Friday, May 27, 2016

Flashback Friday

A couple days ago we were riding through main street Aledo and heard from somewhere behind someone yelling, "Two Blythes!"   Today's Flashback features Two Blythes! from the Iowa Wesleyan College Newspaper, featuring all nature's freaks attending school that year. I've got that article somewhere, but not here in Emerald City, or rather the Cabin in the Woods East of Emerald City. 

I should interject at this point that after the Wombie checks out the blog today it may be One Blythe! for awhile as he hates his photos. Admittedly this may not be his best picture ever taken, I can attest that he is a handsome lad, taking after his older (by 20 minutes) brother. 

The article in question featured three other sets of twins and also posed all of us on the steps of the Administration Building, a place where humorless people with long faces made life-changing decisions about fraternities, majors and who got to graduate.  The Wombie and I both did so I guess we slipped that by them.  

Two Blythes! pushed brother Phil from the spotlight a long time ago, and funny how life's verities and balderdash continue to bring us together still.  It's been something else, I'll tell ya.  Yesterday as we were on another adventure, we reminisced how we hitchhiked from college to get home and was chased across the road and into a field in Gladstone by a dog.  This is also the place we were stopped once by Deputy Bigger for speeding and as we exited the car I inadvertently kicked out a half-filled beer and it went sloshing down the street.  Only because Deputy Bigger had sold some corn to Dad the week before got us out of a bit of a pickle that day.  

Yesterday we went through Gladstone older, slower, and drier but no less drenched in the kinship of twinhood.  Two Blythes! continues.   

Thursday, May 26, 2016

First Good Ride

Sunday, May 22.  I never thought it would ever get here.  The first  bike ride.  I had stopped by BFE earlier and our destination seemed to be Psycho Silo near Kewanee.  It's some biker hangout with bands and crap like that.  OK, so it wasn't my cup of tea but Carrie was going with Tim and we had another one of Tim's friends, Diane, to tag along.  I know when to shut up and just go along so even with a questionable destination, I was still excited to get back on the bike.  

As luck would have it, Carrie changed her mind about going so the day opened up as far as where we were going.   The Silo wouldn't have been all that bad but I tend to go the opposite direction where everyone else is going.  A place where there are a "ton of bikes" doesn't interest me at all.  Perhaps some other time we can go over to the Silo and check it out, but it won't happen today.  

We gassed up in Alexis and decided to go to Lock and Dam 17 down at Gladstone.  The morning coolness made for jackets and gloves, but it warmed up pretty fast.  Over to Route 17,  down to the Bald Bluff road a mile north of Little York and over to the Keithsburg-Oquawka road.  From there to Oquawka and our first break - a nice little bar where we discovered a Sunday special on Bloody Mary's.   

From there down south to the Lock and Dam, where a barge was going through.  It is a slow process, almost imperceptible, and we discussed our future route.  I wanted to drive around Gulfport and suggested also Snake Alley in Burlington.  Tim then suggested a trip up 61 to Muscatine. 

Gulfport was pretty sad - I remember what it used to be like in the 70's and 80's.  Then across the bridge and we found Snake Alley.  Frankly I wasn't too keen on doing it on bikes, but Tim and then Diane took off and I crossed the point of no return.  We all safely made it down and then we had a beer at the Sombrero Tap, in a beer garden that was a lot like that Twilight Zone where these characters were in a container and couldn't look out.  Concrete on three sides and a hot sun.  

On up to Muscatine and to the Lighthouse on the river about 5 or 6 miles outside of town.  This nice '64 Pontiac Gran Prix was in the parking lot and in flawless condition.     

Great view at the Lighthouse.  Had a bite to eat and then back to Muscatine and across the bridge.  The plan was to go to Reynolds to Geronimo's but it was closed.  Risky's was closed, too.  OK, Then we decided to go to Matherville for a beer but it was closed, too.  After that we went to City Limits in Viola and finally a place that was open.    

Diane and Tim went on to Rio and I headed home.  A fairly uneventful trip and nice riding.  Great company, a sturdy bike and lots of time to think and ponder about life.  Can't beat that for a first bike ride of the season.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Old Gang Back Together

This is a picture from Shelley's graduation party I attended on May 14th.  That's her in the pink thing, or was it kind of reddish?  She was quite excited to get her degree from Western after having worked on it for a few years. 

Of no less equal in importance is the group I hung around with.  I think the above sentence has suspect structure (Shelley and Kenzie can correct me; perhaps something about a dangling participle), but I was so excited to be with my peeps again that my grammar radar (grammar, get it?) was malfunctioning.        

These are my old, as in old days and certainly not old in chronology, co-workers who survived the Wars and became friends in the best sense of the word.

Rebecca is on the far left and was hired about a year before me. I worked with her the most in the early years.  Smart, classy, tough, funny in that intelligent witty way; we were similar in our outlooks regarding politics, people, the world and entertainment.  She was the one whose respect and admiration I most wanted, probably because she always had mine.  She was a counselor and Assistant Superintendent.

Over on the far right is Rose.  Rose started after I did and was one of my favorite people to work with.   If I had to build a personality that was warm and open, it would be Rose.  With most people I have to worry a bit about saying something stupid or not being quick or funny.  With most people I may have a social awkwardness.  But not with Rose.  I seem to always be at my funniest or wittiest with her because she tends to laugh at all the jokes.  I never feel awkward with her.  That is a testament to her ability to relate and to make you feel like the most important person in the room.  She was a youth counselor and is now a probation officer.

And then there's Pat.  Where do I start?  I met her for the first time as a secretary in the probation department, but it was really a tag-team relationship with her husband Mike, that would cement my friendship with the family and tender me a sort of honorary membership with all of them, which consists of daughters, grandkids and great-grandkids.  An unbelievably gracious lady with the biggest heart of anyone I know. She would really do anything for me and indeed, she has.  I owe her more than anyone else and I fear the debt will never get repaid.  

And so, on a Saturday night some 39 years after it all began, we met again.  


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

It has been cold up here in Northlandia.  Saturday was the first day I didn't feel compelled to wear a hoodie or sweatshirt.  The Cabin in the Woods must have good insulation because it seems I am always chilly in here.  The above scene was recorded by my phone when I ventured into Emerald City to sell some skins for firewood.  

I feel like I've been placed in a nursing home:  everyone keeps me so busy I haven't had a chance to get homesick.


I caused quite a stir when I went up to Beer Bellies to meet Mr. and Mrs. Wombie with my sandals and painted toes.  The other patrons were quite flummoxed and several given to the vapors.  My manhood was impugned, my reputation sullied, and best of all, I didn't give a shit.  Age is sometimes a wonderful thing.  I repost the picture of my Norah beautifying me for my journey North.

If it's good enough for Norah, 
it's good enough for Beer Bellies.


This blog was begun this week EIGHT years ago this coming Saturday. 

Back then the current Mrs. Blythe, Kenzie, and Drew were in Florida,  Brendan was in Iraq and I was the lone holdout - in North Henderson after the sale of our home in G-Burg.  The purpose and idea for Existing In BFE was to simply let my family know what I was doing.  

The first post was simply this:  

Welcome To BFE - May 28, '08

Well, isn't this awkward? While this may seem a bit pretentious to have a blog of my activities (my activities are rather bland), it serves as a place my family can see what is going on with me, and allows me to express in pictures and words my life in BFE*. That others in my circle can keep tabs on me is just gravy. Updates will be fairly regular and excuse me when I get off track on subjects. Remember, this is expression and therapy.

* For those unfamiliar with BFE, email me and we'll get you educated.

Not sure how much more is in me, but we will endeavor to persevere a while longer. 

Kenzie, Drew, Nancy, Norah, Alfred and Brendan:  I'm fine.


The quest for cuteness in men's urinals is evident in bars and taverns across the land. No need for a humdrum emptying of one's bladder when we can have fun with it too.  I have posted past attempts at fun in the john, and I now include the latest, taken at the Railhead Bar and Grill somewhere in the Quad Cities.

Nice place, the food was good and taking a piss in a keg was fun.


Sun coming up in Seaton.  


This silly little video is me trying to make Norah smile.  You see, this is my last day before I leave for Illinois and she isn't to happy with her Papa.  She is, frankly, mad at me.  But I accomplish my mission. 


Thanks for the Apple Butter, Carrie.  Neighbor Tim's wife is an artist, canner, and does leatherworking.  A talented lady.  He married up.

Monday, May 23, 2016

I Am A Manny

I am a member of a club called "Grandparenthood".  I must admit it wasn't something I aspired to.  It just happened.  Membership comes with certain stipulations.  If you are within a 100 mile radius of said grandkids, you must attend all major birthdays and most holidays.  

If you are within 10 miles you must babysit on occasion to let the parents have some fun time.  All school activities and the weekend shopping trips are encouraged.

If you live with 1 mile, and especially the same apartment complex, then you get to babysit daily, all shopping ventures on weekends, and in my case, not only babysit the wee one daily but also turn around and entertain the other one after school for a couple hours.  Almost like a double shift.  

Today I present some small videos to let you know the conditions of "Papa's Daycare."  

I'm smothered in love.  I know it won't last so I savor the time -and the joyfulness of it.  I also know that some do not have the membership - and likely never will.  So, I hang on, remembering my favorite adage, Everything Is Temporary, and will try keep my membership status active for as long as I can.     

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flashback Friday

There are not too many action shots of me working at the Mary Davis Home but here is one.  This was when I was a Counselor and we had to do all the jobs to make the place work: cook, organize events, watch for errant behavior during rec time, counsel our specific kids, answer the phones,  open the doors for kitchen deliveries, talk to parents and write reports, and many others. 

Here I appear to be taking a pillow into the classroom.  I swear I wasn't going in to take a nap, really. More than likely I am doing a duo task of letting someone in to do some cleaning, and afterwards taking a pillow and bedding back to dorm for a new intake.  That's my story and I might as well sink or swim with it. 

What you cannot see behind that door is a one-way window.  On the other side was the superintendent's quarters who could look out into rec area and see what was going on but you couldn't see him doing it.  No one ever told me what that window was.  When I found out it brought a whole new meaning to Big Brother Is Watching.  To his credit the window was seldom used, and the Superintendent trusted his employees.  That guy would hire me two more times for better work within these walls.  But it was the original job that was the most fun.  Right up there with the satisfaction of changing young lives was the extraordinary people I worked with through the years.  

As for cooking, I did a fairly decent job except for one Sunday morning.  I had to work by myself (yeah that happened, too) and I left the eggs too long in the big skillet turning them green.  My toast was burned and the oatmeal I sliced with an electric knife.  When I took a tray back to someone in lockup, they asked, "who the Hell cooked this shit?"  All I could say was the new cook. 

New jobs, when young, take on a myth all their own.  At the time they are huge and you wonder if you'll last till the next paycheck. But you do.  And then you look back and its a career.  It goes in the blink of an eye.       

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Holocaust Week

This is Holocaust Week.  In mankind's most brutal century yet, and there have been many bad ones, the world may or may not pause long to remember the millions of men, women,  children and babies slaughtered in a mass extermination of a race.  

Hitler's Thousand Year Reich lasted 12 years, but the senselessness of what happened in World War II set the bar far higher than we can even imagine in the future.  But I have complete confidence that eventually someone will come along with a message of hate and anger and the vilest evil that resides in us will, once again be unleashed on the most vulnerable among us - the children.

Last winter, the legacy of Anne Frank, who lives still as a beacon of goodness and innocence, was enhanced by the discovery of a picture of her boyfriend.  And thus, we learned all over again the remarkable story of Anne and her ill-fated attempt to escape detection.  

There have been those ignorant voices throughout the past 70 years that have denied the Holocaust and sadly, quite often some of us listen.  That is to their and our shame.  It is, quite literally, a slap to the souls of each and every person who was forced to step down into those gas chambers and whose ashes drifted in the wind upon the valleys and forests of a nation whose hatred blinded them to basic human decency.   

What we can do several generations removed, the only thing really, is to educate ourselves and hope that perhaps one day when evil speaks pleasant words of nationalism, and hatred of others we will have the strength and courage to raise our voices amid the din and yell, "Never again."


From an article in UK reuters.   

On Friday 7 January 1944, Anne Frank confessed her love for a boy she had been smitten with for years. She had first set eyes upon him in school in 1940, and they had been 'inseparable' for a whole summer, walking hand in hand through their neighbourhood in Amsterdam, him in a white cotton suit, her in a short summer dress. He was 'tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face'. He had dark hair, brown eyes, a slightly pointed nose. Anne was 'crazy about his smile', which gave him a mischievous air. At one point he gave her a pendant as a keepsake. This was the boy she hoped to marry.
His name was Peter Schiff, he was almost three years her senior, and it is clear from her diary that he was seldom out of her thoughts throughout her two years in hiding in the secret annexe behind her father's office. On 6 January 1944 she wrote that her image of him was so vivid that she didn't need a photograph, but anyone who has read her diary may be curious to see what he looked like at the time she knew him

Until now, no portrait of Peter Schiff has come to light. But the picture you see opposite has ended this 60-year mystery and provided another glimpse into a devastated world. The photo does its trick - it shows an extremely handsome boy of 12 full of hope for the future; it is not difficult to see his appeal to any vivacious and eager girl of similar age - but the background to its recent discovery provides something more, another layer in one of the most iconic stories of our time.
The story of Anne Frank is one of bravery and fortitude. Her journal, the Diary of a Young Girl, continues to be read anew by hundreds of thousands each year not just for the insights it brings us into occupied Europe, or the practical details we glean about hiding in cramped conditions with limited resources. It is also a story of a bright Jewish girl's transition to adulthood, a maturing of intellect and sexuality and all the possibilities and challenges this brings. At times her diary is a catalogue of frustration and insecurity, but it is all-involving, a saga of peril and yearning written with exceptional emotional insight and cadences that, judging by the teenage blogs of today, we may have lost for good. But the romantic longing and crushes she experienced are timeless and universal, and anyone who has ever lost in love will sense their eyes swell with tears as she writes of Peter Schiff. Anne Frank's life and writing is not emblematic of the 6 million who died; it is far more powerful as a single voice. Since its first Dutch publication under the title The Secret Annexe in 1947, total sales have been estimated at more than 35m.

Anne Frank was born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main. She moved to Amsterdam with her family following the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, but became trapped by the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. She moved from a Montessori school to a Jewish one, and her life became a series of restrictions and limitations. In June 1942 she received a notebook for her 13th birthday, and her commonplace observations were usually accompanied by darker allusions. The preceding months had seen the Frank family dispose of much of their furniture and other possessions as her father planned the flight from their house to a number of rooms at the back of his office by a canal in the western quarter of the city. A move was set for 16 July, but circumstances forced a move 10 days earlier. Decoys were set: the house was made to look like it was vacated in an emergency; a note suggested their destination was Switzerland.
Anne shared her back rooms with seven others: her mother Edith, father Otto and sister Margot, a family friend named Fritz Pfeffer and the van Daan family (real name: van Pels), and much of her writing describes the jostling for position within their confined environment. She disguised the identity of the family who concealed them and brought them food and news of the outside world, and she addressed most of her diary entries to 'Dearest Kitty', a technique that prompted both a confessional style and the prospect of response. Despite her desire to become a published author, she intended her diary to remain private. But as the war progressed she began to realise the potential educational value of her writing, 

and she edited entries she judged to be too exposing.

At times her head is full of jealousy and self-doubt, but her mood is levelled by her memory of one boy. 'You mustn't think I am in love with Peter [van Daan], because I'm not... This morning I woke up just before seven and immediately remembered what I'd been dreaming about. I was sitting on a chair and across from me was Peter... Peter Schiff... the dream was so vivid... Peter's eyes suddenly met mine and I...#8239;stared for a long time into those velvety brown eyes. Then he said very softly: "If only I'd known I'd have come to you long ago." I turned away abruptly, overcome by emotion. And then I felt a soft, oh-so-cool and gentle cheek against mine, and it felt so good, so good.'
When she woke up she could still feel his cheek against hers, and his eyes 'staring deep into my heart'. She believed he knew how much she had loved him 'and how much I still do'.
She had a nickname for him, Petel. On 7 January 1944, she writes of being kissed by her father, and wishing it was Peter. 'All day long I've been repeating to myself, "Oh Petel, my darling, darling Petel ..."' Later in the entry she asks: 'Where can I find help? I simply have to go on living and praying to God that, if we ever get out of here, Peter's path will cross mine. Once, when Father and I were talking about sex, he said I was too young to understand that kind of desire. But I thought I did understand it, and now I'm sure I do. Nothing is as dear to me now as my darling Petel!'
As the months progress she wonders if Peter van Daan will serve as a suitable replacement for Peter Schiff, and her suspicious attitude towards him softens towards affection. But at the end of the diary we learn that he has disappointed her. Her last mention of Peter Schiff occurs at the end of April 1944, six weeks before her 15th birthday and three months before her house was raided by the German Security Police. She recalls her dream and the brushing of his cheek, and the intensity it aroused: 'I love Peter as I've never loved anyone.'
Before he moved to Amsterdam in 1939, Peter had another friend. Ernst 'Mic' Michaelis went to school with him in Berlin, and they saw each other whenever they could. Michaelis is now 81, and is a director of Pearson Panke, automotive and aerospace machinery suppliers in Mill Hill in north London. His recollections of Peter Schiff are as vivid as if he had written them in a diary. 'I always had a feeling of elation being with him,' he says. 'As a boy I liked making things, and I had simple woodworking tools and later a metal construction kit. We played with that together. I also had a very grand model railway layout, and we probably played with that as well. We were 11 or 12 years old. I was never bored in his company - I had always liked people who were full of odd ideas, and he was.'
Michaelis was born in Berlin in 1926, and he still speaks with a slight German accent. He remembers that Peter owned an expensive pen, perhaps the one in his pocket in the photograph, possibly bought for him by his mother's new partner (it is believed his father had separated from his mother before the war and moved to the United States). Michaelis also remembers the comfort he felt from being with his friend the day after Kristallnacht, the evening in November 1938 when Jewish homes, shops and synagogues were vandalised throughout Germany and thousands of Jews were escorted to the camps. 'I must have known him for at least a year and a half, possibly longer,' Michaelis remembers. 'He was an intelligent boy, and I think this must have been why he liked Anne - she had a lively mind. You get the impression from her mentions of him that it was all to do with appearance, but I'm sure she would have been bored with him if he'd been stupid.'

Michaelis and Schiff last saw each other in the summer of 1939. Michaelis came to England on the Kindertransport, going to school first in Sussex and then attending Bryanston School in Dorset. Schiff, accompanied by his mother, went to Amsterdam. But before the boys parted they exchanged photographs. Michaelis's picture was taken by a friend of his mother at his home, while Schiff's may have been taken at a professional studio. 'We did not know how else to say goodbye to each other - 12-year-old boys do not promise each other to write letters. We were at my home, but to be together as long as possible I walked with him to his home, about 25 minutes' walk.' Schiff wrote a note using his full name: 'In friendly remembrance of your friend Lutz Peter Schiff' and Michaelis pasted both note and photograph (which was standard passport-size) into an album. A few years later the photograph was transferred to a larger book, where it sat undisturbed alongside other photos and correspondence for several decades. When he first read Anne Frank's diary in the Fifties, Michaelis had suspected that the Peter Schiff in the book was the same boy he had once known. He imagined that Schiff had perished in a concentration camp, but he couldn't confirm this either. In the last few years, however, things have come into focus.
In 2000 he received a copy of Aktuell, a publication sent to refugees from Berlin scattered throughout the world. It carried a class photograph from Holdheim School taken in the spring of 1938, and with it a request for information regarding any of the 25 people pictured in it with their thick winter coats and sunny dispositions. Michaelis recognised it as his class: there he was, number 18, leaning to his left so we could get a good look at him. To his right in the same row, at number 10, was Peter Schiff. But Michaelis had more important things on his mind at the time: his wife Ann had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. He put the magazine to one side, and forgot about it.
In May 2005 his wife was told there was nothing more they could do for her. She said she would like to pay a final visit to Berlin, but this may have been as much for his benefit as for hers: she was born in London in 1939, and was not Jewish. They had visited the city not long after the wall came down, at a time when large parts of it still resembled a building site, and Ann said she wanted to see what had been built. They visited the Jewish Museum, and she bought a copy of Anne Frank's diary. 'At that time, because of her confused mind, she couldn't read novels, but she could still read biographies,' her husband says. She died four months after their visit.
Last summer, shortly before his two children had found him sheltered accommodation, Michaelis picked up Anne Frank's diary again and began to wonder. 'I realised that there were lots of pictures associated with her life, but no picture of Peter Schiff. That seemed very odd, as his [good] looks are at the heart of his story. I thought that people might be interested in my picture.' He contacted the man who had placed the class photo in Aktuell, and began a correspondence with several of his old classmates. Two remembered Peter Schiff well: 'He was a very likeable and friendly boy,' wrote Ursula Meyer (nee Totschek, number six in the photograph), who now lives in Maryland, 'and I think I had a bit of a crush on him.' Helga Burch (nee Walnau, number two), now residing in California, remembered that he was a 'delightful, funny, alert class clown, the spirit of the class. He once made Dr Gottschalk [the rabbi to the right of the picture] so angry that he hit him.'
When Michaelis searched the internet he found conflicting information, but his research did at least confirm Schiff's date of birth, and that he and Anne Frank shared the same friend.

Michaelis called the Anne Frank Trust in London: they said they didn't have a picture of Peter Schiff and knew very little about him. Then he wrote to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (the preserved building where she and her family hid - an educational centre that attracted more than 1m visitors last year), and staff confirmed that they didn't have a picture. They encouraged Michaelis to visit, and earlier this year he made the trip with his children and his grandchildren, and his photograph. 'They were very excited,' he says, and he agreed the photograph could be used for educational purposes and on the museum's busy website. They told him there are pictures of the school Peter attended in Amsterdam, and they might now be able to pick him out.
The photo will soon be on display on the Anne Frank House website, and perhaps at the House itself, but the story is not quite complete. We know of Anne Frank's fate - arrest and then deportation to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; she died of typhus in late February or early March 1945, only a few weeks before the camp was liberated. Of those in hiding with her only her father survived, and until his death in 1980 he dedicated his life to the protection and promotion of her diaries.
But the fate of Peter Schiff is less certain. He too must have spent many months in hiding, and upon capture it is believed he disobeyed orders to join an enforced labour unit in Amsterdam (the fate of his mother is unclear). Classified as a criminal, he was transported to the Westerbork transit camp near the Netherlands' northeastern border (the Frank family was also held there for a while), and from there to Bergen-Belsen and probably Auschwitz. The date of his death is unknown, although it is entered in the record books on 31 May 1945.
In place of Peter Schiff's final details we have something quite as valuable. Not just a photograph but also a love story, between a famous girl and a handsome boy, and an elderly man and his memories of a fractured childhood. 'We tried to make some very silly jokes,' Mic Michaelis says of the day he obtained his unique memento and said goodbye to a friend he would not see again. 'But instead of laughing, all we could do was to try not to cry.'