Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A letter I mailed to 13 of my cousins

September 1, 2009

At the burial service for Senator Ted Kennedy, several of his grandchildren took turns speaking about their grandfather. I want to share what one of his grandchildren said with you:
"But what I will miss the most are the times I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and would go to the front porch where my Grandpa would be sitting with Splash [his dog] and gazing out to sea. It would be just us on the porch for a while and we talked and talked, and I would get a feeling that the world was just right. It was me and him sitting on his porch watching a new day unfold."
I found these sentences moving and poignant. We could substitute a few words and say, "Where Grandpa would be sitting with his cup of coffee and gazing out into yard." Or "Where Grandma would be sitting with her cup of coffee and waiting for her babysitting kids to arrive." You get the picture.

I broke down in tears when I heard this reflection because it is so true. We all have many memories of Grandma and Grandpa, and many of them involve activities (fishing, baking cookies, going to Roy Lake, playing whist, etc.). Those activities were so much fun and were very memorable, but what I miss most of all is just being with Grandma and Grandpa and having a conversation with them. They would call it visiting. Oh, how I would love the opportunity to visit with them again.

I miss them every day, and am sure that you do, too. I miss all of the wisdom, kindness, and love that they shared with us. What a gift Grandma and Grandpa were to us. What a gift they continue to be for us.

Your cousin,

I'd rather irritated that only one of the 13 acknowledged receiving my letter, which I went via US Mail, not email. Oh well.

Popular names 2008 compared to 1973

The Social Security Administration tracks the popularity of names. You can see the most popular names from 2008 and, by way of comparison, from 1973, the year I was born.

For 2008 I like all the boy names except Alexander and Anthony. On the girls side, they all seem pretty decent except I can't stand Madison. Why is that name so popular? It's the surname of the fourth president of the United States and the capital city of Wisconsin - not the first name of a girl. To my thinking, Madison just isn't a girl's name, but I guess I'd better get used to it since there are lots of girls named Madison.

I can tell that I'm getting older because I generally prefer the 1973 names to the 2008 ones. Before seeing the 1973 list, I predicted that Jennifer and Amy would be at the top since there were always tons of Jennys and Amys in my classes from kindergarten through college. In college, If I couldn't remember a girl's name, I'd always guess Jennifer or Amy, and oftentimes, I'd be right.
Steven was #20 in 1973. In my lifetime, Steven peaked at #18 and 1975, and has been declining in popularity ever since. For 2008 it ranks #104 after being #46 in 1998. You can look this up at the Social Security popular baby names site.

More Travis Rettenmaier

A few more photos of Travis Rettenmaier.

Travis Rettenmaier

Seeing these hot photos of doubled specialist Travis Rettenmaier makes me even more excited to be heading to New York for the US Open on Wednesday. Man, is Travis hot! I want to pull those white tennis shorts off and run my hands over his hot, ripped, hairy chest.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Three weeks ago, I made nine CDs and sent them to Paul, my college roommate who has lived in Alaska since we graduated from college in 1995. Today Paul emailed me that he had them in a rental car on a recent trip and they were stolen. Wah-wah. So now my iMac will get all irritated that I have to re-burn those nine discs.

Paul and I met the first day of college when he sat in front of me in Spanish 001. He was wearing a Morrissey t-shirt with the photograph from the cover of the "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" single. I knew right away that we'd hit it off given his great taste in music. So much of the music from those days brings me back to fun times with Paul.

The list of bands we both love is a long one, but ones that come to the top of my head include Morrissey, The Smiths, Electronic, New Order, The Ocean Blue, The Trash Can Sinatras, The Judybats, Pet Shop Boys, 10,000 Maniacs, The Church, Riverside, Material Issue, and School of Fish. Well, the list could go on and on.

Mr. Benfield

During this back to school time, I found myself thinking about my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Benfield. I uncovered this letter to the editor that I wrote about Mr. Benfield back in 1995. Reading the letter 14 years later, the parable part at the end is a bit heavy-handed, but the rest holds up pretty well. I wonder of Mr. Benfield is still living. I hope so. He played an important part in my life.

November 10, 1995

Teacher Stories
Herald Times Reporter
902 Franklin Street
Manitowoc, Wisconsin 54220

Dear Sir/Madam:

When I read the call for stories about outstanding teachers, I immediately thought of Mr. Kenneth Benfield. I was privileged to be a student in Mr. Benfield's sixth grade class during the 1984-1985 school year. While that experience is now more than ten years old, the lessons I learned from Mr. Benfield at Andrew Jackson School have had a tremendous impact on my life.

Mr. Benfield had earned a reputation as an ardent disciplinarian, and his students quickly discovered that he lived up to that reputation. Soon after beginning the sixth grade, our class came to understand that Mr. Benfield expected much from us. Assignments were to be completed on time, and there were no excuses for late or incomplete work. This came as a shock to many of us, since up until this time we had not been held accountable for our work. If your assignment was not completed on time, you had to write for Mr. Benfield. This writing was referred to as "sides." Mr. Benfield would say, "Give me five sides on how your assignment should be finished on time." In addition, late or missing work resulted in the loss of recess privileges. For 11 and 12 year-olds, not being able to join our friends at recess was generally motivation to reform our ways. I remember that when he would correct spelling tests, Mr. Benfield often used a magnifying glass to determine whether or not a student's writing was off the line. In short, Mr. Benfield demanded excellence in all things. Anything less was not satisfactory.

Mr. Benfield believed in personal responsibility. If you made a mistake, you had to face the consequences of your mistake, and hopefully learn something from the experience. He was always fair - he never had "pets" and he did not single out anyone unless he or she deserved it. For this, all of us respected him. He also possessed a wonderful sense of humor, and at the appropriate times, we had a great deal of fun.

So much of Mr. Benfield's teaching translates to life
outside the sixth grade:

If excellence is expected, excellence can be achieved.

There are consequences for all your actions that you must be responsible for.

Live your life with a sense of values.

You will have to work hard to attain success in life.

You must be dedicated to your work.

Life is not always easy, but with perseverance you will find fulfillment.

While being instructed about sentence structure and how to multiply and divide fractions, I was learning something more important - how to live a meaningful and value-filled life.

There is a parable where one person builds a house without a foundation and another digs deep, lays a foundation on rock, and then builds her house on this foundation. Mr. Benfield helped his students to dig deep foundations, so that the structure we later built could be sturdy enough to last a lifetime. The lessons I learned from Mr. Benfield are the rock, the foundation on which I have built my life. I am proud to say that I was Mr. Benfield's student, and I hope he knows that becuase of him, I am a better person.

Steven F.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Runner's World September 2009 cover

Here's the latest Runner's World cover. I features 27 year-old John Kenney, who is from Connecticut but now lives in Los Angeles. From the looks of it, he's in the category of "trying to make it as an actor in LA." I have to give him credit, though, because he's one hell of a good runner, clocking a time of 3 hours, 5 minutes at the 2009 Boston Marathon. That's top notch. Once again, I wonder why Runner's World and/or John made the decision that his chest had to be shaved. It's clear that John would have some hot chest hair if he let it grow. Stay away from the razor, John! Nevertheless, John Kenney is one hot runner.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Paula Abdul

Yes, she’s crazy. Yes, she’s on something (or multiple things). But she’s good crazy, and I love her. The show will not be the same without her. Nate, Lesley, Sara, and I predicted a year ago when they brought the evil and stupid Kara DioGuardi on the show that Paula was doomed. I’m sad.