Loss.

2016
07.04

My dear friend Rick died on April 8, after a short and difficult fight with cancer.

Rick and his beloved daughter Gab, at the firehall where she works.

Rick and his beloved daughter Gab, at the fire hall where she works.

It has been hard to write about, because although we were in touch by Email every single day, he lived in Maine, so I didn’t get to see him a lot. And since we wrote each other every day for years and years, I wasn’t too alarmed when he started complaining about neck and shoulder pain. Though he was not a complainer, we both occasionally griped about the aches and pains of getting older. He was getting medical therapy for the pain, and we both figured it was one of those things that would work itself out.

Sadly, it didn’t work itself out. Suddenly diagnosed at Stage 4, with brain tumors, a lung mass and cancerous lesions on his spine, Rick was taken away from us quickly and way too early. The shock of it was numbing.

Rick at the Heinz Museum

Rick at the Heinz Museum.

We had known each other for so many years that how we met is sort of lost in a brain fog, but I think it happened when he responded to a letter to the editor that I’d written to a magazine. (Way before Email, when people still wrote actual letters and then licked a stamp to send ‘em.) We began an interesting and fruitful correspondence that lasted nearly 40 years. “The stuff of Oscar Wilde,” Rick said in our last phone call.

Aside from being silly and introspective, smart and mostly non-judgmental, Rick was a source of inspiration and information. I could talk to him about buying a home, interest rates, the wisdom of buying a used car that hadn’t been checked out by a mechanic, how to fix a leaky toilet, and when and where to plant flowers and trees. We shared recipes, a love of the 1940s Vic & Sade radio shows, a fondness for Coen Brothers movies, and most of the time we could easily make each other laugh. If we had any disagreements, I don’t remember them, and I’m guessing they were minor.

After many phone calls and letters and Emails, I first met Rick in Boston in 2002 when my friend Kim ran the Boston Marathon. I’d gone with her for moral support, at which I turned out to be useless, because Rick came to our hotel and whisked me away for the day. We walked around Boston for a while, visiting Little Italy and having lunch at the Union Oyster House, and then took a train to Portland where we had a real lobster dinner. (The whole lobster. I wasn’t sure what to do with it!) We picked up his car and made the 3 hour trip back to Boston, where Rick insisted on driving me to my hotel during marathon traffic, when I could easily have walked. It was a wonderful day and I hated for it to end.

The next time I saw him, Rick came to Duluth for a visit. He brought along 4 live lobsters on the plane, and we took them to a friend’s house where Jean was able to wrestle them into a pot of boiling water while I left the room. Rick charmed my old cat Sam, who would go out on the deck with him every morning while Rick smoked his pipe. I took him to see the sights in Duluth, thrilled to have him see all the places and people I’d written about. We took a road trip to Hayward, Wisconsin, where Rick found the cabin where his family had stayed many summers during his boyhood.

On the day I had to have Sam put to sleep, Rick called me to see how I was doing, and spent about 20 minutes listening to me weep on the phone. He was that kind of friend: Patient, kind, and understanding. If you needed a good cry, Rick didn’t try to talk you out of it.

When I bought my home years ago, Rick sent me a box of twigs from his garden, which turned out to include a beautiful lilac bush that is now as tall as my garage, and pink and red peonies, which still bloom every year, perfuming the yard.

The only sad thing about Rick was that he died way too soon. I kept many of his letters and photos and Email messages, though I wish I’d kept them all, though I foolishly thought our friendship would go on forever. But of course, nothing does, no matter how easily we fool ourselves.

Rick and Gabby, 2013.

Rick and Gabby, 2013.

I miss Rick’s daily Email message, which always was the start of my day. (He was a morning writer; I wrote at night.) I miss the phone calls. I miss his humor and good advice. I miss the warmth of knowing I could call him with any problem or idea, and he would make time to listen. He was a faithful reader of my blog, even when I wasn’t very faithful to my blog. He left comments; he’d Email suggestions. He was always there.

And now he’s not.

It’s a tough pill to swallow.

I like to imagine Rick is “up there,” wherever that is, with his cats Buster and Chessie, and even smoking a pipe with Sam by his side. It is a comforting thought, and takes some sting out of the loss. His spirit is with us always; with the lilacs, the radio tapes, the peonies, and the million random thoughts of him that occur during the day.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. The world is a bit darker without you in it.

Again With The Gorilla.

2016
05.29

In the name of all that is holy, can someone explain to me how a 3 year old child somehow got into a gorilla space at a zoo and had to be rescued by way of not tranquilizing the gorilla, but KILLING him?

Didn’t we learn this lesson a few years ago when another child had to be rescued from a gorilla area? And honestly, do we need to be taught that a child and a gorilla may not be a good mix? I don’t even have kids, and I think I could figure that out.

So the gorilla does what gorillas do, and for that he is killed.

How stupid are these parents? Were they even there? If you bring your kids to the zoo and see that there are wild animals within reach (and why are they so accessible, is another good question) might you not put down your cell phone and keep an eye on your child?

Yes, maybe it’s time we got rid of zoos and let the endangered species live their lives for as long as they’re able. A better idea would be to know where your child is at all times, or at least long enough to make sure that he doesn’t have time to climb into the gorilla area. Or keep your kids at home if you think you aren’t capable of keeping them out of harm’s way. Get a good babysitter and take some parenting classes, fer chrissakes.

On the news tonight, the “parents” (and I use the term loosely in this case) were happy to report that the child is home and doing very well.

The same could not be said for the gorilla.

Fried Modem.

2016
05.22

Duluth woman survives 10 days without internet access.

Seriously.

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A Tiny Mystery Guest.

2016
03.28

Speaking of waving, this morning I found this tiny perfect paw print on my front steps. Not two prints, or dozens, but just this one, in the melting snow. A squirrel? A raccoon? The Easter Bunny? I couldn’t match it up with any print I found online.

I should have put something next to the print so you could see the size of it, but the entire thing was about the size of a quarter.

An alien?

I’m guessing it was probably a very very tiny person coming to visit; one who could not quite make it up the stairs.

What do you think?

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Not Waving But Drowning.

2016
03.24

use

(At least momentarily drowning.)

I haven’t forgotten you, Dear Blog and Readers, but so many things are going on and sometimes it’s hard for me to put them in words, much as I hope to do so.

A dear long-time friend is dying. I’m working more than I’d planned, which takes up time. I’m considering moving to an apartment. My beloved house (which is the biggest concern of whether to move or not; the “beloved” part) is getting to be a lot of work. I’m downsizing at home, getting rid of stuff I’ve had for years but don’t really need.

You know: the stuff of life. It takes up time and energy.

But I will be back. Soon.

Honest.

Useful Phrases for the Everyday Loser.

2016
02.29

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As someone who watches a lot of daytime court programs, I’m continually amazed at the number of people who don’t mind admitting they borrowed $500 but don’t want to pay it back (“He continues to harass me, so I don’t feel I owe him anything.”) or who will hire a contractor and decide to not pay him (“I didn’t realize what I was signing.”) or who will rent a car for one week and keep it for 3 months. (“I needed it to get to work.”)

Not only are these witless fops proud to go on television to demonstrate their lack of common morality, but they have developed several lines which they invariably use at the end of each trial. I’m gonna tell you what they are, so you can down a shot every time you hear them. Which will be often, so if your own constitution is questionable, avoid alcoholism and just use coffee, like I do.

Here are the daily Loser Statements that are brief but pack a thoughtful punch:

“I’m just glad it’s over.”

“He’s just jealous because I have a new boyfriend.”

“It is what it is.” (Most common Loser Phrase, used when all else fails.)

Daytime TV. You gotta love it.

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Fall In Love With A Book.

2016
02.07

valentine_book_imageIt’s Valentine week! Time to fall in love, even if the object of your affection is a book.

This week at the Little Free Library, I’ve dug up all the red-themed covers I could find, and filled the top shelf. Come and get one.

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Some great stuff on the other shelves, too, including a Richard Brautigan compilation (you gotta love him, you aging hippies) and some cookbooks, a new Nelson DeMille and a “Found” magazine, filled with fascinating stuff.

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Lots of stuff for little kids, too, so bring ’em along.

It’s still winter. Lots of time left to curl up with a good book.

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Bridgeman’s Peppermint Krisp Ice Cream

2015
12.03

Is there anything better this time of year?

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Answer: No, there is not.

Better hurry, though. It’s only selling until the holiday season is over.

PS: Bring $7.99. (SO worth it.)

Something Gooey This Way Comes

2015
10.19

images-2If there’s one thing I love (and actually there are bunches of things) it’s finding old recipe collections at thrift shops or auctions. I especially love the ones with smudges on them, which usually means they were used a lot because they were so good. I am also a huge fan of the hand-written ones, and get weak-kneed over ones with little notations, like “use less sugar,” or “Harvey won’t eat these.”

My sister Kim recently gave me a box of very old recipes; some from the 1930s. Many are unreadable at this point, and some newspaper ones are so yellowed and fragile that they fall apart in your hands.

But I found this really good one that I just had to try. If you’re looking for something chocolatey and gooey and great with cold milk, try this. Simple to make but oh, so good!

Not sure how old this recipe is (it was cut from a newspaper) but on the back is a small box reading “Dolby Stereo at Marcus Theater.” So maybe the 70s?

Yummy Bars
1 package (18 oz) chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine (Oy! The cost of butter these days.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Combine the cake mix, milk, butter and nuts in a large bowl. Mix well. (I used a wooden spoon.) Press half of the mixture into a greased 9 x 13″ cake pan. Bake this at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over the partially baked crust, and pour the condensed milk over all. Sprinkle the remaining cake mixture over the top. Bake 15 – 18 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

That’s all there is to it.

Enjoy!

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A Superior Drive

2015
10.07

As you head out of Superior on Hwy 2E, take a left at Moccasin Mike Road and drive to Wisconsin Point. It’s a beautiful drive on a newly-paved road, and leads to the end of the point, where you can walk the pier, read the history of the area, or pull in to one of the parking areas and walk down to the beach.

The Indian burial grounds are located on this road, too, and worth seeing.

Stone-markerThough the actual graves have been removed, visitors to the remaining rock monuments (parts of our old Arrowhead Bridge) have left walking sticks and assorted items of memorabilia that cause the imagination to work overtime.

Reminders of a past friendship? Tokens to say “I was here, and I was thinking of you?” Only the persons who left them know for sure.

Whether you go for the drive (particularly beautiful this time of year) or the pier, or counting gulls, or curiosity about the Indian grounds, the trip is definitely worth the drive.

Believe it.