Fleeting summer and Grandpa’s wise words…

It seems as though it was just May and a nice summer lay ahead. But somehow June slipped in and the days and nights flew off the calendar like so many scattering birds flushed up by a nosey hunting dog! 

That adage that time flies faster and faster as we age sure seems all-too-true. Since June is my birthday month, it has always held a special significance for me. A great time of year it has always been. Baseball is finally in full swing, the weather has finally shed its winter/spring chill, and shorts and t-shirts are the normal fashion.

 Remember when we were kids, and time dragged on and on, and we couldn’t wait to be older and do the things that older kids and adults got to do? Way back, a long, long time ago, I remember my grandpa’s off-hand remark he said to me one day: “Don’t wish your young days away. You’ll be old before you know it!” Of course, I laughed and didn’t really give his words any more thought during all of those younger days that I often wanted to “hurry along” and not dwell in that moment too long.

As I write now, I realize that I’m even older than Grandpa was when he offered his advice all those years ago. And having just added another year to my existence back on June 11, I would enjoy being able to jump back every now and then to those summers when I was playing Little League and Pony League baseball, and spending all the other hours goofing around with friends and kindling a summer romance that would usually be long over with at the start of school in September.

Now, looking in the rearview mirror back to those long-gone days, I realize that I was really wrong to assume in thinking that the time dragged on and on and on. In reality, they came and went way too quickly! It would seem that I didn’t really appreciate everything at the moment and missed out on some things. I realize all of that now and readily agree with Grandpa’s words. If he were here today, I’d let him know that!

“That guy” who lives in the past…

IMG_4349It’s mid-June already, and life here in northern Illinois keeps rolling right along. It seems as though those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer have definitely arrived, and the constant whirring of our air conditioner is the background “music” as we go about our daily living around the old homestead.

 I quietly “celebrated” another birthday a week ago and have been busy attending the grandsons’ baseball games a couple of times each week. As before, I’m doing way more reading than writing, but I keep intending to make amends in that department—soon! 

As these summer days settle in around us, I find myself harking back to last summer and those two magnificent trips we took: Alaska cruise in August; driving Route 66 in September. And although I am trying to avoid being that guy—the one who constantly lives in the past—I do have very fond memories of that Alaska trip.

IMG_5472For sure, I wouldn’t mind being on board that magnificent Holland-America ms Noordam once more, plying the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay. And the long day’s bus ride out of Seward up to Denali National Park on that dreary and rainy day, wouldn’t be so bad right now, either. The splendid views of the magnificence of the entire area rest prominently in my mind’s memory right now.

 I find myself flashing back to our wonderful Route 66 Journey of last September (not many weeks after we returned from the Alaska trip) and wishing we were just preparing to do it all over again. I often lose myself recalling all those twists and turns on the “old” stretches of highway, the weather-worn, rusty neon signs and forgotten roadside businesses we encountered all along the way. 

IMG_6049I have several Facebook friends and Route 66-themed pages I follow every day, and I love seeing many of the same photos of the same places we experienced. Each one, familiar now, evokes so many wonderful memories.

Perhaps another journey along the Mother Road in the not-too-distant future is possible. After all, there are things we missed or didn’t have enough time to enjoy as thoroughly as we would have preferred. I’m afraid, though, that my traveling “partner” is not hot on that idea, as she feels that once was enough for her! We shall see…

I can’t, however, rest solely on last summer’s delightful road adventures. At this writing, I’m only a month away from another adventure, this time with our two grandsons. On Sunday, July 15, as soon as the boys are finished with the baseball tournament they’ll be wrapping up that day, we’re setting off for the territories once more! This time to Casper, Wyoming, for a three-day trip in a covered wagon on the old Oregon Trail. 

I suppose that it’s only fitting that we spend some time this summer experiencing another of the famous roads so full of historic importance in the great land of ours. Lots of miles ahead, but I’d not have it any other way.

farm against sky
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

All done “up there”…

I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.

Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and  am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.

Back home on the deck, under the stormy skies over northern Illinois farmland.

One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!

We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.

Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!


this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)

So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.

Bring it on!
At rest for one last day and night on Magician Lake.


Summer reading…my list

images.jpegLast week I mentioned that I’ve been doing more reading than writing, and though I should probably feel guilty, I really don’t. I guess it’s because I don’t always have much to say, but I always have the desire to read. And so my mornings usually are given over to reading in the peace and quiet of the cottage on Magician Lake.

Although I enjoy fiction, my tastes have really turned more toward non-fiction, specifically biographies and history. I like to keep a pattern of alternating between the various types, following a biography with a good thriller or mystery.

So far this summer, these are the books and authors I’ve finished and enjoyed, in one way or another:

  1. Stealing America-(Dinesh D’Souza) – An intriguing work that explains a lot of things about the current state of the Democrat Party.
  2. The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball-(Charles Fountain) – For baseball fans who enjoy the history of the game, and for a White Sox fan such as I, this is a wonderful book that provides so much background of the circumstances that helped create the most notorious scandal in the history of Major League Baseball, the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
  3. Sycamore Row-(John Grisham) – Another fine legal tale from Grisham that is a sequel to his first successful novel A Time to Kill. The main character, Jake Brigance, is once again caught up in a very strange case that keeps one turning the pages to see how the whole thing will turn out.
  4. The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart-(Tom Smoot) – I bought this book on our trip to Fort Myers, Florida, where we visited the Edison-Ford Estate in March. It was a fascinating work that explained how Edison came to Fort Myers in the first place and his love of the community, making this his winter home for many years.
  5. Papa: Hemingway in Key West-(James McLendon) – This is another book I picked up on our recent Florida trip, specifically in Key West. Hemingway’s life and times in Key West and how the “Papa” myth grew is explained in this nice little book. Makes one want to dash on down for a cold drink at Sloppy Joe’s!
  6. Night-(Elie Wiesel) – This very small—but extremely powerful—book has rested on my home bookshelves for quite a long time, with my having every intention to sit down and read it. Ironically, when I packed this in with the other books to take up to the cottage, I had no idea that the author would pass away shortly thereafter. This is Elie Wiesel’s recounting of the horror that came to his family and other Jews during the tragic Hitler years, before any kind of help in the form of liberation eventually materialized. It is the story of perseverance in the face of hopelessness and inhumanity. Rest in peace, Elie Wiesel! Your story shall not be forgotten, nor any of those people who suffered.
  7. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty-(Charles Leerhsen) – Another biography and baseball book about one of the game’s greatest players, yet historically misunderstood. The book enlightened me as to the misconceptions I have always held about Ty Cobb, who was cast as a racist and overall mean person on and off the field. Leerhsen provides clear evidence that just the opposite was actually the true picture of Cobb.
  8. The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindberg, and the Epic Age of Flight-(Winston Groom) – The author has interwoven the stories of these three Americans who showed uncommon courage and never backed down from the challenges they faced in the world of aviation. It seems as though when faced with daunting adversity, each of these Americans ratcheted up his inner fortitude and met the challenges head on.

images-2.jpegThere are still several weeks remaining, and I do plan to devote much of that time to my writing. But there are still more books to read and enjoy as well.

What's next to read?

Under the March Sun: The Story of Spring Training-(Charles Fountain) Yep, another baseball book, but what can I say? There’s always room for books about baseball in the good, old summertime! Can’t wait to get to it.  🙂

What are some of your favorite summer reads this year?

That magic summer…

images-1.jpegIt was summer 1964. The railroad had just transferred my dad from Huntington, Indiana, to Ashland, Ohio, and we were in the process of moving. At first I had been enthusiastic about it all, but then as summer rolled around, and my Pony League baseball season with it, I wasn’t so thrilled about the move at all.

As things developed, we had a pretty good team, and I was patrolling center field, making catches that, in distant recollection now, still amaze me! And I actually was hitting the ball more consistently. And it wasn’t only me. Every other player on that team had somehow metamorphosed into steady players and excellent teammates.

It’s pretty much a cliché now to say that we “came together” that summer, but I know of no other way to put it, nor can I think of another group, club, team, or organization I’ve ever been a part of and say the same thing about it. We came together, indeed!

Even practices out at an old rural school several times a week were something to which we looked forward to with the eagerness of the typical fourteen year olds that we were. Often, my good friend and I would pedal our bikes the three or four miles out to the school and meet up with the others. Along the way, we’d have serious discussions about when I was images-3.jpeggoing to have to leave for Ohio and what it would do to our friendship.

As much as I wanted to put those kinds of thoughts out of my head and focus on baseball, there was always something there to remind me about how things were soon going to change in my life. I never wanted to admit that I would be a long way from the friends I’d known most of my life, so I usually tried not to take any of it too seriously.

On the last day of school that year, several parents had a graduation party for us, kind of an “end-of-junior high-getting-ready-for-high school” gathering. During the party, it seems that all anyone wanted to talk about when I was around was how I felt about having to move. I put on a fake persona, one where I shrugged it off and joked about it all, but, truth be told, I was really torn up inside.

And that’s where that summer’s magical baseball season helped. Why we–a ragtag group of basically mediocre ball players–turned into a championship team, is still beyond my wildest sense of reasoning. But we did, winning the championship with stellar pitching, timely hitting, and game-saving defense along the way.

Meanwhile, my parents and my sisters had made the move to our new home in Ohio in Unknown.pngearly August, but I still had a few weeks left of the season. I was invited to spend those days at my good friend’s house so I could finish out. Plus, I had been selected to be the starting center fielder for the All-Star Game, and I couldn’t miss out on that honor.

Somewhere in my “vault” of treasured memories and other pieces of my past is a faded newspaper article about our team winning the championship that summer. There’s an accompanying team photo with our smiling faces as we hold our trophies proudly and throw out endless wisecracks. We’re all sweaty, dirty, and very happy!

What I recall most clearly, though, was that the day after the photo appeared in the paper, I was on a train traveling to my new home in a strange and unfamiliar place and wondering what lay ahead, and the magic of that team of mine tucked away forever.

We all vowed to stay in touch and get together whenever the opportunity presented itself. For a time we did. But we all grew out of being fourteen year olds and our lives found their own varied paths. Eventually, I adjusted to my new surroundings and made some very good friends there. Yet, fifty-two years later, I still remember that magic summer!images-2.jpeg

Ah, summer!

The pier, the pontoon, and the lake as viewed from where I write this.

Sunday evening. A quiet and peaceful atmosphere now at the lake. The gray and overcast day has finally given way to late sunshine and temperatures that don’t require a fleece or a sweatshirt.

Just back from another walk out to the highway a quarter-mile away, I decide that I’d better fire up the MacBook and ease on back into the blogging world and see if any comments or messages await my attention.

It’s been over a week since we moved in and gotten settled for another summer, and even longer since my self-imposed hiatus from posting and trying to keep up with the social media world. So, here I am once again.

Our weather has been terrific, although today was overcast and cool—one of those perfect for getting lots of reading done. It would have also been perfect to work on my novel, but I’m still not motivated to do any of that just yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will get back to that. I’m confident that I will.

The walks have been good, reminding me just how much they meant to me last summer, getting myself back into better shape and losing a bunch of unnecessary weight. And that is a great motivator for me to continue with the same thing in the weeks ahead, especially since I’m going to be another year older (and wiser?) come next Saturday (June 11).

I’m awake and up by 6:30 each morning, and after I get the coffee going, I set out for my twenty-minute walk. Then I grab that first cup of hot coffee and my book and settle out on the porch for an hour or so of quiet, uninterrupted reading. It’s my favorite time around these parts—before the lake comes alive with the noise of wave runners and ski boats and various other sounds of summer.

However, tomorrow morning is a “work” morning, in that I have to pay a visit to the laundromat to catch up on a week’s supply of dirty clothes. It’s a grueling task, but someone has to do it! And the bathroom will need attention and the vacuum run throughout the cottage in preparation for some company we’ll be having later in the week. It’s pretty standard practice and it doesn’t require a great amount of time—one of those “necessary evils” around the place.

It feels good to be sitting at the MacBook once more, creating a post to send out there. And now the dark of the night has settled in, the frogs are singing out back in the swamp across the lane, and the warmth of the bed upstairs beckons.

Ah, summer!

(Photo: sisterlakesmi.com)

The Walrus is right…

“The time has come,” the Walrus said…”

Yep. Just like the Walrus, I realize that the time has, indeed, come—as it has for the past several years—though not to talk about shoes and ships and sealing wax, but for the annual event of putting in the pier at the cottage up in Michigan.

As always, we perform this necessary task the weekend prior to our “official” move-in (May 27) for the summer, which makes this coming weekend the time to which the “Walrus” has spoken.

The “we” that is our intrepid and brave “pier putter-inners” consists of my son and anyone else we can coerce into going along for the two-and-a-half hour ride to the lake and getting into the water and putting all of the pier pieces together in the correct order! This year, our third soul is my son’s father-in-law, Ed.

Our pier in hibernation.jpg
Right where we left them in September. Just waiting to be awakened.

Actually, the job is not difficult, other than unstacking the planks and sawhorses from where they have been neatly stacked on the landing at water’s edge since last Labor Day.

Once all of the pieces are  in the water, the job of sliding them together is quite simple and the job doesn’t take much time at all.

But it’s necessary to have three people to complete it all, although it was just my son and me the very first time we did it years ago. Talk about the blind leading the blind! But that’s a post for another time.

That being said, I always look forward to the job, knowing that all of the pieces should be in good shape, or at least they were when we left them in September. And the water, as shallow as it is, will not be too unbearable after that initial shock. It’s only waist deep and the bottom is sandy and very level.

According to the forecast, it’s supposed to be in the 70s, so I’m hoping that there will be sunshine a few days ahead of our immersion next Sunday so the water has been warmed somewhat. Regardless, it’s a “cleansing” experience, so say the least.

After an hour and a half at most, we’re done and ready to head back home, but not before we get dry clothes on and visit TJ’s, where the food is good and the meal is my treat. We’ll toast another successful pier installation and set sail back to Illinois. Then it will be time for me to get serious about the move up there early the following Friday.

The time has come to open her up for another summer.

Even though there is so much to do to get ready for it all, I am happy that it’s that time once again. The Walrus is definitely right!


My yard work season opener…

IMG_1683.jpgYesterday marked the beginning of that time of year which means that it’s time to break out the “tools of spring/summer” once again, and pick up right where we left off back in the fall: Yard work!

To some, it’s something to be dreaded, or at least not something one eagerly looks forward to. I guess I’m just happy to be outside again, doing “summer-y” things in late March, even if it’s nothing more than getting the mowers ready and tidying up the garage from winter’s debris.

A week ago, I put down the first lawn fertilizer/crabgrass preventer, which actually signaled the beginning of the yard work season. Yesterday, with the grass having grownIMG_1685.jpg enough, and the temperatures hovering around 60, I mowed our palatial estate.

Riding along on the bright green John Deere, I basked in the sunshine and realized how great it felt to be doing this all again—this being out in the fresh air and doing good things for the lawn!IMG_1681.jpg

I also realized that there is a lot more to be done in the days ahead: All of the chicken wire we put up around the bushes to thwart the bunnies this winter needs to be taken down and rolled up and stored away. There’s lots of edging to do along the driveway and sidewalk. And the trusty weed trimmer will need to come out of mothballs very soon in the days ahead.

IMG_1687.jpgBut these are all wonderful “problems” to ponder while easily cruising along my course of cutting the grass for the first time this year.

Yep, there is something special about the start of a new season, even if it’s yard work! Anyone else agree with me? Disagree?IMG_1682.jpg

It’s getting late…

Samnangerfjorden a late summer evening. Seen f...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s getting late. Summer is fleeting. The slant of the sun—morning and late afternoon—seems to be at different angles now. Fewer and fewer residents are up here at the lake during the week, vacations having run out. Nights are cooler, calling for sweatshirts more often. The dark comes much sooner in the evening—and it’s dark, almost immediately!

But the real indicator that lake season is in its homestretch for another summer is our grandsons were here these last four days before they have to start school on the 14th. And the last two summers, they were barely up here to spend much time with us at all, their busy lives busier than ever with so much other stuff besides Grandma and Poppy.

Matt and Grandma working on ice cream cones.
Jack with another spoonful of chocolate goodness!

Even so, what a wonderful four days it was, having them both without Mom and Dad! Whether it was splashing and rough-housing around in the lake for hours or challenging Grandma and Poppy to crucial games of Aggravation or Apples to Apples, or enjoying a summer evening visit to Frosty Boy for ice cream, it is what summer, with those we love, should always be.

There was even time chiseled out of our busy days for “down time”—reading or doing “nothing” quietly. And it’s amazing how they both seemed willing—almost eager—to open up to Grandma and Poppy about the upcoming school year: teachers, activities, friends. Often’s the case that getting any kind of information out of either one of them is as tough as extracting the Kremlin’s secrets.

Capping off our time together was a day spent at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village over in Dearborn, Michigan, a two-and-a-half hour journey from the cottage. It was something that Grandma and I had been planning for most of the summer, and it all came together on one very gorgeous summer’s imagesday.

Originally, we’d planned to make the trip over on Monday, but watching the weather forecast call for storms for most of that day made our decision to move the trip to Tuesday mostly a no-brainer. As it turned out, the skies were the bluest blue, full of fluffy clouds, gliding along way up there on lovely, gentle breezes. Temperatures eased into the low-80s, without much humidity whatsoever. How could we not have the wonderful time we did!

I had visited Greenfield Village once before, back in 1968 when a senior in high school. I always remembered how impressed I had been at the time with the Thomas Edison workshops there, and I made sure I re-visited that part of the Village. I think I was able to convey my excitement about such exhibits to my two grandsons, even though they were more enthused with the OscaUnknownr Meyer Weinermobile on display in the Henry Ford Museum!

Upstairs at Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laborat...
Upstairs at Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory (removed to Greenfield Village) Note the organ against the back wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the course of the day, we rode in an authentic Model-T, and later climbed aboard the Greenfield Village train, pulled by steam engine fueled by good old coal.

We paid a visit to the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop, where they did most of the work on their famous Flyer, and also stopped by their house (with the neat porch that wraps around the front). This was even more special since I recently finished reading David McCullough’s book about the Wrights.

Before we realized it, the day had given way to late afternoon and approaching closing time. Weary from a day of walking, the boys and I were content to find a bench and wait for Grandma to finish her assault on the Village Gift Store.

Finally, once she re-joined us, two large shopping bags laden with who-knows-what, all of us were ready for the not-too-far trek to the parking lot to begin our drive back to the cottage, with a stop somewhere in between for dinner, of course.

Getting back just after 9:30, we found it quite easy to call it a day—a very fine day, indeed—and there was nary a problem for any of us to fall asleep. Turning off the cottage lights and closing up, I realized that Carolyn would be taking them home in the morning, and it would be just me—alone—here all over again.

As I write this now, I cannot help but keep returning to that wonderful day the four of us shared yesterday. No cares, no worries, no frowns! Just Grandma, Poppy, and two wonderful little boys who will one day be grown up and off on other things important in their lives besides spending time with us. Realizing this, I’m saddened at the thought. Am I getting old? Scary thoughts abound. At any rate, I suppose we’d better enjoy these moments while we can. And so it’s these times I cherish and will always hold dear. Thank you, Jack and Matt and Grandma…

Summer Jobs: 1969 Memories

June…1969…One year at Kent State under my belt! Nineteen and full of vim and vigor, ready to have a wonderful summer back home in LaGrange, Illinois (soon to be nearby Western Springs as my parents moved).

As I wrote in an earlier post, summers during my college years (1968-73) were spent working various jobs and experiencing many interesting people and events. They were fun summers, to say the very least, and I also made some pretty good money during those summer months.

Summer ’69 found me hooking up with a construction company—Hardin’s in River Forest, Illinois. As had happened the previous summer, and would for the next few summers, I attained these jobs thanks to my dad and the various contacts he had at his place of employment—Hunt-Wesson Foods in Chicago.

So for the hot summer months in ’69, I worked with a guy named Ed Ivy and two or three Mexican fellows repairing curbs and sidewalks in and around the Oak Park/River Forest area. I became somewhat proficient using a pick and shovel to clear away old concrete and rubble and helping to frame out where the new concrete was to be poured. It was good physical work, and I enjoyed being a part of the crew. I wouldn’t want any part of that now, but in 1969, I was young and happy to do it.

A few weeks into the summer, I received a call from a person my age, the son of one of my mom’s friends. He played on a semi-pro baseball team on Sundays. Mom had casually mentioned to his mom one time that I was a baseball fan and would love to get back into playing the game. Thus, I received a phone call shortly thereafter with an invitation to come on out to their next game and to bring my glove and shoes and any other equipment I possessed since they needed a few more players. The manager, Hank, was able to scrounge up some pants and a jersey that fit, and, just like that, I was a member of the team. I didn’t even have to try out, so I was certain they were quite desperate for bodies to fill out their roster!

My baseball playing “career” resurrected, I spent many Sundays at Bedford Park as part of the team and meeting more friends and partaking of the wonderful post-game parties back at the manager’s house. We weren’t very good—losing most of the double-headers each Sunday—but we were very good at those parties!

What songs stick out that summer? Lay Lady Lay, In the Year 2525, Get Together, and Make it With You by David Gates and Bread evoke many a memory all these years later. Even the release of Rubber Ducky by Ernie from Sesame Street (I kid you not!) bangs around in the old memory bank from some after-game parties!

Of course it was the summer of Woodstock, but since I had no interest in that scene at all (dope, hippiedom, acid rock, etc.) it basically came and went without me being aware of it happening! Though once I returned to school in the fall, I would hear all about it—ad nauseam!

Besides my construction job and baseball playing and parties on Sundays, I also found myself one or two times a week at Comiskey Park, when the White Sox were home. To put it simply, 1969 was an atrocious year record-wise for the Sox. Consequently, their attendance was something less than visible! Often, I had the run of the place it seemed, and I always had a good time out there. I actually was able to purchase beer there, even though I was only nineteen. As I do to this day, I hung on every pitch, hit, error, home run, strike out, win, or loss. It was a terrible season for the White Sox, but I still stuck with ‘em, as bad as they were. (Perhaps it was the beer…) I suppose it’s what they call “bad fun” these days. Whatever, the White Sox were (and are) a vital part of my summers. (A topic for a future post)

Looking back, I now realize how fast the summers fled, and 1969 was certainly no exception. Before I knew it, I was preparing to head back to Kent State for my second year, one that would bring me face-to-face with many more interesting people, places, and historic events.

The fall of ’69 would turn into the spring of ’70, and most people know why that is significant at Kent State. As a nineteen year old, I could never know what lay ahead as I worked and played and laughed and sang that summer of 1969. Many things would take place in the fall that was to come and the spring that changed the course of the way things were at Kent State. Regardless, I enjoyed my summer months at home in Illinois thoroughly….CortlandWriter