the quiet one...
someone says good-bye, and you feel that it may be forever.
she's on a mission, on a trek with her treasure, to a strange place far away.
the wizards there will perform modern magic, to remove the curse on her sacred charge, but the spells are not guaranteed.
we could supplicate the gods - with burnt offerings and myhrr.
we could hold prayer vigils, light incense and votive candles.
we could conjure with witches, or consult with sorcerers.
we will wish you and yours the best.
may god be merciful.
please save the child.
Batty's Last Tape
I deal with various archives from time to time. Maybe a photograph, an old clipping or, more likely, a sound recording. Most of what I do now ends up on a CD, but I still have a couple of tape recorders left for those "special" projects. It's nice to have a fresh, unused reel of recording tape - no worries about splices or damaged sections. I use about one a year, maybe less. I picked up a nice, boxed reel at the thrift store yesterday - 60 cents. It was in perfect condition, maybe it had gone through a recorder once. As I went up to the counter I wondered - is this the last tape I'll ever buy? At the counter, the clerk rang up 48 cents. She had given me the Tuesday Senior's Discount. Without even asking.
The first day of gym class in middle school (or junior high) is always a delight. After hearing the school secretary announce over the PA in home room that "boys must purchase an athletic supporter" while the girls giggled, we "junior males" were sufficiently humiliated. At the actual class, some bruiser of a gym coach and his pair of Aryan assistants put us through the paces of a workout routine that proved that we were indeed, wimps.
Background story...Our school was brand-new when we started. In fact, it was so new, it wasn't complete. We spent the whole year waiting for stuff that was "on order". At any rate, one of the things that was not completed was the installation of the soap holders, which had been inserted into the tile block walls of the shower - but not secured...end of background.
We finished our class and were in the locker room, changing clothes and getting our nerve up for the FIRST SHOWER. Imagine a bunch of twelve year olds, nutty as squirrels, with thoughts of wet towel fights, embarrassment and other imagined horrors. As the bravest of us went into that great unknown, timidly walking our naked little bodies (just a hint of fuzz on some of the older boys) into the shower room - suddenly we jumped at the sound of a large CLANG! Then came another CLANG and another - the girls shower was on the other side of the wall from the boys, and the girls had removed their soap holders, and were pushing out ours!
Now I'm not saying that anybody saw anything - but there was a lot of screaming coming out of those showers. The gym teacher came out of his office and yelled, "NO SHOWERS TODAY - GO BACK AND PUT YOUR STREET CLOTHES ON!"
We did as we were told, they fixed the showers the next day and Sex Ed wasn't until the ninth grade. anyway
"… you must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…"
It happened again.
At a party Saturday night. A most agreeable affair, with intelligent, attractive people of various backgrounds. As it was winding down I paid my respects to the hosting couple. And then came the hug and the kiss from the feminine half of this duo. I didn't panic this time, but just wondered what was I to do? No, I didn't kiss her back. I returned her hug, and gave her a wan smile. This woman, who I know but a little, is listed in Webster's dictionary (with a picture) under the entry for "sweetheart". Was it that if I did kiss her back my primal urges would be unchained, and we would be lost in a morass of unbridled passion? I think not. I just am not comfortable kissing someone whose name is not on my marriage certificate (yes, I know there is a witnesses' name on it - and I am OK with kissing her!) Unless it is for shock value - and that's gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years!
It was probably for the best. I just couldn't make it in the jet set. No ciaó, baby - kiss - kiss. How about a handshake? Or a formal bow? Maybe I could blow a kiss?
As I was working on some of the older archives (from my show biz days) I came across an old tape that I hadn't heard for over 25 years. It was recorded on a different format; I had to make a conversion before I could hear it at the proper speed. There he was, his voice anyway, right in front of me like it was happening now for the first time. His impeccable sense of timing; his heartfelt emotion always at 100%.
The night he left the band he came over to my house and sobbed in my arms, wordlessly. Since he had been a kid he was always performing. But our scene was, like all struggling musicians', on the brink of chaos and self-destruction. He had to make a hard choice. He and his family moved out west and made a new life for themselves. It was a hard life, but I think he made the right choice.
Sometimes the glory is in the mundane.
When I was in my early twenties, Uncle Sam thought it would be a good idea if I joined in the quest to make the world safe for democracy. I didn't think so. My draft number was 88, so I needed a plan. At my height (6'0") if I weighed less than 123 lbs. I could get a deferment. So I dieted. Every day, for three weeks, I ate the following:
1 can of water-pack tuna.
2 slices lo-carb bread
1 can of green beans
8 oz of unsweetened yoghurt
1 small apple, or carrot
I ran five miles a day.
I went to school and worked a part-time job.
I ate about 500 calories a day.
I lost 20 pounds, getting down to 118.
When I was thin, I discovered that I had some new states of mind. A sense of serenity, a sense of self-control.
I can understand how "Anas" (Anorexics) can really get into being thin. If you have little control in your life, to be able to have some sense of power is extremely gratifying. What I started to lack was a sense of perspective. It was all me, all the time, all in my little head. When the other voices started in my head, I knew it was time to stop. I didn't have a continuing problem with my weight, I had a short-term problem and I successfully dealt with it. I did it twice, then the draft was over. I managed to keep my health, stick to my diet, and gain some insight. Why is it that it is impossible for most anas to do this? There is some self-loathing element present that I don't understand. There is some idea which has taken root, and cannot be removed.
In high school drama class we had a very special student. Chris was different, way WAY different from the rest of us struggling thespians. When we had to do a solo "performance piece", Chris stood in front of the class, motionless for 5 minutes, then took out the contents of his pockets, threw them around the room, and shouted "I'm Free! I'm Free!"
One day, Chris came to class late. Not a big deal, except that drama class was THIRD period. His excuse? He had been "lost in the fog." When Chris graduated, he kicked around for a couple of years, until he was drafted. In the army, in Nam, Chris found himself. He quickly rose to rank of lieutenant, and was leading regular patrols into the jungle after "Charlie." His enthusiasm knew no limits. This recklessness was not popular with his men. I heard the news about Chris on the radio, in between the top-40 hits of the day and the inane radio promotions. Many more people from our school died in drunken car crashes than died in the war. But one did die in the war.
None of it made any sense at all.
It's A Bad Sign When...
... the health plan rep starts his presentation by taking out a tube of K-Y...
... the health plan rep starts his presentation without the tube of K-Y...
... a co-worker states: "I was thinking of you when I went to the bathroom"...
... the sanctity of marriage act is labeled "Britney's Law"...
... that pedestal your lover bought for you looks more like a whipping post...
... your pencils all have termites...
... the President says that he will "stay the course"...
... the challenger says that the army will "remain in Iraq"...
The answering machine had his voice, from somewhere above the Arctic Circle.
I missed him, working late again.
At work the quiet one said her goodbyes, going home to be with her little treasure.
I am on the verge of tears.
Death of A Blog
Everything changes. Nothing is immune from the ravages of time. The gradual erosion of our everyday routine is usually slow, occasionally punctuated by small events, milestones, or even the passing of a loved one…
With the advent of the Internet, and especially Blogging, all this has been accelerated to warp speed. Blogs start up, flare brightly (or fizzle quickly) and some just wear out. Not in a span of years, but months or weeks. When I started to follow Blogs about seven months ago, I was extremely lucky to happen upon "A Woman Without A Man" by a young Icelandic woman, "Audi". Since that time, I have looked at many thousands of others and have never found one that is as honest and touching as hers - where the joys and pains of being human in an imperfect world were as directly and clearly examined.
Issues of self-worth, of intimacy and failure were never avoided, but always addressed with a fierce sense of pride, humor, rage and wonder. Audi has killed her blog. For whatever reasons she has, that's OK with me. Let us not mourn for what has died, let us rejoice in what has been alive. In a very real sense, these "scribbles" such are Blogs become a mirror, a microcosm, a distillation of our lives. It is this reflection that has a life of its own, freely roaming the world, touching others along the way, and then it, like us, is gone.
Thanks again Audi, for what you have given. Thank you so very much.
Hot Night Redux
Pedaling the Ranger at dusk - too fast, without a light, helmet or brain - down the trail. The head-on silhouette of a doe, staring right at me. Possessed, I pedal faster. The doe is transfixed, then we are side by side, rushing down the path. For an instant, I think "Jump!" - fly away on the back of this untamed steed through the woods and brush! She veers off, and with two quick bounds, is gone.
Later, biking back into the teeth of the hot, southerly wind, It is nearly dark. A partial moon peeks from behind scudding clouds. Biking through the woods, the path is indistinguishable from the mown area next to it. As all color and detail is gone, I aim for the middle and hope. Past where I met my Bambi, past the swamp, past the wood pile. The woods thin out as I near the Old Hospital grounds, and there, there they are, a half-dozen deer, all sensing motion and suddenly we are all zooming, I have joined the herd. My weary legs lose all signs of fatigue. I speed up, effortlessly, over small rises, I swoop down the little valleys, and leave them behind. Gaining velocity I pedal up the big hill where the feral cats hang out. The cats scatter, running back and forth - they love this game - as I pass.
On the last night of summer, at the end of the summer of my years, for one minute, I am fully alive.
Not a languid, sticky summer evening. Instead a sundown that came with the temperature still rising. A constant, relentless hot breeze making the flag point due north. Up at the lake, everybody is in the water, even the older folk who welcome the warmth on aching limbs and welcome the darkness on sagging torsos. The water is cooler, but one must remain submerged to escape the heat. Voices that usually carry in the evening stillness are rendered unintelligible. It as if the world is on fire, and the flames are coming nearer - perhaps only day or two away - and we are the last remnant of our foolish species.
Finally, we head to shore. To try to sleep in tents, cabins, trailers, but only to doze fitfully, enveloped in the hot, dry wind.
This Is A Test
In 1942 the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was first published. This was the grand-daddy of all such tests, now commonly found in many Universities, mental health and employment situations. I took it as a college freshman, and remember that as I was taking it I got the feeling that either I was nuts, the test makers were nuts, or we all were nuts.
What I didn't know (and found out on a NPR radio show) was how the test came to be, and how the scoring was determined. In the late thirties and early forties, a group of researchers at the U of M tested sample questions with two large groups of people. One group were persons with existing mental health conditions. The other group consisted mostly of farm or blue collar workers, of Scandinavian descent, from Minnesota. They were called "The Minnesota Normals." This is where my background lies, and these people where all around me when I was growing up. I thought they were normal, too, but I had no other frame of reference. Somewhat short on the "Joy of Life" and with an excess of dour brooding.
The Coen brothers' movie Fargo, while being a broad satire, has just enough truth in it to give me the willies when thinking that at one time I was compared to these "Normals"
Highs and Lows
Some weeks are better than others. This week for example. I have been fighting "the crud" since Sunday, and the crud is winning. My posts, always questionable, have been better. So when I wrote "The Ranger" I thought, "This is it! A new LOW! You are writing about your BIKE, NOBODY wants to read about your stupid old bicycle. And then I get some really great comments! I literally never have any idea if what I blog will connect with anyone.
Thanks for the big HIGH! - Batty
The National Theatre of Iceland is located in a severe stucco-covered building on Hverfisgata in the old part of Reykjavík. It is not a big tourist destination for it is closed in the summer and the plays are presented in Icelandic. This is serious theatre, and is a challenge for even the most open-minded visitor. Last winter, I had the opportunity to attend a performance of Þetta er allt að koma ("Things Are Great"), adapted and directed by Baltasar Kormákur from the Hallgrímur Helgason novel. In a series of vignettes, the story of the aspirations and setbacks of girl and her extended Icelandic family is explored. While watching this marvelous production (with a brilliant set design) I felt as if in a waking dream; a dream where I usually couldn't follow the dialogue, where it always seemed as if I was missing a piece of the puzzle. At the end of the play, with a grand finale in a wedding reception, I was laughing and applauding the triumph of the actors' skill in portraying the human condition - no translations needed.
Although Icelandic Theatre is not available in the US, (that would be a small niche market, indeed) there are several Icelandic movies that can be found in here if one is diligent. 101 Reykjavík, Noi the Albino, The Laughter of the Seagulls, and Cold Fever are all worthwhile (and have many of these same fine actors in them.)
I have a bicycle that I have referred to in a couple of posts. The Ranger. I bought it for $10 at a thrift store 25 years ago. It is English-style, single gear, and black. It has the old-fashioned rod-and-linkage brakes, similar to bicycles that you see in the Far East or India. The kind the Viet Cong won the war with. My bike was probably 35 years old at the time I bought it. The tires (tyres) were marked "War Grade". With the exception of a seat, new pedals and a rack, it is stock. Every couple of years I grease the bearings, or touch up a rusty spot. I have modern bikes, but they are missing some intangible quality that the Ranger has. Looking at this bike, you can see how it was made by hand, with hand tools. Someone forged the tubes, tapped the bolt-holes and hammered out the linkage.
The bike has a longer wheel base, a little different geometry than any other I've ridden. It was never intended to be a racing bike.
It is a civilized machine. The kind of apparatus a gentleman would ride on his constitutional, or a doctor would take on his rounds. I use it almost every day, all year round. Do you have any appliance or tool that you trust with your life that is over 60 years old that you regularly use? Will anything you have now still be in use in 60 years? A humble English craftsman thought he could make a proper bicycle - 60 years later it has been proven that he got it right.
In the fall of 1966, America was on the verge of social turmoil. Race riots had occured and would continue. The war in Vietnam was about to escalate. And in a humble basement in North Minneapolis, some nerdy teen-aged boys were trying to be a rock band. We had played around quite a bit (as far as our folks would let us) and were making some progress in our "career". The upcoming homecoming show at our high school was a chance to "strut our stuff" and basically behave like juvenile apes, who will make a racket to impress the females of the colony.
Into this bucolic scene came the appropriately named "Upsetters". The Upsetters were a vocal group that needed a band to back them. This was cool with us, but there were a few sticking points:
#1. They could really sing. They were going to make us look pretty foolish in that regard - Okay, we could do an instrumental for our act.
#2. They were girls. Okay, we liked girls (even if we really didn't have a clue as to what THAT was all about.)
#3. They were black. Not okay.
Where we grew up had always been integrated, to some imperfect degree, it was all we had known since childhood, but we also knew that some kinds of integration were off-limits ("There's nothing wrong with it - but these things never work out") and this might be a little touchy with some folks. Our parents were, for the most part, supportive, and our rehearsals went smoothly.
When the homecoming show was held, our little combo played first, and got a nice response. Then the girls came out. They were tres chic - dressed in satin, and from the moment the lead singer began "My love is a like HEAT WAVE burnin' in my heart" the atmosphere in the auditorium became electric. We were all tapping into something different, some volatile mix of emotions that until now had slumbered within us.
That was then.
Now, in many parts of America, it seems that the climate has changed for the worst, with venal politicians and their paid media spokesmen decrying "diversity" and demonizing "social programs" and "liberal agendas". All I know is that for those three minutes in 1966 we had something great, and that fact will never change.
Thank you, Susan, Linda and Ella.
I grew up on the Northside of Minneapolis, a general mix of working-class households of varying ethnic backgrounds.
As I went out into the world, one of the first things I learned was not to tell people where I was from. It could get a little testy if you did, there would always be a cutting remark or a slur, and then you had to either: shut up and take it, leave, or fight.
At a friend's bonfire last night, I was talking to his wife, who I knew only slightly. She had been talking about her background, and the struggles she had had growing up. At one point, I stopped her. "Northside, right?" I saw that northside ethos flash in her eyes, a chippyness that you had to have to survive. We understood each other perfectly in that moment.
The Northside has changed, even a wilder mix of peoples and cultures, still some of the same problems, still good things happening in spite of them. If the Northside didn't break you, it made you stronger.
Hattie Wants Ice Cream
When the young'uns were wee, the friends with kids in our circle would get together often and engage in wholesome family fun. One occasion found us in Prescott, Wisconsin (no, this is not another Wisconsin post!) at the public beach on the beautiful St. Croix river. Everybody was having fun, just chillin' and swimmin'. Little Hattie, one of the Peterson Twins, had a need, and being an expert judge of human character (at age seven) scanned the crowd and picked her mark. Me. I had been lazing, almost sleeping, with a straw hat over my face. She came up, plopped down on my towel and gave me a look. She was lying with her elbows down, her head propped up in her hands, and with her eyes staring right at me.
"I want sum ice cream" - she blurted.
"Uh, what does you mom say?" - I drawled.
"Go get me some ice cream" - she would not be sidetracked.
"What about the other kids?" - I was wary.
"Get sum ice cream for everybody" - she continued her staring. "Well, where is it?" - I couldn't shake her.
"Go to the Dairy Queen. Go get some ice cream" - she knew she had me in her thrall.
I was quiet for a bit, playing it cool.
"Go get some ice cream, Now!"
Is there anything quite like a seven year old girl? Not a little kid any more, not yet beset with the problems of adolescence, a creature with a sense of herself, without self-consciousness. Sure, I got Hattie her ice cream, and some for all the other kids too. Hattie is grown-up now, a beautiful, poised young woman. I think that she still has the look. But it may never be used in such a simple, pure way again.
In Björk's new album Medúlla musical instruments have been, for the most part, eliminated, and replaced by sounds of human voices. This brings a very strong sense of the "organic" to these tunes, even when the voices have been sampled, altered and programmed.
I have learned long ago not to judge her work on first listen. These compositions are carefully constructed in accordance with some internal logic, on both musical and spiritual levels. Careful consideration will bring great rewards - for the open-minded.
Innumerable love songs have been written with the heart as a central metaphor. Indeed, the heart as a symbol of life, of being, has been used in the arts since the ancients. Nowhere (that I'm aware of) has a song been written as a paean to the heart as a biological organ. The climax of the album is the track Triumph of a Heart in which Björk's muse turns literally inward, in a biological sense. Circulation, respiration and elimination are dealt with in a clinical, yet "joyful" way.
If you haven't yet gotten into this artist's work, this might not be the place to start. But for those willing to to explore, this is uncharted territory.
The Rum River Trail in Anoka runs between the River (naturally) and the Anoka Treatment Facility. Now it is a rehab center, but for many years it was a State Mental hospital, over the years home to thousands of people who, for one reason or another, had lost the thread. The grounds are somewhat diminished now, but there are ruined walls and old foundations that indicate its former size. At the north end of this area is the cemetery. It was for those who died there, and had no family interested in claiming their remains. It is still maintained, at least the lawn is mowed, but this graveyard needs little care. Instead of headstones, there are small concrete blocks, 395 of them, set flush to the ground. A few of the blocks have been swallowed by trees. Each block has a number embossed in it. That's all. No names, d.o.b or d.o.d. There is one granite marker next to number 267. I suppose some family member overcame the stigma of having a relative "in Anoka" and memorialized her.
As is common in old cemeteries, the ground has shifted as the coffins below disintegrate. Here and there you see burrows of small animals among the plots.
Lying on the ground near the entrance to one burrow is a bleached white bone.
Mama Gets Folk
One last soliloquy about my Wisconsin sojourn: There is a small bistro in Bayfield that's pretty friendly, with good food at a reasonable price. During tourist season, they have live music a couple of nights a week. Maggie's was full, and I was staying at Gruenke's, so why not try Mama Gets? As I waited for my order, the entertainment began. It was an EARNEST FOLK DUO, a man and woman, obviously a couple, singing their homemade tunes about their love. For each other. Sung to each other - face to face. I felt like I was peeking in a bedroom window. If they had been a little less earnest, a little more musical, it might have been OK. But they weren't. They were awful. They had a "hat" in front of the stage for tips. I somehow knew that no matter how much money I put in the hat, they wouldn't stop playing. I made it through the meal (the food really was very good) and left a tip for the performers (pity?).
I went back later in the week. No stage was set up - good! Mellow crowd - Excellent! Yummy Walleye special - Fabulous!!! As I started to relax with a tall, frosty Leinie, the boombox behind the bar began to play.
It was the EARNEST FOLK DUO! Ai-Yi-Yi!
In Cave Point County Park in Door County Wisconsin are a couple of miles of rocky shoreline. Mighty Lake Michigan constantly buffets this inland coast, creating the interesting overhangs and bluffs at the waters' edge. In a few places the shore is relatively flat, strewn with shards of rock and an occasional piece of flotsam. While walking on this rugged beach I came upon a seagull, struggling, amid the stones. I left it be, not knowing why it was there and why it did not fly away.
Door County's name comes from a treacherous straight called "Death's Door" by the early pioneers, for in it many a craft and crew entered a watery grave. I walked further on the beach and came upon another gull, this one quite still, its beautiful feathers flowing over powerful shoulder and wing musculature. For a moment I thought it was sleeping but realized quicky that it too had passed through the door.
A Drunkard's Dream
On the northern border between Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula, lies the small town of Hurley. This was mining country years ago, but the mines have long since closed. The town remains, and with it the abundance of bars, joints and "gentlemen's clubs" that once serviced the hard-drinking miners. A town with a population of 2,000 has over 30 liquor establishments in a eight square block area. The rest of the town is a mixture of old buildings and dilapidated housing, with small businesses making up the mix. I pondered, is this what an alcohol-based utopia (dystopia?) looks like? Perhaps they should package their 12 packs of beer between a pair of shingles, so that the houses without siding could eventually be covered (a new twist on "The House Of Heileman)? The grocery store I stopped into had an aisle of hard liquor - right next to pet food and paper products.
But it was work, not pleasure, that brought me here in search of a laundromat for my vacation-soiled clothes. I finally found one, nice and modern inside, new machines and a TV. After loading my clothes, I noticed a separate room, with a cooler, perhaps holding a sodas or sandwiches. I went in and then it hit me. The cooler was full of beer.
In a town built on booze, even the laundromat had to have some alcohol.
The Concrete Park
In the town of Phillips, Wisconsin, is a masterpiece of Primitive Folk Art: Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park. Over two hundred sculptures fashioned from concrete on wire mesh, adorned with shards of glass and other cast-offs, are situated in a pleasant park on the south side of this small town. Mr. Smith constructed these over a period of years in the 50's and 60's for reasons unknown ("I don't know why I make 'em"). Walking among the sculpture took me back not 50 but 50 THOUSAND years - the same feeling as viewing prehistoric art. The impact of the work was strong, but its meaning was elusive. With Indians, Cowboys, Animals and Pioneers as subjects, you could sense what was important to Fred in his life. But to see this many of these grotesque tableaux, in such a rigid style, is almost too much.
I thought of my own attempts at "art" and of classical Greek sculpture and other art movements. Every artist is trying to state something, trying to externalize a perception of existence and make it into a physical reality. Fred succeeded, to a degree. But there is just enough mystery in these figures to give them an added dimension of spiritual resonance, of totemism, as if they were keys to the doors to the primordial subconscious.
First Lady Madonna
In this political season we are inundated with campaign ads. Stuck in a cabin on a rainy day in Wisconsin, I was exposed to the pitches of this state's senate contenders. Watching with the sound off, the ads were dream-like in their presentation - no political content - only iconography. One aspirant was pictured with his sleeves rolled up, with an attendant prepared to accept a blood donation - ...the blood of Christ shed for you... while the other candidate had a brief head shot and then a much longer shot of what I presume was his family (you have to realize that this is the state whose previous governor had a wife and TWO mistresses during his terms and was STILL reelected) in repose on the deck of their suburban home.
What intrigued me the most was that the mother was "nursing" the baby in her lap (bottle, not breast) in the classic Madonna ...all hail Mary, mother of God...pose. Who could vote against this? It is becoming more and more obvious that any "issues" are the furthest thing from a candidates' mind when he or she prepare their ads. But, I mused, this IS Wisconsin, maybe that would explain it.
Until last week. The junior senator from my state has a wife who is a model/actress. The Washington Post featured her in a Vanity Fair - type photo spread. OK, I thought. She has been a model all her life, that is her job. But then it dawned on me. She wasn't selling lingere (she wasn't selling anything - it was a feature piece) - she was selling an image. Madonna had been taken. So she took the Whore role. The next day I heard her husband, the senator on a local sports talk radio show, sniggering about the whole incident. Sex still sells. I guess we will get the government we deserve. Is it not inconceivable that someday we will get a "First Lady Madonna", baby at her breast? When the Catholic church iconized the Blessed Virgin Mary, it became much easier for them to convert the heathen.
Easier to win hearts than minds.
John - John Slept Here
In Bayfield, Wisconsin, is Greunke's First Street Inn. It has been here for nearly 140 years, and has always been an Inn. The floors on the second levels sag about 4 inches from the outside wall to the central hall. It has been redecorated, but not really remodeled. On the first floor is a dining room, festooned with memorabilia and old photos. One framed collage tells the story of the time about ten years ago when John Kennedy Jr. stayed here. The newspaper clipping tells the story, but there are no photos. The owner stated that they thought he would appreciate being treated like anyone else. I mused on this a while, and started to think about all of the people who stayed here, for whatever reasons, over the years.
Bayfield was a fishing town, a farming center, and now is a vacation destination for sailors and kayakers. I had been here about twenty years ago, in my show biz days. The harbor had changed, a lot of pricey condos and time-shares had gone up, and the marina had expanded, but Greunke's remained the same. A funky inn, with showers, sinks and toilets down the hall. A place stuck in a pleasant time warp. My reverie ended and I looked at the collage again. Right next to the cover of Newsweek with John's face on it was his signed guest register receipt.
Room Six. My room. Was that a good omen or ill?
Eight Pounds Of Beads
In north-central Wisconsin, about 5 miles north of the small town of Couderay, is the Hideout of Al Capone. This is a tourist attraction, not too bad as some of these things go, but no Taj Mahal. This actually was Al Capone's summer getaway - his lake home, if you will. There is just enough reality in the exhibits to overcome some of the tackiness - I mean, this was HIS place, furnished more or less as he had it, with just enough criminal history to make it a little sinister. (Just how many bodies are in the muck at the bottom of the lake?) Some of it verges on the ridiculous (Al Capone's dog's kennels! Al Capone's BIRD HOUSES!) but hey - He was Al Capone - not Alfred the Great! In some of the out buildings are "historical" displays of miscellany from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's.
Most of it is antique store stuff, put together with an emphasis on quantity but nothing special - until THE DRESS appears. In a glass case, the guide points out a "Smithsonian Quality" flapper dress. It is simply stunning. It's like finding a Crown Jewel in a Cracker Jack box. It is the classic flapper dress, similar in shape and construction to a full slip, but the fabric is a dusty rose pink, with silvery patterns woven in the material. The guide says that the dress weighs eleven pounds. This is not a big dress. As I examine it closer, I see that what I thought was part of the fabric's pattern is really beadwork - tiny beads, thousands and thousands of very small, pearlescent adornments, in a lacy filigree. What seamstress spent months on this dress? What "Jazz Baby" wore it to what soiree? With whom? If the dress fabric weighs about three pounds, that leaves about eight pounds of beads. Eight pounds of lost glory, stuck in a cheesy Wisconsin tourist trap.
It seems that Al Capone's horrible legacy left at least one thing of beauty.