Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Continued....Grutz says, "Midwest weather is NOT for the faint of heart." or "Chicago-style deep dish pizza is NOT for the faint of heart."

We're all getting older.

Carleen and I had the great pleasure of welcoming her brother, Matt Healy, and cousin, Rob Healy, to our fine home for a little bachelor party get down.  I've known about this for some time and was a little nervous about trying to pull it off.  I was a bit concerned that I would have to come up with some crazy debauchery that really isn't my forte.  I'd ask myself, "Is Matt kinda hoping for 'The Hangover' type bachelor party?"  See, I'm more of a "let's drink some beers, maybe catch a show or hit up a couple bars" kind of guy, not a "let's get out of our minds, drop huge bank, yes, yes, yes, strippers, strippers, strippers, woo-hoo, partee (with a double 'e')" kind of guy.

Thank goodness, everyone is getting old.  And frequenting a music festival the previous days and getting no sleep.  Matt, Rob, and Andy (Maggie's brother) all went to Summer Camp '11 Friday and Saturday (I didn't go,  I'm 33.  You don't go to a giant camp-out-in-the-rain-with-thousands-of-hippies music fest when you're 33).  Papadosio played and so they all got to hang with Michael (Carleen's brother) when he wasn't banging the drums.  This also means they stayed up real late, partied pretty hard in they're own right, and 'slept' in a tent with tens of thousands of other party-goers.  When they arrived Sunday showers were had, naps were taken.

When the energy levels increased enough to get out and about, we settled on a Chicago tradition, deep-dish pizza.  Now for those that call Chicago home, we don't really eat this all that often.  Actually we never eat it.  Only when we have visitors, so it's always associated with good times.  So Carleen kindly joined us for some Gino's East artery clogging loving.  It is ridiculous.  It is grand.  It is pretty good.  It is something you have to do at least once in you life.
Enjoy it.  Don't think about.  Just enjoy it.
After dinner, Carleen left us boys to our own terrible selves.  Oh the mayhem that would ensue.  Ok, actually is was pretty calm and really fun.  We hit a couple bars, played some darts, and had a blast.  No, nothing juicy, no broken bones/lost body parts, no tattoos or pierced nipples, no hickeys, no herpes, just 4 guys having a great time.  We got back to Pilsen around 2, I woke up around 3:30 to get Rob to the Blue Line to catch is very, very early (but very cheap) flight back to DC.  Got to sleep.  Woke to Carleen making some the best waffles I've ever had.  Spent some time with Matt before he headed back to Cincinnati and enjoyed the afternoon with Carleen.  Bliss.

And then I was tired.  Dead tired.

As we get older, we might slow down a bit lot.  But we're more sensible and the things we choose to do, we appreciate them more. 

Also, I can't wait for Matt and Maggie's wedding.  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Grutz says, "Midwest weather is NOT for the faint of heart." or "Chicago-style deep dish pizza is NOT for the faint of heart."

From frostbite to heatstroke.

The past Tuesday I was visited by a great blast from the past, Tony Welter. He and I go way back to our high school days and we hadn't seen each other in over 4 years. How time flies! Carleen and I met him at his hotel downtown and had dinner. Tony and I then hopped the Red Line to Wrigley to catch the Cubs v. Mets. It was a great game. It was a cold game. Very cold. Like see-your-breath-why-didn't-I-bring-mittens cold. Heck, I had to bring a jacket for Tony!
Notice all the hoods and caps. My favorite is the the guy straight ahead with his shirt tucked into his hat. It was a frigid fun game. It was almost a record low that day. And the wind off the lake, yikes!
While we enjoyed the game we caught up on our families and whatnot. We all have friends like Tony, the great ones, that regardless of the time or distance, the second you're together it's as if nothing has changed. Just wonderful.

The Cubs won 11-1 and we stuck around to sing Steve Goodman's "Go Cubs Go" (which they play at the end of a Cubs victory) and to watch the Bulls v. Heat playoff game. It was pretty exciting to watch the final seconds with a couple hundred fans in the concessions area at Wrigley. Even though the Cubs game ended, the ushers allowed folks to stay and watch. Too bad the Bulls didn't pull it out, but it was fun.
Cubs Fans rooting for the Bulls at Wrigley. A big city celebrating its teams is a good thing.

So in less than a week we went from near freezing, and mind you this is late MAY, to good ol' hot times, the 90s. Whew, what a turn around, and going from Tuesday to today we endure some ridiculous storms. What's that they say about Chicago weather? If you don't like it, wait an hour or so? Yeah that's it. Arnie, as we've discovered is not a fan of the heat, but he does like the cool tile of our kitchen.
Nick: "Hey Arnie, who's a hotdog?" Arnie: "Hey Nick, who's a jerk? You are! I don't have sweat glands and I'm covered in fur! It's 90º out for god's sake! Hotdog?!? You jackass."
Apparently, Arnie gets mean when he's hot. Ahem.

Speaking of hot, we have to go to the store to buy some fans, but I'll continue later with all the dirty details of Matt Healy's bachelor night out yesterday. Uh-huh!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

memorial day barbequed eggs

To lighten up the mood a little bit, 

this needed to be shared.  I truly cannot wait to try out these recipes.  Thanks NPR!  We are off to breakfast with our favorite family in chicago, Julie Ann, Dan, Nora and Levi.  And then my brother will arrive in town to commence the Chicago leg of his bachelor weekend.  Oh joys.  

A Vegetarian Barbecue

May 28, 2011
Here are two vegetarian barbecue options that go well beyond veggie burgers and grilled vegetables. Oddly, I first tasted both on a meat-filled trip to Argentina. — Mark Garrison, TheSporkful.com
Yes, you can barbecue an egg.
EnlargeJason Gardner/TheSporkful.com
Yes, you can barbecue an egg.
Barbecued Eggs
Argentine engineering makes it possible to cook an egg over the coals without a mess, and you've never tasted eggs so smoky and delicious.
  • 1 large bell pepper, the bigger the better
  • 2 eggs
  • hot sauce, salt and black pepper to taste
You'll need the bell pepper to sit stably on the grill, or else the raw egg will spill out and make a tragic mess. Place the pepper flat on your cutting board and slice in half parallel to the board. Scrape out the seeds and placenta (yup, that's really what it's called), being careful not to pierce the outer wall.
Crack an egg into each half of the pepper. Try to distribute the egg into the whole cavity.
Place the filled pepper over the hottest part of the grill. It tastes best with the pepper's skin charred. Close the grill. If you're going to eat it with a knife and fork, cooking it to over-easy is fine. But if you're going to serve it as finger food, cook it a bit longer, so you don't have a runny yolk. It's great on its own, but better still with hot sauce, salt and a little black pepper on top.

Grilled Provolone
  • provolone cheese, sliced about 3/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • olive oil
Let the cheese slab sit and come to room temperature. Rub a thin layer of olive oil on it. Then press in oregano on both sides, adding red pepper flakes if you want a bit of heat.
The fastest and smokiest way would be to put it directly on the grill over the coals. But if you're a minute late pulling it off, you've got a gooey mess all over your grill. Best bet is to put a layer of aluminum foil over the grill, or watch it very carefully.
Cook it until it's a hot, gooey puddle of melty, cheesy joy. No need to flip it. Serve it hot with crackers, crusty bread or all by itself.

Grutz says, "I love you." or "I wonder what they could possibly be hunting in the city at 3 a.m.?"

Hot lead? No thank you.

Last night/early this morning Carleen and I were awaken by gunshots. They were far off, a couple of blocks. A half hour later some more, within a 100 feet of our home. There were no squealing tires, so the shooter(s) were on foot. Later, we heard a man shouting for help. Summer time in Pilsen.

I have personally never been fearful for my life while in Chicago, be it Logan Square, Lincoln Park, any where. I also make a point of not being in places where I ought to be fearful.

Life is too precious to squander it with violence. As I stared at the ceiling, my heart pounding, I thought of losing Carleen. I don't want anything bad to ever happen to her. I don't want anything bad to happen to anyone, for that matter. Life can end like that. For you or the people you love. Tell everyone you care about that you love them. Do it. Don't wait till it's too late.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Grutz says, "First my favorite hat. Now the new bed?!?!" or "How I learned to like the crate."

You're an animal but I want you to act like a person.

As Carleen mentioned, Arnie has be having some issues.  After yesterday's fiasco I purchased some new chew toys and a new bed.  Drove Carleen to work this morning and in 25 minutes he had the bed in ruins.  (Sigh).  I'm not upset with the dog, I'm upset with myself.  It's a dog and should act like one, not expected to act like a person.

I didn't initially go for crating, but boy oh boy, I do now!  So I ordered one, real cheap from Petco.  Memorial Day sale and free shipping (yeah) won't get here until next week (boo).  Aunt Jill mentioned some good things about crates and Maggie.  Also, I figured that with moving soon and me working (hopefully) next school year, we got to get him used to it.

Needless to say, I am very drained by all these recent events.  Love the pup.  Reading a lot.  Learning a lot.  Really love the pup.  Loved that hat, too.  But still, very drained.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Separation Anxiety, Morning Glory, and brownies make life so much better.

Well, it appears that our dog suffers from separation anxiety.  According to the vet, dogs have no sense of time lapsed and when we leave, Arnie can't understand that we won't be gone forever, ultimately, that we will always come back.  Apparently, we have to wean him in into associating us leaving with something positive.  So now the plan is to pretend like we' re leaving: prepare with a coat (on a wintery day like today), keys, shoes etc. and then take it all off and stay for a while.  In steps, Arnie will begin to understand that leaving isn't always a bad thing, and that we will come back.  Geez, it's like having a kid.  We have to trick him into letting us leave, and then reward him for not chewing up our shoes.

Yes, all of the separation anxiety diagnosis comes from 2 days of casualties in our household.  The first being Nick's "Pauls Big Game Room" hat.  Some of you may fondly remember it by the picture of me at a Reds game in Cincinnati.  Arnies blanket was the second to go to shreds, and last night he chewed up Nick's jump drive, one of my pens, and he tore up paper in the garbage.  Then today, the kicker.  We were gone for about 30 minutes; Nick drove me to school because it was raining, and this year, I am a wimp, and I don't ride in the rain.   He came home to my sneakers missing a heel.

I never wanted that heel anyway. 

No really, it's a fashion statement. 

Needless to say, post vet, Nick decided to go all out on chew toys, a new, real, dog bed, and duck jerky chewies.   We still love him, but are utterly surprised by this recent turn of events.  He gets over 4 walks a day for goodness sakes!  Not sure how to exercise him more, so it must be separation anxiety.  We are hoping it's rapidly treatable because we have some trips to take coming up and cannot have our dog eating my families shoes!

In other news, we have MORNING GLORY!

Nick fashioned this amazing situation by pouring plaster into a milk jug, and then sticking a sturdy, non buggy filled branch.  The glories started to quickly wind their way up to the top and suddenly, we have morning glories!  I know how short their season is, enjoy them while you can! 

 And to finish off the week, brownies have been on my mind for a while now, and it came to be necessary that I bake some.  These turned out amazingly.  Chewy, moist, creamy frosting.  SO delicious. This was the recipe I used,  Best Brownies .  Of course, we didn't have any Vanilla extract, so I used some of the pear/ mango syrup I created with my pear tart (a while ago) to add flavor if needed. They were amazing.

I can't keep my eyes open, bed is calling me.

Love, Carleen

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Grutz says, "Kate Smith is much, much faster than you." or "Saints are better than Gamblers." or "Sports, sports, sports, sports."

You're a Champion, Kate!

Kate celebrating with her Wahlert teammates at the Iowa Class 3A Championship.
Hot damn!  Little cousin Kate is a State Champ!  I couldn't believe my eyes reading the Telegraph Herald.  Dubuque Wahlert Girls won it's first team title, on the back of their sprint medley win on Saturday.  Kate ran the third leg and the team finished 1:49.13, just beating out Mt. Vernon/Lisbon by 0.73 seconds!  All the hard work and dedication payed off for Kate and the rest of the Wahlert team.  Give Kate a shout out.  We're so proud of you, Kate!

Dubuque tops Green Bay, 6-1 to with the Clark Cup.
.....and we'll keep on fighting to the end.  'Cos we are the Champions, we are the Champions!

And continuing with the sports theme... The Dubuque Fighting Saints won the USHL Clark Cup last night in Dubuque, over Green Bay, to win the best of 5 series, 3-1.  This is the first title for the Saints in 26 years (mind you, the Saints left Dbq for about 9 or 10 years).  It's been an amazing first season back in Dubuque at their new rink.  Of course, I don't want to take credit for anything, buuuuuuuuut......
A Fighting Saints promo back in August.  Who's giving the lucky, Clark Cup Champion high-five?  Nick is, that's who.
Well, I'm bushed.  That's my Dubuque sports fix for the week.  Have a beautiful Sunday, and once again, WAY TO GO KATE!!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011


"It's the end of the world as we know it."

(Knock, knock.  Nick opens door.)
"Yes, may I hel...oh, it's you guys."  (Over his shoulder) "Honey?  Did you invite the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for dinner?"
So tomorrow ushers in a new era, according to some, that begins 'the end of days.'  If this is true, and it's not, I would be very, very angry.  One, I have a lot of things on my plate right now.  Seriously, if the second coming of Christ makes me reschedule my next two months, heads will role (no pun intended).  Two, why have I paid off any of my debts?  Three, the Big 10 has divisions now, and the Hawkeyes have a pretty good schedule, I think they'll do well.  A bunch of angels and crap slicing and dicing the fans at Kinnick will not bode well for bowl season.

Ok, joking aside, let's pretend.  If we knew the end was tomorrow, what would you do on your last day?  Think about it.  This isn't like a magic make a wish.  I can't say I'd watch the sun setting in Hawaii.  I'm in Chicago, it would be almost impossible for me to fly there and a waste of time, too.  But take five minutes today, get out a piece of paper and think for a good five minutes and then write down what you would do on your final day.  Start at the beginning of the day.  Would you rise early to catch the sunrise?  Where would you watch it?  Would you sleep in with a loved one, and then share a devilishly good breakfast?  I think we would all be surprised.  Or maybe not.

But seriously, if a the zombies start coming on Saturday, I will be SO pissed off!
DAMN ZOMBIES!  I hate detours.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grutz says, "Aw yeah! Guess who's back in the TH?"

When the Saints go marching in...

The Dubuque Fighting Saints are in the Championships versus Green Bay and the Telegraph Herald is all over it. And guess who's all over the Telegraph Herald?

Uh-huh, it's me, again. Thanks Jon for the heads up.

Belated highlights of weeks past: shotguns, joints, clouds and Arnie

It’s been a while, but I feel compelled to write.  
Heard on the street in Pilsen a few days ago:
One guy in a car said to another guy in a car.  “Hey, do you have your shotgun?”  “No, I left it at home.”  
And I just kept walking.  Arnie, my trusty evening walk companion was by my side and there were kids screaming and running around (as is common on warm evenings in Pilsen) so I wasn’t too worried.  It is, on the contrary, a little worrisome how nonchalantly I was able to let the thought of shotguns go in one ear and out the other.  I was reminded of the comment today, when again with Arnie, was sitting on our stoop (not the part covered in bird poo, but a little spot to the left that is clear) and a big jolly guy getting dropped off by a workers van waved a little bit to me, and I waved back in my attempt to be neighborly.  Clearly the return wave was his in, and he said
“Want to smoke a joint with me?” (Note: I have never seen this guy in my life).  I responded, “No, thanks.”  He said, “How about your dog?”  “Uh, no.” 
These are the characters that we live with.  They color our life in Pilsen, which may be coming to a close.  The plan right now is to move when our lease is up (end of July).  We’ve been craving a backyard or a porch or a deck, some/any kind of exposure to the outside, and it’s true, sometimes the “characters” in the ‘hood are a bit too unsavory, even for me.  There are some other reasons too, but we’ll get to that later. 
It's been a great few weeks with me, Nick and Arnie.  Nick's been doing a fabulous job with chronicling our life of late, but here are some of my highlights. 

We had an apocalyptical storm that served up beautiful clouds and wind. 

And, it was not without thunder and lightening late into the night.  I sat by the window on our spiral steps until the rain got too strong and started getting me wet.  The warm wind felt amazing and I swear I transported myself to my favorite beach in the world.  Meanwhile, Arnie made NOT A PEEP!!!
I've been imagining the feeling of the waves and the sun on my face at Sunset Beach, NC, and I am scheming together some way to make a vacation there this summer.  It's not really in the cards yet, but I don't think I can go without.  My family's been going there for years, and it is my beach home. 

Back to the pup: Arnie is a fun loving guy, who wouldn't want to be his friend?

"And I sit nicely too."

At school, we had a stellar career day.  Dr. Zid's (my chiropractor employer of 3 years), sent his  partner Dr. Bryan, who was awesome.  We have some future chiropractors in our midst! 

Nick mistakenly left his newly mended patch over patch pants out for me to photograph when I got home the other day.  No matter what I say, new pants are out of the question.  How many patches are on there?  How many times can you patch a patch? I love the thriftiness, the mending skills, and the intention.  I am however, very tired of looking at these jeans and I think the next time they are left out, might be their last.  Watch out Nick, if you're not careful, a victory walk to the garbage is in store.  

And here is the mender, dog trainer, tuna melt maker extraordinaire.  It looks like he's serenading me with his plucking skills.  But... 
Don't be fooled!  These tunes are for dogs ears only. 

With love, Carleen

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grutz says, "The Good, the Bad, and the Queen."

Yeah, I know it's the name of a band.  But the Queen declines a Guinness....and a picture is worth 1000 words.
What could I possibly say here?  You're all smart and witty.  Think of something yourselves.  Oh, Prince Philip, I wish you could let your hair down and have some fun! (thanks AP)
My last post included my very good friend, Ciaran.  For those that don't know, he's from Ireland and he's planning to head back shortly for a spell.  Sure, he's called Dubuque home for ages, but he's ready to get back to his roots.  So its amazing that the the Queen is visiting the Emerald Isle this week.  A British Monarch hasn't stepped on it's closest neighbor in about 100 years.  This is a big deal.  If you haven't seen yesterday's events you should visit the BBC.

And it's good, too.  Remember, think good.

Grutz says, "Keeping things in perspective. A good perspective." or "There's more to life than guitars and Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dogs?"

Yes, there is more to life than this. And no, not just dog hair.
Ignorance is not bliss.

In my daily adventures, I often lament or comment on the goings-on in and around 1124 W. 19th Street. I go to great lengths writing about the dog, the apartment, the neighborhood, the Hawkeyes, Iowa, etc. Yes, all these things are important to me and Carleen, and we have decided to comment on our lives for a year in this blog (and yes, I know you all miss her and her posts get waaaaaaaay more hits, but she's working hard and is pretty tired, so you're stuck with me for now. Deal. With. It.). Sure, I try to be witty or coy, I try to entertain. But sometimes I'm reminded that there's more to witty, coy comments about the great Arnie or some furniture I've built.

At times I'll switch off NPR and avoid all that happening around the world and nation. I'm working on how events in the news impact me. I tire of getting upset at the hypocrisy of government or the devastating natural disasters striking on a weekly, if not daily, basis. For example, one may ask how a monopoly in the making (Comcast & NBC Universal) had been OK'd by the FCC? Only to be followed with: Wow, a chairwoman on the FCC regulating board who just OK'd said monopoly in now going to work for said monopoly? Here's an article from the Washington Post. I've, hell, we've all seen this before. I've been hiding from these things from behind the simple and wonderful little things in my life. Escapist? Yes, I acknowledge that. So I will try to avoid the negative crap floating around the airwaves and news sites and focus on the good. How's that sound?

Look for the positive, even in a truck load of negative.

Did you know there are men and women serving abroad, fighting in two wars? Yeah, I too, forget over time. It's like a reverse polaroid. An image of conflict slowly fading into nothing. I don't agree with any of it. Many Americans are opposed to the wars. These wars are wrong. But now it's like background noise, there, but easily ignored.

But the men and women serving are not. I forget about this. I don't see the results or effects of these wars. I don't live by a military base/hospital. I only know of a few over seas serving now. I don't see it in my daily life. But reading over the local Dubuque newpaper, the Telegraph-Herald, I was reminded that we are at war. Bad things happen. A Dubuque native and Marine, Christopher Billmyer, was injured in Afghanistan and has been in rehab for some time. He arrived home to Dubuque yesterday. Here's a video from the TH capturing the homecoming. Here's another and article that really sums up the positivity of this event, from KCRG.

Give, baby give!

Black Heart Gold Pants (BHGP) is an Iowa Hawkeye blog that I follow and mentioned in the past. It has informative pieces, such as player analysis and game results. It is also terribly funny (a recent post was written from the point of view of the strung-out Clemson Tiger mascot, really, it's funny). But BHGP is not just sports and high brow hilarity jokes, there's also a soft fuzzy side. This past football season the BHGP community raised over $20,000 for UI Children's Hospital. Yeah! So why am I writing about this? Among all the puns, put-downs, and stats, is a very good post about charity. I recommend you all check it out. At the very least you can get the context for the following line to make sense:

"Marc beat the hell out of zero. Marc won like crazy. Marc ran up the score on zero."

By the way, this isn't a link to donate to a specific cause, just a great reminder of how to think about charity and others thoughts on it. All of us are blessed and doing well, give what you can to those that need. It's good and it's good. End of story.

Lastly, In the grand scheme of things, there really are no ‘errors’.

A most wonderful friend in our lives, Ciaran, is grabbing life by the horns. He's thinking and doing the things he's needing to do on this crazy road we call life. The line above is from a post of his blog, entitled "Savouring the Journey" and what a journey it's been! I invite you all to check it out, here's his most recent post, it involves checkbooks, seriously. It will increase your positive quotient by like, a lot. And that, too, is good.

So everyone! Everyone! Do be good! Think good! See good! Doesn't it feel good?!?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grutz says, "Offing Ducky #1. How many more?" or "So let me get this straight, you're not a one trick pony?"

Dead ducks tell no tales.
Ducky #1.  You served us well.  You won't be forgotten, but how many will follow you into the sunset?
I had a dog, Daisy, an elderly whippet, when I was in high school.  She was very, very, very low key.  Sure, if given the chance she'd race down the road like a bullet, but otherwise, she slept a lot.  She didn't 'fetch' or 'chew on things' (like a blanket I just caught Arnie munching! Arg!).  Arnie, as I've just described, is not like this.  I was hoping that copious amounts of exercise would reduce any destructive behavior.  Other than the odd blanket, ahem, Arnie has ravaged a rubber kong chew toy and Ducky #1.  So within a week he's mangled or destroyed two toys.  I'd like to think this will not be a lifetime trait for him.  Hopefully he'll slow over time.  As much as I don't want to crunch the dollars on weekly/monthly toy purchases, I have to remind myself that it's an investment.  A few bucks here and there is much better than a couple hundred on furniture or rugs, etc (which, aside from the hole he just chewed in the blanket, he's got a pretty clean slate).

Any dog owners out there have any information/hints at 'chewing issues'?  He hasn't done anything too terrible, but I'm noticing as he's exploring his boundaries and limits he's 'testing' his teeth on things here and there.

Patience?  Seriously?  I'm an American.  I have no idea what 'patience' means.

Our friend Bobby Redwood (who, with friend Ross, attempted to canoe down the Mississippi before the Coast Guard closed the river a week or so ago, but that's another story!) has a great dog, Rusty, who we got to know when we sublet from Bobby.  Now Bobby is a heck of a guy and has a heck of a dog.  Rusty is well trained and very mindful.  This was our last experience with a dog and it's hard not to project onto Arnie.  I want him to do all the dozen plus tricks that Rusty can do.  I want him to be mindful off the leash like Rusty.  All the books I read have commands that can be learned in an afternoon, but only mastered over months.  We've had Arnie for just over a week.  He's made great strides and is very mindful.  But it's going to take time.  I guess I will have to be patient. (Though it's un-American (wink)).

Well, Arnie and I are off to the pet store, to get some more toys and a Ducky #2.  Don't worry, I'll keep documenting the demise of ducks.  Any guesses how many he'll go through?

I'll get to birthdays later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grutz says, "Turning lemons into lemonade." or "Good lord, when the when was the last time I was out until 4 a.m.?!?"

It's all in how you look at it.

The front door to our building is kind of crummy.  Well, not the door itself, rather, how it's hung.  And the worn and warped 19th century metal threshold.  To enter or exit, one must exert an-above-average-required-to-open-a-door amount of strength.  The bottom of the door catches and rubs (ever-so-NOT-gently) the metal threshold sending a shrieking banshee-like cry up the stairwell.  Followed by a decidedly ferocious "thud" upon shutting.

I am a master at identifying this particular entryway's call.  Like a seasoned ornathologist, I can immediate identify 'when' and 'where' the door at 1124 W. 19th Street opens and closes.  Last night early, early this morning I perfected my skill when the drunk kids down stairs came home from the bars.

Now this 'screech-thud' is familiar to most who've visited our abode.  It, though, is still new to Arnie.  He didn't like it.  Or maybe it was the folks coming and going for over 2 hours.  Or maybe it was the pounding on doors or honking of horns or a drunk gal yelling for "Becky!" a few, what felt like, dozen times.  Maybe he was just tired and cranky.  Who could blame him?  So a little after 2 a.m., Carleen and I heard Arnie bark.  This was his first bark, indoors, and we didn't want to upset any of the other neighbors who actually might be sleeping/add more noise to the already ridiculous cacophony/let Arnie develop a bad habit.  So I stood over him for about 2 hours redirecting him when he felt compelled to bark.  Arnie was actually great, sleeping until someone clomped up the stairs, talking loudly (about every 5-7 minutes), at which he'd lift his head and start to manifest a growl or weak yelp, which I would then hastily end.  Around 4 a.m. when I thought all the festivities had finally ceased, I went up the creaky spiral staircase up to my restless wife to catch some winks.  Alas, party-harty young people of the world!  So Carleen went down for a bit to sooth him.  I couldn't really sleep and as I laid there, I told myself that this was a wonderful opportunity to bond with Arnie and a great lesson on not barking, not honing a grudge against some folks I don't even know.  Carleen and I will have many, many chances to teach and redirect Arnie over the next 15 or so years.  Every moment is a teachable moment with a pooch, I just have to keep telling myself that and not get pissed off at drunk kids, which I have to say, I really didn't, I was more baffled.  But honestly, can YOU remember the last time YOU stayed up until 4?

It's summer! No wait, it's fall.  Nope, it's summer!  Aww, it's like early spring.  Welcome to May in Chicago! (sun, rain, rain, rain, sun, sun, rain, rain, clouds, rain, sun, oh, and always windy)

So it was in the mid-80s earlier this week.  Yours truly has his farmers tan.  Already!  And now it's been raining/misting for about 48 hours and the mercury is hanging out around 45º F.  Yeesh, spring time in Chicago is a game of chance.  It's windy, wet, and cold and we have an energetic dog that needs exercise.  "An exhausted dog, is a well behaved dog." as I've been know to say (ok, that's the first utterance).  So Carleen and I have been faithfully devoted to our daily constitutionals with Arnie, regardless of weather or, for that matter, time of day.  On these walks I'm remind of how variable the weather in the upper midwest can be.  Even when it's bad, I always remind myself that late spring, summer and early fall are worth the crummy weather the rest of the year.

Besides, it could be worse.  We could be in the flood plains along the Mississippi.  Oh, how I love the flood wall in Dubuque.  An eyesore she might be, but what a fine buffer from flooding.  Or you could be up in a tree a few hundred feet up in the cold and rain, like these guys.  (If you haven't visited the bald eagle's nest in while, the ugly eaglets are now not-nearly-as-ugly adolescents.)

Who's birthday is it today?
Hal Borland (May 14, 1900 – February 22, 1978) was a well-known American author and journalist. In addition to writing several novels and books about the outdoors, he wrote "outdoor editorials" for The New York Times for more than 30 years, from 1941 to 1978. Hal Borland was born on the plains in Sterling, Nebraska. His family moved to Colorado, where he grew up. After attending local schools, he studied at the University of Colorado. He studied journalism and graduated from Columbia University.  Borland started writing as a journalist for publications such as the Denver PostThe New York Times, and Audubon Magazine. From 1941-1978, he wrote what he called "outdoor editorials" for the New York Times.
In 1945 he and his wife moved to a 100-acre farm in Connecticut, and lived and worked there. She was also a writer. He published several collections of his nature writing, in addition to novels and other non-fiction books.
Gus Viseur, born Gustave-Joseph Viseur (15 May 1915 – 25 August 1974) was a Belgian/French button accordionist.
Gus Viseur was a virtuoso in the musette genre, during the swing era in the 1930s. He is the only jazz accordionist who is a member of the famous Hot Club de France, conducted by Charles Delauday.Gus Viseur began his career playing in the streets of Paris. He managed to get a great sound from a chromatic button accordion. It was clear that he was doing something innovative: He helped create the accordion-jazz style known as manouche. Meeting Django Reinhardt and performing with the legendary Quintet of the Hot Club of France was an important new chapter in his life. Later he even played bebop in the fifties. He was the first to draw a link between Musette and Jazz, but he never forgot Musette. That was his main voice. There is an unbelievable strength in his playing, that gives him the ability to improvise in all those different music genres. In addition to his numerous recordings he also performed in cabarets and nightclubs.
-thanks wikipeida!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grutz says, "The good, the bad, and everything in between."

A joyous and important lesson.

Carleen and I adopted Arnie this past Saturday evening in Dubuque, Iowa.  We cautiously went to bed that night keenly aware of the chance of just about anything happening could and would happen.  Worst of which would have been Arnie relieving himself on Mom's carpeting.  Aside from setting an alarm at 2:30 am to take him out, I meticulously placed the previous week's Telegraph-Herald around the floor, just incase.  Other than wanting to get into bed, Arnie was very well behaved.  No accidents, no chewing of shoes, no speaking in tongues.  Carleen and I were very happy with this.

I rose Sunday morning a little after 5 and left my beautify wife sleeping deeply while I trekked with Arnie towards the Mississippi River.  A breath-taking sunrise greeted us.  Glowing softly from behind the eastern bluffs of the River, the sun quickly gained strength and crested the horizon, blanketing the western bluff, our bluff, in gold.  Down in the river valley, the sun had yet to make its introduction, so the blues, pinks, and reds still dominated, reflecting calmly off the tranquil water.   Arnie startled a bald eagle, its loud launch from the nearby tree startled me greatly.  But awe quickly replaced my surprise, viewing the huge wing-span soaring over the lock and dam.  We then beheld three cranes gliding over the water of the Mississippi below us, exhibiting their wing's dark tips and long, regal necks.  It was all magical.  The captivating vista, the spring explosion of flowers and plants, the numerous fowl and animals.  And the fantastic Arnie.  It was all very moving.  I honestly noted the precise moment as all of this came together.  I began to dream about the joyous adventures Arnie and I would undertake.  The number of times we'd be together just like this.

We strolled back to Mom's house and settled ourselves on the back patio.  Arnie was wonderful and he was terribly mindful.  I figured this would be a good time to take him off his leash.  He trotted away but returned when I called him.  Great.  Just great.  Then Arnie noticed the squirrel.  And he was off.

I bolted (and by bolted I mean trotted, I'm not in that great of shape) after Arnie.  I came upon him rolling around in something.  He then took off again, into the woods.  I pursued, call his name, worried that I'd be waking the neighbors as it was before 7.  I flew like a deer after my prey, running blindly as I lost sight of him.  Anyone watching me race through the woods would have seen a messy looking man, slowly lumbering in and around trees.  No grace here.  But it felt like I was booking.  But deep down I knew I wasn't.

After a few moments without seeing or hearing him (not very likely, the breed is known to be quiet) I began to worry.  Not about Arnie, he's tough and smart.  Rather I worried about getting back the house, pants and shoes dripping with dew, and waking everyone, again before 7 on Sunday, and going out looking for him.  The first full day with him and I've already lost him.  My heart was pounding, from exertion and anxiety.

Trotting back the the house I caught a blur of white and red through the leaves.  Near Mom's shed was Arnie, walking towards me.  Oh my goodness.  Whew!  I wrangled him up and got him back to the patio and back on the leash.  So we enjoyed the early morning heat.  After a few moments of petting him, I noticed a distinct odor on Arnie and my hands: skunk.  It was faint, but it was there.  We had a long day of driving ahead and no way would my wife tolerate this stench in the car.  I postulated that either Arnie was rolling around in some skunk-love as mentioned above or he'd been sprayed in the past and the dew and heat was bringing out the smell.  Regardless, Nick had to get washing.  Arnie tolerated the soapy water and the Hy-Vee brand dandruff shampoo scent masked the skunk smell wonderfully.  I don't think he was terribly bothered by it.  The skunk or the shampoo.

All of this transpired while the house on Jonathan Lane slept.  I learned that we will have wonderful times with Arnie and that we will also have some-less-than-great times with him, too.  I'm  glad all this happened so early in our relationship, reinforcing the fact that this will be more rewarding that I can even conceive and more demanding than I can imagine.  Thank you Arnie, for this is a precious lesson.

So what is Arnie?

Arnie is listed on his adoption contract an Australian Cattle Dog(ACD)/mix.  He's got the speckling and red of the heeler, but he has a bobbed tail and floppy ears.  Upon further research, I speculate that he's more Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog(ASTCD)/mix.  Obviously, the tail is one clue, but he's more leggy than an ACD, not as stocky, too.  An interesting history for the ACD and the sub group, ASTCD. Australia's vastness lent itself well to cattle raising.  And by vast I mean hundreds of miles between ranches.  And no barbed-wire.  So herding dogs from England were used.  They weren't durable enough for the taxing Australian terrain and their propensity for barking spooked the cattle, which resulted in stampedes.  So these dogs were bred with dingos.  Yes, dingos.  (Yes, say it out loud, you know you want to.  Just say it.  "A dingo's got my baby!")  The native wild dog was perfectly built for the Outback and they didn't bark.  These dogs proved, however, to be a little too head strong.  A few more dogs thrown into the mix, including the Dalmatian (for it's devotion to its owner) and some selctive breeding, you get the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.  Not sure where Arnie got his floppy ears, but we'll take them.

It doesn't matter what kind of breed Arnie called.  All that matters is that Arnie is part of our family.

A long time coming, smart data for your brain, today's birthdays.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres.  Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem and to the irritation of his critics.

Irving Berlin (May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was an American composer and lyricist of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest American songwriters in history.

His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous. The song sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his aim being to "reach the heart of the average American" whom he saw as the "real soul of the country."
He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him "a legend" before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "This is the Army, Mr. Jones", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grutz says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega!" or "How I learned to embrace my rightful postion."

A quick note on human to dog relationships......
This is me.  No, not one of the best tasting beers in the free world.  The Alpha King.
Arnie is a dog.  He is not a human being.  He does not have a human temperament or personality.  He therefore is not treated like a human.  Rather, like part of the pack.  And at the head of that pack is me.  I truly am the boss of the hot sauce.  My rearing as the 'golden child' has trained me well, oh yes.  And Arnie and I are doing very, very well.

More to come.....
There's so much to share with you all about our new family member, including a shocking scandal!  Arnie isn't an Australian Cattle Dog (aka heeler) but an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog!  STOP THE PRESSES!  (Ok, the "Stumpy" as they are fondly known, is only recognized by the Australian and New Zealand kennel clubs, but still, the ASTCD is different than the ACD!)


Monday, May 9, 2011

Grutz says, "Oh great. Another mouth to feed."

Now you're messin' with of son of a.... 
Yes, the Dubuque Kennedy Mall is tacky.  It's the oldest in Iowa.  Antiquity is good, if not great for just about anything.  But not malls.  With all the plants and new skylights, old fountains, new fountains, no fountains, carpeting, kiosks, couches and flatscreens with the Cubs game for the husbands, "The Mall" is still tacky.  But from the acne-sporting youth to the high-waisted mall walkers, folks just make there way to "The Mall".  Which, even in this culture-less mecca of consumerism, provides a fantastic opportunity to do good and enrich your life.  You will find a wonderful, wonderful endeavor: The Dubuque Regional Humane Society.  The Society has it's main headquarters out on the westend, but it has its "showroom" at the mall for all those wondering eyes to gaze upon dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, and small rodent-like critters.  What a spectacular PR move by the shelter!

Carleen and I will swing through when we're at the mall, in this case using a giftcard.  We've speculated and dreamed about adding a new member to our troupe.  Timing, housing, jobs, life, money, etc., have always trumped out.  Also, finding the right fit.  Well, that is a thing of the past.  We've found our fit.  He's smart, calm, handsome, and house trained.  We've definitely open a new chapter in our lives.  There will be ups and downs, starts and stops with Arnie.  But we're only focusing on the ups right now.  Arnie is part of the Grutz clan.
Arnie, in all his speckled glory.
Now he's looking at me, sending me this message, "Put that thing down and play with me."  I have the feeling that I will be doing a lot of that.  And I couldn't be happier. 

Surprise! It's a boy (dog) !

We’re on the way back from an Iowa weekend, and I wish we could have stayed longer.  It was beautiful and green and sunny, and despite all the driving, every bit of it was enjoyable.  Especially the part about us bring home a four legged friend!  Welcome to our world Arnie, the blue heeler + something unknown wonder dog!  Right now he’s sitting in the back seat looking contented and wise.  No barks, no peeps, just wet nose nudges now and then to remind us that he’s there.  
This is before he decimated half of that chew toy. 
Hanging out in Theresa's kitchen.
Arnie had a little bath and sat out side in the sun after he may or may not have rolled in a skunk in Theresa's back 40 acres. 
Chillin' on the bench, basking in the sun, what a life. 
You may be interested in our spur of the weekend adoption story: Dubuque, IA is home to one of the most brilliant and successful animal adoption schemes.  This would be the animal shelter in a mall phenomenon.  Yes, Arnie was adopted after we enjoyed an Auntie Annes parmesan dipped pretzel.  We decided to walk into the shelter, not with the intention of adopting anyone, but Arnie, with his speckled red and brown coat and big eyes spoke to us.  We aren’t even allowed to have dogs in our apartment so it shouldn’t even have been on our minds, but there was something about him that demanded our attention.  He is 1 or 2 years old, and has the best temperament.  He is the perfect amount protective, and is a people dog.  He wants to be close to us, sitting in the middle of us, and sniffing everything.  There’s so much more, but I hope you get the gist.  We are thrilled with Arnie.  

"I am here!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's been a while I know...

The only way I could bring myself to write was over a root beer float.  Really, I've been craving one of these all day, and it's not that I don't want to write, but I am a little supersaturated on the screen time front. And Nick has been doing an excellent job on the blogging front.   He's kept you all up to date and is so funny (even my mom thinks so!) while he's at it.   Between writing lesson plans and looking up recipes for pear tarts and pizza dough and watching almost all of the episodes of The Wire, I have had enough of my computer these days.  I never thought I'd say that, I love you my laptop, lately though, I have been gracing the keypad a lot and my eyes could use a break.  But not yet, I owe you some words.

School has been good, better than good actually.  Kids are making steps more forward than back, and I feel like I am continuing to get a grip on what my role is.  Not without pain and disappointment though and I was reminded of it first hand the other day, when out of the blue one of my dearest students transfered.  No good bye, no good luck, no gathering of her belongings.  Just gone.  Apparently, her mom "gave" her to her step-dad, who lives a good distance from school, so she is transferring.  And that's it.  I crossed her out of my grade book with some sadness.

Yesterday, among many wonderful things that happened, I (successfully) baked a french pear tart.  It was the highlight of my morning, and the sense of accomplishment I felt was so grand!  Especially after we tasted it.  Bake your own french pear tart from this recipe, and read this food blog too.  FYI, I recommend poaching the pears in sugar and lemon juice and then boiling down the liquid to make a delicious syrup!  I added some mango puree to mine and it is divine.

Behold pear and almond (filling) heaven. 

After we dug in, and then had some more. 
I didn't mean to write only about food, but it's the small pleasures right?  I do have to mention that I am preemptively missing The Wire, and wishing I'd watched it so much slower.  Sadly, I have 1 episode left.  This series has carried me this Chicago winter, and I doubt there will ever be another series like it, that can transport me to another place and time, that causes me to change my vocabulary, and to wonder about the "corner kids" in my current neighborhood.  Please, make a recommendation if you can, but it's unlikely that anyone can live up to McNulty and Stringer Bell, Prop Joe and Bunk.  I love all of it.

Pocketful of Names, by Joe Coomer, is the other, thankful, distraction I am having.  I have been enveloped by this somewhat epic novel that takes place on the coast of Maine.  Those that know me well know about my ocean obsession.  The idea of living on an island, feeling the tides and the seasons, and being surrounded by water is so appealing.  I would drink black tea with milk and have shortbread everyday.

Nick has recapped our quick Spring Break trip so well, I don't need to say much, but I want to leave you with my favorite picture of Nana and I taking in the sun at the Merriweather Post Estate.

Nana is one of the most amazing women I know. 

It's time to get ready for tomorrow, to set out my clothes, and to print my lessons and homework assignments. 

I promise I won't be a stranger.