Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Blooms

There are flowers like this in bloom in many parts of the USA, just not in the Saintly City at the moment. This one was at the Punta Gorda History Park and is a hibiscus at the top of its game. There is no tennis today, but there is hope for the weekend. I have connected with some geezers via Paul Bouchard, and smacking of tennis orbs is likely to break out.

"Another gorgeous day in southwest Florida." That WINK reader again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Santini is dressed for biking on a "cold" morning ride. The palm trees are real.

I haven't played tennis since last Thursday, but I have exceeded my biking mileage of December and set a personal record for January. Twenty-one miles.

Tennis is on the agenda for later in the week.

Another gorgeous day in southwest Florida.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ninety-nine Today

A ninety-ninth birthday story.

He drove me to St Paul one day in the early fall of 1961. We were alone for one of the few times in our lives. We stopped and had a hamburger in that small town, I think it was Kettle River, that had what we thought were the greatest burgers in Minnesota. We didn't talk very much, but I'm sure he gave me some advice that I have since forgotten. It was my first trip to St Paul and to Hamline, where I was to spend the next four years - a place that changed my life. I think that he knew that I was gone for good - that I'd never really live at home again. He helped me to carry my few belongings to the dorm room that I was to share with a complete stranger. He stayed a few minutes to say goodbye and then, with a long drive home in front of him, left me to begin my new existence. I guess that he knew that I would be okay, and that he had other responsibilities at home. He had to "hold the nozzle agin the bank" for a while yet.

You can't ever forget your father. It is all right to forgive him.

"Another gorgeous day here in southwest Florida." - WINK news reader.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It's just two days until the 99th birthday of Tom Miller, and there is some time to plan remembrances for his life. He wasn't a famous guy and no real books have been written about him as of yet, but because he was my dad, I am one of just a few experts on his life. I included quite a few facts and dates as to his life in my 1998 self published book(?), "Millers, Andersons and Other Visitors." I haven't lately gone back to read what I wrote, but I can still dredge up some things from memory, from the days I lived with him until I was 18. He's been gone for almost 32 years.

Photo from early 1940's from his days as a cook in the Aleutian Islands during WWII.

His favorite sports: Baseball (big Yankees fan - Ruth and Gehrig), chess: lots of hours playing postal chess and a lot of games with Leo Falardeau, his Coleraine friend. We played some backyard basketball. His specialty was the two hand "kiss" shot (a version of a set shot)
Favorite baseball players: Tris Speaker, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Pie Traynor, Burleigh Grimes.
Favorite song: " It's a long long way to Tipperarry"
Skills: He could do some cooking (see chef-hatted photo). Dishes I remember: macaroni and eggs, poached eggs, corned beef hash (with eggs), fried green tomatoes. He didn't like ripe tomatoes, because he ate too many one summer as a kid, he said.

He could recite poetry from memory: "Jennie Kissed Me," "Jim Bludsoe," "Face on the Bar Room Floor," "Cremation of Sam McGee," "Little Britches," "The Night Before Christmas," and more.

He coached Cub Scouts softball teams, and a town team in Coleraine and Bovey with older guys. He seemed to me to know a lot about baseball. He used to say that he could have been a pro, except that he threw his arm out pitching. The truth? Who knows. He taught us to play "running bases," a game to hone skills to get someone caught in a run down. He taught me to bunt and how to field a ground ball. He let me play second base and I have thought of myself as one when playing baseball ever since.

He played some baseball into his fifties and mostly pitched then. He could run, but had an uneven gait that seemed ungainly, but was reasonably fast. He batted right handed, threw right handed.

He didn't like to fish. He said that he scared the fish away. He did some deer hunting in his younger days and joined John McCune, John Gomulak and Marvin Anderson in some northern Wisconsin hunts. He used a 30-30 Krag(?) in those hunts. There were many talks about hunting adventures while we visited the family at the Yellow Lake farm of Grandpa Richard Anderson.

He seemed to have some familiarity with boxing, maybe from the service. He bought us boxing gloves one year and set up fast punching bag in the basement.

He liked dogs rather than cats. He liked his coffee black and strong. He liked Plymouth cars (Chrysler Corp.) rather than General Motors.

He was the third of six children and seemed to have a special fondness for his two sisters, Jane and Betty.

He was 5'11" tall and had blue eyes. He never weighed more than about 160 pounds.

He smoked Lucky Strikes and Raleighs - cork tipped - in those days. He never really quit, even in the intensive care wards after heart attacks.

He taught Sunday school at the Methodist church one years in Coleraine. His professed religion and that of his brothers and sisters was Methodist. Mom was a Lutheran, and thus theirs a mixed marriage.

This is his high school graduation picture from about 1927.

Comments and corrections are welcome.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Three Degrees

I was out for a while in the "heat" of the day. This photo of downtown St Paul from Harriet Island features steam from the central heating facility that warms the downtown and a river that is nearly frozen over. It was still 3 degrees when I took the photo, but with a little wind, I decided against an extended trek. As I write the temp has slipped to eight below zero on its way to colder.

Indoor tennis is still planned for tomorrow morning. The building is heated.

The Australian Open, the first major tennis tournament is being contested in the summer that is Melbourne. Andy Roddick, the best American man, was upset yesterday, which left 3 US men in the hunt.. Serena and Venus Williams are the only US women left and are seeded seven and eight. Roger Federer and Justine Henin are the top seeds and favorites to win.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's getting cold in these parts

It's five degrees as I write. Those are positive degrees. The low tomorrow as predicted by the local weather underground will be -13, and Saturday will be -12, for a total of -25. These are raw degrees, none of that exaggeration known as wind chill. The coldest week of the year is upon us. Thus the bear.

Only indoors activities to report. Curling last night was a mixed bag. The five o'clock league team won a close game in the final end and going to the final stone 7-6. The Miller Rink just missed a win, going into the final end in a 5-5 tie and with the hammer, gave up a point and the win. Hey, they had better and also matching clothes. It's hard to beat color coordination on the field of battle. Our win streak ended at four. So it goes.

The Thursday night mixed doubles was a flat draw. 6-4, 4-6, 3-3 (out of time). It was even, but I was a little off my game and most of the action was the hardcore girls banging shots at each other and sometimes into the net. There will be more tennis next week, followed by hibiscuses. Hibiiscusi???

The stock market tanked again today. There seems to be panic on Wall Street and the politicians are getting involved. That doesn't seem like a very good idea, based on the kind of trouble they've led us into in the last few years. Should we be bailing out the speculators? Will we be bailing them out?

Monday, January 14, 2008

An Old Flag

It's going into the coldest part of January. "That calls for a change in the spirits." This photo is from Minnesota in a warmer time of the year, but it's pretty and I took it.

There was some tennis tonight, but it was not exceptionally notable. We finished a couple of sets and no one got hurt. When you play with geezers, that's always one of your goals.

Minnesota's sesquicentennial is this year. It has been 150 years since Congress allowed the previously known territory of Minnesota to become a state. It was May 11, 1858, when the action passed the Congress. The first governor, Henry Sibley, took office 13 days later. The flag of the USA had to change to add its 32nd star, and this is the way Old Glory was configured for the next year until Kansas joined the Union.

Apparently there will be some sort of state wide celebration of the sesquicentennial, but it has been pretty low key so far, and not much money has been allocated for the celebration by our legislature. They are about to go into session soon, but there is no telling what will come out of it. I could make some money selling tee shirts with this flag on them, maybe, but it isn't likely to happen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Four and Out

The four day tennis marathon is over and I'm slightly knackered. The USTA 8.0 mixed doubles match was a lot of fun, but very competitive, It was a nice victory, 6-4, 4-6, 1-0, because the opposing team was good plus significantly younger than Marcia and I. The overall team also won 2-1 to improve our league record to 3-2. The match finished at about 9:35 pm, just as Jerry, our captain. got a call that his wife was out driving in the snowstorm and hit some ice and spun out, the well named 360. There were no injuries, but, if you saw the Packers-Seahawks game on TV today, that was the same snowstorm that we had last night. The drive home was interesting, but I managed to stay on the road. Not everyone that I shared the road with was as lucky. There was an upside down trailer on the exit ramp from I-694 to !-94.

The geezer tennis match this morning was closely contested and fun. The sets were 3-6, 6-4, and included lots of good points. We chatted again after playing ended and I found out some more stuff about the geezers. Both of the guys with artificial hips used to be marathon runners. Jerry finished 10 marathons, including Grandma's in Duluth five times, and Bill H. ran only one. I think the correlation between marathoners and hip replacements is obvious. These guys have and continue to enjoy rigorous physical activity. Both guys have given up running and Jerry rides his bike everywhere in the summer. Biking, as I have perhaps noted before, is the fallback exercise regimen for older runners. It is much easier on the joints.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fort Snelling

In the interest of exercise and to find an interesting photo for this blog, I ventured over to Fort Snelling. There is a nice tennis facility there, which I should photograph and include here, but today I went to the old fort. It has been restored from the original and looks pretty much the way it did in the beginning. Beginning means 1820-24 when it was put up in the early days of Minnesota by the army. It's winter and there aren't many people around during this season so I was alone at the site. It is Minnesota's 150th anniversary in 2008 - statehood was conferred in 1858, just shortly before the Civil War. The fort is one of the few structures in Minnesota that is older than the state itself.

It's election crazy season all over the country. The pollsters are embarrassed because they failed to predict the Hilary Clinton "victory" in New Hampshire. They predicted the McCain victory over Mitt, but missed badly on the Democratic side. There are lots of theories floating around from the pundits, but they really are mystified. If the New Hampshire people are like me, they refuse to participate in polls, or perhaps even lie to the pollsters when they call at dinner time looking for free info. It may also be the prevalence of cell phones and the inability to reach those who use them exclusively. Or maybe the people that they would have caught at the dinner table have caller ID and refused to answer calls from numbers that they don't recognize. It is gratifying to hear that the polls miss sometimes and sometimes very badly. Their success rate is still better than Paul Douglas, our hippy dippy TV weather creature.

I'm in the midst of a tennis marathon - four days in a row. Last night I was a sub for Brad S. at St Paul Indoor and ended up playing with three guys that I haven't played with before. It went ok, but my side lost two sets. Tonight I played at Wooddale with the hardcore girls. Jerry wasn't there because he had to attend a Minnesota PCA meeting with the public about water quality in the eastern suburbs. It seems that some 3M chemicals are showing up in well water near old dump sites of some of their chemicals. Jerry works for the PCA , who has responsibility for these matters. So the tennis was somewhat different tonight, because Pat took his place, and Pat is taller, rangier, and has much more mobility around the court. He doesn't, however have Jerry's bazooka forehand or cannonball serve. It was hard going and we had lots of long interesting points. Barb and I managed to prevail in the end, but it would have been almost as much fun if we had lost. Although we both agree that winning is better.

Tomorrow night we have another USTA match at Wooddale. It's mixed doubles again, but it should be competitive and fun. And Saturday morning I'll be back playing geezer men's doubles. Four days in a row.

The Republican National convention for this election cycle will be in St Paul next summer. From the look of the current contest, there may be some opportunities for good blogging next summer. There will be celebrities in town and lots on interesting protests, probably. Watch this space.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Snow on the Tennis Courts

This is, supposedly, a tennis blog, so it is logical to provide some tennis photos now and then. This is what the tennis courts in my neighborhood are looking like this month, snow covered and lonely. No one has played on these courts for at least a month, and it is probable that no one will play here for another 2-3 months. In my high school days on the Iron Range, our out door courts were used as a skating rink in the winter, so that when spring came the tennis team shoveled off the courts, removing the snow and ice, so that we could begin playing on them before the season was over. This picture reminds me of those days.

We had an epic struggle at geezer tennis night at Wooddale last night. We had a rare occurrence, wherein we went two sets without a single service break. It was so closely fought that we were unable to finish the second set, because we ran out of time. The scores 7-6, 6-6 (out of time). There is also a rumor afoot, fed by some of my geezer pals, that the real estate developer, who bought the Lilydale tennis club to build condos, was forced to let the property go back to the bank. The subprime mortgage mess seems to have stymied his plans for riches as he stymied our tennis playing agenda when he bought our club out from under us. The condo market has softened so much, that it almost doesn't exist any more. The condo speculators, who may have bought one of his units as investment property, are on the run or hiding their money in their socks. There may be poetry there somewhere.

I hear via email that Jim Holden's book, "Tennis in the Northland" will be published soon and will be available in April or May. He says it's about 600 pages of true stories about high school tennis in Minnesota. He thinks it'll be costing about $35 in hard cover. It perhaps has a limited audience, but I'm hoping that the Coen brothers make a movie of the best parts. Or maybe not.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Heat Wave

Today was the warmest day of the new year thus far. It reached 39.3 degrees at my favorite Grand Avenue weather station. The sun was shining and the NFL playoff games weren't very captivating, so I took my old bones for a walk around the neighborhood to see if I could find anything pretty to photograph. It was a fairly long walk and the sights were mostly puddles, kids making snowmen, and brownish melting snow, but the area around Linwood Park had some representative sights - trees without leaves (or fruit, especially oranges) and blue, blue sky. For today, a nice sight.

Part of the walk took me past the snowed in tennis courts on St. Clair to these steps climbing back up to Linwood and Osceola Streets. These are the testers of the walk, sort of like Benhill Avenue when I'm biking. The challenge is to walk to the top non-stop and not have to stop to catch my breath or let my heart rate return to the yellow zone. Today, I passed. The view from the top is better. Then I walked home past the senator's house on Osceola. He didn't seem to be home today. Probably off saving the world.

There was geezer tennis yesterday, but there is not much to report that is not repetitive. We played two sets with varied partners, 7-5, 6-4. After we played we sat around and tried to decide if we are better than we were a year ago. All of us are a year older, but we have been playing pretty regularly. Tennis Dennis thought that he has gone down hill because of his hip problems, but the rest of us thought we were at least as good as last year. It's a hard thing to prove, and it doesn't really matter. Two of the geezers are ex-hockey players and one, Bill, remembers playing at the U of Mn with a couple of guys from my old high school, GHS. He remembered John Lothrup and Ryan Tellor, guys that I played some baseball with in my youth on the Iron Range. Small world stories always intrigue me. It doesn't alway take six degrees of separation to get to people form one's youth.

Herb is back from his weekend trip to Chicago. On the way back, he stopped to visit his college chum, Liz, who is the mother of triplets, less than a year old. It meant a stop in Kenosha, but to Herb, not much out of his way.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Still January

A January thaw is promised for tomorrow. It's been cold for quite a while, so a little warm up is welcome.

A photo of Herb posing as the Michelin man on a cold January day.

Time for a short update on the curling team. We had to give up a point as handicap for the first time this year. The handicap system is meant to even the score so that the game is more likely to end in a tie. Since we've been on the streak, the league fathers have seen fit to rate us as a slightly stronger team. It made for an interesting game, as planned. We started fast, but our opponents came back to within a point in the final end. We had last rock, but didn't need it, winning 7-5. The streak is extended to four.

Last night was tennis with the hardcore girls. It was a close match and ended at a set each after 90 minutes 4-6, 7-5.

A little George Miller genealogy tidbit. He landed in New York in May, 1828, with his family. Where did he go from there until he surfaces in Steuben County Indiana and later, Bad Ax County, Wisconsin? Many, maybe a majority of Alsatian immigrants, settled in Western New York, especially in Erie County. Many others stayed in the Buffalo area for a short while before moving farther west, to places like Ontario and Ohio. Why was western New York such a popular destination? That is easy to explain. The Erie Canal had opened in 1825. It made western New York easily accessible from the Atlantic coast for the first time. For an immigrant arriving at New York harbor, looking for cheap unoccupied land to settle, Western New York was the easiest place to reach. There must be records of this immigrant family somewhere in upstate New York. A puzzle exists here that should be pursued.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

This is January

I'm posting two photos from my trip to Minnehaha Falls yesterday. The first one is from below the falls and depicts some people walking on the ice over the creek without much fear of falling in. It was very cold but the water under the ice was running. A little dangerous perhaps, but an attractive pile of ice was sticking out from the hillside. No one got hurt.

And this is one of the kayakers in the Mississippi at the end on Minnehaha Creek. He, too, is engaged in a perilous activity. The temperature was in the single digits, so if he capsized, he would have been in hypothermia almost immediately. Minnesota seems to encourage this sort of individual to defy death.

It was another cold day today, starting below zero and reminding us all that this is a cold state.

Curling, another ice related activity, is on the agenda again tonight. Our three game streak is on the line.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year in Waiting

It's a new year and a theme day. I picked out a couple of shots that I like, but I am unable to say that they are the best of the lot. The first is a still life and the second a photo with people peopling the image. The tiger lily shot continues the tiger theme from the last few days, but in addition, the flower is locally grown and shows good texture.

The photo below is a shot of some familiar faces having a good time on a downtown street. Exuberance is good for everyone.

Kagami Sensei was on the internet when I got to the iBook this morning. We talked for a while about her New Year's activities, and ours. Her blog today contains much of the interesting bits. It was very nice to have a conversation with her on this first holiday of 2008.

It was a cold, cold day. Herb and I decided to get some sun and exercise. We dressed warmly and drove to the Falls. A bank thermometer on Snelling Avenue announced a temperature of 2. I see by Carl P's blog that he was there today, too. I guess we missed him. I have a couple of photos that are nearly identical to ones newly posted on his blog. The icy falls are quite dramatic. The stairs to the lower levels were ice covered and closed, but we skied down on our boots for a better and different look at the creek. We took some pictures there, then Herb and I took a walk to the nexus of the creek and the big river. The creek was iced over in spots, but the flowing water kept the stream from disappearing completely. In fact, a duck was swimming around in a pool of open water, feeding off God knows what. It was an interesting walk, cold and slippery, but not without company. There were other walkers and some cross country skiers. At the river we tarried a bit to watch some guys in kayaks paddling up the river towards the Ford Bridge. I consider them foolhardy to be on the river at that temperature, but also very hardcore. We walked back along the creek, but bypassed the treacherous stairs for a stroll up the meadow and the smaller hill up to Minnehaha Avenue. In all we were outside about an hour and suffered no frostbite. It is unnecessary to declare it the coldest day of the year.

We rewarded ourselves with lunch and a movie at Rosedale, "The Golden Compass." It was a good start to a leap year.