Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
and not a warm summer, either.
Mona perches on bathroom radiator. There's no heat on yet, but she thinks there should be, so Dee puts her towel on top, per winter custom.
Mona, knowing it's 49 degrees outside, tries hard to pretend the furnace is on.
But she knows it's not. Asks for her velcroed lion's mane, put away for the season. And her red trousers, also stashed.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Gourds from the Sewer Raccoon District gourd-painting studio. New species of fancy. We can put you in touch with a source for them in Blue Mounds WI.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Original blackberries, the berry stolen in name only by electronic gadgetry makers, the merry berry that grows in prickly thickets and is sought by hungry people, birds and grizzlies..............and raccoons. They are sweet, juicy, and delicious.
They grow by the millions at a location we are not at liberty to disclose. This well-maintained, immense patch (a misnomer that suggests small) is annually visited by select bucket-laden Waukeshans related to the owners and a group of time-honored friends. Admission is gained up a dead-end country lane. I'm sorry I cannot tell where.
We offer silent thanks as we have blackberries and ice cream, or thick blackberry malts, or eat handsful, fresh-picked, plain.....................
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
From AKM, Alaska
On my 21st birthday, I woke up in the morning and drove to Dairy Queen. I got soft serve vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and I ate it for breakfast. Why? When I was a child I asked once if I could have ice cream for breakfast, and my mother said, “You can have ice cream for breakfast when you’re 21.” And so I did.
My father spent his 21st birthday in a prisoner of war camp. Deaf in one ear, and completely flat-footed, he could have easily been a “4-F” and escaped service for medical reasons. He was a peaceful man but he, like so many of his generation, felt the need to serve his country, and to fight againgst the fascism that was threatening to engulf the democratic nations of Western Europe, and had even attacked the United States.
When he was 20 years old, he’d been taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, was marched for miles, imprisoned, and starved. Like many men of his generation, veterans of World War II, he didn’t talk about it much. He held his memories close to his chest. If he talked to anyone about them, I didn’t know. It was only many years after his service and just before his death that he shared some of those memories with me.
Starvation does strange things to people. He told me that after a while in the camp, he had the same recurring dream, every night – a stack of pancakes topped with two fried eggs, sunny-side up. He’d dream that dream over and over, a still frame, a picture of a breakfast that never came. He told me that his fellow prisoners got so hungry that once they had killed and eaten a cat that had strayed into the camp. You don’t forget a story like that.
Or the story of the man in the camp, who snapped. In peace time, we’d have called him a boy. Suddenly and without warning in the middle of the day, out in the yard, his mind went. He ran for the fence in a desperate effort to escape. There was nowhere to go, and in broad daylight with armed guards everywhere, he didn’t stand a chance. My father, who was quick to pick up languages, had learned some German. “Don’t shoot! He’s crazy! He’s lost his mind! He doesn’t know what he’s doing!” my father called out to the guards as he ran out in the yard waving his arms. The man kept running for the fence, and he climbed, and the guards didn’t shoot. They waited until he reached the top. And then they shot him. They left him there for three days as a warning to anyone else who might have been thinking about escape.
Any survivor of World War II has stories. Millions were never able to tell them. Their lives ended on battlefields, and in gas chambers, at the hands of the Nazis. My dad was able to tell me some of his experiences, but most of those memories died with him, like they died with many vets and victims of the war. I didn’t even know he’d received a Purple Heart until after his death. But he survived. He survived to marry the girl he left at home, to buy a house, to get a college degree, to start his own company, and to raise a family of five children.
I asked my dad if he ever got his stack of pancakes with the fried eggs on top. I imagined it being his first meal after the Russians had liberated the camp. The Germans had heard that the Russians were coming, and they left quickly in the night. The prisoners hadn’t known what was happening until two days later when the Russian army came and let them out, confused and near death. No, he told me, he never did have the pancakes and eggs. It took months in the hospital to build his system back up to where he could eat normally. He began at 5′11″ weighing less than 100 pounds, and started with an IV, then a liquid diet, then cream of wheat, and finally solids. A fellow prisoner, he said, on his way from the camp to the hospital in France had managed to get a hold of a box of donuts and had gorged himself. He died a free man, but still a victim. By the time my dad was able to eat that stack of pancakes and eggs, the desire had passed.
I remember as a child I was not allowed to watch Hogan’s Heroes. It wasn’t a joke in my house. There was nothing funny about prisoner of war camps. There were no handsome well-fed prisoners with secret tunnels under their bunks, and pirate radio equipment who always managed to play their captors for the fool. There were frightened, emaciated young men whose minds and bodies were broken an ocean away from home, who were shot on fences , and who ate cats, and watched their friends die. There was nothing to laugh about. Those were Nazis.
I am tired of people comparing Obama to Hitler. I am tired of seeing signs with swastikas and nazi symbols at health care rallies. I am tired of people saying that a health care plan designed to uplift millions of Americans to give them dignity, and choice and the ability to care for their families, is like Naziism. I am tired of Rush Limbaugh.
As time passes, and as the greatest generation becomes a memory, passing into history one soul at a time, it is up to the generations that follow them to keep “Hitler” and “Nazi” out of the clutches of those who would make them political buzzwords for people they don’t like, or policies they don’t understand. Those words remind us of the worst that people can be. There is nothing horrible about Germans in particular that caused them to do these things. This is humanity’s dark potential, and something that we all need to remember, whether we were there or not, or whether our family was affected or not, because this is what people can do to each other. To strip those words of their power and meaning in order to create political fear for self-gain is inexcusable and needs to be confronted and refuted whenever it arises, by all of us, whether we support the current health care bill and the current president or not.
For more, visit www.themudflats.net
When I was growing up in the 40s during WW II, the worst thing you could scrawl on the grade school wall or on any sidewalk in this town was a nazi sign. Read through these pages and see if you can find anything to support the inhuman tendency to use the term Nazi, against anyone except those who were the real Nazis. See, for example, this posting: http://raccoonnews.blogspot.com/2009/03/kind-mans-boots-to-fill.html This editorial above is a masterpiece of expression and deserves widespread distribution.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Email received today
The moment you receive this, say: Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name for thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven give us this dayour daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those whotrespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver usfrom evil. Amen. GOD WANTED ME TO TELL YOU It shall be well with you this coming year.No matter how much your enemies try this year they will not succeed. You have been destined to make it and you shall surely achieve all your goals this year.For the remainder of 2009 all your agonies willbe diverted and victory and prosperity will be incoming in abundance.Today God has confirmed the end of your sufferings sorrows and pain because.
HE that sits on the throne has remembered you.
He has taken away the hardships and given you joy. He will never let you down.
I knocked at heaven's door this morning God asked me. My child what can I do for you? And I said Father please protect and bless the person reading this message. It has never been broken. Within 48 hours send 20 copies or asmany as you can God does know if you don't have 20 people to send it to. It's the effort and intent that counts to family and friends. Couldn't hurt can only help.
it's the Bullshit and Ass Kissing
that will put you over the top.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Avalanches of words are not customary for a raccoon, and in fact he teaches a word well-advised: P-A-U-C-I-T-Y. We should heed him. The writer who Blei compliments and recommends today is Francine Witte. Look her up and read her sublime reductions of prose phraseology in http://poetrydispatch.wordpress.com/ Subscribe.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
We made an entry in our moleskine 'life notebook' this morning on Popsicles, the timeless, quiescent, frozen confection. (See Wikipedia)
If we had saved every Popsicle stick we've discarded since the 1930s, having made innumerable rafts, picture frames, God's Eyes with yarn, reindeer Xmas tree ornaments & etc, we'd have now enough to construct several serious bridges, cabins and catapaults. Never too late?
Friday, August 14, 2009
Upheavings of justified emotion and nostalgia fill the press on the news of Les Paul's demise at 94. Aside from swinging to his and Mary Ford's reverbed version of How High the Moon and many other multi-tracked, electrified tunes on the radios and phonographs of my youth, it was the train that paused at the depot on Wiliams Street across from the tavern owned by Les Paul's parents' where he played long before the Iridium in New York, our local tavern named after the mighty streamliner, The (Club) 400......it's the train that again captures my imagination on this day for eulogies.
That temporarily famed train, the 400 about which I sing, was a part of my youth along with enduring Les Paul (Lester Paulfuss), also down the track.
Were You Pulled by the 400?
The 400 was the Chicago and Northwestern's
regularly scheduled to operate
over a distance of 200 miles;
its name came from its unheard-of ability
to pull a train 400 miles
in less than 400 minutes
and the name suggested the future,
the next decade coming up.
The 400 was introduced on January 2, 1935
and in 1936
it got the first oscillating headlamp,
a safety feature for high-speed trains;
people and animals weren't used to such swiftly-approaching
'Here comes the 400!'
Waukesha kids would shout,
Those of us lucky enough to live
Near the tracks in the 1940s
We would run down
To the train depot to see the 400,
hoping it would stop
in its mighty glory;
sometimes it even had an American flag
flying above the oscillating safety lamp.
The Germans had their dirigibles
but we had our streamliners!
I walk that way now,
our curative Waukesha water debunked,
a legend gone plain,
flags out of style among the hip,
the war is over,
trains rusty drones
competing with trucks,
the good buddies of the roadway
are in our way.
Maybe sporting flag decals
next to permit decals on their window glass
but beating out the iron rails?
Not quite yet; no, never!
But in the 40s the 400 ruled
among the regular high smoke-stacked
black as coal
pausing at the Waukesha depot
to take on Waukesha water,
give entertainment to TV-less children
and to get their giant wheels oiled
by trainmen in bib overalls,
their bucket oil cans with specially-long spouts
and their watch chains guarding
marvelous timepieces tucked in
those bibbed blue and gray-striped upper pockets;
watches that were cherished
setting those men apart
amidst the bursts of steam trackside
like dry-ice effects on a stage.
Times were hard and my mother and grandmother
would warn me at dusk
'Don't go down there!
There are tramps down there!'
And there were sometimes
but I never saw one that meant
me any harm.
Like the 400 and the other plainer trains
the tramps were transitory
unlike today's homeless;
they were said to hole up briefly
in camps outside of town
sometimes they would beg door-to-door
and scratch a secret code mark
Where they were treated kindly;
I featured them cooking stews in old tin cans
staying away, embarrassed
but I never truly met a tramp to find out;
they didn't seem to want to know us
and we didn't seem to want to know
them in the 1940s.
My church was and is just on the other side
of those train tracks
and I don't remember them teaching us
to worry about these homeless people
like they encourage us to do now
but they might have done.
I was little,
The mighty 400 flew through town
sometimes at night without stopping,
it's oscillating headlamp showing
like Diogenes' lantern.
It might have been looking for an honest man
an honest boy
an honest tramp?
It was an elite train bent on getting
where it was going,
it's trainmen a cut-above;
their denims seemed starched,
their watches looked even better.
The uncluttered lines of this engine
showed little of what was going on
A thing of wonder in the change of the age.
I saw men stopped at railroad crossings
interrupted by the coursing 400
not cursing their bad luck
but getting out of their cars and doffing their hats
at the swiftly arriving and disappearing
engineer who would wave.
An eddy of wind left behind
might swirl a newspaper and dust up into the air
and in a moment the 400 was gone!
There are still pictures of the 400 in the museum here
and a local tavern across from the depot
still bears its name;
reliquaries hold the engines remaining now.
We would put our small feet on the tracks
to feel the power of the still-out-of-sight
horn blaring its look-out;
no old-fashioned bell dinging!
look out for the swinging BEAM!
we were going somewhere;
and the tramps rode the rails
a mile a minute sometimes
if they were pulled by the 400
Reprinted from the Waukesha County Historical Society quarterly, LANDMARK.
RIP, Les Paul!
Vaya Con Dios!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I have received from a friend
a very manly brick of Limburger cheese.
I say manly because women usually
don't eat cheese that buzzes
and is as old-aged as mine.
This cube of cheese has an odor
perhaps best described as that which issues
from long-unwashed underwear hems.
To eat it is to be arrested, overcome.
You cannot eat this cheese
and do anything else as a secondary activity;
your full attention is riveted to the consuming act
as though you're on a wing-walking excursion,
or shaving with an extremely sharp razor.
I gaze at this cheese
contemplating burying it in the yard
or eating more.
The cat tries to bury it
on the hard tabletop, but
I decide to eat more.
There is an edible-if-you-dare rind
around this cheese that sweats
when it is exposed to air.
I keep my Limburger in a tight jar once opened,
and I appreciate that this cheese
continues its critical mass build-up
even when refrigerated and stored thusly;
eating limburger reminds me
of other nasty things I 've done.
Afterwards, no amount of hand-washing
will remove me from the consequence of my deed,
but I can assume a thoughtful pose
with my fingers near my nose
and re-live it all.
S/ in blissful reverie.
Once again: http://raccoonnews.blogspot.com/2008/04/red-hot-ukelele.html
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Even better, It can be played anywhere! And, it's.....(and here I quote):
Perfect for parties and gatherings
Blends beautifully with other instruments
Play it outdoors, (Ed. note: On stage) at home, in school.
Have your friends try to play-along with you! Ideal for adult recreational programs.
Don't you wish you had one?"
Well, I did have one of these magnificent instruments, as did a collegemate of mine, David Farragut James of Fox Point WI and now of Tucson AZ. I don't think the instrument ever took off broadly, but we played the heck out of ours. Eventually I had to apply duct tape to mine to keep it together.
But David James was a true instrumentalist with his. A virtuoso! He was good. It was the late 60's, when we were in our early 30's. David played in a band, The Riverboat Rascals, with his brothers Doug and Fred and friends. He would take Orgamonica solos sometimes during their gigs, though his main instruments were piano and banjo. Everyone (many) freaked out.
I think he, aka 'The Babes', still has his Orgamonica, but I long ago lost mine. Like Meade Lux Lewis and his barrelhouse upright, I eventually played it to a break-down death.
Re David James, see http://raccoonnews.blogspot.com/2008/01/grace-v-james-and-northern-wisconsin.html
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We don’t think about it very much anymore
but the ghosts of native americans might;
we walk, or alas, drive their ancient trading trails
paved many times over;
even our later inter-urban streetcar tracks
are now out of sight,
buried like their lightly-beaten paths
by time and poured concrete
and newcomers can’t get the gist of traveling downtown,
can’t figure these streets out because so many diagonals
cut through strangely, they say.
But it was all so simple then
for the woodland people
to follow their converging spoke-like paths
to the now downtown five points trading posts
going through thick woods
from their outlying settlements,
intending to live forever in their homeland
upon which they trod so gently
Pioneers built great improvements
on their sacred burial grounds
and cannons stand in the library park
passing time’s additions, tentatively,
muddying the purer water of days
dim to us, unknown;
But not to the ghosts
who watched flowing streams
clear away many other silty stirrings
only for a moment hiding customary clarity
We are being watched by these patient spirits
these spector ‘savages’ who knew so much.
Their way to our downtown
The Sewer Raccoon News Salutes
the WHS class of 1954
Fluttered around my head
Last night after the lights
were turned off
I opened the door
To let you find your way out
But you stayed
Would not go
Winging around my sought repose
Nibbling my ear lobes
The way you used to do
I went out myself
And you followed me
Joining another bat
Zig-zagging in the darkness
Both of you exchanged squeaks
I lay awake a long time
Wondering if you’d be back
The only way to keep you
Is to set you free
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The Sewer Raccoon News Agrees