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Behind The Scenes At backwoods Home Magazine

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Archive for March, 2009

Dave Duffy

A birthday and a death among friends

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Franz Shindler and me

Happiness and sadness are never very far apart it seems. My lifelong friends (BHM Senior Editor John Silveira, BHM Food Editor Richard (Butch) Blunt, and BHM Webmaster Oliver Del Signore) and I had gathered at Oliver’s house in Boston to celebrate my 65th birthday. The party barely started when I got a call from Oregon informing me that my good friend, Franz Shindler, had died. The news caught me by surprise, even though Franz had been failing for a couple of years and was battling lymph and skin cancer in his leg. I had to take a long walk and have a private cry before I could tell anyone.

Franz lived on a remote part of the Rogue River above the Bradford Creek tributary in a rustic home he built himself. It was the third home on the site. The first, a cabin, got washed away in the 1964 flood. Then Franz built a home in 1978 but it blew down in a storm before he finished. The present one, which Franz built a couple of years later, was meant to stay. It’s 3 stories, rustic, and reminds me and my family of a wooden castle out of Disneyland with its marvelous wood floors, walls, and ceilings, its creek rushing under a bridge you needed to cross to get in the front door, and the gardens he had terraced into the hillsides above him.

I last saw Franz two months ago after travelling in my boat the several miles upriver necessary to reach his home. I brought his postal mail to him from his son Bo, who lives in town. He said he felt fine despite the cancer and would not do chemotherapy. He was 82 years old and didn’t think it made sense. He said his doctor agreed. He said I should come back soon and spend the night so we can talk, but I never did due to my own brief flu-like illness and then deadline for the magazine. I intended to go up after this Boston trip.

Franz and I had, on occasion, spent half the night in his kitchen having a few shots of whiskey and talking about politics, life, and fishing. He knew more than me about most subjects, and I felt I learned from him. He was a retired longshoreman, a gunsmith and collector, a machinist, and he could tie a killer fishing fly. He was an all around good man, although he admits he drank too much during most of his life. God loves a man who can admit his faults.

We had a great birthday party when I returned to the house. John made both a lamb curry and a seafood curry. Oliver broke out bottles of his excellent Nashoba Valley semi-sweet red, blueberry, and plum wines. John’s sister, Joan, made a cake, and two store-bought pies rounded out the desserts. Everything was delicious. There’s nothing like lifelong friends to help you celebrate your 65th birthday. I’ve known Butch since I was 13, and John and Oliver since I was 20.

Clowning around -- From left are Ollie, Butch, John, and me.

Franz would have enjoyed the fun. His attitude about his own death in the midst of a party would probably be something like: Face your troubles and sadness, deal with them, then get on with having fun in life.

Dave Duffy

The first television in my neighborhood, and visiting with some patriot ancestors

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

My father, Walter Duffy, owned the first television in my old South Boston neighborhood, and this trip to Boston I retrieved that 6.5-inch-screen TV. My earliest memories of it are from about age 7 when many of the neighborhood men would gather at our apartment in Old Harbor Village Project to watch the Wednesday night fights. The grownups drank beer and cheered pretty much like I did the other night when the Celtics beat the Clippers at the Garden. My father was an electronics tinkerer so it was only natural he got the first TV in our poor Irish neighborhood. What a treat for the neighborhood men back then.

I’ve been having a great time in Boston, even though the hotel pool has the wrong chemical mix so my skin is about as red as the lobster I ate at Legal Seafoods today. My back muscles are tightening up too so I spend about an hour a day stretching so I can walk around and see the sites. Lots of inspiring history here about courageous and determined citizens who risked everything to win their freedom from a tyrannical government.

Following are some photos I’ve taken.

Granary Burying Ground. Patriots like Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere are buried here, as well as the five victims gunned down by British troops in the Boston Massacre.

Paul Revere's humble grave is freshened up by some spontaneous offerings.

The Old State House housed the Colonial government before the Revolution. In 1768, legislators locked themselves inside to prevent the royal governor from dissolving the assembly. In 1770, British troops killed five right about where my family is standing in what came to be known as the Boston Massacre as they fired into a crowd, igniting colonists with revolutionary fervor. In 1776, from the balcony, the Declaration of Independence was read to a cheering crowd.

Jake holds Dad's 6.5-inch-screen TV next to Oliver Del Signore's 50-inch TV.

My immediate ancestors came from Ireland. My brother Hugh and I pose next to an Irish memorial to the one million Irish who died in the famine of 1847. First our father's parents immigrated to America, then our mother immigrated to America shortly after the turn of the century.

Dave Duffy

Eating steamers in Boston

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Merlot and a bucket of steamers go well together in Boston.

Deadline for Issue No. 117 is over and I’m in Boston with my family on a vacation/business trip. John Silveira flew in a few days before us. My brother and BHM attorney, Hugh Duffy, will fly up from Maryland Tuesday for a glass of wine with me at Legal Seafoods. Richard (Butch) Blunt will drive up from Connecticut Thursday. BHM’s webmaster, Oliver Del Signore, lives here.

We’ll discuss the upcoming BHM digital issue, among other things. But first John and my family will go to a Celtics game tomorrow night. Having grown up in Boston myself, I’ve always been a big Celtics’ fan.

As cities go, I like Boston. They have great steamed clams and lobster

Dave Duffy

Working away on deadline

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Dave and Annie edit articles for Issue No. 117.

Annie and I have been working away on deadline for Issue No. 117 — the May/June 2009 issue. We put in a looooooong weekend. We had fallen behind because first Annie’s kids were sick, then Annie was sick. The issue is looking strong, and we’ll go an extra 16-page signature, bumping the issue up to 116 pages. We’ve put together a special 17-page long section on “making a living” in a small town. Very powerful section.

We're discussing the 17-page "making a living" section at the white board.


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