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Opinions

This is the year

Walkin'

I woke up with a sore arm the other morning.
It was probably just another dull unexplained ache of age 63, but then again, the pain was sharp and in the elbow, making me think I strained it the night before.

Richard H. Ahrendsen

Richard Henry Ahrendsen, 81, of Olin, passed away on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, at the Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa following a long illness. He was a resident of the Anamosa Care Center for nine months until suffering a stroke on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Funeral services were held on Monday, Oct. 12, at Lahey Funeral Home in Olin. Burial followed in Oakland Cemetery at Solon. Visitation was held on Sunday, Oct. 11, at the funeral home.

Two-way traffic

Food For Thought

At least three mornings every month, I have 9 a.m. meetings in Iowa City and I head in that direction during the same time many people are trying to get to their jobs on time. Some days I wonder if everybody in Iowa City has a job in Cedar Rapids and everybody in Cedar Rapids works in Iowa City, for there is a steady stream of traffic going in both directions on Highway 1 during that half hour, or so, each weekday morning. I sometimes have to wait 10 minutes or more before I can turn off my road and join the parade into town.

Saying goodbye to my old best friend

Ger Wood was my best, and closest, friend for three years starting in 1976. We were assigned to the Warner Kaserne, a U.S. military community of 10,000 in Bamberg, Germany. I was in charge of the post’s newspaper and Ger was the coordinator for Kontakt, a German/American friendship club sponsored by the military to promote better relations between Americans and Germans. It was the perfect job for Ger. Besides being charismatic and gregarious, he was fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, German, French and Turkish. And I mean fluent: when he talked with people in their native tongue, they assumed he was from their native country. Beside those five, he was also partially fluent in several other languages. Everyone loved Ger because his personality and ability to speak their language made them feel at home. As the editor of the post’s newspaper, we worked together many times. At the time, video recording equipment was just coming online and we talked the post’s commander into authorizing us to make a welcome video to be shown to new personnel assigned to the post. Ger and I schlepped all over the place with a couple of hundred pounds of video equipment in the back of a sedan. We wanted to get some good footage of Bamberg’s impressive ancient city center. To get a good vantage point for filming, Ger talked the foreman of a construction crew, working on a thousand-year-old cathedral, into letting us climb a half dozen stories up the scaffolding set up beside the church. Another time, we were having a beer and we struck up a conversation with an elderly German man who was impressed with Ger’s German. He invited us to his club room which turned out to be a fraternity of German soldiers that dated back centuries. On the walls were souvenirs and medals from battles dating back into antiquity. There were maces, battle axes, Luger pistols, Iron Crosses and even Swastikas. We were also together after work. Ger and his spouse Rosa lived on the first floor of a three-level flat of apartments about a mile from post. Rosa was from Turkey. The third floor of the building Ger and Rosa lived in was rented by Memmet and Iten and their two sons. They were also Turk, part of the immigrant population in Germany at the time that performed the low-skill labor jobs, much like how Mexicans work in our country today. When the middle level apartment opened, Ger helped my spouse and I rent it. We all lived together, for the next two years, in a setting much like a commune. We shared child-rearing chores and ate many meals together. He had my back, more than a few times, and I his. At the end of Ramadan one year, the Turks brought home a lamb which they kept in the basement for the traditional feast held at the end of the holiday. The Turkish men butchered the lamb in the basement and used my Weber grill to cook it. At the end of the feast, they put the skull of the lamb on the grill for slow roasting, the cooking of a delicacy: lamb brains. An image I’ll take to my grave is the children, my 3-year-old daughter included, taking great delight in sticking their fingers through the eye sockets and scooping out brains for tasting. There was a small courtyard outside the building where we spent many a night staying up late, drinking beer and enjoying each other’s company. Ger and I also shared a love of beer and The Beatles. We’d often meet outside, after the wives and kids were asleep, and polish off a case of beer while listening to the radio. While this pastime was so much fun, I’m afraid it didn’t do either of us much good. Besides being a good friend and translator, Ger was an excellent storyteller and he could keep me, and company, enthralled for hours. Like all great story tellers, he managed to weave truth with fiction to come up with the most fantastic tales. His father was an intelligence agent with the British army, who was dropped behind German lines during WWII. His mother was in the French Resistance. Ger was born a multi-national with citizenship nowhere and everywhere. Once, he disappeared, after a late night bout of drinking, and reappeared a day later, hung over, and telling a tale of being kidnapped by Russian intelligence agents out to settle some old score with his parents. The story almost convinced me, but it didn’t fly with Rosa and he spent the next week in the dog house. It was hard to stay mad at Ger long, and Rosa, a good-hearted woman in love with a good timing man, eventually forgave him. I transferred from Bamber to Fort Knox in 1979. Ger stayed on in Germany for many more years, first as a soldier and later as a DA civilian. We met up again in the mid-1980s when the National Guard unit I was serving in was sent to Graffenwoehr for the annual war games called Reforger. I had only 72 hours, but we spent the three days pretty much without sleeping, visiting the friends and places we knew from earlier days. He visited me once in Solon during Beef Days. Sabra and I stopped and visited him in his home near Cincinnati once but all in all we sort of drifted apart. While my health stayed good (knock on wood), Ger’s declined as he suffered a stroke and heart ailments. On Oct. 6, he suffered one last massive and fatal heart attack. In the morning I’ll drive to Ohio to participate in a celebration of life. If you happen to be having a glass of beer sometime, please offer a toast to my old Army buddy, Ger.

Ger Wood was my best, and closest, friend for three years starting in 1976.
We were assigned to the Warner Kaserne, a U.S. military community of 10,000 in Bamberg, Germany.
I was in charge of the post’s newspaper and Ger was the coordinator for Kontakt, a German/American friendship club sponsored by the military to promote better relations between Americans and Germans.

Dumpster diving

I’ve long thought of my memory as being more like a dumpster than that tidily-packed trunk in the attic Edna Ferber cited as her storehouse of memories. Her metaphor is a great deal more elegant, but then, her mind was considerably more refined than mine. Mine has always been a hodgepodge of stuff that accumulates haphazardly, like that junk drawer in the kitchen—but contains considerably more junk, which is why I think of it as being more the size of a dumpster.

I want a pickle and bicycle

While my earliest commute by bicycle was an occasional ride to Grandma’s apartment the summer of my ninth year, it wasn’t until the sixth grade that I became a regular pedaller.
It came about because I hated school cafeteria food and much preferred going home for lunch. That was easy enough when I attended Sandburg Elementary just three blocks away, but it became impossible when redistricting sent me to Salk, almost a full mile from our house.

I checked my dictionary, and...

Food For Thought

Over the years, I’ve seen word fads come and go. You know the sort of thing I mean, remember when nearly everybody referred to supplies and equipment as “materiel” rather than “material?” The first version refers to military supplies and equipment, specifically those necessary to conduct a war, but that didn’t stop people from using it to refer to everything from the school supplies needed by a kindergarten student to stocking the larders and pantries of a cruise ship.

Cycling, Grandma, Pepsi

My earliest bicycle commute was to Grandma’s.

A connection?

Food For Thought

At the risk of sounding like a crackpot, I find myself wondering if there is a link between the flurry of so many people to suddenly decide they needed to buy handguns and obtain permits to carry them a couple years ago, and the current rash of mass shootings in crowded public places.

Trademarks

Walkin'

The old gray tractor caught my eye because it was just what I needed for mowing the thistles on our land a couple miles north of town. It was in the parking lot of Solon Truck and Tractor and had a for sale sign, so I went into the shop.
Owner Mike Aicher and I go back to 1981 when we both showed up on the Solon business scene.
I’d just scraped together every penny I owned and borrowed the rest to buy the Solon Economist. Mike had traded in his experience as a farm boy, sailor and mechanic to open his shop on the south edge of town.

I’m still wondering

Food For Thought

When I was in grade school, a friend of mine had a modest coin collection. It consisted mostly of pennies, which she polished by scouring them to a shine with a pencil eraser and placed in slots in a blue cardboard book. Sometimes I stopped at her house on the way home after school and helped her with the penny-polishing. I never quite understood or appreciated why she wanted to spend her time and effort doing this.

The medical adventure continues

Walkin'

The good news in my ongoing battle to lose weight (and alleviate gout) came courtesy of a website telling you how many calories various activities burn.
Walking, for a guy my weight and age, uses about 200 calories per hour (CPH), the digital assistant assures me. Running comes in at about 500 followed by vigorous cycling at 600. I thought swimming, at 700, was the top fat burner until I plugged in playing golf with a motorized cart. According to the program hitting the links eats up a full 750 CPH!