Sunday, September 20, 2009

Apple picking

Click to enlarge

Editorial, NY Times 9-20-09


ANOTHER PIECE OF LORE came from retired IRS agent Frank Cox, who has become a good friend at Sunday morning coffee gatherings at the Caribou Coffee Shop on Bluemound & Calhoun, Brookfield. Today, he instructed us in the call to shout when set upon by a gnat-cloud of children pickpockets, as he was, in Rome.

Frank was touring Italy, one of several countries he's traveled to. Approached by a waif seeking a small offering he reached into his pocket for his billfold. He was immediately swarmed by a large group of kids all bent on purposefully taking Frank's valuables.

Frank is a linguist. He is self-effacing and modest. He speaks several languages. He instantly called out in a loud voice, "Giu le Mani! Giu le Mani!" DOWN THE HANDS! Down the HANDS!
The children went skipping away making a playful song of Frank's warning. "Giu - le - mani, Giu - le - mannnnni......" He knew he'd been understood.
These are the kinds of useful information one can pick up with these erudite friends over Sunday morning coffee or tea.
Another example: The SRN has received our second issue of the monthly, THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, which was subscribed to after being recommended by Frank.
Soon to be appearing in the Raccoon News from current issue of the London Review of Books will be a mental asylum memoir by John Burnside, titled Who Chose Them? The article mentions a condition called 'apophenia' that Burnside suffered, which is the extreme tendency to find elaborate patterns and significance in everything.
Though the term was unknown to this editor, it rung true. When he emerged from open heart surgery in '05 and began a long recovery in nursing homes, he paid particular note and study of a wallpaper border that ran around his room, at the ceiling. It was a repetitious floral design but he was convinced the design was actually of rats chasing each other's tails. It became an obsession, though unfeared.
This gradually subsided, along with several other manifestations, and we were released into society again, as was John Burnside.
The point is, had it not been for Frank Cox, the IRS guy, it is very unlikely we would have
gained this knowledge!

Friday, September 18, 2009

'The Lawnist' revisited

The SRN doesn't know who this lady is, but she's been tending a stellar front yard garden at 125-127 E. College, Waukesha, for years. There are a few others doing this in town, and such a lovely alternative it is to the monotonously tended grass lawn.

If you're going to spend inordinate time in your yard it is foolish to do it mowing and edging grass. This woman has a long-established colorful plan.

It reminds us of a verse penned here, entitled

The Lawnist

The tuneless tantalizer is at his tiny tines again,
showing our one-block-long street
how to wrap our leaves; how
in the face of raw nature's fluttering intrusion
never to sound lawn-care retreat!

Yes, it's true, the lax commoner rakes his leaves
to curbside and waits for the city vacuum patrol
to eventually come
and suck up the colorless artifacts,
but A true Lawnist -
and he is one - cannot countenance the slug's delay;
in never leaving leaves to new wind,
the requisite re-rakings must bereave the rascal's eves.

Moreover, he's almost - have we not noticed? -
got his grass golf-course-grandiose; gr-r-r-reat!
The perfect shade of green and blade count per square inch
so close to being on the weedless button,
albeit by means of contracted and self-ministrations
of many merchanted murder-lizers
and species-endangering sprayed spuriosities.
and his criss-crossing, thrice-weekly mowing patterns
are to me a head-in-the-grass reality avoidance,
a harm, illicitors of ill-begotten
The Lawnist packages leaves that aren't even his,
some of them,
in plastic drawstring pajama bags
and trucks them elsewhere to sleep; city-dumped.
before the vacuum truck might traumatize
his pedigreed grass roots
with too much harsh suction.
He's invested too much of himself
in his monk cell-sized tract that
is in no way to be trumped.

Soon snow will fly, another of his property blights
which will demand of his ordered lawn creed
incredulous shovel-rounded snowbanks
at his sidewalk's rulered edge,
no matter how deep the snow becomes.

I in an unthrown spirit of slowly-mown grass,
formerly done with a push reel,
and eternally shifting leaf piles
will offer my counterpoint of
a jagged serpentine snow lane,
a studied randomness
garnering from the grumpen Lawnist
neither a summery hello
nor a wintery thanks!

Thursday, September 17, 2009




FIESTA !!!!!
Try the Lumber Inn's 2nd location on Sunset Drive, Waukesha
Today the Sewer Raccoon News staff had a late working lunch at the LUMBER INN. While pouring over copy and photos for these pages we had our usual Huevos Rancheros with jalapeno sauce, rice and beans, flour tortillas and a Coke (which was disguised in jest as a Pepsi).
Rarely do I enjoy a Spanish meal as much as I do at the Lumber Inn. The decor probably isn't up to the speed that they ultimately intend, but it is newly-opened, clean and cheerful. LET'S FACE IT, when you open a new 2nd place in this economy it's the good food that is bringing the customers in. The emphasis is where it belongs, on the superb quality of the cooking.
The Lumber Inn II offers a complete menu of various foods. The SRN warrants they are all going to be good.
Our waitress is running the cash register in the photo above, and a jollier person there never was.

Note: The Raccoon News does not accept advertising nor does it solicit same. We take no money from anybody, hence we proclaim Harry Golden's rule (see above right) to say exactly what we please, solely owning this paper. Founded 12/27/07
SRN staff are now regulars at Lumber Inn II because our son recommended the place.


Into the moleskine collector's pad - a Christmas gift from Erin - go these seed spinners, fallen in the night from a tree I can not at this moment identify. I'm used to seeing these little helicopters floating down, dressed in green, yellow, or plain brown. But Dee picked up these fall-colored ones while out on her morning walk, to show me.

They put me in mind....
of little Obio and his dog Arrow
in Harry Nilsson's The Point,
the song LIFELINE........
to the bottom........
and remember:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A good 'all' was had by TIME

Bathed in Gold

A lovely evening passed at the home of Bob and Libby Sellars of East Broadway, Waukesha WI on Sep. 15, 2009. Once again, these gracious, gentle and warrior folk, on behalf of their long-served First Congregational UCC Church at 100 E. Broadway, came to the fore by hosting a 'Meet the New (interim) Minister' gathering.

The Raccoonage covered the event. It is always hard to pass up the opportunity of free food. It was so glorious in their dining room where they'd set up a splendid buffet that our photographer shot with the available light from the chandelier. No flash was used to disturb the long-practiced Sellars' domestic comity.
Bob, of Quaker roots, is a great historian and story teller. Over many years this reporter has figuratively lain at his feet, bewitched by his various on-target messages. Humor, useful and good information, broad perspectives and not infrequent profundity flow from Bob. He can always smile, and does. Visited by a long-lived musculature degenerative condition, Bob, with the aid of his faithful wife, Libby, has risen above it, in dominance.
This recaller retains a memory about raccoons obtained from Bob. It seems that when cornered, a raccoon, hunted to near-exhaustion by a pursuing hound, will find a body of water, be it brook, river or lake. He will have the hound chase him into the water, a medium with which a raccoon is well-familiar. As the snarling dog bares his gaping maw at the raccoon, the raccoon will overcome the beast by opening his defensive mouth, biting down on his pursuer's nose and holding him under the water until expiration.
This is something about raccoons we'd never heard.
But it is illustrative to us of Bob Sellars, a gentle Quaker who will fight when he has to.
As for the new interim minister, a seeming Paladin of the Ineke Mitchell variety (Bible-toting gunfighter), her own grace and wisdom fit in well at the Sellars' gathering last night. In the beginning stages of our upcoming joint churchly fray, her strong strokes already tell:
"I know the wilderness. I've been there."
"There's a difference between burning out, and rusting out."
"Great creativity comes through chaos."

Rev. Deborah Howland

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This young Ukrainian girl tells an entire story by pushing around sand on a table. She uses nothing but sand and her hands to create these images.

New acquaintance; recommended

Writer, Publisher, Poet, Bloggist
Norb Blei
of Ellison Bay, Door Co., WI
His websites:
Publisher of WORDS ON WATER
A FERRYMAN'S JOURNAL, Washington Island, WI
by Dick Purinton
Today Norb sent this:
by Charles Simic

It'll be a while before my friends
See me in the city,
A while before we roam the streets
Late at night
Shouting each other's names
To point out some sight too wonderful,
Or too terrifying
To give it a name in a hurry.

I'm staying in the country,
Rising early,
Listening to the birds
Greet the light,
And when they fall quiet,
To the wind in the leaves
Which are as numerous here
As the crowds in your city.
God never made a day as beautiful as today,
A neighbor was saying.
I sat in the shade after she left
Mulling that one over,
When a toad hopped out of the grass
And finding me harmless,
Hopped over my foot on his way to the pond.

(from The New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009)

That is the question

A few years ago....
so starts another reminiscence
we bought a Mexican gourd birdfeeder
from The Marketplace on far E. North Ave
near St Mary's hospital and the water tower.
Down the steep hill, Lake Drive and Lake MI.
Now out of business, The Marketplace was
a former florist shop with attached
greenhouse. The Latin products were
bought by a couple who traveled to the
South American countries on buying trips
and then returned to Milwaukee and took
a small mark-up in the fast sales of their finds.
Many artful items were collected just by this
one customer, the SRN editor. They have
held up well.
Among the pieces of wood-carving, pottery,
metal cuttings and hammerings, reed
weavings, gourdery, rude and flashingly
bright fabrics, reed matwork, and etc. and etc.
came this birdfeeder made of a gourd and
with paste legs and arms that dangled
freely, like bones, on wire.
The wire members, sans the
deteriorated paste (or clay, or?) around
them are now mostly naked.
Really bare-bones.
This adds to the skeletal deterioration
realism. Thus we have not tried to fix it.
It would be simple to renovate. But would
it be right?
click on image, see deterioration

From Alaska w/radiance

Laurie Dix Kari
Now 'Family Promise' Homeless Shelter Director
and daughter of raccoon news editor, sent the above snapshot
taken yesterday.
I think she was showing us her new hair style.

But to me it tells much more than that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Was that the Chrysler building?

The zinnia bud on the top
suggests the Chrysler building
in New York City
do you not think?
How blessed are these flowers
that so prolifically spring forth,
and abjure the gardener's fear that the chill
of autumn signals curtains; zinnias aren't
finished yet............
click on image to enlarge, see the Chrysler 'summit'

Home-stretching it

Play this:

Samantha Peterson

Click on article to enlarge:

Raccoon News goes political once again:


"Stand up for the 70 percent of Americans who aren't crazy...."

Yeah, that's the ticket!

So here goes our social wakeup call . . .
This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by socialist electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the socialist clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the socialist radio to one of the FCC regulated channels to hear what the socialist National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using socialist satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of socialist US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the socialist drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. At the appropriate time as kept accurate by the socialist National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I get into my socialist National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the socialist roads build by the socialist local, state, and federal departmen ts of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the socialist Environmental Protection Agency, using socialist legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the socialist US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the socialist public school.
If I get lost, I can use my socialist GPS navigation technology developed bythe United States Department of Defense and made available to the public in 1996 by President Bill Clinton who issued a policy directive declaring socialist GPS to be a dual-use military/civilian system to be managed as a national socialist asset. After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the socialist workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the socialist USDA, I drive my socialist NHTSA car back home on the socialist DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the socialist state and local building codes and socialist fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the socialist local police department. I then get on my computer and use the socialist internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and browse the socialist World Wide Web using my graphical web browser, both made possible by Al Gore's socialist High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991.
I then post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine iis BAD
the government can't do anything right!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What is it?

Scroll down...........................

A whistling tea kettle, of course:

Working further on cleaning out the basement, a seemingly endless task because I'd given up on it or taken so many long breaks........ I ran into an experimental tea kettle that was made in our former VULCAN WEATHERVANES manufactory. In the garage, to wit. The rustic kettle worked fine and probably still does. Except,.......I got married, and my new wife, (third and final), though willing to put up with many things, thought we should have a more 'sightly' tea kettle. So we upgraded to a more conventional and pleasanter (?) model. This one went to the basement, where it's been for several years. At least 25.
I would put it out for sale at a rummage, but maybe I shouldn't. Something like this is priceless. Sticking a price tag for a quarter on it would be profoundly wrong. The spout is made from an old cake pan and is fitted to a standard across-the-counter kettle. But the whistle is real metal that took the braze. If you think it's dusty now, you should have seen it before I wiped it off.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today Lee is 22 (twenty-two)

A steady reminder of our son's birthday
hangs on the wall going upstairs,
hangs on the old traditional ivy wallpaper
he has charged past since his day one.
It was a celebration when he came home from the hospital
with his Mom;
A celebration
that led me to paint a wooden pizza oven paddle
and hang it on his bedroom door.
It was my rendition of a 'card'
that would fade into eventual nonexistence
but it has held its post
mostly on the second floor stasirway
all these 22 (twenty-two) years.
Lee is a senior at the University of WI Madison
another post he himself has held
through arduous summer employment
and part-time jobs during the school years.
Scholarships winner
and a winner overall.
We thank The Great Spirit
for Lee today;
this medium, the raccoon news,
was set up for us by Lee
going on two years ago.

Like the pizza paddle
it is lasting.
A gourd was picked up at the Madison Farmers Market
last Saturday
that reminds me of sturdy progeny
and well-connected placentas.......
Lee is making it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

And now,

Chickadee today

Here's a little something
to bring you cheer.
We have a steady frenzy
going outside this window,
chickadees one after the other
all day long
into the early evening.
I know I've sent
variations of this scene before,
but this little bird appeared
A chickadee like any other,
but he posed through the window
without knowing.
Sometimes when I sit here
typing at the keyboard
if there is a light on next to me,
the birds become slightly more timid
and very watchful
because they can see me
through the window.
But they aren't deterred.
They still come.

That is a very old gourd out there
that I once cut open,
cleaned it out,
and used part of the cut-out
for the curved perch.
I painted it a bright blue.
All that is left of that is what you see.
An interesting weathered effect
that I could never duplicate.
I say I because
some artists could conceive that look and apply it,
but I cannot.
not ever.


corner to corner

splitting an order
I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.
(Garrison Keillor, The Writers Almanac)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009


SRN photos

Rhonda Kwiecien
retired from our church pipe organ,
ending an overall 30 year career of consecutive Sundays; thirteen or fourteen of those years as the organist and music director at the First Congregational UCC church of Waukesha, WI.
The Kwiecien girls in the wagon at the left are Hollyann and Mira. Hollyann is now a freshman in college at UW Eau Claire this fall, while Mira is in seventh grade at Horning Middle School.
Rhonda's other interests currently include her desire to attend concerts of the two also musically-talented offspring and to not have solid slots to fill every Sunday at the local church. It was sadly time to retire, she felt.
Today: the church held a farewell service for Rhonda.
It was a lovely celebration of music offered to Rhonda by the choir members and other musicians and pulpiteers, on behalf of a grateful congregation. Her husband Paul sat at her side in a pew with his arm around her, which from our vantage encapsulated the care and love he has for Rhonda.
Today she was no longer perched on the historic organ bench, rendering her ministry of music. As her faithful page-turner, Paul has been a point man for his diminutive wife, a musical/mystical lady who is powerful in her own right.
The top photo, purposefully blurred, portrays Rhonda standing at the front this morning during an emotional moment - of which there were many - seemingly gazing at me in my post in the 'peanut gallery'. Later, she said she was looking at me, trying to smile........
Here again is an old poem for Rhonda:
Rhonda the Magnificent

Sylphan vessel pours herself out,
drives exquisite shafts into my heart
with her music;

A half-pint at a mighty organ console
pleasurably stings and pinions
my listening soul;

pierced and webbed,
I am unconcerned with my immobility
while she levitates,
all ninety-eight pounds of her,

flawlessly hand and footing it,
booming and whispering,
her piped hemlock ecstasy
fills me up.

I would brave the darkest path
if accompanied by this little girl musician;

a welcome death by ear
plays me to sleep,
lays me down
[David 'Dixi' - Latin}


Saw Brussels

at: Madison WI Farmers market
on the Capitol square, 5 Sep 09

..............SRN photo..............

Collected by Garrison Keillor

In My Next Life
by Mark Perlberg

I will own a sailboat sleek as fingers of wind

and ply the green islands of the gulf of Maine.

In my next life I will pilot a plane,

and enjoy the light artillery of the air

as I fly to our island

and set down with aplomb on its grass runway.

I'll be a whiz at math, master five or six of the world's languages,

write poems strong as Frost and Milosz.

In my next life I won't wonder why I lie awake from four till daybreak.

I'll be amiable, mostly, but large and formidable.

I'll insist you be present in my next life

—and the one after that.

"In My Next Life" by Mark Perlberg, from Waiting for the Alchemist. ©

To hear Garrison Keillor read this poem and other Keillor 10-6-09 almanac audio, go to

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


click to enlarge

What a cat!

While I get up for a second she plops down in my chair. In the sun, to warm up. Still chilly here in WI, 42 degrees when we got up. Enlarge this picture to see what I was working on.