Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tribute to a Fallen Police Officer

Pictures featured were taken by KFIZ staff and others. The song in the video was sung by Fond du Lac Police Officer Steve Olson during a law enforcement memorial ceremony at Hamilton Park in Fond du Lac last May.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Buyer Beware

It's probably too hard to see, but both these candy bars were warped when I bought them. I purchased them out of curiousity. To play it safe I threw them in the fringe before trying them. They tasted just fine.

That leads me to this encounter at the sales counter. The clerk asked if they were on the shelf that way. Refraining from a snotty reply I said yes. She then sold them to me without any other questions.

Just for the heck of it I went back to the store and looked on the same shelf about two to three weeks later. More warped candy bars. I bought one at the sales counter. Different clerk, no questions this time. This was not the only disappointment I experienced at this particular franchised store. When I purchased the candy bars the first time I had gone in the store for four different items. They didn't have two of them. Needless to say I can't hardly wait to see what kind of rewards they have in store for people who actually own one of their rewards cards.

For some reason I frequent the same stores and restaurants no matter how poor the service. Point of interest I always stop at a burger restaurant in Menominee, Michigan whenever I'm on my way up to the U.P. On different trips, they had no ice in their ice machine, didn't have food ready in a timely fashion and were out of some items.

The last time I was returning to Wisconsin I stopped for a restroom break and to pick up some hamburgers. The urinal I used began to flood when I flushed it to the point of overflow, but eventually stopped. Then when I went to wash my hands there were no hand towels in the machine. I debated whether to tell employees of the restaurant about it, but was finally fed up with the crappy service and decided not to.

Each time I stop there are fewer people in the restaurant. I think maybe the buyers are finally becoming aware.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Band on the Run

My brother John, nephew Max, and sister-in-law Laurie during Parents' Night at the Manistique Emeralds game against Gwinn September 9th. It was a great night made better because the Emeralds won 35-to-6.

As sometimes happens during a lop-sided game we chatted on the sidelines during lulls in the action. It wasn't until my sister Diana mentioned something that I noticed there was no pep or high school band to accompany the cheerleaders and the action on the field.

Seems High School Band was a victim of budget cuts. It seems unnatural that you didn't have music playing on the field. It kind of explains the recorded version of the National Anthem that was played. And I also had some issues with the half time entertainment, which consisted of a guy in a full-length green body stocking face-included doing a lap on the track that circles the field. Thankfully he was wearing some briefs over his midsection.

Back in the day when I was in school I was like others who kind of thought the band students were geeky. Now with time I've come to realize how important it is to young students and how far it can take them. My sister Kathy was good enough on the flute she played to win a trip to Hawaii. For others it's something that colleges consider when they look at the talents of potential students. When people talk about quality of life issues this is one of those things that fits into a niche.

Try and imagine a U-W Badger Football game without the band and the 5th quarter celebration! Football at the high school and college levels should have band accompaniment. It's part of the experience, but alas in these tough economic times no one plays for the band when it comes to budget time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Red, White and Blue Scar

I've come to realize that 9/11 will always be a national scar. Unlike the slight hint of a scar I have over my right eye where stitches went when I decided to catch a fastball with my face when I was 12-years-old; it's one that runs deep.

It's there underneath the surface waiting to be opened up on every anniversary or conversation that begins with a question about where you were or what you were doing on 9/11. I had a chance to open up a few wounds over the past few weeks with those types of questions.

It's surprising to me some of the answers you get. Fond du Lac Fire Chief Pete O'Leary was working for a fire department in Wheaton, Illinois at the time. He says someone from that town was on Flight 93 and were among the passengers that rushed the cockpit, which led to crashing the plane before hijackers could do with it what others had done to the Twin Towers. He also had a brother who was a pilot and they were worried about him that day.

Fond du Lac City Manager Tom Herre had a buddy working at the Pentagon. We sometimes forget about the lives that were lost there that day. Fond du Lac City Council President Rick Gudex was working in West Bend that day. He remembers not believing what he was hearing on the radio when the second plane hit the Towers.

Fond du Lac County Executive Al Buechel says he knew when the first plane hit it was a terrorism event. He says after the second one hit the County began firming up a team to discuss what should be done locally. He says they were very concerned about the White House and the Capitol being hit. He says it was very scary.

I was working in Beaver Dam at the time. I remember talking with a young man from the area who was working in New York. From a nearby office building he and some coworkers witnessed the planes hit the two towers. He says it was scary because for the rest of the city it was business as usual. His mother feared when she first couldn't get ahold of him, but he was out with others donating blood and doing what they could.

In the days following the attacks the Country stood united and buying and displaying the American flag once again was in fashion. A year later I was now working in Fond du Lac and we aired a live one-year annivesary gathering that was held at the Fond du Lac High School Performing Arts Center. Feelings were still very strong about what had happened.

Ten years later whenever I hear Lee Greenwood sing "God Bless the U.S.A." I can't help, but be rushed back to that time, that hurt, that anger, that feeling of unity. It's still a painful scar stitched together with red, white and blue thread.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Deep End

It was great to slowly watch the legislative chambers of the Fond du Lac City-County Government Center fill with residents who wanted to have their say on the future of the Taylor Park Pool. More than 75 people attended to voice their concerns Monday night and talked from the heart about why they'd like to see the pool continue to operate.

In a year filled with protests about state budget cuts, here were some sincere pleas without anger to consider those who would be affected by closing the local pool. One woman said she lived three blocks from the pool and didn't realize until recently what a wonderful asset it is for the City.

Others talked about how unlike the County water park the pool gives parents more of an opportunity to interact with their kids in the water. They also talked about the health benefits for both young and old alike. One man said he loved being able to swim in the outdoors and enjoy the sun as it beats down on the water and gives it a shimmering effect.

One woman who grew up in Florida says in that state you have to be rich enough to afford a pool or belong to a club to swim. She moved to Fond du Lac five years ago and says the City's park system is just amazing.

One of my favorite comments came from a woman who said some students with special needs use the Taylor Park Pool because unlike the County water park it is quieter, easier to keep track of kids and less hectic. She says the pool is a phenomenal place.

Advisory Parks Board members told those attending the meeting they hoped to see a similar turnout the next time the pool is on the City Council agenda. A decision about the pool's continued operation will hinge on continued support for it.

This is one of those good fights you sometimes hear about. If the pool is closed it shouldn't be an easy decision for anyone involved. As one speaker mentioned too many things are sacrificed in the name of progress or economy. As another said, "When are we going to look for reasons to keep something good?"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

For a Good Time!

As you get older you begin to assess the regrets you've had in life. One of mine is that because I moved to Wisconsin in 1987 I haven't been around for my mother's birthday in about 25 years. Well I wasn't going to miss another, especially when she was about to turn 80-years-old in February.

As usual she didn't want a fuss made over it, so we obliged sort of. With my mom you go with the flow and she decided she wanted to pay for a dinner for immediate family at Sidetracks Bar and Restaurant in Cooks, Michigan. If you don't know where Cooks, Michigan is, it is one of the many places in the USA that lent its name to the ever popular t-shirt "Where the hell is....?"

The big day came and we traveled out to the restaurant with my nephew Max playing designated driver. Seated at a big table we ordered drinks and swapped stories across the table. All family differences were put on hold for the night and we enjoyed each others company.

Part of the fun was seeing what everyone ordered. We took samples from each other's plates and shared smiles and laughs with others coming and going from the restaurant who wanted to know what the celebration was about.

Unbeknownst to my mom, my sister Kathy had snuck a big sheet cake into the back of the restaurant. The management slipped a rendition of "Happy Birthday" onto the overhead speakers and we all sang as the cake made its way to the table. My mom was surprised and happily shared cake with the rest of the people in the restaurant.

At one point during the evening I made my way to the restroom and noticed they had put up a chalkboard on the wall. It was a clever effort to prevent some of the more tasteless comments usually scrawled on the walls from becoming permanent. When I went back to the table I happened to mention that someone had written on the chalkboard, "For a good time call Don'a Nelson!" It wasn't true of course, but got a good laugh from the whole table.

Honestly my mom has provided our family with some good times over the years and I'm happy she was there to make the special occasion.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

When You're 28 Years Old

When you’re 28-years-old you’re supposed to be invincible. At that age going for a run clears your mind and makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you’re 28-years-old it seems only natural that you’d be at the expert level on Guitar Hero.

When you’re 28-years-old and you’re newly married the prospects of family are just beginning. You’ve served your country for five years and then gone through the always exhilarating and mind opening experience of getting a degree. You’ve gone through the police academy and are just beginning your career with the Fond du Lac Police Department.

When you’re 28-years-old and spring is just beginning, you’re looking forward to baseball season. You’re teased because although you root for both the Cubs and the Brewers, at heart you’re a Cubbies fan. That’s because of the time you enjoyed watching Cubs games with your grandfather and occasionally taking in the experience at Wrigley Field.

When you’re 28-years-old you’re not supposed to loose your life in the line of duty. It’s a sacrifice you are willing to make, but not one that anyone should take lightly. When you’re 28-years-old your death shouldn’t be the reason grown men and women cry.

When you’re 28-years-old you should be able to enjoy a brisk, sunny Saturday morning in March. You shouldn’t be the reason that brings hundreds of law enforcement officers from across several states together.

When you’re 28-years-old your police career should have about 25 years to go and your life much longer than that. When your 28-years-old you read blogs like this and aren’t the subject of them. End of shift #67 God speed!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Packed with Memories

“What with talk of possible player strikes, contract disputes, and player holdouts it's tough to be a football fan these days.” Some of the elements in that lead sentence still ring true, and yet I wrote it nearly 29 years ago in a freelance article I penned for the Manistique Pioneer Tribune. It was 1982 and I was just out of college. The feature article was about 75-year-old Norm Jahn of Manistique, a retired bar owner and lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. I though I'd revisit the article as the Packers prepare to play the Bears in the NFC Championship game.

Norm had at the time been to every Packers home game in Green Bay over a 43 year period. It was a span that began in 1939 and included watching games at Green Bay's Southwestern High School, which only seated 13,000 fans. During WW II when tires and gas were rationed he'd drive from Manistique to Escanaba (about a 55 mile trip) and then take a train from there.

Of course being a die-hard Packers fan there were times that demanded sacrifices. He'd close up his bar early on Sundays to get to the Packers game. One day while rushing to close he slammed the safe door on his finger and cut the end off. He put the finger tip in his pocket and took it to the doctor to have it sewn back on. The doctor said,”You're not going to the game?” Jahn's answer, “Like hell I'm not.” He went to the game gory finger and all.

When I spoke to Jahn for the article Aaron Rodgers hadn't been born yet, and Brett Favre was barely a teen. Jahn's favorite quarterback moment came at the frozen tundra. He was there for the Ice Bowl. “It was 35 below,” he recalled “Starr went in to score and win the game in the last three seconds. I'll tell you, that was some ride back to Manistique.”

You could see the memories warm him as he spoke about his love affair with the Green Bay Packers. His most prized possession, a football autographed by Coach Vince Lombardi and his players. I'm not sure how many more games Norm attended during the rest of his life, but he told me,” As long as I can still go to the games I'll go.”

He's gone now, but his sons and grandsons inherited his love for the team and I'm sure there are similar stories out there about the pride fans have in the Green and Gold. Hopefully on Sunday another pleasant future memory will be born for Packer fans that they can relate from their easy chair when they turn 75.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Perfect Christmas

The Perfect Christmas

I had about as “perfect” a Christmas as you could have this year. Somehow I managed to take care of my familial obligations and enjoy myself at the same time. The week of Christmas included watching nephew Derek in his school Christmas pageant, seeing nephew Max score about a dozen points in a big jayvee basketball win, time watching a funny movie at my brother John’s house while munching on venison sausage, and the day after Christmas seeing a big Packer’s win over the Giants.

I even managed to help my Mom make some of her final Christmas cookies of the season and attend Christmas Eve mass with her. That night we had a small gathering of family during which we watched Christmas movies and ate pork pie and sipped egg nog. Christmas Day itself was nice and I can’t remember when family stayed as long or seemed as continent.

I think the events leading up to Christmas helped to underscore the holiday. My cousin Doug died of cancer this fall and the same day he passed away my Mom underwent what was supposed to be routine surgery. She nearly died after she was overmedicated. My brothers and sisters got her back to the hospital in time where they found out she was barely getting enough oxygen. Take my word for it without getting into all the details, we were lucky to have her around for this Christmas.

She commented Christmas Day she thought it was one of the best she can remember having. I mentioned that to my sister Diana the day after and she said “it wasn’t that perfect.” I guess I’ll have to inquire if the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future are available after the holidays.

I really have a difficult time taking down Christmas ornaments after the holidays. They are usually up through New Year’s and then they come down. I waited a little longer this year figuring I’d take them down during the Packers playoff game with the Eagles this past weekend so I wouldn’t be fretting too much over what was taking place on the field. I decided to leave an ornament in my front window, a bronze star that my sister Kathy slipped into my Christmas stocking. It will stay up through the year. Christmas is about giving and I want a symbol of that to occasionally remind me.