An Outlook

Item #1:  Back in 1997, when the Internet was still relatively young, I conducted my first search for references to “Grutzmacher” and, among the results, I discovered a site from a woman in Amsterdam whose personal page prominently featured a photograph of her beloved pet “Dzungarian dwarfhamster” named (you guessed it) “Grutzmacher.” So I emailed the woman to discover how this unfortunate turn of events came to pass and received a most unlikely response.

It seems that the woman in question, along with her husband, own an old warehouse overlooking one of the canals in Amsterdam. The remodeled warehouse serves as both living quarters and studio for the duo:  she is a graphic artist and Web site designer, and he is a professional photographer. During one of her own explorations on the Internet she discovered several of my columns and, struck by my deft prose, by my erudite observations, and the sharpness of my wit, she decided to name her newly obtained, and very dear, hamster in my honor.

Okay, this is not true (except for the part about my writing aptitude). The real story is as follows:

The husband was under contract several years ago with a ceramics artist in the Netherlands. He photographed the artist’s work, which she then used in self-promotion pieces. The artist in question achieved a fair amount of fame and was awarded a major showing at a prestigious gallery in downtown Amsterdam. This gallery took the husband’s photographs and used them to create an invitation and a catalog, which violated the husband’s copyright.

The husband respectfully submitted a bill to the gallery owner for the use of the photographs, which the gallery owner refused to pay. The husband, left with no recourse, took the gallery, and the gallery owner, to court. As the woman with the hamster phrased it, “We won the case, but were very stressed during those days. To relief [sic] some of the stress, I decided to name my hamster” after the gallery owner and, of course, the gallery owner’s last name was Grutzmacher!

The woman goes on to note that she comes from a family of cellists, so she was familiar with the name Grutzmacher from etudes (“I studied the Grutzmacher etudes myself”). She further notes that she “met a guy named Grutzmacher in England through the Web. He must be family of you, as he was as curious as you are.”

To the best of my knowledge I am not directly related to either the gallery owner or the gentleman from England. I have my suspicions, however, that the gallery owner is related to Bill Grutzmacher, from Chicago’s south side, who ran for mayor of that city on a perennial basis and whose positions (thankfully) appealed to virtually no one among the voting populace.

The sad news from Amsterdam was that, at the time I contacted the woman, Grutzmacher the hamster was dead (“of very old age”). I take solace in knowing that somewhere he has joined my own hamster, Mike Mulligan, who delighted me when I was something like 5 or 6 years of age.

My Grammy Irene (my father’s mother) was terrified of my hamster and during one of her visits Mulligan, according to my parents, miraculously “escaped” (as they were fond of saying on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.”).

Whether Mulligan escaped or not, he is certainly long dead by now, but I can imagine Mulligan and Grutzmacher in hamster heaven spending eternity together swapping lies and telling tall tales of Grutzmachers they have or have not known.


Item #2:  Thinking back 12 years reminded me of one of my favorite Andrew-isms. Andrew, of course, is my boy and back when he was 3 and 3/4 years of age he caught me off guard with one of his revelations. One of the most difficult concepts for children is time. Back then, if I tried to tell Andrew that his cousin Erin Bergen was coming to play in the afternoon, for example, he would turn around and ask me if she was coming in 5 minutes. When I tried to clarify things by explaining that Erin will come over after lunch, Andrew immediately wanted to eat lunch.

Andrew had particular trouble grasping the idea of today and tomorrow (or so I thought) and one instance provided a good example of his struggle.

One morning, as I was loading the two of us into the car, Andrew suddenly paused and asked, “Daddy, is today today?”

I liked that phrase so I responded, “Yes, Andrew. Today is today.”

Well, now we move ahead to the next morning. The situation is the same – I am loading the two of us into the car – and Andrew pauses to ask, “Where you working today, Daddy?”

“I’m going to the bookstore,” I respond. “Then I am going to do some errands and then I am going back to the bookstore.”

“Where I going?”

“You’re going to day care today,” I answer. “And tomorrow, you get to stay home and play. Momma [Barb] will be home and I don’t have to work until nighttime, so we can all play.”

Andrew pauses a moment to absorb all of this and then asks, “Daddy, is this tomorrow?”

“No, Andrew,” I respond, and then, thinking that I will be clever, I say, “Today is today.”

Andrew looks at me, then drops his chin and slowly shakes his head saying, “Oh no, not again.”