Tuesday, May 31, 2011

as we gather

Tomorrow I head back to New Jersey, and this visit will be even harder than the last one was.  Nobody wants to bury a sibling, especially a younger one.  I told Ronnie in the hospital, "I'm the oldest of the six of us -- I'm the one that should go first."  I guess he wasn't listening.

... and the family begins to gather between now and Saturday, the day of the funeral.  Joan and Mary are already there.  I get there tomorrow, followed by my sister Nancy coming from North Carolina.  Thursday night, my brother Davy arrives from China.  This is what we do.  We are his family.  The only good thing about funerals is getting to see people you haven't seen in a while.

Monday, May 30, 2011


My brother Ronnie passed away this morning -- Memorial Day 2011.  I admire his courage as he fought chronic leukemia all these years and especially the past six months of mostly being hospitalized.  We will miss him always, more than we can even imagine right now.

June 3, 1950 to May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

email from france

My son Jon's European trip is coming to an end.  He flies from Paris' Charles DeGaulle Airport, arriving back in the Twin Cities tomorrow.  It will be so good to see him, yet I'll miss his funny travel emails -- like this latest one:
Oops, I kind of disappeared for a few days, didn't I? We've been busy. We're in the Loire Valley now, as you already know, since I see it was mentioned on your blog. We're staying in this little town called Loches and it's pretty cool. The place we're staying at is really weird because it's kind of inside the castle walls of the old medieval part of the town. Driving to it is challenging, but it's cool otherwise. It's so quiet here! I liked Paris, but one thing it wasn't was quiet! Anyway, we're visiting a bunch of castles/palaces (the main thing the Loire Valley is known for) and stuff. Tomorrow we're going to this place which has 440 rooms, 85 staircases, and 365 chimneys. Probably about 1000000 tourists too. I am getting sick of tourists, but I guess they're still better than Minnesotans... unless the tourists are Minnesotans. The only other people staying at the place we're staying are from Ottawa, so this morning at breakfast we all complained about the rainy weather back home, while our hostess was complaining about the lack of rain here. Apparently there's been a big drought here for months. That means we've been having nice, sunny weather ever since we got to France, although the Loire itself is looking a bit low! Hopefully it will wait until Monday afternoon and then start raining here.

 Tomorrow night we are dropping off the car at the airport and then staying in a hotel at the airport, because our flight leaves Monday morning. I can't wait to see this airport after all the good things I've heard about it! :-[  [Jon's sarcasm, of course -- We've only told him how awful that airport is.  :-) ]

Glad to hear Uncle Ronnie is currently on the upswing!
Also arriving back home tomorrow is my sister Joan after a weekend visit with our brother Ronnie in New Jersey.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

while they cook

I'm not sure where Norm is, but Jerry and Tomoko are in the kitchen prepping for the dinner meal.  Jerry is making one of his famous rhubarb pies, and I know that Copper River salmon is somewhere on the dinner menu.

Tomoko is a friend of Jerry's from when he lived in Seattle, back in the 1980s sometime.  Tomoko has been married to Norm for several years now, and the two of them enjoy visiting Minneapolis, so here they are. 

In 2005, I think it was, Jerry and I took a trip to Tokyo, and it happened that Tomoko was in Tokyo at the same time, visiting her mother, so we had her there as a tour-guide/interpreter for part of our trip.  She was especially helpful with the Tokyo subway system, which is counter-intuitive at a glance, the map of the routes looking like spaghetti. And it's surprising how few people in Japan speak English!

Friday, May 27, 2011

mid-spring sports update

Lebron James is still a jerk (see my March 31 post), and now the jerk is in the NBA finals.  Yep, basketball is still going on, and I bet you didn't even know that, did you?  The final two teams are the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, and, even though I have no love for Dallas, I gotta be rooting against the Heat, Lebron's team.  And I kinda like the Mavs' point guard, Jason Kidd.

... and there, under everybody's radar (unless you live in Boston, Tampa or Vancouver), the hockey playoffs continue also.  We gotta go with Vancouver (if we watch any of the Stanley Cup games at all), or more specifically, against Boston (who knocked the Flyers out of the playoff) and against Tampa (one of those sunbelt cities that shouldn't even have a hockey team).  And with Vancouver in the finals, we get to hear "O Canada!"

You, of course, do know that baseball is going on.  It's spring, after all.  Here locally, Minnesota fans are upset that the Twins, who have won their division most of the past several years, are deep in last place and, in fact, possess the worst won-loss record in major league baseball.  The hometown hero, Joe Mauer, has been injured most of the season, and, well, nothing is going their way.  The new stadium still fills up, though.  My personal favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, is in first place in their division but maybe not as far in first place as they should be, considering that they have the most awesome pitching team in baseball.  The hitters are asleep, though.

That's it for now, sports fans.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

resorting to cat talk

Not a good evening for blogging because my brain is empty...

... I started to write about how tired I am... Instead of doing that, I took a two-hour nap...

... and in my grogginess, I just now started to write about taking my sister's cat  (Tony) to the animal hospital where she keeps him kenneled when she goes out of town (She's flying to New Jersey in the morning to spend the weekend with Ronnie and our other family members there)...

... and I even considered saying something about that awful singer Scotty who won American Idol last night (No, I didn't watch). 

That's when I realized I was desperate for something to write.  I'll hope for better brain cells tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

brief updates in my world

1)  My brother Ronnie has been having a couple of much better days.  He is off the ventilator, is alert, is in somewhat less pain than he was, and there is at least a small chance that he will be out of ICU and into a regular room by the end of the week.  We, his family and friends, have been riding roller-coaster emotions the past week, when news one day is bleak and the next day is hopeful.  It's amazing how resilient he is after what he has been through:  there is a whole Ronnie that I never knew.

2)  My son Jon, on his two-week European vacation, loves Paris and is now venturing by car out into the Loire Valley of France.  I keep wondering what will happen with that Iceland volcanic-ash problem that is grounding a lot of flights in northern Europe.  I'm hoping he doesn't get stuck somewhere over there.  On the other hand, is there a better place to get stuck?

3)  Because of the "stairwell waterfalls" the other day at our condo building, two out of the three elevators are out of commission.  One of the two will be back in service by the end of June, the other not until September.  Why must it take so long?  Makes me realize how little I know about the complexities of elevators.  In any case, we are using the stairs most of the time.

4)  We have friends of Jerry's, Norm and Tomoko, visiting for a few days from Seattle, and it's fun to keep them entertained.  Tonight we're all going to see Arsenic and Old Lace at the Guthrie Theater.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

passing through a different joplin

When people in the mid-section of the U.S. wish for spring, we seem to forget about the wild storms that spring can bring, and this spring has been the worst.  There have been a record number of tornadoes and violent thunderstorms, and the destruction has been unbelievable this year.  Victims of this past Sunday's storms stretched from Arkansas to here in Minnesota.

The worst damage happened in Joplin, Missouri, a city of 50,000 people that Jerry and I drove through on our road trip last month.  A major portion of that city has been destroyed and would look nothing like what we saw.  And much closer to home, Sunday's storm did major damage in North Minneapolis, in an area where I lived for a while in the early '90s.  Tom was visiting us Sunday, and we heard the sirens but didn't head for cover.  I guess we should pay attention:  this one was a little too close.  Ah, sweet spring.

Monday, May 23, 2011

zimmerman's 70th

Bob Dylan -- born Robert Zimmerman 70 years ago tomorrow in Duluth, Minnesota. Happy Birthday, Bob!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

shameful choices that people make in the voting booth

Minnesota disappoints me sometime.  Every state disappoints me sometimes.  But I don't understand how the voters of this generally progressive state could have elected enough "tea party" right-wing candidates in 2010 to give the Republicans a majority in both the state house and senate.  Considering how these awful legislators are handling their majority, it might never happen again.  They are being irresponsible in their fiscal duties while at the same time going for broke on the divisive "social" issues, knowing it might be their only chance.

Last night, they voted to put a "marriage" amendment referendum on the 2012 ballot, to let voters decide whether gay people should have equal rights, knowing that the majority, when given the chance, will always vote against the minority.  The option to let voters decide whether a group of people should have rights is a major flaw in our democratic system.  This is not about the institution of marriage, which is mostly a joke these days anyway:  it's about people's need to be given permission to feel superior to somebody else.

So, in the next 18 months, we here in Minnesota will be subject to the hateful voices of the homophobic right-wing.  We understand that those people will vote against us.  What is more troubling is knowing how many people we consider our friends will also vote against us.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

stairwell waterfalls

No earthquakes yet and I haven't noticed anybody disappearing into the air yet today, so let me tell you a disaster story of my own from this past Thursday morning.

I was walking out the door to go to work, and I heard the sound of loud rushing water.  Our condo unit is right across from a stairwell, and water was rushing down the stairwell like a waterfall.  Water was seeping under the stairwell door and was heading across carpet toward our doors on both the 2nd and 3rd floor (We have a two-story unit in a 22-floor building).  There was no way to stop the water, it was moving so fast.  I decided to get down to the office in the lobby to make sure they knew what was going on, but when the elevator opened, water was pouring down in it also.  I ran down the other stairwell instead, and by the time I got to the lobby, water was creeping across the lobby floor.  Maintenance people were going crazy, all in a panic.

What had happened is that a sprinkler-system water main on the 16th floor had ruptured, releasing tons of water, causing plenty of damage on all floors below.  Two of the three building elevators are down indefinitely (Which means it's a good time to live on the 2nd floor and not the 22nd).  Water did seep a little under our 3rd floor door, and right now we have heavy-duty industrial fans very loudly drying our the carpet 24 hours  a day until the clean-up guys can lift the carpet and make sure all has been dried out and there is no chance of mold.

It's always something....

Friday, May 20, 2011

before the earthquakes take down the internet

This has been a week of Rapture-and-Apocalypse jokes.  There is a radio ministry that has nailed down the date of the Rapture -- tomorrow, May 21, 2011.  The followers of the leader of this church/organization/whatever have quite their jobs and liquidated their assets to spread the word (I saw several billboards when I was in New Jersey last week).  The "believers" will be taken into heaven tomorrow, while the rest of us will be subject to an earth self-destructing -- terrible earthquakes and such -- so I'm thinking I should get another blog post in before we all vaporize.  :-)

By the way, the word "rapture", a favorite of the evangelicals, is never once mentioned in the Bible.

Assuming that the world doesn't blow up tomorrow, my family will be listening intently for word of my brother Ronnie, who has taken a turn for the worse this week and is currently on a ventilator.  We are all trying to keep each other updated with phone calls, text messages, and Facebook postings and are still trying to cling to hope.  And also assuming that the world makes it until Sunday, that is the day when the whole hospital where Ronnie is will be moving to new facilities.  Moving all those intensive-care patients is a job I wouldn't want.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

and suddenly that name will never be the same

Well, I personally always thought that Maria Shriver could have done better than Arnold anyway.  What was the attraction?.. His keen intellect?  oh please -- certainly not with those political opinions of his!  His money?  oh please again -- she's a Kennedy.   His muscles?  I bet it didn't take long to get tired of seeing him check out his physique in the mirror.  The prestige of being Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger?  Yeah, right.

The strangest part of the recent Arnold-and-Maria scandal is that he fathered that kid ten years ago, three or so years before he ran for governor of California -- so he knew that this info could come up during his campaign and governorship.  It reminds me of the John Edwards scandal.  Edwards fathered a kid with that nutcase woman in North Carolina while he was running for President.  Do guys like this live in a total fantasyland where news like this doesn't somehow leak out?  Or don't they know about tmz.com?

I saw Arnold once, when he was filming a movie (Jingle All The Way  - don't rent it) in downtown St. Paul.  What struck me about him was that he was way shorter than I expected him to be.  I guess his towering image on screen was greatly enhanced.  Apparently his character is real life was too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

never mind, he's in Bruges

Did you ever see that '60s movie, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium?  I'm not particularly recommending it -- it's really lame -- but I thought of that yesterday, Tuesday. As I was writing about Jon being in Amsterdam, he was already on a train to Bruges, Belgium, where he and Chris will spend a couple days and take day-trips from there before heading to Paris later in the week.

How about the movie, In Bruges -- have you seen that one?  It was a small indie movie from a couple years ago -- kinda weird, but I liked it.  Jerry and Tom hated it (Too weird and occasionally violent for their tastes).  Bruges is a beautiful city, very "old world" but also not too exciting for very long.

Another Bruges footnote:  If you scroll down the left side of my blog and see the picture of Jerry, it's one I took of him as he was writing postcards -- in Bruges, when we were there several years ago.

By the way, Jon tells me that they liked Amsterdam.  Who wouldn't?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

going dutch

I'm looking forward to hearing what my son Jon thinks of Amsterdam (I heard through the grapevine that he's tired of cobblestones already).  He's been there since Sunday and will be heading south from there into Belgium in the next couple days.

The reason I'm anxious to hear about his visit is that Amsterdam is probably my favorite city in the world.  Jerry and I have been there numerous times, usually staying on a houseboat on one of the city's canals or on the Amstel River, and we got to know the city very well and love it... and I miss it.

The photo here is one that I took using a disposable camera.  I had the photo enlarged and framed, and it's hanging on the bedroom wall.  It brings good memories to wake up to.

Monday, May 16, 2011

it's not easy

Back home, back at the office... Still not feeling back to normal but will soon...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

so whatever happened to thursday, may 12, 2011?

Last year, my niece Ruthie challenged me to blog something every single day (no matter how lame), and I have not missed a day since August 10, 2010.  Ah, but Blogger.com (the blog site that I use, through Google) screwed me up this week!  Their server or something went down on Friday, and it deleted my Thursday post.  For those of you who were "lucky" enough to read it before it flew off into internet Never-Never Land, it was the one entitled "finally losing it", the one about me watching American Idol for the first time, at my sister Mary's house.  I'm sure that it was a brilliant piece of prose, complaining about what a stupid show it is but how nevertheless I hoped that "Scotty", the most annoying of the final four contestants, would get voted off.

.... so, as far as I'm concerned, even though there is a missing day in the blog list, my streak continues.


Added -  5/18/11 --  The May 12th post came back!  Thanks, Blogger, for validating me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

PHL to MSP while Jon goes MSP to AMS

As I fly back to Minneapolis/St. Paul today, my plane will be passing my son Jon's plane in the air as he flies to Europe.  One of the main disadvantages of extending my stay in Jersey is that I didn't get to see Jon before he left on his two-week trip.  He flies from MSP into Amsterdam and will be spending his time in the Netherlands, Belgium and France.  What a great vacation that should be.  Have fun, Jon!  Take lots of pictures...

Friday, May 13, 2011

before i pack the suitcase

It's amazing how exhausted, both physically and emotionally, a person can be after sitting with a loved one who is suffering.  I go home tomorrow after this nine days of trying to keep my brother company in the hospital, and it is frustrating that he is really no better and that here I am leaving with him still in that hospital bed, not knowing what is next for him.  I told him how helpless I feel, and he says that is what everybody tells him.  Today I took his grandson James to see him, and Ronnie, even though he has some difficulty speaking, seemed to be saying goodbye to both of us.  I really don't want to be saying goodbye.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

finally losing it

I brought my cousin Beverly to the hospital to visit Ronnie today.  Ronnie isn't having a great day today and keeps apologizing that he isn't better company.  The two of them did have a brief discussion about last night's American Idol, a program that she introduced him to a few years ago and which he has somehow stuck with.  Me, I had to admit that I was an American Idol virgin until last night.  My sister Mary also watches, and it was on while she and I ate pizza and Entenmann donuts, and I found it to be a really stupid show, but what the heck do I know?  Somehow this is the most popular TV show in the country. Those judges are the absolute worst, in their attempts to out-gush each other over the four remaining contestants, all of whom are annoying in their own way.  The most annoying was Scotty, and I'd love to see him get voted off -- but hey, look at me -- I must have been paying closer attention that I wanted to.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

he wants to buy a vowel

I'm more or less back to normal and am back in the ICU with Ronnie.  He had to have gall bladder surgery this morning, so I changed my plane reservation from today to Saturday.  His surgery went well, especially considering how weak and vulnerable to infection he is.  My sister Mary is with me, and we are conversing with Ronnie in his groggy state.  A few minutes ago, he asked if we could have a sing-along -- "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore" -- but we didn't get too far with it, and I'm sure that by now he doesn't remember that he wanted to sing.  Ronnie has the twisted sense of humor that runs in our family, and he has kept us amused when he is on drugs or off.  A couple days ago, in one of his loopier moments, he awoke from his drug-induced sleep saying, "I want to buy a vowel!"... Another time he woke up trying to remember the starting line-up of the 1969 New York Mets!

The hospital where he is, in Voorhees Township, New Jersey (just outside of Philadelphia), seems good, is very friendly... but in ten days they are moving the whole hospital into brand-new facilities.  Can you imagine moving a whole hospital?  It sure would be nice to have him out of here and back to some sort of normal life before that happens.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I'm supposed to be here to spend time with my sick brother and ended up getting sick myself.  Yesterday I woke up with a terrible dizziness (vertigo, maybe?) that led to a day of lying immobile on Mary's sofa and an upset stomach that had me barfing every hour or two.  This is no way to take care of my brother!

Today I'm a little better, am trying to eat again, and may venture out a little later.  Whether I can make it to the hospital where Ronnie is remains to be seen.

... and tomorrow I'm supposed to be going home.  I may have to extend.

... a helpless feeling!  I generally never get sick.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

a day for mothers and mavericks

Well, what do you know? -- the laptop works today here in the hospital.  Ronnie started out having a bit of a rough day, but at the moment he's doing relatively okay (with the help of drugs) and we're watching the Dallas Mavericks destroy the L.A. Lakers -- sweeping the Series.  I despise the Lakers (last year's champions), so it's fun watching them get eliminated from this year's NBA playoffs.

Somewhere outside these hospital walls it's Mother's Day and if you are a mother reading this today, I hope you're having a good Mother's Day.  Our mother died 24 years ago, and still there is no way to have a Mother's Day without thinking about her a lot.  If you still have your mom, appreciate her.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

satisfying the angry mob

While I admit that I'm reading more newspapers and watching more cable news the past couple days ago than I normally do, which might be distorting my perceptions, I ask this:  Isn't that enough about Osama bin Laden?  Haven't we heard enough?  Does over-reporting this story do anything more than piss off the wrong people?

... and what about all those people who are demanding to see photos of the dead bin Laden, with his head half blown off?  It reminds me of the Blackhawk Down episode in Somalia back sometime in the '90s, when angry mobs in Mogadishu dragged the bodies of American soldiers through the streets, sort of like trophies.  It's barbarism.  Let's not be like them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

life outside the ICU

Ronnie had a fairly good day today but is still confined to that one room in the Intensive Care Unit, and how hard that must be for him after all this time.  Today they were able to get him out of the bed and into a special chair that had rollers on it, which I thought meant I could take him for a ride through the hallways, but No, he is still too vulnerable.  His immune system is just not strong enough to handle the risk of further infections.

It all makes me feel a bit guilty when I leave him and go do something fun out there in The World.  It also makes me appreciate the freedom I have and my health.  How quickly life can change.

I had breakfast with my "niece-in-law" Tiffany today (and I thought about naming this blog post "Breakfast With Tiffany", but I thought that might be just a little too cute) and her 15-year-old son Dylan (who had just broken his hand the night before in karate class and went straight from his pancake-and-bacon breakfast to the doctor for xrays).  Tonight my sister Mary and I took our grand-nephew James out to celebrate his 18th birthday and had a wonderful time with him.  It's possible that James might come to Minneapolis to stay with Jerry and me for the summer; if so, you'll hear lots more about him.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Nice flight to Philly, and it's spring here in South Jersey.  I wish I were here for better reasons than a very ill younger brother, but you do what you gotta do, and he and I are having some good serious conversations.  In between that heavy talk, we did a crossword puzzle together from the Philadelphia Daily News, thinking that ha!  a Daily News puzzle would be easier than an Inquirer one (and maybe it is!), but we wouldn't have impressed anybody.

Staying with my sister Mary and using her computer to blog.  My laptop wouldn't work with the hospital's Wi-fi, but I'll try again tomorrow.

I'm here until Wednesday.  In between hospital visits, I have lots of people to see and moments to enjoy hearing South Jersey accents again and indulging in that South Jersey food that you just can't find anywhere else...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

jersey boys

"Flashing strobe lights, loud gunfire, and authentic, profane, Jersey vocabulary are special effects used in this production ..."  This is the advisory sign that greets you as you enter the theater to see the musical Jersey Boys, and the show lives up to the warning.  If you ever happen to scroll back to my April 13, 2008, posting, you'll see that we went to see Jersey Boys for the first time back then, and it's become one of my favorite shows -- good story and good Four Seasons music, plus I'm a Jersey boy myself of course.  Last night, I went to see it again with my friend Mary O., a co-worker of mine. A fun evening.
Speaking of Jersey, I think I may be heading to New Jersey tomorrow to spend some time with my brother Ronnie.  He has spent most of the past five months in hospitals, is currently in a different one in South Jersey, and is in rough shape -- extremely weak and discouraged.  It's something I feel like I need to do, and I look forward to seeing him and talking with him.  We'll probably use a different kind of authentic Jersey vocabulary, but who knows...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

bin laden as fish food

... or maybe not.  The sea creatures at the bottom of the Arabian Sea might be too particular to be nibbling at the corpse of Osama bin Laden.

Monday, May 2, 2011

and on a lighter note...

"The Lusty Month of May" from the 1967 movie version of CAMELOT, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Guinevere....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

their version of freedom

In a year of political insanity, what is next?

The Tennessee State Senate has voted to ban the words "gay" and "homosexuality" in K-8 grade classrooms in the Tennessee public schools.  The fear of these homophobic senators, apparently, is that if young students even hear those words, they'll automatically think, "Wow!  How cool it would be to be gay!" and will somehow convert their sexual orientation immediately, and there will be no heterosexuals left.

That, of course, isn't what they're thinking -- even Tennessee senators can't be that stupid.  Is it to keep young homosexuals repressed and isolated, leading to more gay teenage suicides?  Is it to give permission to gay-bashers to beat up and kill these kids?

These right-wing radicals and Tea Partiers love to throw the word "freedom" around, but they obviously don't want people to have the freedom to be who they are if they happen to be outside the narrow version of "normal" and "acceptable" as determined by the state.  Now even freedom of speech is gone in the Tennessee classrooms.  I wonder how long it might be before gays in Tennessee would be required to wear pink-triangled armbands.