20 Years of “Bledded Wis” (Part 2)

February 14

Valentine’s Day was chosen as our wedding day to help me remember the date. For many years I thought Valentine’s Day was February 12. I was never good about Hallmark holidays. One makes the required adjustments.

I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid. ~ Dorothy Parker

2011

[Several people of DNA or legal connection cruising Lake Darling with Grandson Tom at the helm . . . ]

[The Biddies prepare for an assault on the American countryside in Rita’s Rialta . . . ]

[And then waving Rita goodbye at the end of the trip. I survived their absence with the usual bachelor sustenance – sourdough toast w/ butter, potato chips, cheese and crackers, pot pies, canned chili, & M&M Peanuts . . . ]

[Getting a scalp massage at Sixth Avenue Wine & Ale from Jo Colvin, erstwhile acclaimed reporter for the local newspaper . . . ]

Don’t accept rides from strange men – and remember that all men are as strange as hell. ~ Robin Morgan

I am a woman meant for a man, but I never met a man who could compete. ~ Bette Davis

[The Biddies at our annual August getaway, Indiana University’s Camp Brosius on Elkhart Lake in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin . . . ]

[A camp day trip to local places of interest . . . ]

The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness and kindness, can be trained to do most things. ~ Jilly Cooper

It’s not the men in my life that counts – it’s the life in my men. ~ Mae West

[Camp games!]

[The camp theme that year was pirates. I was confused and initially came dressed as Roberto Clemente . . .]

[It’s hard to say goodbye after a week together at camp . . . ]

[Corn? Did someone mention Schonberg’s corn?]

[Julie Patchouli and Bruce Hecksel as “Patchouli” at the winery . . . ]

[Despite obvious shortcomings, assumed duties as the chronicler of the homecoming parade . . . ]

Basically my wife was immature. I’d be at home in the bath and she’d come in and sink my boats. ~ Woody Allen

[With Anne & Bill Gross at Grandma’s (home of the marathon) in Duluth . . . ]

[We crashed the barrier of a yet unopened Lake Superior overlook . . . ]

[Sunrise over beautiful Lake Darling . . . ]

[Friday after Thanksgiving. Fort Alexandria. We gather for the lighting of the Christmas lights on Broadway . . . ]

[Photojournalist practicing his craft . . . ]

[Seriously. This was Christmas Day. In Alexandria, Minnesota . . . ]

2012

[I was kidnapped once again for a snowbird trip to Sarasota . . . ]

[And then the grandson’s graduation cruise on the Caribbean . . . ]

[Seriously, she could live on one of these things!]

[They never found the contraband, and I lived to smuggle another day . . . ]

[Sitting on my ass on Dorset, Minnesota’s (population 22) famed restaurant row . . . ]

[A Jess Lourey book signing at Cherry Street books . . . ]

2013

[A winter trip east to visit the McMullens in Salem, Massachusetts . . . ]

[There was no snow but it was really cold in D.C. . . . ]

[Plying my trade on the basketball court. At no time was I hit with a “fake news” epithet!]

[Venice, Italy. They have subsequently banned large cruise ships. Good for them, and we apologize . . . ]

[Probably my favorite photo ever of this particular model. The setting was Sorrento, Italy . . . ]

2014

[Another book signing with Jess Lourey. She is prolific. Still introducing her books to appreciative friends . . . ]

[With the previously mentioned Jo Colvin, and her daughter Brianna, at Sixth Avenue Wine & Ale . . . ]

King of the World (Atop the Arc de Triomphe)

[To the best of my knowledge, have never had any run-ins with the Elkhart Lake constabulary . . .

[A William Kent Krueger (“Kent” to his book signing friends) book signing at Cherry Street Books . . . ]

[The Super, once again with her close personal friend Sid, as we seek access to Basketball Dan’s annual turkey day . . . ]

2015

[It’s something about the hats . . . ]

[It’s something about the wine . . . ]

[The Super shooting BAT at the winery . . . ]

[We’re so proud. Celia was amazed. Grandson Tom ordered the gigantic burger on the Arrowwood deck and polished it off without breaking a sweat . . . ]

[Kettle corn with the Hasz family at the winery. Megan and Bethany, of course, were track and cross-country state champions for the Alexandria Cardinals and are doing the same as 4-year Minnesota Golden Gophers . . . ]

2016

Wives are people who feel they don’t dance enough. ~ Groucho Marx

You never see a man walking down the street with a woman who has a little pot belly and a bald spot. ~ Elayne Boosler

[A book signing with Carl Hiaasen at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul . . . ]

[With Dangerous Dan, the Boy Tenor, and Rita at SAWA . . . ]

2017

The ability to have our own way, and at the same time convince others they are having their own way, is a rare thing among men. Among women it is as common as eyebrows. ~ Thomas Bailey Aldrich

[At Brewster’s in Bloomington, Indiana . . . ]

[With The Biddies at Mini-University on the campus of Indiana University . . . ]

[With Rita at Showalter Fountain on the campus of Indiana University . . . ]

[Going home from our week of higher education in the Hoosier state, leaving from Rita’s classic log home in the unique village of Nashville, Indiana . . . ]

[The Super’s favorite orange moose in Black River Falls, Wisconsin . . . ]

[Enjoying Josie Nelson at the winery . . . ]

[Carlos Creek Winery’s famed fun bunch . . . ]

[They were subsequently released on their own recognizance . . . ]

I want a man who’s kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire? ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor

[Bullwinkle & Rocky . . . ]

2018

[Ruthie meets and has a chat with Mark Twain at Alexandria Area High School’s Performing Arts Center. Mark Twain was portrayed by Don Shelby. Don Shelby is a Hoosier. Ruthie is a Hoosier. It took off from there . . . ]

[Ruthie meets University of Minnesota’s basketball coach Richard Pitino at the Legacy of Lakes Museum during the Golden Gopher Statewide Caravan. Richard is not a Hoosier. Nevertheless, we invited him to share our table . . . ]

Miscellaneous

With some senators or senator-wannabes . . .

[Another time at the Daily Grind . . . ]

[The Villa Bellezza winery in Pepin, Wisconsin, one year on our way to camp, exploiting the good life . . . ]

And finally, for this past year in pandemic quarantine, we survived by doing puzzles, blogging, reading, ZOOMING, watching such as “Professor T.”, “Scott & Bailey”, and “New Tricks”, and ultimately adopted Guinevere and Galahad who keep us moving trying to save household artifacts from destruction . . .

And so, February 14, 2021, outside with a “feels like” temperature of 40 degrees below zero . . .

And toasting to another 20 years, pandemic free of course . . .

Tomorrow, February 15, we will each receive our second COVID19 vaccination, and hope that will be the start of the beginning to the end . . .

20 Years of “Bledded Wis”

February 14

A Virtual Scrapbook for the Super . . .

It is easier to be a lover than husband for the simple reason that it is more difficult to be witty every day than to produce the occasional ‘bon mot’. ~ Balzac

The early years . . .

OK, not really . . .

Before I continue, I should proffer my press credentials . . .

[Credentials confirmed, I can report it is not fake news that this is where the Super and I first met. This is the Astoria Condominium (center of the photo shot by me from an airplane (obviously) taking off or landing at National Airport) in Arlington, Virginia. We both bought into the newly constructed building in 1987. Lee Highway (a/k/a, Highway 29/211, and a candidate for Cancel Culture) borders the front of the building and I-66 lies just beyond. And probably a quarter mile off the bottom of the photo is the Potomac River, the flight path for planes in and out of National Airport, and on the other side of the river in Washington, D.C. is Georgetown . . . ]

[We lived in separate condos within the Astoria from 1987 to 2001. I will begin with a few photos from this, our “just friends” era. Our first trip together was to the Big Apple in 1989 . . . ]

[Ruthie in the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue. We didn’t run into The Donald . . . ]

Being a bachelor is the first requisite of the man who wishes to form an ideal home. ~ Beverly Nichols

[In 1990, Basketball Dan came to town. We went on a bike ride to Mount Vernon. You could do stuff like that here in the cradle of democracy . . . ]

[In 1992, the Super with close personal friend Boog Powell at the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The first remake of the classic ball parks. We had partial season tickets for a few years. We loved the place . . . ]

[In 1994, with grandson to be, Tom. Ruthie & Jami went shopping and left me to babysit. When they returned I was asleep on the couch with the one-year old Tommy standing next to me. I was never good with kids . . . ]

[With Rose & Dick McMullen in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, in 1994. It was a multi-year destination for extended MLK, Jr. holiday weekends . . . ]

[I knew this photo was taken at the internationally famous Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City – I just couldn’t remember the year or the event (though for sure a basketball trip). I sent a query to Basketball Dan. His response was almost immediate, thus showcasing why he is known as The Great One: My first thought was ’92  (but then I couldn’t remember you being there), that was one of my most memorable regionals ever (not because the games were boring and terrible) because on Selection Sunday, it looked like the teams there would be KU (ranked #1 in the country), Iowa , and USC (with Harold Miner, aka ‘Little Jordan’, the most exciting player in the country).  I somehow managed to acquire a total of 16 tickets, and with Andy and Jerry Norman also going, we figured to make a substantial killing on scalping those extras.  So Iowa loses in the first round, KU is upset by UTEP on the first weekend, and Georgia Tech throws in a 35 footer at the buzzer on the first weekend to upset USC by 1 pt.  So the field of UTEP, Cincy, Ga Tech, Memphis didn’t even fill half of Kemper.  I think we sold a couple tickets for $5 each….Jerry forgot something in the car, so I just handed him one of the 10 extras and he came back in a 2nd time. So it had to be ’95 when this pic was taken (I can’t claim to remember the exact years without Wikipedia, but I remember most of the teams and who all was there)…..Andy and Sharon came up from Wichita, Pete and Patti Blasco came from Portland, and I know I didn’t drive back home by myself, so it must’ve been the 3 of us.  Blasco’s came because UVa was playing, and they upset #1 seed KU, but then lost to Arkansas (the year after Hogs won it all in Charlotte…..that was where Ruthie got an autograph from Ray Ohs of Arizona at some restaurant after the Saturday games).  Fortunately UCLA (coached by Honest Jim Harrick) beat Arkansas in the championship game (as I despised that Hog team).  You guys were definitely there in Seattle…we stayed at a cheap motel on the East Side of Lake Washington, and I recall panicking when I got to my room and saw that I had  a wild rash all over my back……and we talked to Eddie Sutton is some hotel gift shop on the way to the Saturday games (Ok St led by Big Country). There’s nothing left but the memories!]

[With the McMullens at Matuba in Arlington in 1997. We do not have access to Japanese anymore . . . ]

[With The Biddies (Ruthie’s sister Rita and mom Janella, and my mom, Natalia) at the White House in 1997 . . . ]

A bachelor never quite gets over the idea that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever. ~ Helen Rowland

[And I used to go on fishing trips with the boys . . . ]

The only really happy folk are married women and single men. ~ H. L. Mencken

[Finally, one of our last social events ever at the Astoria?]

The major concrete achievement of the women’s movement of the 70’s was the Dutch treat. ~ Nora Ephron

The knot is tied – and here’s a whirlwind tour of the following 20 years . . .

We were married on Valentine’s Day 2001. I was 53. I gave it a good shot. I was no longer footloose and fancy free, free to roam the globe on singular whim. We were both retiring to Alexandria within that year and thought it best to “make it legal” for reasons of finance and assumed sensibilities of our new home town. We met at a celebrant’s office in Arlington after work one day. Ruthie from the Pentagon, me from the Department of Labor (we respectively had only two and five mile daily commutes so likely were never overcome by the angst of big city rush hours). After about a five minute ceremony attended by the three of us, we went to the grocery store, went home and had dinner while watching the PBS News Hour, like any other work night.

Ruthie came with two adult, already out of the house, children. I thus was able to avoid the dreaded diaper and hormone years. (OK, I admit, the hormone years never end – for reasons that have totally baffled the scientific community since the Big Bang . . . ]

Twenty years is 7,300 days (Uff da!). As the cub reporter, I likely had something to report on a vast majority of those days. But this is meant to be an overview, so I will not include any of our major adventures as they have already been covered within an inch of their lives in this venue. Nevertheless, it will necessarily require a 2nd posting . . .

2001

[This is our retirement home in Alexandria, on Lake Darling. We moved in on Thanksgiving. It snowed . . .

2002

[We made an early trip back to D.C. where we met up with the old golf group . . . ]

[When Yamaguchi and Gretzky used to skate together at the Runestone Community Center . . . ]

Nature abhors a virgin – a frozen asset. ~ Clare Booth Luce

2003

[We met a rodent at a U of M alumni event at Carlos Creek Winery . . . ]

[A tradition of some 40 years at Basketball Dan’s . . . ]

2004

I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry. ~ Rita Rudner

An archaeologist is best husband a woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her. ~ Agatha Christie

[Aunt Mary Kay & Uncle Tom’s home in Desert Mountain, AZ. It was part of the take the ‘Echo Press’ with you era.]

[The Clinton Library in Little Rock, AR . . . ]

[At a new shi-shi restaurant of forgotten name between Minneapolis and St. Paul with Little Mayo and Basketball Dan.]

[Delegates to the DFL state convention in Duluth. I was nominated for commissioner of Weird Things Minnesota but lost on the 3rd ballot of rank choice voting . . . ]

2005

[Here at Carlos Creek Winery, destined to become state tournament groupies . . . ]

[Christmas at home with Mom . . . ]

2006

[The Super became a real girls hockey fan on this night. One of the great games of all time, the Super cheering our Cards section title winning goal against dreaded, big city, private school, Totino Grace, in 2OT’s . . . ]

[In Wabasha with some other Grumpy Old Men . . . ]

[I have no idea who these people are, but they seem to be in other photos as well?]

[Ruthie, her sister Faith, and her Mom on a Moby Obie cruise of beautiful Lake Darling. This was Janella’s last visit to Alexandria . . . ]

[Hello, Ralph Tillitt! You never know who you’re going to run into at a Gopher homecoming game . . . ]

[The whole fam damily (Jami, Danny, Tom) at a Cardinal hockey game . . . ]

[And again at the Lake Minnewaska overlook in Glenwood . . . ]

[With Basketball Dan at a place I don’t recall . . . ]

[Throwing in son Rob at Christmas . . . ]

2007

[The Cardinal girls’ hockey team Super Fans, famed in song and story . . . ]

[With Mikko Cowdery in a Mardi Gras parade down Broadway . . . ]

Behind every great man – there’s a woman rolling her eyes. ~ Jim Carrey

[OK, these are high school classmates at my 60th birthday. They seem to have aged better than me?]

[With Dennis Murphy at the winery . . . ]

2008

[Yet another visit to St. Paul for the girls state hockey tournament with Viv & Bob Annen . . . ]

[Celebrating our state champion team at the classic St. Paul Hotel . . . ]

[Photobombed a team photo . . . ]

Marrying a man is like buying something you’ve been admiring for a long time in a shop window. You may love it when you get it home, but it doesn’t always go with everything else. ~ Jean Kerr

[The horrors! Snowbirded to Sarasota and stayed with friends Crazy Dave and Mary Owen . . . ]

[The horrors, part 2! The McMullens also snowbird to Sarasota . . . ]

[We were much more comfortable in Alaska, with Denali in the background . . . ]

[With Bill and Anne Gross in what appears to be the Skagway Brewing Co. . . .]

[Our tour bus driver in Juneau was Anatoli, a Russian geography teacher who taught NBA star Carlos Boozer in high school . . . ]

I never knew what real happiness was until I got married; by then it was too late. ~ Anonymous

Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Ruthie was an election judge for the Al Franken recount . . . ]

[Ruthie with Mom, Mom’s last Christmas . . . ]

Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract, and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences. ~ Isadora Duncan

2009

[Hangin’ out at Torrey Pines, San Diego . . . ]

[In San Diego, touring in nephew Chris’s Mini Cooper . . . ]

[I think this was an overlook for a nude beach. I couldn’t confirm that from this height . . . ]

If We Take Matrimony at Its Lowest, We Regard It as A Sort of Friendship Recognized by The Police. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

[Palm Desert, at Beryl and Don Waldeland’s . . . ]

[The Salton Sea, with The Biddies . . . ]

[Death Valley, again with The Biddies . . . ]

[From the rear of Rita’s cute little, handy-dandy VW RV . . . ]

[Bill Clinton’s boyhood home in Hope, Arkansas. Bill and Hillary weren’t there. The place was just closing but the nice lady let us have a tour . . . ]

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event. ~ Oscar Wilde

[I don’t remember this – St. Louis?]

[Having a little chat with author/TV host Cathy Wurzer at Cherry Street Books . . . ]

[Whoa! The internationally-renowned Super Fans again . . . ]

I love you more than coffee, but please don’t make me prove it. ~ Elizabeth Evans

Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient. ~ H. L. Mencken

2010

If two people love each other, nothing is impossible. Except deciding where to eat. ~ Anonymous

In my house I’m the boss, my wife is just the decision maker. ~ Woody Allen

[Our all-time favorite, above and below, Sonny’s, which later became Weston Station . . . ]

[Mort’s Deli in Golden Valley enroute to or coming from the girls’ state hockey tournament. The youngest member at the table, I believe, recently scored 22 points for Hopkins in a high school basketball game . . . ]

[With Viv & Bob after a hockey game at Vescio’s in Dinkytown . . . ]

[At some far flung place, likely Indianapolis, with the usual suspects at an NCAA basketball game . . . ]

[Ruthie & Matt Velline (check him out on YouTube) at the winery . . . ]

[This year was the 25th anniversary of this event!]

[Ruthie with John Hawkes, a local guy with an Oscar nomination . . . ]

[50th class reunion on beautiful Lake Darling . . . ]

A youth with his first cigar makes himself sick – a youth with his first girl makes other people sick. ~ Mary Wilson Little

[Ruthie with Big Bird . . . ]

[The Super Fans just keep coming . . . ]

No normal man ever fell in love after thirty when the kidneys begin to disintegrate. ~ H. L. Mencken

[It’s great when the grandson shows up from out of town to help with the shoveling . . . ]

2011

[Lovely winter scenes at the winery . . . ]

[You can even go for a dog sled ride . . . ]

If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question? ~ Lily Tomlin

10th Anniversary

[Overcome with excitement at a basketball game . . . ]

[(I couldn’t believe he was bringing me to Minnesota?)]

[Ruthie & Sid, through the years . . . ]

KIRBEEEEEEEEEE Puckett!!!

If the glove doesn’t fit, you’ve got the wrong mitt!

[Teenage brother Cam met Harmon once. Harmon told him to get a haircut . . . ]

[Hiking Siesta Key in Sarasota . . . ]

To fall in love you have to be in the state of mind for it to take, like a disease. ~ Nancy Mitford

[Without question, the world’s greatest sub, The Italian Store, Lyon Village, Arlington, VA . . . ]

[Yes, even older than Alexandria, MN . . . ]

[Our favorite restaurant in Old Town . . . ]

Before the fall . . .

[Ruthie & Eleanor . . . ]

Money cannot buy the fuel of love but is excellent kindling. ~ W. H. Auden

[Heaven, she’s in heaven . . . A morel picked on our property and asparagus . . . ]

[After making 36 free throws in a row while juggling . . . ]

[The Oscar-nominated actor from Alexandria with a local fan . . . ]

[Wrapping up Part 1 with the whole fam damily on our lakeside patio . . . ]

Men have a much better time of it then women; for one thing they marry later; for another thing they die earlier. ~ H. L. Mencken

Up Next: Part 2

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

January 19

We are now more than halfway through meteorological winter. And it’s inauguration time! Let the sunshine once again grace our country . . .

[Our association evergreen appears ripe for a major birthing in the spring . . . ]

[Now that’s a pine cone explosion . . . ]

[Guinevere and Galahad, a/k/a, The Tasmanian Devils, resting up for the big inauguration day to follow . . . ]

[These are also posted for all the members of their fan club . . . ]

[Laddie gave his sister a bath so she looks good on the big day . . . ]

I don’t know whether it’s the finest public housing in America or the crown jewel of the American penal system. ~ Bill Clinton on the White House

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. ~ Mark Twain

Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it. ~ LBJ

Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult — you’re president. ~ Joe Biden

It’s crazy that people like Donald Trump… he shouldn’t even be where he is, so God help us. ~ Robert De Niro

We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order. ~ Donald Trump

If Donald Trump is president of the United States, it will be the end of the world. ~ Jennifer Lawrence

It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. ~ Louis C.K.

I apologize when I’m wrong. ~ Donald Trump

The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then get elected and prove it. ~ P. J. O’Rourke

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. ~ FDR

Being president is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening. ~ Bill Clinton

You know nothing for sure…except the fact that you know nothing for sure. ~ JFK

My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers. ~ Jimmy Carter

I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself. ~ Ronald Reagan

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. ~ JFK

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one? ~ Abraham Lincoln

I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency — even if I’m in a Cabinet meeting. ~ Ronald Reagan

Once you leave the womb, conservatives don’t care about you until you reach military age. Then you’re just what they’re looking for. ~ George Carlin

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. ~ JFK

I reject the cynical view that politics is a dirty business. ~ Richard M. Nixon

It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance? ~ Ronald Reagan

Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

[Lighting the candles (I prefer the Super not use matches.) . . . .]

January 20 – Inauguration Day

My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose. ~ Donald Trump

[The Devils were up early to watch the incumbent’s exodus from the White House . . . ]

[Quinie and Laddie moved in for a close-up view of the departure . . . ]

Even in civilized mankind faint traces of monogamous instinct can be perceived. ~ Bertrand Russell

Economic policies command bipartisan support only when they’re incoherent. ~ Steven E. Landsburg

Capitalism has defeated communism. It is now well on its way to defeating democracy. ~ David Korten

Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed. ~ Chinese proverb

[Contrary to some fake news reports, we did not teach the kitties to bat helicopters out of the sky . . . ]

He is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator. ~ Stephen Hawking

[Certain family members on a visit to the White House during the Garfield administration . . . ]

[The Super has changed out her Merry Christmas flag for this one . . . ]

All we are saying, is give peace a chance . . .

[Of course Lady Gaga hit a grand slam with the National Anthem (my TV photo) . . . ]

[Reported by fake news to be the smallest inauguration crowd ever . . . ]

[And, of course, we’re always Goo-Goo for Gaga!]

Trump bad man. Real bad man. ~ Stephen Hawking

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.   ~ Mark Twain

[I was otherwise engaged when Vice President Harris took the oath. Accordingly, these photos of her were pilfered from the internet . . . ]

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers. ~  Nikita Khrushchev

If his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day. ~ Molly Ivins

I always wanted to get into politics, but I was never light enough to make the team. ~ Art Buchwald

[Ladies and gentleman, the President of the United States – Joe Biden . . . ]

The major parties could conduct live human sacrifices on their podiums during prime time, and I doubt that anybody would notice. ~ Dave Barry

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word. ~ Charles de Gaulle

[At long last, a fog has lifted from the land . . . ]

[Things go better with Mumm Napa Brut Prestige . . . ]

Skol!!

Yup, it’s good . . .

[With political events fading, it was time to get back to crow watching . . . ]

[Serious crow watching!]

[The Super feeds the crows, the crows entertain the Devils . . . ]

Ooops, one escaped to the roof, Dad?

[Capping it all off with the Super’s Keto stuffed bell peppers . . . ]

Mmmmmmm, tasty!

In politics, absurdity is not a handicap. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Party Like It’s 1999

January 15

The summer of 1999. The Super and I were still working and living in D.C. We took our summer vacations in Alex with free lodging at Mom’s on Lake Le Homme Dieu. With high school classmates Greg Johnson and Tom Kiehne, we came to play in the Resorters Tournament at the Alexandria Golf Club. Their families joined the festivities for a picnic on Mom’s lakeshore. Cousin Barb Arrell, a winner of the Resorters, was there with her mom Shirley. Sister Gretch and brother-in-law Mohamed were also in town from D.C. A good time was had by all. I am not aware of any nuisance complaints filed with the local constabulary . . .

[Barb Arrell, Ruth Hill (later Obert), and Anne Kiehne on the shores of Lake Le Homme Dieu . . . ]

[Tom “Professor Doctor Colonel” Kiehne and Greg “Little Mayo” Johnson . . . ]

Summer bachelors like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be. ~ Nora Ephron

[Table 1: June & Merill Kiehne, Ruth, Anne, and Mayo (Big) Johnson. Table 2: Barb, Natalia Obert, Shirley Arrell . . . ]

[Barb, Natalia, Shirley, Pearl Johnson, June, and Mohamed . . . ]

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawnmower is broken. ~ James Dent

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do. ~ Walter Winchell

[Three-quarters of American males cross their right legs over their left . . . ]

[All were subsequently released on legal technicalities . . . ]

[Gretch practicing photo-journalism, which would subsequently lead her to report on the 2020 election activities in the nation’s capital . . . ]

A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp. ~ Raymond Duncan

Smell the sea, and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly. ~ Van Morrison

It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine…it’s summertime! ~ Kenny Chesney

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. ~ Porgy and Bess

[Merill is still going strong at 99 . . . ]

[We were there for the 1999 opening of Carlos Creek Winery and have signatures to prove it . . . ]

Beer is made by men, wine by God. ~ Martine Luther

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food. ~ W. C. Fields

[Barb, with surrounding fan club, making a shot in the Resorters . . . ]

If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt. ~ Dean Martin

A hole in one is amazing when you think of the different universes this white mass of molecules has to pass through on its way to the hole. ~ Mac O’Grady

It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling. ~ Mark Twain

I started watching golf for the first time yesterday. I’m really worried about myself. I was actually enjoying it. ~ Ewan McGregor

[The entire Arrell entourage . . . ]

[And then the guys played . . . ]

[And Mom watched . . . ]

These greens are so fast I have to hold my putter over the ball and hit it with the shadow. ~ Sam Snead

[And then more Obert families arrived – from Arizona and Colorado and Mounds View . . . ]

A family reunion is an effective form of birth control. ~ Robert A. Heinlein

[Uncle Tom (Arizona) and “Uncle” Mo (D.C.) and nephew Michael John (Mounds View) . . . ]

[Sister-in-law Karen (Mounds View) and cousin Paula (Colorado) with their “chidrun” . . . ]

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. ~ George Burns

Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts. ~ Wayne Huizenga

[Say “Good night” Aunt Mookie (Arizona) . . . ]

[Michael John and Katy of the Mounds View Oberts (brother Cam and sister-in-law Karen) . . . ]

[Micheal John emulated Yo Yo Ma; Katy emulated Simone Biles . . . ]

[Cam emulated . . . well, refer to the family tree quote about producing nuts . . . ]

Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space. ~ Evan Esar

[Katy went to practice her gymnastics; Michael John looking for the basketball . . . ]

I wish I could relate to the people I’m related to. ~ Jeff Foxworthy

[Sometime later, in 2000 or 2001, visiting at Mom’s with snow all around . . . ]

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

[The Super checking on the Lake Darling property where we would build our log home . . . ]

[With our builder, Roger Rosengren . . . ]

[Meanwhile, back at Mom’s, the snow continued to pile up . . . ]

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter. ~ John Burroughs

[Spring 2001, the swallows returned to Minneapolis for the Final Four. Meeting for brunch at the Lake Elmo Inn, as was the custom in those days, were brother Cam, Gus Campuzano from Wichita, Basketball Dan from the world, and the Little Mayo Johnson family of Linda and Alexandra from Burnsville, and the Super . . . ]

[Mounds View Oberts at the State Gymnastics meet . . . ]

[From our front row seats for the Final Four in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome . . . ]

[The Metrodome (since mercifully put out of its misery) in downtown Minneapolis . . . ]

The family. We are a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms. . . and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~ Erma Bombeck

There is no such thing as fun for the whole family. ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

January 9

At 8:00 am today, three brazen Fat Boys took off on our Saturday amble around the south shore of Lake Agnes in 8-degree weather. It was like a miracle one would never see in Florida . . .

If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse. ~ Woody Allen

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying. ~ Woody Allen

If my film makes one more person miserable, I’ll feel I’ve done my job. ~ Woody Allen

I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot. ~ Woody Allen

The difference between sex and death is, with death you can do it alone and nobody’s going to make fun of you. ~ Woody Allen

Sex is better than talk. Ask anybody in this bar. Talk is what you suffer through so you can get to sex. ~ Woody Allen

I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics. ~ Woody Allen

I think universal harmony is a pipe dream and it may be more productive to focus on more modest goals, like a ban on yodeling. ~ Woody Allen

I don’t know enough to be incompetent. ~ Woody Allen

I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox. ~ Woody Allen

The important thing, I think, is not to be bitter. You know, if it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever. ~ Woody Allen

With my complexion I don’t tan, I stroke. ~ Woody Allen

I have no idea what I am doing. But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm. ~ Woody Allen

Sex between two people is a beautiful thing; between five it’s fantastic. ~ Woody Allen

Sex alleviates tension. Love causes it. ~ Woody Allen

It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. ~ Woody Allen

What a world. It could be so wonderful if it wasn’t for certain people. ~ Woody Allen

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. ~ Woody Allen

I had a great evening; it was like the Nuremberg Trials. ~ Woody Allen

I’m a practicing heterosexual, although bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night. ~ Woody Allen

Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television. ~ Woody Allen

I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it’s the government. ~ Woody Allen

Love is the answer. But while you’re waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions. ~ Woody Allen

Taste my tuna casserole – tell me if I put in too much hot fudge. ~ Woody Allen

80% of success is showing up. ~ Woody Allen

This year I’m a star, but what will I be next year? A black hole? ~ Woody Allen

I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland. ~ Woody Allen

Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all. ~ Woody Allen

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy myself, but I didn’t. ~ Woody Allen

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. ~ Woody Allen

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But, then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness – I hope you’re getting this down. ~ Woody Allen

The most beautiful words in the English language aren’t ‘I love you’ but ‘it’s benign’. ~ Woody Allen

After the accident he was only able to communicate through the use of hand puppets. ~ Woody Allen (A personal favorite, though this is likely a paraphrase . . . )

Hello 2021!

January 3

The days before . . .

Ring out the false, ring in the true. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

So tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1999. ~ Prince

[Leading off, the babies, a/k/a, The Tasmanian Devils . . . ]

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. ~ Jeff Valdez

[Well, I would have . . . except I’d just done my nails . . . ]

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof when your doorstep is unclean. ~  Confucius

I thought her as chaste as unsunned snow. ~  William Shakespeare 

Walking in a winter wonderland. ~ Richard B. Smith

Every new year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals? ~ Ogden Nash

[Laddie wanted to see Mom shoveling snow . . . ]

Good job, Mom! ~ Laddie

[Guinie went to a different room for a different view . . . ]

Lookin’ good, Mom! ~ Guinie

To be an ideal guest, stay at home. ~ Edgar Watson Howe

It always seems impossible until it’s done. ~ ​ ​Nelson Mandela

[Ooops, just missed the kitties!]

[Trial run, the Super didn’t beat the buzzer . . . ]

[The eve of her birthday when she and Meredith Wilson would share the number of trombones . . . ]

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. ~ Groucho Marx

[We had a Thurston Howell III and Lovey New Year’s in honor of Mary Ann. BTW, Ginger (Tina Louise) is 86 and the last remaining member of the cast . . . ]

Kiss me on this cold December night. ~ Michael Bublé

[Our champagne flutes were wedding presents from shortly to be 20 years ago . . . ]

[It took me a long time to find the pipe for a prop. I miss my old friend . . . ]

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~ P.J. O’Rourke

I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. ~ Woody Allen

[Family photo with Guinevere and Galahad who were just five month old . . . ]

[Kisses from Mom . . . ]

[It’s almost working . . . ]

[Nope, it didn’t . . . ]

New Year’s Day

You know those little snow globes that you shake up? I always thought my brain was sort of like that. You know, where you just give it a shake and watch what comes out and shake it again. It’s like that. ~ Gary Larson

[The new year began crisp, clear, and beautiful . . . ]

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. ~ John Burroughs

Kindness is like snow, it beautifies everything it covers. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Christmas in L.A. is weird. There’s no snow. It’s not even cold. ~ Ellie Goulding

The very next day . . .

I grew up thinking of snow as a luxury you visit. ~ John Landis

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold. ~ Aristotle

A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder. ~ Susan Orlean

I have never seen snow and do not know what winter means. ~ Duke Kahanamoku

I am always slightly mystified by the whole ‘Snow White’ story. What are the chances of coming across that many diminutive men living in one house in the woods? ~ Sandi Toksvig

Genius is an African who dreams up snow. ~ Vladimir Nabokov

I was a mailman walking in the snow six days a week, 12-hour days. Every two weeks, I’d get a check for $228. ~ John Prine

I’d never walked on snow ’til I was 50, you know. There’s no snow where I come from. ~ Paul Hogan

No state income tax, no snow, lots of golf courses, and ready-made gated communities make Florida an irresistible place for seniors – the ones who have the income level – to retire. ~ W. Kamau Bell

[Carlos Creek Winery, 20-degree weather, plenty of snow, bon fires, plenty of wine, beer, and soft pretzels, a whole mess of close personal friends we couldn’t see much in person in 2020. What better way to spend a couple hours on a January day in Minnesota?]

Out with the old, in with the new’ is a fitting expression for a holiday that is based on vomiting. ~ Andy Borowitz

You can’t get too much winter in winter. ~ Robert Frost

I love the scents of winter. ~ Taylor Swift

Winter is not a season, it’s a celebration. ~ Anamika Mishra

[No balls to be gotten . . . ]

[A substantial portion of the Theatre L’Homme Dieu board made more than a cameo appearance, arriving unchaperoned and without the usual security . . . ]

We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. Chekov

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. ~ William Sharp

Drink deep or be careful how you taste this December vintage. The first sip may chill, but a full draught warms and invigorates. ~ John Burroughs

So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending! ~ J.R.R/ Tolkien

[How best to take my leave – soft pretzels, cheesy dip, roaring fire, and a beverage of choice!]

I would quit all my bad habits for the new year, but then I remembered that nobody likes a quitter. ~ Unknown

I love Christmas. I really do love Christmas. I love being with my family and I love snow. I love the music and the lights and all of it. ~ Christina Applegate

Christmas in Vacationland USA

December 26

As we rush to end 2020 as fast as we can with hopes to begin anew . . .

Did you ever notice that life seems to follow certain patterns? Like I noticed that every year around this time, I hear Christmas music. ~ Tom Sims

December 11

[My new camera helps show off Alexandria’s Broadway during the holiday season . . . ]

Merry Christmas, nearly everybody! ~ Ogden Nash

‘White Christmas’ is the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of Christmas songs. ~  Stewart Stafford

It’s that’s special time of year when your whole family gathers together in one place to look at their cellphones. ~ Jimmy Kimmel

December 19

The Great Conjunction: The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years. What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.” (nasa.gov)

[The Super and I could see the two planets with the naked eye from our sun room. I hopped in the car, drove to the far SW corner of our hockey arena parking lot, and took this shot out the window. The moon in the upper left, the city lights of Alexandria along the bottom, and you can see two small dots just above and to the right of the city lights – Saturn on top, Jupiter on the bottom . . . ]

[And handholding a 400mm camera lens shot out the car window. You can see a couple of Jupiter’s moons at about 10:00 from the planet . . . ]

[And then to town again to check out the Christmas lights . . . ]

The office Christmas party is a great opportunity to catch up with people you haven’t seen for 20 minutes. ~ Julius Sharpe

The main reason Santa is so jolly because he knows where all the bad girls live. ~ George Carlin

What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. ~ Phyllis Diller

Christmas: it’s the only religious holiday that’s also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services, and everyone else can sit at home and reflect on the true meaning of the separation of church and state. ~ Samantha Bee

Christmas and the New Year are actually two holidays. So there is a plural, which in the English language, necessitates the use of ‘s.’ I suppose you could say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year,’ but you probably have sh*t to do. ~ Jon Stewart

Nothing says holidays like a cheese log. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call. ~ Richard Lewis. 

I hate the radio this time of year because they play ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ like, every other song. And that’s just not enough. ~ Bridger Winegar

December 22

To err is human, to purr is feline. ~ Robert Byrne

[Guinie and Laddie will be 5 months old on Monday . . . ]

[The Great Conjunction was lost in the clouds on the solstice. This night was looking promising . . . ]

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show. ~ Andrew Wyeth

Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night. ~ Virginia Woolf

Dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination. ~ Clark Griswold

One cat just leads to another. ~ Ernest Hemingway

A cat is an example of sophistication minus civilization. ~ Anonymous

Cats are connoisseurs of comfort. ~ James Herriot

You can not look at a sleeping cat and feel tense. ~ Jane Pauley

[The Great Conjunction: Taken at the same time and same place as two days previous . . . ]

[This time Jupiter is on the left and Saturn is on the right . . . ]

December 23

[There was an overnight and continuing blizzard . . . ]

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. ~ Lewis Carroll

[And the continuing blizzard. We didn’t get a lot of snow, but we got a lot of wind . . . ]

December 24

I called all three siblings on Christmas Eve. I got the answering machine for all three . . .

[We were trending toward a non-white Christmas. Then the blizzard came . . . ]

Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, ‘Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins, right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?’ ~ Jim Gaffigan.

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~ Carl Reiner

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. ~ John Steinbeck

I was just thinking, if it is really religion with these nudist colonies, they sure must turn atheists in the wintertime. ~ Will Rogers

[I caught the Tasmanian Devils in a moment of contemplation . . . ]

[Today they got on the kitchen counter and ate a packet of yeast. They may rise over night?]

[The classic forever family Christmas Eve dinner – grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup!]

[Mmmmm – mmmmm, good!]

Christmas Day

[The Tasmanian Devils had taken the Christmas tree in stride for a while. But Guinie must have realized it was Christmas Day and decided to go on the attack again . . . ]

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are thy branches! ~  Traditional German Carol

A Christmas tree, the perfect gift for a guy. The plant is already dead. ~  Jay Leno

There must be some other places where I can also raise havoc. ~ Guinevere

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. ~ Clement Clarke Moore

Help!! I’m stuck on something! ~ Guinevere

[Christmas Day, 2011, was avoided at the last minute this year . . . ]

[Masters of all they survey . . . ]

If cats could write history, their history would be mostly about cats. ~ Eugen Weber

If cats could talk, they wouldn’t. ~ Nan Porter

In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this. ~ Terry Pratchett

[Arrowwood to pick up Christmas dinner . . . ]

[A last minute change because of this (thanks, MLT). They received 82 orders . . . ]

[We dropped one off for Brad . . . ]

Live long & prosper . . .

[By the time we got home Brad had already emailed something to the affect that he didn’t need food for 3 people . . . ]

[He was right. The Super and I split one and have another whole one in reserve . . . ]

[I believe it was a dry Riesling . . . ]

The problem with cats is that they get the same exact look whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer. ~ Paula Poundstone

[The received Christmas booty . . . ]

[Whom amongst us doesn’t like booty?]

December 26

[The Tasmanian Devils’ Christmas present was late in arriving . . . ]

[But they made up for the delay . . . ]

When Rome burned, the emperor’s cats still expected to be fed on time. ~ Seanan McGuire

Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause most inconvenience. ~ Pam Brown

I gave my cats a bath the other day … they love it. He sat there, he enjoyed it, it was fun for me. The fur would stick to my tongue, but other than that… ~ Steve Martin

The phrase ‘domestic cat’ is an oxymoron. ~ George Will

Everything I know I learned from my cat: When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re tired, nap in a sunbeam. When you go to the vet’s, pee on your owner. ~ Gary Smith

[And even more booty. There is no such thing as excessive booty . . . ]

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. ~ John Burroughs

Blow, blow, thou winter wind Thou art not so unkind, As man’s ingratitude. ~ William Shakespeare

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus (I never did understand Camus?)

In summary (or any of its 5640 synonyms), the Super and I have been passing these quarantine times by binge watching all our PBS favorites: Professor T., Endeavour, Fearless, Doc Martin, Dreamland, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Frankie Drake, Midsomer Mysteries, Vera, Unforgotten, Modus, et al. I hope they can carry into June. I don’t foresee any kind of normalization before then . . .

Europe 2000 (Part 2)

December 20

The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. ~  Mark Twain

To the best of my knowledge (or anyone else’s for that matter), this completes the blogging of all trips taken over the last several decades. In order to amuse myself for the remaining time in pandemic quarantine, I plan to take up whittling . . . ~ Me

Antwerp

[We’re still in Antwerp, Belgium – the locale for Professor T., the best thing on TV since The Daily Show . . . ]

[If you are a fan of Professor T., you will recognize the Antwerp skyline . . . ]

[The backside of the Het Steen Castle. There are backsides; and then there are backsides . . . ]

In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language. ~  Mark Twain

It is the right of a traveler to vent their frustration at every minor inconvenience by writing of it to their friends. ~  Susanna Clarke

[The Stadhuis (City Hall) of Antwerp stands on the western side of Antwerp’s Grote Markt (Great Market Square). Erected between 1561 and 1565, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The Stadhuis is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Hertage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France (Wikipedia).]

[Appears to be exterior dining in Downtown Square . . . ]

[Antwerp Cathedral fronted by Pieter Paul Rubens statue . . . ]

[And the Super fronting the Pieter Paul Rubens statue and the Antwerp Cathedral . . . ]

One time we played a concert in Antwerp, Belgium. At least I thought it was Antwerp, Belgium. Turns out it was a Stop ‘n Shop in Wisconsin somewhere, but it was fun man. ~ Slash

[‘Den Deugniet‘ – The Rascal . . . ]

[A building of some import – import of what, I have no idea . . . ]

[The Super at the entrance to something else likely of import . . . ]

Eupen

[I finally captured our fellow travelers, Rose & Dick McMullen (also guests of the Steiners in Brussels). The four of us were all bureaucrats in D.C., the McMullens subsequently retired to Salem, Massachusetts, and snowbirded to Sarasota, Florida . . . ]

[St. Nicholas Church: This baroque church on the Marktplatz, that incorporates part of a 14th century church, dates mainly from the 1720s. The two spires, added in the 1890s, have become symbols for Eupen. The contrasting styles of the interior and exterior reflect Eupen’s location between Wallonia (French Belgium) and Germany. Eupen is the primary city in Belgium’s German area. Eupen is in the Belgian German-speaking Community (stnicholascenter.org/).]

[Eupen is about 90 miles SE of Antwerp, and about 90 east of Brussels, our core and next destination city . . . ]

Just to interpret the Flemish for all at the patisserie, the yellow sign says “Snowballs”, one piece for 22BF (Belgian francs) and five for 100BF! Just thought that you’d want to know that you were there before the Euro took over…. Well, those were the days! ~ Walt Steiner, our Brussels host

[Route of the Dutch Grand Prix?]

[WWII heroes monument in Spa, Belgium (about 15 SW of Eupen) . . . ]

Brussels

[We have arrived at the Steiner’s in Kraainem just in time for Happy Hour . . . ]

[And Roy Gorena, our fellow traveler during the 1997 trip, is also here . . . ]

[D’Arcy, a Steiner offspring . . . ]

[D’Arcy, and her little brother Eric (below), are all growed up now, and traveling the world to an extent not imagined by their parents . . . ]

There are two kinds of travel: first class and with children. ~  Robert Benchley

Amsterdam

[First, check out the map to find out if we are indeed in Amsterdam . . . ]

[The Westerkerk is a Reformed church within Dutch Protestant Calvinism in central Amsterdam. It lies in the most western part of the Grachtengordel neighborhood, next to the Jordaan. The tower, called the Westertoren (“Western tower”), is the highest church tower in Amsterdam, at 87 meters (±286 feet). The crown topping the spire is the Imperial Crown f Austria of Maximilian (Wikipedia).]

[Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square) is a major square in central Amsterdam, named after Rembrandt van Rijn who owned a house nearby from 1639 to 1656. The statue of Rembrandt was made in 1852 by sculptor Louis Royer and is of cast iron. It was cast in one piece and it is Amsterdam’s oldest surviving statue in a public space (Wikipedia).]

[After standing as the backdrop above, Rose, Dick, and the Super head for our ultimate goal – the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw. The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague on 19 November 1798 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer (Wikipedia).]

[The Super scrapbooked this as “Young Lovers.” Hmmmmm . . . ]

[Something to the affect that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” . . .

[Dick wasn’t carrying a shopping bag before we visited the diamond store?]

[Better check these guys for additional shopping bags after visiting here . . . ]

[The Basilica of Saint Nicholas is located in the Old Centre district in Amsterdam, very close to Amsterdam’s main railway station and the canal, Oudezijds Kolk. It is the city’s primary Roman Catholic church was completed in 1887 (Wikipedia).]

[Amsterdam Western Church Clock Tower . . . ]

[Westerkirk Clock Tower . . . ]

Ostend

[Rose & Dick searching for a fine dining experience in the largest city on Belgium’s coast, about 170 miles SW of Amsterdam . . . ]

[Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk (Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the main church of Ostend, is a Roman Catholic Neo-Gothic church. It is built on the ashes of a previous church that occupied the site. Construction started in 1899 and was completed and consecrated on August 31, 1908. Its stained glass windows were destroyed during the two World Wars and were replaced. The church is 70 meters long and 30 meters wide. Its spires are 72 meters high (Wikipedia).]

Bruges

[Simon Stevin (a Belgian mathematician) Square in Bruges (20 miles west of Ostend) with the Church of our Lady. Having visited here twice now, Bruges is one of our all-time favorite cities . . . ]

[The Markt (“Market Square”) of Bruges is located in the heart of the city and covers an area of about 1 hectare. Some historical highlights around the square include the 12th-century belfry and the West Flanders Provincial Court (originally the Waterhall, which in 1787 was demolished and replaced by a classicist building that from 1850 served as provincial court and after a fire in 1878 was rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style in 1887. In the center of the market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck (Wikipedia).]

I could sooner reconcile all Europe than two women. ~ Louis XIV

[The Arendts Garden has modern sculpture representing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are described in the Book of Revelations, the last book in the New Testament of the Bible. Though some interpretations vary, the four riders are seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine, and Death (luxeadventuretraveler.com).]

[The Church of Our Lady in Bruges, dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. This church is essentially “…a monument to the wealth, sophistication, taste, and devotion of this most Catholic city, whose history and faith stand today celebrated in this wonderful building.”  Its tower, at 115.6 metres (379 ft) in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world (after St. Martin’s Church in Landshut, Germany) (Wikipedia).]

The white people should go back to Europe, and the country should be returned to the American Indians. This is the future I would like to see for the so-called United States. ~ Bobby Fischer

[Literally, a Rose between two Oberts . . . ]

It is easier for women to succeed in business, the arts, and politics in America than in Europe. ~ Hedy Lamarr

I don’t really have a type. Men in general are a good thing. ~ Jennifer Aniston

Even phantoms don’t inhabit Bruges any more. It’s as though the living are the ghouls now, the zombies. It’s so uncannily empty, silent, lifeless… ! ~ Cathy Dobson

[Rose crossing a canal bridge . . . ]

On a New York subway you get fined for spitting, but you can throw up for nothing. ~ Lewis Grizzard

[Enjoy a carriage ride through the heart of the city of Bruges, along the canals, and historical small bridges, relaxing to the gentle sound of the hoof beat of the horse. The coach-driver explains the city to you, and halfway the trip, the horse is getting a rest at the Beguinage where you can descend (visit-bruges.be).]

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. ~ Mark Twain

[Three-time winners of the Tourists of the Year award!]

Facebook just sounds like a drag, in my day seeing pictures of peoples vacations was considered a punishment. ~ Betty White

[The Church of Our Lady, who brick spire reaches an astounding 122 meters, houses the Madonna and Child from 1504. It is one of only a few of Michelangelo’s works to ever leave Italy within his lifetime. The sculpture was originally meant for the Siena Cathedral in Italy but was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants and brothers, Jan and Alexander Mouscron, and donated to the Church of Our Lady in 1514 (luxeadventuretraveler.com).]

[In the same church, the body of Charles the Bold in Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Kerk in Bruges next to his daughter Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482).]

What’s not to love about Bruges? ~ Rose & Dick

A memory: Brussels is 60 miles SE of Bruges. About halfway between them is Ghent. We stopped at a restaurant in Ghent on the way back to Brussels. There was one other couple in the restaurant sitting some distance from us. On their way out, they stopped at our table and asked if we were Americans. We asked them how they knew. They said after we cut our meat, we put our knife down and transferred the fork to our right hand before eating. Apparently only Americans do that. Who knew? And isn’t it silly?

[Saying adieu and merci to our hosts in Kraainem . . . ]

The only way to learn a language properly, in fact, is to marry a man of that nationality. You get what they call in Europe a ‘sleeping dictionary.’ Of course, I have only been married five times, and I speak seven languages. I’m still trying to remember where I picked up the other two. ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor

London

[The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground, or by its nickname the Tube) is a rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties. The Underground has its origins in the Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground passenger railway. Opened in January 1863, it is the first line to operate underground electric traction trains. The network has expanded to 11 lines, and in 2017/18 was used for 1.357 billion passenger journeys, making it the world’s 12th busiest metro system. The 11 lines collectively handle up to 5 million passenger journeys a day (Wikipedia).]

[The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, England, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely collected during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national in the world. The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane.  It first opened to the public in 1759 on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following 250 years was largely a result of expanding British colonisation and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the Natural History Museum in 1881. Its ownership of some of its most famous objects originating in other countries is disputed and remains the subject of international controversy, most notably in the case of the Elgin Marbles of Greece and the Rosetta Stone of Egypt (Wikipedia).]

[The Rosetta Stone . . . ]

[The guy in the pork pie hat is the one from the ancient civilization . . . ]

[It’s OK. We all see it. We all see it . . . ]

The streets of London have their map, but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner? ~ Virginia Woolf

[Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning “circle”, is a round open space at a street junction (Wikipedia).]

[The Horses of Helios (and the Super), also known as The Four Bronze Horses of Helios, is a bronze sculpture of four horses by Rudy Weller. The sculpture was installed in 1992 in a fountain under a canopy at the base of the building at 1 Jermyn Street, on the corner where Piccadilly meets Haymarket, near Piccadilly Circus in London (Wikipedia).]

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, But she doesn’t have a lot to say, Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl,
But she changes from day to day . . .

I want to tell her that I love her a lot, But I gotta get a belly full of wine, Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, Someday I’m going to make her mine, oh yeah, Someday I’m going to make her mine!

[So, toodle-oo from Westminster Abbey.]

If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every corner of the world, that America’s global interventions have come to an end, and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the USA but now — oddly enough — a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money. One year’s military budget of 330 billion dollars is equal to more than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated. ~ William Blum

Europe 2000 (Part 1)

December 15

I would like to visit the country which adopts the groundhog as its mascot, somewhere peaceful, some place that curls against the secrets of the earth, a little Belgium of the imagination, tables piled high with cakes, the Sunday bells ringing (not too loudly), the light falling on rolling hillocks studded with salad greens.  ~ David Brendan Hopes

So indeed this was our second visit to Belgium (I previously reported on our first trip in 1997) to stay with friends Walt and Michelle Steiner in Kraainem on the outskirts of Brussels. Walt was there on a 4-year mission to NATO where he was obviously successful as we’re still all here.  The Super and I took a different route this time – a 3 or 4 day stopover in London first (my first visit there) before taking the Chunnel (because it’s there) train to Brussels . . .

London 

[We arrived at Heathrow at 7:00 am on February 19. So, what’s the first thing you do in London? Hop on a hop on-hop off double-decker bus for an overview of this giant city. The woman seated behind us didn’t appear to be having as much fun as the Super . . . ]

[Marble Arch is a 19th-century white marble-faced  triumphal arch. The structure was designed in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace; it stood near the site of what is today the three-bayed, central projection of the palace containing the well-known balcony. In 1851, it was relocated to its current site. Following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s, the site became a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane and Edgware Road, isolating the arch.  Only members of the Royal Family and the King’s Troop. Royal Horse Artillery are said to be permitted to pass through the arch; this happens in ceremonial processions (Wikipedia).]

[A language tour bus was ahead of us. Fortunately, the England English on our bus came with subtitles . . . ]

[The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, popularly but incorrectly known as “Eros”, is a fountain surmounted by a winged statue of Anteros, located at the southeastern side of Piccadilly Circus in London, England. Moved after World War II from its original position in the centre of the circus, it was erected in 1892–93 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was a famous Victorian politician and philanthropist, and his achievement in replacing child labour with school education (Wikipedia).]

[Rooftop sculpture by Rudy Weller three gold nude woman diving off roof of Criterion building into Coventry Street & Haymarket . . . ]

[Nelson’s Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, Central London, built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 at a cost of £47,000 (equivalent to £4,648,142 in 2019). It is a column of the Corinthian order. The statue of Nelson was carved from Graigleigh sandstone. The four bronze lions around its base were added in 1867. The pedestal is decorated with four bronze relief panels, each 18 feet (5.5 m) square, cast from captured French guns. It was refurbished in 2006 at a cost of £420,000 (equivalent to £612,163 in 2019), at which time it was surveyed and found to be 14 feet 6 inches (4.42 m) shorter than previously supposed.  The whole monument is 169 feet 3 inches (51.59 m) tall from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson’s hat (Wikipedia).]

[Trafalgar Square . . . ]

[Admiralty Arch is a landmark building providing road and pedestrian access between The Mall, which extends to the southwest, and Trafalgar Square to the northeast. Admiralty Arch, commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, is now a Grade I listed building. In the past, it served as residence of the First Sea Lord and was used by the Admiralty. Until 2011, the building housed government offices. In 2012, the government sold the building on a 125-year lease for £60m for a proposed redevelopment into a Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel and four apartments (Wikipedia).]

[10 Downing Street, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is (along with the adjoining Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall) the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and the official residence and office since 1905 by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The term “10 Downing Street”, or just “Downing Street”, is also used as a metonym for the Prime Minister’s office (Wikipedia).]

Westminster Abbey . . .

The Tower Big Ben . . .

The rosy-red cheeks of the little children . . .

[Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar”—a church responsible directly to the sovereign (Wikipedia).]

[The London Eye, or the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. It is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, and is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3 million visitors annually. The structure is 135 metres (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres (394 ft). When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Its height was subsequently surpassed by three others. Supported by an A-frame on one side only the Eye is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” The London Eye used to offer the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 245-metre-high (804 ft) observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013 (Wikipedia).]

[Parliament on the left, the Eye on the right. The Eye was not yet open to the public when we were there . . . ]

Oh, I love London Society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what society should be. ~  Oscar Wilde

How can you ever be late for anything in London? They have a huge clock right in the middle of the town. ~  Jimmy Kimmel 

[St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral which serves as the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604.  The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London.  The earlier Gothic cathedral (Old St. Paul’s Cathedral), largely destroyed in the Great Fire, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963. The dome remains among the highest in the world. St Paul’s is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral (Wikipedia).]

I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining. ~  Groucho Marx

[The Monument to the Great Fire of London, more commonly known simply as the Monument, is a Doric column situated near the northern end of London Bridge. Commemorating the Great Fire of London, it stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 feet (62 m) in height and 202 feet west of the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it was built on the site of  St. Margaret, New Fish Street, the first church to be destroyed by the Great Fire. It is Grade I listed and is a scheduled monument (Wikipedia).]

[The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. Today, the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower, the property is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site (Wikipedia).]

[Ditto, with the Super . . . ]

[Of course, she had to see the Crown Jewels . . . ]

[As seen from inside the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become a world-famous symbol of London. As a result, it is sometimes confused with London Bridge, about half a mile (0.8 km) upstream. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges owned and maintained by a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the trust’s bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces imposed by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers Wikipedia).]

[What an early siege of the Tower may have looked like . . . ]

I journeyed to London, to the timekept City, Where the River flows, with foreign flotations. There I was told: we have too many churches, And too few chop-houses. ~ T. S. Eliot

Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary-fucking-Poppins. London! ~ Dennis Farina

Aesthetically, London is just beautiful; it’s a gorgeous city. The architecture, monuments, the parks, the small streets – it’s an incredible place to be. ~  Sara Bareilles

It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London.  It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach.  It is only magnificent. ~ Henry James

London opens to you like a novel itself… It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, doors and passages.  Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand. ~  Anna Quindlen

[Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the striking clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster; the name is frequently extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower.  The official name of the tower in which Big Ben is located was originally the Clock Tower; it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom. When completed in 1859, its clock was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. The tower stands 315 feet (96 m) tall, and the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps. Its base is square, measuring 39 feet (12 m) on each side. Dials of the clock are 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter. On 31 May 2009, celebrations were held to mark the tower’s 150th anniversary. Big Ben is the largest of the tower’s five bells and weighs 13.5 long tons.  It was the largest bell in the United Kingdom for 23 years. Four quarter bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour and just before Big Ben tolls on the hour. The clock uses its original Victorian mechanism, but an electric motor can be used as a backup. The clock tower has been part of a Grade I listed building since 1970 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 (Wikipedia).]

[Oh, and that’s the Super with Big Ben above . . . ]

[The eye was open when we were there, but not to the general public. We apparently qualified as the general public . . . ]

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. ~  Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

[The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to several historic structures but most oft