Saturday, December 29, 2012

Never-never land; New computer; Christmas aspects; A story; A lifting up

Christmas and New Years, we launch this Saturday Raccoon.
The Sewer Raccoon was born five years ago.
We've been cranking the organ out that long.
Note the fly wheel on that mighty engine of old.

So this calendar,  the Pleasant Valley Maryland calendar
 we got from Dee's family there, 
annotated with all the birthdays so-marked,
is a good initial image for this week
 standing on the threshold
of a new year.

on a new computer, a Dell System 8, programmed by Erin's Appleton friend, Ben;
the new machine at which we now sit is reconfigured
with all the vast memory we'd consigned to the old one;
 a set-up and transfer process that took hours of an off-duty day
for Ben and Erin, who gave them willingly
during the Christmas break at Lawrence University
where they both work.

So this magnificent change at the signal five-year marker
of the life of the Sewer Raccoon News
is facilitated by our children and with the invaluable help
of computer professional Ben, a man from an apple orchard
in Rochester WI.

At work on the computer switch, Erin and Ben exchange smiles
over the good deed they are performing for Mom and Dad.

The out-sized Dell tower was carefully dissembled for the all-important C drive.  The much stronger tower sits at the right, a fraction of the size of the retiree, yet much more potent.

Appropriate words have been whispered over the at-last-at-rest machine
which performed nobly for all those years.  Anthropomorphically, we maintain it 
did not want to quit us.

But it is at peace, and we sail off into 
an even more facile and illustrious  future.


A Christmas gift for Dee

from Plowshares, Main Street, downtown Waukesha.
Made from a single soda can cut in a continuous long narrow strip,
this lizard banjoist strums happily on the piano
at the Odd Fellows.

A Roundy's supermarket bag.

Over the Odd Fellows loft rail, Erin trims the tree, while brother Lee reads.
Lee, also a participant in the computer blessing, was home from NYC
where he teaches kindergarten at Harlem Village Academies.


Reprinted from 
quarterly of the Waukesha Historical Society
John Schoenknecht, Editor


Number One Son
David Jr.
has a birthday today, 12-29-12

David has been invaluable to me
for 55 years.

Happy birthday!
You are amazing!
(What's that in your hand?)

David interests sister Laurie in a frog!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our solstice sun; Caribou reunion; Gyroscopes

on the window sill at the Odd fellows
prepares to swing back from the dark
to the light
with vengeful eyes that go left and right
determined no matter what
to mark the lengthening of days ~

There will be welcoming parties
gathered at such places as Aztalan
near Lake Mills WI
where the mystery pyramids 
lie beneath the waves ~

We have been there
to contemplate the meanings of all this, 
beaten drums, shaken rattles, been
overall lovely Pagan.

Click the video:

Friday, 12-21-12:

We did get a little snow overnight, contrary to other parts of the state where there were inundations.  We awoke to find snow blown against the northwest Odd Fellows windows.  KD Cat was thwarted in hunting the little TV tray birdfeeder on the windowsill by the coverng snow.

So we broke the icy snow frozen against the window so KD would have something to do - not that she's bereft of many toys scattered about - and chipped away the ice and snow.

And that was the extent of the shoveling for us.

Oh yes:  we also chipped away the icy white that was concealing our outside thermometer.

Soon, KD was back at her post, watching for birds.

Tonight we get our son at Mitchell airport, home for Christmas.
Our two week long kitty will meet her brother.  8 months old when we got her, 
she seems much larger now.  Doubtless our NYC son will seem larger too.

When KD leaps at the window, the sparrows scatter, but they may be
grateful for the unburied birdseed.


Last Sunday,

there was a beautiful Christmas Pageant/Happening at the Congo.  We took many pictures we thought of note, but on reflection decided not to run them on the internet, thanks to the event at Newtown CN.  It was a lovely service which Wis and I witnessed from our pew in the Peanut Gallery.

We were joined by William, who frequently bookends this editor in the Gallery, he on our right, Wis on our left.  Wis, 94; William, 12.  It leaves yours truly in the middle feeling like Moe of the Stooges.  Wise men, Wis (left) and William (right).

William’s twin brothers had parts in the pageant, cracking William up.  He was pretty much engaged in a series of drawn sketches to explain to the editor the birth and death of a star.

Afterwards, Wis Gurhrie and I went out to Caribou Coffee Shop on Bluemound Rd. Brookfield, to reunion with Norman Rupnow who we haven’t seen for quite a while.  We three have been friends since the 1960s at least.

So after doing our usual thing at the Congregational Church and partaking of the Santa Lucia gift exchange there, we headed out  for a spot of coffee with Uncle Norm and the other gentlemen who assemble there every Sunday morning.  See:

It was happily discovered that we could make it out to the Caribou after church and still get in on the fellowship there.

During the conversation, retired IRS agent Paul pretended to examine our P6000 Nikon, sighting through the finder, etc.  We engaged in chat with Wis and Norm, and Paul, ever clandestine, shot a picture of the editor who was engaged mid-sentence, elsewhere.



Wis Guthrie's annual Christmas letter.  Over the decades, he has opted to use his Grant Wood
American Gothic theme for this letter.  This year, however, after picturing the late Ina with a halo on last year's letter, Wis for the time being took a different tack and drew from his amusement
of a 3 year old girl who as a social gathering studied Wis carefully, and then at an appropriate time she whispered:

You're going to have a baby!

Wis laughed hard, and later took pen in hand and drew Santa having trouble getting down a chimney due to his girth.  In the drawing, the little girl points at Wis who waits to take his turn at the chimney.

The letter reads:


 After Newtown

Imagine the  agonizing underway
Counselors and clerics
Themselves dazed
Trying to assuage, heal others

From what deep well
Can they draw the curing waters?
Here in Waukesha
Our once restorative waters
Are radioactive now

Let us drink the milk of
human kindnesses
found overflowing in our
houses of worship

And treat horror tales
as string wound
Round the axles of

Pulled so hard
That forces are released
To hold balance
Even when things are tilted.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seth King-Gengler plays Piano Sonata in A minor, 3rd movement; Sidney; Bat Cat; Bobbleheads; Christmas Greetings; Surely the push reel lawn mower

Musician Extraordinaire,
Student at the Lawrence University Conservatory
played again at the Congregational UCC Church last Sunday
as he has done often to share the miracle 
of his musical gift with the congregation that has supported
and loved his playing a long time.

Here he is shown at the piano in the front of the church and the only instrument we had at hand
was the lower crustacean cell phone camera.  Thus the image is poor, but by raccoon standards, something is better than nothing.

Winding up his piece, Schubert's Piano Sonata in A minor, 3rd movement, Seth began surfacing from his trance-like playing, and a standing ovation followed.  The ushers, waiting patiently to carry the offering to the altar, were already standing.......

Sid Estenik
in a long career as a music educator and graduate himself of Lawrence University,
Appleton WI, is responsible for an important link in Seth King-Gengler's piano story.
When Seth was in eighth grade, his mother asked friends including members of 1st Congregational if there was anybody
who might give some formal lessons to her son.  

At the time, Seth was self-taught and doing amazingly well, immersed in what he could do sans music, playing as he still does - by heart (and much heart!) -on a keyboard.
Word reached Sid and Mary, his wife, that there was this boy who could really play. Would he come out of retirement and give him some formal instruction?

Sidney was not feeling motivated to take on a new pupil because he had a full career teaching young people and felt truly retired.  But he agreed to listen to Seth play.
That was all it took, for Sid recognized that this young man was t-a-l-e-n-t-e-d!

Sid taught him all he knew, and when Seth got to be a senior in high school, Sid recommended
a higher level teacher.  That chap took it from there and now, after two trips to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia to attend advanced classical piano competitive summer sessions, Seth has worked for a year and is now enrolled in the Conservatory program at Lawrence, where he receives a generous scholarship.

This is last Sunday's church bulletin.  We asked Seth to sign after his name, which he laughingly did.

This fellow is going far, no doubt about it, and we Congo-ites were here to hear the beginning stages of
the fruits of Seth's hard work and determination and artistry,and heart.  We understand that he is
interested in the Lawrence Conservatory Jazz program, too, and that ensemble is directed by the famed Fred Sturm

This excellent video of the jazzwork of an earlier ensemble, a rendition of Radiohead sent to us by Lawrence  U. as parents of an alum, follows:

Good Luck, Seth!

KD Cat enters first yuletide
dreaming of getting bat's wings
with which to .......

Our children visiting for Xmas
will see for themselves
how this new 8 month old kitten/cat
already walks daringly across
seemingly impossible surfaces
and high up.

Her black face
presents a featureless roadmap
and it is easy to imagine her
already a flitting bat.

Still Fickle Bat

A bat I thought was you
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
And left

I lay awake a long time
Wondering if you’d be back
               The only way to keep you
          Is to set you free

[DZD 2007]


A recent Bobblehead
bought at the Congo trinket stand run by Mary Estenik
after church.  Although we have purchased  several of these
$3 (or two for $5) Mexican miniature gourd figurines,
so constructed by craftsfolk that a part, usually the head, tail or wing
 of the imaginary beast moves in normal room air currents.

This one is a tropical fish.  It's about the size of a  five cent piece.
The tail member does the moving, left and right,
as drafts hit it.

It is a big hit with KD Cat, who hunts birds from that wndowsill (as is a more recent
addition of a solar-powered bobbler snowman.  See the video 15 second clip with this mailed edition.)
So far, the critter has only been watched attentively.
No batting at it yet.

Unfortunately, the sale of these items is now closed, but there
were myriad opportunities to secure tens of them as gift items
or home amusements.

Church member Jim Barron, presently wintering in Florida,
 has an Hispanic daughter-in-law with a connection
to the place in Mexico where these toys are made.
Jim has bought around 200 of them to help the community industry
and for the purpose of allowing his late wife's Plymouth church circle
to use them as a fund-raiser at the Congo.

We've seen them being lapped up by helpful and curious members.
There are a few left but the sale is over unless a raccoon reader
wants to ask us how to get to view the remainder.

We here have giant spiders, caterpillars, dragons and wing-flapping
birds, but they are ours and are not for sale.  We placed the fish shown above
on a fossil we bought in AZ in 1972.  The fossil is a prehistoric fish
lodged in the eventually hardened sediment rock.

Next to it is a painted by us lead sinker, symbolically
carrying out a germain OF and piscatoric theme.



(card printed on Plowshares recycled elephant dung Sri Lankan paper)
Below, a reprint
a non-profit magazine published
by DZD in 1980:

For ease of reading:
"Our centerfold for the month of August in this our maiden issue is an old friend of mine, Surely, the push reel lawnmower. She was recently discovered in the cob-webby stairwell of the basement in our old family home in Waukesha were I grew up and to which I returned earlier this year.

Surely and I went around many times together in my youth when it was my job to mow my grandmother's lawn, and I always had a lot of respect for her, although there were moments of antagonism when I was forced to take her out against my will.  That was before I felt old enough for her.

When I came upon her in the stairwell not long ago while sweeping, we struck up an immediate conversation, even though it had been years since we'd seen each other, in fact years since Surely had seen anyone due to the advent of the easy and fast gasoline-powered younger models.

I was up front with her right away, and owned that I too had taken to the grasses with these brash and noisy lawn sirens, but I also told Surely truthfully that there had always been something missing.  It was just going through the motions to cut grass with them;  I never had the feeling that I was in control of any of the action, walking along subserviently, having little input and more than once getting hurt. Surely never threw anything at me in her life.

As we talked, I began to fantasize what it would be like to take Surely out again.  Granted, we both had some years behind us since we tried anything together, but I still felt capable of making her go.  Also, I mulled - not merely euphemistically - the grass wasn't getting any shorter out there.

"Listen, Surely," I began uncertainly,  "you wouldn't want to, ah, you know, it's been a long time and everything, but how's chances of you and me, well, you know.  Whadda you say?"

She got my drift immediately.  "Dave!  Wouldn't that be fun!  I could be a little rusty, but I don't think so.  If you don't mind how I look, Let's roll!"

I felt a wave of confidence come over me at her enthusiasm.  That was something else I liked about Surely, I remembered.  She was always ready.  Not like some others I could mention that have to be gassed up before they'll do anything, and then their exhalations make it down-right unpleasant to even walk behind them.

As uncomplimentary a term as 'cheap date' may be, it goes far toward describing Surely.  A couple drops of machine oil was all she ever asked for, and if I didn't mind her squeaking she didn't even insist of that.  Why did I ever let her get away?  Fuelish, fuelish me!

I rolled her from her unworthy repository beneath the stairs and listened for the old purr, or whirr.  It was still there.  Surely had few moving parts, but from where I stand today, the clip! clip! clip! of Surely's reel blades as they skim over her stationary cutter is far and away more inspiring in its simplicity and predictability that a complicated mystery machine you have to have a manual to understand.

As I lifted Surely gently in my arms for the trip up the steps to the waiting lush and long greenery beyond the door, she began to softly croon "Seems like old times."

The stairway seemed surreal and endless as I carried Surely.  She might have put on some weight but that didn't matter.  I knew I was in for a mowing I'd never forget.

(To be Continued)
This was the inspiration for this year's Xmas card........

The rubber stamp, a gift from John and Cindy Helt
presented in 2003, is shown above, much-used by now.

  It pays to hang onto things.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Stark's Congo fireplace repair; Was blind but now I see; Fanfare for the Common Man

Ancient Fireplace Light restored

Mel and Marge Stark, long-time members of the First Congregational Church,
UCC, took it upon themselves to repair the old electric pretend fire unit
in the old fireplace in the Fellowship Hall of the church
where people congregate on Sunday mornings
and many other times.
It was just a part of their vast help in the annual church Christmas decorations.

This used to be a real fireplace back in the day of this 1838 church, but we of the raccoon do not remember
it as a working fireplace.   If it ever was even illumined at all  in our time, it was an unrealistic
glowing construction of unyulely small logs standing at the bottom of the hearth.  A steady red faint reminded
of what a real fire would sort of look like.

The raccoon has made a stir of the Chinese-made electric stove we purchased for the Odd Fellows where we currently live.
This stove has dancing flames and throws real heat.

But that all becomes parenthetic to this miraculous restoration of the Congo electric flame unit.
The Starks completely, cleverly, and improvisationally rebuilt the thing, including replacing the crumbling electric wiring.
The wattage afforded by their new low voltage bulbs is not productive of any heat at all, BUT we would swear that our eyes were completely fooled; they convinced our brain that we did feel heat emanating from the hearth. A wonderful illusion!

The Stark's expert AMERICAN (not Chinese) creativity
- they are nothing if not good and loyal citizens of this country -
(MY country!)
has produced a heart-warming fire for church attenders to greet us
as soon as we turn the corner at the hall entry doorway and join the massing throngs!

Mel delivered on the mechanicals in his imaginative, curative and reliable way,
and Marge came up with some extra esthetics as to the multiple flame coloring - ranging
from red to orange to yellow to even pink, using tissued paper of various hues over the  orange plastic real estate pennantry Mel salvaged from our garage when we left.

When we arrived at church last Sunday, Mel strode over to the fireplace,
hands rubbing gleefully together, and
smilingly advised that we should look at the thing they'd restored.
"You had a part in that!" he said.

Looking at the result in astonishment, I fumbled for any recollection
that I had played any part in was a miracle.  Seeing my perplexity,
Mel told me that the orange element of the multi-color effect
came from my old plastic for sale pennants. Waste not want not.

Thanks be to Mel and Marge Stark
for  again safely playing - this time - with fire!

The Church is getting ready to celebrate our 175th anniversary soon,
and this latest work of preservation fits right in.
Other's manifestations of keeping the faith will have a hard time topping this!

It's worth a visit to see !

See other SRN postings on Stark:


Next: Let us bless the animals:

(+vaccination and Vitamin A nowadays...)

Trooper my dog, at my side 1943

Trooper's collar, still here, at my foot at the Odd Fellows;  2012

Sally, sea-going, at my side in 1977.
An ex-wife got her a job on a farm.

Mona's memorial at the Odd Fellows Hall
Collar, red trousers 2012

KD Cat, our new black Christmas kitty
(after our year-long  mourning of dear Mona)
in her new red collar
set to make this yuletide merry
complete with her loyal heart and friendly green eyes.

When the tree goes up, soon, after Advent susides,
she my cause it to topple in fun.


A. Copland





But now,
for your holiday merriment
here's Muskego Band Director and saxophonist
Jamie Beckman's Christmas treat
off his Facebook page, buddies horned:



Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
and skyscrapers.
But most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

"Vertical" by Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light. © Norton, 2010