A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time in Old Milwaukee

during the Age of Big Hair and dorky clothing, there lived a Frog Prince who dressed oft-times in plaid bell-bottom trousers and paisley shirts. And the strangest thing was that this did not distinguish him from his peers. He lived in a building that had not already been condemned and with him lived six others. They communally shared expenses, cooking and clean-up, and other tasks, and new members of the commune bought stock in the refrigerator and dishwasher when they joined and received their money back minus a discount when they left. It was a capitalist commune.

In those days, phones were still dialed, music was extracted from a groove vibrated onto vinyl disks, and an exciting new technology was in the wings: the eight track tape. A company called Texas Instruments had recently invented a device that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide - and even take square roots. But not many people had these expensive little beasts.

The lava lamp existed.

The Beatles were crossing Abbey Road on their way to Penny Lane. John was barefoot. Did that mean he was dead? Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play,

Grass was not always the sort mowed in the yard.

The dining room table had atop it a huge flat featureless door originally hanging in a hospital, but which had made its way into the building by means unknown. By laying this door flat on the table, the circumference of the table was augmented so that all the communards could sit around it and... commune. The dining room walls had been painted by the communards of the previous year, and it is best not to enquire too closely into the resultant color scheme and layout.

Two of the communards were of the female persuasion, and bore the names Sally and D. Or perhaps it was Dee, though her full name was D'Arlyn, which made D the true nickletter and "darlin'" the forbidden sobriquet. These two women worked in an insurance office downtown and had a friend whom they brought to dinner one day. She sat at the vast table directly across from the Frog Prince, who noted that she possessed the Prettiest Smile on the Face of the Planet. This vision of loveliness was

The Incomparable Margie

There was a wee difficulty in that she was then currently dating a person known only as Old Rich Elliott. Nor had the Frog Prince been dateless hitherto. But such difficulties are trifles to those ensnared by cupid and matters proceeded.

The two of them made the rounds of what was then called The Milwaukee Circuit. This was a series of night clubs that were visited in sequence, so that the crowd always moved with you from place to place. One remembers The Stone Toad with its eponymous statue, Uncle Dirty, Crazy Horse. (Someone tried to open a bar called Uncle Crazy's Dirty Horse, but that was a horse of another color.) And of course, the bar called Someplace Else. This was the bar that immediately came to mind when a couple in the midst of the aforesaid Movable Feast said to one another, "let's go someplace else" and of course everyone wound up there.

There was also in those days, a masterpiece of fashion known as a bright yellow pants-suit, but of this one may speak only at one's peril.  

Conversation revealed that The Frog Prince and the Incomparable Marge shared at least two other friends in common, and so they decided that it had really been inevitable that they would one day meet. It was, as it were, Fate.

And time ran down. The Frog Prince wrote a master's thesis in which he proved two new theorems in general topology and secured a graduate assistantship in far off Colorado. The semester drew to a close. And one day the Incomparable Marge said, "Where is this thing going?"

There was only one place it could go.

And so the Frog Prince and the Incomparable Marge married, and her kiss transformed the Frog, well, not into a handsome Prince exactly; but that it was a transformation few could doubt. For better or worse, in sickness and in health.

The commune at 1227 N. 23rd St. cruised along for another year with new faces and old. After that the building was abandoned and fell into ruins that the Frog Prince would one day visit. And later still the building would be leveled leaving nothing but an empty lot. The communards drifted off to parts unknown. The Frog Prince went from topology to applied statistics and eventually turned his hand to writing whimsical tales of scientifical fiction. The Incomparable Marge left insurance for banking, where she became the Indispensable Marge. Nothing stayed the same.

Except one thing:

40 Years and Counting!


  1. Looks like the Frog Prince married above his station; congrats!

  2. Congratulations, and many more years.

  3. "Two new theorems in general topology"?

    I recall recognizing the term "h-closed" in one of the Singerlab stories.


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