Days and Nights


He still sees her as she was nearly forty years ago.  While he recognizes the marks that time has chiseled on her face and body and the streaks of gray in her hair, he still can see her at twenty four, in the backyard of the property they still live on, amongst the piles of leaves they’d been raking, her deep green eyes lighting up her face.

She sees him as he is, too thin, gaunt, with the remaining hair left on his head having turned pure white. Every morning, she wakes up with him beside her, and when she looks at him, she sees a clock, counting down the days left until the morning comes that his side of the bed will be empty and cold.

They’d bought the house, a simple 1200 square foot ranch on a two and a half acre parcel on a remote dead end road in what was left of a sleepy small town that was in the final stages of being consumed by the spreading sprawl of suburbia, in November of 1984.  She worked seven miles to the north as a paralegal in a local law firm, while he was working as a computer programmer /analyst at the power plant nine miles to the south. He was 26 years old, she was 24.   They’d been married for a little bit more than three years.

Now, in 2019, they still live in the same house, having added a second floor and doubling the living space in 1998.   They raised three children, two sons and a daughter, all grown and successful and on their own now. His career ended in 2012, when the Parkinson’s Disease he was diagnosed with in 2004 progressed to the point to make working too difficult.

In  2015, he survived the severe blockage of three arteries and triple bypass surgery

After the heart surgery, he lost twenty five, then thirty, then thirty-five pounds, thanks to a new regime of diet, exercise, and a combination of a statins and baby aspirin that cut his overall cholesterol in half, by more than a hundred points.  Weighing the same as he did when he graduated high school was a source of pride until thirty five became forty and forty forty five.  When forty five became fifty pounds without even trying, he became concerned. The diagnosis confirmed their worst fears.

They both struggled dealing with the news.  For the first couple of days and nights, things were uncharacteristically quiet between them. She was consumed by fears of what life would be without him, how she’d cope with the emptiness that would consume the house they’d lived in all these years.

He spent most of the time in his head, replaying memories like Youtube videos. He kept returning to that Saturday in December of 1984 and he came to the conclusion that it ranked right up there with the birth of his children among the best days of his life.

It was a brisk and grey late autumn day, and it was just her and him, the rest of the world didn’t exist, each raking and burning their own piles of leaves, underneath the two giant maple trees in their yard. They’d only owned the place for a month, and though they’d raked leaves many times before, this was the first time they raked their leaves that fell from their trees onto their lawn. And that was all, the world belonged to them, and it was such heady and intoxicating stuff that is was inevitable they’d end up in bed, making love in the early afternoon. He remembered how she looked and felt, the warm smoothness of her skin, the smell of smoke in her hair, the sweet taste of her kisses, and the perfection of how their bodies fit together.

Returning to the deep night of 2019, he rolled over in the darkness and wrapped his arm around her waist, and she clasped his hand in hers.  They both lay there, awake with their eyes closed in the dark, somewhere between their best and last days together.

 

Poets


I’m currently the longest serving member of the Kenosha Writer’s Guild, coming up on ten years since I attended the very first meeting, where the Guild was born.

These days, the Guild remains as vibrant and alive as it’s ever been.  Membership has turned over several times, and with the departure of many seemingly indispensable members, there have been lean times where we wondered if we were going belly up. But it seems like each departure has been followed by fresh and talented new faces with energies that have reinvigorated the Guild. It’s all a part of the evolution of what we were to what we are. I am still honored to be a member of the group and take my role as a member of the Guild’s steering committee seriously, as we branch out into new and exciting landscapes.

Over the years, we’ve lost about as many people as we’ve gained.  Some quickly concluded that we weren’t their exact cup of tea and some relocated, to places as far away as the United Kingdom and New York. Others have had career changes.  Some who’ve left have and will return again and sadly, we’ve been around long enough that some won’t, not because they might not want to, but because they can’t.  So it is with every family – eventually, there will be an empty chair at the dinner table.

The second longest serving member is my good friend, the extraordinarily gifted writer and visual artist, Darleen Coleman. Darleen has been a member since the second meeting, or one fewer meetings than I have attended. I make a point to never let her forget that compared to me, she’s just a newbie.

A hobby of Darleen’s is collecting “junk,” or “junking.” Her passion for junk frequently leads her to estate sales.

So it was when she happened to stop by an estate sale a couple of months ago only to discover that the estate was that of Marguerite Mclelland, a member of the guild up until her death in 2015.  Marguerite was born in 1943 in the Alsace Lorraine area on the border of France and Germany.  In other words, she was born at the intersection of the chronological and geographic epicenters of World War two. She never knew her father, who was killed on the eastern front before she was born.

We in the guild didn’t get to know Marguerite until 2013 or 2014, when she joined our little group. We knew her as an utterly charming and good -natured woman who was also a very talented writer of poetry and prose.  She published a book about her childhood memories, “Stories from the War.” It’s a very well written collection of poetry and prose, of which you can hear some KWG members reading from here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=2141shttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=174s

Darleen was quite surprised that the estate she was checking out was none other than Marguerite’s.  Knowing this, and remembering Marguerite’s passion for poetry, she couldn’t resist paying a couple of bucks for the thin paper-backed collection of poems and prose entitled “Ginsberg Speaks.”  Published in 1983, it contains about 35 pages of work by local writers, with its centerpiece being an interview with Allen Ginsberg by the Kenosha writer, Michael Schumacher.  When Darleen got home with the book, she opened it up and was surprised to see, in the table of contents, several poems attributed to another last name she recognized: “Gourdoux.”

I’d forgotten that my oldest brother, Mike, used to dabble in poetry. I’d forgotten about the pamphlet that published his poems. All I know is I didn’t understand very much about poetry at the time. It turns out there were plenty of other things I didn’t understand, either.

Mike was the oldest of four children. I was third, born a little more than six years after Mike. Growing up, he always seemed light years older than me. He also seemed to be, as far back as I can remember, the smartest person I ever knew. My interests closely followed his, and as his broadened, so did mine. First was professional sports, then music, rock and roll, then movies, and then books.

In 1971, a year after graduating high school, and after finishing a couple of semesters at UW-Parkside, he signed up for a three year stint in the Army, coming home in October of 1974. Those years, between 1970 and 1975, when I was between 12 and 17 years old, were the closest we’d ever be. In those years, he openly shared with me all of his knowledge about the aforementioned topics and more, including philosophy, the subject he’d changed his major to. To this day, I owe my love for those things to Mike.

One thing he didn’t share with me that I had no clue of until years later was his considerable expertise in substance abuse. What started out as a mild curiosity in high school,  in the army, in Germany, exploded into a major obsession, and he experimented with just about everything.

Sometime around 76, things changed. Mike was still living at home, and I was growing up.  Mike was having trouble holding on to a job, and he was going to school, pursuing his philosophy degree.  It was around this time that he essentially moved out of our shared room to a room in the basement, where he consumed case after case of Andeker beer.  We grew apart, into our own and separate corridors of loneliness, neither one of us realizing how much we needed each other, how much we could have and should have been helping each other.  Instead, we put miles between us, Mike taking a couple of Kerouac inspired trips to California and me moving to and working in northwestern Wisconsin.

In December of 79, after being laid off from my job at the window factory up north , I returned home, got a job, and signed up for night school, where I met my everything. In 1981, I married her; in 84, I started what would turn out to be a career in I.T.   Between 1985 and 1994 my wife gave birth to our three children.

Mike, meanwhile, continued to struggle. For a brief time he had a job in California digging out swimming pools. He’d return home and spend months at my parents’ property in Northwestern Wisconsin.  In the early eighties, when he wrote the poems Darleen found, he was living a hermit-like existence in a cold and unending winter.  Meanwhile, with a demanding job, a growing family, and some 330 miles between us, I didn’t have much time for Mike, but when we did get together, the spaces between us would fade and vanish and we’d discuss the Packers, Nietzsche, Jack London, and whatever else we felt like tapping into. He was such a great guy. Anyone who spent time with him knew that, and would leave feeling better than before they arrived.

Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, Mike was diagnosed with depression. I heard the word but I didn’t appreciate the extent of its meaning. Looking back on it now, I wonder how I couldn’t understand the pain he was living with, and I wonder how alone he must have felt while I went back to my family, my wife and kids.

I’m not self-centered enough to think that I caused Mike’s death. There are multiple specifics that I know directly contributed.  But while I may not have caused his suicide in 2010, I did nothing to prevent it, either.

Now, my kids are grown and have left home. I have nothing but time, time to remember, and time to forget. There is so much I could learn if Mike were still alive.

In recent months, thanks to the encouragement of several members of the guild, I’ve become interested in reading and especially writing poetry. When Darleen gave me the book she bought at Marguerite’s estate sale, I realized that Mike and I once again shared a common interest, and that, as usual, he’d developed a deeper understanding of the form than I probably ever will.

It’s so easy for me to see now in his poems what I couldn’t see the first time I read them, back in the mid- eighties. Now when I read them, with the added weight of regret and time, they reverberate with despair and anguish and beauty that is overwhelming in its sadness:

               My night bird is an owl

                and flies with the borealis and the stars

                to look down upon them

                from the static of their antennae skies.

                It sits in dark lamp-lit rooms

                with books on shelves

                and remembers a shadowy figure

                standing by a river in the woods.

 

Back when I was a teenager, I remember Mike telling me that one of his favorite bands was Ten Years After, and one of his favorite albums was their masterpiece, “A Space in Time.” While the album includes a lot of great deep tracks, the best remains the justifiably famous “I’d Love to Change the World.”

Now, in 2019, approaching ten years after Mike’s death, I’d love to change the world and go back to a space in time where Mike still lives.

 

I’ve Seen You


I”ve seen you
in the weathered faces of strangers
emerging from shadows.
Older women
with wrinkled faces
and light blue eyes,
you for only a moment,
then random strangers again

I’ve seen you,
In bright dreams you come back,
sitting upright at our old dining room table,
strong and healthy,
your brain free from malignancy.
I want to touch you, smell your hair,
but the shadows are already lengthening
and soon darkness overtakes you
until I wake up and you are gone,
the night as dark as a womb

I’ve seen you
in the face of the granddaughter
you met at the intersection of death and birth,
where souls collide, you on your way to joining
the green cosmic dust of the night sky
that lights her way through the journey
of her lifetime.

I’ve seen you
draw your last breath a thousand times,
death severing the cord that connected us and
sending me adrift in the inky and unending blackness
of the cosmos
until the next time I see you
and you become Mother and I become Son again,
warm and safe,
tethered to your infinite and unending soul
by a single thread of your grey hair.

 

Dreams Do, Too


As I approach the end, time accelerates,
and more is lost than gained.
One by one the functions fall
until I become immobile, a statue,
ensconced in flesh and blood.
Then you will become the moon and I the tide
and in your pale thin light 
you’ll find me,
waiting for you to exert your magnetic pull
to free the steady waves of my breathing
to obey the rhythm of our shared and beating heart,
the music of our souls, our bare feet gliding 
over the wet sand .
 
And the day is coming when I’ll fall mute,
unable to utter even a whisper,
and when the end is upon me
I will speak your name loud and clear
in a voice not heard in years.
 
And long after I’m gone
I will return to you,
young and strong again,
In the lifetime of the dream 
we’ve lived all these years
 
One after another
the nightmares all come true
But you and I, we know 
that sometimes,
dreams do, too.








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Tweeter and the Govnor Man


There might be an explanation, after all. 

This weekend, we’ve been given evidence that the root of the insanity that Donald Trump suffers from might be contagious.

How else to explain these past couple of days?  First, let’s take a look at the latest example of the insanity that our reality TV star in chief is afflicted with.

In mid-December, a week before Christmas and a day after he said he’d sign a budget bill, our little orange bundle of joy threw a temper tantrum, and instead decided to shut down the government until he got his wall built. It turned into the longest shut-down in history, until he caved in, doing double takes and nervous  glances over his shoulder in fear of that notorious playground bully, Nancy Pelosi.

So a week later, here he was again, threatening another tantrum if he doesn’t get funding for the wall he saw in the “Oligarchs ‘R Us” Christmas Catalog. (I suspect what he actually wants is the old “Fort Apache” play set from when he was a kid – in fact, for only $90  on e-Bay, we could get him a vintage copy of the original thing right here: https://www.ebay.com/i/192677456920?chn=ps   Perhaps this would turn out to be his “Rosebud”). He says he is going to shut the government down again or unleash plans the executive branch has prepared for declaring a state of emergency, never minding that if something can be scheduled, it can’t really be considered an emergency.

But then, last Friday, Trump insisted that all this time, workers have not only started on building the wall but are “almost finished.” When asked about the funding he needs to complete the wall, he said, “oh, we’ve got money.”

????

First of all, he can’t tell us where this wall is being built or by who.  Nobody who lives near the border has been found who’s actually seen these mysterious wall building people. But if any of this is true, why did we just suffer through a government shutdown to get a wall built, and why will we need another one or a state of emergency to finish it?

Never mind the questions about why anyone would contradict himself so quickly and  completely, or whether he believes these wall-building fairies actually exist or not. We’ve all gotten used to it.  It’s just “Trump being Trump”, which translates to English as, “the man is bat-shit crazy.”

But just when we’re getting used to all of this, the Democrat Governor of Virginia gives evidence that he’s been eating out of the same bowl of Fruit Loops as Trump. A photograph of two people, one in black-face and one wearing a KKK costume, and the story that one of them is the gov, surfaces on his page in his Medical School yearbook from 1984 (when he was 25 years old), which made me ask, they have yearbooks for Med School?  Then they showed the picture and offensive as it sounded, seen, it was much worse.

Then came the admission from the gov that yes, one of those two individuals in the photo is in fact him, followed by the usual bullshit apologies about how that doesn’t reflect who he is now, and how much he hopes we can all learn, and bla bla bla.. The usual crap one spews when he is busted. It also becomes clear that he has no intention of resigning, even though the number of people calling on him to do so starts rising as the story gains momentum.

Saturday comes and the pressure is rising, and he announces he is going to make a statement and take questions that afternoon. Okay, we all thought, he’s thought about it and he’s going to do he only thing he really can do, he’s going to resign.

This is where things get interesting.  This is the point where it becomes apparent that the Trump bats have also shit in the gov’s otherwise empty brain.

At the press conference, with his poor wife playing the clichéd role of the stoic and suffering partner, he offers that he has become “convinced” that neither individual in the photograph was him. When asked to explain, he says he’s never worn a KKK costume in his life.  Then, when asked if he’d ever worn blackface, he admits, yes, but only once, and not in the photo.  When asked when that time was, he says it was during a dance contest, also in 1984, and that he wore blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume. At this point, and this was my personal favorite moment of the whole weekend, a reporter asks him if he can still moon walk. A slight smile begins to form in the corners of the gov’s mouth, and I swear I could hear the bass rift to “Billie Jean” in my head as he was going to break into dance, when the stoic and suffering Mrs. Gov interrupts, saying that it would be “inappropriate at this time.” It is a wonderfully surreal moment that any man who’s ever been married can relate to – the time your wife saved you from your own judgment and prevented you from making an even bigger ass of yourself.

That moment also reveals the depths of just how clueless this guy is, as he actually thought the press conference and the denial of what he said less than fifteen hours earlier was true would save his job. He not only thought that wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume wasn’t racist, but that doing a moonwalk during the press conference would somehow absolve him of the reprehensible racism that was so painfully evident in every word he said, in every self-contradiction he pushed forward, and in every nonsense hypothetical he advanced (He explained there were a number of photos that showed up on the wrong page in the yearbook because a staff was sitting around with a whole bunch of photos on a table while preparing the yearbook, and that there were lots of photos of other guys in blackface … never mind)

The gov had to be disappointed in the resulting unanimity of the condemnation against him, and the unanimity of the calls for his resignation, including tweets from none other than the Tweeter in Chief himself.  I agree. The gov, like the tweeter, is too incompetent to lead a boy scout troop, let alone a state or a nation.

How can one lead when he displays such hatred for a segment of the population he is supposed to represent?  How can he effectively lead when he is caught in so many open and bald faced lies? How can anyone NOT call for such a leader to step aside or, if he won’t, to be removed from office?

It’s time to start boycotting Fruit Loops, or at least quit feeding them to bats …

After the Storm


The front porch
a slab of concrete
cold and damp
I thrust my hansds into my  coat pockets
alien and inexplicable sorrow in
the grape jelly marrow in my small bones,
making them ache and shiver.
Bored and restless
with all the time in the world to fill
like an empty glass of milk
that I drank too fast
on a warmer day in the summer.
that hadn’t come yet.


			

Afternoon Dream


I dreamt today about my brother.

In the dream, we were sitting at a kitchen table somewhere. Don was sitting to my left.  I was struggling with my hands, busy trying to put something together, and he was helping me, and struggling, too. I expressed my frustration, and he was very sweet, telling me that I was doing fine, and damned if he didn’t lean in and gently kiss my cheek.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, not a laugh of derision or embarrassment, just as an acknowledgement of how out of character the kiss was, and he understood, and he laughed, too.

I woke up right after that.  It was 4:14 in the afternoon, and I was alone in my bedroom. I thought of the dream and I thought about the kiss and although the gesture was out of character, the sentiment was not, and I remembered all the times when we were kids that he, the big brother, was supportive of me, the little brother, and how much that support meant to me. I grabbed my phone, thinking I should call him.

These days, for reasons neither one of us fully understands, we rarely speak. When it occurred to me today that I should call him, the telephone grew heavy with the weight of those reasons and the cavernous distance that has grown between us.

But I don’t care about any of that. I have no axe to grind, no blame to place. All I’d want to know is if he’s okay. You’d think that picking up a phone wouldn’t be so difficult, that it’d be easier than planting the seeds of regret that grow into black weeds that spread and devour the lush grasses of memory and love with every opportunity missed, every connection abandoned.  Maybe I’m too weak, maybe my fears are too strong. Maybe it’s because regrets have a way of repeating themselves.

Whatever the reason is, I put the phone down and went about the rest of my day. If I were to get up the nerve to call him, I’d tell him that I hope he is well, and I’d wish him a happy birthday. If I had the chance, I’d also thank him for all the dreams, new and old, in which he looked out for me like only a good big brother can.

An Ending


The names were typed in a list, on a sheet of paper hung on a bulletin board in the hallway that lead into the offices. I don’t remember who told us about it, that the news was out. It’d been anticipated for weeks. Rumors about impending layoffs, and how many would be impacted. I just remember standing there, looking for my name. I figured I’d put in more than two years now, and that I’d be just on the edge if they took the ten percent that’d be about forty of the four hundred Conrad had estimated the totality of the union membership consisted of.

After weeks of speculation, the announcement came on a Thursday afternoon. It turned out that Conrad was right, it was a ten percent reduction in the work force. His estimate of four hundred was pretty accurate as the actual number was 412, meaning that there were forty one names on the list. The list was sorted by seniority, defined by start date, which was a column after name, sorted in descending order. I was number 37, with my   start date of 8/5/77 a week after number 41, “Platt, George 7/29/77.” If I’d started a week earlier, I’d still have a job.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon. After I found my name, I read the paragraph above the list. It was written in a bunch of legalize, and included an effective date of 10/31/ 79, the current date, four days before my twenty first birthday. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see my foreman, Mike.

“Sorry, Dave. I was really hoping you wouldn’t get cut. You got any questions?”

“Today’s my last day?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“So I got about an hour left.”

“Yeah,” he said, “they say it works better that way.  No confusion about when the layoff starts. Better to make a clean cut of things – at least that’s the theory.”

I walked back to my department and took my working spot alongside Lew Reed. “Are you okay?” he asked. Word was already out.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said

Conrad and Jack and Jeff spent the better part of the remaining hour trying to buck me up, telling me that I’d be able to sleep in late in the morning, and that once I got signed up for my unemployment checks I’d be okay, and that I’d be free to go hunting every day.  Conrad said they’d probably be calling me back in about three months. I smiled and said that’s all true, and that I’ll be thinking of them when I roll over in bed and go back to sleep tomorrow morning.

I couldn’t tell them what I was really thinking. I couldn’t tell them that I knew with certainty I’d never enter the window factory again. I couldn’t tell them what they meant to me, and that without my job to go to, without them, the days were going to be as long and empty and lonely as the nights. I was trying hard to commit their faces to memory, etch them in my mind, knowing that I’d never see them again.

Lew, forty five years old and baby-faced, rolly-poly with a soft middle, in his olive green work shirt and trousers and that ridiculous fishing cap covering his bald head. Conrad with his snow white hair and goatee. Jack, burly and broad shouldered in his flannel even at sixty, his beard equal parts dark gray and white.  Jeff, my age, with his thick brown hair cut like a salad bowl had been placed on his head.

The last hour went by quick and easy, with nobody doing much work. Roger and Louie came in and joined the festivities, all of us telling stories and ripping on each other like only a bunch of guys who’d spent the week days of the last two years together could. They had enough material on me and my antics to fill more time than we had to kill.

Then 3:30 came and we all walked out together, like we did every day, punching the time clock on our way out the doors of the loading dock to the parking lot.  I remember saying good bye to the guys, and waving to Wayne Cooper, an acquaintance from another department. I looked around and I realized that this, the factory and the guys I worked with, would continue, would still be here, only  with somebody else doing my job, snapping together the aluminum frames.  Who I could only guess.  I just knew it wouldn’t be me anymore.  Whoever it was going to be, I hoped they’d appreciate it as much as, until that moment, I’d taken it for granted, and that they’d listen and maybe even smile when the guys told stories about the goofy twenty year old kid who used to jump up on the tables and caw like a crow.

Dog Days


They say that a dog can be man’s best friend. I’m finding that this is true, especially ever since my English Shepherd, Tucker, and I learned how to telepathically communicate with each other. As an example, let me recap a conversation we had this past Friday night.

It’d been thundering and lightning for a few hours when, at about 2:00 A.M., the storm intensified to the point that Tucker woke me up with crying and whining sounds.  He was sitting next to my bed, staring at me. I looked into his dark eyes and opened up the telepathic channel we frequently communicate on.

“What’s the matter, Tuck?” I asked.

tuck“I was wondering if you’d like to throw the tennis ball around for a while. I’ll chase it and bring it back to you.  I promise.”

“Tucker,” I said, “It’s the middle of the night. I’m not getting up to throw the tennis ball.  Now what’s really bothering you? Is it the thunder and lightning? Are you scared?”

“Yes,” he replied sheepishly, betraying the bravado he normally presents to the outside world, “I am.” He lied down on the floor.  His eyes were big and dark.

“Well,” I said. “You remember the last time we had a lightning storm? When I told you about how heavier, negatively charged particles fall to the bottom of a cloud, and how a giant spark occurs between these negatively charged particles and positively charged particles at the top of the cloud? And that as long as we stay inside the house, we’re safe and sound?”

“Oh, yeah, I remember all that. That’s not what’s bothering me.”

“Okay, so what is it?”

“Climate change.”

“Climate change?”

“Yeah, climate change. I mean, a severe thunderstorm now?”

“Actually,” I said, “a thunderstorm in October isn’t that unusual around here.”

“I understand that,” he replied. “It’s more the amount of rain we’ve gotten that concerns me.  Have you looked at the lake in the backyard?”

“You can’t …”

“I know, I know,” he telepathically interrupted me.  “You can’t look at specific events and determine if they’re caused by climate change, you have to look at trends over time.  But with the hot summer we just had, and the number and frequency of severe storms, well, they’re all consistent with the model.  Look at Debby’s flower garden, how some of her flowers are blooming for a second or third time, apparently confused by the warm weather we’ve been having.  Look at the hordes of mosquitoes we’ve had all summer now into the fall. They’ve never been this thick. I know, I run the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, yelling ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling!’ But shouldn’t we at least be having some conversation about it?”

“I suppose we probably should…”

“But we won’t, because we’re so divided, and because the people in power don’t want to do anything about it. They’re making too much money on fossil fuels and such.”

“Well,  you have a …”

“And another thing that’s been bothering me.”

“What’ that?”

“These Kavanaugh hearings.”

“What about them?”

“Well, you remember that old Logic textbook you gave me?”

“Yeah?” I said. Tucker raised his back right leg and started licking himself. “Don’t do that.”

“Okay,” he said, and he sat up. “Anyways, Aristotle said the first law of logic is the law of contradiction, that for all propositions p, it is impossible for both p and not p to be true.”

“So?”

“So if we make p be the proposition that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Ford, then ‘not p’ would be that he didn’t.  So how can all of these people that thought Dr. Ford was credible and truthful in her testimony, who believe her when she said she was the victim of sexual assault, not believe Kavanaugh was the perpetrator when she testified that she was 100% certain it was him? “

“They say she was assaulted but maybe misremembers by who.”

“But if that were true, if she misremembered who it was, when she says she was 100% certain it was Kavanaugh, then she’d be misremembering the very point of the allegation, of the hearing, which would destroy any credibility she might have. A way to summarize would be: For proposition p where p = ‘Dr. Ford’s testimony is credible,’ you have to believe that Kavanaugh was the perpetrator. Only in the ‘not p’ of ‘Dr. Ford’s’ testimony is not credible’ can you say you don’t believe her. But Republican after Republican came out and said that while they believed Ford, they also believe Kavanaugh. But you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

“But what if, like they said, they really didn’t know who was telling the truth?’

“Then you do what they set out to do, you investigate and try to find supporting factual information that either corroborates or contradicts the accusations. But the FBI ‘investigation’ as ordered by the White House was such a sham that they didn’t even interview the material witnesses let alone any number of other potential witnesses who’d come forward.  Now we’re stuck with a sociopath on the supreme court for the next thirty or forty years. Overturn  Roe v Wade, uphold Citizens United. We’re looking at a long, dark road ahead.”

A long telepathic silence was finally broken when Tucker stretched out and started chewing on what was left of a rawhide bone.  The thunder and lightning had receded, when Tucker telepathically intoned, “Well, I’m getting sleepy.  Thanks for the talk. Good night.”

“Good night,” I replied.  Soon I could hear Tucker, blissfully snoring on the floor next to my bed. I was lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, my brain lost in the orange glow of a wide awake nightmare.

The War of Yorkville Avenue


Throughout the course of history, there have been key events, seminal moments that acted as a catalyst for igniting the flames of war.

For example, there were the shots fired at Bunker’s Hill that started the revolutionary war. The assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand triggered the start of World War One. The Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor escalated World War Two and pulled the U.S. into the conflict.

And we must never, ever forget that it was the potty-training of Sprinkles the kitty cat that opened up the floodgates of the War of Yorkville Avenue.

A little background:

I grew up in the town of Union Grove, Wisconsin in the sixties and seventies. In the house next to us, to the north, lived a family that we will call the Brady’s. They were cut from the same middle class, rural, blue collar cloth that we were cut from. I’m going to give them alternate names. We’ll call the parents Fred and Wilma.  Fred and Wilma Brady. They had three kids, we had four.  Their two older children were girls (who we’ll refer to as Laverne and Shirley) that were about the same age as my brothers, and their third was a boy (Mork), about the same age as me. My younger sister completes the cast of characters.

Fred and Wilma were hard working, simple people. Wilma worked as a nurse, and Fred drove truck, a fuel truck for the Pugh Oil Company that he kept parked in his driveway, while my dad drove semi-trucks out of at first Chicago and later Milwaukee.

When I was six or seven years old, my dad built a big sandbox just outside the back door that I loved. I’d spend a large part of each day playing in it, with my toy trucks and cars.  At some point, I became aware of the fact that one of the apparent properties of sand was that occasionally, it would roll itself up into these little black balls. I thought nothing of these anomalies, using them as freight for my trucks to deliver.

Then came the day my mom looked out the window just as Mork dropped his kitty cat, Sprinkles, into what until that moment we’d thought was simply a sandbox. What we soon discovered was that, unknown to us, for some time it had been doubling as an enormous litter box, and that the little black balls I’d so enthusiastically loaded my Tonka trucks with were in fact cat turds.  Deeper digging revealed levels of contamination so prevalent that it (The sandbox, not Sprinkles) had to be destroyed.

When confronted by my Mom with the evidence, Fred, instead of being contrite, took a “so what” attitude. Thus the bad blood began. It was as if the Brady’s had declared war on the Gourdoux’s.

They had no way of knowing the Hell they were about to unleash.

In the immediate days and weeks following the Sprinkles incident, things remained relatively calm. It wouldn’t be until a couple of months later, after the pea-shooting crisis, that tensions would really escalate.

The Brady girls, Laverne and Shirley, had horses that they boarded in a barn off the end of the street. They’d ride them and bring them home, letting them graze in the back yard. The lead that they tied them to was just long enough to reach past the border between their yard and ours, under the clothesline my mom used to hang our laundry out on to dry. After grazing their horses in the back yard, they’d eventually do what it is that horses frequently do after grazing for a while – right under my Mom’s clothesline.

Hopefully, you’re noticing a trend here … first, cat shit, then horse manure.

My Mom complained about this to my Dad, with no results other than him shooting the horses with my brother’s BB gun – all it did was made them jump, but it didn’t move them away from the clothes line.

Sometime later, on a warm summer Sunday afternoon, Laverne and Shirley, armed with hands full of horse manure, and myself, my weapon being a pea-shooter I had purchased at the Ben Franklin store downtown, were engaged in a minor skirmish.  For those who don’t know, a pea shooter was nothing more than a big straw, and its ammunition was dried and hardened peas. You’d shoot it like a blow dart. I was only about seven years old at the time, but I could get enough speed and distance into my shooting to leave a little red mark on an exposed arm or leg that would fade after a second or two.

Meanwhile, my mom was complaining again, for the “umpteenth” time, (I still don’t know the precise numerical value of the number “umpteen”) about the obstacle course her clothesline had become.  My dad, for whom the number umpteen apparently represented his breaking point, finally snapped. He went out, grabbed a handful of the stuff, and knocked on the Brady’s back door.  Fred came to answer, and my dad proceeded to take his handful of horse shit and smear it all into the mesh of the screen door that divided the two hulking men.

“You’d better be careful,” Fred said. “I’ve already called the cops about the pea-shooter.”

Some perspective:  At the time, Union Grove was a very small town, population less than two thousand.  The town had only one policeman, who, being as it was a Sunday evening, was off-duty at the time.  So Fred’s call was forwarded to the Racine County sheriff’s department in Racine, about a half hour away from Union Grove. At the time, Racine had one of the highest rates of violent crime and murder in the country. So when Fred’s call about a seven year old kid armed with a pea-shooter came in, I’m guessing that it didn’t exactly jump to the top of their priority list.

Several hours later, a police car, its lights flashing brightly in the dark, pulled into our driveway. I remember sitting on the couch in our living room, feeling infinitely smaller than my minuscule seven year old frame already was, waiting in abject terror for the police to pull me out of my home and take me to prison.

Two policemen got out of the car, and we could hear the muffled sounds of laughter as they made their way to the porch. They entered through the front door, revolvers holstered in their belts. My Dad pointed to me and said, “There’s your culprit, officers.”

I was crying as the officers were trying their best not to laugh. They lectured me. “A pea shooter is a dangerous weapon,” one of them said, and after having a good laugh at my expense, they left, making the half hour ride back to their headquarters in Racine. I stopped crying and started thinking the whole episode was pretty cool, since it didn’t include jail time, and that they turned on their flashing lights just because of me.

But one thing would soon become clear – the pea shooting crisis galvanized my family into a series of strong and decisive responses. The war was on. Some of the noteworthy battles included

Borderline protest: First was the picket line. While Fred was as usual in his garage tinkering on some old car, my brother and sister, now about four years old, and I marched up and down the property line between the two houses, carrying protest signs with things like “Bradys go home” and ”Pugh! Something stinks” written on them

It was apparent to us all by this time that Fred didn’t have a very refined sense of humor, if he even had one at all, and didn’t appreciate being protested against while in his own home, especially by a seven year old boy and a cute and pudgy little four year old girl.  The fact that by this time we were calling him “Old Man” didn’t help matters. From our vantage point, we couldn’t see Fred in his garage, but when we heard the occasional metallic crashing sounds from him throwing a tool of some sort, we knew we were getting through to him.

Suds Away:  The Brady’s  had a little swimming pool, about two feet deep.  Mork would put on these big flipper shoes, goggles and a snorkel, submerge his head under water, and kick his feet violently, pretending to be Lloyd Bridges  in  Sea  Hunt.  One day while the Brady’s were gone, my brother Don and I emptied an entire bottle of dishwashing soap into the pool.  The next day, we watched as Mork, decked out in his scuba diving best, “dove” into the pool, face down and snorkel in, and proceeded to kick, like he always did.  What he couldn’t see with his face underwater and aimed at the bottom of the pool was that on the top of the water, a tower of suds that reached as high as the roof of their house was developing.

Attack From the Rear:  Wilma Brady was a rather large woman with a sour disposition. What Fred lacked in the sense of humor department, she made up for in girth. She didn’t seem to handle stress very well, and was often angry.  We could hear her frequently yelling at her children.  My brother Don came up with what would now be considered a horribly politically, incorrect nickname for her – “The Fat Fury.”  I know, that’s wrong on so many levels, but you have to remember, these were extraordinary times – we were, after all, at war.

Wilma took solace, she found peace, by tending to her back yard vegetable garden.  Keep in mind that she was a large woman, and when she weeded her garden, she’d bend over at the hip, without bending her knees, her butt in the air, assuming what looked like an NFL offensive lineman’s stance.

Our Aunt from up north had recently visited and left, but not before presenting her nephews with the gift of a toy Bazooka air-gun slash cannon thing that made an epically loud ka-boom when fired. We were eating dinner when my dad looked out the window and saw Wilma, in her weeding stance, her backside facing us. “Dave,” he said, “take your bazooka and very quietly get as close you can without her seeing you, and shoot it.”

I had no choice bur to do as my dad instructed.  I was able to get about five feet behind her behind without her knowing I was there, and I pulled the trigger.  The ka-boom echoed through the early evening air, and a startled Wilma went airborne, her feet and hand leaving the ground while she maintained her three point stance.  She landed and bolted upright, and looked at me, bazooka in hand. I thought, here it comes, I’m going to feel the brunt of the Fat Fury’s fury, but she just turned her head  and proceeded to walk back to her house, all the while muttering words that I hadn’t learned yet.

Snow Job: Months and years went by and still the war raged on.  There was the time, during Christmas break, when a big snowstorm hit, dropping about five inches and ending in the early evening.  Fred spent about two back breaking hours shoveling his driveway so he could get out and get to work early the next morning. After their house was dark for a couple of hours and it was apparent everyone inside was asleep, my brothers and a couple of their friends went out and silently shoveled all the snow back into Fred’s driveway, only piling it eye high right behind his garage door.

The Simmons Conundrum: One day, we discovered, in the classifieds of the Racine Journal Times, that Fred was selling his Station Wagon. After listing all of the vital info, the ad ended with Fred’s phone number and a “call after 5:00.” My oldest brother Mike’s friend, Bill M., was recruited because his voice was deep enough to sound like an adult and foreign enough that Fred wouldn’t recognize it. We picked a random name and address out of the Racine phone book – an  “Ed Simmons” who lived on the far north side of Racine, somewhere on four or five mile road.  We then had Bill play the part of Ed Simmons and call Fred up. Suffice to say that Bill gave a brilliant performance, feigning enough interest in the car that Fred promised to drive it out to the Simmons residence for a test drive the very next day.  So if the real Ed Simmons happens to be reading this. a fifty some year old mystery of why a stranger named Fred Brady showed up at your door one day to give you a test drive in his station wagon is finally solved.

The Final Conflict:  Things went on like this for a couple of years, very one sided in our advantage, until the epic Halloween Conflict of either 1965 or 66.

The sixties were about the last time that innocent mischief like soaping windows or egging or TP’ing a house was accepted, and even condoned as the “trick” in response to the question, “trick or treat.”  For us, Halloween represented an opportunity for escalation in the war that we’d been looking forward to for a long time.

There was a whole series of events that night that my brothers, (with encouragement from my Dad, no doubt) perpetrated that I ‘m simply too old now to remember.  I do remember my brother Don, taking a pumpkin and raising it to his shoulders and shooting it just like I’d seen him launch a thousand jump shots in our driveway at the hoop my Dad had installed above our garage door, only this time it was a pumpkin, and the target was the Brady’s roof.  It bounced loudly down the peaked surface of the roof and landed and smashed into pieces on the ground, next to the Brady’s house, while their dog, Nikki, barked insanely.

The next thing I remember is both families, everybody but my little sister, standing facing each other in the dark between the two houses. The excrement was clearly going to hit the fan.  We noticed that the Brady’s had a basket full of ripe tomatoes, from their garden, nearby and at their disposal. They were prepared for battle, we weren’t, until my oldest brother, Mike, slipped away in the darkness to his friend Bob Pink’s house, two driveways to the south of ours, and came back with Bob and a basket full of tomatoes of our own.

The battle lines were drawn when Fred started loudly complaining about the blatant lack of respect that us kids showed for their elders when, in mid-sentence, I interrupted him by yelling, “Shut up, Old Man,” proving his point powerfully and succinctly.

Fred was incensed. “You see? That’s just what I was talking about.” Shortly after that, someone fired the first tomato. I don’t remember which side it came from, but it smashed against the other side’s house.  Soon all the tomatoes were released. I don’t recall anybody on either side getting hit, which seems unlikely, given my brothers and I were normally pretty accurate when it came to throwing things – apparently, even we weren’t ready to cross the line that hitting a Brady with a tomato represented – both sides settled instead for the cathartic release of firing as many tomatoes that our baskets would hold at the other’s house.  It was dark there between the houses, and it wasn’t until the morning that we could see the full extent of the carnage afflicted to both houses, big red splotchy stains that would remain uncleaned for months.

Peace  An uneasy peace soon settled between the two families, with the tomato stained sides of the two houses serving as a mute reminder of the childish antics that we’d engaged in for so long.  We finally started acting our age, and came to a tacit understanding of where each side stood. Fred, or Old Man Brady, wanted nothing more than the respect that he felt children should show their elders, and he had a point, although there is also something to be said for having to earn respect.  On our side, we just wanted Fred to acknowledge that he was wrong in letting his horses shit under my Mom’s clothesline, and for letting their cat ruin our wonderful sandbox.

Now, well into the 21st century, when everybody is so sensitive, the war of Yorkville Avenue could have never occurred.  Police, doctors and lawyers, if not guns, would undoubtedly be part of the equation. Whether that’s good or bad, I’ll let you decide, but I will offer this: there’s a place for mischief in the world, so long as no one is hurt. The war of Yorkville Avenue not only brought our family closer together, it also provided us with a lifetime of stories. And in the long run, that’s worth fighting for, if you ask me.