Saturday, January 26, 2013

Red Hot Horn; Resignation; It's OK for a man to cry; Send More Snail; Banjo and Buddy

During the recent cold snap
we let fly the thermostats at the Odd Fellows
and unleashed the 'Chimney-Free' electric stove
to combat the sub-zero temps.
We also added some blasts of song throughout
the lodge stomping grounds
on the horn home grown as a gourd at 517
some years back.

It was preheated on the stove and as you can see
began to glow red.
We once used that instrument to signal
the approach of The King during a ritual
at the Pythian lodge No. 21, Wauwatosa.

Some older knights are said to still remember vividly
how startled they were to hear how much volume
was derived from that papery-light device.

Now it gets played more tunefully:
As in Cecilia; Ja-da;
I Love You, etc.

The world's really great music.
As in 1983.

KD heads for the hills during music sessions.


              I like trees because they seem more resigned to
              the way they have to live than other things do.

                                                                      Willa Cather

Here the oak and silver-breasted birches
Stand in their sweet familiarity
While underground, as in a black mirror,
They have concealed their tangled grievances,
Identical to the branching calm above
But there ensnared, each with the others' hold
On what gives life to which is brutal enough.
Still, in the air, none tries to keep company
Or change its fortune. They seem to lean
On the light, unconcerned with what the world
Makes of their decencies, and will not show
A jealous purchase on their length of days.
To never having been loved as they wanted
Or deserved, to anyone's sudden infatuation
Gouged into their sides, to all they are forced
To shelter and to hide, they have resigned themselves.

"Resignation" by J.D. McClatchy, from Mercury Dressing: Poems. © Knopf, 2011


It's OK to cry

(sent to the raccoon attention by Rev. Dr. Tom Bentz of New Jersey)

Their Lonely Betters

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

"Their Lonely Betters" by W.H. Auden, from Collected Poems. © Modern Library, 2007


KD Cat
watches from on high
as a letter gets written
her two facial features
the only two visible ones
no pink nose or lips
reflect the flash

Blue Moon beer on ice
is sipped through a straw
per hospital and nursing home
 personnel who taught us how 
with non-alcoholic beverages
as usual we stamp the letter




click this link:




Saturday, January 19, 2013

Spell Checker; Much tuning required; On sewer raccoons; Car-packing; Etc.

Her grammar advice:  
Say no more.

Harp Guitars
gathering information on:




Discussing day's agenda:

KD Cat habituates low post with elevated concepts, such as "You should dust that 1953 Megaphone." To demonstrate, she subsequently steps up on it, it falls off the speaker and leaves dust on her fur that she will have to clean off.  Self-possessed, she'll use only her tongue.


From the Writers Almanac
Jan. 14, 2013

In Memoriam (VII)

Dark house, by which once more I stand
    Here in the long unlovely street,
    Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp'd no more—
    Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
    And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
    The noise of life begins again, She
    And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

"In Memoriam (VII)" by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Public Domain


Sewer Raccoons
Once sent to he Freeman

My congratulations and thanks for those who have so well freshened the mighty Fox River that flows through our community.  Very nearly the best job possible, given that we’ve built up to it all around.  It now isn’t possible to take it all the way back to native American times, when it was totally clear, drinkable, and lovely in it’s natural state. But the blending of the Fox in it’s cleaner condition with the commerce of our 21st century population is very nearly idyllic.

We have received with pleasure the artful representations of dragonflies, lily pads, cement foxes, and most recently the metal bears at river’s edge.  I only suggest that
attention might be paid to the raccoons who live beneath the city.  Not everyone is even aware of them, apparently.  We see them coming and going under darkness at the storm grate at our corner.  So accustomed to them are we that we refer to ourselves as inhabitants of a Sewer Raccoon District.

I understand it’s an ancient family of many many raccoons who have followed the tunnels of the sewer to various single family side dens in a commune that holds their meetings in a main chamber purported to be beneath the old post office downtown.

There they pay fealty to their ancient and rheumatic king who holds forth amidst a vast treasure of purloined goods that has been accumulated over generations.  The raccoon king, I’m told, wears a cape fashioned of a purple velvet drapery sample adorned with bottle caps and broken pieces of glass.

The king on certain nights sends his descendants out and up into the city with their burlap bags over their shoulders, to gently burgle.  Here we’ve made our peace with them and regard them as just another species that could be paid homage the next time a statue in the park is erected. (Ed.)



Some may have been along in 1954
when we pulled the Mukwonago caper

It was the raccoon editor's first run- in with the law.

It was the time of homecoming
and our football team was facing
Nathan Hale in the suburban conference.

My car, a 1951 Willys Jeepster,
was crammed with kids, car and kids painted up with
homecoming slogans in washable finger paint
- slogans like NAIL HALE! -
and the constable of Mukwonago pulled us over
for making a disburbance
and for too many occupants in a vehicle.

As the operator, sober as were all of us, I lost my license for 30 days. 

That's what I was reminded of when a friend
sent us the following video clip
which I highly recommend
especially to the above-mentioned group.
(Maybe have tissues handy.)


The Willys was ........



Selling the Shooting

Thursday, 17 January 2013 00:00By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
A boy looks on as a customer inspects a pistol at the Saratoga Arms Fair at the City Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Jan. 12, 2013. (Photo: Nathaniel Brooks / The New York Times) A boy looks on as a customer inspects a pistol at the Saratoga Arms Fair at the City Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Jan. 12, 2013. (Photo: Nathaniel Brooks / The New York Times)Fuck you, that's my name. You know why, mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, and I drove an $80,000 BMW...only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.
- Glengarry Glen Ross
A few hours before President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled their proposals for gun reform in America, the National Rifle Association launched a preemptive strike on the president's children. To wit: an NRA-sponsored television commercial claimed that, because Sasha and Malia get armed guards in school and your kids don't, Mr. Obama is an elitist hypocrite.
Leaving aside the colossal tin-eared stupidity involved in attacking children in the midst of a debate that was initiated after 20 children were slaughtered, and notwithstanding the fact that, to no small degree, the presidential children need bodyguards to protect them from the very audience targeted by that NRA ad, the simple, ugly truth of the matter is that this most recent example of the NRA's psychotic nonsense is pretty much what we can expect to hear now that the gun gauntlet has finally been thrown down.
The substance of the Obama administration's proposals are historic in scope: enact a stronger assault weapons ban, limit the size of ammunition magazines, require universal background checks for all gun sales, strengthen mental health treatment options, and empower schools to deal with gun violence threats while addressing issues of bullying. Beyond that, Mr. Obama released a list of 23 Executive Ordersaimed at beefing up existing gun laws, allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research the underlying causes of gun violence (something the GOP successfully quashed for years), and reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.
On the whole, the administration's proposals are about as bold as one could hope for in this day and age; more than 900 people have been shot to death since the massacre at Sandy Hook, and Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot through the skull, and President Reagan was shot way back when, and his press secretary took a bullet to the head that day and has spent his whole life since trying to keep that from happening to anyone else, and Columbine happened, and Aurora happened, and the Sikh temple massacre happened, and the body count from American gun violence has been spinning like the fare meter on a Manhattan taxicab since Bobby Kennedy got his brains blown out in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen almost 50 years ago, and still, after everything that has happened and after everything we know, we all somehow became convinced that stuffing the Biblical camel through the eye of the Biblical needle would be easier than passing sensible gun control legislation on a national level in America.
That, my friends, is salesmanship.
Salesmanship the likes of which has rarely been seen in history, even in this nation of boiling commercialism. It is no small accomplishment to convince millions of people that their safety and security - indeed, their very existence as a nation - absolutely depends upon the astonishing preponderance of devices that kill them on the hour, every hour, every day.
All the gun lobby does is bellow about freedom, about the Constitution, about preserving the ability to defend oneself against the onset of an intrusive, tyrannical government. This is the song that has been sung for decades now, to the point that it is holy writ to those who think the ability to own an AR-15 with a magazine capacity large enough to take out half of Yankee Stadium, should the need somehow arise, is the apotheosis of American freedom. Good luck with that; send me a note from the front, hero. I'm sure your Red Dawn fantasy will unspool itself any day now.
Convincing so many people that their freedom is inviolably attached to things that kill them in piles every single day is amazingly successful salesmanship...and as we embark upon this national debate over guns, we must encompass this essential truth: all the grandstanding over personal freedom, over the Constitution, over the ability to defend oneself against the government, is the end-product of perhaps the most magnificent sales job ever deployed against anyone, ever.
Understand the bottom line here, best described by an astute observer: "I think the real problem gun manufacturers face is an inability to build planned obsolescence into their products. Unlike other instrument with moving parts, a gun can continue to shoot for a very, very long time. Hence, for gun manufacturers to remain profitable, the number of firearms in society and their lethality must continually increase if for no other reason than to maintain enough novelty to encourage new purchases."
There it is.
The root of the problem.
The NRA and the gun lobby in general getting into bed with the Republicans and the far right, all the shouting about freedom and the Constitution, is just window-dressing to the gun-makers. They don't believe that baloney; they just use it to sell their products, because unlike a Toyota or a blender, their products pretty much last forever.
There was a company once that made tractors, the best damned tractors ever assembled by anyone ever, and every farmer in the country bought one...and after a while, the company that made those excellent tractors went out of business, because all anyone needed was one, and the one they bought lasted forever, so no one ever bought another one.
For the gun-makers, it is about making the product they produce attractive enough to purchase over and over and over again. That is the only way they will be able to stay in business. Period, end of file.
We are going to hear a great deal of insane noise now that debate over guns in America has been fully engaged by - yeah, I'll say it - a president I am proud of today. Do not ever forget, no matter the rhetoric that gets wrapped up in this argument, that this is about the ability to sell guns. This isn't about freedom or the Constitution or anything else for the gun-makers and their friends.
It's a sales pitch, and nothing more.

SRN ed. footnote:  AMEN!



Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose names you meditate —
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

"Child" by Silvia Plath, from Collected Poems of Silvia Plath. © Harper Collins. 


A crow came rapping, gently tapping at my skylight window

The Raven (excerpt)

Last minute inclusion in today's Saturday Raccoon
as it was today's Keillor's Writers Almanac poem

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,"

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

"The Raven (excerpt)" by Edgar Allan Poe. Public domain

Raven (crow) that rests as a chair-top finial at the Odd Fellows;
a copper, pine and map-tack creature we once made
inspired by Poe

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Astronomers 3; KD cont'd; Yet another plug; Good word; Good dog


Some years ago
we purchased these three kings
with non-frankincensian and non-myrhhian
'gold' at Plowshares in Waukesha

They were cut of recycled oil drums
in Haiti
and are luminaires;
that is, you put candles in little sockets
and burn them backwards
so that the journeying astronomers
(William says they were astronomers)
would be candle-lit from behind

casting mystical illumination
in a darkened room (read: world)

Now, at this moment in the liturgical calendar
the three travelers hold forth
perched on the center window member
at the Odd Fellows lodge hall
where we live and work

but last Sunday, as per gathering custom,
they were on the altar
of the 1838 First Congregational Church
and our new minister pronounced over them
the good news of remarkable beholdings

and the Haitian artists did a good thing
ultimately for us Dixes, and beyond....

[Footnote:  in the upper picture, see the china plate on the wall
to the left of the floor lamp.  It is of the church.  Several people
have these 'Congo' plates....]


KD, Cont'd

Becoming thoroughly integrated into the hall of Odd Fellows
our new cat has become a true help-mate in addition
to being a windowsill bird chaser and swirling toilet bowl watcher.

KD offers us a 3rd entity to talk to.
Dee discusses kitchen recipes with her
and ocasionally gets the cat's taste buds involved;
I bounce ideas off her in my writings
and often rely on her 'take' on certain things.

Pictured above KD sits on my wheel chair arm
and scans the computer screen for errors.

KD was a pre-owned cat.  The Humane Society told us in full disclosure that 
she had been adopted by someone who found out after a month that she
was allergic to her cat dander, and the brief owner had to bring her back to the shelter.

That is how the name KD was established for our cat, by another owner
who had to give her up. 'Katydid' was the full name but we shortened it to KD.

What we did not get told - and we did not ask - was what sort of home  
KD resided in during that previous trial span.  KD is given to using a lingo, a vernacular
that did not come from us.

As an example, she uttered "Give Me FIVE!" when I went to shake her paw.
See above.

Then recently she saw he staring at her and she
exclaimed, "Hey, are you lookin' at ME?
Are you (expletive) lookin' at ME?"
As though she wanted to make something of it.

She was privately reposing on claw-scratching device where she doesn't like to be disturbed.


We have an old shoe brush
but so far no cat brush
We had one for Mona
but it went when we retired her effects
on her demise, her departure after 20 years of life
 headed for happier hunting grounds

So we were polishing our shoes
ahead of going to the Congo
in front of the fire
and KD made signs that she
wanted to be brushed 
with the shoe brush
which is indeed 100 % genuine horse hair

KD Cat took kindly to the horse hair brushing
so maybe we won't have to buy
a cat brush.

KD sits on piano behind the John Tyson double-breasted pot.
From there she frequently hunts bird-sightings in the near-by window.
That's what she was doing when the shutter clicked.
Note dialated eyes.

John Tyson was an art professor under Wis Guthrie in the art department
at Carroll College.  John made this pot somewhere around 1965.
It has traveled with the Raccoon roottage ever since.


KD's presence is often announced when I'm working at the computer - which rests
on a Singer Sewing Machine - by a gentle walking against my legs, and then I
reach down as shown here and stroke her ears and head.  She often takes up
a perch as illustrated at the start of this series above, to contribute companionship,
 aid and comfort to me as well as occasional critiques.........

Yet another plug for The Cup: 

Three members of WHS class of 1954

Certain conspirators helping plan the 2014 60th high school reunion
choose a meeting site with high electricity in order to jolt their old bones and synapses.
Here, retired plastics magnate Jack Hill of Elm Grove, humanist and 
grandmother Sally von Briesen of Shorewood, and yours truly of downtown
Waukesha get a head-start on their reunion planning.

At the meeting place, downtown's The Steaming Cup,
special tea libations are test-brewed using ranks of small teapots
and wee cups with which owner Kerry Mackay periodically educates
his staff in tasting sessions such as we watched from a table nearby
a week ago.
Taking a surreptitious snapshot with our semi-concealed LC cell cam,
we blurrily recorded what we were seeing without alarming the subjects
or the patrons,  also busy sipping their various imbibements.

Delicious soups and sandwiches, bakery, coffees robust; chocolate drinks 
laced with optional  whipped cream; teas from
Kerry's many large storage tins which are viewable on honest shelves behind the counter;
even special gourmet sodas kept in a cooler near the cash register.
(We drink their Hank's root beer, an obscure brand to us but outstanding over ice!)

Teas, well stocked in many varieties are jolly good!


Add this word
if it isn't already in your vocabulary:
~ Verisimilitude ~

It came up again
in our current re-read of Somerset Maugham's
great book
The Razor's Edge.

Verisimilitude came up on page 8 of the introduction to the book,  which has gotten dog-eared
in the many pack ups and moves it has been through, and the avidly clutching handling the book
has received over the years we have owned it.

Verisimilitude is defined for you via this link.

The Raccoon News is big on 'verisimilitude-ty', for we frequently test theories on the Scales of Truth.

Writer Norb Blei of Ellison Bay WI has recently re-recommended Maugham to his readers, and as we
subscribe to Blei's blogs, we were spurred once again to search out our favorite Maugham book.
See Blei:

And this caused us to drop Norb a post card.  He likes to get post cards:


The last thing this week:




John says:  This is one reason why I absolutely love those Labs!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Forward, march into the new year; Bones, Coral, John Doan and Fish, Etc.

OUR INSPIRATION as we move forward
into 2013, the year that will become this editor's 77th, comes from the great 1957 movie,
The Bridge On the River Kwai
starring Alec Guinness as an exemplar of British discipline,
even under the extreme duress of imprisonment in a Japanese forced labor camp.

Though life in this place at this time does not impose the hardship faced by the men of the prison camp, we see some minor similarities as we march in place, some halt and lame, in roughened and worn boots that  bear our determined pinions, and we whistle our anthems as one.  Making our deepening impressions in the sands of time, resolute.

By God!  Those British  -and we - are unbreakable men!




The snow that falls so white and fresh
is quickly pushed to the sides of
the already salted streets
and more salt is spread behind the blades

The snow no matter how persevering
can't win a temporary victory
because it's not allowed to repose there
delaying commerce anymore

Snowbound in the city is an anachronism
The big blizzard of 1947, though, closed
businesses and schools, everything for days
in Waukesha

until the handful of plow-equipped trucks
could get around to opening all the streets,
and  the Inter-Urban electric train did not run
into Milwaukee,  so father was home five days

The snow was dominant then, keeping everyone blessedly
at home, happy captives of unanticipated pass-times,
 skiing to the grocers or to the post office, drinking
 cocoa and digging tunnels outside, dawns to dusks

During cribbage games and radio shows, the wind blew
unending heavy snow all around town
And the ice-blinkered Fox Dairy horses struggled
to pull their milk wagons until they couldn't

negotiate the drifted valleys formerly known
to them as their street routes
And everything was rounded off white
for many deepening days

But now, when there is a forecast of snow
heavy or slight
armadas of municipal plows and reinforcements
of free-lancers idle their engines everywhere

loaded with tons of salt, waiting at checkpoints, ready
to make short work of any white that quietly comes
and to make the trains, trucks and everything else
run on time

The esthete dreaming of snow having dominion
over him for a just a little while
loses to technology and industry
but loses no precious time at work or school

thanks to economies dedicated to rumbling
street-clearing machines
and salt, lots of salt
And fervent salty neighbors

keeping their sidewalks absolutely clear
of Old Devil Snow, running neck and neck
toward the inevitable loss against the plowers
 who fill and re-fill the grumblers' driveways

Over clear but gray-skied days, whizzing traffic splatters
more salt onto the salt-laced drifts and the sun melts
and re-freezes the mounds into darkened, pitted reefs
of dingy black coral
And you wish for another snow, as in 1947

DZD 2001

[Footnote:  Is black coral in the gutters a thing of the past. as global warming
elevates the serious snow latitude of Waukesha
into northern Wisconsin?  The icecaps are melting.  What of those mounds of
 road salt, stored in huge bins?}

 John Doan, Harp guitarist

If you liked that one, a longer performance, lasts over an hour:


(from the WRITERS ALMANAC 1-4-13)

The Fish

As soon as the elderly waiter
placed before me the fish I had ordered,
it began to stare up at me
with its one flat, iridescent eye.

I feel sorry for you., it seemed to say,
eating alone in this awful restaurant
bathed in such unkindly light
and surrounded by these dreadful murals of Sicily.

And I feel sorry for you, too—
yanked from the sea and now lying dead
next to some boiled potatoes in Pittsburgh—
I said back to the fish as I raised my fork.

And thus my dinner in an unfamiliar city
with its rivers and lighted bridges
was graced not only with chilled wine
and lemon slices but with compassion and sorrow

even after the waiter removed my plate
with the head of the fish still staring
and the barrel vault of its delicate bones
terribly exposed, save for a shroud of parsley.

"The Fish" by Billy Collins, from Ballistics. © Random House, 2010.


KD Cat

pauses between rounds of flight
chasing her favorite toy
which is a simple piece of unpredictable wire
with bits of cork attached
into which she can sink her claws.

We have it attached to a chest drawer
so she can go after it
whenever she wants to.
And that's often.