older brothers, Mike and Duffy, and they get more peppy in turn when she’s around. It’s sort of like a three-ring circus. While all three Old English Sheepdogs had the same parents, Sophie has a personality all her own. I don’t know if that’s a matter of gender or the way she’s been reared or simply an accident of DNA. But she is a cutie-pie and entirely loveable. She’s wary of Duffy, who’s the alpha dog in the pack and can be pretty bossy, but she gives Mikey, who’s more submissive, a lot of attention. Sophie frequently wants to play, but Mike has never really learned how. So Sophie paws him on the nose, and Mike growls and snarls. Sophie knows he doesn’t mean it, so she keeps pawing away. It’s their little game. The dogs are nine years old now, but no one would ever guess. Here’s how Sophie’s looking these days.



Sophie and Katja share a special bond

Happy to be here

What's that sound across the street?

Sophie's always the first in bed

On the patio

Sophie (right) and Mike on Ludlow Avenue

The dogs with their fur coats like the cool weather

Checking out our neighbor’s yard

Imperial Sophie

So crowded!

Sophie with her walker

Mike (foreground) and Sophie on the patio

The dogs get excited when Katja arrives home

Mike (left) and Sophie howling at something unknown

Time for a rest

Whenever Katja is in the kitchen, it’s extremely interesting

Sophie, like her brothers, is a voracious eater

Sacked out after a long day (Sophie on sofa, Duffy on floor, gigantic stuffed sheepdog on bench)

Portrait of a Princess

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marshall Burns Lloyd, Entrepreneur and Menominee Citizen

Marshall Burns Lloyd (1858-1927)

Dear George,
Lately I've been delving into the history of my hometown, Menominee, Michigan. There are lots of stories. One of the most fascinating concerns inventor and local businessman, Marshall Burns Lloyd. Lloyd, of course, is a familiar name to anybody who grew up in Menominee. My siblings and I were all born in what came to be named St. Joseph Lloyd Hospital. We spent our Saturday afternoons at children’s matinees at the Lloyd Theater, and my mother would take us to buy clothes at the department store in the basement of the Lloyd Building. Many of my friends' parents worked for the Lloyd Factory. Despite all this, I can’t recall knowing anything about Marshall B. Lloyd. Recently I discovered a goldmine of information on the Internet (see especially the "Marshall Burns Lloyd Photo Gallery" at It’s quite a story.

Marshall Burns Lloyd was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 10, 1858, the son of Margaret Lloyd and Welsh emigree John Lloyd. When he was just a baby, his parents returned to Canada and settled on a farm near the little village of Meaford on Georgian Bay. Financial difficulties forced Marshall to leave school at age 14 to help his father in a shingle mill. He then worked as a grocery clerk, but gave this up to sell fish, catching his merchandise in the Georgian Bay and peddling them door to door from a wheelbarrow. Lloyd's first invention as a teenager was a new and effective fish spear.

At age 16, with an offer of $8 a month plus room and board, Lloyd left Meaford for Toronto and worked in a grocery store. He used his meager savings to buy a stock of soap which he peddled door to door. He told an interviewer, "I guess the women felt sorry for me because I was so small...They bought enough soap to last them a long, long while." When he’d satiated the soap market in Toronto, he expanded his business to cheap jewelry, using one of his soap boxes to stand on and hawk his wares on Yonge Street. Lloyd then drove about the Canadian countryside, selling general merchandise to farmers from a covered wagon drawn by a horse. At eighteen he became a rural mail-carrier, driving a six-dog train and sleigh on the two-day, 65-mile route between Port Arthur and Pidgeon River.

Attracted by the rush of settlers to Winnepeg, Lloyd worked as a waiter while engaging in real-estate speculation and accumulated $15,000 in a few months. He bought a farm at Grafton, North Dakota, where he brought his family. However, Lloyd didn't take to farming and soon turned to the insurance business in St. Thomas. While doing so, he patented a revolutionary weighing scale for use by farmers. As he attempted to manufacture the scale in a blacksmith shop, the uninsured building was destroyed by fire, and Lloyd lost everything.

Hopeful of rebuilding his plant, Lloyd went to Minneapolis, but couldn't secure financial aid and became a shoe salesman, working on other inventions in his spare time. After 10 years the C. O. White Manufacturing Co. of Minneapolis gave him an interest in the company in exchange for the right to use his invention for weaving wire door and table mats. Another of his inventions for weaving woven-wire bed springs revolutionized the bed-spring industry, and Lloyd was able to buy the White company, renaming it the Lloyd Manufacturing Company. He sold manufacturing rights to businesses in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and by 1900 Lloyd was a wealthy and successful self-made man.

Lloyd next perfected a machine to make wire wheels for baby carriages which made the ride much smoother. He had difficulty getting Minneapolis financiers to extend him more credit, and he began looking for opportunities elsewhere. Lumbermen John W. Wells, Augustus Spies, and others in Menominee, faced with the decline of the lumbering industry and the closing of sawmills, were seeking new industries, and Marshall Lloyd contacted them. Lloyd sold his Minneapolis plant in 1906, began building in Menominee, and in 1907 transferred his machinery and other assets to a new Lloyd Manufacturing Company with a capitalization of $400,000 and a 77,000 square foot building on Green Bay from his Menominee backers. His business associates were Frank A. Spies, John W. Wells, W. S. Carpenter, John Henes, Leo C. Harmon, and John M. Thompson. Lloyd brought with him two "lieutenants" from Minneapolis -- Lewis Larsen, who shared his interest in inventing, and Christ Mathisen, a skilled workman.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co., Menominee, Mich.

The Lloyd company's payroll in the first year was $45,000, and sales were $129,032. Early days of the company were difficult, and, as financial problems mounted, the directors tried to buy Lloyd out, an option he refused. At one point Lloyd sold his watch as part of his effort to meet payroll, and another longtime employee withdrew her entire savings to help buy materials for the plant. Several directors placed their stock on the market at a substantial loss, and Lloyd offered it as a stock option to his executives and foreman. J. W. Wells and F. A. Spies, bought the remainder of the stock which later increased sixteen times in value.

The Lloyd Manufacturing Co. first made express wagons, then collapsible go-cars. With financial support from John Wells, Lloyd invented a new method of making thin-gauged steel tubing in 1910, selling the patents for $800,000. Lloyd resumed making hand-woven reed baby carriages in 1914. At the Lloyd plant he changed the traditional method of weaving, finding a way to weave the wicker independently of the frame and attaching it afterwards. He then devised the Lloyd Loom to weave wicker in this new way. It revolutionized the wicker-manufacturing industry. While it took an expert weaver nine hours to weave the wicker for a baby carriage, it could be done with the Lloyd Loom in 18 minutes. One loom did the work of thirty weavers and resulted in a 600% increase in the plant’s output.

Shaped and power flat looms, Lloyd Manufacturing Co.

Lloyd Loom baby carriages

The Lloyd plant employed 1500 Menominee area workers and supplied demand for Lloyd Loom baby carriages throughout the world. The fabric made at Lloyd was used, not only in baby carriages, but a large variety of furniture. Lloyd sold his patent to an English manufacturer who used it to create a collection of over 600 designs of English furniture, and the Lloyd Loom soon became the rage in Europe. At its peak of popularity in the Art Deco period of the 1930's, Lloyd Loom furniture could be widely found in restaurants, tea rooms, hotel lobbies and rooms, and the royal boxes at Wimbledon, as well as aboard cruise ships, ocean-going liners, and even a zeppelin. One of the more novel products was an extra-wide wicker chair that British Spitfire pilots in their bulky flying suits used to rest up between missions in World War II. When the Germans were unable to vanquish the Spitfires, they took revenge near the end of the war by bombing the British Lloyd Loom factory. With the factory’s destruction, the manufacture of Lloyd Loom chairs ended in Europe, not to resume until 1985 with a new factory in Spalding. During the Second World War 250 Lloyd employees in Menominee entered the military, and women replaced men in the factory. Eighty-five percent of the company's work was in war production: glider fuselages, bomber trainers, airplane motor mounts, and 100,000 75 mm. high-explosive shells per month.

Lloyd Loom wicker furniture

With his wealth running into millions of dollars by the 1920’s, Lloyd maintained a beautiful winter home in Miami and built an experimental factory near his home on Sheridan Road in Menominee. Wanting to aid Menominee’s workforce, Lloyd designed and patented a sectional house with a special insulation for the cold that he invented and a highly economical heating system. Lloyd maintained a crew of a dozen men to work on his plan and purchased the old county fair grounds in Menominee as a site for his planned "model city." Unfortunately illness interfered with and eventually derailed his plans.

In February 1924 Menominee's only department store was destroyed by fire, and the owners decided not to rebuild. With the business district markedly depressed as a consequence, a committee of citizens appealed to Lloyd, and he decided to help finance a new community cooperative department store and theater enterprise. Under his leadership, 1500 residents subscribed to more than $500,000 in the new Community Building corporation. Finding difficulty in obtaining a tenant, Lloyd leased the building himself. Travelling to England, France, and Germany to establish buying connections, Lloyd stocked the store to rival department stores in major cities. Originally labelled "The Wonder Store," Lloyd's dream retail outlet included an arcade and the Lloyd Theater, equipped to be the equal of any in the state. The theater and store opened in October, 1926, with a huge community celebration, and they were soon drawing patrons from distant towns and cities. Originally built as a silent theater, the Lloyd became the third theater north of Chicago to show "talkies".

The Lloyd Department Store, Sheridan Road, Menominee

Lloyd was elected Mayor of the Menominee for two terms from 1913 to 1917. He invented so many improvements for Menominee's government that he was known as "Efficiency" Lloyd, a nickname that stuck permanently. During this period the city took over the water works, previously operated by a private company, and Lloyd was particularly proud that the city, which previously had had a high typhoid rate, was assured of a permanent supply of pure water. Lloyd was a member of Menominee’s Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Knights of Pythias.

Lloyd's father had died of an illness which had been incorrectly diagnosed and treated. Because small town practitioners lacked the laboratory equipment and resources available to surgeons in big cities, Lloyd made a decision to bring the latest in scientific techniques to Menominee physicians. He placed the major portion of his estate, $2,000,000, in a trust fund to endow a diagnostic clinic and provide care for local people who couldn't otherwise afford it. The local hospital was renamed St. Joseph-Lloyd Hospital in his honor, though this took years because of legal complications.

St. Joseph Lloyd Hospital, Menominee

Lloyd was president of the Lumbermen's National bank, president of the Community Building Co., president and owner of the Lloyd Department Store and the Lloyd Theater, director of the Heywood-Wakefield Co., vice-president of the Automatic Seamless Tubing Co., and director of the Hoskin-Morainville Paper Co. He was an expert skater, an ardent motorist and golfer, and had a great appreciation of poetry.

In 1922 Lloyd married his third wife, Mrs. Henriette Pollen of Orange, New Jersey. They had met in Florida where Lloyd was spending the winter. She was working in a novelty shop, and, according to Lloyd in an interview, "her manner in waiting on him immediately won his interest." Lloyd did not have children throughout his life.

Marshall Burns Lloyd died of a heart attack at 4:15 a.m. on August 10, 1927. He had sat up in his bed, saying "I want to take a deep breath," then collapsed. His wife, brother, nephews, close friend, and attending physicians were present, including our family doctor, Dr. Sethney. The Mayor of Menominee later wrote, "Seldom does a community so feel the loss in case of the death of an individual as is felt in the passing of Mr. Lloyd. He was more than an individual. He represented the spirit of progress, civic improvement and prosperity in these Twin cities." My grandfather, V.A.L. Sr., was quoted in the Herald-Leader as saying: "I shall always remember his expressions of explicit faith in Menominee and his love for its citizens. We have suffered the irreparable loss of a leader and a friend."

“Biographies,” Marshall Burns Lloyd (
"Contemporary Design Profile: Marshall Burns Lloyd") (
"Lloyd Loom." (
"Lloyd Loom of Spalding." (
“Marshall Burns Lloyd Photo Gallery” (
“Obituary and articles,” Marshall B. Lloyd (

G-mail Comments

-Phyllis S-S (1-28): Dave, This was fascinating. Thanks. Did you find all those citations on line? I didn't know you could obtain books... pss
-Gayle C-L (1-26); David, Such a great story. He was a true visionary and a great man. And he married a woman from New Jersey. ;))))))))))) Thx for the story. Lol. G
-JML (1-24): That's fantastic. Reading this (i.e., separate e-mail) and your piece on Mr Lloyd, I tend to believe that people of that time were made of different stuff than in later generations.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mature Couplespeak

Dear George,

On her web-site Oprah recently reported results of a British study of how much couples talk during a one-hour meal. Unmarried dating couples talk about 50 minutes out of 60 (munching their veggies the rest of the time). But then frequency of talk drops off steadily: newlyweds, under 40 minutes; married 20 years, 21 minutes; 30 years, 16 minutes, 50 years, 3 minutes. Three minutes out of sixty? That’s our category! I’m sure Katja and I talk more than three minutes. However, I’ll admit we are quiet a fair amount of the time. A main reason is that we’ve already covered just about every topic that might come up. But beyond low frequency, our conversations seem to differ from those we have with other people. We just seem to say whatever comes into our mind. I think it’s because we don’t feel a need to put on a show. So we don’t make any effort to be smart or sophisticated or logical or even pleasant. If you’re grumpy, then you’re grumpy; confused, confused. Stuff just sort of pops out. A while back we had a brief interchange about religion that I thought was amusing, so I wrote it down as verbatim as I could. Then I found myself adding more instances till I’d accumulated the collection below. I showed these to Katja and got her permission to reproduce them here. I wonder if a reader could guess that these people have been married quite a while?


D (driving past a church): That’s a peculiar sign – “Christ has come, Christ is coming again.”

K: Hmm.

D: If Christ has already come, why do they say he’s coming again?

K: They mean in the past. He came in the past.

D: “Has come” doesn’t sound right. It should say “Came”. If I say the mail has come, I don’t mean it came last month.

K: It’s grammatically correct.

D: O.k.

(five-second pause)

D: Christ has been dead an awfully long time.

K: Two thousand years.

D: Actually 2011 years. He probably hardly has even a skeleton left.

K: He’s in heaven.

D: Oh yeah, I forgot.


D (on New Year’s Eve): It’s 11:58. Did you make your resolutions yet?

K: (five-second pause) O.k., now I did. I made a New Years wish.

D: Well, a wish isn’t really a resolution. What did you wish for?

K: I wished that the dogs would live forever.

D: That’s not a resolution. For a resolution, you have to resolve to do something.

K: I just wanted to make a wish.

D: They don’t have New Years wishes.

K: What’s your resolution?

D: I’m not making any resolutions this year. I did so badly on them last year.

K: Oh, do you have a wish?

D: No. You’re not supposed to have wishes.


D (while driving 10 miles to Sears to buy Trashmasher bags): I wonder how we could do a better job recycling.

K: We’re doing just fine recycling.

D: I don’t think so. We don’t recycle anything you put in the Trashmasher.

K: I have that basket in the kitchen for recycling paper and bottles.

D: You put a lot of paper in the Trashmasher. It gets mixed up with the banana peels and coffee grounds.

K: Those are recyclable.

D: Banana peels? What can you recycle that into?

K: Pot.

D: Pot? I don’t think so…


K: I’m going out. I’ll be back soon.

D: Where are you going?

K: Just down the street.

D: Where to?

K: Just down the street. Then I’m driving to Rookwood Commons.

D: Are you going to Graeters (ice cream parlor)?

K: No, I have to go down the street in order to drive to Rookwood Commons. (giggles)

D: I think you’re going to Graeters. You can tell me.

K (on her way out the door): No, I’m not. I’ll see you later.

(90 minutes go by)

K: I’m back.

D: Did you have a good trip?

K: Yes, I went to Rookwood Commons.

D: Did you go down the street?

K: No. Just to Rookwood Commons. (giggles)

D (looking skeptical): Oh.


K (picking up glasses off the solarium table): Are these Donna’s glasses?

D: No, those are my new reading glasses. I bought them at the Dollar Store.

K: They look like girl’s glasses.

D (looking at the rims which are red, yellow, orange, green, and blue): No, these are my gay glasses.

K: Did you mean to buy girls’ glasses?

D: Actually I never noticed the colors before. I just bought them to wear around the house.

K: I guess when you’re married for fifty years it’s o.k. to be gay.

D: It is. I’ll just wear them around the house.


D: This is a really good hot dog. What brand is it?

K: I buy them individually at Fresh Market. They’re Smithfields.


D: Why would anybody buy hot dogs individually?

K: That’s how they sell them.

D: How much do they cost?

K: I buy them by the pound.

D: How much do they cost by the pound?

K (reading newspaper -- no response)

D (eating another bite): How much are they by the pound?

K: (silence)

D: I wonder how much a pound of these hot dogs costs?

K: ( gets up; goes to kitchen; returns with package of hot dogs)

K: They’re $4.99 a pound. I bought six for $6.14.

D: Hmm. They’re really good.


D (referring to an earlier conversation): If you join the Opera Guild, I don’t want to join.

K: Well, you would just become a member along with me.

D: They probably have dues. How much are the dues?

K: The dues are $300. But it doesn’t cost anything extra for you.

D: Three hundred dollars? What do you get for three hundred dollars?

K: I don’t know. You get to meet interesting people. Yesterday I met the wife of the Dean of the Business school.

D: It doesn’t sound worth it. Then you probably have to pay for lunch.

K: I didn’t pay for lunch yesterday. The Opera Guild members provided the lunch.

D: I don’t want to go to lunch.

K: You don’t have to. The only thing you have to go to is the Opera Guild Ball.

D: How much is that? Eight hundred dollars?

K: It’s only one hundred dollars.

D: Per person?

K: No, for both of us. One hundred dollars for the Ball.

D: I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go…

K: (stops listening)


D (near midnight): If we wanted to, how would we protect our house against vampires?

K: You put garlic on the doors. And you put silver crosses on the doors.

D: I thought it was garlic. I’d just forgotten.

K: Why are you thinking about vampires?

D: I was doing some research on the Internet. It seems that Santa might be a vampire.

K: Santa definitely isn’t a vampire.

D: There a lot of reasons…

K: Vampires are sexual beings. Santa isn’t sexual.

D: He’s in disguise. He could be sexual.

K: Besides, Santa didn’t exist until 1839.

D: I think that was the year that Dracula was published.

K: (Goes back to her book)


D (pointing to a black glove laying on the pavement in the Panera parking lot): Look! That glove looks a lot like the ones I have.

K: (silence)

D: It might be good to get it. If I lost one I’d have a replacement.

K: (silence)

D: I think I’m going to get it.

K: Don’t get it.

D: Why not?

K: Why would you want to put your hand in somebody else’s glove?

D: (no response)

K: Would you wear somebody else’s shoes?

D: Well, I used to buy shoes at Goodwill.

K: Let’s go

(30 minutes later, after eating French Onion soup at Panera)

D (pointing again): That looks like a really good glove. I’m going to get it. (Bends over)

K (pulls him by the sleeve): Just come along…

I don’t know quite what to make of this. If I look at it as an outside observer, it reminds me of some of the dialogue between Larry and Cheryl David on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. The husband’s sort of clutzy, obsessive, often seems clueless. The beleaguered wife has a sense of humor, remains unruffled, and tries to navigate her husband through life situations. I do enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm, though I’m not sure Larry is the greatest role model. But, even if we’re a little strange, at least Katja and I talk for more than three minutes per hour.



G-mail Comments

-Phyllis S-S (1-23): Dear Dave, I love it when you have these interactions on your blog. They remind me of Matt and I and they are so funny. No one really writes about how we actually sound. But - Dave-I thought you still bought shoes at Goodwill, No? What's made you so selective? New shoes, why? A new blog? See you soon, phyllis

-Abhishek B (1-20): Well well .. people need to speak more often .. couples need it .. Your collection is impressive ..

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January, Dark and Cold

Cincinnati Snowstorm (January, 1978)

Dear George,

No one would dispute that January is the bleakest month. Overcast skies, dark early, bitter cold, hazardous sidewalks. What all this adds up to is less walks for the dogs, fewer ventures out with friends, runny noses, and feeling cooped up. This January started out particularly badly when I read in the paper that a good friend’s husband had died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was in his early sixties, had two children in their early thirties, and had recently become a new grandfather. I’ve always thought that he and his wife had one of the closest, happiest marriages I knew of. I felt so sad at the funeral. His death was incomprehensible, and my friend looked like she was barely hanging on. Katja wasn’t able to come to the funeral, and, when I tried to tell her about it, I kept breaking into tears.

I’d scheduled an annual physical with Dr. Braxton for a few days later. I hadn’t given it any thought, but the funeral must have affected me. I wouldn’t say that I’m a hypochondriac, but whenever I go to the doctor I start becoming aware of deadly maladies I’ve contracted. This time my symptoms pointed to pneumonia (from my lingering cold), an imminent stroke (since my blood pressure’s been creeping up), amputation of my lower limbs from diabetes (elevated blood sugar), and skin cancer that had reached my brain (a scruffy spot on my forehead). Katja came along to my appointment. She was impressed with the framed copy of Cincinnati magazine on the wall which featured Dr. Braxton as one of the “Best Doctors” in the city. I didn’t know why he was among the best, but Dr. Braxton did proceed efficiently and cheerfully, peering inside my ears and listening to my chest while I coughed deeply. He didn’t detect any pneumonia, said my blood pressure had risen some because I wasn’t exercising as much as I had during the summer, and wasn’t worried about my spot of crusty skin or my blood sugar, which he said would drop in a day if I’d cut down on sweets. After twenty minutes I was discharged with an excellent bill of health. Katja was relieved. Now I knew why Dr. Braxton is one of the best. In a mere twenty minutes, he’d managed to rid me of pneumonia, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. To celebrate my miraculous recovery we stopped at the Hyde Park Graeter’s where I treated myself to a chocolate doughnut and a Bearclaw pastry.

We hurried home because the dogs were due at their chiropractor appointment. Mike and Duffy will be ten in April (70 in human years), so we worry about them too. Our groomer, who does an excellent haircutting job but clearly regards us as incompetent dog owners, said that Duffy has lost half the muscle mass in his right rear leg, resulting in his leg trembling uncontrollably as she works on him. We felt terrible. It had been three months since Dr. Mattell had seen Mike and Duffy, and he worked over each dog carefully, manipulating each joint and muscle. He didn’t detect any loss of muscle mass in Duffy’s leg. Duffy’s leg did tremble during the exam, but Dr. Mattell said that was a sign of anxiety. He said the dogs were in excellent condition and recommended we come back for a checkup in four months. I decided that the maniacal groomer had just felt like mentally torturing us.

Now that the people and the dogs have been pronounced to be doing well, January has definitely picked up. Katja’s been working on a speech for her women’s writing club, and her completed manuscript was interesting and entertaining, bound to be a hit. Then she went downtown to renew her passport for her three-week trip with her siblings to Italy in March. She’s all excited, and I’m happy for her. We enjoyed “War Horse”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “Melancholia”, and “The Artist” at the movies. We’ve watched a lot NFL playoff games (most thrilling; some with good outcomes, some lousy), and my favorite local basketball teams are on red-hot winning streaks. Even despite the first snowfall of the season January seems to be gradually improving. What an up and down month! I guess that’s what winter is all about.