Sunday, July 27, 2014

How my dad loved hats and stinking badges

Thursday morning I opened an email my sister had sent Wednesday night. It included a picture.
I just realized that Dad died 9 years ago today. I miss him! P

My other sister had received the email and responded:
Oh wow. I had forgotten. So glad you remembered and sent this. And I just watched Treasure of the Sierra Madre on TCM with one of Dad's favorite lines: "Badges? We don't have no stinking badges!"
I responded:
I forgot, too. What a picture. He really dressed like that and drank wine from a skin? I thought that "badges" line was from "Blazing Saddles" ...
I actually didn't realize it was from Treasure either but there it was. It really goes more like: Badges? We don't have no badges. We don't need to show no stinkin' badges!
So I did what my dad might have done and googled “stinking badges” and sent my sisters this link to “Stinking badges” on Wikipedia. Then I sent this video clip.

What a hat that guy is wearing. And you might notice the hat my dad is wearing in that picture from, I guess, the 1970s. That hat might still be in the family. I had it for a while, then one year it went from the U.P. to California so my mom could wear it. It was the Halloween that Jennifer helped her to dress up as Charlie Chaplin. Or, maybe I should say the Halloween that Jennifer dressed her up as Charlie Chaplin. I wasn’t there, so I’m not really sure how it all went down. Though I did get a few reports. That my mom still didn’t take first prize in the costume contest at her Village for Old Fogies & Cronies befuddled us all. The year before, looking amazingly like Michael Jackson, she had also lost out on the coveted prize. That she didn’t win with this Chaplin outfit had us all believing for sure the contest was rigged.

Yes, this is my mom.

The bowler was part of a collection of hats my dad had. Indeed, my father was a hat aficionado, and it may be no small coincidence that his mother, who died when he was 15, was a milliner. Of course he had many Cubs caps for wearing to the ball park and other sporty places, but he also had hats to wear to work.

And hats for serious fun.

And practical hats for shading the sun.

Yes, I still have a few of my dad’s hats. I never wear them, except maybe once in a while I do wear one of the Cubs caps. My dad also liked madras, patchwork (he had a pair of patchwork corduroy pants that were yellow, green, blue, red, brown ... where did he get these things?), and with shorts he often wore knee socks. There is a story my mother tells about how Dick wore shorts to work one day and was sent home to change. This was in Aledo, that small town in Illinois that held two corn fields apart, either in the late 1940s or early ’50s, when my dad was done with the war and finished with law school and working as a lawyer in his dad’s law office. So it was his dad who sent him home to change. I don’t remember knee socks being part of the story, but I imagine they were part of the outfit.

Meanwhile, the Queen Anne’s lace is blooming and the black-eyed Susan. The red clover is crumbling to burnt-orange. The goatsbeard is blooming again and the St. John’s Wort is beautiful and the daisies won’t quit. There is milkweed and buttercup and yarrow and trefoil. Something called sow thistle. Hawksbeard. And there is cinquefoil and fleabane and the dogwood has clusters of white berries. Prickly vines sport tiny, wild red raspberries and the early goldenrod is blooming. An outside researcher has reported that the goofy blooming stalks covering my lawn and described very well as Dr. Seuss-like are English plantain. The field grass is tall, nearly up to my shoulder. Slender, nodding seed heads have a slight purplish tint, like an eyeliner of lavender. It is all green and yellow and white and purple and brown and lavender and dusky and fresh. In the morning Josie hops down the trail and into the field and disappears except I can see a few flower heads and grasses swaying back and forth. I call him, he appears, he hesitates, he dashes down the trail and veers off into the field once again, repeat. Elliott waits on the porch, where Josie finally returns, soaked with dew. Afternoon walks are more adventurous as Josie falls off a log into a deep pool in the river and has to be pulled out; scares up a hornets nest or something and comes streaking out of the field yelping; falls into a deep and weedy, overgrown culvert and has to be rescued.

I wonder if that stinkin’ badges video clip makes anyone else laugh. After watching it a dozen or more times, I am still laughing. And it is the second anniversary of Pea Pickle Farm. Maybe I should pick out a hat, and celebrate.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

On a track, pie-eyed and leanin’

It was one of the quieter rides into Marquette that I have ever had, and I realized this somewhere between Carla’s Cozy Inn and that restaurant in Michigamme that’s famous because a scene from “Anatomy of a Murder” was shot there.

I can’t remember the name of the place.* But I know it. I always drive by it. Duke Ellington played piano there, for the movie, and Lee Remick was dancing, perhaps drinking a bit too much. Jimmy Stewart was playing with the Duke, playing piano, and he probably tried to get Lee Remick to sit down or settle down or something. Anyway, it was somewhere around there that I realized there had been no radio, no Springsteen, no nothing, just quiet inside the van ever since home.

Josie was asleep.

We passed more than one dead skunk.

We passed and dispersed many murders of crows picking over roadkill.

Well, that’s interesting. A group of crows is called a “murder.” A gaggle of geese, a passel of hummingbirds, a murder of crows.

Certainly there’s a mystery novel in there somewhere.

One car passed me. A bit later, I passed a car.

That is it. A quiet drive into the Marquette Farmers Market with Josie asleep by my side.

train going one way

I had a train of thought going. What a cliché, I thought, as I thought how I had a train of thought going. But it’s apt and it works. There is a track. There is a wheel. There is a groove in the wheel and it fits on the track and it catches hold and it goes and it goes and it goes. It goes along smoothly, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Just a soft clickety-clack, clickety-clack. If nothing gets in its way—no pebble, no robbery—what is to stop it? Each murder of crows scuttles and hops to the side of the road and the train stays on its track. If the murder did not move and one hit the murder the description of being derailed would be apt. If the murder did not move quick enough and one felt compelled to slam on the brakes the screech of steel on steel might well be, metaphorically, heard.

But the crows move every time. Just in time.

A bit of an overcast, then the sun shines through like a hole punched in the sky. A bright yellow hole with jagged edges. But the sky cannot be punched through because it goes on and on and it is endless. It starts here and it goes there and there is nothing here and nothing there. What is there for the sun to punch through? Oh yeah. The clouds.

It was a quiet ride with a train of thought, a train that has not yet reached its destination.

train going another way

Perhaps it was in Ishpeming that I turned on the radio. Just to see. The first song I heard was “Lean on Me.” I thought of an all-staff meeting (or whatever it was called) many years ago in Chicago for Hull House Association and I was there and at some point we were all standing in groups around tables where we had had lunch and we were singing this song “Lean on Me.” It seemed kind of hokey—how did it get started?—but then, it’s such a good song, and don’t we all know the words? And I really did like my co-workers, the ones I was standing with grouped around this table of picked-over food, so singing “Lean on Me” with Peter and Curt and Rachel and Ed, who I suppose were all there along with whoever else, well, that was very much fun. It was, maybe, like, 20 years ago?

The next song to come on the radio was a silly one. A Hall & Oates song. Every time I sang the “hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo” part Josie kissed me. He had awakened at the first stoplight.

* Oh yes. The restaurant is Mt. Shasta.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Just another buggy, bloomin’, rainy, sunny, moony, mowed down & oprahfied, pea-picklin’ week

Sunshine and a stiff breeze, outside going at the unmowed lawn with the scythe, a steady swing back and forth, clover heads and daisies and trefoil flying. And what is this weird thing with the two-foot-tall skinny stem topped with a skinny head of spare white spikes?


Every time Josie went out in the yard he got lost in the yard and came in with a coatful of ticks, and I think it was the tick that blew up like a helium balloon on his chin that made me bless this sunny breezy day that allowed me to go out with the scythe and that old reel mower and have at it with the lawn without getting soaked by rain or leftover rain and without getting bugged to death either. There is nothing better for temporary mosquito abatement than a good wind. And cutting the grass keeps the ticks down. Or so I think. The irony is I am paying someone else to mow my lawn this year. They must be busy elsewhere.

Rain! Rain! And more rain! Then … a little mist. A good day for a fire. Temperature steady at fifty degrees. A good day for candlemaking. A good day for writing a letter. A good day for finishing that Hemingway book. Though that’s a little depressing. He loses it—“it” being, I think, himself. To depression, delusions, obsessions—of course, how would I know, really. Just what’s in the book. One morning he shoots himself; he is dead at 61. Everyone knows this, I suppose. His father also committed suicide.

Rain has stopped but clouds remain. Josie and I go in the old van to the post office. I have two packages from booksellers. I almost forget to mail the letter, a postcard, and the payment for airport parking. We leave the van at Jerry’s (he fixed the van’s rusty, falling-off muffler the day before I left for California, but it still needed a part, a hanger or something, to which I said well, maybe I don’t need that part, because I’m driving around OK, which made Jerry laugh and say no, you need that part). Josie and I walk home, and it is pleasant to walk with him. He’s not the kind of dog to stop and sniff and pee on everything. He hardly stops at all, just forges ahead.


We pass by fields tall with hay. Many fields have already been mowed, the hay bundled, but not these fields on this road between my cabin and the post office. It is a mile-long stretch with plenty of time for thinking and resting the eyes. There is a gentle breeze. The fields sway.

At home I fix tea and open my packages. Three books. “A Farewell to Arms”—perfect timing. “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.” (So much I haven’t read.) And “The War of Art.” The last because my sister has cable, so that Sunday morning I was there I ended up watching Oprah’s network and she was talking to this guy Steven Pressfield who wrote this book. There was something he said about fear, hesitation, not moving forward, creativity—maybe just the same old stuff we’re always trying to figure out that Oprah taps into so well—that made me look him up on the internet and then buy this book. I guess I will now have to read it to remember what he said that I found so compelling.

Some days dawn clear and bright, like a proverb. It is a new day. Josie and I will walk to Jerry’s to pick up the van; I will finish this week’s candlemaking; I will wash the jeans that got mud-caked earlier in the week when Josie and I slid down the riverbank to the river; I will write. I will not mow the lawn—my lawn guy came last night and took the encroaching fields down to nubs. Now we live in the middle of a well-groomed park, the wilds at bay. The robins like it. Josie likes it. Josie seems to like most anything.

I read the “The War of Art.” I now know what I probably have always known. It does not matter what you think about doing, what you talk about doing, what you say you will do, what you imagine you could do, what you intend to do, what others say you should or could or couldn’t or shouldn’t do, what you would do if only if. What matters is what you do. And you can put that up against this Hemingway quote: Never confuse movement with action.

It can worry me when I find myself aligned with Oprah. I mean, I liked “The War of Art.” And yesterday I discovered that there is a recent documentary about the Hemingway family, its troubles, its suicides, and Oprah Winfrey was the executive producer.

Oh, to be along the river again. Still very buggy, but the water is cool and clear. And the riverbank this time not so muddy, but covered in daisies. Josie hurries past the flowers, anxious to get to the water’s edge. We creep through bramble to get to Fisherman’s Island. I throw a stick in the water to see if he will go after it, but he stays on shore, following it from there, letting it go.

josie riverside

I seem to know that I will be leaving here in October, at least for the winter, maybe longer. I will go to California, and I don’t know how it will be, being in California, looking for a place to live, a place for Elliott and Josie and me, staying temporarily here or there, trying to work, all of that, so I am a bit afraid. A bit wary of the whole thing. A bit anxious. Change, for the sake of change, is no longer something I am interested in, and change in anticipation of something … well, now, that is something I no longer trust. So, how to approach it—that is the difficulty. A part of me is ecstatic at the idea of joining my family along the Pacific Coast and of being closer to my friend Louis, who is inland in the heart of the Mojave, but another part of me hesitates, measures the risks, hangs back, knows indeed, there are risks.

Rainy day. Josie learns to high five.

Sometimes that song from “Annie Get Your Gun” pops into my head.

“I got the sun in the morning …

sunrise over keweenaw bay

… and the moon at night.”

moon over pea pickle farm

There’s nothing quite like arriving at the farmers market, sun just up, Springsteen blasting. Unless  it’s right here, right now.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

a gull and a crow feasting on road kill

Back on the road to the farmers market leaving a half hour early to accommodate my companion, Josie. Overcast and puddly, the world grey and green: lush and thick and unkempt green, plump with dampness, all around.

The mosquitoes are thick inside and out and there are one or two or three in the van and that is dangerous. Josie sees one and moves away, toward me; I see one and try to swat. The mosquito dips and darts through shadow and light. The top of my right foot starts itching, we know where that mosquito’s been. At this time of year the sting does lessen but the itch remains. Trying to sleep that night, Josie and I had suffered many buzzing attacks. In the end, we both dove under the covers and cowered, sleeping little, trembling a lot.

dog hanging head out car window
All dogs love an open window, and perhaps the draft
will suck out a skeeter or two.

The big two-parted market
From 9 to 11 a.m., strong, gusty, southern winds. A sparse crowd. A chill in the air. Shaping up, financially, to be one of the poorest of market days.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a crowd. The wind settling down. The chill evaporating. And, in the end, financially, one of the best of market days.

It all changed when a friend showed up, the wife of a fellow vendor, the birch bark guy, who is selling at the market just occasionally this year. His wife sews, making bags and things, and she is dreaming about something called a quilting machine. We peeked in at Josie, in the van in his crate. The booth got busy, and Teresa helped by selling beeswax butterflies to a fellow sewer. Or something like that. The turtles sold out. The butterflies and flowers sold out. The bunny candles began to get noticed. I made a spur-of-the-moment discount, maybe two. It was that kind of day.

beeswax bunny candle
As the bunny burns.

Josie goes to market
Josie and I reunited Friday morning and leaving him home alone on Saturday while I went to work at the farmers market quickly became unthinkable. So we left early, had a good drive in, took a walk first thing upon arrival. After unloading the van, I said the magic words (“Josie, hut”) two or three times, and he got in his crate, head hanging, but body complying. I left the back hatch of the van open so he could watch while I set up, then we had another little walk. Back in the crate, hatch closed, windows open, he was fine. Quiet. We took another walk before heading home.

Dogs are not allowed at the farmers market. But it’s always good to know the specifics of these things. The no-dog rule, as listed in market vendor policies, is:
Customers/vendors may not bring/keep pets in the market plaza. Pets left in a vehicle are subject to enforcement by the Marquette City Police Department.
Two years ago, when leaving Buster home alone while I went to market was unthinkable, I called the police department to find out what laws or ordinances applied to dogs left in vehicles. I was told there were none specifically, but that what they do is respond to complaints about dogs left alone in vehicles parked in the hot summer sun because dogs left alone in vehicles in the hot summer sun can die. It doesn’t even have to be that hot outside—the temperature inside a sun-baking car can skyrocket in minutes. (Studies have been done.) So police respond to make sure the dog is OK. Leaving windows open a crack can help, but that isn’t necessarily enough. Which is why Josie’s in his crate with a bowl of ice cubes, windows wide open, and, as we go along, side doors can be open, too.

Even though dogs are not allowed at the market, they are accommodated. There is a “doggie hitch” at the grassy west end of the plaza and a tent set up where people with dogs can sit. And dogs can be walked on the grass surrounding the plaza. All in all, it seems to work out.

A day at the market can be so tiring.

A Sunday morning in July
At the market someone said to me: The bad part of the summer is almost over. Then we’ll have the good part.

We fell asleep listening to rain. Waking up in the middle of the night to let Elliott in or out, I don’t remember which, I watched as the fields lit up with fireflies. When we awoke this morning to a buzzing mosquito, I brushed it away and Josie licked my face. Elliott, at the foot of the bed, stretched, looked over, plotting and scheming, I’m sure, just how to get rid of this dog …