Saturday, March 31, 2012


Pink baby blanket.

Finished another baby the rate I'm moving, I might manage to actually empty one of my jumbo-sized bins of yarn this year.  Which, of course, I will simply refill with more yarn.  Sigh.  It's a vicious cycle.

Flying by the seat of their pants.

My mom's been writing up some more of her childhood memories of the family farm's one about my great uncles and their airplanes.


I’d like to share some memories of my uncles who loved to fly – Mike, John and Steve Lajcak, my father Andrew’s brothers.  They were farm boys born in Moquah, Wisconsin, just ten miles west of Ashland.  Their parents were Mary and Joseph Lajcak, who immigrated to Moquah in 1910 from Czechoslovakia.  There were seven brothers and two sisters in the family.  

Great Grandpa Joseph and his sons, 1927.
(From left: Steve, Andrew [Jane's father], Paul, John, Frank, Joe, and their father Joseph [1927]. Not pictured: Mike.)

Great Aunts Mary and Anna.
(Their sisters Mary and Anna, 1920s.)

Mike Lajcak was their oldest son.  He was born in 1905, possibly in Czechoslovakia.  Mike only went to school until the 5th grade at Moquah State Graded School.  At this young age he left for work in Detroit, where he remained all his life.

John, the middle son, was born in 1914.  He attended school through the 8th grade and served as a Marine in the war.  John married Elsie Kramolis, also a Moquah native and former Marine.  They settled in Oshkosh where John was a barber.

Steve, the youngest son of the family, was born in 1919.  He finished 8th grade and acquired his high school GED certificate in later years.  I add these education facts because it shows that back in those days, education was minimal in rural areas.  Most students first had to learn to speak English, then learn the rest.  But how much they were able to learn through life experience and the desire to figure out how things worked!

(Joseph with sons Mike, Joe, Frank, John and Paul, 1917.)

Only recently did I learn that a fourth brother, Paul, also loved airplanes.  He joined the Canadian Air Force in WWII, but tuberculosis and failing health spoiled his dreams and he died in the early 1950s.

Great Uncle Paul, on a giant pile of hay.
(Paul on a hay wagon at the farm, 1928.)
Mike’s first flight home back to Moquah was in his own homemade “Flying Flea” – a tiny plane he finished building in his garage, party with his own inventions.  He and a friend from Moquah, Mike Zoldos, flew their planes at the same time back up north in 1940 – they flew the 700 miles “as the crow flies” to their family farms.  Years later, he would buy and enjoy other planes and was an early member of the Detroit Experimental Aircraft Association.  Mike died in 1985 at age 80.

Great Uncle Mike, Great Aunt Anna, Great Uncle Steve.
(Mike, Anna and Steve.)

John and his wife Elsie had many flying adventures.  They bought their first plane in the early 1950s – John had learned to fly in Oshkosh.  They were an early part of the Oshkosh Aviation Expo and came “home” to Moquah often – sometimes with a toddler between the seats and a newborn in her lap.  Elsie says her older son’s first flight was at ten days old.  Eventually they would have four children and decided it was time to drive north, instead.  John died in 1996 at age 84.
John and his son Kenny in front of his plane, 1950s.

Look at my mom.

(Elsie and kids visiting the farm in Moquah, 1950.)

Steve was our family’s most devoted flyer.  A bachelor, he entered the Army Air Corps in 1940, learned to fly glider planes and served dangerous missions over China and Burma in the Asian Pacific theater of the war.  He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.  Decades later we would learn that he had also been a part of the Secret Service as part of his military duties.  

Uncle Steve, somewhere in WWII.
(Steve, somewhere, during WWII.)

Steve managed the Ashland and Ontonagon airports after the war, but eventually settled in Denver, Colorado and spent the last years of his life retired back in Iron River, Wisconsin.  We all remember the sound of “Uncle Steve’s” plane, swooping in so low over our little farm to tell us he was coming to visit.  He loved to fly “loop the loops” and put on little thrill shows for the neighbors.  Steve passed away in 1993 at age 80.

Uncle Steve.
(Steve at the airport in Ashland with his last plane, 1985.)

Great Uncle Steve with Dewey, Mary & Nick, 1985.Lenway Tower near Herbster, WI.  Ashland from the skies, 1970.
(Pictures Steve took from his plane -- Lenway Tower in Herbster and the Ashland bayfront, 1970s.)

There was a landing strip on our farm in the late 1940s-50s, to the east of our house, in a large field.  And our machine shed was sometimes used as a hangar.  My brothers, sisters and I all grew up somehow thinking this was “normal” – having uncles land on our hay fields in the summers.  In the early years all three brothers had Aroncas and liked to fly in formation when they were all at home.  Elsie says it let the neighbors know the Lajcak boys were in town!

Farmhouse with landing strip in the field behind it, 1940s.
(Landing strip behind the farmhouse, 1940s.)

Out at the farm with a plane in the background, 1948. 

Uncle Tom in front of an airplane at the farm, 1947.
(My mom's brother Tom in front of an airplane parked at the farm, 1947.)

My grandmother (Mary) never learned to speak English, but was heard to say in Slovak how she thought “if God wanted her sons to fly, he would have given them wings!”

Great Grandma Mary tending piglets, 1928.
 (Great Grandma Mary tending piglets on the farm, 1928.)

What a different time in history that was.  Apparently there were very few regulations – and they called a lot of it “flying by the seat of their pants.”

It makes me wonder how the countryside must have changed in the decades since.  So many little family farms are gone, and I’m sure they relied on the rail lines and few highways as markers.  No cell towers or interstates, and fewer cars and trucks, for sure.  And to fly up north so far as to come upon beautiful Lake Superior – the Moquah valley...all the familiar sights we still call home!  Grandma Lajcak was wrong – her boys did have wings!

-- Jane Asbach, March 2012

Police blotter.

Wednesday, 4:31 A.M.: 
A vehicle hit and knocked over a gas pump; gas is shut off now but driver is still there, trying to move the pump.

Wednesday, 9:42 P.M.:  Caller reports her daughter keeps getting calls pushing her to buy Justin Bieber tickets.  Apparently this male caller does not want to take no for an answer and keeps calling.

Thursday, 10:22 P.M.:  Bear in dumpster.

Thursday, 11:34 P.M.:  911 caller was screaming about a male "who was in the Mexican mob" who pulled her pants down in the bar.  Caller sounded very intoxicated and would wait outside the bar.  Update: officer gave caller a ride home.

Friday, 10:00 A.M.: Caller was yelling about why the police came in his house when he was having a heart attack and they took his pills.

Friday, 1:42 P.M.:  Caller stated she was out in her yard trying to get her dog on a collar when her ex-sister-in-law drove by as a passenger in a tan Chevy and yelled.

Sunday, 3:04 A.M.:  Caller reports two people "getting busy" in an Oldsmobile.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oredock demolition update.

Little wind shelter on top.

All the chutes on the eastern side of the dock have been lowered.

It's really weird to look at it like that -- it's almost like an optical illusion. People my age, who grew up after the dock had gone out of service, have (to the best of my knowledge) never seen the chutes in a lowered position. They've been suspended in mid-air for as long as I can remember.

Here's another angle (taken from Water Street), showing the dock as it looked back in October and how it looks as of now:

Another angle.
(October 2011)

Closer view of the end of the dock.
(March 2012)

From that angle, you can clearly see the missing (well, lowered) chutes on the eastern side, as well as the addition of the stairs and the little trailer that's been lifted onto the top of the dock (where a small building stood until roughly the early 2000s -- we have it in family pictures dating up to 1999, at least).


Sunday, March 25, 2012

March showers bring...March flowers?

It was a weird winter. And now, it's a weird spring. An
early spring.
The ice is almost out on the bay...

Ice on the way out.

...there are daffodils blooming in front of the post office already...

Daffodils blooming in front of the post office.


...and the fog. Good lord, the fog.

Fog down at Kreher Park.

Fog on Chequamegon Bay.

I'm not convinced that winter's quite through with us yet -- we've had an awful lot of blizzards over the years on April Fool's Day. But time will tell...

Thursday, March 22, 2012



You're Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black
I can't claim to be a Michael Ian Black fan from way-back -- I didn't watch The State when it was on MTV, nor did I watch Ed when it was on NBC. Like a lot of people, I first saw him on I Love the 80s and thought he was consistently the funniest part of the show (and its insane number of sequels). That led me to exploring The State, then Wet Hot American Summer, then Stella, then Michael & Michael Have Issues. I've been a faithful viewer ("they're not viewers") of his podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks for a while now and love his sense of humor and quick way with words. This is a very funny book, but it's also a very emotionally forthcoming book -- he writes with candid, almost brutal honesty about his shortcomings (or what he perceives as his shortcomings, anyway) as a son, a husband and a father, largely framed around the story of his courtship & marriage to his wife. That honesty is a great credit to his character (and his wife's, for letting him speak so bluntly about their relationship), and it's a great credit to his writing that amidst all that, he doesn't come off as whiny or self-indulgent. He tells a very specific story -- his -- but in a way that makes it relatable to anyone who's had moments of doubt about their own failings in life.

Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter
I'm a huge Josh Ritter fan and was intrigued by the idea of him expanding his songwriting skills into something novel-length...on the whole, I liked this, but think it might've worked better as a short story. Despite it not being a terribly long book, there's a lot of interesting ideas floating around in there about religion, destiny, faith, and the mind's ability to distort reality into delusions for self-preservation's sake, but something about it didn't feel fully realized to me. It's like it either needed to be condensed into something a little tighter, or blown out even bigger.


The Descendants
Oh my god, I loved this. Great casting, good pace to the story -- it was sad and sweet, funny and sincere.

The Lorax
Everybody was ragging on this for being based on a super-slim Dr. Seuss book, and in principle, I agree -- it does seem ridiculous to try to stretch and stuff those books into feature-length films. BUT -- and this surprised me -- I liked this much, much more than I thought I would. Is it stretched out longer than it needed to be? Yes. But the core of the story still takes center stage, the casting of annoying tweenyboppers like Taylor Swift & Zac Efron will likely go unnoticed (if you're like me and have no idea what their voices sound like), and the animation was
gorgeous. The middle portion of the film, featuring the Once-ler and the Lorax in the truffula forest, is lovely and moving, and even though they added a spazzy action sequence toward the end of the movie (to keep the kids awake?), it ends on a sweet note that doesn't feel unearned.

Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Tim & Eric acquired taste. They're aggressively weird and off-putting on purpose and there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground when it comes to people's opinions of their shows -- either they love 'em, or they think they're the most idiotic things they've ever seen. Me & my brother Nick fall into the first camp (we've been known to bust into this whenever we pass a cop car on the streets), so last Friday night we made a special trip to the T&E "premiere" at the Zinema in Duluth. As we dined on complimentary shrimp & white wine and the movie started, three elderly people (two ladies & a gentleman) walked in and sat down in the row in front of us. Immediately, we knew they were in the wrong theater, because I'm sorry, they were not in the target demographic for this thing -- Nick turned to me and whispered, "What, is one of their grandkids in the movie or something?" As all manner of bizarreness began to unfold on the screen, the old guy kept turning to the ladies and saying (with growing concern), "I think we're in the wrong theater." The old ladies kept shushing him and saying, "No! Be quiet!" Well, they lasted about three minutes before they finally walked out. Anyway, the movie cracked us up and the bonus show we got in the row in front of us made it even better.

Young Adult
Darker than I was expecting. But funny. Patton Oswalt got robbed of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, if you ask me.

Raising Hope, Season One
I was really dismissive of this show when I saw the pilot on TV...I think I gave it one or two episodes and then gave up. Well, after hearing my younger brother give it rave reviews ever since he started watching it on Netflix, I decided to give it another go -- and this time, I've found it charming and pretty damn funny, too. When I originally saw it, the initial premise of the pilot turned me off (guy hooks up with girl, girl turns out to be a serial killer, girl reveals she's pregnant, baby is given to guy and girl gets executed), but thankfully, that (mostly) gets swept under the rug after the start of the show and it becomes something much funnier and a bit sweeter, too.

Sidenote: this is neither here nor there, but maybe this time I was charmed a little more because I noticed this clock in the pilot -- a clock that sat on my Grandma Vera's TV for years & years and which now sits on a shelf at my house.

Grandma's clock.
The old lady rocks in the chair as the seconds tick away...kind of a fitting clock for Grandma Vera, who was a bit of an agoraphobic and spent a lot of time sitting by her windows, glaring at the neighbors' children. (Additional sidenote: when I got older and went to high school with some of those neighbor children, I was extremely amused to discover that yes, they noticed Grandma Vera in the window and often did obnoxious things on purpose just to give her a show.) When I was little, I often daydreamed of opening up the clock and putting some of my Lego people or My Little Ponies in there to keep the old lady company...she looked lonely.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
I heard about this on an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour a few weeks ago and it sounded like it'd be right up my alley: two rednecks go out to their "vacation home" (i.e., dilapidated shack) in the woods for a weekend and, due to a series of comic misunderstandings, become entangled with a group of college kids who're convinced that the rednecks are serial killers. It's gory but silly and I got a kick out of it - it turns a lot of slasher movie cliches on their sides and there's a couple of twists that keep things interesting.

On the whole, I liked this, but it was the sort of movie where I kept hitting the pause button and wandering off to get a Popsicle, or to feed the cat, or to take the laundry out of the dryer. It was a nice little story and the recreations of Georges Melies' studio and films made me want to dig out my college film class textbooks.

Cabin Boy
I remember reeeeeeeally wanting to see this movie when it came out back in 1994, but it didn't come to Ashland and I wasn't old enough to drive to Duluth (or anywhere, actually), so that was the end of that. Anyway, having finally gotten around to seeing wasn't all that I expected, and I'm not sure I would've taken much of a liking to it at the age of 15, but there were parts of it I found really funny and/or endearing and I can appreciate its weirdness. Coincidentally, this came up on my Netflix queue just prior to the AV Club running a piece on it, which you can find over here. Synchronicity!


- This Mad Men spoof (in the style of an old-school Nintendo game) is amazing. In-jokes all over the place (the lawnmower during the Don/Pete chase scene, for instance) and a "Choose Your Own Adventure" format that takes things so much farther than you'd expect them to go.

- Speaking of video games, I got a free rental from Redbox and spent an evening alone in my basement with
Just Dance 3. A word of advice: don't play this in an area of your house where there are any types of reflective surfaces if you want to keep any of your self-esteem intact. (Sure, it was fun, but oh my god, I looked like a reject from Sweatin' to the Oldies.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is it just me...

This is a weird ad for cigarettes, right?

...or is that kind of a weird ad for cigarettes?

Although I'm very much the sort of lady who would appreciate receiving a pizza, heart-shaped or not, I like to imagine the look on the model's face is the strained smile of a woman about to flip her bitch switch. " that all you got me for Valentine's Day, sweetie?"

(Torn from an Entertainment Weekly magazine last month.)

More critters!

More crocheted critters! First, bunnies.


I especially like their wee, beady eyes.

Also: an octopus & a narwhal for my friend Emily's son Elliot's third birthday.



I feel like those were a healthy step-up from the moderately-deranged-looking bunny I made for him last year:

Bunny for Elliot.

I mean, A for effort, but maybe a C at best for execution. What a difference a year makes. Also, I'm pretty sure this year marks the first time I've actually gotten Elliot's birthday present in the mail on-time, so gold stars for that, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Police blotter.

Friday, 3:27 P.M.:
Malicious mischief: report of kids in alley behind middle school throwing snowballs "and whatever else they can find."

Saturday, 2:37 A.M.: Intoxicated people in Blazer pulling people in a sled down the hill by the railroad tracks.

Saturday, 6:35 P.M.:
Caller requested that an officer remove a male "who was being an asshole."

Sunday, 5:49 P.M.:
911 hangup. Update: dispatch called back and spoke with man who said one of his kids must have dialed. Older sister could not get younger brother to pick up his jacket and she said she would call the police if he didn’t pick it up. Children advised on the proper times to call 911.

Thursday, 8:55 P.M.: Request for an officer to "do a drive by" for some "creepy people being shady."

Friday, 2:17 P.M.: Small gray dog hit by a car, still in the road. Update: caller advised that dog was not hit by a car, dog was "sunbathing" on the side of the road and is fine, with owners now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I want Rhoda's apartment.

Rhoda's apartment.

Seriously. The colors! The crap all over the walls! Personality-wise, maybe I'm a little more Mary, but when it comes to decorating, I'm all Rhoda.

There's a running joke during the first season of the Mary Tyler Moore Show about how Rhoda was supposed to get Mary's apartment, but Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) pulled a fast one and got Mary in there first...Rhoda's always making digs about Mary's lack of decorating skills. And, well, in my opinion, she's got a point.

Just imagine what Rhoda could've done with a space like that. The big windows! The weird little kitchen nook! The sunken floor! Sure, Rhoda would've had to use a lot of secondhand furniture, too, because she didn't make much money either, but she would've given it some pizzazz. Instead of an "M" on her wall, Rhoda's got an "etc," and doesn't that just speak volumes?