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Thursday, November 30, 2006

My hairdresser and I think that more suicides occur during the holiday season because of the bombardment, like the Chinese torture of dripping water on your forehead, of the same old Christmas music.








(Please, isn't it blood-curdling scream time yet? Oh yeah, that was Wednesday but I didn't. You would have been proud of me).

Before you start calling be Ebeneezer I don't mind it in the approriate setting: church on Christmas Eve, coming from the mouths of carolers at the mall, while trimming the tree, at the proverbial yuletide party.

Not at the grocery store or the aisles at Wal-Mart, not in the chair at the beauty parlor or helpless, under the dentist's drill, not blasting through the phone as you are put on hold by the Fond du Lac School District, or AT & T or Charter Cable or any other buyer into Muzak or Sunny 97s cheerful but Stepford parade of holiday favorites.

I do realize I am not worthy of Johnny Mathis' "Oh Holy Night" (shivers) or Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" (sniffle) but damn, it if I am put on hold and have to listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks or Felice Navidad one more time.........

Monday, November 27, 2006

Speaking of banned books in the newsroom we've had the words "tis the season" banned from our stories.

Rumor has it those three words are trite and overused...............

I suppose.

What does it mean anyway? "Tis the season" for what?

For me it's the nerve-wracking perpetuation of gender stereotypes.

Take a gander at the J.C. Penney's catalog under children's bedroom sets. My stomach turns.

For girls its pink with princesses and little sparkly crowns.

For boys it's tanks and helicopters that glow in the dark!

How far have we really come in changing the way young girls perceive themselves and want to present themselves to the world.

No wonder there aren't more women stepping up to fill positions that reflect leadership and power.

If things had really changed, little girls would want to be queens, not princesses who follow the latest trends and wait for a knight in shining armor to define them.

I look around and shake my head at the image so many women continue to portray. There's nothing wrong with pretty, I love looking at beautiful people of any gender, but physical image seems to reside over all the groundwork that's been laid ever since the fight for voting rights and birth control.

So many women's issues are still in the hands of everyone else but us.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We've received hundreds of comments from around the world on the story about a mother, father and student requesting a book be removed from the sophomore advanced English reading curriculum at Fond du Lac High School.

"I know why the Caged Bird Sings," is Maya Angelou's autobiographical account and includes passages about being raped and her subsequent unwanted pregnancy.

It made me think about how books and authors influenced my thinking, my beliefs, my values during formative years.

In the 70s we rarely read alone. With much enthusiasm and conversation we shared our story finds with friends as if we were the first to stumble upon some buried treasure.

Knowing that there were people - in the form of characters - out there that felt as confused and lost as us, people who actually talked about these feelings, gave us all hope.

Some highlights:

Carlos Casteneda and his series of books about his relationship (real or imagined) with a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan. It pretty much blew our minds.

Kurt Vonnegut: "Slaughterhouse Five," "Cat's Cradle," "Breakfast of Champions." His character Kilgore Trout taught us that even sad losers can be heroes.

"Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," "Franny and Zooey." J.D. Salinger, with his adventures of the Glass family, particularly the patriarch Seymour Glass, revealed the normalcy of dysfunctional families.

Poet Richard Brautigan who committed suicide in later years, showed us how to say so much with few words.

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown was a shocking revelation on genocide, done by our own country, and confirmed all the reasons why we had to continue to "stick it to the man."

A rekindled cult following brought us down on our knees before Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." To put a book down and weep your heart out..... I don't think words can convey what Frodo taught us. T-shirts worn around the east side of Milwaukee carried the phrase "Frodo Lives."

Books and stories have done many things to me, none of which were ever bad.

I wonder why most of the controversy is always over sex.

Sitting in the gym at Woodworth Middle School last week I listened and watched as Norman and Millicent Dachman of Madison told middle school students about the Holocaust. Kids were crying, I was crying, teachers were breaking down.

We heard about Freedom fighters urinating on their bread to soften it enough to eat.
We saw heaps of naked, skeletal bodies, crematoriums and Dr. Mengele's creepy place where he experimented on people.

I wonder if parents complained.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

According to the Urban on-line dictionary an ear worm refers to any song that is so catchy, and at the same time so extremely annoying, that it feels like a worm has crawled into your ear and eaten the intelligent parts of your brain so that you hum the song all day long, no matter how much you hate it.

Well I’ve had that problem lately with Todd Rundgren’s “Hello it’s Me.”

Not that that’s a bad thing, it could be worse, much worse. Once I had “Take a Chance on Me” by Abba stuck in my head for one entire, sleepless night. Another time it was “Once Upon a Dream,” from Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Lest I have to write about myself again, which is beginning to repulse me, I asked co-workers, on this day before Thanksgiving, to share their earworm horror stories.

I think Gary’s may be the worst. He is so terrified of “You’re Having My Baby” by Paul Anka getting stuck in his head again that we aren’t allowed to even say the name of the song. He had to write it down on a slip of paper and hand it to me.


"Stuck in the Middle With You" by Steeler's Wheel
“One of the worst songs ever to be stuck in my head actually contains the word, stuck... So naturally, now that you mention it, there it is in my head again.... Thanks a lot”
April Showers
Newsroom clerk/Jack-of-all-trades

The worst: “The Barney Song.”
“I managed to avoid this until I had kids, but even though neither of my kids ever got real attached to this show, they did sing the song from time to time, I even joined in once or twice, Yuk!”
The best: "Open Your Eyes" by Snow Patrol
Peggy Breister
City editor

“Da Da Da” by The Trio.
“That would have to be the worst one. There were others, but they don't reach the level of annoying that this song achieves.”
The best: “‘Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts’ (sung together with her family???????????????????)
Heather Stanek

“Turkey Song” By Adam Sandler
Ruth Schoenbeck
Advertising layout lady

“Dead skunk in the middle of the road, Dead skunk in the middle of the road and it’s stinking to high heaven.”
Jeff Reader
He does stuff downstairs, marketing I think

Worst: “Believe” by Cher
“’Do you believe in love after love,’ ughhh....”
Best: “Sweetness,” by Jimmy Eat World
Amie Jo Schaenzer

Best: “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger
“The chorus ‘I'm not sick but I'm not well, and I'm so hot cause I'm in hell’ just goes around and around in your head until you finally adopt it as your credo, especially on a bad day.”
Worst : “I was driving to work late one night and the ABBA song ‘Take a Chance on Me’ came on the radio. For my entire 10-hour shift I kept hearing 'take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me' until I felt like running out of the building screaming.”
Colleen Kottke
Waupun Bureau Reporter

Worst: “You’re Having My Baby,” “Rocky,” “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” and “Indiana Wants Me.”
Best: “Too Many People” by Paul and Linda McCartney.
Gary Clausius

Worst: “Wheels on the Bus.”
Katie Hullin

Worst: “There was a stupid song on Barney that went…’If all the rain were lemon drops and gum drops, Oh what a rain that would be. Standing outside with my mouth open wide (now comes the really bad part…you tip your head back, open your mouth and sing) augh, augh, augh, augh, augh, augh, augh, augh, augh, augh’. It’ll be stuck in my head the rest of the day…thanks a lot!”
Joan Brezinsky

"The Final Countdown" by Europe. (The theme to which G.O.B. from "Arrested Development" performs his magic acts. (Heavy on the synthesizer...) The worst part is, I know only three words to this '80s rock anthem ... you guessed it: "the final countdown."
David Williams
Entertainment coordinator
Worst: “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone
Best: AC/DC's “Thunderstruck”
Avi Stern

Worst: “I'm Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred
Best: "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls
Doug Whitely
Sports writer/columnist

Worst: "Mandy" by Barry Manilow and "Green, Green" by ? I'm thinkin' the New Christy Minstrals
Best: "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison
Tom Guenther, who's arm had to be twisted to do this.
"I'm not into that," he said.
Assistant City editor

"Elmo's Song"
Justin Connaher
(who then sang it loud into my ear)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver but the other, gold."

Those words must have been written about my friends Jean & Jane.

We've been together through thick and thin since kindergarten.

The twins lived across what our mothers believed to be a treacherous street, Greenfield Ave., which divides Brookfield and New Berlin. Jean and Jane lived on the "greaser side" in New Berlin, which was filled with hoodlums and juvenile delinquents, according to the people who lived in upper middle-class Brookfield.

Living on the fringe of this Milwaukee suburb, I had my feet in both worlds.

Jean & Jane had all the hot guys living on their street, the ones with leather jackets, greased back hair and cigarettes rolled up in their sleeves. These young studs hung out at night at Golden Chicken, guzzled Pabst Blue Ribbon and wrote "NB and Grease Rules" in red paint on the 124th Street overhead railroad track bridge. It's still there.

The three of us were kept as good as girls can be, at least until junior high when flower power reached the suburbs and threatened our mothers' aproned Betty Crocker worlds.

OK, fine Jean, you two were the good girls and I was was the one who always had the box "practices self-control" checked on my report card as lacking.

No matter how well executed and devious our plans were to cross Greenfield Ave. without fail, someone's mother would be looking out a window, call our mothers, and then all hell would break loose.

In the early 60s all mothers were looking out windows all the time. That's why there was less crime and deviance in general.

Picking tales to tell from 44 years of friendship could certainly reveal stories that would make your hair stand on end. Dare I tell you about Jane and the Calamine lotion or Jean and the Vietnam Vet? "Come on, Jean, just be with him!"

Nah, I still somewhat value my life.

Suffice to say we can still look at each other and laugh our guts out without emitting any sound, still sing every word of "The Mikado" (the ninth grade musical), and recite vivid details of the day Jane fell off the monkey bars, had a concussion and saw wiener dogs everywhere. Our personal histories are so mind-melded I can describe their fourth grade wardrobes, they know all the hideous presents I got in 1972, when my family decided to make gifts (have you ever seen a dress crocheted by a beginner?) and all three of us know what wooden beam our names are written on in the basement of our childhood homes.

Last year Jean gave me a 16-page letter I wrote to her (in tiny penmanship to include all details) in June 1973, when we were both 16 and she was on vacation with her parents. It would be a shocking tell-all to anyone but us, because, of course, we lived it.

Here's an excerpt from a summer party scene:

"Then all the greasers came out and started arguing with the freaks, trying to start a fight. Lee Hester (Joan's boyfriend) was doing most of it, saying they look like girls and all that. A greaser grabbed Baltimore and started pummeling him. 'Hey, come on now,' Baltimore yelled and to his friends: 'are you just gonna just stand there and watch?'

"Jim, a greaser who just lost his older brother in a car accident (They say he was playing chicken), went nuts, was screaming and crying and trying to pull everyone's hair out. He was so drunk he thought he heard people talking about his dead brother's own hair.

"Bear kept screaming 'what's the big deal about hair! People are people! ' Three guys had to sit on him to calm him down. Someone got the dog ripped and it was laying down in the middle of all this barking with its eyes closed. Jean, it was the wildest night I ever had!"

These days Jane is a nurse at Froetdert and still lives in New Berlin, sans any hot greasers. Jean works at a law office in Milwaukee.

Often in the summer we still meet at Lee's Boy Blue on Greenfield Ave., one of the only landmarks left from the old neighborhood. We visit Nick Gazzana's grave, Jane's crush since grade school. He died of a drug overdose way too young, never knowing how much he was loved by the three of us.

Afterwards we tour our childhoods, house by house, remembering who once lived there.

"If time were not a moving thing and I could make it stay...."

To the "Gordball" twins:

"Get funky."

Need I say more?

Monday, November 13, 2006

One more thing and I know you are sick of hearing about it but....

Happy 61st Birthday Neil.
Long may you run......
Some Monday observations:

This is an fervent plea to the makers of Lindt chocolate:


I was fine until they handed me a free sample a couple weeks ago at the new store in Mayfair Mall. I'd never tasted it before.

The milk chocolate balls with truffle center. If there is such a thing as sin, those are. Get behind me Satan.

In an effort to thumb my nose at the lack of quality anything these days I've plugged in an old push button phone from the late seventies with no answering machine. My parents used it in their basement. It's beige with a mismatched red receiver and cord. The buttons are kind of filled with crud and stick a little.
Every portable phone system I've ever had is a cheap piece of you know what that dies after a couple of years. This one doesn't go out when the electricity does. I love it!

The geese left today. Yes! Now I can finally clean the impacted gravel out of my shoes.

If anyone has a videotape of last Tuesday's House, can you please send it to me in care of The Reporter? I set the VCR to the wrong time. Incredible weeping & gnashing of teeth last night.

I'm fighting off the urge today to get another tattoo. Is this what they call mid-life crisis? I almost got my nose pierced last year. I was all ready to go with my daughter to some schnazzy place in Milwaukee when it dawned on me the older you get, the bigger your nose gets, so why call attention to it. The two things I'm not real big on are noses and feet. I have to look away when people wear sandals.

Anyway, most people don't know I have a butterfly tattoo because it's little and hidden under the back of my hair. There was only one tattoo parlor that I knew of in the state in 1975. I was 18 years old and drove to Lake Geneva.

I tend to forget I have it and made the mistake of getting my hair cut short this past year. Never again.

Still there's this need to feed the free spirit.

I don't know what to feed it anymore, but definitely not Lindt chocolate.

Maybe dreadlocks?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Don't forget to run out Nov. 14 and purchase Neil's latest release, the first sampling from his extensive, bulging! archives. "Live at the Fillmore East," recorded in 1970, features the "perfect stranger like a cross of himself and a fox" with Crazy Horse, including the late Danny Whitten, who died two years later of a drug overdose. Rolling Stone gives it four out five stars.

Speaking of Neil I have to share with you something Catman wrote to me. He's a eccletic character on one of my Neil lists. He was expounding on old hippie chicks and how they are "still hot," and I of course, had to concurr, which just leads him on, every time.

His Kerouacean prose gets me every time.

"I figure, at this point in the game we're all stuck in the bucket,I say (bleep)baby, let's at LEAST enjoy the WHOLE ride !!! Spend what's left of the IRA money on estrogen and viagra and........GO ON WITH THE PARADE !!!!! I don't care if I'm layin there like a cold fish with needles and tubes running EVERYwhere, with some little candy striper comin in and trippin on my cathator tube every day, my eyes
transfixed on a blank and flourescent lite plain white ceiling knowing every second that they will never set their gaze on another nekid hippie chick of any age...ever again, AND...even if my ears so racked by constant ringing for so many years they won't ever even be CAPABLE of hearing that far off sound of the honkers headed south late in the fall...even if there was someone left in the world to roll my broken body over to an open window for long enough for me to fill my tar coated lungs for one long last breath of that cool dry air that sweeps down from the frozen ice caps of the great north land over those towering and majestic glacier peaked Rocky Mountains high...every long and lonely winters night....yep, thanks to Neil's music, NONE of that will be any problem AT ALL because, I'll be going down with all those ~~~~~~~~~~~TUNES IN MY HEAD !!!!!~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's the first furious snowfall of the season, coming down like clumps of soggy cornflakes and leaving a 2-inch thick layer of slush on the road.

Of course no one remembers how to drive in snow and the police scanner is going bonkers with - one after the other - runoffs, spinouts, rollovers.

On top of that it's thundering and lightning with reports of power outages. Freaky stuff.

Meanwhile, it's the anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes freighter, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, around 7:10 p.m. tonight.

If I was computer savy I could post a photo of what was once a proud vessel, but alas, I can barely blog.

For no known reason, maybe because we all need real lives, it's an official holiday in The Reporter newsroom. Up goes a photo on the bulletin board of the famous ship, bound for destruction on Nov. 10, 1975 when it sank in Lake Superior during a typical November storm. Probably a freaky one, like this one.

Snibbits of Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" are sung, intermittently, throughout the day. If we are really lucky Tom may bring in a copy from his endless music collection and play it for the unsuspecting newbie who asks "The Edmund what?"

"..The lake it is said never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy..."

Gary said he knows a guy that was stationed on the Fitzgerald, before its demise, who works in Fond du Lac. He's superstitious enough not to talk about his association with the unlucky freighter and gave Gary his discharge papers from the ship.

Aaron in Green Bay, who used to work here, said his father tells the story of picking up a hitchhiker, a sailor, and driving him to his destination and ironically, his final demise. The sailor boarded the Fitzgerald that fateful night and the rest is history.

Aaron writes:

"On cold November nights, when the west wind whips against the windows of my father's bedroom, he still sees the cold, drenched, eternally extended thumb of the hitchhiking sailor, and he fears it beckons him to join the lost seaman on his lonely journey."

We salute you, brave crew of 29.

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes

when the waves turn the minutes to hours? "

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Every election day I think of my father and chuckle.
He was a closet republican.

"Are you kidding me???" I said when my younger sister (the one who still has my Neil Young book!) told me.

"Of course, didn't you know???" she said.

"In this country we have a right to a private vote," my father always answered when we asked him how he voted.

Living in a household with four children during the late sixties-early seventies, children who believed in "QUESTIONING AUTHORITY," it was probably safer to remain anonymous.

My father is the American dream. After the war he took a job sweeping the floor at a custom machine shop, the Herzberg Corp. in Milwaukee.

He ended up buying the company and becoming president and CEO of his own 30-employee business: Milwaukee Machine & Engineering Corp. in New Berlin.

The success of this country, he believed, was in the hands of small business owners.

"There is no difference between the guy who sweeps the floor and the president of a company as long as they both do the best job they can," he often told us.

He lived by example, a quiet man who didn't feel the need to voice his opinion, unlike his middle daughter.

Not that there wasn't healthy debate in the Roznik family. His siblings were union people, employed at Allis Chalmers in West Allis. But in those days debate was an intellectual process - there were no low blows or cheap shots. It was a favorite pastime, an oratory exercise that drew an apple pie eating audience (my grandmother's).

I recently read somewhere "There is no real liberalism or conservatism, only a high road and a low road."

My dad always lead us along that high road, to live what we believed, no matter what.

He is a hero in my heart, gone 22 years, a loss that has never lessened.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember my description of feeling the rush of wings as Canada geese fly overhead?
Basic dribble. Forget about it. Erase it from your memory banks.

I'm an idiot.

Did you know geese poop like dogs?
Well, some like dogs, some like cats, it depends on the goose.
How would I have known this without spending time these days walking the trail that winds around the pond off of Camelot Drive.

Yeesh, there is no possible way to use this beautiful walking path, complete with fashionable gazebo, without stepping on goose droppings, and believe me, droppings doesn't amply describe the mess.

It looks like someone walked 10,000 St. Bernards after they were fed very cheap dog food. The pond is packed with birds.

To make matters worse, you need a wide-brimmed hat to avoid the fall-out from the frequent fly-overs.

In the past I've covered stories on the geese abatement program, the egg shaking plan, at Lakeside Park on Lake Winnebago. It went on for a couple of years after park-goers complained the ball diamonds were so laden with goose gifts players were actually slipping on it.

At the time I, the peacenik at heart that I am, thought "Why can't we all get along, live in harmony with these creatures???"

That was before I stepped in it myself.

Please, beautiful birds, can't you hang out somewhere else, like Illinois?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

There's an undeniable grip of fear as the end of vacation nears, a seizing in the stomach.
Every time I am on vacation I convince myself that I am independently wealthy and do not have to work.
I like to pretend, a lot. It's not just for kids, people. But that's another story in a long line of other stories.

Everyone will be asking me "what did you do and where did you go," waiting to hear me claim vacation bragging rights to someplace exotic and spectacular.

For the first time in 25 years I used vacation time, for the most part, to be by myself.
I needed to listen for that "inner voice" that is supposed to be trying to speak to us all the time. So much noise has been drowning it out for a long time.

*At night the stillness brought flocks of geese flying so low overheard I could hear and feel the powerful rush of collective wings. I've never heard that sound before.

* I turned on mid-day television, one of my taboos, and came across Luke Spencer (sans his long, curly locks) on General Hospital asking Laura "will you marry me?" AGAIN!
Anyone my age will know how freaky this is. I went home (allegedly) sick from work on Nov. 16, 1981 to watch those two get married. It was the wedding of the year, so monumental it was my mother who called me at work to say "tell them you have to leave and get over here, now!"
Laura, I've been told, was recently catatonic and in a mental hospital. LOL. Some things never change.

*I lounged in bed with a thick comforter and cups of coffee listening to WPR's (an addiction) "A Prairie Home Companion," "Click 'n Clack," "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," "What Do You Know" and Dr. Zorba and Tom Clark.

* I read volume one of Bob Dylan's "Chronicles," surprised at how straight Dylan was throughout his career, keenly focused on one vision. I had him pegged as someone who would have been "experimental." He never was a part of the counter culture I presumed he was a part of. He was an island unto himself.

Kind of like me this week.