Thursday, July 31, 2008

Water Street Memories (From One of the Whippersnappers).

Water Street.

(A few weeks ago, my mom asked me to write up something brief about my memories of my Grandma Rosie's old neighborhood on Water Street back when I was a kid in the 1980s/90s, primarily to complement something she'd written up about her memories of the place when she was a kid. This past weekend, we had our sixth Treba Family Reunion down at the old family house down there...)

The Trebas.
(My Grandma Rosie--2nd one from the right in the middle row--with her nine surviving brothers and sisters.)

When I was growing up, I spent a fair chunk of time down by my Grandma Rose (Treba) Lajcak's house on Water Street, just a stone's throw from the Oredock. This was in the 1980s and 1990s, long after the dock had ceased to serve its original industrial purpose along Ashland's waterfront, and yet I can still vividly remember some of the big boats that would occasionally float in and dock beside it, and the trains that kept running parallel to Water Street for some years afterward. I guess that makes me part of that awkward generation that's just old enough to grasp what it might've looked like when the lakefront was still bustling with trains & boats, but who's also just a bit too young to have experienced that scene for ourselves. We know what it looks like to see a big ore boat sliding into the bay, and to hear trains humming through the middle of town, but like so many other memories and stories from one's childhood, sometimes we're not sure where our memories end and our imaginations start filling things in.

Dewey & Grandma Rosie.
Treba Family Reunion.
Aunt Betsy with cousin Mike.

My grandma came from a huge family, like a lot of people did back in the day around here--she grew up in a little house on Water Street with her twelve brothers and sisters, and later moved back into town from Moquah and built her own house there. To be completely honest, when I was a little kid, I was completely confused about who belonged to who when we had big family gatherings--there were just so doggone many of us running around, between the thirteen original siblings, their kids, and their grandkids! The extended Treba clan spent a lot of time down by the water…swimming by the boathouses at the bottom of 9th Avenue, boating out around the Oredock, exploring Gilligan's Island and the old rail bridge over Bay City Creek, and walking the old Clarkson Dock shoreline, too. It felt like our own little corner of the world, a magical kind of place that it seemed like the rest of Ashland didn't know about.

Down by the boathouses.
Treba cousins.
Party at Treba's.
(Having birthday cake by the bait shop, 1980s.)

The two of my grandma's siblings I spent the most time with when I was young were, interestingly, the oldest & youngest ones in the family. Uncle Chet (the oldest) was a lifelong bachelor and could come across as a bit gruff with little kids, but I remember he always had a twinkle in his eye and he was always keen to show us whatever he had swimming around in his minnow tanks in his bait shop behind the house. He filled our heads with all kinds of stories about careless fishermen falling into "the diamonds" out on the Oredock and being sucked down to the bottom of the lake, and tales of giant sturgeons crashing into his minnow boat out on the water beside the dock, making it spin 'round and 'round in the dark. (To this day, I don't know if he was kidding about that stuff or not.)

Checking out Uncle Chet's boat, 1985.
(Me and Dewey--on the boat--and Whitey visiting Uncle Chet, 1985.)

My Great Aunt Pat (the youngest) took a kinder, gentler approach to her great aunt duties--she loved to take me & my brothers & cousins down to the lake to swim, and helped me get over my fear of the water (partially brought on, perhaps, by Uncle Chet's stories?). Aunt Pat joined the convent when she was young and traveled around the country & the world, and she's always encouraged us to take an interest in the broader world around us and to live by the golden rule. I've got lots of lively memories of her leading gangs of her great-nieces and nephews out onto the Oredock on countless 4th of July expeditions--her patience still knows no bounds.

Great Aunt Mary Lou carrying Great Aunt Pat.

The family always gathered down at my grandma's house on the 4th of July, and over at the old Treba family house down the street, too. That neighborhood was such a busy place when I was a kid--there seemed to be so much activity with our huge family running around, plus the neighborhood kids playing down at the lake, people out walking & fishing along the Oredock, and the old timers popping in & out of my Uncle Chet's. All of the kids would dash up across the highway for the Fire Run, then dart back down to Grandma's house and over to the base of the Oredock just before the fireworks started. The sound of those cannons echoing through the dock is impossible to put into words--it's almost holy, it's so big.

Great success!
Restoring honor to the family by winning back our "Judge Judy" DVD from the bingo prize pile.

Things look and feel different down on Water Street nowadays. A lot of the old timers I remember being there when I was young have moved out or passed on…my grandma moved out of her house a few years ago, shortly before the trestles over Highway 2, St. Claire and Water Street were removed. Some spots have gotten overgrown; others are looking pretty sharp (the walking trail improvements are a nice touch!). And yet, some things haven't changed--the old Treba family house is still there and still flutters with activity all summer long, and still hosts a big family reunion every three years. Come the end of July, Water Street will be bustling again, even if it only lasts for a weekend.

Dewey, Sara, cousin Peter and Jane.
A heap of grandkids & great-grandkids.
Having a blast with bingo.

It's going to be so surreal when the Oredock is no longer a part of the landscape down there, it's hard to even begin to imagine it. I spent a number of years living away from Ashland after I graduated from college…the first time I drove back into Ashland (after driving for 24 hours straight from Montana), the first thing I did, even before I went to my family's house, was to drive into town on Highway 2, park my car at the beach and look at the Oredock and think to myself, "Now I'm home." I'm glad I'll have those memories to tell my kids about someday, and I'm glad we have all those pictures in the family photo album to help remind us of our many happy years down on Water Street

The paparazzi!
Nick with Great Uncle Charlie.
Grandma Rosie and family.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NYC Pt. 5: Coney Island.

Diner on the boardwalk.

I'll keep this short & sweet (since it's taken me until two months after the fact to finally wrap this up): I love Coney Island. It's grimy with history, it's sparkily with personality, and it's the site of an international hot dog eating championship. What's not to love?

Countdown to the hot dog eating contest on July 4th.
Jamie chows down.
Joseph eating his first Nathan's hot dog.
Eatin' a hot dog on the boardwalk.

Right now, Coney Island's under threat of being re-developed and gentrified like a lot of the rest of NYC has been...which would be a huge shame, I think. So I'm glad I got a chance to see it again before any (more) wrecking balls fly.

"Creep Show at the Freak Show."
The Parachute Jump.
Shoot the Freak.
Bump your ass off.
The Cyclone.
Regina & Joseph on the beach.
Clam Bar.
Jamie on the boardwalk.

Thanks for a great trip, Regina & Jamie--let's do it again sometime.

Me, Jamie & Regina in Coney Island.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Too close to home.

When I turned out of our driveway this morning, I could see a bunch of police cars parked at the bottom of our side road. As I got closer, I saw orange traffic cones marking spots around the blacktop...and as I approached the stop sign, a Sheriff's deputy flagged me down and asked if I'd heard anything around 1:30 A.M. last night. I hadn't, so he sent me off on a detour toward the old UW Extension Farm...the road was blocked off there. Morning commuters glared at the sign closing Highway 137 (wondering how I'd gotten through, no doubt) and headed toward Highway 2.

My mom called me at work a little later this morning to tell me that sometime late last night, our neighbor got hit by a car at the bottom of our road and died. He was 23.

August 1995.

(My brother Whitey and Greg at the beach in Bayfield, 1995.)

Greg was a fixture around here back when he & my younger brother were kids. I babysat for him & his sister Heidi one summer when their mom went back to school...but Whitey spent way more time with them, since they were all a little closer in age. They'd pal around with the other kids just down the way from our house (Aaron & Kim), in the country play
loud, and it seemed like it was always loud around here.

March 1996.

(Heidi, Whitey and Greg, March 1996.)

As the kids got older and made friends in school and learned to drive (y'know, teenager stuff), they all went off in their own directions. (As neighborhood kids tend to do.) I haven't seen much of Greg and his sister since I got out of high school...he worked at one of the gas stations in town for a while. He got into a little bit of trouble and the whole Goth/punky thing for a spell, too. But my mom and dad were always quick to point out that even when he was wrapped up in that phase, he was always friendly to them and told them hello, asked how Whitey was doing. It seemed like in the last couple of years, he'd started to straighten himself out...he'd lost the punky look and got a job at the grocery store. He seemed to be growing up.

They're still
piecing together what happened. Bear in mind we don't live in town--there's no streetlights out here--so no one knows yet why he was out walking at 1:30 in the morning. They also don't know if he was hit once, or twice. Either way, it's awful. And it happened right at the bottom of our road--he could practically see his house from there.

My heart goes out to his family--I can't imagine what it must be like to have something like this happen so close to home, on a spot they'll literally pass every time they leave the house. Ugh. Just awful. It's going to be hard for all of us who live on this road...even though folks aren't as tight as they were when all of us kids were little, it's still something very difficult to wrap our heads around. Things just got even quieter around here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Journey at the Center of the Earth."

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how amusing I find this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Presumably for my outstanding achievements in the field of excellence.

If I didn't fall for this crap in high school (or college), why do they think I'd fall for it now?

Presumably for my outstanding achievements in the field of excellence.
(Click for a larger version.)

Although hey, I
do appreciate them saluting my accomplishments. I just hope they didn't see how much time I spent re-arranging my Netflix queue today during that long lull when the phone stopped ringing and no one managed to jam the paper shredder/mail meter/photocopier for twenty consecutive minutes (is there a Who's Who for that?). I mean, I wouldn't want to tarnish my reputation or anything like that. I'm an achiever, dammit!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And if this works out, next I'll tackle snipe hunting.

. Hodags. The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Noble and elusive creatures, all. But this weekend, after nearly a decade of searching, I believe I have found hard evidence that, at long last, may prove the existence of the most baffling creature of them all...the water badger.

The home of the elusive water badger?

HOLY HOLE! And another!

Holy hole.
Look at the size of 'em! And with nary a shovel or backhoe in sight! Have I inadvertently stumbled on a lair of the mighty beasts, tucked away (in plain sight!) along Ashland's bayfront? It would appear so, because if I'm remembering my high school biology right, inexplicable holes + proximity to water + acute Wisconsinocity = water badgers. It's science, people.

The legend of the water badger dates back many moons--at least eight or nine years--although given the evasive nature of the cunning creature, photographic evidence of its presence in The Northland has proven nigh impossible to produce. Like its landlubber cousins, the water badger is a digger, and it harbors a spirit so ferocious as to make it the stuff of legend (and sport mascot-ery). But the water badger takes that fury one step further by not only cavorting on land...but in the water, too. (Didn't see that coming, didja?) Foolish is the tourist who disregards a "Danger: Water Badgers" notice on area beaches, for they are very likely to come back out of the water missing a limb or two...if they come back at all.

Hunting the elusive water badger, June 2000.
(Brave scientists engaging in water badger behavior research, June 2000.)

Clearly, further research is necessary. How many water badgers live in this den? How big are they? How many mini donuts did they manage to steal & hoard from the nearby Bay Days site up by Pamida Beach last weekend? All these pertinent questions & more must be asked, in the name of science, and in the name of public safety. I wonder if my boss'll give me the rest of the week off to tackle this...or some grant money. Hmm.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ladies of leisure.

"Mother, kindly pull the car around. We're late for our luncheon at the Hardee's ball pit."

Ladies of leisure.
(Me and my best friend Jenni in my very peach & blue bedroom, 1988.)

Things I love about this picture:
1. We appear to have gotten our mitts on my Grandma Asbach's discarded collection of hats. Hats which were designed for adult-sized heads, but which are clearly small on us at the age of 9. (Jenni went on to become one of our class valedictorians, so her head was clearly full of brain. I'm not sure what my excuse is.)

2. Not only am I modeling a candy necklace (
très chic!), we've also been in the blue eyeshadow again.

3. I'm clutching a California Raisin. So 80s, it hurts.

4. I'm not sure if the hat's doing something funky to my hair or not, but I think there's about a 50% chance I'm sporting a mullet here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This week's to-do list.

When I was making preparations to move back to Sconny three years ago, I took a break from more essential tasks like, uh, packing, and waded through my CD collection and made a set of eight mix CDs to listen to on the long drive eastward. And I liked them so much that they've lived in my car ever since. There's a little bit of everything on them--old favorites, stuff I was into at the time, random things that I probably would've otherwise forgotten about by now, songs that remind me of Montana. My enjoyment of them is partially fueled by nostalgia, I'm sure, but they've been fun to pull out from time to time to take a break from whatever I'm addicted to at the moment.

Anyway, it worked so well the last time that I've decided to do it again. Only this time, what with the luxury of space & time, I've gone all High Fidelity on it and have been sorting through every CD I own, essentially, individually culling tracks and piling them on my computer. This has been going on for about a month, and as of tonight, I'm up to *gulp* 608 tracks. With one more box of CDs left to go through.

This week, I need to have mercy on my hard drive (it was already jam-packed to begin with) and actually start burning the Ultramegamix. I figure with 600+ songs, and an average of, like, 22 songs per disc...I've got about 27 discs' worth of material here. Let's see how savage I get in the editing process (or how long it takes before I lose interest entirely and peter out around disc ten or so).

2. I need to go to the Oredock Celebration art exhibit at the Depot before it ends on the 19th.

3. In a similar vein to the pending Ultramegamix described above, I'm also in the process of going through my photo back-up discs and securing them in a fire/waterproof safe underneath my bed. Oh, I already had one safe for this stuff (and for my passport, bank documents, etc.). But it's gotten to the point where I can't fit any more discs into the safe. (Or my checkbook. Which, well, may be more problematic, I realize.) I cannot rest peacefully at night knowing that pictures of my morbidly obese cat might be in danger in the event of some catastrophe, people. I just can't.

So this week, I need to get the second safe ready to roll--I need to catalog which discs I have and which discs need a second copy made (did I mention that there's two copies of each? One that goes in the safe, and one that lives on the computer desk? BECAUSE I AM TURNING INTO MY FATHER?), I need to get a little CD binder to store them in inside the safe (which I think will save room, ultimately), and I need to clear out another space underneath my bed for another heavy monstrosity of a box.

Yes, I'm a little scared of me right now, too.

4. I need to be patient. The summer construction season around here, combined with the usual increasing stupidity levels due to summer tourist season, has made the streets of Ashland almost unbearable lately in terms of ridiculously boneheaded things happening in traffic. People don't seem to be able to comprehend things like how crosswalks work (using them as opposed to, oh, I don't know--WANDERING OUT INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET LIKE THEY'RE SACRED COWS OR SOMETHING???), or what flashing red lights mean (uh, STOP?), or that given the influx of traffic on Main Street that maybe it doesn't make the most sense in the world to try to make left turns when every car in the tri-county area is cruising downtown oohing and ahhing at the big holes along Highway 2 and the murals and the flowers and ooh, is that an antique shop? Who wants ice cream?

But in the immortal words of the Monkees (or, technically, Neil Diamond), "It's a little bit me/and it's a little bit you, too." Yes, there are a lot of inattentive people wandering around here lately, and yes, their antics are maddening and stupid and make them a danger to themselves and others. But me getting mad about it solves nothing. And the last thing I want to become is one of those dicks who drives around giving everyone else the stinkeye for every perceived (or real) slight or mistake on the roads...those people suck. I need to chill out and go with the flow, however jagged and inefficient it is.

I should take this into consideration when crafting the Ultramegamix, shouldn't I? A disc of nothing but "Shiny Happy People" might be going too far, though. (And would probably have the opposite effect.)

I don't know why Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s in the women's bathroom...

I don't know why Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s in the women's bathroom...
...but I appreciate that he's fashioned himself a modesty blindfold out of toilet paper.


(Pine Creek Pit Stop in Moquah, 7.11.2008.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hostage Crisis.*

“My ex-husband blew up his business on July 4, 1992. TO SPITE ME!!!

“I’ve got plastic and metal parts lost in me. No cartilage in my knee, none!”

“My siblings don’t have civic awards. I make the f%$*ing time to volunteer! I’ve given away 900,000-f%$*ing-dollars!”

"I've been tested and have a genius-level IQ, you know."

“A guy walked down the street and said ‘I protest the Vietnam War.’ And it didn’t mean anything until 10,000 other people protested.” (Comparing herself not wanting to sign a deed to the guy from Born On the Fourth of July. No, I didn't follow it, either.)

“What did he do with my bicycle seat? What gives him the right to touch my bicycle seat? How DARE he do that to my bicycle seat?!?!?!?!?!?”

“I was picking up my food off the side of the street!”

“That brooch was encrusted with diamonds! ENCRUSTED! DIAMONDS! It was worth more than your house!”

“I bought that cooler at a garage sale in 1978. It cost $100.00. Now he keeps dog food in it!”

“I don’t like ‘One nation under God,’ so to speak. But you don't hear me bitching about it.”

“I have dozens of civic awards. My children have international awards! I have personally mentored thirteen scholars to over $12,000 in scholarship monies apiece.”

“My son is clearly a pacifist.”

“What about the family jewels? WHAT ABOUT THE RUBIES???

“Where are these mildewy mattresses coming from?”

“What happened when Cassius Clay protested the draft? They airlifted the people out on helicopters.”

“How much do you earn every year, you? Receptionist girl? What’s your name again?”

“How can you take a 40 year-old cooler that's not yours and lock it on your porch with dog food inside of it?”

“Those girls are walking around in bikinis. You can't tell me they're not at that cabin drinking underage and FORNICATING!!!”

“Do you want to come down and see my dogs?”

*All quotes captured verbatim while I was trapped at my desk for three hours with no means of escape and nothing to do but take notes. (And I didn't even take notes during the hysterical first hour & a half, so really, this is only a fraction of what it could've been.)

P.S. This is in no way representative of our general clientele. 99% of them are 100% sane. It's just that rare 1% that you've gotta watch out for. Preferably with binoculars, so you can see them coming from a ways off so you have time to turn out the lights & lock the doors.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Leapin' lizards.

Or, uh, actually, not so much leaping, as being sucked up a vacuum cleaner nozzle.

Uh...there's a salamander stuck in the vacuum cleaner nozzle.
(That little black nubbin emerging from the shadowy tube? That's a tail.)

My mother was vacuuming the little entryway leading from the basement up to the clotheslines outside when this poor little thing got sucked up into the tube. (We think he slid in underneath the door leading outside, but eh, who knows.) Fortunately, either his general stickiness or sheer pluck meant he got lodged in the nozzle and didn't go any further up into the belly of the beast.

Of course, this left us with the issue of how to dislodge said sticky salamander from the narrow vacuum cleaner nozzle. Jab at him with a pencil? No, too rude. Whack it against the floor for a while? That didn't get us anywhere. Then we tried running water down the nozzle. Bingo! Little bugger slid right out.

And proceeded to play dead.
Rescue 911.
And he's okay!

After a few minutes of the playing-dead, Newt here started crawling around and trying to escape his plastic recovery room.

Newt had one last stop to make on his way back outside.
For posterity.
(He's just lucky we don't have one of those hyper-efficient Dysons or something like that.)

And thus, Newt was re-released into the wild, having lived to fight household appliances another day.
Sayonara, salamander.

(Suddenly, I have this weird urge to plug Mutual of Omaha...)

P.S. When I was about 13, I had a pet salamander who escaped from his aquarium in my bedroom one summer...and was never seen again. Coincidence?!?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The 4th of July.

Part I: The Parade.

Gary Sherman--without his customary black socks!
Gary Sherman, WITHOUT his trademark knee-high black socks. I was aghast.

Bring out the belly dancers!
Belly dancers.

And you apparently can't have belly dancers without...a nerd fight.
Fight!  Fight!

More pirates.

Pirates were a popular theme this year.
More pirates. (The ponies tried to make a run for it at one point and went charging down the street--then they threatened to make a U-turn and run back over the guy pulling the pooper scooper/"treasure chest" behind the float. High drama on the high seas!)

My friends Liz & Peter as the Statue of Liberty & Uncle Sam (respectively):
Liz as the Statue of Liberty.
Peter as Uncle Sam.

And last but certainly not least, good ol' Gary LaPean on his stilts.
Gary LaPean on his stilts.
I love a parade.

Oh--and I can't forget about this guy:
Frog in a bottle.
This is the frog that stowed away in my mom's lawn chair into town--she released him into a flowerbed when she found him, but about 3/4 of the way through the parade we started to feel guilty about leaving him there so far away from any water and/or other frogs. ("What if he's got a party to go to later today?") So there's me & my mom, pawing around in a flowerbed, trying to find a frog in there...lo & behold, we spotted him, picked him up, and deposited him in this empty water bottle for his epic journey home.


Part II: The Fire Run.


Part III: The Fireworks.

Since it seems likely that this will be the last year that the Oredock will be fully intact on the bayfront, I wanted to try to capture that crazy sound of the fireworks echoing off of it for posterity's sake. Shannon and I ended up down by my Uncle Chet's old boathouse right on the water, watching the fireworks through the Oredock...they make one hell of a noise down there.

You can hear the sound flinging its way out the length of the dock onto the lake in front of you, and behind you, all the metal rooftops of the boathouses shake & ping with the vibrations. It's something I remembered from when I was a kid, and I'm glad I got at least one last chance to experience it in full surround-sound glory down there.