Who knew there was so much fungus among us?

I have no idea why I’ve taken a fancy to finding these little gems throughout the forest floor.


They surprise me with their hiding spots, colors, sizes and shapes.   My hikes through the woods are made more magical when I spy these awkward, gilled wonders.


When I Close My Eyes

June 2011 23036

5224 So. Albany, Chicago

When I close my eyes I see the neighborhood in Chicago where I grew up.   There are a few wood frame homes mixed in with the brick bungalows.  Each house is neatly separated by an 8′ gangway, or sidewalk, which leads to a rear entrance and the backyard.  Backyards measure 30 x 40 feet and most have a cook’s garden bursting with red tomatoes and some radishes or cucumbers.  Each city block is cut in half by an alley that is lined by neat, little one and two car garages.    I spent a lot of time in the alley.  That’s where we kids played.  The streets were busy; the alleys were safe, and you’d get a licking if you didn’t come home when the street lights came on.

As soon as the teachers finished getting us ready for our futures and the days grew longer,  we would spring out of the house and meet up in the alley.  We would stand at a back gate and call each other out.    Sometimes we needed a little pocket change and went door-to-door, selling used pencils or made a lemonade stand, selling  two cent cups of cold, pure sunshine.   We collected bottle caps all summer because the theater gave out a free movie ticket for every eight caps you turned in.   “Three Outs” was a game where we took turns throwing a baseball at the foot of a garage door so it would bounce up, onto it, and fly back to our mitts.  Three misses, or the garage owner coming out and yelling, and you were out.   Hours were spent hopscotching, playing H-O-R-S-E (as if any of us had ever seen a real one) and riding “no hands” on our Stingray bikes with the long banana seats and ape hanger handlebars.

When I close my eyes, I can hear the AM radio playing Harper Valley, P.T.A., 96 Tears, and California Dreaming.  My dad calls me over; I put down my transistor radio and “get” to turn the television channels for him, all eight of them.   Parents figured out real quick that children were much better at changing the channels –only I had the added pleasure of getting to take off his shoes and smelly socks so he could put his feet up on the ottoman after a long day at work.  My mom asks me to run up to “Lotties” (down the alley and up to the corner) to get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, handing me a dollar and telling me to count the change.  The phone rings and each of us looks around at the other and says, “I got it last time, it is your turn,” only to find out it is a long distance call and then we all huddle close by to listen.

When I close my eyes, it is just after supper on a typical spring evening and my dad and I are playing catch with the mitts.  It was my favorite game with him.  With each toss, there was a lot going on that was unsaid.  If I jumped up and wrangled a high ball down, he would nod.  Then I’d throw him a burner on purpose just to be a smartass.  I know he felt what I dealt because he would start to twinkle.  That’s when I would brace myself for a real stinger.  I learned real quick that it is better to give than to receive.

When I close my eyes, it is 90 degrees outside, you can see waves of heat rising from the pavement and people are melting because no one has air conditioning.  Mom puts a ponytail in my hair every morning to keep the heat off of my neck.   Looking up and down the entire block, there is a fan blowing in every upstairs window.  Then the miracle of all miracles happens–the Good Humor Truck’s  music gets closer and closer and CLOSER!   My brother runs up to tell me there is a fire hydrant open at 52nd and Troy because Joey’s uncle had a big pipe wrench that fit and that all the kids are there and the water is nice and cool and dogs are running wild in it and so we grab our bikes to see if we can make it through the waves.  Someone has an 8-track player playing Petula Clark’s, “Downtown.”  We race out to the shouts and the glee of the big water spree and the city cool of our very own pool.

Me and Woody, Woody and Me

When I close my eyes, rotary phones are gone along with phone numbers that start with letters, like PO-7-6192, my grandma’s.   I think this is about the time avocado green and seat belts were invented.  My parents bought their first new car, a 1968  Ford Fairlane 500 with with a 289 under her hood that we affectionately named “The Green Hornet”.  It had power steering, lap belts, and an automatic transmission!   The four of us would be coming home from someplace else and someone would remember to call, “I get first dibbs,” (on the only bathroom).   Both my brother and I pretended not to hear my dad’s bathroom song if he ran out of toilet paper.  He would crack the door, put the empty paper tube up to his lips, and sing, “Tootie-Toot, Toot…Tootie-Toot, Toot” until one of us gave in and got him what he needed.  He could sure toot.

When I close my eyes, I’m in the principal’s office and mother has been called; she is on her way there.  My crime?  Wetting blobs of toilet paper and slinging it up on the girl’s bathroom ceiling.  Or maybe it was when the teacher finally noticed my artwork…for days I brought a plastic straw to school and would wad up little bits of paper, wet them with saliva, and blow them on a picture that was hanging next to my desk.  Yep, spitballs. Guilty.  Or maybe it was the time I was spitting down three flights of stairs, trying to hit people from above when a teacher stepped into the wrong place at the right time?  I had a thing for paper, spit, and velocity.

One day, when I close my eyes, I will play ball again, make pinkie rings out of a lightning bugs,  roller skate until the streetlights come on, and I’ll get TWO ice cream sandwiches from the ice cream man and we will never run out of toilet paper and my mom will sew me another Halloween costume  and we will never run out of milk and me and Woody will ride “two on a bike” and never get caught and Santa will bring me lots of presents and we will go to Playland Amusement Park where every ride is a dime and my guinea pigs will squeak when I come home from school and Ricky Carmichael will pull my pig tails again!  Best of all, I will sling a real zinger his way just to see my dad twinkle.


The Best Thing About Fishing

1946 – My Grandpa (center) on the Michigamme Reservoir

Spinning a fish tale is akin to being an artist or painter. You’ve got to know how to layer it. Once you’ve caught your limit and filled your head with memories to last until next time, the lying comes in. It is a sin to call it lying because it isn’t really LYING. It is taking a piece of nice fabric and sewing a little design on it. You sit around a campfire and gradually you swindle yourself into believing a rogue fish ran on you three times and was so big you had to grab an oar and slap him silly to get him in the boat. You might have even noticed a bear on the shore threatening to take your keep. Why, I’ve even caught the same fish twice once and reeled in a lure I lost last year.

You don’t just catch a fish once. There are certain ones you catch over and over again as you fall asleep at night. With closed eyes, you tighten the drag as the line spins off–with adrenaline at each end. Remembering the details of the day many times will eclipse the fish itself: the mist on the water at daybreak or seeing a doe and fawn at the water’s edge. Maybe you spotted an eagle perched on a crooked branch. Now throw in the taste of a sack lunch sandwich when your belly is growling, bug bites, and the things you forgot to bring and all the ways you made do. All of this makes the actual fishing of the fish a secondary thing.

When we are grown up and too old for fairy tales, a fish tale is a healthy thing. Without these fabrications, life is mostly a matter of adult things like work, taking out the trash, and thinking about the bills you haven’t got the money to pay. A fisherman who won’t toy with the truth is the kind of person who will do you one in the eye on a deal, kick his dog, or peek in your medicine cabinet. Can’t trust ‘em.




 Three blondes are sitting by the side of a river holding fishing poles with the lines in the water. A Game Warden comes up behind them, taps them on the shoulder and says, “Excuse me, ladies, I’d like to see your fishing licenses.” We don’t have any.” replied the first blonde.

“Well, if you’re going to fish, you need fishing licenses.” said the Game Warden. “But officer,” replied the second blonde, “we aren’t fishing. We all have magnets at the end of our lines and we’re collecting debris off the bottom of the river.”  The Game Warden lifted up all the lines and, sure enough, there were horseshoe magnets tied on the end of each line. “Well, I know of no law against it,” said the Game Warden, “take all the debris you want.” And with that, the Game Warden left.

As soon as the Game Warden was out of sight, the three blondes started laughing hysterically. “What a dumb Fish Cop,” the second blonde said to the other two, “doesn’t he know that there are steelhead in this river?!”


Farmer Style


Bookshelf, Farmer Style

Paint it, leave the “patina”, cut it, or stack it vertically or horizontally.  Great way to repurpose an old ladder from the barn.



Pictoral Wishes For Your 2013

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