The Decorah Newspapers
October 19, 2020
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  • My second day in Vietnam had me jumping off a helicopter into a mortar barrage at the LZ in An Hoa, my rear area for the next year. My second to last day in Vietnam the helicopter taking me to Da Nang to leave Vietnam crashed. The year in between was spent as a combat Marine in the rice paddies and mountains of Vietnam.

    This is a contemporary retrospective view of the country and people I fought for 50 years ago. My moral and ethical views, which help inform this retrospective, are partly a result of that year playing the most dangerous game that humans play.

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  • R.I.P., Notorious R.B.G.
    Not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb. That quote, most often attributed to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, came to mind last week after I heard of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and also because there is a popular T-shirt which bears her image sporting those words). 
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  • If winter lasts forever, we’ll be okay (probably)

    We’ve made it to the middle of February … it’s that time of year when, like many Midwesterners, we’re contemplating whether or not we’re going to actually make it until spring.

    February hits me like a month of Mondays, when every morning I wake up and think, “Oh yeah, it’s cold and dark outside and I don’t really feel like doing anything … Do I have to adult today?”

    And although most of us have something that motivates us to keep going, that’s not to say there aren’t a good number of people riding that old struggle bus all the way.

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  • To be a success, love what you do

    “Is everybody happyyyyyy?”


    That question and response trickles into the corners of my mind every now and again, harkening back to childhood vacations with my family and friends. 

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  • In a world where you can be anything …

       I encountered a woman the other day who was wearing a shirt that said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

    Good message, I thought. It seemed simple enough.

    I went online to look for the origin of this musing and came upon some postings by the author, Jennifer Dukes Lee. Looks like some sort of inspirational Christian guru/speaker/blogger/author with a serious number of Internet followers.

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  • Who do you think you are? Mysteries of genealogy

       When my brother bought me a DNA kit from 23andme last year for Christmas, I was thrilled. 

    I had pondered ordering one myself many times, but had just never followed through on the idea. 

    After opening the kit and manufacturing the requisite amount of saliva needed to ship off to the lab, I quickly went online to register my kit. It was a pretty simple process, save the 8,000 disclaimers about sending in your DNA. In a nutshell, they wanted to be crystal clear about the fact that finding out you’re related to certain people or possibly not related to people you thought you were, can be upsetting and emotionally devastating. No kidding. 

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  • "Don’t ever sell your saddle.”

    It was short, but sweet advice I saw recently on my favorite Facebook group, Old Cowgirls Never Die – We Keep On Riding, directed at a woman who had been away from horseback riding for several decades and had recently purchased a horse of her own.

    The photo accompanying the post showed a woman in her 60s with a smile the size of Texas plastered on her face. At the end of the reins she was holding, stood a beautiful overo paint horse (like Hidalgo). She looked like she might burst from the excitement.

    Her post received about a zillion comments, most of them conveying something like “Good for you” at the heart of them.

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  • Birds freak me out ... Guess I’m just a big chicken

        A late friend of mine used to describe how the past affects each of us in terms of a mosaic. 

    We humans – all of us -- are complicated masterpieces, made up of many disparate pieces that have been shaped together into one human mess, an accumulation of our many journeys around the sun. 

    A complex network, our brain has certain triggers – good or bad – which are able to transport our subconscious selves back to a time and place we can barely remember consciously. 

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  • Thanks for the thought, Fleetwood

     I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can remember an English or creative writing teacher who forever altered my opinion of a popular song in one way or another.

    For me, it was my eighth-grade reading teacher and Dubuque Mayor James Brady, a radical, leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle enthusiast, who asked us to analyze the Eagles’ Hotel California upside down, inside out and sideways. To this day, I can’t hear that song without the extra-musical associated baggage of our class’s pubescent interpretations.

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  • Oscar Wilde: Follow your heart? Seriously?

         October 16 was Oscar Wilde’s birthday. He was born in 1854 and died Nov. 30, 1900. His works always seemed to me, with the exception of The Picture of Dorian Gray, like champagne: light and scintillating, with occasional dips into profundity. 

    Some critics feel that he never grew up. Whatever his problems or issues, I admire him for the qualities mentioned in this statement by a biographer: “Wilde always had a measure of innocence[;]…cruelty was not in his own nature.”

    Here are some of my favorite Oscar Wilde lines:

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  • Sex, morphing and delectable languages

       Have you ever read a news-story about parents who are nasty pieces of work and said to yourself, “Huh. Some people should never have kids”?

    Here is what I think is the problem: The process involved in conceiving children is altogether too pleasant. Mother Nature made it that way to ensure the perpetuation of the species, but frankly, we have too many people and could probably cut back a bit.

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  • EVIL: Are we capable of evolving beyond it?

        I have, on occasion, tried to puzzle out the nature of evil and whether we’re stuck with it or capable of evolving beyond it.

    St. Augustine said something along these lines: “Evil is nothing but the corrupted seed of good.” Aquinas said that “a thing essentially evil cannot exist,” because when you get to the heart of evil, there’s nothing there.

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  • Concerts: You can’t always get what you want

       They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

    And as I happened by a yard sale the other day to peruse the no-longer-needed books, music and miscellany being offered by the inhabitants of said yard, I struck up a conversation with the owners of the merchandise being dispersed. 

    “Nice selection,” I said, as I eyed their wares, thinking many of the items in their collection would make excellent additions to my own treasure trove. 

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    Most of us live in Paradise at one point or another in our lives; Eden is not a place, it is a time.


                The Great Harvest Bread Company's challah:  It looks good, tastes good, smells good, and feels good to tear off a piece in your hands (soft and squishy); the only thing it doesn't do is sing. Four out of five senses satisfied and gratified. What more could a sensate being want?

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  • This Requiem very much alive

       This is my way of urging all of you – or as many of you as will fit in the Decorah High School Auditorium – to attend the Decorah Chorale and Oneota Community Orchestra’s May 7, 3 p.m. performance of Mozart’s Requiem: the last piece of music he ever wrote, and one he did not even live to finish.

    Why, you may ask, should we do that?

    They’re not the Academy and Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields, after all, and it’s not like they’re being conducted by Neville Marriner or anything.

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