Friday, February 13, 2009


Ed is under the impression that I like baseball. I have corrected that view numerous times and yet, without fail, every time I see him he will manage to steer the conversation around to some-such player brought up from the minors who throws left, bats right and hits .278 in the seventh inning when there are men on base, Ed’s beer is full, a squirrel is running in center field and a Democratic President in the White House. In truth, his descriptions usually run a little longer than that. I abridged it a little. Now, please, don’t get me wrong…. Ed is one of the nicest people I know: articulate, well spoken, even mannered and the owner of a smile that stretches from a lot of yesterdays into sunny tomorrows. Ed is 66, that smile is ageless. He just doesn’t get it though…. I really don’t like baseball. It has never deterred him from talking about it. Incessantly.

I met him about five years ago when Schultzie at Oblio’s asked me to be the auctioneer of the bar’s fantasy baseball draft. They have twelve teams that pony-up $400 each for the season. It is a 60-30-ten pay out. Some rather serious baseball folks. The draft takes up about five hours on a Sunday morning before the bar opens. Schultzie make a pot of coffee, gets some doughnuts, though by the middle of the draft everyone has switched to pizza and beer. I guess that’s why Ed thinks I am a baseball fan instead of an opportunist seeking free doughnuts, pizza and beer. The latter four words being favorites of mine.

So I hadn’t seen Ed for awhile. I walk into the bar last night and there’s Ed. We chatted, the usual, how ya doing, what’s up, Obama, snow, Democrats, beer……and it dawn’s on me that almost 20 minutes have passed and Ed has not mentioned baseball. Now, the Pope is Catholic, a bear does shit in the woods and Ed talks baseball. There are things in life that are a given certainty.
“Ed,” I say, “the Draft is coming up in a couple of months, whadda ya think?”
“Oh, that’s right,” he says, “it is.”
That’s it. Nothing else. He should have launched into base stealers, and savers, and relievers and all that.
Nothing. He just smiles at me.
“Ed, you Ok?”
Now he really smiles. “I met a woman.” And the smile shines so much it almost stops the juke box.
Ed has been divorced for ten years and his ex is now dead. His daughter died of a drug OD and another son passed away after a car accident. He has had ten years of bad weather and still smiled through everything. Even a badly broken heart.
He met her on the internet. They had coffee. They have had lunch. She talked him into going cross-country skiing, which is amazing, because I didn’t think Ed would ever acknowledge that there is another sport, of any kind, that did not have a horse-hide sphere and an Ash bat. Valentine’s Day was coming up, he said, and he was taking her to a nice restaurant. But he wasn’t sure of what else to do. I mentioned a new exhibit at the Paine Art Center.
“What a great idea!” he exclaimed. He bought me a beer. I bought him a beer. We chatted for about an hour and a half before I went home. He never mentioned baseball once.

Life has extra innings, too

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blog-Pong & Catholic Casserole

I have become aware that in bloggerville one thing can often lead to another and, in most cases, with a complete lack of continuity which in all cases, save for a case of beer, is the best case scenario; but of course one must always have a case of beer handy, just in case. That is another story.

So the esteemed DCap, somehow went from 60's surf music to delightful dogs, I dropped a comment containing carrot cake and he responded with a recipe for Jewish Cheesecake which left me wondering how Jewish Cheesecake would vary, say, from Episcopalian Cheesecake but I would assume that the main difference is in how the batter is blessed or whether the spatula is circumcised or not and should not be pondered overly much as long as the end result is delicious. His post, though, did bring to mind my Mother's fixation with Catholic Casserole; a culinary curiosity she would concoct almost every Friday of my childhood and adolescence comprised of canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup and noodles though I must admit that there were some Fridays when the whole family would marvel at her inspired variation of fish sticks and macaroni and cheese. It was the casserole that I remember best. Mostly I remember spewing it up on the sidelines Friday nights during the third quarter of my Varsity football career. But I digress from my main point, if I have one at all, which is doubtful, but in case I did, it was how we became convinced that my Mother, despite all her fiddling with Rosary beds and such, was really Jewish and not a Catholic at all.

I was raised in West Central Wisconsin in a small town abounding with large Elm trees and populated almost equally with German Catholics and Scandinavian Lutherans whose main difference was mostly that the former ate fish on Fridays and the latter could ingest cheeseburgers, if they so desired. Or so it seemed to me, in my youthful days, that both groups would mingle well when there were bingo games, CYO dances, pancake breakfasts or a need to eradicate diseased Elms. My primary education as a child took place at a rusty brick edifice that most in our town simply called the Nun School and it was there that the kindly Nuns beat religion into me, and then out of me with an assortment of map pointers, rulers and chalk dusty erasers. One was known to throw an occasional world globe as well when sufficiently enraged. Confusion was mostly what was taught. Jesus was Jewish, they told me, but he died on the cross and rose from the dead after three days, didn't see his shadow and all the Jews promptly became Catholic. Or at least that is what I got out of it. So it was with great concern that I learned that our neighbor and family physician, Dr. Harris, was Jewish. I asked my father how that could be.

"It's nothing for you to think about, " he said. " Being Jewish just means you go to a different type of church." My father was a master of complex answers to simple questions. My younger brother and I compared notes and realized that Dr. Harris did not go to church at all! And, my brother informed me, he had seen the good doctor at the A&W, of a Friday recently past, ordering a DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER!!!! Well, shit&whiskers! That sealed the deal. My brother and I immediately conspired to become Jewish, not go to church and never again eat Catholic Casserole! My mother got wind of our conspiracy, though, and squashed it with the information that Jews did not celebrate Christmas. We were given the choice of Santa or Cheeseburgers.

But then a curious thing occured. My older brother and sister were in college. I could hear Mom call them frequently.
"Are you OK? You don't call, you don't write."
"Are you eating well?"
"Are you getting enough sleep?"
"I worry about you."
"Have you met a nice boy yet?" (to my sister...for my brother it was....)
" You're not still seeing that Tramp, are you?"

Now my mother thinks a bagel is a breed of dog and lox is something you put on the door, but it did seem like she was starting to act like a stereo-typical Jewish grandmother. Not that I really know what a Jewish Grandmother would act like.

And then she started with the chicken soup. If you came home with sniffles, you got chicken soup. If you were taking finals, you got chicken soup. If you got a traffice ticket, you got chicken soup. It was getting to be too much. We got together and changed her name to Miriam. It sounded much more Jewish that Mary Ann. She is why I named my daughter Miriam.

Time went on. She stopped making the soup. The phone calls, though, have not abated much.
Max is graduating this spring from UW-Oshkosh and co-incidently so is my brother's daughter. Two grand children graduating from college..... the same college.... the same day??!! She call's daily to query how the celebration plans are going. I sometimes miss the Catholic Casserole....
two cans of cream of mushroom soup
two cans of tuna
some elbow macaroni
crushed potatoe chips for topping
dash of pepper

whip together, bake and serve with applesause

*do not play football for at least 5 hours after eating

** I think it is Spartz's turn to post a recipe

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dunking Doughnuts&Oktoberfest&Joe

Joe FranklinCenter Forward Wisconsin Men’s Basketball 1964-1968,

A dominating rebounder Joe Franklin was a unanimous first team 1968 Big 10 All American when he set a then team scoring season record with 544 points, and in average per game with 22.7. In career had 7 games of at least 30 points scored. A team leader Joe Franklin was elected team captain during his senior year, 1968.
Joe Franklin set a Wisconsin record with a robust 27 rebounds against Purdue in 1968.
Joe Franklin is a Member of the Wisconsin U Athletic Hall of Fame. Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks NBA in 5th round in 1968

*And he can still grip a pint of Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest very well.*
He was lately inducted into another Hall of Fame
There have only been four jersey's retired at U-Wisconsin. One is Joe's. He is still tenth on the Badger's all time scoring list, despite playing in an era when freshman were not eligible and there were no three-point shots. But the real deal is he is one great dude and is extremely witty, intelligent, and not a bad golfer. He is also modest. It took awhile for me to realize that he played professional basketball in Italy for years and was the last person cut on the 1968 Olympic Basketball team. He roomed with Pete Maravich during tryouts.

Team captain as a senior
Established Wisconsin career scoring (1,215 points) and rebounding (858) marks in just three seasons of play
I met him a few years ago when he was helping another friend edit his business magazine. I discovered that, amongst his other talents, he had an acute taste for good beer and good barbecue. But it his sense of humor that really grabs you. He can grab an insult thrown his way, just as a rebound, and whip it back with lighting speed. It is a fun game and it is easier on the knees than basketball.
So Saturday past I stroll into Oblio's and have a few beer with Joe. We were only going to have a couple but then Billy Lang calls and says he will join us.

And by the time Billy shows up Joe was zinging me from the top of the lane and I am ducking and dodging for all I'm worth and still managing to make a lay-up or two. And now the whole scene is a verbal pick-up game at the local hoop on the corner. But the local playground does not have tequila.

It was getting really funny. The insults and barbs were flying. The bartender is breaking up. The folks at the other end of the bar are breaking up. I'm breaking up. Billy laughs like Mr. Ed and when Joe flags for another beer you have to duck before he impales you on fingers longer than Lake Michigan or knocks you out with an elbow.

Saturday we played into overtime. I needed a whole day to recover.
I love the Dude, and he always shows me a little love, too.
We have another game scheduled for St. Patrick's Day.
Sometimes it is not how you play the game, or whether you win or lose..... but who you get to play with.

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