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December 30, 2005

ski trip

Came to ski but fate had other plans for me and mine. First, let me set the scene. Norway Mountain Ski Hill is the view in the top pan. In the photo below, the skier on the left is my daughter Breanna and the other is my niece Kathy. I brought my ski pants but Bre forgot hers. Being the great dad that I am, I gave her mine so I could not go skiing. No matter though, the crackling fire in the lodge's huge stone fire place looked more inviting than risking a broken bone or two. I brought Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck with me and was looking forward to reading it for the umpteenth time. After everyone disappeared down the slope, I busied myself for a cold winters nap by the fire.

As I was sitting there watching moms and dads dress their little ones for skiing with their little ski outfits and little ski boots, I began to think about my own. My youngest son Steven is 28. If I use the fingers on both hands and some advanced mathematics, I calculate as how he has been out of college for about six years, more or less. At Christmas dinner this year, he told me a story from his college days that he had neglected to tell me before. After hearing the story, I am glad he waited. The following is his story he calls "my first man drink" and I quote:

"In my second year of college, I was voted editor of the school paper and a bunch of us went out to one of the local drinking establishments to celebrate. A fellow female reporter offered to buy me a Statue of Liberty. That is a double shot of Schnapps. First you put your finger in the glass and wet it. Then you set your finger on fire and quickly drink the double shot. After which, you put out the fire. After downing the drink, I immediately did not feel good and sat down with my buddies. The more I sat there, the sicker I became. One of my friends was talking to two really good looking girls and looked like he was getting somewhere when I completely lost it. I barfed all over the table, floor and any thing else with in three feet. The girls bolted for the door and my friend never saw them again."

I know of what you are thinking; this is a sins of the father kind of thing. I'll save that for another post and another time.

I was sitting by the fire chuckling to myself when a neighbor of my brother-in-law, another member of our ski party, came in and said my daughter was at the bottom of the hill in the Ski Patrol hut. They (the Ski Patrol fellows) wanted to know if I could take the road down around the hill to the bottom where their hut is located and pick her up. He also told me her ski had caught the edge of some snow and she had taken a bad tumble. Her knee was in a lot of pain, and she could not walk unaided. Broken bone you ask? No the doctor said it was a severe knee strain and she would need to be on crutches for a spell. Just another story to tell my grand children some day.

Click on photos for larger views

Posted by roadapples at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

December 27, 2005

sailor boy


Just a few hours to go and he would be heading for Syracuse on a three day liberty. Helen and the rest of the femme fatales would be waiting for him and his buddies for the endless party to begin. After a week or two of living with guys, showering with guys, eating with guys, smelling guys, he desperately needed to be in the company of females. The anticipation of a chance to smell perfume scented hair, listen to an educated woman speak of things he only pretended to understand, and feel a soft supple body in the darkness was almost unbearable.

The year was 1966. The Mustang was the coolest and the Beatles were the hottest in the Army town of Columbus, Georgia. Like all the other young men in John's high school senior class , he was preparing for life after twelve years of public school. Most of them were checking out colleges trying to find the perfect party campus. But poor boys like John didn’t go to college. Mr. Johnson had a place called Nam for poor boys like him. But there was no way John was going to be drafted into the fuckin’ Army. He had enough of that from his step dad, the drill sergeant. John enlisted in the Navy; he wanted to see the world. He saw the world alright; he saw the inside of every bar and flop house in the Caribbean. It made a man of him just like his daddy wanted.

There were a few times in John’s life when Lady Luck smiled on him. This was one of them. Instead of going to Nam, John spent his two years on a LST home porting in Norfolk, Virginia and floating around the Caribbean for four months at a time training with jar-heads.

The Caribbean is where he learned how to play a game called “let’s see if we can kill the new recruit”. It goes something like this. First you take some smuck recruit to a nice little bar in a sleepy sea side town on a tropical island like San Juan, Puerto Rico. Then have him poor shots of rum down quickly followed by Heineken chasers. Then when you get the poor slob so drunk he'd screw the ugliest goat in the barnyard, you give him a glass or two of straight Bacardi 120 proof rum.

Sound like a fun game? John woke up from a 24 hour sleep back at the ship with vomit all over him. One of his ship mates took pity on him and rolled him over on his side so he wouldn’t choke to death.


USS Waldo County, LST1163

Posted by roadapples at 09:35 AM | Comments (10)

December 25, 2005



Here we sit Christmas day in our jammies watching this marvelous little toy my wife received in the post from our son Paul. It scampers across the floor and whirls around. It sounds like one of those remote control cars I bought my boys when they were youngsters. It has a little robot sound when it starts up and it has lights that blink and it can back up when it runs into something.It reminds of the song, Marvelous Toy, written by Tom Paxton and recorded by many artists including John Denver. The refrain goes like this:

It went "zip" when it moved,
"bop" when it stopped,
and "whirr" when it stood still.
I never knew just what it was
and I guess I never will.

We sit and watch it for hours and there is even a bonus. According to the literature that came with it, this marvelous little robot vacuum cleaner picks up dirt from the floor as it travels along. Yes ladies, I said vacuums the floor. My wife is absolutely giddy with joy. It is called a Roomba. I will post more when I discover what else it can do. I am hoping it will do windows and cut the grass in the summer. Click here for a video clip (4megs).

My wife gave me a bottle of cologne for Christmas. It is called Polo and my daughter tells me it smells like old sweaty horses; finally, I have a fragrance befitting a man.

For those of you still curious about the song, Marvelous Toy, and would like to listen to a short piece of it, click here (760kbs).

Posted by roadapples at 11:09 AM | Comments (7)

December 23, 2005

christmas '52

For many people, this is a melancholy time of year. The wife is shopping and the girls are at the neighbors; the house is unusually quiet and still. The dog and I are napping in the over stuffed leather chair by the tree. Like a fine mist, a ghost from Christmas past slips in under the door jamb and fills me with wonderful dreams. They warm me like a nice Christmas wine. Slowly I awake and shake the sleep from my head. Then I remember a photograph these tired old eyes have not gazed upon for many years. I must find it before I forget about him again.

The old man in the photo above is my grandfather John Elvis Dalbey and that's me in the middle between brothers Tom (L) and David (R). Elvis, as every one called him, was not a tall man in stature; he stood only five feet five. He was not a man of any importance. He never held high office, although he always went to the polls in Gentryville and voted Republican because Lincoln freed the slaves. He was not smart in the ways of book learning; he had a third grade education. But he could tell you how many cords of wood was in a stand of timber with one good look.

Nobody ever sought his advice or asked his opinion. No matter because he wasn't one to give it even if they had. He was a man of few words and even fewer emotions. His farm was not the fanciest or had the latest implements. He did not get a John Deere until long after all his neighbors had at least two. Old Whisky and Buddy was all the horse power he needed to work eighty acres. And when he died in 1971, he was as poor as a church mouse.

No my grandfather was none of the things most people use to measure a life fully lived. But he was always kind and gentle to me and he was my father figure when I needed one. I miss him and wish him well wherever he is. Godspeed grandpa.

Posted by roadapples at 03:41 PM | Comments (11)

December 21, 2005

girlie house

In my next life I want to live in a house full of men. Which means I will be single (possible), female (not possible) or a homosexual (out of the question). Oh sure they look cute and cuddly in this snap from 1994 but don't let that fool you. They were eleven years younger then; now they are teenagers and that means I live with one grown and two almost grown women. My life is pure misery.

Guys don't worry about wet towels on the floor or a few paper plates and cups left on the end tables over night after watching a football game or a good shoot 'em up. With guys, I wouldn't have to put up with every episode of "Friends" ever made on the telley, girlie things in the bathroom or long blond hairs all over my clothes. The women I live with complain about a few tiny insignificant grey whiskers in the sink. I mean they are hardly noticeable. I don't even see them if I don't have my specs on.

And I have to contend with female hormones dripping all over the house and puddelling in the women spaces where they tend to gather. They squabble with each other over the smallest things then they make up and get all huggie and kissie. Ya ya, I know I sound like a male chauvinist pig. But guys don't worry about silly things like feelings. All we need is "how's it going dude?" once a day and we're good to go.

I wouldn't even miss the good night kiss from each of my women at bedtime. I don't think I would miss the "I love you, pops" and peck on the cheek in the morning before I go to work. I almost forgot about the breakfast in bed on fathers day with the scramble eggs and cheese just the way I like them. Maybe I should reconsider more carefully how nice it is sometimes after a long day at school when my youngest sits on my lap and says with that special smile, ” how was your day dad”. Excuse me a minute; I seem to have something in my eye.

On second thought, I think this life is as good as it gets; please forget what I just wrote.

Posted by roadapples at 09:12 AM | Comments (6)

ghost story

I did not see the corn crib the first time I came by. They told me at the barber shop in town to go exactly 4 and 3 tenths of a mile out of town on old high way D and I couldn’t miss it. When the odometer ticked past 6 miles, I doubled back. I could see why it was hard to spot. The vines and weeds had completely covered it. They told me not to look for the farm house. Kids playing with matches had burned it down years ago.

I parked my black Expedition and grabbed my digital. The early evening sky was slightly overcast with a tinge of orange marmalade color on the western horizon. I studied the structure trying to find the best angle that would give me a good composition. I took two or three shots and walked a little closer to the open doorway. Slowly, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to stand out. I saw nothing that was out of the ordinary. It was just an old corn crib like hundreds I had seen before. Maybe it was the darkness falling around me or the sound of absolute silence that was creeping me out. I was not sure. Suddenly, I spotted the dark crimson stain on the ground. It couldn’t possibly be blood after all these years. In 1957 when the bodies were discovered, there had been plenty of blood soaking the ground inside this old crib. But the rains of forty eight summers surely must have washed it away by now.

Ed Geine still lived with his mother long after other children would have moved out on their own. However, at fifty seven, he still had trouble making friends and settling down with a wife. The years of lonliness and isolation must have taken their toll. People say they found his mother’s body still sitting in a chair in her bedroom where she died of old age. Ed had simply closed the door and left her there. I remembered the framed and faded newspaper articles hanging on the wall in the barber shop describing the gory details of the two town's people he murdered. He cut off their heads, gutted them, and hung their bodies upside down in the corn crib like a hunter would hang a buck ready for butchering.

I hesitated before entering the dark interior of the crib. The last remaining bit of dusk light shone through the openings in the boards nailed to the outside. I took four steps and stopped dead in my stride. I could sense something near me. No, it was more like the feeling you get when you feel someone’s eyes watching you. I looked around but saw nothing in the shadows that filled the corners. Suddenly, with a loud screech, a barn owl fluttered out of the rafters. Flying with in a foot of my head, it soared out through the open door and in to the evening sky.

That was enough for me. I ran to my car, frantically started the engine, backed out of the drive way, and headed for home.

Posted by roadapples at 08:43 AM

December 17, 2005


Ernest Hemingway loved Paris and, when he was in the city, one of his favorite haunts was Harry's New York Bar. In many of his works, life centers around cafe life, drinking and dining. Yes I know, Paris this ain't. But there is a certain Bohemian air about the little hamlet of Port Washington, Wisconsin. Local legend has it that when Mr. Hemingway found out about this other Harry's, he wanted to come here to have their famous French Skillet but couldn't for some reason. He became so distraught that he took a shotgun and blew away most of his head.

Harry's sits nestled next to Lake Michigan but you won't find the place on any major highway. I found it one Saturday after getting lost. I love getting lost. Many years ago when I was in the Navy, I was lost for a whole drunken weekend in San Juan. My shipmates told me the following Monday that I bought a rose tattoo with the words "Maria, Love Always", spent a night in jail, and put $53.49 down on an old shrimp boat with a hole in the bottom. I still have the tat and I don't have a clue who Maria might be.

Harry Burton opened Harry's Lunch in 1934 during the depression on the other side of Franklin Street from where Harry's sits now. He moved it and changed the name in 1949. But don't ask to speak to Harry; he died in 1983. The place has had 5 owners since but not one of them had the nerve to change the name. They were afraid the customers couldn't find the place if they did.

There is one more little tidbit you might want to know. Port Washington was the setting for the Patrick Duffy sitcom, Step by Step. The television program also starred Suzanne Sommers. Remember now? No, just me then as Kim might say.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

Posted by roadapples at 07:42 AM | Comments (2)

December 13, 2005

little wheels

I watched him slide down the hill on his back. He did not even have a sled. He was wearing a snowmobile suit and he would lay down on his back with his head pointing down the hill. With his feet pointing straight up at the clear blue sky, he would give a loud shriek and push himself off with his hands. All the way down, he would howl with glee as his body bobbed back and forth between the edges of the rut in the fresh new snow. Down the steep hill he would go with abandonment blindly dodging pine trees and picking up speed. His body zoomed faster and faster until he was nothing more than a tiny little speck at the bottom. Then he would lay there spread eagle with his eyes closed waiting for the rush of blood to settle back to his lower body.

He must have repeated this dance at least a dozen times until I could not stand the cold any longer. My feet were becoming numb and tingling. How could he stand it? I wandered back to sit by the fire pit and warmed myself in front of the crackling fire.

Posted by roadapples at 09:55 PM

December 11, 2005

wooden santa


While tramping through the woods of a local Christmas tree farm searching for the perfect Christmas tree this year, we came upon this wooden Santa. After selecting a six foot balsam, we went for a hay ride. If you click here you can go along for a few seconds. Hang on though because it was a bumpy ride through the woods. You can clearly hear the sound of the old Ford Model 8N tractor as it pulled our wagon. We were nice and cozy sitting snuggled together on old blankets. We stopped at the chicken coop and you can hear the roosters crowing. It is 8 megs long, so if you have dial up connection you might want to skip it. Sorry. The tree farm is Christmas on Indian lore road near West Bend, Wisconsin.

Click photos to enlarge.

Posted by roadapples at 06:25 PM | Comments (2)

December 09, 2005

snow day?

Milwaukee school kids don’t never get no stinkin’ snow days and neither do their teachers. Yea I know I done wrote a double negative. I meant too. I am on strike! I refuse to write good grammar today and I refuse to spill good too. So don’t be sending me no comments ‘bout it chill pee. We done had us over five inches of snow in the last week. If I was in the desert, I’d be havin’ at least one day home with the Playstation havin’ a good time with my homey’s but noooooooo here in Milwaukee we need a foot of new snow between the hours of midnight and 5 am just for the school superintendent to even think about givin’ us all overworked teachers, uh I mean school kids a day off.

I snapped the photo above on my way to work at my high school in downtown Milwaukee. The Milwaukee River runs right through the heart of Milwaukee and empties into Lake Michigan. At this time of the year when the first good cold snap sprints across the Midwest and collides with our big pond, the air is much colder than the water in the river or lake. The steam you see is not evaporation from the river but condensation from the cold air above the water. It can be so dense that a hazard sometimes occurs at this crossing of the river in to downtown.

This bridge like most bridges over the river in Mill Town, are draw bridges. They go up for river traffic so they are made as light as possible. The road surface is metal grating that one can see through down to the water below. If you look closely, you will see the condensation coming up through the grating in the bridge.

Last spring when the river was swollen and very swift after a very heavy rain, two young school kids, 6 and 8 years old, fell in while playing near the water. The kids never had a chance. They found their bodies wedged below this bridge. Sometimes I remember them as I cross this bridge and it makes me very sad.

You can click on the photo for a larger view.

Posted by roadapples at 08:59 AM | Comments (4)

December 03, 2005

A Christmas Story


I am a man of science. Tales of ghosts and super natural beings hold not one ounce of credibility with me. But there are many of the liberal minded sort who believe in such foolishness. It is to them that I tell this story relayed to me by one of my students many years ago. She swore this tale is true and really happened to her.

Early June, 1982:

“Morning mommy. Pancake time yet?”, Trudy asked. She fiddled with her backpack checking for the picture frame with the colored macaroni and shells she had made for Ms. Gunderson. School was almost out for the year and she wanted to give her first grade teacher something special.

“Breakfast is ready sweetie. Guess what we are going to do this summer?” said her mom, Sally.

“What mommy?”, said Trudy, shoving a fork of pancake dripping with syrup in to her mouth.

“We are going to visit your grandfather Ben in Alaska.”

“I have a grandfather Ben? Where is Alaska? When are we going? How are we going....”

“Wait, wait, slow down Trudy. One question at a time. I know you have never met your grandpa and I have never told you about him but he is my father and he lives in a place far away. It will take us about a week and a half just to get there by car but we can take all summer for the visit. Your grandfather sent us enough money for the trip and more. So I don’t have to go work at the temp service until we get back in August. I haven’t seen him since I left home 13 years ago and he wants to meet you Trudy.”

“When are we leaving? Can we go right away mommy, please, please, please!”

“We can’t leave until early July when the highway to Alaska becomes dry and passable. I don’t want to get stuck on that Godforsaken road.”

Five weeks later:

The trip was long; much longer than Sally remembered. She thought she would never see this lonely place again when she shook the dust of the old homestead from her shoes. Sally had set off for the lower forty eight with Terrance after she graduated from high school. There had to be more to life than feeding slobbering, yelping sled dogs all winter. But life with her high school sweet heart wasn't all peaches and cream either. Sally grew up when Trudy was born; Terrance didn’t. Well Terry boy could go to blazes for all she cared.

A quick check around the cabin did not take long. It only had two rooms. Ben was not there and it looked as if no one had been there for some time.

“Let’s go into Trapper Creek and check at Charlie’s Bar. Maybe some one in town knows what’s become of your grandpa. Maybe he went to check his traps.”

Sally and Trudy was in for some bad news. Ben had died two weeks before. Some hunters had found him about two miles from his cabin. He had been cutting wood for winter and apparently died of a heart attack. It was not a pretty sight. Wild animals had gnawed on his limbs and into his torso to get at his liver and the maggots were starting their job. Some critter must have swallowed his wedding band by accident because it was gone and so was his left ring finger.

11 years later:

Einstein was right; about time, I mean. It is relative. The older one is the faster it goes. Trudy forgot about her trip to Alaska and the grandpa she never new. She had grown into a young woman and it was time for the annual Christmas Formal Dance at the high school. IT was all the senior girls could talk about for weeks and there was a boy she liked.

But money was still tight. Her mom finally got a steady job at the candle factory but it only paid minimum wage. If it wasn’t for the part time job clerking at the gas station, things would be really desperate. The rent got paid, and there was always food on the table. But there would not be any money for the dress Trudy and her friends found in the mall at American Eagle.

“I can cut down one of my old cocktail dresses for you Trudy. No one will ever know.”, said Sally.

“No mom, they will and besides I don’t really want to go to that stupid dance.”, replied Trudy.

Two days before the big dance, a mysterious package arrived by UPS at Sally’s apartment door. The return address simply read P.O. Box 745, Palmer, Alaska. It was addressed to Ms. Trudy Hanson.

Sally could not remember ever knowing anyone from Palmer. She had only been there in the summer time when her dad would take her to the state fair every August. Feeling a little uneasy, Sally placed the package on Trudy’s bed for her to open when she got home from school.

The package contained two items. There was a beautiful light blue chiffon party dress just the right size for Trudy and a tightly wrapped piece of tissue paper.

“Mom, do you know an Elsie?”

“My mom’s name was Elsie.My father told me she died when I was only three. I have no memory of her. Why?”

"I found this wedding band in the bottom of the box. It has an inscription inside", To Ben from Elsie 1949.

Posted by roadapples at 09:54 AM | Comments (4)