Posts from the ‘Goofier than Normal’ Category


. . . And so much to be thankful for. 

My dad has been gone for three decades.  My mom for a quarter of a century.  In addition, there have been at aunts and uncles and grandparents that have gone on before me who are part of every single cell in my body.  I miss them all.

My two sisters Jean and Cher and their husbands Tim and Ger and their families – a great start to a list of family that extends to cousins near and far, nephews, nieces, (and GRAND-versions of those relations) near and far from every branch of the family, including a great group of in-laws.  Aunt Shirley, my dad’s last remaining sibling, a 94-year-old sister, adds her energy to our family functions. There’s my wife Sue, who has been with me coming up on four decades, (through rain, or snow, or shine).  Our two kids Heidi (and her Hubby Jon) and Steven (and his fiancé Shea), who have been so wonderful and such sources of joy.  And two grandsons – Jonathan, who will be two years old on Christmas Day, and Henry, who just joined us two weeks ago.

There are so many more – and naming names is simply too voluminous, so I won’t try, but I give thanks to God that I am surrounded by so many fantastic people.

There are many from my early years who I still see online or in person that date back to kindergarten – and that was 1959, folks!  Great friends that have delivered so much to my soul and being … friends from Parkville, from Mt. Iron High School, from the youth groups at church, and then on to Gustavus Adolphus College, where lifelong friendships flourished and still abound. I am proud to include former teachers and professors as well.

I spent half of my life as a teacher for the Pillager School district – a career of 34 years with great people – fellow teachers and students alike.  Some have left this world; some are still a big part of my life.  There’s no end to the list of people who blessed my professional career in Pillager, and then overlapped into my everyday life.

My entire adult life has been spent in the Brainerd area, resulting in so many good friends beyond my work at Pillager.  They are in the church choir, they are from plays and musical performances I’ve been involved with around the area, they are folks I’ve met through a great many different engagements.  After retirement, I found even more people who helped me foster some other pursuits – mentors from writing groups, bowling league team members, photo club gurus, and all-around experiences that have defined these retirement years.

The Facebook way on birthdays is to send comments and likes – and I am so glad to have so many friends and family who will acknowledge me on my birthday – I am always amazed at who takes the time and the good will to send a like or to add a word or two in the comments.  You are all so very special to me.  I always feel so good reading such messages.  And here’s a thought . . .

Facebook will often give the birthday people a chance to designate a charity to honor a birthday – that’s all good, but I want to break out of that notion. Here’s something I’d like you to consider instead of leaving me a birthday comment (but go ahead and do that too.  I am enough of a ham to feed sumptuously on that . . .).  It is immediate, it is easy, and it is beneficial. 

Take that good will I mentioned a few paragraphs back and share it with another.  Allow me to make some suggestions:  ask your grocery store clerk if they’re having a good day. Greet someone at work that you usually don’t see often enough. Let someone go first at a four way stop.  Pet your dog a little longer.  Smile at that person who is on the other side of your political fence.  Call that person you haven’t heard from in a while. Don’t get mad at the news (that’s a gift to yourself, really.)  Give thanks to anyone for a beautiful day.  Have that extra treat with your lunch – and get one for someone else while you’re at it.  Listen a little longer to whoever you need to listen a little longer to.  Add your own ideas – each one of you has it in you to do so.

And if anyone asks you what you’re up to, you can tell them you’re just doing an old TV commercial thing.  (You have to be about my age to know which commercial it is . . .)

Just tell them, “Charlie sent you.”

Thank you all.  Deus nobis familia et amicis.


TWO SUBZERO MEMORIES; Camp Hiawatha and Ray Dretske


A Camp Hiawatha Luther League Retreat (January 1972) and
How Governor Carlson’s state-wide school closing affected a visiting musician/clinician at Pillager Public Schools (February 1996)

This latest cold snap (you may also add crackle and pop if you wish) reminded me of two of the coldest winters of my life: If you were part of either of these, feel free to add your memories . . .

PART I – Camp Hiawatha

Senior year in high school, I believe, and our church group (Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Virginia, MN) headed for a scheduled retreat at Camp Hiawatha, just outside Deer River, MN. I believe, too, we were joined by kids from a Lutheran church up in Babbitt … Names I recall include Mark Eskola, Dave Stimac, Ralph Martin, Julie Wiklund, Phyllis Carlson, Sharon Dahl, and Charlie Luing (she was one of the Babbitt gang….) I used to have pictures, but I can’t find them ….)

It was a weekend worth of the usual youth group activities at such an affair: games, Bible studies, services, music, conversations – all intended to be part of the Luther League member’s growth. I believe it was the last week of January, and we headed up, carpooling in several cars. Camp Hiawatha is a very nice camp on the shores of Deer Lake – the camp had a main building and several cabins for sleeping. The grounds were wide open – in the summer, one could play baseball, volleyball, and the like. In the winter, I believe we did some sliding down the hill from the main building to the lake, but mostly, I remember how terribly cold it was – below zero: I’m thinking -25 with no wind. I vaguely remember the routine activities mentioned – but there were a few: We were broken into groups, each group assigned a parable to act out — the most memorable: Ralph Martin’s portrayal of a land owner who agrees to pay everyone the same, no matter if they had been working since morning or if they only worked an hour. Each time one of his workers was hired, Ralph announced the going rate. In the best Mesabi Iron Range accent of all time, he said, “I will pay ye a dollar a day.” For those who don’t care, that’s fine, but to us, it was hilarious.

As for the cold, this was back in the day of carburetors – no electronic ignition systems, no remote starters. So, many of us stayed up during the night, starting cars and letting them run as the deep dark starry cold weighed down on the campers and the cars — the exhaust rose straight up into the dead still air – but in any case, we survived the horrid cold, returning home having been tempered by the weather and by Iron Range/Lutheran theology.

PART II – Ray Dretske

RAY DRETSKE, jazz musician (sax) and music technology guru, visited the Pillager School Music Department in the last weekend of January, into February of 1996. Ray brought his knowledge of the latest in computer programs that would process music – we learned to program 16 different tracks of music, including a bass line, a melody, accompaniment – how to vary tempos, how to assign different instruments to each track – it was the latest that could be found back then. A good deal of the time was based on the twelve bar blues.

On the last day of Ray’s visit, Governor Carlson closed all public schools in the state on Friday, Feb. 2, 1996 – which meant the handful of kids that Ray had been working with individually were not going to be able to finish their compositions — well, Ray and I talked that morning, and we decided to head over to Pillager, and I would contact those students, offering them a chance to come in and work one last time with Ray. Some did: I particularly recall that Adam Maas and April Kobs came in. We spent the morning working on compositions and playing along with some of the other music Ray brought with him for us to enjoy and learn. We worked through the morning and broke up around noon, when we helped Ray pack up all the stuff into has van and we said goodbye.

And you’re wondering how the cold affected us — it all has to do with Ray’s van.

I got to school and opened up by 8 a.m. Eventually, the kids arrived, and then in came Ray, with what I could only say was the coldest face I’ve ever seen. The guy was in chilled pain right down to the bone and into the marrow.

What had happened? Ray went out to start his van (he was at the Super 8 motel in Baxter – a ten-mile drive to Pillager) and when he closed the driver’s door to head out, the window shattered into all those tiny little beads of glass you get when you shatter automotive safety glass…. And here it was, subzero temperatures and wind chills in around fifty below, and Ray – with no other choice at hand – drove the ten miles to Pillager with his window out. Ergo, the frozen face and all that went with it.

Thanks to our head custodian Doug Loftis, Ray was able to park his van in the industrial arts room (it had a garage stall for automotive classes), where Doug found some cardboard to cover the broken window while Ray and I and the kids did our thing that morning. (Super thanks to Doug for that special assistance ….)

I’ve never seen someone so cold as I saw Ray that morning – and what a story it gave us to tell. Just this week, I found Ray on Facebook, just to say hello and to reminisce, and wouldn’t you know, he tells that story as much as I do.

Thanks Ray for the lessons. Thanks, Adam and April and the others who I don’t remember, for coming in that morning. And thanks, Doug, for the time you took to solve a problem.

A Dozen New Year’s Resolutions I Won’t Keep (I call them ReSuggestions) and One That I Will Keep

Paint Salvador Dali’s ‘melted clock’ on the garage door.

Catch a fish bigger than me.

Bake anything at all – and it must be edible.

Restore a 1939 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

Eat a three-pound hamburger.

Hitchhike from home to Winnipeg and back in 3 days.

Remove my own appendix.  (Yes, I still have it…..)

Use a new word every day that starts with the letter X.

Translate at least three works of Mark Twain into Sanskrit.

Stay up and watch the stars every night until a piece of Russian space debris falls into my yard.

Grow one of those plants that blossoms once every seven years and smells like dead flesh when it blooms.

Create a new cologne for men based on grass clippings and gasoline and sell it as “EAU D’LAWN”.

And the one I intend to keep:

Be fruitful.

There’s that Biblical phrase we hear about ‘Go ye therefore, be fruitful and multiply”.  Wilma and I are done multiplying – we’ve replaced ourselves… me with our son and Wilma with our daughter – meaning we multiplied by one.  That leaves being fruitful.

Being fruitful means that there will be little or no weeds.  Whatever I plant needs to be productive – and that can be words or actions.  I know I will get upset about things and spew forth a few negative things, but the goal is to clearly be so much more fruitful than destructive.

So I’ll leave it at that … I resolve to be fruitful as best I can.

‘Nuff said.

My Goofy Twenty Predictions for 2014

It’s gonna get frigging cold.

It’s gonna get frigging hot.

Somebody important is going to die.

Something really stupid will happen in Texas.

Something even stupider will happen where we don’t expect it.

Someone will find a new way to recycle something common that will really be smart.

There will be a YouTube video of teeth that will go viral.

There will be a really weird storm – snow in Guam comes to mind.

Prices will change dramatically (either up or down – or both) for some really nutso product.

There will be a movie that will be a big huge surprise/moneymaker at the box office.

Some scientist will declare coffee good for you… or bad for you…. Again.

A new political leader will arise in Europe.  He/She will be bald.

A new diet will become terribly successful – and then just bomb when someone famous dies from it.

A new species of bees will be found in Wisconsin.  I want to say they thrive on cheese, but I don’t dare.

Something will get stuck somewhere that we don’t expect…. Like a plane in midair….

Some cute kid will sing something great on British TV, but this time no one will notice or care.

The lyrics of the no. 1 pop song of the year will deal with a country-western singer and a giraffe.

Another invention will be anticipated as world-changing – and will make the Segway look good.

Some kind of food will surpass bacon as the supreme food.

Someone who has been out of the public eye for decades will reappear… but not Jimmy Hoffa.


­­­Now, if you have something to say about this list, go ahead… but then write your own predictions, too, so we can all roll our eyes at those, too.

If I Had Ever Been Cast in a TV Show…

(NaBloPoMo for Nov. 10, 2013)

I have been fortunate to participate in community theatre here in town… I’ve done over 40 shows in one capacity or another, so I have the experiences of being on stage and of auditioning – and I like it … but ultimately, and as a child of the 60s, I wonder how I would have fit into TV shows over the years… I know, let’s see what happens….

beaverHere’s the fifties…. and I am about 7 years old.  Look over there!  Hey, it’s The Cleaver house, where Wally is known to give the business to the Beaver almost every day.  We watch the boys go to school, and by golly, there I am, cast as one of the kids in Beaver’s classroom, where Miss Landers sits at her desk – so pretty and so nice.  I pretty much just get to sit in the desk – I have no lines, but I do get to react on camera when Beaver knocks his spelling book on the floor, embarrassing him in front of the girl with pigtails.

And perhaps if I could have been an adult like I am now and did a show in the sixties, I might just be on Perry Mason – and this time, I’d get a line or two, which would be (as they said in the 50s)  “just keen”.  I can hear the line right now… ”Yes, Your Honor.  We the Jury find Wilbert Marx NOT GUILTY”.  With any luck, I’d get to turn to Mr.Mason and nod with a knowing look.

monkees And so then, the sixties …. I was in my early teens then, so clearly I would find myself cast on THE MONKEES.  Again, no lines.  I’m the guy in the absolutely unnecessarily doofy fashion wear – plaid pants and a paisley shirt– and I am at a MONKEES concert in which I’m on camera for a whole 1.33 seconds, waving madly.  By the way, the fashion statement was one that I would have made for myself in real life.  I figured I might admit this before my sisters called me on it.

Going back to the sixties as an adult would find me in a similar role as I did as an adult in the fifties…. But instead of being a jury foreman, I’d be an eyewitness for Sergeants Friday and Gannon on Dragnet, just giving them the facts; “I heard a strange sound, you know, nothing all that unusual, but you react to anyway?  The man had broken the glass on the counter.  He stuck his hand into the case and removed a handful of watches into his pocket and ran out the door.  That’s all I saw, officer.”  They would thank me and walk off, having written my poetic phrases in their little spiral notebooks.  With any luck, I get to swing the hammer at the end of the show for the MARK VII PRODUCTIONS logo…



And now we get into the seventies, and I’m in my twenties – a young adult now, so bring on M*A*S*H*.  (And yes, the asterisks are necessary….).   I play an ordinary soldier, so I am on screen for only a short time, as I walk a tray full of surgical tools through the ER to have them sterilized in the autoclave by nurse Kelly.  Hey, it’s a living….

And then to go back as the adult I am now — hmmmm… the seventies…. Which means I have a small part on Charlie’s Angels as an elevator operator – or maybe as a farm implement dealer on Dallas….. or worse, I get to be a victim on The A Team, where I am shot down at the beginning of the show, where the last words I hear come from Mr. T, who utters his famous “I pity the fool!”



The eighties?  I am at my best as a thirty year old patron and borderline friend of that gang at Cheers.  My big moment?  I get to shake my head when that old guy makes a lewd comment after Carla Tortelli gets off a good zinger as Diane…. And to go back as I am now, I’m more than likely populating a gurney, totally obfuscated (I always wanted to use that word) by a sheet on an episode of Chicago Hope… .and I don’t even get to meet Denzel Washington or Howie Mandell.

frazierAlmost the end of the century now – and I’m at a party, watching the Crane brothers (Frazier and Niles, as if I had to tell you….) argue over the vintage of a certain wine.  The fun part?  They spill it on me.  I even get a credit at the end of the show as ‘man with wine spill’.  My appearance as I am now comes on one of the many LAW AND ORDER shows – doesn’t matter which one at all – in which I get to play a middle manager at a bank that gets robbed by guy played by a member of the cast of RENT who wants to make some extra money.  My line – “Please, and take it with you.”

And finally as the century changes, I’m almost myself.  As the fifty year old man I was back then, about ten years ago, I play a superintendent of the apartment building where Marshall, Lilly, Ted and Robin live… and I get to shoo off Barney with a broom as he tries to hit on my ‘daughter’ as played by a young actress just appearing on the scene… Scarlett Johansen….


And to conclude, I fantasize myself as I am now – and I’m actually am the same person I was when I was twelve….. I’m looking through the DC Comics on BIG BANG THEORY, wishing I could fly with Wonder Woman on her invisible aircraft.  Ain’t imagination grand?

Top Ten Team Names We Don’t Ever Need to See

)NaBloPoMo for Nov. 8, 2013)

With all the foofaraw regarding the Washington Redskins name and all that, it occurred to me that the David Letterman Top Ten List thing might be interesting, so here goes….


Top Ten Team Names We Don’t Ever Need to See

 10.  The Fighting Sloths

9.  The Body Outlines

8.  The Outhouses

7.  The Armpit Hairs

6.  The Dead Fish Washed Up on the Beach

5.  The  Leaky Dumpsters

4.  The Third Reich

3.  The Colonoscopies

2.  The Canadian Mayors

1.  The Penn State Athletic Directors

What was I expecting anyway?

the beardI recently posted a comment on FACEBOOK about baseball players and those big bushy beards they’re wearing these days, ready to make a nasty comment… and then I remembered that I sported the same look myself back in the early 80s, so I posted that picture too…. And you know, I got more hits on that than on anything else I’ve posted – by blog stuff, my dumb little comments….at first, I was dismayed; wasn’t my serious stuff good?  Heck, I was lucky if those things got 20 hits… But this picture, and the comment that went with it, has received over 100 hits and comments combined.  What’s up with that?


I’ll tell you what’s up with that…. lightheartedness is a good thing.  It may seem innocuous and pointless, but I say Nay, No, Never and uh uh.  Such frivolities serve to release something – tension, nostalgia, whatever.  I’ll show you what I mean.


Some of the people who responded to THE PIC are former students from the same days as THE PIC.  They remember my goofy days in the classroom, but they also remember the days I got a little tense over things.  Some former students never saw me this way – and upon seeing this said to themselves, “This explains a lot….”.


Some are good friends – some old, some new.  Simple comments reveal thoughts like ‘I remember those days” and “I wish I could have seen Charlie in action back then” and even “Hey.  This guy must have really been into some goofy crap.”


Some are relatives who have known me since the diaper days and have seen me in wire frames glasses, dressed in cute little boy suits, saw me just be nuts… there’s the nostalgic stuff I mentioned.


Some don’t even really know me – so I can imagine the stories being built in their heads about this yoyo who keeps writing his blather online.  I am glad to be the source of an imagination-stretching exercise for you.


So a big thanks to all who responded to THE PIC.  I appreciate you all.