Not that you asked, but . . . - Vilas County News-Review
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Not That You Asked, But...
  • Weather or not
    “Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot; whether the weather be fine or whether the weather be not, we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.” —Cardiff Camera Club, 1921



    Spring weather in Wisconsin reminds me a lot of
  • The nose knows
    “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” —Helen Keller



    It’s been said that nothing is more memorable than a smell. Indeed, the sense of smell is one of our strongest ties to memory, bringing the past alive for a beautiful, if
  • “Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family belong, and laughter never ends.” —Unknown



    Long before The Byrds turned it into the chart-topping 1965 song “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season),” the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, traditionally ascribed to wise King Solomon in the 10th century B.C., sagely reads in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that
  • The good fight
    “Life is never more fun than when you’re the underdog competing against the giants.” —H. Ross Perot



    Having cut my TV-viewing teeth back in the “Golden Age” day watching syndicated reruns of the cartoon “Underdog,” the anthropomorphic “humble and lovable” “Shoeshine Boy turned heroic” caped and costumed alter-ego canine superhero — “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here” — I
  • Other thanks-giving
    “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” —St. Ambrose (339-397)



    There’s Thanksgiving. And then there’s thanks-giving.

    And there are
  • Sky-high dream
    “It doesn’t take much in the way of mind and body to be a lookout. It’s mostly soul.” —Norman Maclean “A River Runs Through It,” 1976



    I’ve checked several boxes off my job bucket list over the lengthening decades of my working career: living a brief, if memorable, afternoon drive Dr. Johnny Fever existence as a disc jockey in my early days; 33 years and counting “word smithing” as a journalist; and
  • Favorite places
    “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” —Henry David Thoreau (1817-’67)



    The sunny skies, warming weather and melting snow of spring after a cold and protracted North Woods “winter turned ‘sprinter’ “ brings a welcome change to my routine after
  • Words of wisdom
    “Always very hard winter when honorable cheese runs after mouse.” —Warner Oland as Detective Charlie Chan, “Charlie Chan in Egypt” 1935.



    With temperatures bottoming out at an unseasonably chilly 15 degrees April 17, also known this year as the 107th of January, it seems the honorable cheese has been chasing after the mouse in the North Woods with the arrival of
  • Blue light, black light
    “If you think a quarter horse is that ride in front of Kmart, you might be a redneck.” —Jeff Foxworthy



    After years of watching a slow-motion retailing train wreck, I’d almost entirely forgotten about the nearly late and once great Kmart discount department store chain as it quietly disappeared from the American landscape. That is, until
  • “Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for and then some. The purpose of Earth Day was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and finally, force this issue permanently into the political arena. It
  • Rusty gold
    “His No. 1 hobby in life was snowmobiling. He’d go home for the weekend, and come back and say ‘I started the snowmobile.’ And we’d say ‘But there was no snow’ and he would say he just wanted to smell the smoke.” —Brett Bailey



    While Vilas County’s 500 miles of state-funded and club snowmobile trails closed for the season March
  • Coming up roses
    “You’ll be swell, you’ll be great. Gonna have the whole world on the plate. Starting here, starting now. Honey, everything’s coming up roses . . .” — "Everything’s Coming Up Roses” Ethel Merman “Gypsy” 1959



    For Eagle River native Amy Kauzlaric Wainscott, things are
  • “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom and have a longer blanket.” –Anonymous



    In an Aug. 12, 1986, speech, President Ronald Reagan once famously remarked that the top nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and
  • Sally Carrera: Forty years ago, that interstate down there didn’t exist.

    Lightning McQueen: Really?

    Sally: Yeah, back then, cars
  • “It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it.” —James Earl Jones as Terence Mann “Field of Dreams” 1989.



    Certainly not at the ballpark gate in 2022. Bring your wheelbarrow of cash — or rather now your melted credit card at the cashless AmFam Clam. You’ll
  • “The best evidence that time travel is impossible is the fact that we haven’t been invaded by hordes of tourists from the future.” —Guillaume Russo



    You just never know what profoundly deep and thought-provoking questions you’ll find on the internet, which I affectionately call “The Magic Conch” after the Magic 8 Ball parody in the
  • Stacks o’ wax
    “Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away, or sitting next to the turntable listening to a song at a time via 7-inch single is enjoying the sublime state of solitude.” —Henry Rollins, American singer



    Thanks to the miracles of modern music technology, my
  • Writing with light
    “I feel a bit like the Willy Wonka of neon. If you could eat neon, chocolate would be the next best thing.” —Matthew Bracey, neon artist and founder of neon wonderland God’s Own Junkyard.



    Possessed of a soul far older than my increasingly considerable years, like neon fanboy Bracey I
  • “Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson



    With its
  • Fever’s gone
    “All right, Cincinnati, it is time for this town to get down! You’ve got Johnny, Dr. Johnny Fever, and I am burning up in here! WHOA! We ALL in critical condition babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, ‘cause I got the healing prescription here from the big ‘KRP musical medicine cabinet! Now I am talking about your
  • Warm memories
    “I’m Mister White Christmas, I’m Mister Snow. I’m Mister Icicle, I’m Mister Ten below.” —“The Year Without a Santa Claus,” 1974



    Ten below would have been an improvement, my thermometer bottoming out at an eye-popping -27º the other day. 

    To call the weather “bone-chilling” and
  • Ricky Vaughn: What’s that **** on your chest?

    Eddie Harris: 
    Crisco. Bardol. Vagisil. Any one of ‘em will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball. ‘Course if the umps are watching me close I just rub a little jalapeño juice up my nose, get it runnin’, and  
  • “Camaraderie doesn’t happen by accident; developing a strong sense of trust, accountability, and togetherness around team goals requires intentional effort.” —Don Yaeger



    My late Nana was fond of quoting the sage old adage that
  • The ties that bind
    “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” —Friedrich Nietzsche



    It’s been famously said that the family that prays together stays together. It’s also been said by some that the family that plays together stays together.

    The Siler family of
  • ‘Welcome Home Tree’
    “Ye cannot see the wood for the trees.” —English dramatist John Heywood, 1546.



    It’s often been said that one can’t see the forest for the trees — they’re not seeing the big picture for their myopic, tunnel-visioned focus on minutiae.

    But in my case, I
  • “Now is the accepted time to make your regular good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” —Mark Twain



    Pop. Fizz. Clink.

    I don’t know about you, but
  • Five-alarm Christmas
    “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years . . . and because of our traditions . . . every one of us knows who he is.”—Tevye, “Fiddler on the Roof,” 1971.

    Few times of the year are more steeped in tradition than Christmas, that
  • “Anyone who says that money cannot buy happiness has clearly never spent their money on pizza.” –Andrew W.K.



    With the year slipping inexorably toward the turn of the calendar page to January 2022, I’m left wondering when the futuristic 2015 “Back to the Future” Black & Decker pizza rehydrator is
  • Purple haze
    “All the other colors are just colors, but purple seems to have a soul — when you look at it, it’s looking back at you.” —Terri Guillemets



    With last month’s transition back to standard time, I was making my zero dark thirty early bird morning commute to the office when I was unexpectedly bathed in an eerie and other-worldly yet pleasantly soothing purple light in
  • An interesting question was posed the other day — the sort of question, in the words of the 1968 Noel Harrison song, that appeals to the circles that I find in the windmills of my mind.

    “If you had a time machine, would you rather
  • Musky tales revisited
    “Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” —Mark Twain



    It’s said the toothy and elusive muskellunge, a fickle biter, is “the fish of 10,000 casts.” The ambush apex predator, Wisconsin’s state fish since 1955, may well be the fish of
  • Veterans Day
    “Perhaps you and I have lived too long with this miracle to properly be appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And
  • Call of the open road
    Sally Carrera: Forty years ago, that interstate down there didn’t exist.

    Lightning McQueen: Really?

    Sally: Yeah. Back then, cars
  • “I had one typewriter for 50 years, but I have bought seven computers in six years. I suppose that’s why Bill Gates is rich and Underwood is out of business.” —Andy Rooney (1919-2011), American radio and television writer



    While the newspaper you’re holding in your hands has a familiar look, for those of us behind the pages this week’s edition represents

  • Halloween hauls
    “Nothing on Earth so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night.” —Steve Almond, American short story writer


    One of the great things about being an adult is
  • Flipping the calendar
    “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. When short February’s done, all the rest have thirty-one.” —Traditional verse mnemonic

    I owe a lot to
  • Lorelai Gilmore: Mom, what is going on here?
    Emily Gilmore: I’m decluttering my life. I was starting to feel claustrophobic. I’d wake up in the night feeling like the house is closing in on me. One of the ladies in my garden club bought this book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” She
  • “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller

    It’s been said that volunteerism is one of the most selfless acts that people can get involved in. 
    Indeed, nonprofit organizations like
  • Out of my gourd
    “Pumpkin spice lattes are eggnog for morning people.” —John Oliver

    The coming and going of National Pumpkin Spice Latte Day on Aug. 24, coupled with shortening days and lengthening nights, crisp mornings, colorful North Woods “Colorama” season celebrations and last week’s advent of
  • Brew October
    “The one constant through all the years . . . has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past . . . It reminds of us of all that once was good and
  • Band of brothers
    “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."—John 15:12-13

    And so it was on a bright, sunny day in New York City 20 years ago that
  • Seasons of change
    “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” —Henry David Thoreau “Walden: Or, Life in the Woods”

    Even after having moved out of the hustle and bustle of Concord to
  • “There’s no earthly way of knowing. Which direction we are going. There’s no knowing where we’re rowing. Or which way the river’s flowing. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a blowing? Not a speck of light is showing. So the danger must be growing. Are the fires of hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing? Yes! The danger must be growing. For the rowers keep on rowing. And they’re certainly not showing any signs that they are slowing!”
    — Willy Wonka, “Willy Wonka
     and the Chocolate Factory,” 1971

    When it comes to medical care, sometimes the cure is worse than the illness. In my case, the cure was definitely worse than the illness that had found me seeking medical care.
    I had been dispatched on my way 
  • “The avoidance of idiocy should be the primary and constant concern of every intelligent person.” —Nero Wolfe

    A “just because” present from my wife appeared on the dining room table at dinner the other evening.
    From the size and feel of the package, I deduced the contents to be
  • Information two-laner
    “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.” —Yogi Berra

    If the internet is the I-39 information superhighway, the musty hard-bound encyclopedias of yore are the retro-nostalgic two-laner U.S. Highway 51 of my childhood as it lazily wound its way Up North past Windmill Ice Cream Shoppe on the scenic shores of
  • “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” —Doug Larson

    In the words of legendary late American radio news commentator Paul Harvey, there’s “the rest of the story.” And 
  • Muskie tails - er, tales
    “Dear Lord, give me the serenity to accept the size of fish I catch, the courage not to lie about it and the wisdom to know that none of my fishing buddies would believe me anyway!”—Fisherman’s Serenity Prayer

    They say the notoriously difficult-to-catch muskellunge, a fickle biter, is “the fish of 10,000 casts.” Not surprisingly, it’s
  • “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.” —George Bailey, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 1946

    George Bailey may still want to woo Mary Hatch with the moon, but
  • “Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” — George R.R. Martin

    With sunny skies, gentle breezes and temperatures in the mid-70s, the weather last Thursday was a central casting picture-perfect summer day. 
    A veritable feast for the senses, the
  • The stories live on
    “I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.” —Tom Brokaw, “The Greatest Generation”


    Duty, honor, country, those principles were among the common values of the 
  • Beauty for a day
    “A lily of a day is fairer far in May, although it fall and die that night, it was the plant and flower of light. In small proportions we just beauties see, and in short measures life may perfect be.” —“The Nobel Nature” by
  • “If you’re not in the parade, you watch the parade. That’s life.” —Mike Ditka


    On the front end of summer, the solemn observation of Memorial Day provides a chance for reflection at war memorials and cemeteries for those who
  • There’s always next year

    Will this be the year I finally quaff from my dusty Brewers glass?

    “All I do is write their names on the lineup card and let them play. It’s not a tough job. I

  • LIFE’S A GAS FOR PETROLEUM MUSEUM CURATOR
    “I swear to God, if my kids, when they’re 18, if they come to me and say, ‘Dad, I love pumping gas. I...
  • Adventures with Finn. Or, what’s in a name?
    Mater: My name is Mater.
    Lightning McQueen: Mater?
    Mater: Yeah, like “Tuh-Mater,” but
  • ONE MAN. TWO TRUMPETS. MANY STORIES.

    Even in retirement, unsinkable ‘Skip’ Wagner still sets sail for fun

    Johnny Carson: “Who’s the funniest person you’ve ever heard?”

    Bill Murray: 
    “Well, it’s

  • Back in the drive-in days
    “When I was a kid, the only way I saw movies was from the back seat of my family’s car at the drive-in.”—Forest Whitaker, American actor

    Having logged 14 years in the North Woods, I’ve made my share of round-trip runs between Boulder Junction and Rhinelander as a Shopko devotee.
    Driving along Highway 17 during a visit to Rhine­lander for an interview and photo shoot last week, I
  • “If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam.” —Johnny Carson

    Marking the one-year anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve” of the roller-coaster COVID-19 global pandemic, the world is looking a little different these days, and
  • “I’m Mr. White Christmas, I’m Mr. Cool. I’m Mr. Icicle, I’m Mr. 10 Below.” —Snow Miser “The Year Without Santa Claus,” 1974

    With my thermometer in Boulder Junction reaching an eye-popping minus 33 last week, stepping outdoors brought to my mind the 1980 film, “The
  • Little things, big memories
    “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” —Winnie the Pooh

    I was recently reminded of that sage observation by British author A.A. Milne’s “silly old bear” at, of all places, the Minocqua Walmart, as I spied a small glass forcing vase in the floral cooler sporting the poster child Charlie Brown tree of spring harbingers: an
  • Growing branches on the family tree
    “Family history is a perishable commodity. It disappears with time, as memories fade, and as loved ones pass on.” —Guy Black

    It’s said that genealogy is like a mirror. You start looking into it and interesting faces begin to appear. 
    One of the faces — or at least names — to appear out of the foggy mists of time as I’ve explored my own family history over the years is
  • “Chase your dreams but always know the road that will lead you home again.” —Ziad K. Abdelnour

    I chased my dreams and ultimately U.S. Highway 51 led me back home again to the North Woods, now wordsmithing at the Vilas County News-Review after a


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