Friday, August 19, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sixty-Eight Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the sixty-eighth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

Nancy and Phil 2011

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cary Gossard Dunn — 1906-1952

IMG_0101

Cary Gossard Dunn was my great uncle, the younger brother of my maternal grandmother. He was born in 1906 in Indiana, one of four children. He married and had two children of his own.

I never knew him; he died in March 1952, six months before I was born. I knew he served in the military and had heard that he had been part of the D-Day invasion on Normandy in 1944. I don’t have a picture of him, but I remember seeing one in my grandmother’s photo album: a young man with familiar family features and a smile that he shared with my grandmother.

In May 2011, my parents and my brother and sister-in-law went to Arlington National Cemetery to find Uncle Cary’s grave. For some reason, the cemetery administration has no record of his burial, but through his daughter Susan they located it and took some pictures.

After I saw this photo I wrote to Susan and asked for information about her father’s service:

He was with the 467th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and was in the original landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. His rank was Captain and he saw service in Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland before returning to the states in 1945. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He left the military for a brief period of time, but rejoined and was promoted to Major and taught ROTC at the University of Pittsburgh for about two years. He was transferred from the Army to the Air Force in 1949 and was sent to Okinawa in 1950 where he worked as an engineer at Kadena AFB. He died of cancer at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 12, 1952 at the age of 45.

I wish I had known him. Given his siblings’ long lives (my grandmother lived to be 95), I would have been able to learn about what his service meant to him as I was becoming aware of my own feelings about war and peace, and to put a real connection between the stories I read in history books and the lurid tales depicted in the Hollywood movies about the war.

Susan’s description of her father’s service captures the simple facts, but like the men who served and tell their stories in such tales as Band of Brothers, the simplicity does not tell of the pain and the burden these men and women carried in service to our country then and now, and the honor and pride they have in doing their duty without any other thought than protecting the rest of us.

Rest in peace, Uncle Cary. Thank you.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thank You, Poppy

As if Jeb Bush wasn’t already struggling to bail out the Titanic that is his run for the presidency with a teaspoon, along comes a biography of his father, George H.W. Bush, wherein the former president calls out Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld for being terrible influences on his other son’s administration.

At 91 and in the twilight of a long and storied public life, the first President Bush evidently felt free to express views he had long suppressed in the interest of family harmony. Mr. Cheney, he said, was “very hard-line” and too eager to “use force to get our way”; Mr. Rumsfeld was an “arrogant fellow” full of “swagger.” He used the same phrase, “iron-ass,” to describe both men.

The comments, included in Jon Meacham’s “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” to be published by Random House next week, drew a biting retort from Mr. Rumsfeld on Thursday. “Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions,” Mr. Rumsfeld said in a statement.

Really classy there, Rummy, to basically call the senior Bush a doddering old fool.  You’re the reason we should keep Gitmo open; so we can send you there.

The father’s comments also prompted the son to come to his advisers’ defense. “I am proud to have served with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld,” said George W. Bush. “Dick Cheney did a superb job as vice president and I was fortunate to have him by my side throughout my presidency. Don Rumsfeld ably led the Pentagon and was an effective secretary of defense.”

Family dynamics don’t really work well with public policy and governing — just read Oedipus Rex, King Lear or Henry IV — so it will be interesting to see how the next son stepping up views not only his father’s and brother’s time in office but how he would lead and whom he would choose to advise him.

At the very least it should lead to a really interesting conversation around the Thanksgiving table at the Bush home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cary Gossard Dunn — 1906-1952

IMG_0101

Cary Gossard Dunn was my great uncle, the younger brother of my maternal grandmother. He was born in 1906 in Indiana, one of four children. He married and had two children of his own.

I never knew him; he died in March 1952, six months before I was born. I knew he served in the military and had heard that he had been part of the D-Day invasion on Normandy in 1944. I don’t have a picture of him, but I remember seeing one in my grandmother’s photo album: a young man with familiar family features and a smile that he shared with my grandmother.

In May 2011, my parents and my brother and sister-in-law went to Arlington National Cemetery to find Uncle Cary’s grave. For some reason, the cemetery administration has no record of his burial, but through his daughter Susan they located it and took some pictures.

After I saw this photo I wrote to Susan and asked for information about her father’s service:

He was with the 467th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and was in the original landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. His rank was Captain and he saw service in Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland before returning to the states in 1945. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He left the military for a brief period of time, but rejoined and was promoted to Major and taught ROTC at the University of Pittsburgh for about two years. He was transferred from the Army to the Air Force in 1949 and was sent to Okinawa in 1950 where he worked as an engineer at Kadena AFB. He died of cancer at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 12, 1952 at the age of 45.

I wish I had known him. Given his siblings’ long lives (my grandmother lived to be 95), I would have been able to learn about what his service meant to him as I was becoming aware of my own feelings about war and peace, and to put a real connection between the stories I read in history books and the lurid tales depicted in the Hollywood movies about the war.

Susan’s description of her father’s service captures the simple facts, but like the men who served and tell their stories in such tales as Band of Brothers, the simplicity does not tell of the pain and the burden these men and women carried in service to our country then and now, and the honor and pride they have in doing their duty without any other thought than protecting the rest of us.

Rest in peace, Uncle Cary. Thank you.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friends, Family, and Cars

This is the beginning of a fun weekend.  My brother arrives this afternoon, then we’ll be spending the weekend deep in car talk.  We’re judging at the 9th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, but before that we’ll be visiting with some friends, one of whom has an amazing collection of cars, many of which have graced these pages.

031

Stutz radiator cap

I get to judge the Mustangs, of course, and there will be some very rare ones there, including Carroll Shelby’s personal car.

I will have pictures from the show on Sunday, but between now and then things will be a little light around here as we warm up — it’s expected to be back up to the 80’s for the show — and enjoy the cars.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Phil and Steve

To my dad and his twin.

099

Sailing.
Digging.
Hunting.
Shard-picking.
Swallows and Amazons.
The Wind in the Willows.
Animal jokes.
Lake Harriet.
The cuckoo clock.
Red or green?
red/green.
Boston.
The Cape.
Minneapolis.
Bandelier.
Lake Charlevoix.
“Find the bottom.”
Postscript.
The Navy.
Princeton.
Yale.
Michigan.
Harvard.
O-I.
Four kids.
Two sons.
My life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stratford Memories

In years past, today would be the day we packed up the car and headed for Stratford, Ontario.  Then we’d have four days of theatre and touring around to see our friends at Jonny’s Antiques, Rundles restaurant, and Callan Books.  But the move to Cincinnati and the inexorable passing of time have made the trip now a wonderful memory.  And while we’re not going this year, we knew that our trip last year was our farewell tour, and we made the most of it.

So I’m not going to get all maudlin about it.  We have over fifty years of memories, stories, and pictures to share, and as long as we have them, we’re there.

14. Festival Theatre

The Festival Theatre.

3 Garden

The Shakespeare Garden in front of the Festival Theatre.

010 Callan Books

Callan Books — now closed — but once the best little bookshop in Canada.

012 Me

Some random theatre goer and erstwhile drama critic having a picnic along the banks of the Avon River.

003

Dad and Mom outside Fanfare Books. Thanks for taking me and forging the love of theatre.

008 The Avon

The Avon River that wends its way through Stratford

It was in Stratford that I truly fell in love with theatre, and from there I took that love and turned it into my life study, if not my profession.

It’s not goodbye; it’s just intermission.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Campaign Souvenir

My aunt, whose father was a business associate of Joseph P. Kennedy, gave me this PT-109 tie clip many years ago.  It was one of the campaign souvenirs handed out when John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, and she knew of my fondness for the late president.  I wear it every time I wear a tie.

For those of you who are too young to remember, PT-109 was the boat JFK captained while in the Pacific in World War II.  It was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer and he helped rescue his crew.  The incident served to secure war hero status for the future president and was made into a movie starring Cliff Robertson.

008

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Goodbye, Perrysburg

Commodore Perry

Commodore Perry

I’m writing this from the sun porch of my parents’ house in Perrysburg, Ohio.  It’s getting on towards late afternoon, but the sun is still high in the August sky, the sky is clear, the leaves on all the trees are that deep green that you see when they know they only have about a month or so before the light begins to change and the air cools in the evening.  The trees have to store up as much energy as they can to get through the long, grey winter ahead.

This sun porch is a familiar spot for me.  Most of my visits to this house have been in summer, and here is where we have our breakfast over the morning papers, afternoons on the couch with Tiger baseball on the TV, and dinner in the deepening twilight that lasts in summer until long after sunset and the rhythmic chorus of cicadas, katy-dids, and other denizens of the evening compete with the traffic on the street and the trains on the C&O railroad a few blocks over.

This is not the house I grew up in; Mom and Dad moved here in 1997 after living in northern Michigan for a while, but countless evenings were spent on the back porch of another house down the street where the same sounds filtered over the voice of Ernie Harwell calling the Tigers’ games on the crackling AM of WJR 760, the static telling us that somewhere, a thunderstorm was bringing rain and cool air to the cornfields that surround this small town.  Lightning bugs danced and glowed down at the bottom of the yard among the yew bushes and rhododendrons, and minty iced tea — and later, Stroh’s beer — made the evening cooler.

Summer, as you might have guessed, was my favorite time of year here, and even with our three weeks up in Michigan on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, nothing said summer to me more than those evenings on the porch with the orchestration of light, shadow and sound and the scent of newly-mowed grass and drying alfalfa from the grain elevator across town.

But if things go as planned, this is my last night on this sun porch in Perrysburg.  Later this fall my parents will begin a new adventure in a new place far removed from this little town that has been our hometown since 1957.  It is all good for them, and all of us — my three siblings — are with them every step of the way.  They are healthy, happy, and in good spirits as they forge on ahead as they have done with so many adventures in their sixty-five years together.  And as I sit here in the peaceful afternoon, watching a hummingbird busily sip from the feeder, I know that letting go and moving on is a good thing.  I should know; I’ve done it more times than I can count, and have the license plates to prove it.

In the many times I’ve moved and in the many places I’ve lived, I have never let go of the feeling that this town of Perrysburg will always be my home town.  I know the streets and side streets better than any other place I’ve lived, thanks to the bike rides with my childhood friends Joe and Randy and Deke and Trip and Cynny and Scott and Jim and Tommy and Marvin.  I still call the stores on Louisiana Avenue by the names I knew them then: Houck’s Drugstore, Mills Hardware, The Sport Shop, Mrs. Piatt’s Bakery, Ken’s Barber Shop, and Norm’s Appliance.  That’s where we sat at the soda fountain and read Archie comics; that’s where we bought paint and nails; that’s where Dad bought his duck decoys and shotgun shells; that’s where the smell of bread crossed the street and birthday cakes came the way you dreamed they did; that’s where a haircut cost a dollar; and that’s the place where you lined up between the Norge refrigerators and GE air conditioners to get your driver’s license and license plates because the wife of Norm at the appliance store was the Deputy Registrar for the DMV.  It’s where I got my first driver’s license in 1968, typed out on a green piece of paper from a battered Smith-Corona.  The stores have all changed their names and sell different things — and Mills is closed, the windows papered over — but they’re still there.

The tennis courts, the swimming pool, the elementary school where I attended kindergarten, the grocery store, the railroad tracks; they’re as familiar as old books on the shelf that you take down and thumb through, remembering the stories they told.  The sidewalks still have the same cracks in them, the street signs may be new but the names like Hickory, Elm, Front and Second are still where friends and family lived, and the new car in the driveway is the successor to the Country Squire and Pontiac Bonneville that once parked there, the keys in the ignition, the doors unlocked.

I made sure that as I drove around town on the way to do errands with my parents I took notice of the town.  It has changed over the last fifty-six years, but not so much that I don’t recognize it by the sights, sounds, and sense of place that comes with having something become a part of you over a lifetime.  And I made sure that I said goodbye with a smile and a nod to old familiar places, echoes of laughter, memories of sadness and passings, and knowing that while Thomas Wolfe gets all the press for saying you can’t go home again, you can visit, even if the place you lived in belongs to someone else and the people you know have moved on.

They’re still there.  And so am I.

Our house from 1957 to 1982.

Our house from 1957 to 1982.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sixty-Five Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday.  It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river.  It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering.  The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man.  After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel.  Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son.  Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952.  Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family.  Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call.  Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights.  There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter.  After all, it has been life.  And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy.  And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing.  So I will make it very simple: on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

Nancy and Phil 2011

Friday, May 10, 2013

Welcome to Perrysburg

Here I am, in the welcoming arms of my parents and my home town for the weekend.

DSCN0444

This is the house I grew up in. Our family moved into it in June 1957 when I was four years old.  My parents sold it in 1982, moved to northern Michigan, and then moved back in 1997 to another place up the road from here. Now they’re on the verge of moving again, and I’m back home to help with some decisions about what to do with some of the things I grew up with. It is nostalgic, poignant, but also uplifting because it is a looking-forward time and sharing of memories.

By my count, I’ve lived in about twenty different places since I went off to college in 1971, and I wasn’t born here, but Perrysburg, Ohio, will always be my home town.  This is the small town of my writings, this is the place where I learned about trust, family, friendships, and the sorrows that come with life.  So the technicality that I was born in Dallas and now live in Miami and that other people now live in that big house doesn’t change my answer when people ask me what’s my home town.

This is not goodbye.  I will be back in August for the annual Stratford pilgrimage.  But I can’t miss one last spring in Perrysburg: they do it like no one else.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Phil and Steve

My father and his twin were born on August 28, 1926. Here’s my birthday card for both of them.

1932

1952

2006

Sailing.
Digging.
Hunting.
Shard-picking.
Swallows and Amazons.
The Wind in the Willows.
Animal jokes.
Lake Harriet.
The cuckoo clock.
Red or green?
red/green.
Boston.
The Cape.
Minneapolis.
Bandelier.
Lake Charlevoix.
“Find the bottom.”
Postscript.
The Navy.
Princeton.
Yale.
Michigan.
Harvard.
O-I.
Four kids.
Two sons.
My life.

A scene from the stage version of one of their favorite books.


Happy birthday, twins, and many, many more. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Phil and Steve

My father and his twin were born on August 28, 1926. Here’s my birthday card for both of them.

1932

1952

2006

Sailing.
Digging.
Hunting.
Shard-picking.
Swallows and Amazons.
The Wind in the Willows.
Animal jokes.
Lake Harriet.
The cuckoo clock.
Red or green?
red/green.
Boston.
The Cape.
Minneapolis.
Bandelier.
Lake Charlevoix.
“Find the bottom.”
Postscript.
The Navy.
Princeton.
Yale.
Michigan.
Harvard.
O-I.
Four kids.
Two sons.
My life.

A scene from the stage version of one of their favorite books.


Happy birthday, twins, and many, many more. I love you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012