Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The First Snowfall of the Season

Dear George, 
Compared to the U.P., we don’t get a lot of snow in Cincinnati, i.e., an annual average of 14 inches vs. 45 in Menominee or 149 in Marquette.  Nonetheless, we get enough to claim that we have real winters, and the season’s first snowfall is always a major event.  Cincinnati drivers get nervous when an inch of snow accumulates on the road, schools are prone to shut down quickly, and people are hesitant about walking outside.  Though we take snow for granted as adults, adopting a childs-eye perspective makes one realize that snow is one of the true miracles of our natural world.  First of all, it falls out of the sky, and it’s hard to imagine how it’s been resting up there and where exactly it’s coming from.  It comes down in tiny flakes, barely larger than a grain of sand, yet soon it covers the entire landscape as far as the eye can see.  Perhaps a trillion snowflakes or more, every one of them unique.  And, most of all, the visual world is completely transformed.   The browns and grays and greens and blues vanish, replaced by a homogeneous white carpet.  A brand new and beautiful world.  

I set out on Ludlow Avenue on Sunday after our first snowfall of the season to take some pictures in Burnet Woods.  A young Indian couple was walking ahead of me.  She was stopping to take photos of the snow.  He was walking fifty feet ahead, clothed in bermuda shorts and flip-flops despite freezing temperatures and six inches of snow on the ground.  Maybe, I thought, they’re from Southern India and don’t have any winter clothes.   In any case, they both seemed happy with the exciting winter weather.   

There were already four large snowmen gracing the playground at Burnet Woods, and a mother and her pre-teen daughter were halfway done on a fifth.  Families were busy sledding on the hillside, and there were lots of footprints on the trails.  Everything looked wondrous.  Here are some photos to help envision the scene.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Nancy Pelosi File

Dear George, 
The big news this past week, of course, is that the Democratic majority was seated in the House and Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker.  She is the only speaker in over sixty years to be re-elected for a second term after a period out of office.  Pelosi has been an extremely effective in the past, and we are optimistic about prospects for the next two years, certainly in terms of curtailing Trump’s destructive influences.  Here is some pertinent Nancy Pelosi information.

BORN:  Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi, March 26,1940, Baltimore, MD, age 78,  the youngest of six children.
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was Mayor of Baltimore for 12 years and a Democratic U.S. Congressman, and her brother Thomas also served as Mayor of Baltimore.  Her mother Annunciata attended law school and organized Democratic women.   
RELIGION: Roman Catholic 
EDUCATION: Institute of Notre Dame (a Catholic all-girls high school); Trinity College, Washington, D.C. (1962, B.A. in Political Science). 
SPOUSE: Paul Pelosi, San Francisco native, owner  of a real estate and venture capital investment and consulting firm (married 1963) 
OFFSPRING:  5 adult children and 5 grandchildren.  
CURRENT OFFICE: Representative (CA 12th District, 80% of San Francisco city and county) (2013-present), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (2019). 
PAST OFFICES: Democratic National Committee member from California (1976-96); chair of California Democratic Party (1981-83); Representative, CA 5th District (1987-93); Representative, CA 8th District (1993-2013),  House Minority Whip (2002-03), Speaker of the House (2007-11), House Minority Leader (2011-19). 
HOUSE SENIORITY: 10th ranked Democrat 
NET WORTH:  In 2012 Business Insider reported that Pelosi’s net worth was $26.4 million, the 13th richest member of Congress.  Her assets include a San Francisco home in Pacific Heights, a combined home and vineyard in St. Helena, CA, two commercial buildings in San Francisco, and a townhome in Loomis, CA.  
LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Instrumental in passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to create millions of American jobs; Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act; health insurance reform legislation expanding insurance coverage and strengthening Medicare; strong Wall Street reforms; Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; child nutrition and food safety legislation; clean energy and security act; assessment of environmental impacts of development; ethics reform legislation; minimum wage increase; college aid expansion; GI education bill. 
IDEOLOGY: Based on an analysis of voting record, National Journal ranked Pelosi 66th in the liberal rankings in 2013.  Based on bill sponsorship, GovTrack categorized Pelosi as a “centrist Democrat” in 2014 and as a “rank-and-file” Democrat in 2013.  She voted with the Democratic Party 97.4% of the time in 2013 and 94.5% in 2014.  ProgressivePunch.org ranks her 29th in lifetime progressive votes among all congresspersons.     
FUND-RAISING:  Since 2002 Pelosi has raised over $700 million, more than any other congressional Democrat, and at least $100 million in the last election alone.   
HONORS: National Women’s Hall of Fame (2013).  Ranked #26 on Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.  Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person of the year (2006).   Honorary Doctorate of Law degree, Mount Holyoke College (2018).  
DISTINCTIONS: First woman, first Californian, and first Italian-American to lead a major party in Congress.  The highest ranking woman in American political history.  
RATINGS FROM ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS: American Civil Liberties Union, 100%; Human Rights Campaign, 100%; Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 100%; League of Conservation Voters, 93%; Americans for Prosperity (Conservative), 2%.   (govtrack.us
APPRAISALS: “An extraordinary leader for the American people” (Barack Obama).  “The most powerful woman in American politics and the most powerful House Speaker since Sam Rayburn a half century ago” (Christian Science Monitor).  “The strongest and most effective speaker of modern times” (Thomas Mann, Brookings Institution).   "As the first woman to lead a party in Congress, Ms. Pelosi, elegant and energetic, has the kind of star quality that many say makes them again excited to be Democrats” (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times).  “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,  That’s all you need to know about her”  (Alexandra Pelosi, daughter). 
CRITICISMS:  Republicans often call Pelosi a “latte Democrat” for her progressive views on the environment, women’s reproductive rights, labor unions, and other issues.    RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said she was neither a “new Democrat” nor an “old Democrat” but a “prehistoric Democrat.”  
PERSONAL:  Nancy Pelosi is a chocoholic with a special passion for Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco.  She held off running for office until her youngest child was a senior in high school.  She is known in Washington for her stylish suits and ready smile.  One of her favorite leisure pastimes is doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. 
QUOTE: “I didn’t run as a woman (for party whip).  I ran again as a seasoned politician and experienced legislator.  It just so happens that I am a woman, and we have been waiting a long time for this moment.”  

www.ajc.com, “Who is Nancy Pelosi?” 
www.ballotpedia.org, “Nancy Pelosi” 
www.cbsnews.com, “New Congress: Democratic members sworn in…” 
www.forbes.com, “#38 Nancy Pelosi” 
www.govtrack.us, “Nancy Pelosi”
www.media.caq.com, “Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.” 
www.nytimes.com, “Nancy Pelosi, Icon of Female Power…” 
www.notablebiographies.com, “Nancy Pelosi Biography” 
www.pelosi.house.gov, “Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi”
www.progressivepunch.org, “Progressive Score” 
www.time.com, “Nancy Pelosi backtracks on defense of John Conyers” 
www.usnews.com, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Nancy Pelosi” 
www.votesmart.org, “Nancy Pelosi” 
www.wikipedia.org, “Nancy Pelosi”   

Monday, December 31, 2018

Baxter Pays a Holiday Visit

Dear George,
Baxter came for a visit when Jennifer and her family took a holiday trip to New Mexico.  Katja, still grieving the loss of our sheepdogs, was wary about having a new dog in the house, but Baxter's smile won her over in a minute.  

I took a lot more healthy walks than I normally do.  Baxter's not that large but he has the strength of a dynamo.  

Baxter hung around with us in the house.  Here he is napping while I fiddle with the computer.

He did remind us when mealtime was approaching.  

Actually Baxter was most interested in human food.  (He gobbled up a bowl of milk chocolates and stole a quarter pound of turkey off the plate while I was eating.) 

Baxter also spent a lot of time staring at doors or walls.  His family speculates that he is standing guard. 

Here he watches Katja blow-dry her hair.  

Or joins Katja to watch Jeopardy on TV.   

Not interested in the Bengals-Steelers game though.   Just as well.   

Baxter gives a big yawn.  

He has a very comfortable bed.  

However, he begged to get into bed with the humans.  

Very hard to resist such a plea.   

Baxter is happy when his dream comes true .

Baxter's family returned last night and he went home.  We do miss him.  But perhaps he will come to visit again in the New Year.  That's a good New Year's wish.

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas Dream

Last night I had a perfect dream 
The doorbell rang on Christmas Eve
And there on the stoop
Were my mom and dad
I couldn’t believe it
They were just as I remembered from my childhood
Young and healthy, loving, fun
My mother full of laughter and high spirits
My dad with his shy grin and quirky jokes 
Then right behind them
My brothers Steven and Peter 
My brother-in-law George
All home to visit from far away
Overjoyed to be together after so many years 
Vicki and Katja came in
And Margie and Faith and Gayle
All of Vic’s and Doris’s grandkids with their families
The first time everyone was together at once 
My dad and I went across the road
And chopped down a handsome white pine
We hauled it back and took it to the auto body shop
Where Vic had it spray-painted white
Soon to be covered in home-made ornaments
The children frolicked in the foot-deep snow 
Making snowmen and snow angels 
Throwing snowballs at the Norway Pines 
Our Irish setters, Mike and Micki, racing about 
Our NOLA grandchildren, V and L, had never seen so much snow 
Steven made us all Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds
We munched on sardines and creamed herring 
And traded memories of Christmases past
Peter, of course, remembered more than anybody
Steven teased Vicki about her childhood
And she gave him a stiff punch in the arm 
Doris was busy cooking a turkey in the kitchen 
Katja made the stuffing
Margie, the sweet potatoes and green beans
And Doris, of course, her beloved Schaum Torte 
I played the Hammond Chord Organ
Everyone sang “Silent Night”
And “We Three Kings of Orient Are”
(My terrible singing voice actually sounded much better than usual) 
Soon my grandfather, aunts and uncles, and cousins arrived
Uncle Ralph brought perfume samples from the drugstore
Uncle Karl, elegant gifts for the ladies
Family friends too
The O’Haras, the St. Peters, the Worths, the Caleys
So warm, so thankful
We opened family gifts
Steven got a BB gun
Vicki, a baby rabbit 
Finally we all drifted off to sleep
Ready for Santa’s visit 
It was the best Christmas ever 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Seasons on the Menominee River: A Sestina

Our home on the river sat alone in the forest
Acorns from the great oaks, strewn through the yard
We first got our water from a pump in the driveway 
Four children, a few porcupines, our Irish setter dogs 
Father took us for picnics to Indian Island with our boat
Like the turtles and crayfish, we were denizens of the river 

January brought foot-thick ice on the river 
We crossed to Pig Island, followed deer tracks in the forest
Buried beneath a snowdrift, our beloved green boat
Each new snowfall, barefoot races through the yard  
Ice in their paws, hearts thumping, our brave dogs
Come dark we huddled near the fireplace in the house 

Easter morning, a bunny visit, painted eggs in our house 
Then Chinese Bells Day, clinking ice chunks filled the river
We braved the old road with our bikes and the dogs
Brought our mother blue violets from deep in the forest 
Or dandelions that popped up all over our yard
The arrival of spring, the thrilling launching of our boat 

Summertime, we set off to the channel in the boat
Between river and woods, we barely lived in our house
Steve and I did overnights in a pup tent in the yard 
We constructed a log raft for diving in the river
And I built my camp hidden back in the forest
Forbidden to my family, but welcome to dogs  

Autumn, now cooler, near perfect for dogs
We fished for perch and guppies in the boat
And gathered red and gold leaves from the forest
Ghost stories at the fireplace at night in our house
We’d ended our season of swimming in the river
Replaced it with basketball, touch football in the yard  

All these memories of our house, river, yard
And lingering affection for our long-gone dogs 
Our lives were shaped by growing up on the river
We were pirates on the high seas in our trustworthy boat 
Savored whitefish and meatloaf at suppertime in our house 
Few spots more enticing than our great U.P. forest 

Acorn fights in the yard, expeditions in our boat
Camping with the dogs, playing basketball at our house 
We grew up on the river in the heart of the forest

Friday, December 14, 2018

Winter Camping at Our House

Dear George, 
The other day we carried some kitchen stuff down to store in the basement, and Katja alertly spotted a pool of water underneath our furnace boiler.  That seemed abnormal so we called the furnace people, and they sent Jason over later in the day.  After checking it out, he came upstairs with the unpleasant news that the boiler was shot and would have to be replaced.  He added that the broken unit was giving off carbon monoxide and that we should turn it off.  Carbon monoxide, he reminded us, kills people in their house.  (As we learned later, Jason had had to leave the basement because he couldn’t breathe.)   

A second technician, Joel, came the next day to assess our boiler needs.  By then the temperature in the house had dropped from 70 to 62 (not terrible, but chillier than our preference).  Joel determined that we needed a new boiler that would be about the price of a compact car.  He recommended their top of the line unit which would certainly last twenty years or more.  I thought to myself, “We won’t be in this house (or even on this Earth) twenty years from now,” but Joel was persuasive.  He determined that they would need to order the new boiler from out of town and that it would take at least a week to get it.  Katja, disturbed by the prospect of no heat for a week, said she would just run the old boiler till then.  Joel reminded us that the boiler was spewing out carbon monoxide and that we would die in a day or two. 

After the initial shock wore off, I decided that this could be a fun adventure — sort of like winter camping in our own house.  We went to the mall and purchased a couple of space heaters, one big and one medium.  For all of the immense good that they do, space heaters aren’t that expensive — $50 and $100.   The big one kept our bedroom at a cozy 70 degrees last night, and the medium one works excellently in the computer room.  The rest of the house has dropped to 58 and appears to be on a steady decline.  Joel said to call him if our in-house temperature drops below 32 because they will have to come and drain the pipes.  Our weather forecast calls for a low of 27 by Monday.  We won’t die of carbon monoxide (unless Katja secretly turns the heat back on), but there is some risk of being frozen to death.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Gray December Days

Dear George,
December has arrived, and the days are gray and chilly in Cincinnati.  Nonetheless, the forest is looking beautiful, as it does in all of its seasons.  Muted browns and grays, leafless trees which allow for expanded views to the horizon.  Here are some December photos of Burnet Woods, the mid-city urban wilderness some four or five blocks down from our house.  

Thursday, November 29, 2018

NOLA Thanksgiving

Dear George, 
We are just back from an eight-day vacation in New Orleans with our sweet family: our son J, our daughter-in-law K, and our grandkids V and L.  Also K’s dad Ted had just arrived from Michigan, and her mom Linda had recently moved from Michigan to the Esplanade apartments at City Park.  This was the first time that all four grandparents had been together with the grandchildren — a special family occasion.  

We arrived on Monday, and Tuesday was Grandparents Day at St. Andrews School.  Here are the third and fourth graders doing a choral number.  Our grandson L in the red shirt is just to the right of the man in the checkered shirt, and our granddaughter V is three kids to his left.  Needless to say, we were enthralled with the children’s performances.  

Back at the house I was happy to spend time with the family dogs, Iko and L’il Paws, and I felt that Cody the cat was becoming friendly. 

On Thanksgiving Day we went to the fairgrounds for the horse races.  The races were good, but even better were all the New Orleans folk decked out in costumes. 

J and K’s friend Katie had a big Thanksgiving party.  Here V begins the collective reading of a poem about New Orleans.  

We had many good New Orleans meals during our stay.  This is Pier 424 Seafood Market on Bourbon Street.  Other highlights included NOLA (an Emiral Lagasse restaurant), Carmo’s (Caribbean), Felipe’s Taqueria, Desire, Cafe Beignet,  and, at home, J’s delicious beef brisket. 

I think Katja ate about 72 raw oysters during our stay.  Here we are at our favorite place, the Desire Oyster Bar in the Hotel Sonesta. 

We visited the French Quarter 3 or 4 times, including this nighttime scene on Bourbon Street. 

J took us to the Tulane-Navy football game.  We left when it appeared to be a Tulane blowout, but they wound up winning in a squeaker. 

We went to the new Pacific wing at the World War II Museum, and it was a powerful experience, particularly since my dad had been stationed there.     

Linda had us over for “game night” at her apartment complex.  I think it was my first time participating in three generations of a family playing poker and Trivial Pursuit.  Our grandson L was the best poker player.  Lots of fun.  

We love the New Orleans Art Museum,  The main exhibit this time was the Orleans Collection, originally assembled by Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans.

We also took in the movies: “Green Book” (terrific) and “Instant Family” (also good). 

Every time we visit New Orleans Katja is eager to go to Saks, which she claims is much better in NOLA than in Cincinnati. 

One of my favorite things about New Orleans is taking the Canal Street trolley from J and K’s house in Mid-City to the French Quarter.  It not only provides a two-mile tour of Canal Street, but the fee is a mere forty cents for seniors. 

We had our last family dinner out at Katie’s Restaurant in Mid-City.  Ted and I shared a muffeleta, and even half  a muffelata was too much for us.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is always a treat.  This time, bayou oil paintings by Newton Howard and Southern Photography.  Plus a duck blind for the clientele to explore.

Then, before we knew it, we were back in Cincinnati, greeted by a Wooly Mammoth in the airport.  Many thanks to J and K, Linda and Ted, for a happy family get-together.