Richard and Rose Get Spooney

She looks as if she likes him, doesn't she? He looks as if he ought to be twirling his mustache.

circa 1903

The family tradition is that Rose (who was known as Nana by the time I met her) was a hard-livin' pistol. Richard died at age 48, and she had three more husbands after him, and lived to be 78. In her old age she had become autocratic and intimidating. Well; maybe she was entitled.

The second and third photos were probably taken on the banks of the Mississippi River or the Missouri River. Mirtschings always liked being on the water. Richard belonged to a rowing club, and my grandparents Charles and Anna had a small boat and spent most of their leisure and vacation time on the river, and camping and picnicking on the banks. Leonard, of course, grew up and joined the Navy; but he never did much care for the ocean. A river is a homier kind of thing.


Choo Choo Papa

Here is our great-great grandfather.

Here he is with his first wife, Anna Laupoid Mirtsching (holding a dog, which I dearly wish were more than half in the picture), and his younger son, Richard Max Mirtsching. Yikes! That sad smirk on Anna's face is very familiar -- I see it in the mirror all the time. 

circa 1905

This is Choo Choo Papa's older son, Charles W. Mirtsching. I don't know if he had any other children.

circa 1880

The family nickname derived from the fact that Choo Choo Papa was an early adopter of the automobile. Here he is with Charles Henry Mirtsching (fifty years later to become known as Paw Paw), Anna Laupoid, and Rose Fuchs Mirtsching, Richard's wife. Richard and Rose were Paw Paw's parents, and our great grandparents. (Richard might have been taking the picture.)

circa 1905

Okay, so who was the wise guy who glued the labels on the photos? Which cannot be removed and believe me, I've tried? And who also glued these photos, with their horrible little labels, to a poster-sized piece of cardboard, along with about twenty others, using criminal amounts of glue?

Or put it another way. Who was the linear-thinking, methodical individual who documented these details and grouped these photographs for our benefit? 

It was Leonard, of course, bless his heart.


Cowboys and Indians

The cowboy -- or girl, or whatever -- got to wear the cowbody hat and holster and pistols, and the Indian had to wrap a towel around his head. Since I was five and Kurt was four, you know how that turned out. Though he doesn't seem to mind. He has always been a sweetheart.

September 1962

Leonard & Padi Get Married

Leonard and Padi were married on September 16, 1955, in Washington, Missouri. They are the cutest!

Leonard, Padi and the Garter

Marian and Frances Drennen, Padi's sister and mother

Anna and Carol Mirtsching, Leonard's mother and sister

Charles and Anna Mirtsching, Leonard's parents, and
Frances and Tom Drennen, Padi's parents

Carol, Leonard, Padi, Marian, and Padi's brother Tommy

Rich Wiedemann, Leonard's cousin and life-long best friend,
 Leonard, Padi, and Joan McSalley, a close family friend

Leonard and Padi and rice

Leonard and Padi and champagne

Leonard and Padi and the getaway ride

(Or, if they're your parents, Eww!)


Anna Rides in Paw Paw's Sweater

This sweater was a very dark green and the collar, cuffs and wrists are bright orange. The whole sweater weighed about 25 lbs. It was given to me by my grandfather, Charles Mirtsching. He received that sweater from a girl friend who made it for him to wear under his leather jacket that he wore while riding motorcycles in St. Louis, Mo in the 20s. The story goes that Charles Lindburgh also rode with him and his friends because the clubs were all based out of Lambert Field in St. Louis. Paw Paw gave me that sweater because I was now riding motorcyles - the first of which was a 1950 800cc BMW followed by a 1970 500cc Triumph Trophy. I believe that in this photo I'm on my friend Lindy Fralin's BSA. I am about 20 yrs old - ca. 1980, Arlington, Virginia. Living in Key West, Florida 28 years later, I now ride a little bright green scooter. Ahhh - the years go by. Anna


Maw Maw & Leonard Pose with the Radio

Looks like the Mirtschings got them a new radio! And not a moment too soon, since Martians would invade Earth just a week later.

October 23, 1938

"Ach, Collie, not now. I'm reading the paper."
"It'll only take a second. Just get down in front of it. There, now pretend like you're changing the station. Now look at me and smile. Smile, Anna!"
"Just take the picture, Collie."

Leonard & Padi Go to the Marine Corps Ball

The Marine Corps Ball, my parents always said, was better than the Navy Ball. For one thing, the highest level of formal dress was required. Which meant Padi could go all out. She made her own gown every year.

November 10, 1962

Also, Chesty Puller, every Marine's hero, would sometimes show. According to Padi, "He was a character. He was short, but he held himself like a giant -- he gave you that impression. For the Ball, he'd wear his glass eye with the Marine Corps emblem on it, which made it kind of distracting to talk to him."

November 10, 1973

Holy cow, get a load of Padi's eyebrows. Eh -- it was the style then. 

Padi usually sold her gowns after the ball, but before this one went, I wore it as the queen in a high school production of Rumplestiltskin. Its bodice was purple, so I wore purple and white as the peasant girl who gets Rumplestiltskin to spin her straw into gold for her -- leotard and tights, peasant skirt, and clogs. This, without the nipples, would have been the general effect.

from "Make It with Mademoiselle," copyright 1971


Play, Interrupted


Kurt: What?

Anna: Mine!

Susan: Come ooooon, take the picture.

All Hail the Old Timer

"We bring you offerings of excessively stylish surfboards, O Ripped One. Teach us thy ways, that we may not grow pudgy with age, but be even as you are. Amen."


Leonard on the Open Sea

A few months after I was born, my father went on a cruise of the west Pacific on the USS Helena. Here he is, a spanky ensign, with the watch.

August 19, 1957

This photo is an enlargement of another that Leonard took of himself. On the back of the original, along with the usual date stamp, is his note: "Self timer on bridge -- sat camera on writing desk & let it click away -- I was actually on watch at the time."

He apparently sent the photo (and probably others) home to his father, who made the enlargement you see above. On the back of this photo, my grandfather wrote:
With the enlarger all the up, & the 2"in focal lenght lens on for enlarging .35 mm negatives, I made this blow up. Just to see what the grain would do, not bad at all, held a few feet away it looks real good. Ask your ships photographer to give you his comments. outside of a few dust spots.

"And No Man Could Head Me"


The Ambassadors of Agamemnon

This is from the first calendar I made, on the occasion of my friend John's 50th birthday. I turned 50 that year, too. One of the things you find out when you get old is that you've had your friends for a long time. And by then, they more or less think the same things are hilarious that you do.

"The Ambassadors of Agamemnon Visiting Achilles," by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1801

Leonard Plays the Trumpet

October 1958

Here we are, Maw Maw, me, and Leonard sitting on the floor -- something Mirtschings don't normally do. Leonard's all, Let's see if I can toot this horn like I did in high school, and gramma's all, Is that baby warm enough?, and I'm all, What?

Dig the barkcloth curtains! A little bit of Hawaii in St. Louis, Missouri.

Gay, Schmay

Leonard the Sailor Man

October 23, 1953


Anna Mirtsching and Leonard

This picture is unusual among the photographs that Leonard's father took, in that there's no date or location written on the back. He always dated photos with a rubber stamp -- a blessing to us, hundreds of years later.

circa 1938

Though most assuredly not the artistic type, my grandfather Charles (Paw Paw to us grandkids, Collie to friends and family) was a talented amateur photographer. What he might have lacked in talent, anyway, he made up in volume. My brother and sister and I have zillions of photographs he took from the twenties onward -- and a right large number he inherited, from earlier than that.

My grandmother Anna (aka Maw Maw) looks pretty severe in almost every photograph of her that I've ever seen. In fact she didn't like to be photographed, but my grandfather made her pose all the time anyway.

Note Anna's chic shoes and her marcelled hairdo. Also the boxer printed on the front of Leonard's shirt. (Click image to enlarge it.) He looks goofy, but he was only six or so, and probably didn't know or care.


The Happy Family

And what tragedy will befall them, do you think? Maybe it already has; maybe the mommy died and that's her ghost in the doorway. Maybe when she's not calling spectrally from the darkness of the house, she's pushing up those daisies.

I'll say this, the dog looks forlorn, and the cat is freaked. Animals know when something ain't right.

Karl's Calendar Cover

My BFF Karl has has been getting old lately. To keep him going for another year, I made a calendar for his birthday in 2008. This is the cover and the first couple of pages.

No worries, it gets snarkier as the year goes on.

Leonard & Captain Wiviott

This was taken in the Philippines. We were a Navy family; my father was I think a lieutenant at the time.

"I am tall, strong, young! Look at puny old man here! Ha ha! 'Boss'!"

Padi Goes Camping

We traveled a lot when I was a kid. My parents hardly ever stayed in hotels or ate in restaurants. When you're young and money is tight, camping's an ideal way to travel. And clearly it's not incompatible with rocking the hairdo.

Here's my mother in June of 1957. I was four months old. Judging from all the dead soldiers on the table, I was probably in the tent sleeping off a cola drunk.

Uova alla Bela Rosin

This is the dish that Rosa Vercellana di Moncalvo used to prepare for King Vittorio Emanuele II in his hunting lodge on his plantation at Fontanafredda. She was first his mistress, causing a great scandal, and later his wife.

This recipe is from my friend John. You could call it King's Komfort Food. If all that mayonnaise and eggs freaks you out, I don't want to hear about it. Nothing eaten in moderation will hurt you, ya big baby.

For Eight People
  • Hard boil six eggs
  • Peel and halve them
  • Remove the yolks
  • Place the halves hole side up on plate
  • Make runny mayonnaise with two eggs and pour over the egg halves
  • Use a vegetable mill or grater to grate the yolks over the eggs so the yellow falls like a rain of mimosa blooms on the mayonnaise
  • Let stand for 30 minutes (not in fridge)
  • Serve with a spoon
Do not be afraid to make mayonnaise. It is extremely easy, and is a completely different article from what comes in a jar. 
  • One egg
  • 1 cup peanut or safflower oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Put the egg in a blender or food processor. Mix on high for a moment to blend the yolk and the white. With the blender still on high, begin to add the oil, a tiny dribble at a time, waiting a few seconds between dribbles. (This takes a little while. No whining.)

When you have incorporated about half the oil, add the salt and lemon juice. Continue adding the oil -- you can start now to add it a little faster -- and stop the blender occasionally to see how thick you're getting. When it's thick enough, or all the oil has been added, you're done.

To make runny mayonnaise for the eggs in the style of the beautiful Rosina, follow the recipe but use a bowl and a whisk. Unless you're a pro or have a particularly strong arm, you won't be able to get that stuff more than runny even if you try.

The mayonnaise will last three or four days, covered tightly, in the refrigerator. 

Buon appetito!

Fire in the Streets

Last week at the bus stop I put a cigarette butt in a city trashcan, and when I looked over, it was ON FIRE! It was metal and there wasn't much to burn so it wasn't like a danger, or anything. But cops came with a fire extinguisher, and then eventually a FIRE ENGINE came, and I just sat there, waiting for the bus and acting like I had no idea. Because I was embarrassed. Ha ha ha! I could have told them I did it, they probably wouldn't have arrested me or anything.

I took this photo at my bus stop last summer. I used my Stealth Camera (Canon Powershot pulled just above edge of purse while pretending to rummage for bus card).