Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mike & Duffy, Usually Fluffy, Never Stuffy

Dear George,

So here are our sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy
They’re wonderful dogs to be sure
Duffy mistakenly thinks he’s a toughie
While Mikey is much more demure 

People ask how we keep the dogs straight
I tell them it’s easy as pie
Duffy’s gray ear is his own special trait
And Mikey’s white head, my oh my 

Mikey lies on his back all  day
I’m amazed he doesn’t get dizzy
When I say, Hey Mike, let’s go out and play
Mikey says, So sorry, I’m busy

Duffy is so very smart
He enjoys the New York Times
He doesn’t finish every part
He’s mostly reads about crimes

I walk with the dogs at least four times a day
We wander up this street and that
The dogs are never tempted to stray
Except when they see a black cat

Sophie is such a sweetheart
She’s our doggies’ younger sis
She is just so cute and smart
We like to give her a kiss

Each day when we walk to the plaza
We stop and rest at the fountain
Once we met a Tibetan Lhasa
Who lives on top of a mountain

The dogs are happy to be in the car
They bark and howl and sing
They think we’re traveling ever so far
But Cincy is hardly Peking

Here are the doggies at Sophie’s house
They like to come over and play
Buddy the cat sometimes catches a mouse
And that simply adds to the fray

Mike, Sophie, and Duffy are a three-dog pack
You’d have to say Duffy’s the king
Sophie, of course, picks up the slack
While Mikey just does his own thing

Here’s Katja and dogs on a trip to the park
Mt. Storm is a favorite location
With Katja the boys show a special spark
They think it’s their summer vacation

Katja feeds the dogs almost every day
It’s pellets and yucky meat
The dogs seem to think it’s pure gourmet
Who cares, so long as they eat

Most weekends we go to Eden Park
We walk by the lake and the trees
The dogs are so happy they never bark
And neither do the birds or the bees

The dogs in the bed are quite a sight
They fill up every morsel of space 
When I climb in bed and turn off the light
For my feet there is never a place

Katja and I have the dogs at the vet
I don’t think they’re really that sick
Being at the vet always makes me fret
I hope we get out of there quick

So that’s the story of our sweet guys
You can tell why we love them so
Eleven years old, time really flies
Doesn’t seem that long ago


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family Photo Album: L's Visit to Cincy

Dear George,
Our grandson L came with his dad to visit for a long weekend last week, and we had a special time.  L’s sister V (also 4) stayed home in New Orleans with their mom, so it was the first time we had a visit by L on his own.  Here’s some of the visual record.  

L was nervous about being in a new situation at first, but, with a little tickling from dad, it didn't take long to feel at home. 

L and the sheepdogs were curious about one another.

On Friday we went to the Museum Center at Union Terminal.  Here's L and Grandpa. 

The dinosaur exhibit was fantastic, and L loved the Omnimax movie about dinosaurs too.   

J and L did authentic dinosaur imitations afterwards.  

We got our strength back with four-ways at Camp Washington Chili. 

J read some Spiderman stories to L before bedtime. 

On Saturday we went to the zoo.

L's favorite was the Kimodo Dragon.

He also thought the gorilla statue was good. 

By the end of the zoo outing L was a little tired.

So we got our strength back with some four-ways at Skyline Chili. 

J went to a wedding on Saturday evening.  We were nervous about dad going off at first, but L and his grandparents had a great time playing with toys and watching "Superman II" on TV.  

L had cherry-rasberry pie and ice cream for breakfast on Sunday.

Then we took a trip to the Art Museum where the Mummy was a hit.  

At 5:30 it was time for goodbyes at the Dayton Airport.  And off they went. 

There were lots of other good times that we didn't capture on camera: going to see "Man of Steel" at the Kenwood Cinemas, an indoor picnic with Donna, ice cream at Graeter's, playing with 12-year-old Calvin at Jennifer's house, taking a walk on Ludlow Ave., L going with J to the post-wedding brunch, etc.  Our four days went by much too quickly, and Katja and I were quiet and sad on our way home from the airport.  But now we're looking forward to next time.


G-mail Comments

-Linda C (6-25): Great , great pictures , what fun for him to have alone time with all of you, love the picture of L** and big sheep dog!

Friday, June 21, 2013


Dear George,
I started running across discussions of “postmodernism” sometime in the 1990’s.  The basic argument was that technological changes associated with computers and electronic modes of commmunication had radically transformed the nature of society and the very psyches of its members.  At first I was skeptical, but now I find myself rethinking the question.  Between the Internet, cable TV, smart phones, social media, etc., the world strikes me as radically different -- a dramatic increase in available information, access to entertainment, and the quality and range of one’s social contacts.  While there are obvious benefits, there’s also increased strain, a state of affairs that I’ll label technoanxieties.

One example stems from my joining a website which I’ll call “MeetYourNeighbors” (a pseudonym) which is designed to increase communication among members of  local neighborhoods.  Now our own virtual neighborhood is approaching a thousand members, and I get multiple daily e-mails about this and that.  Overall, the website does increase communication.  I’ve probably had twenty times as much input from “neighbors” in the last six months than I have in all my prior years of living in Cincinnati, and I do feel like a better-integrated member of my community and its discourse.  I like best the messages about lost dogs (because they always have a happy ending).  People also advertise various goods and services, share recommendations about service providers (e.g., plumbers, piano teachers), give away free stuff, and announce community events of interest. 

Not all neighborhood exchanges are positive, of course.  Righteous indignation and outrage seems to be one reason for participating in public forums of this sort.  Fear is another.  Recently a number of people seem annoyed by dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets, and they call for more active confrontations of the ne’er-do-wells.  Even though I’m a faithful cleaner-upper, all the anti-dog-owner talk makes me edgy.  Other disturbing stuff is literally close to home.  Somebody reported seeing two drug transactions at our street corner, kitty-corner from our house.  A guy around the block said his father’s car was set on fire one night, along with somebody else’s a block away.  A half dozen cars in walking distance of our house had their windows smashed this week.  Incensed that his teenage son had been mugged, an upset father recommended that people “pack heat or bring a mean dog” when they venture out at night.  Another resident was enraged that a new  neighbor dismantled the fence between their properties and was seeking a real-estate lawyer who would initiate a lawsuit in exchange for store merchandise.  Somebody around the block from us was convinced that mysterious dealings were going on at a nearby house where owners kept the garage locked, seemed to never walk their dogs, and had strangers coming and going in the night.  Various MeetYourNeighbors members said this was an intolerable situation and urged that the writer call the police, animal control, and various other city officials. It turns out that the suspect residents (who were identified by name in the postings) were “a lovely family” who had lived there for thirty years, kept their garage locked to protect valuables, regularly walked their one family dog, and whose night-time visitors were pizza delivery men.  In a vitriolic exchange about historic preservation one writer disparaged the “fascist liberals” in the neighborhood and a second party replied that the writer was destroying the last vestige of respectability left to his family (also identified by name).   I do have to admit that I read MeetYourNeighbor postings faithfully out of curiosity.  But, even though I’m more a part of the community, I also have come to view my neighborhood as more perilous and more inhabited by cranky eccentrics.

A very different sort of technoanxiety occurred recently when I tried to get into my word-processing program on our computer and got an error message that said I didn’t have enough memory space to access it.  That set me into a state of total panic and a fear that my computer was on the verge of melting down.  I told one friend that that would be the end for me since most of my life now resides inside the computer.  The friend explained to me how to check my storage capacity, and it turned out that I’d used up something like 800 billion bytes of space.  A third of it was taken up by the 16,000 photos that I had stored on the computer.  Not knowing exactly how to pinpoint the source of my memory problems, I started deleting hordes of photos that I’d accumulated over the past decade.  This amounted to days of work, looking at photos one by one, and making yes-no decisions for each.  Despite incurring lower back pains and headaches, I did get my available memory back up to about half of where it should be.  The computer hasn’t crashed yet, but I get nervous whenever I start it up.

Another crisis occurred when we changed TV/phone/Internet providers.  A competing company had made a rate offer we couldn’t refuse.  When the cable guy arrived, his first tasks were to run a new wire from the telephone pole across the street and drill holes in our basement and second floor walls to add new connections.  We already had plenty of wires and holes in our house and I hadn’t thought about adding more, so the drilling noises were aggravating.  Eight hours later the job was done.  When we tried out our new cable TV, it seemed to be missing some of the fancier options that our old system had, and I decided that the new company had lied to us.  Then I realized I’d lost all of the DVR movies I’d carefully accumulated over the past couple of years.  The even worse realization (which we should have thought about) was that we’d eliminated our long-time home e-mail address and all the messages in the inbox it contained.  It took days to contact all the relevant parties about our e-mail address change, and I’m sure I missed a bunch of them.  I’m still recovering from the trauma of it all.

I do spend much more time nowadays in virtual reality, but it’s pretty nonsocial and sometimes lonely.  Compared to some years ago, we currently get much more input about the world we live in – national and international events, politics, corruption, scandal, natural disasters, terrorism, social conflict, etc.  However, all that information doesn’t necessarily enhance one’s personal state of peace and well-being.   Further, when things go wrong with our gadgetry, I experience feelings of technological incompetence.  I don’t like being dependent on things I don’t understand.  Sometimes I try get away from it all by going camping.  The trees, the bubbling brook, and the songs of the chickadees are pleasant and relaxing.  But I have to admit that I get nervous being away from the computer and the cable TV for too long. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Good Day to Think About Fathers

Vic L. (standing at right) with his family (photo by Peter L., 1972) 

Dear George,
Today’s a day to celebrate fathers, and I’m always happy to do that.  Our family is full of good fathers.  My brothers Steve and Peter and brother-in-law George were loving fathers who took huge delight and pride in their kids and actively contributed to their development and well-being.  In turn, their sons and sons-in-laws are great fathers too: Jason, Wynn, Jacob, Tim.  I’m thrilled to see our son J in his loving and playful role as father to our grandkids, and I feel proud and happy about having been (and continuing to be) J’s dad as well. 

I often think of my own father, Vic L., as larger than life.  That probably has to do in part with having been a kid in awe of the grownups who were so significant to one’s life.  However our dad was a unique and exceptional person.  Looking back, he had enormous influences on my three siblings and myself.  I look at our various life directions as powerfully shaped by our father’s values and priorities.  In some ways each of us came to pattern ourselves after different values and aspirations important to our father.  I think of Vic as epitomizing four major domains of values: (a) law; (b) business/finance; (c) education; and (d) art.  As a lawyer, he was deeply devoted to the law.  He was also professionally engaged in the business community and became very involved in the stock market and matters of finance in later years.  He had great respect for education, stressed the importance of intellectual pursuits, and was active in facilitating teachers’ work in the local public schools.  And he had substantial lifelong interests in the arts (painting, literature, music, photography, theater).  Each of his children, as we developed, made life choices which reflected different parts of my father’s values.  We’ve all been Vic’s offspring, but each of us responded to different themes.   

Vic and Dave (circa 1939)  

For myself, my father always placed great emphasis on the importance of education and of my performance in school.  My parents scrimped and saved to pay my way through Antioch College.  Successful and rewarded in my various student roles, I wound up selecting a career in academia, devoting forty-three years to work as a university professor.  When my dad came to town and visited my social psychology lecture class, he was amazed to see his quiet son pontificate about this and that for fifty minutes in a row.  

Vic and Steve (circa 1943)

If I reflected the academic/intellectual side of my father’s values, my brother Steve pursued the legal side.  After a freshman year of fraternity escapades at the University of Michigan, Steve transferred to Northern Michigan where he became a serious student, then did Law School at Wayne State where he edited the law review.  Steve spent his career at a major law firm in Seattle, much to the delight and respect of our dad, and they shared many professional interests.

Peter’s birthday party (1950)

Peter had the most memorable undergraduate career in our family, attending five or six colleges before he graduated with a fine arts degree from Michigan State, reflecting another of our dad’s major values.  When art didn’t offer the career opportunities that Peter desired, he underwent further training for certification as a financial analyst.  Peter had an outstanding career in finance, winding up as a Senior Vice-President for Smith-Barney in New Jersey.  Our father was enormously pleased and proud (and cultivated Peter as a financial consultant).  

Vicki with Doris (circa 1955)

My sister was the youngest, and both my parents were thrilled to finally have a girl in the family.  While my dad had lots of influence on Vicki’s academic accomplishments, artistic activities, and a certain bohemian temperament, I think she identified most strongly with our mother and adopted a role more complementary to our father’s.  Thus, Vicki wound up, not only as a devoted mother herself, but as a marriage and family therapist with professional interests centered on enhancing families. 

All of us kids are obviously separate from and different from our father.  However, if you put us all together collectively, it’s like we form a combined portrait of our dad.  That’s sort of weird.  While my take on it may be a stretch, it is a reminder of the enormous influence that fathers have on our lives.  I wish my dad were around today so I could talk about it with him.   

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (6-16): And thank you for raising super dad in J***!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cincy Places: Mt. Storm Park

The Mill Creek Valley from the Pavilion (DCL photos) 

Dear George,
Each year we seem to spend more and more time in the city’s parks.  In my mind, they’re Cincinnati’s greatest asset.  Our Clifton neighborhood has two major parks: Burnet Woods, which is four blocks down the street from us on Ludlow Avenue, and Mt. Storm which is about 1.5 miles northwest of our house at the end of Lafayette Avenue.  Mt. Storm is one of our neighborhood destinations for hikes with the sheepdogs, and we take our grandkids there to play whenever they come to town.  When our son J was a kid, it was a frequent spot for family outings.  We’d grill out there on weekend picnics with friends.  On Memorial Day J would ride on an antique fire truck in the Clifton parade, winding up at Mt. Storm for a community gathering.  In the winter time it offered the best spot in the city for sledding, and we’d take our toboggan there as soon as the first big snowfall came. 

The Clifton skyline in the distance

Mt. Storm is at the top of a hill in north Clifton.  It overlooks Clifton’s skyline in the university area to the east, the Mill Creek valley to the south and west, and Cincinnati’s western hills on the horizon.  In the 19th century the current 59-acre park location was the site of a large estate belonging to Robert Bonner Bowler, a wealthy dry goods businessman and a mayor of the village of Clifton.  Bowler bought the land in 1845 to build a summer residence for his family "in the country."  Bowler’s mansion, with its marble floors and wrought iron curved staircases, turned out to be one of the most elegant homes in America.  Edward, Prince of Wales – later the King of England -- was a visitor to Bowler’s estate.  So were Charles Dickens and numerous other celebrities of the era. 

The Temple of Love

On a trip to Austria Bowler met Adolph Strauch, superintendent of the Vienna Imperial Gardens, and invited him to visit Cincinnati.  When Strauch came to the U.S., Bowler persuaded him to develop his estate.  The Temple of Love, the sole landmark from the original estate that still exists today, was designed by Strauch in 1845.  It once covered a reservoir that supplied water to the estate's orchards, seventeen greenhouses, gardens, and the swan lake.  Strauch later designed Spring Grove Cemetery and became superintendent of Cincinnati Parks.  Bowler's heirs sold the estate to the city of Cincinnati in 1911, and it was officially turned into a public park in 1917.  Though Bowler's house was torn down in 1917, the Temple of Love and Adolph Stauch's landscape designs have been maintained in the park to the present day. The Temple of Love was restored by the Clifton Garden Club in 1938, then again in 1985. 

The Pavilion

The stone Pavilion which overlooks the Mill Creek was designed by Samuel Hannaford and Sons in a "Depression Modern" style and was built in 1935. 

Flower beds

The Clifton Garden Club planted and maintains the flower beds near the Pavilion.  

The wine cellar

Other than the Temple of Love, the only other remaining artifact from Bowler’s estate is this cave and former wine cellar, now filled with cement.  

Mt. Storm woods

There’s a walking trail which descends through the woods on Mt. Storm’s western hillside down to Ludlow Avenue near the police station.    

Mt. Storm playground

Mt. Storm Park today includes a playground and a soccer field.  Our grandson L is coming to town in a week or so with his dad.  We’ll definitely spend some time at Mt. Storm.

SOURCES: (N. A. Recchie & J T. Darbee, "Cincinnati Parks and Parkways," 2010);, "Mount Storm estate and park";, "Mt. Storm Park";, "Mt. Storm Park offers expansive views of the west side";, "Mount Storm Park"