The Suitcase Lady


May 11, 2021, 9:53 pm

In my way of thinking, movies and music should not begin until the sun goes down. I admit this is an entirely personal quirk and I’m not advocating it for others. I’m just a visually oriented person who doesn’t want to miss anything the sun-filled day delivers. Plus, daytime is filled with enough sounds to keep me entertained.

My impulse to immerse myself in the daytime hours was with me as a child. Most of my schoolmates were sent to our local movie palace, the Paradise Theater, to see a double feature every Sunday afternoon. (As an adult, I understand why these hard-working, blue-collar parents wanted their multiple kids gone for four hours plus.) I was always grateful that my parents didn’t send me to a dark, cavernous cave that shut out all the beauty of the day. I much preferred being outdoors playing.

I do love movies, the magic of falling into imaginary worlds, but the daytime world still has more appeal for me. Perhaps I might feel differently about all this if I were a nocturnal creature like a cat or owl.

Many of my family and friends would be bereft without music as a constant presence in their lives. But for me, the music gets turned on when the world gets dark and introspective, and my music of choice is almost always jazz. Somehow, I just don’t feel jazz belongs in the world of sunshine; its magic works best under the cover of darkness.

From 1975 to 2002, Milwaukee had a fabulous jazz radio show called “The Dark Side”. Ron Cuzner was the host and the show always began with “In My Solitude”. Night doesn’t get better than this.

Click here for the music (Ignore the ad)

Photo- MT

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May 4, 2021, 9:39 pm

A peacock came in the mail last Thursday. He’s a beautiful boy, and I will be putting him to work. My peacock is a puppet whose job will be demonstrating to children one of the uses of animals’ tails.

All across America, this summer’s library reading program theme is Tails & Tales. Even though much programming will be video, the important business of keeping kids engaged with reading, libraries and ideas goes on. I’ve been busy researching and writing a program, and I’ve learned much more than I possibly could or should share with kids…especially on the topic of peacock tails.

The obvious use of the male peacock’s over-the-top, iridescent tail feathers is to impress a girl. These guys have impressed us as well. We all commonly think of the word “peacock” as referring to a species of bird. Turns out it is not. A peacock is a male peafowl. The female peafowl is called a peahen, and the babies are peachicks. The peafowl are members of the pheasant family of birds.

Showtime for the peacock is spring when they and the peahens gather in groups. The guys’ tails are the stars of the show. These spectacular appendages can have up to 150 feathers as long as 6 feet and end in an “eye”. Collectively, the tail feathers are known as a train.

The males strut about, raise and fan out their tail feathers and start to shake their entire tail. They rattle their tails 25 times per second which produces more iridescence plus mechanical sound. Biologists have proven that this display has “a hypnotic effect that lures the females.”

The peahens are, however, fussy about who they select. They walk about checking for the guys with the flashiest feathers. An impressive display of feathers indicates physical fitness and healthy offspring. Girls are not shy about chasing other peahens away from their selected mates

When mating occurs, the peacock jumps up on the lady’s back and accomplishes his mission in a matter of seconds. Then he is off to mate with more women and create a harem. The peahens do all the rest of the work of building a nest, incubating the eggs and raising the young. Beauty enables creatures of many species to get away with a lot.

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April 27, 2021, 8:31 pm

“This is delicious,” my husband said the other night at dinner. I had made hot asparagus and cheese open-face sandwiches to celebrate the first asparagus of the season. The appearance of asparagus and the first Florida strawberries in our grocery store is a sure sign that another winter has been survived.

These items may not have been grown in our own backyard, but they are from our own country. We all know that fresh produce can be bought year round in our supermarkets. It’s always spring or summer somewhere on our globe, and tons of veggies and fruits are constantly flying around. But, somehow, blueberries from Peru or raspberries from Chile aren’t the same as produce from our home place on the planet.

We’ll be indulging in asparagus every week now in April and May. The asparagus feasts will resume in summer when the local crops come in. We would like to grow our own, but our vegetable growing skills preclude that option.

Fortunately for us, our gardening friends and neighbors share their bounty. Farmer Dennis always gives us asparagus from his big backyard vegetable plot. And last year there was a bonus. Somewhere on his many acres of land, he discovered a patch of wild asparagus. He did what is an extremely “in” thing now, he became a forager.

I may not be a gardener, but I am a cook. When he arrived with his gift of found asparagus, I did not recoil. Visually, these spears were a motley crew; some were big and fat, others super skinny or bent and curved. But all were tender and delicious with a minimum of cooking time. I’m hoping the wild asparagus patch shows up again this year.

If you are an asparagus lover, too, here are my simple directions for making the open-face sandwich. It is so quick and easy to make, I hesitate to call it a recipe.

Put two slices of good whole wheat bread per person on a cookie sheet. I use Brownberry Ovens original recipe whole wheat and no pre-toasting is required. If your bread is softer, toast it slightly in the oven.

Snap off the ends of the asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces and cook or steam for a few minutes until just tender. You need enough asparagus to cover each piece of bread and heap it up a bit.

Butter the bread, drain the asparagus and immediately pile it onto the bread slices. Top each with a slice of cheese…use your favorite. We like sharp cheddar, Swiss,  Gouda, or Provolone. We also sprinkle a dash of Cajun seasoning on top. If you don’t want the zip, use paprika.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes or broil until the cheese melts.

That’s it. Get out a knife and fork and enjoy. It’s springtime on a plate.

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April 20, 2021, 10:27 am

When our family gets together, we invariably tell stories about our cars, past and present. These tales are usually about breakdowns and other misadventures, and, in many, a Volkswagen is involved.

Our son recently told a great story that my husband and I hadn’t thought of for decades. It was about the time he and I bought, and then immediately unbought, one of the world’s strangest cars, a Pacer. It was a moment of insanity, but well-intentioned.

Our two growing kids needed more room in the backseat. So, as our son tells it, “they bought an upside-down fruit bowl on wheels.”

Buyer’s remorse set in the day after we signed on the line. Fortunately, in those gentler times, we had a short grace period in which to renege.

The first ad for the Pacer proclaimed, “You only ride like a Pacer, if you’re wide like a Pacer.” It was made by a Wisconsin company, American Motors in Kenosha. The designs of their various automobiles can be described as flamboyant, motley, weird or pathetic. The company folded in 1988. I think we dodged a bullet.

Be prepared to laugh. Here are two brilliant television ads for this doomed auto.

Pacer Prototype

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April 13, 2021, 9:29 pm

When our children were little, we bought them a book called Fifty State Capitols. With little text, it consisted of big, super-colorful pictures of all the magnificent Capitol buildings in America. We wanted to show them as much of their country as we could before they grew up, and that little book sparked their curiosity.

I thought of that booklet the other day as we were on a road trip out West and hit the jackpot of five state capitols in six days. They still impress. Here are the five, each with unique stories to tell.

Madison, Wisconsin- My own state Capitol sits proudly on a hill, and its massive dome is only 3 feet and 1/2 inch shorter than our nation’s Capitol in D.C. The dome is topped by a bronze statue of a woman named Wisconsin. Created by Daniel Chester French, she wears a helmet upon which is sitting a badger. This is not because our state is overrun by badgers. Rather, it is a tribute to our early lead miners who were derisively called “badgers”.

Madison, Wisconsin

Topeka, Kansas- The Kansas Capitol was completed in 1903, but discussions about what would top its dome continued for decades. The solution for many years was a lightbulb. Finally, in 2002, it was topped by a statue named Ad Astra (to the stars) which portrays a Kanza warrior with a bow shooting the North Star. The motto of Kansas is “ad astra per aspersa”, “to the stars through hardships”.

Topeka, Kansas

Des Moines, Iowa- When I first viewed the impressive Iowa state Capitol (they call it the statehouse) from I235, I thought it was a Catholic basilica. A huge central dome is flanked by four wings with four smaller domes. The central dome is covered with thin sheets of pure 23 – carat gold. The gold leaf has been replaced 5 times, the last restoration to the tune of $170,000.

Des Moines, Iowa

Santa Fe, New Mexico- At 7,000 feet above sea level, the New Mexico Capitol is the highest in America. It is also the only circular Capitol in the country and is affectionally known as “the Roundhouse”. The building is designed to look like the Zia sun symbol when viewed from above. There is no dome, but a rotunda in the center of the building is three stories tall with a skylight that mimics an Indian basket weave.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma- The Sooner State’s Capitol sits atop the massive Oklahoma City Oil Fields. Twenty-four oil wells dotted the Capitol grounds in the 1940s. One well on the front lawn sat in the center of a flower bed and was nicknamed Petunia #1. It was capped in 1986 (after earning one million dollars for the state), but the derrick still stands as a monument. Another unique feature of the Capitol is its dome. It didn’t have one until 2002. Although the building was completed in 1917, squabbles and money problems held up the dome’s completion for 85 years.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 1969 Pre-Dome


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