Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The last words ...

Every so often a writer with a great sense of humor grabs the attention of the media.  Sadly, Walter's 15 minutes of fame came at the very end, with a self-penned obituary.  From yesterday's Delaware Cape Gazette:

Walter George Bruhl Jr., DuPont Co. retiree

Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker.

He drifted off this mortal coil Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Punta Gorda, Fla. His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.

Walter George Bruhl, Jr.
He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink. He is also survived by his son Walter III and wife Melissa; daughters Carly and Paige, and son Martin and wife Debra; son Sam and daughter Kalla. Walt loved and enjoyed his grandkids.

Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935; a spinal disc in 1974; a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988; and his prostate on March 27, 2000.

He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., April 20,1933 at 10:38 p.m., and weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, four ounces, and was 22 inches long, to Blanche Buckman Bruhl and Walter George Bruhl.

He drifted through the Philadelphia Public School System from 1937 through 1951, graduating, to his mother’s great relief, from John Bartram High School in June 1951.

Walter was a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, having served from October 1951 to September 1954, with overseas duty in Japan from June 1953 till August 1954. He attained the rank of sergeant. He chose this path because of Hollywood propaganda, to which he succumbed as a child during World War II, and his cousin Ella, who joined the corps in 1943.

He served an electronics apprenticeship at the Philadelphia Naval Yard from 1956-61; operated Atlantic Automotive Service Stations in Wilmington during 1961-62; and was employed by the late great DuPont Co. from 1962-93. (Very few people who knew him would say he worked for DuPont, and he always claimed he had only been been hired to fill a position.)

He started at the Chestnut Run Site as a flunky in the weave area of the Textile Fibers Department, and then was promoted to research assistant, where he stayed from 1963-72. In 1972 he accepted a position as an equipment service representative with the Photo Products Department at the old DuPont Airport site (now Barley Mill Plaza).

In 1973 he was promoted to manufacturing engineering technologist and was employed in that capacity until, after 31 years with The Co., he was given a fine anniversary dinner and a token gift and then "downsized" in December 1993. He was rehired as a contract employee in June 1994, doing the same job that he had been "downsized" from, and stayed until July 1995.

He started his own contract business and worked at Litho Tech Ltd. from 1996-99.

There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors. 

Cremation will take place at the family's convenience, and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around. What’s a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week.

Everyone who remembers him is asked to celebrate Walt’s life in their own way; raising a glass of their favorite drink in his memory would be quite appropriate.

Instead of flowers, Walt would hope that you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for some poor unfortunate soul in his name.

A memorial luncheon in Walt’s honor will be held Saturday, March 15, at 1 p.m., at Deerfield, Newark.

Walter sounds like a great guy and my act of kindness in his name will involve a favorite drink this evening.

Now to get started on my own story.

Monday, March 10, 2014

When I grow up ...

It was during a recent trip to the grocery store that I began thinking sincerely about the sort of old person I hope to become.  “Old person”—what exactly is that anyway?  Driving into the store’s parking lot, I noticed a lady that I presumed to be in her mid-70s or older parking her car near the store’s entrance.  Though she was a very attractive, white-haired, impeccably dressed woman, what really caught my eye was her ride.

And it wasn’t just me that noticed.  A young couple stopped to chat with her as she got out of the car, gesturing as the three of them admired the car’s “makeup.”  They'd disappeared inside the store by the time I found a parking spot and I made a mental note to look for the car’s owner while I went about my shopping.

I never did find the lady car's owner but you gotta love her attitude.  She’s connecting with people in a way that we rarely connect these days, and she's making a statement, one that will only bring happiness to everyone she meets, making a frozen Wisconsin day seem a little bit warmer.  

I hope we cross paths again.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

February Best Picture Hustle, Part 2

Getting around to posting to the second part of this blog has been harder than I expected, for a variety of reasons, but we do have more to share from the  Rogers' February Best Picture Challenge. As I write this, it is 85 degrees and my head is not exactly on movies. Add unreliable internet service and ... well, how can I complain? Did I mention it is 85 degrees?

It is, however, not good to publish a "part one" and then not publish "part two", so here goes!

GRAVITY is a movie I would not have seen, were it not for our February challenge. I had doubts that George Clooney and Sandra Bullock could be believable as astronauts, and the promise of never-before-seen special effects is not the kind of thing I'm drawn to.

Missing Gravity - especially the 3D version - would have been a mistake. For most of the film's 90 minutes I felt as I were floating in space with Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Of course I've never been in space and don't know what it feels like, but the aforementioned special effects were unlike anything I've experienced before and I was ducking for cover (spoiler alert) as pieces of an exploded space station took aim. The whole story was more than a little far-fetched, but by the time I came to that realization I was in space with Dr. Stone and my "reality" had changed.

The best part about our best picture challenge is that many times we discover terrific movies we never would have seen. Gravity is one of them. Make sure you see it. On the big screen. In 3D.

PHILOMENA, on the other hand, is the sort of movie the MMD* would term a "chick flick", just my kind of movie.

It's the true story of a woman's search for her son, a son who was taken from her in a time when young women having children without being married was considered a scandal. A now older woman who has buried a husband, Philomena (Judy Densch) is haunted by the past and the son taken from her long ago. She meets journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who also wrote the screenplay) and not-so-gently persuades him to write about and aid with the search. It's funny, heartbreaking, surprising and tender. Much, much more than a chick flick.

In many years a movie like Philomena would win the Oscar for best picture. It's that good. This year, because so many outstanding films are nominated, I don't think it will. 

12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on yet another true story, that of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. At first outraged and determined to prove his free status, Northup is beaten into submission and the next 12 years are a depiction of unspeakable violence, unexpected acts of kindness, survival and the pursuit of understanding in the pre-Civil War era. We see the good in conflicted slave owners, the evil of others, and the tortured paths of slaves who must do the unthinkable to preserve their own lives. 

As many have written, it is very difficult to watch. Ejiofor's performance is astonishing and I join those who believe this film should be part of the American high school curriculum. It may not be a lock for the best picture Oscar but it is most definitely worthy.
THE WOLF OF WALL ST.  What can I say? I didn't want to like this movie and the first 45 minutes were hard to sit through. The portrayal of 1980s excess, greed and corruption - not to mention the record-setting use of the F-word - is tough to take for this Wisconsin girl brought up with better manners. But as the three-hour true story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) unfolds, the audacity of it all was truly something to behold. And DiCaprio, well, he's my pick for best actor based on what I will call the "Lemmon Quaalude" scene. Unbelievable stuff. If only it weren't true.

HER. Sadly, the MMD and I made a strategic error, selecting Philomena over Her a couple of weeks ago. When we finally had a night to see Her it was gone from our theaters and Philomena was still hanging around. Strategy is part of our game and this year we blew it. So it goes. If you saw Her, please post your thoughts in the comments below. I definitely want to see it when we return to the Frozen Tundra.

Tonight there is an Oscar party at a crazy little Mexican bistro down the beach just a few hundred yards. Can't decide if we'll walk that red carpet or choose room service, but I will be hoping Nebraska pulls off the best picture upset. My gut tells me the winner will be 12 Years a Slave. What do you think? Please post your comments below!

Wish you were here ...

* Man of My Dreams

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine for Inglewood Place

What a trip it was watching all the Facebook "look back" videos this past couple of weeks, reminiscing about all of life's events that we share online. Nostalgia seems to be taking up more and more space in my brain—did you see the Beatles tribute on TV? Amazing, right? As we age, there is inevitably lots to look back on.

Today the Rogers family is saying goodbye to a home where so many memories were made. We close on the sale of our old house in Appleton, and though we love the "dream home" in Neenah that we built two years ago, saying goodbye to Inglewood Place brings with it a flood of emotion.

"Inglewood Place" Artist: Nancy Newcomb, Lake Geneva, Wis.

It was the home where, in 2000, the MMD* and his two beautiful daughters moved, and it was where they were living when I met them in 2002. (His home decor and housekeeping skills remain part of the attraction.) Four years later, we celebrated our marriage with family and friends on the backyard deck, and that same space hosted high school graduation parties in 2008 and 2009. In between, countless gaggles of squealing girls ruled the house and the neighborhood and soon young men joined the chaos. Inglewood Place was where we spent summer holidays on lawn chairs with the neighbors, lighting fireworks, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, and sitting around the fire pit drinking beer and swapping stories. (They truly are the best neighbors ever!) Inglewood Place was where we said goodbye to our beloved "Mac-the-Amazing-Wonder-Dog", it was Yogi's new home as a 10-week-old pup, and it was where the MMD loved me and was my rock through surgery, chemo and radiation.

Lately, I've cursed Inglewood Place more than a few times as we've battled the snow and ice, shovels in hand, with the sad realization that no one's living there.

For all of us, for Inglewood Place and our family, it's time to move on, time to look forward, time for a new family to meet those terrific neighbors, to plan their own parties and to begin making their own memories in a home that we still love.

I'm told it's just a building; wood, vinyl, cement, plaster, shingles. It doesn't have a heart or soul, and I'm not supposed to care about buildings. But I do.

*Shorthand for "Man of My Dreams"

Happy Valentine’s Day

Reminds me of a Beatles song ...

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living

In my life I loved them all

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem'ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February Best Picture Hustle, Part 1

A decade ago, the man of my dreams (MMD) and I decided to fill the gap between the Super Bowl and Spring Training with a different kind of sport—a mad dash to see each of the movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar®. With only five nominees in the early years, the game was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend four weeks worth of cold, snowy Wisconsin weekends. Since 2009, as many as 10 films have been nominated, and it’s now a race that begins in mid-January, as soon the nominations are announced, or whenever the Packers have been eliminated from the playoffs.
So the Mr. & Mrs. Rogers sprint to see this year’s nine nominees is well underway. And in 2014 I’m adding a quick, personal take on each film, in hopes of attracting you and others to our game.
These are all really good movies and missing even one would be a shame.

AMERICAN HUSTLE takes us into a world of con-men, crooked politics, the mob, and, though it’s fiction, the late 70s story of an FBI sting operation that became known as ABSCAM. It’s hilarious with heart, and we’re pretty much mesmerized by Irving and Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence) a small-time con-man and his unbalanced wife, not to mention Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Irving’s sexy partner in crime, and lowly FBI Agent Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper) who will do whatever it takes—anything— to make a big-time bust.

The actors in American Hustle are unforgettable and the story so ridiculous that those of us who lived through the late 70s and early 80s will surely cringe at the truth.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a ripped-from-the-headlines true story of a U.S. cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. You may remember the story of the Maersk Alabama and of Richard Phillips who was lauded as a hero for saving the crew and his ship. The movie brings to life the gripping details and survival truths that were glossed over or ignored by journalists: the pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who had little choice but to capture and ransom the ship and its crew or face brutal warlords demanding allegiance in exchange for their lives, an unarmed Maersk crew at the mercy of international maritime protocols which underestimated the risks posed by the pirates, and the military rescuers with orders to sacrifice Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), the crew and the ship if the pirates succeed in bringing their captives to Somalia.

It’s a thrilling, breath-holding collision that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. (It’s available on DVD and Time Warner’s Movies On Demand.)

DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB is another true story that takes us back to 1985 when the AIDS epidemic was relatively new in the U.S., a time when there was no hope of surviving an AIDS diagnosis. Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), a fast-living, bull-riding Texan, is in disbelief when he learns he has contracted the virus and has only 30 days to live. Woodruff’s transformation—both emotional and physical—takes him first to Mexico in search of experimental treatments not available in the U.S., then to a scheme to become rich selling the unapproved treatments to other desperate AIDS patients back home, and ultimately to a courtroom where he fights for the right to use any treatment available—approved or not—when certain death is the alternative.

McConaughey’s memorable performance leaves no trace of the superficial “Sexiest Man Alive” tag, and Jared Leto’s turn as the captivating transgender activist Rayon is as compelling, pure and important a portrayal as I’ve seen.

NEBRASKA is a movie about which people may disagree. The story is set entirely in rural America between Billings, Montana, and Lincoln, Nebraska, and I'm betting that people from our urban American coastlines may not appreciate Nebraska (the movie, not the state) as I did. I flat-out loved it.

It’s the simple story of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an elderly Montanan who is determined to get himself to Lincoln where he will collect on a million-dollar sweepstakes payout that he is told he has won. Along the 700 mile journey we meet Woody's wife, his sons and other family members and friends with idiosyncrasies that are oddly familiar (if you’re from the Midwest.) The small towns, the Main Streets, the cars and bars will all resonate, too, in this elegantly told story.

Of these first four movies, Nebraska is my favorite. Many will disagree with that selection, and that’s more than OK with me.  There isn’t a single movie here that wasn’t worth twice the price of admission.

There’s still time to see most of the nine nominees on the big screen—many theaters are bringing them back because they are nominated—and having seen them makes the Oscar night telecast a new sport unto itself. How many of the awards can we accurately predict?

You don't agree? Leave your own review in the comments section below and stay tuned for part 2: Gravity, Philomena, Her, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What have we become?

Watching yesterday's events in Boston broadcast on television, my very first thought was "we’ve seen this before." The scene on Boylston Street was akin to newsreel footage from war zones—images from Israel, Iraq, from Africa, from Afghanistan—innocents mutilated by violent explosions, shattered friends and family members crying out in despair, and brave strangers running toward a horrific scene offering what little they have to the broken human spirits ripped from the lives they had known just moments before.

Twenty-four hours after the Boston blasts there are no answers to the questions we're all asking: Why did this happen to us, why now, and who on earth has the mad capacity to plan and carry out this depraved act of terror?

In the absence of answers, a new question has been stuck in my head since George Stephanopoulos' special report interrupted an ordinary, peaceful Monday afternoon: What have we become that this war zone has visited our backyard; that the images of blood splashed on the sidewalk and of the shocked, desperate victims belongs to us? And if it can happen in Boston, why not at Green Bay's Bellin Run or at Appleton's Flag Day Parade?

Have we become just like them?

By them, I mean the people living in the towns, cities and countries across the globe where this sort of thing happens with enough regularity that it seems almost "routine." Where military men and women patrol airports, convention centers, hotels, sidewalks and beaches bearing the types of guns that are branded legitimately as assault rifles. Where lunch with friends at a street side café might end with the blast of a suicide bomber that sends diners to the pavement and bloody chaos. Or where a pickup baseball game is called when the players lose—forget about the game—their limbs or their young lives to an improvised explosive devise on the playing field. Where a trip to the post office brings not electric bills, catalogs and junk mail, but shards of junk that isn’t mail at all, delivered with explosive, unimaginable force toward the unsuspecting recipient of an ordinary-looking package.

There have been too many terrible violent acts in the United States—mass shootings in schools and in movie theaters and shopping malls—brought by deranged, sick individuals. Until yesterday, those horrific "situations" were problems I thought to be our collective obligation to solve—something along the lines of a failed mental health system that we must fix, or a culture obsessed with guns and violence that we can change.

The atrocities in Oklahoma City and on 9-11 were so enormous and difficult to comprehend that I managed to isolate myself from their true impact, believing that my representatives in government had the responsibility to protect me, and all of you, from future terrorist acts against the United States. None of this would be easy, I figured, but it seemed reasonable to me that solutions were possible and that, in time, we would find our path back to sanity and civility.

I’m not sure anymore. We live in a violent world.

Maybe we’ve been like them all along and, until yesterday, I failed to see it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

There’s no place like home …

I saw this photo on my Facebook news feed a few days ago.
It’s a picture of Rob Carivou, a friend and former colleague of mine, looking a little like Dorothy just before she closed her eyes and clicked her heels with the words “there’s no place like home.”

Rob and members of the Leadership Green Bay class of 2013 were tasked with developing a community service project; a project they hope will directly improve the lives of Green Bay residents now and for years to come.

The project? Green Bay’s first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event set for April 20.

“Homelessness, poverty, abuse, neglect … there are so many issues plaguing our community,” he said.  “Our group was drawn to Golden House, which is a member of the Brown County Community Coordinated Response (CCR) Team.”

Golden House has a long history of providing a home, support and healing for victims of domestic violence and, as part of the CCR, the agency collaborates with others to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a licensed walk happening in communities across the country, does just that—raise awareness. And it gets the community talking about subjects that can be difficult to talk about: gender relations and sexual violence.

The walk will begin at the Green Bay CityDeck at 10 a.m., April 20, and asks men to walk one mile in women’s high-heels.

“The idea resonated very strongly for me personally because my wife and I have a 22-month old son and we're expecting a daughter any day now—I don’t want either of my children to ever become a victim of such senseless acts of violence,” Carivou said. (Since our conversation, Rob, his wife and son welcomed their healthy, happy daughter to the world.) 

A bright red “Natalie” pump with a “super high heel” will be Carivou’s shoe.  Men wanting to join the walk needn’t fret if they can't find heels that fit—150 pairs will be available for loan, all sized for a man’s foot.  (After the walk the shoes will be cleaned and stored for use in future years.)

Women and families are also able to join the walk (women are encouraged to wear their comfortable shoes) and trophies will be awarded for the largest team, most team spirit and the participant collecting the most pledges.  For more information about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes – Green Bay, visit the walk’s website or “like” this page on Facebook.  If you aren't able to participate, you can help spread the word about the walk by sharing this post with your Facebook friends and family.

For most of us, there’s no place like home.  We owe it to our community to make sure homes are safe and comfortable places for everyone.  Thanks to Rob and Leadership Green Bay for bringing Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to Green Bay.