Festering Boil


I remember watching the Addams Family as a kid but found myself preferring the Munsters. I never thought about why I found the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky Addamses less appealing but I think it boiled down to context. The Munsters main characters were caricatured versions of familiar monsters – frankenstein, his bride and dracula – where the Addamses were just oddball originals.

American Gothic

poeI remember the first time I read The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. It was one of the only times I can recall reading poetry that was so macabre. I can still hear Mr. Theilen’s voice reading Annabel Lee emphatically to our seventh grade English class. As a freshman, I uncovered The Cask of Amantillado and The Tell-Tale Heart. As successful as his works are today, it’s interesting to learn how financially distressed his life actually was as one of the first full-time American writers.


Once in a while I reminisce about my school days and think about those teachers in my life who most inspired me to learn. Ed Axtmann was one such teacher. His deep baritone, rumbled along with a hint of old country German as he recited countless verb conjugations in Latin. He was an animated presence, often stooping low and taking deep steps as he marched around the front of the classroom holding his hardwood chalkboard pointer. Occasionally he would burst out in a fit of mock anger and slam that pointer onto the desktop of some unsuspecting student, uttering a German phrase that I can only transpose as ‘deuter gewitter, loci mol’. To this day I don’t know what the literal translation is but he often assured us that it was Bavarian profanity and was best said to mean ‘thunderstorm’.

If I learned anything in his class, it was to be prepared for anything. Participation was something Mr. Axtmann expected and the fact that we didn’t know when we would be called to participate was especially unnerving. To make Fate a major player in our education he often utilized Pandora’s Box, which was nothing more than an old Sucrets tin that held a small collection of red paperboard bingo disks. Each disk had been inscribed with a number in felt tip pen and represented a student in the classroom. Axtmann would allow a random student to choose from Pandora’s Box, and when the (un)lucky number was read aloud, that student would get to translate – ready, or not – a passage of Latin for the rest of the class.
Pandora's Box

I was reminded time and again by many friends that took Spanish or German that my three years of Latin were a waste of a foreign language. ‘It’s a dead language,’ they would say. Maybe. But I would remind them that Latin is the root of many languages, including English. Thanks to Ed Axtmann and my studies in Latin I have a pretty good handle on the English language. It not only improved my spelling habits, but has been tremendously helpful in deciphering difficult vocabulary. Above all, Ed taught me the importance of having passion for what you’re teaching.

Mr. Axtmann, Magister, you made a difference. Thank you.

Citizens Band


Long before we had to worry about drivers texting, there were a few trading trucker slang via the ‘CB’. Growing up, we had an old Chevy Sheyenne equipped with this trendy technology but the novelty didn’t seem to last very long. Movies and shows like ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ made this way of being able to communicate while driving seem pretty cool to us kids and I remember begging our parents to turn it on. The only problem was we didn’t really have a need for one, so unless you wanted to eavesdrop, had an emergency or someone to actually talk to, it was simply just a prop to play with. Do you copy?

Over and out.

Paper Route

One of my first paying gigs as a kid was delivering the local paper. For maybe a year or two I shared this responsibility with my older sister and younger brother. I still remember the delivery truck dropping our route’s stack of newspapers at our doorstep before sunrise. From there we rapidly tuck-rolled each paper and like cords of firewood filled the front and back pouches of the canvas delivery vest. It was a relatively easy route; four cul de sac streets, a couple apartment complexes and some outlaying developments – still a fair amount of work for kids (and helpful parents) willing to earn a dollar.

I didn’t mind the delivery, it was collecting subscription fees that really stunk. I still remember going door-to-door with that ring-bound book of perforated date tabs printed on index card-sized pages each bearing the subscriber’s name and address. I recall knocking timidly on all those subscriber’s doors awaiting an answer and simply uttering the word ‘collect’ when someone did. Looking back I think they despised the whole process as much as we did. In fact, I would bet that many simply didn’t answer to delay having to pay for the paper. I really didn’t care if they did, because it made the unpleasant task much shorter.

As miserable as delivering fish wrap was, it did require a lot of values that I wish to teach my boys. I don’t know that I’ll ever encourage them to don the canvas delivery vest anytime soon to hoof through the neighborhood during the wee hours of daybreak, but a good dose of responsibility beyond doing household chores would certainly prepare them more for the adult responsibilities of employment… On second thought, do households of delivery boys get a FREE subscription?

Leaving Cali

Our last day in California was relatively light with activity. In the morning we visited Ocean World where we learned about some of the creatures that inhabit the waters of Crescent Beach. Suddenly the idea of picking up a sea star or touching a sea anemone didn’t seem so scary to the boys. In fact, we all had the opportunity to pet leopard sharks. It felt nothing like I expected. Petting the shark from head to tail felt like soft leather, but going the opposite direction their skin felt bristly like a pig’s.

After two and a half days of dreary, overcast weather we finally had an afternoon of beautiful California sunshine. To take advantage of the break in the weather we spent the rest of our last day combing the beach outside our motel. We collected rocks and drift wood of all kinds. The constant abrasive action of the waves makes everything rounded and smooth. Even small pieces of drift wood end up looking like baby carrots.

The boys bravely climbed the rocky outcrops on the beach searching for sea stars that they would, thanks to their experience at Ocean World, pry off the rocks, handle and then release back into the water. The tide finally dropped low enough in the evening for us to travel across to Battery Point Lighthouse where we witnessed a fabulous sunset. Those final hours of day three certainly made for a nice end to our California stay.

Birthday Cake


Today my beautiful wife celebrates her sometieth birthday! At her request (and her health) she asked me not to bake her a cake, so I thought I would render her one that she would remember from her golden birthday! With three girls in her family the ingenious girl cake made frequent appearances. The mechanics are really simple. It involved baking a cake in a bowl-shaped pan and then shoving the torso of a doll into the middle. Boom! Instant princess. Now you had a dress that could be frosted and decked out with whatever confectionery concoctions you desired.

I don’t know if an actual Barbie doll was used or not. If so, it would have to be one in poor condition. Their value would certainly prevent a daughter’s willingness to amputate the legs. My guess is that the Barbie chosen would likely be the one with the gnarly haircut mishap. Having grown up with sisters I’ve seen how little girls cut hair and it ain’t pretty.

Happy Birthday, Suzie!

Garage Sales


One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Such is the premise behind the garage or rummage sale. It’s not a mystery that most sales occur in the spring or fall which happens to coincide with the thorough cleansing of households everywhere. In some cases, you could slip a ‘b’ into the middle of the word ‘garage’ on every sign you make and still never be accused of false advertising. That being said we’ve found some really valuable stuff at these sales. Take, for instance, the bike carrier that would usually retail for around $100 that we picked up for a crispy Lincoln. Or the vintage, teal-colored ice crusher thingy that we never use but just happens to match the decor of our 50s era kitchen. Sometimes it’s the adventure of finding something you weren’t looking for that makes rummaging so much fun.