June 27, 2006

michelle my belle

Mandarin Design, her way or the highway

Everyone is a collector. I collect and save the container boxes of the things that my family and I have purchased over the years. I bought my first Norelco shaver twenty-six years ago. It stopped working five years later but I still have the box it came in.

My closet shelves are filled with all manor of cordless telephone boxes, cell phone boxes, shredder boxes, single lense reflex camera boxes, and Coleman camping lantern boxes. There is even an odd assortment of plain generic boxes for which I have long forgotten their original contents or purpose. It is a useless collection.

Meg (her real name was Michelle) of Mardarine Design was a collector too. But unlike mine, her collections were in great demand by bloggers every where. She wrote, collected and shared an assortment of CSS tips and tricks. Many of the design elements you see on this website came from her copious compilation of clever CSS code.

She never asked for anything in return. She never even asked for so much as a thank you. What she got was my friendship and my gratitude.

Meg or Michelle collected more than tips and tricks. She collected the hearts and good will of people from all over the world. She had friends she did not even know about. I was one.

I speak of Michelle in the past tense because she died suddenly this past weekend.

She will leave a big hole in the Internet - a hole that can never be filled. Sure, other people can write CSS tips and tricks for the rest of us less skilled but not with the same wit, warmth, style and grace.

God speed Michelle.

Posted by roadapples at 11:42 AM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2006

summer fun for the handyman

Ah summer is here and now I can have some real fun.

Whether it is frolicking in the yard cutting grass with my magnicent grass cutting machine or pounding the shit out of the front sidewalk, I just have oodles and oodles of delightful summer time activities.

I especially like working up a real sweat cutting the grass. Then I sit down in one of the lounge chairs on the deck and pop open an ice cold Heineken - so cold it gives me a brain freeze.

And when the sweat runs down in to my shoes, I take them off and my dog licks my toes.

Finally my wife will slap the crap out of me and I will come back to my senses. You know heat exhaustion can kill.

But no matter because tomorrow I get to climb up on the roof and clean out the eave troughs. Yippppeeee!

Remember men, if they can't find you handsome let them find you handy. I'm pulling for ya; we're all in this together.

Posted by roadapples at 07:01 AM

June 24, 2006


He wasn’t always this shell of a man you see before you. There was a time in his life when a shiny black Jag was his ride of choice and he had his pick of dames. The first he loved the other he tolerated. Both are expensive but a ride does not ask for anything that a good grease monkey can’t fix.

Don’t ask him to play Hendrix these days; he won’t do it. He has music of his own deep down in his gut that he needs to get out. But the tourists do not want to hear it. All they want to hear is the same old stuff they had already heard a million times.

When I first laid eyes on Kingston, it was a different time and a different ocean. Viet Nam was the rage of the land and he was playing the Virginia Beach hangouts frequented by sailors from the many nearby naval bases. I was one of them.

One night the usual rowdiness that comes just before closing time got a little out of hand. Kingston said some unkind words to a tidewater lovely that had just stumbled into the bar where his was performing. His mistake was not waiting to see who would stumble in behind her. Her escort was a huge bull walrus with fists the size of 16-pound sledge hammers.

The walrus had Kingston on his back fighting for his life and I was watching the show waiting for the cops to show up. Kingston turned his head, looked at me and pointed to the microphone stand. I knew what he wanted me to do but my god that guy was big. I handed the mike stand to one of my buddies who had more muscles than brains. He hit that big ugly bull so hard I could hear the crack.

“You got a car? The cops know mine”, Kingston said.


After that he always greeted my buddies and I warmly when he saw us but we were never close friends. We ran in different circles.

One night I saw him at the Castaway Club. It was a high class joint where the officers hung out. It was not a place I usually patronized because Heineken was twice the price. But it was late, I was in civvies and it was payday.

“Long time no see. Can I buy you a Heinie?” asked Kingston. He was leaning on the bar waiting for his next set. “You see that waitress over there. She has been ignoring me for over a month now but you wait and see I am going to have some of that even if it kills me. She says she don’t date musicians. Says she got better things to do.”

“Maybe you better leave that one alone. She must have a good head on her shoulders if she figured you out so fast.”

The LST I was on shipped out to the Caribbean for an extended cruise and our paths did not cross for almost three years. The next time I saw Kingston; he was playing solo in a dive in downtown Norfolk. He was not the same man. Even though he could still play the best guitar in the bay area, he had a sad look about him. Chain-smoking Camels and drinking Tequila right out of the bottle, he looked like someone well on his way to a breakdown.

After the bar closed, Kingston invited me to his boarding room in a sleazy run down part of town to talk over old times. On his dresser, stood the photo of a little girl. She looked to be about two years old.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“My only regret. Her mother took her out of the state about a month ago. I have no idea where they went. But I know I will see her again. A man must have hope or else what is the point. Might as well step in front of a semi on the freeway. ”

I was soon discharged from the Navy and thought I would never see Kingston again. Like I said, we did not exactly travel in the same circles.

Thirty-five years later I was walking down the Santa Monica pier when I spotted a street musician playing for tips. There was something familiar about him. I sat down, took his photo and listened for a few minutes.

As I was walking through the pier parking lot to my car when it was time to leave, I noticed a California license plate on the back of an old beater. It read KINGSTON. Taped to the dash was a faded four by seven of a little girl. She had a complexion the color of honey – the pure unprocessed kind that bees make when they have access to fields of clover. With sparkling black eyes and a dimple high on her left cheekbone, she looked exactly like her mother.

I did not make the connection until I was on the plane heading home to Wisconsin.

Posted by roadapples at 02:45 PM | Comments (2)

June 13, 2006



One o'clock and I can't sleep. Do I wake the wife and tell her I am going out and risk making her worry or do I let her sleep in sweet ignorant bliss?

Ever so slowly I shut the door leading to the garage, taking care not to let out even the slightest creak. Bracing against the work bench, I gave a shove and the car rolled silently out of the garage.

Oh crap, I forgot about the slight downhill elevation to the street. But at this time in the morning, there is very little traffic and the Malibu came to a stop against the curb on the opposite side of the street. I was soon to discover that this was not the only detail I forgot to include in my best laid plans.

It was time to search out an interesting place for some night time photos. My first thought was the South Shore Marina only a mile or so from my house. Now I ask you, what trouble could possibly come my way in such an innocent adventure?

I set up the tripod and camera on the short pier opposite the one where they stored the boats over winter. There was a slight breeze coming in from the bay and the moon was a waxing quarter. There was not a lot of light to work with so I would have to use a very long shutter. Taking some practice shots with the digital, I began to experiment with the shutter time.

I did not hear the rustle of the tires on the gravel as the squad car drove up and the son-of-a-bitch had his headlights off.

"OK, show me some ID. You got a driver's license?"

"Sure, sure, officer sir. I have it right here in my wallet. I was just taking some..."

"Yeah, yeah, save your story. Just show me your ID."

"I guess I must have left it on the dresser at home."

"Ok lets go to the precinct station."

"Please wait please. Look I brought my cell phone. Can I call my wife so she can verify who I am? Please. I am a teacher just out taking some night time photos for a class project." It was just a little white lie. I was desperate.

"A teacher huh. You better not be pulling my chain or it won't go good for you! Give me the phone. What's the number?"

"I have it in memory, hold down number three."

"Yes good morning maam, this is Officer Ron Knots of The Milwaukee Police Department. I have someone down here by the marina who says... Yes that's right... Oh I see... Uh huh... Yes maam, I agree, he is a putz... Well, I suppose I could this one time... Oh yes, you mean the kind with double chocolate chips?... Where? Just drop them off at the third precinct on Lincoln Avenue... Ok then, I will be looking for them tomorrow morning. Sorry to trouble you. Goodnight maam."

The officer handed me my phone. "Get your gear and beat it. If I catch you out here again with no ID, you might not be so lucky next time."

"Yes sir and thank you sir. I sure will, sir."

Posted by roadapples at 06:57 AM | Comments (6)

June 04, 2006

bitten and beguiled

At the corner of Nebraska and Massachusetts streets across from the Navy Department in Washington in 1944, stood a four story brown brick building. There was no sign or hint of what might have been its purpose; it was a building of no particular architectural significance and no one would have given it a second look when they passed by. To this day, only those directly involved with the highly classified activities of the naval personnel working there would remember or care.

It had been a long week on the midnight shift for Third Class Petty Officer Lilly Dalbey and she was ready for a little R and R. Her mind was numb from the boring and tedious job she had to do night after long endless night. If she had to look up another nonsense word in one of the decode books, she would go crazy.

For a quarter, she and her friends, Sheila and Annie, could catch Sinatra at the Loew's before the picture show. Lilly needed some Blue Skies and if she was lucky, there might even be time to stop at the Mayflower Hotel. The last time she was there, Lilly had spotted a young Marine with an easy and unpuzzled smile. Maybe this would be the night he would ask her to dance.

"You want to come up to my room and talk?” asked the Marine.

"NO. I came here to dance. Just dance", replied Lilly.

"You know there are plenty of girls here that would take me up on the offer", said the Marine.

That would be the last time she would see him, she thought to herself. The days slowly passed. Her shift rotated. First ten days of eight to five, then ten days of four to one, then ten days of midnight to nine.

The guys in the teletype room were attentive but they were as ugly as a cold wind in Utah. Still a girl has to think about her future.

One morning before the midnight shift was about ready to go to the mess hall for breakfast, a long skinny box arrived. With the one crimson rose inside was a card addressed to Lilly. It read, "Want to dance?"


Posted by roadapples at 08:26 AM | Comments (7)

May 15, 2006

number 36


Like an embrace, the pungent smells of body odor and diesel fuel greeted me as I climbed aboard Chicago Transit Bus number thirty six heading downtown. I sat down close to the front near the driver. My youngest daughter sat close beside me; watching me; apprehensive but enjoying the adventure.

"Can you let us know when we get near Marshall Field's", I asked the women driver.

She nodded and gave me a smile.

I gazed around the inside of the bus. There was a poster extolling the advantages of safe sex and another offering free counseling from Planned Parenthood.

Seated on the bench that goes across the back, sat a whiskered old man with a large grimy grocery bag beside him. When our eyes met, he pulled the bag closer to him and looked away. I instinctively swung my left arm up and onto the back of my daughter's seat.

A young man in his twenties sat half way down on the opposite side. His long legs tumbled out into the aisle. His light brown face was expressionless and his eyes were closed. When the bus jostled to a stop at Clark and Wisconsin, he awoke suddenly and looked around. Upon seeing us, his eye brows furrowed with a look of concern. Slowly the tightness in his gaze melted into a warm but silent hello. He adjusted his headphones and went back to his nap.


At Clark and North, a young mother with two small children clamored on. After paying their fare, the bus rumbled on, causing the threesome to half stumble to empty seats.

I watched the young mother open her purse and hand each of her brood a sandwich bag filled with some sort of treat. They laughed and giggled as they watched the people on the sidewalk whiz by. Spotting us, they smiled and said, "hola".

I took my left arm away from the back of my daughter's seat and relaxed.

It was early on a recent Saturday morning and my family and I were in town to attend a fund raiser for the American Brain Tumor Association at Diversy Harbor Park, only a few miles north of the Loop. My wife, oldest daughter and a friend participated in the event (a three mile walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline). My youngest and I decided to take the bus downtown for a little sight seeing.

My daughters have only been on a city bus a few times in their sheltered young lives and never in the big city of Chicago. It was like a ride at Disneyland.

Posted by roadapples at 10:48 AM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2006

fine wine


That old dog could damn near drink his weight in wine. He didn't come by it natural but, when given the chance, he lapped it up faster than a wino after a three-day dry spell.

He was a big good natured mongrel dog left by the side of the road when his owner no longer needed or wanted him. Who knows why? Maybe he crapped on the carpet one time too many.

He must have been on the street for while because every bone in his body was visible and a spot of mange was beginning to creep up the side of his left hind leg. He was as skittish as a field mouse and afraid of his own shadow. He coward when he saw Bobby Jones and me. But after a little coaxing with a breakfast sausage, he came to us.

I was a straight A student before I met Bobby. Ok, so I sneaked smokes in the boys bathroom like all my peers. The Marlboro Man represented my idea of manhood - him and Elvis that is.

A man of short stature kept me on the straight and narrow. Like Napoleon, my stepfather had a classic case of what psychologists call a small man syndrome. He welded an easy left hook and carried a two by four in his right for back up. The last two years of High School, the Drill Sergeant served two consecutive tours in Nam and I had a chance to make up for lost time.

Bobby Jones was as wild as horseradish and trouble always knew where to find him - on the street usually after midnight. I heard unconfirmed tales of him riding down the street in a convertible with the top down, trying to shoot out streetlights with a twenty-two. He was alone and bored.

With his mop of curly blond hair and a trim athletic build, he had his pick of girls. That was the one thing that would grind on me. He had his choice and wanted none and I couldn't score if my life depended on it. Thank god it didn't.

There is one more thing you need to know about Bobby. He was generous and kind hearted to a fault. He took that mangy mongrel dog home and nursed his spirit back to life.

Bobby called him Blackie. At first, Blackie would not eat in front of Bobby and he would not play. The dog would flinch when Bobby tried to pet him. But every day Blackie grew a little less shy.

Six months later, Blackie was eating out of Bobby's hand and playing fetch in the park. He was a different dog. This was end of the school year in 1964. It was a Thursday morning in late May. Bobby called me on the phone before I left to catch the bus.

"Want to skip school today", he asked.

"Are you crazy? We skipped last week Monday. Okay but you call in with the excuse this time. I think the secretary knows my voice."

I remember a wild ride through the Georgia back country with Blackie's head hanging out the window. There was two bottles of wine smuggled out of the liquor cabinet that stood in the corner of Bobby's living room. His father loved fine Italian wine and we were developing a taste for it too.

Being the generous soul, Bobby decided that Blackie should join in the fun. He poured a dish full of wine for Blackie. After about six good gulps, the bowl was empty. Blackie sat waiting for more - more he got.

Blackie's eyes grew bloodshot. His tongue hung down at the side of his mouth. When he trotted, his hind legs would move around to the side of his body until he was going in two directions. He finally went to sleep in the doorway with a nice smile on his face. He slept with out moving the rest of the afternoon and in to the evening.

The next day, Blackie was back to his playful self. Bobby went to school. When he got home in the afternoon though, the dog was gone.

Bobby sat food out on the front porch for another six months but it was no use. I have not seen or heard from Bobby since he was married in 1974 and, as far as I know, he never saw Blackie again.

Posted by roadapples at 09:13 PM | Comments (8)

April 09, 2006


Click to enlarge.

With a suspicious eye, he watched me as I retrieved and pressed the On button of my Canon. He watched as I sat there playing with the knobs and menus trying to look innocent. He watched me as I opened the monitor door, swing it to a right angle to the camera and point the lens in the young father's direction.

The moment was so reminiscent that it was impossible to resist the temptation. I knew his male companion would not approve but my finger pressed the shutter anyway.

The mother was busy with an older child shopping for clothes in one of the boutiques in this mall and the younger ones were left in his care. I think the male companion looking over his shoulder was most likely his brother.

Posted by roadapples at 09:02 AM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2006

home bound

The journey would last at least seven days with campouts in a tent along the side of the road for at least three nights. A good nights rest in a real bed would come in White Horse, Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada. When they crossed back into the United States in Idaho, they knew it would only be two more days.

It was time to go home. There were two sons growing up with out him back in Wisconsin and the big adventure in Alaska had run its course. The discontent and loneliness had become more than he could stand.

The year was 1985 and for the first time since 1914, the United States had become a debtor nation. It owed more money to foreigners than it was owed. Not so for John. For the first time in his life, he had a grubstake. He aimed to use it to scratch an itch that had been festering inside him for far too long.

He was tired of faking his way through life settling for the easy way out of every hard spot taking any dead-end job that would have him. Thirty-seven years was enough time to grow up and put down roots.

When the winter snows left the valley creeping its way back up Pioneer Peak and the wild Larkspur and Lupine began to peep through the leaf litter in early June, the two of them made plans to leave their Alaskan home in Palmer. They would only keep what they could get into the back of their half-ton. The rest they would sell at the auction.

Posted by roadapples at 04:56 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2006

water baby

Her kayak glided silently through the Wisconsin back water stream. The only sound was the occasional gurgle of water when she dipped and pulled her paddle through the clear emerald tinted liquid.

I wondered to myself what her thoughts might be - a special boy perhaps, or maybe an upcoming event with her girl friends.

Maybe she was focusing on the faint sound of knocking by some Red Bellied Woodpecker far away downstream searching for yummy beetles in the bark of silver maple trees. Or could she be anticipating the view of the beaver lodge under the huge willow that she knew lay up ahead and around the bend.

I could not resist capturing the moment and the click of my camera broke her thoughts. She turned around and rewarded me with a look of extreme annoyance and disaproval.

To gain her forgiveness, I had to promise to put the camera away and not snap another photo of her for the rest of the trip.


Posted by roadapples at 11:32 AM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2006

rummage sale

Summer time can't come soon enough for me. Every summer we supplement our income with rummage sales. My wife snapped this photo of me during one of our rummage sales just at the peak of customer traffic. As you can see, I was working my little behind off.

Click to enlarge.

At noon, my 82 year-old Mother came over with some things she wanted to sell. In the other photo to the left you can see a snap of her demonstrating the exceptional quality of a twin bed to a customer. Unfornately, the customer left 15 minutes before I took the photo.

At five o'clock she rolled a little too close to the edge and I had to roll her back. At six o'clock, she was sleeping on her back and I had to shoo some flies away from her open mouth. At dusk, she was still sleeping and it was starting to sprinkle so we carried her and the bed into the garage. We left some cookies on a table beside her bed in case she woke up in the night and wanted a snack. At midnight, I went to check on her and she was snoring. I did not have the heart to wake her.

At daybreak, I found her and the cookies gone.

Posted by roadapples at 02:33 PM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2006

old couch

Click to enlarge

Nothing defines the boundaries of a life like old furniture. Time and memories seem to cling to the fabric like the stains that never seem to go away.

If you looked closely at the left arm about two inches down on the inside you would see a champagne stain from 1977 when a young son was born. On the other side along the lower back was a grape juice stain that another young son left when he did a front somersault. One of the legs was broken - victim of a wrestling match between teenagers.

But sadly, like me, the old couch sagged in the middle and could no longer withstand the rigors of a good tumble with the boys. There was a spring or two that poked everyone at the most inopportune times and, after twenty years, the smell of old food, beverage and fungus finally became unbearable.

My son and I gently laid the old couch by the dumpster and posed while my wife snapped this goodbye photo. Not ten minutes later, someone else hauled it away.

Posted by roadapples at 09:12 PM | Comments (10)

January 14, 2006

love in a haze

Words are so inadequate sometimes. Yet, there are easily over one million words in the English language. Conservatively speaking, young children have the ability to learn and use three hundred words by the time they reach kindergarten. I like to tease my fifteen year old that her first word was 'freedom'. It is an inside joke that only the two of us would understand.

Take this photo for example. It was taken in early June. The three females are looking over the railing that guards the boardwalk of Santa Monica, California. With the mountains in the background, the expanse of sea shell strewn sand in the middle ground, and the beautiful azure blue sky as a backdrop, the view of the beach is, by any standard, stunning. But describing the general scene is not the difficulty. There are more than enough words for that. It is what the photographer feels deep inside that's the bugaboo.

Take note of the shortest one. She is obviously quite different and, in some ways, distant from the other two. Why is she the only one with a hat? Why does she seem to be desperately hanging on to the arm of the young girl next to her?

It all started subtly - so slowly no one noticed at first most of all the woman with the hat. In April, she was having low level headaches that would not seem to go away. Always four steps ahead of her husband, now her walk was slowing down. She seemed to be a little confused sometimes and occasionally could not finish sentences or thoughts.

As is often the case, the photographer put away the digital camera after the vacation and did not look at the photos again until a few months later.

After she went home, the symptoms became unbearable and very evident to close family members. On the fourth doctor visit in mid July, the husband went with her to the doctor's office. She was unable to understand and tell the doctor what she had become. She looked to her husband to speak for her. The doctor became visibly anxious and concerned. A scan was ordered and analyzed. It was a tumor the size of an orange in the left frontal lobe of her brain. The doctors have a one hundred dollar word for it, glioblastoma multiform, a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

After surgery, eight days in the hospital, and a month's time to recover from the incision, the husband and his wife was sitting on the deck enjoying time together talking about recent events in their lives. He was trying to help her regain some of the memory she had lost. The California vacation came up. He took out the camera to show his wife the photos he had taken.

This one hit him in the stomach like a fist with a roll of quarters. Suddenly it all made sense. Deep down inside, it all made sense to him now. How could he not know it then? Why did he take his wife to California on a vacation for God's sake when she was so sick? There are no words to describe the guilt he felt for his inability to fully understand what was happening to the one person who meant everything to him when he snapped this family photo. All the evidence he needed was right there in the viewfinder in front of his eye.

Posted by roadapples at 10:28 AM | Comments (8)

January 12, 2006

drop of sunshine

"Seeno seena see see see" he sang in a foreign tongue I did not understand. It did not matter; his giggle was in a language that is universal. I know it by heart; I have heard it on every playground in my neighborhood. He did not notice that I was watching him trying to understand his song. He pulled his little suitcase as he sang, weaving in out of the crowd of passengers waiting to board planes to destinations unknown. First this way and then that, he would pull his little choo choo on wheels. Darting in and out of twosomes and threesomes, he would look up and smile but no one noticed him.

When he tired of his song, he came and sat near me. I leaned over and smiled. He smiled back. Looking around for his mom, I gave her a smile too as if to reassure her I meant no harm. She nodded her approval and turned back to the book in her lap.

I took out the camera from my satchel, turned it on, and pointed it at him. He instinctively grinned and posed for me. I leaned over and handed the Canon to him and he giggled and squeaked with glee when he saw the photo of himself on the LCD. Never a spoken word passed between us. In a blink of an eye he was gone, boarding a plane for a country I don't remember.

Posted by roadapples at 10:28 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2006

uneasy rider


Holding on for dear life, I have become so old and decrepit that I must ride behind a younger man – a doctor no less. The scooter belongs to the young fellow in the photo. He is Dr. Paul Daniel Hyden and he instructs under and post grads in all things mathematical at Clemson University in South Carolina. Ok, so he can’t help me with my lumbago. But he will come in handy when I am to gosh darn old to cut the mustard or find my own primes.

Sorting my pills by color and weight would be a nice job for him also. There is no end to the things he could do for me given his math skills. I can’t wait until he can take me on a random walk in the park. Get it – random walk? Don’t worry about it; it’s a math joke.

It’s been a while since I saw him last but not to worry. I have an appointment to see him in April. The plane tickets are already purchased and I have begun stocking up on chewing gum and Sudafed. The whole family will be going. Get ready Doctor; I have some integrals that have been giving me problems lately. I need you to look at them.

Enough already with the math jokes old man; now take you pill and call him in the morning.

Posted by roadapples at 07:50 AM | Comments (2)

January 08, 2006

easy rider


Before Kawawsaki there was BSA. Before Yamaha there was Triumph. And before Honda there was Norton. From the early fifties to the late sixties, sales of lightweight bikes smaller than 700 cc in the US was dominated by the Brits. The motorcycle you see in the photo above is a 1962 snortin' Norton. In 1970. a young fellow with meager resources could purchase a used one in fairly good condition for about five hundred dollars.

Of course, living in Wisconsin does not allow for riding year around. Winter time required one to drive the beater with one broken windshild wiper and a door that wouldn't open on the drivers side. Talk about living dangerously.

Being from Brittan, the Norton had metric size bolt heads and nuts. So the shade tree mechanic in the photo did not have the proper tools to help his nephew (the doofus sitting on the ground with the shit eating grin on his face) get his bike back on the road. The back tire was flat, the headlamp was out, it badly needed a tuneup, and the rods were knocking. Ok, ok, maybe it wasn't in fairly good condition like the newspaper ad said. But when it was running, that bike was more fun than you could imagine.

Posted by roadapples at 04:50 AM | Comments (10)

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 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 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)