Fishing Has No Boundaries provides empowerment and excitement for those otherwise deprived

At dawn Saturday, a celestial ceiling hovered over Lake Michigan and my three fishing companions at the Fishing Has No Boundaries event. From left: advocate Alex Classen, and two wheelchaired participants, Luis Classen (Alex’s uncle) and Darrin Malsack. Photos by Kevin Lynch, unless otherwise indicated. 

A celestial ceiling of clouds hovered over a radiant sunrise, as if heaven’s ethereal floor wasn’t too far aloft to reach. That slightly uncanny feeling lent my first indication this would be a special day. This luminous moment, pictured above, also blessed my three fishing companions, seen in silhouette, a few minutes before I even met them. So, I felt a quiet optimism even amid the slight chaos of the effort to get a variety of disabled participants, and their patrons (if they had one) matched up with boat captains and first mates.

The 501 3-C non-profit organization’s name, Fishing Has No Boundaries, * has both poetic resonance, for the most extravagantly intrepid of anglers, and a specific reference to enabling and empowering those who might not otherwise ever board a fishing boat, or handle a rod. It was founded in 1988 by a Hayward (WI) fishing guide after he broke his leg, and now has 18 mostly-Midwest regional chapters, but ranging from Colorado Springs to Cincinnati.

I’m fortunate that I still have fully able and mobile legs. A wayward flu shot and then a rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder on January 1, 2004, triggered an auto-immune attack which became a bilateral brachial plexitis. I ended up with a partially paralyzed left hand and, worse, severely chronic neuropathic pain in both arms and hands, ever since. I’ve become a one-handed typist as a professional writer. It’s been been my internal dwelling of living hell to this day.

I’ve tried gamely to not let the bilateral neuropathy limit me any more than it does. I got halfway through a PhD program in English at Marquette University, upon returning to Milwaukee from 20 years working at Madison’s The Capital Times, never telling anyone (wisely or not) of the MU administrative or faculty about my condition.

I use a medley of meds three times daily to manage the pain in my arms and, worst of all, in the left arm and atrophied hand. To this day, I’m literally dealt a losing hand on too many excruciating days which, with normal meds failing, leave me no other alternative but cannabis. (Though I hate to have to take it, the stuff is truly God’s gift!) 1

And in season, I strive to golf pretty much weekly (yeah, weakly) with three great high-school friends, John Kurzawa (a highly accomplished golfer), Frank Stemper and Ed Valent. The latter two go back with me to 4th grade, when my family moved to Shorewood and St. Robert’s grade school.

That brings me to my other great friend from St Robert’s, John Klett, who lived just half a block up from us on Beverly Road. John and I bonded strongly over mutual artistic inclinations (he would become a successful architect) and a passion for touch football, after my tackle football career was aborted by a serious broken leg in seventh grade. This was the intoxicating Lombardi era. So John’s younger brother Jim and a few other nearby neighborhood pals, including Bill “Tuna” Fliss, played in our street touch football matches, on Saturdays or Sunday mornings before Packer games.

John and I rekindled our friendship when I moved back to Milwaukee in 2009, and last year he invited me to participate in the Milwaukee chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries. The whole point of this excellent organization is to provide a genuine fishing experience for people who are variously disabled, and to promote awareness and enablement of such people.

I’m hardly the worst-off participant, especially on a day when my meds are working. And last year, John’s son Jonathan came along as my able-bodied advocate. I needed his assistance during one fairly challenging reeling of a feisty Coho salmon, given that I needed to crank the reel with my relatively recovered right hand, while holding a serious fishing rod with my atrophied left hand.

I’d been out fishing with John and his brothers previously, but since becoming disabled I never seriously handled a rod. I had always enjoyed fishing even though my first Lake Michigan outing, a charter trip, with Frank and Ed decades ago, basically left me retching (wretchedly) with seasickness.

I really gained greater an appreciation for this sterling organization in this, my second year, and for my friend John Klett’s steady-as-she-goes chairmanship of the Milwaukee chapter, which rides increasingly high tides of success. This year the local chapter raised enough money for the event to be held at the South Shore Yacht Club, an upgrade in location. and with a hot lunch afterwards.

Plus, among all the wonderful volunteers, all the boat captains and first mates, the organization has strong and able members of the Milwaukee Fire Department who specialize in waterfront protection. These hearty fellows literally transport wheel-chaired participants to and fro, dock to the fishing boat. This photo depicts this critical aspect of enablement.

Milwaukee Fire Department volunteers hoist FHNB participant Luis Classen from the boat into his wheelchair, after our outing. Luis’s advocate, his nephew Alex Classen, watches at far right, and Captain Rick Sasek follows, in the background at left.


So Captain Rick Sasek’s cabin cruiser, The Salmon Safari, headed out on a chilly overcast morning. My participant mates were two quadriplegic men, Darrin Malsack and Luis Classen who, of the two, has the more advanced condition, at a C-6 cervical level. So Luis’s advocate assistance by his nephew, Alex Classen, would prove crucial. Darrin was actually a veteran fisherman who recounted catching a 75-inch sailfish in Florida and waxed rhapsodic about someday building the ideal fishing boat for his kind, which would enable him to fish standing up. “You can’t fish sitting down,” he mused.

Well, you can. Such an actual moment revealed the poignant value of FHNB. Here, such challenged people can let their angler’s dreams begin to unfurl, and catch the wind. It was Luis’s turn to reel in a fish. A salmon began fighting at the end of the line. His nephew Alex leapt into the fray and gripped the rod two-handed as Luis gamely began cranking in the line. Both his hands are significantly atrophied (like my left one), so he had to alternate hands in the long reeling effort. But he did it — the feisty fish finally flopped into the boat.

This was a prelude to the outing’s true climax. This time, able-bodied young Alex had the rod, with its thousand foot line, when the fish hit. Captain Rick and his longtime first mate Gary Dusyzinski both cried out, knowing immediately this was a serious foe. Rick checked the reel meter, which indicated that the fish had already pulled the line out beyond 550 feet. At one point, the mighty creature breached into the air and, even from this distance, prompted “oohs” and “ahhs.” Rick took the rod to demonstrate a technique for an extended battle  — alternated reeling with walking backwards with the taut rod to mid-deck.

After a bit of this in-the-moment instruction, he handed the rod back to Alex, who got the technique down pretty quickly. Still, this remained a hearty match against a strong fish’s will and guile. For a few moments, we thought we’d lost him but the line kept bouncing taut again. I had never witnessed anything like this. I flashed on the term “Nantucket sleighride,” used by 19th-century whalers when they were pulled along by a running, harpooned whale. It took 25 minutes before the silver-and-gray flashing fish finally arrived within netting distance. He proved too big for the net and jumped out once. I was slightly agog as Rick finally hauled the netted fish up. It was a genuine, broad-chested king salmon that would measure 36 inches and weigh nearly 23 pounds, his mouth bristling with mature teeth.

“This is so rare, at this time of the year, to get one of these,” said Rick, beaming with gratitude and pride. We’d quickly caught a bunch of Coho, and such success has partly to do with a savvy captain’s reading of fish grouping patterns and a new high-tech dynamic graphics screen depicting the region directly below his vessel.  

Advocate Alex Classen poses with his 36-inch King Salmon, shortly after he reeled it in in after a long, tough fight. The Milwaukee skyline lies in the far horizon.

Rick had also attached to this line a “dipsy diver” bait mechanism, which drops to the greater depths where king (or Chinook) salmon dwell. 1

The captain was so excited that he decided to have us all pose with the sudden large haul, which the last hour or so had produced. He leaned so far back over the edge of the boat to get this photo angle that I yelled out “Man overboard!” Here’s the photo below, with the king  salmon in the middle. We actually caught two more Coho after this shot, and concluded our bountiful morning by snagging a large, gorgeously speckled lake trout.

Our Fishing Has No Boundaries crew poses with our partial catch of salmon including Alex’s king salmon in the center. From left: Alex Classen, Darrin Malsack, Luis Classen and Kevin Lynch (Kevernacular). Photo by Capt. Rick Sasek. 

The captain knowingly predicted that this king salmon would be the prize-winning catch of the day, which proved exactly correct.


Chairman John Klett made the announcement as we munched on freshly grilled hamburgers and giant hotdogs and big chocolate cookies.

FHNB Chairman John Klett presents the prize-winning captain’s trophy to Salmon Safari’s Rick Sasek (left) while young Alex Classen holds the top angler’s trophy after snagging the largest fish of the day.  

In retrospect, I felt some of the respect for the great and small creatures of the watery world, whom narrator Ishmael eloquently honors in Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick. So, my first meal of one of these freshly-caught creatures, grilled up that night, held an aspect of sacred ritual. I thought of the lovely spontaneous prayer that John’s wife, Mary Nold-Klett, had offered for the gathering after the outing’s lunch. This well-conceived and organized event truly empowers the body and hoists the spirit, embodied in the great, glistening fish itself.


  1. Unfortunately I missed the WI Cannabis Expo, which happened Saturday, concurrent to the fishing outing. (As a free-lance writer for a primary Expo sponsor, The Shepherd Express, I’d received a comp ticket). But properly taking care of the salmon catch (including offering a few fresh fillets to our neighbors) took precedent.
  2.  “Chinook” is a Native American term, the name of a tribe of the American Northwest and applied here to the species of large salmon originally caught in the northern Pacific Ocean, which can grow to as large as 100 pounds.


Happy new year to all CC readers in 2021, with a huge assist from Mike Neumeyer, one of my favorite musicians of the year

Culture Currents Holiday Greetings for 2022! First, a miscellany of memories of 2021, photo-essay style, of this blog’s year, and of friends, especially some dearly departed ones (Don’t worry, there’s a musical New Year’s pay-off below).

Your blogger refurbishes an old sculpture of his titled, “Tricycle Nightmare.” Photo by John Klett

CC’s Kevernacular out for some CC-style skiing, shot from Lincoln Park’s highest point, the windswept tee box of Hole No. 6.

Who can forget The Milwaukee Bucks making history by defeating the Miami Heat, the New Jersey Nets and the Phoenix Suns, to win their first NBA championship…in half a century? The crazed crowds at Fiserv’s Forum’s Deer District (above) played their part in the fever that stoked the team. 

Don’t forget, in 2020 the Bucks also began a brief strike that led all of professional sports in bringing attention to police violence against unarmed black people and systemic racism in America.

Successful businessman, publisher and business-success author Jack Covert, who passed in 2021, once had a slightly more unseemly identity, as owner of Dirty Jack’s Record Rack, a small mecca for Milwaukee music fans in the 1960s and ’70s. 

An NPR “American Masters” poll this fall posed the question “What work of art changed your life?” I could not answer with a simple response. One such transforming event was the exhibit of the late Arshile Gorky’s brilliant blend of surrealism and abstract expressionism, at the Guggenheim Museum, in the early 1980s. Above is Gorky’s “The Plow and the Song” from 1946.

Another life-changing work for me was seeing Picasso’s “Guernica,” though I never saw the whole painting, an odd circumstance described in my NRP poll post, regarding the epic anti-Fascist work(s).

The ultimate life-changing work for me — my first encounter with Melville’s “Moby-Dick” obtaining a copy of the 1930 edition, sumptuously illustrated with woodcuts by Rockwell Kent, including this magnificent rendition of the great white whale. 

I also honored a great friend, musician, and culture vulture, Jim Glynn (at right) on the anniversary of his death. Jim also served as the best man at my wedding in 1997 (above).

Some of my happiest reporting of the year was interviewing Kai Simone (above), the first-ever executive director of Milwaukee’s Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts. She signifies a fresh new direction, while extending the tradition of the venue’s namesake, The Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, whose heyday in the 1980s contributed greatly to the city’s community and culture.

Speaking of the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, my favorite single piece of art this year was in an exibit there. Jessica Schubkegel’s evocative and eloquent sculpture “Chrysallis” (above). made of medical textbook paper and wire, graced a group exhibit, ReBegin: New Works for New Beginnings, in response to the COVID epidemic.


Perhaps my most personally meaningful trip was a visit to Two Rivers, Wisconsin (above), on the shore of Lake Michigan, which included a fine nature-preserve walk and visiting the field where my father, Norm Lynch (with the ball, below) quarterbacked a great high school football team (three straight seasons undefeated) in the 1940s .

That Washington High football field in Two Rivers remains (below), but is now the domain of geese, who keep it well-fertilized with au natural “yard-markers.”


As COVID threats eased, for a while, Kevin and Ann finally dined out, at Tenuta’s Restaurant, in Bay View, a glorious meal gifted by Ann’s colleagues.


Another fine 2021 memory was of my old friend, composer/jazz pianist Frank Stemper (above), here receiving applause in Austria, where his new work, Symphony No. 4 “Protest,” was premiered. While in Europe, Frank and his spouse Nancy visited Omaha Beach, site of the D-Day landing of allied troops who turned the tide of WWII (below).


“Enter” by Marvin Hill 

Two linoleum-cut prints (above) by the late artist Marvin Hill, whom I memorialized in 2021 on the anniversary of his passing in 2003.


OK, so much for that little montage of 2021 moments for Kevernacular.

Your reasonably dedicated and unreasonably beleaguered blogger wants to pause at this late point in the day (into evening) to wish all of my Culture Currents readers from 2021, and times fore and aft, a very happy new year (!). If some of the year’s blogs “spoke to you” in any way, it goes to bolster my notion that, indeed, Vernaculars Speak!

I am deeply grateful for your interest in this sometimes waywardly-searching blog. Today I’ve been struggling to meet a deadline for The 14th annual International Critics Poll for El Intruso, a Spanish publication for people interested in creative and experimental music. That’s involved plenty of H-Hour auditioning of review CDs that I purchase or receive.

Believe me, it’s been very pleasurable labor, discovering, savoring — and having my mind slightly bent at times by — the new music that comes my way, as a veterans music and arts journalist.

Throat-clearing aside (no, I don’t have COVID!) I can think of no better way of musically wishing you all a happy new year by sharing two brief but delicious videos by one of my favorite Milwaukee musicians of 2021. I’m talking about vibraphonist and marimba player Mike Neumeyer.

He is one of the most irrepressibly vibrant (please pardon the pun, which simply popped out in my comparative state of mental fatigue) musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting (at a free-jazz workshop he led at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, in 2020, shortly before the pandemic struck), and of sharing time with, although ever since it’s been all virtual.

At least we humbly enjoyed ourselves on New Year’s Eve with a bottle of sparkling Proscutto rose, and some scrumptious curry and Nam Khao (deep-fried rice ball, cured pork sausages, peanuts, scallions, cilantro, shredded coconut) from Riverwest’s Sticky Rice Thai Carry Out, on Locust and Weil Streets. Yep, the foodie details are making me hungry too, so I better get to the felicitous point here. 1

I have extolled the talents and spirit of Mike Neumeyer several times this year in this blog (which are obtainable in a simple search with his name at  the top of the Culture Currents page, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed).

So I don’t have much energy for further glowing, or even moderately striking, praise for vibist Neumeyer, although I will point out that his positive energy is a great antidote to the stresses and strains of another year of enduring COVID, and much of the madness and travesty that passes for politics in America today. Mike is not above clowning it up a bit but, Lord knows, we need every scrap of comic relief we can get these days.

So, skipping further ado, I will simply direct you to his two versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” One version is short and sweet. The other, also brief, allows for a few grace notes of reflection and perhaps even resolution, for the listener.

Thanks again Mike, for a great year of music and memories  And keep up the (ahem)

good vibes. Two (maybe three) increasingly horrid “vibes” puns, and I’m out!

“Auld Lang Syne” played by Mike Neumeyer:


And now, to extend the holiday celebrate a tad more, sample a slightly slower draft of the grand old song, with a little aftertaste of the old year, now bygone forever, save memories:


Surprise! As an extra treat, especially for all you boys and girls who’ve been not too naughty this year, let’s rewind to the spirit of December 25th, and Mike’s rendering of one of the most timeless holiday songs ever born.


1 We also watched a wonderful film on video on New Year’s Eve. It’s the multi-Academy award-nominated The Father, starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, and written and directed by Florian Zeller. If you haven’t seen it, The Father is uncannily disarming and disorienting in evoking, for the viewer, the point of view of a family patriarch – played with dazzling power and poignance by Hopkins – whose mental powers and pride are rapidly dissembling amid Alzheimer’s.

In watching it, you might begin to doubt either the movie or yourself, but by the end, in reflection, it all makes brilliant sense, in the saddest and most moving of ways. The full-movie video follows immediately with insightful comments from the principals.

Here’s the trailer:




Wisconsinite Frank Stemper goes Euro on us with a new orchestral piece, “Protest.”


Composer-pianist Frank Stemper. Courtesy

Pound-it-out-piano player? Erstwhile composer? Slightly obsessive golfer with a chip shot on his shoulder? Whatever he is, Frank Stemper’s done gone Euro on us, proving his composer’s erst is a while around now, or ‘Round Midnight, or whatever time it is in Austria.

Best known recently in Milwaukee as a jazz pianist, most often with the brilliant bassist Hal Miller, Frank Stemper is actually a longtime composer of “legit” music, heavy on the quotation marks. That’s not because he’s not really a legit composer, as he’s highly honored in that realm. It’s because, since returning to his hometown, Stemper reclaimed jazz as his personal “classical” music, thus we look at his history in the “modern” Euro-classical tradition a tad more from the vernacular perspective.

But no doubt about it. When Beethoven hit his muse — like a musical linebacker crashing head-on — in the 1970s, Stemper was sent reeling, but soon steadied himself with a composer’s pen in hand. 1

Here’s the Beethoven bobble head Stemper received recently from your blogger for a milestone birthday. Look at that middle linebacker’s mug. Plus, Beethoven is one “middle linebacker” who, in his later years, never would’ve been drawn offside by an Aaron Rodgers “hard count,” as he was stone deaf! How he composed his late-career masterworks remains one of the miracles of the ages. Courtesy eBay 2

A Stemper friend since grade school, I wrote the poetry libretto for his doctoral dissertation work, for soprano and chamber orchestra, Seamaster, premiered in Milwaukee by Marlee Sabo and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra.

But Stemper has ventured oe’r rough seas to far reaches of orchestral tidal waves and islandic chamber work, since then. He spent several decades as professor of composition at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he first hooked up with bassist Miller, who spent a residency there, some years ago.

Stemper’s composing style, generally speaking, is post-Schoenberg expressionistic, often with almost compulsive modulations, and extreme dynamic ambushes.

He tries to harness sound, broken free from tonality, and flying. It’s usually bracing stuff and can be stimulating fun for those in the grappling mood. Among his most impressive works was a vividly-imagined piece called Secrets of War, written in response to the Illegitimate Iraq War, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

A cursory look at the score of Symphony Number 4 (Protest), shared by the composer, suggests, amid muscular scoring, plenty of space, or grace notes, with small chamber-like details and interplays. This may reflect Mahler’s influence, though his model (such as it may remain), The Second Viennese school, employed plenty of chamber-like moments in larger orchestral scores. Beethoven’s propulsive dynamics and tempi seem inherent to Stemper’s language. Characteristically he’s more concerned with ensemble players arriving at the end of phrases or passages in rhythmic unison, rather than on pitch, allowing for freedom and ambiguity of tonality. Swift sequences of tonally chromatic sharps and flats abound, and improvised moments are invited.

Similarly, bass clef passages seem to work more for dramatic effect, than tonal grounding. One extended passage of bass clarinet and clarinet tangling with each another amidst similar byplay from bass trombone and trombone promises quasi-comical (or dangerous?) effect. Ah, such squabbling occurs in social-movement protests, certainly on the left, and most certainly on live battle lines of opposing political camps, as I’ve personally witnessed.

(The program also included Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Smetana’s woozy, stirring and nationalistic Le Moldau, two pieces which faintly befit Stemper’s influences and American-oriented programmatics.)

Stemper’s oeuvre amounts to ultimately a personal, and original style of new music. sometimes delving into wit-leavened, honest sentiment, mined from his remarkable memory for historical details and contours. 

By the way, his scored piano music reveals jazz influences yet often super-charged in intensity or with harmonic density and piston-like rhythms akin to Dave Brubeck, but in concentrated samples. It’s powerfully realized in the latest recording of his music, Blue 13: The Complete Piano Music of Frank Stemper, by Junghwa Lee.

The new piece, an orchestral work titled “Protest” reviewed below, also shares some qualities with “Secrets,” i.e. extra-musical sounds, bumps-in-the-night, rattles, and vocal-isms from orchestra players.

Stemper had been coy about the programmatic aspects of “Protest,” having referred to it as simply “Symphony No. 4” to his golfing buddies, perhaps fearing it might not live up to explanations even to himself, before the piece was born in performance.

As a score, the 16-minute piece seems subversive of classical symphonic notions of sonata-allegro form, based on major-minor key interplay and traditional three-part, long form. But I’ve hardly studied it extensively. The score includes instructions for ensemble players to “whisper” even at the very end. This might conveniently obscure the possibility of distracted audience members doing same, by then. But I doubt you’ll find Stemper’s music boring, though perhaps provocative of instant comment. So it goes. 3

Slaughterhouse Five: Book Analysis | bulb

However, the piece hardly bombed. Stemper claims it received four or five curtain calls. Nevertheless, I was told by a semi-reliable concert witness to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (opening and closing it with convenient alacrity).

Before departing overseas, Stemper betrayed natural, if comical, anxiety about the trip, since he hadn’t had an orchestral piece premiered in quite some time. So I can’t wait to actually hear it, and/or protest it.

Stemper’s music has found happy homes (though perhaps as a “problem child”) in a number of European and other foreign orchestras, including previously with conductor Guntram Simma, who commissioned this work (with funding from the city of Dornbirn) and debuted it with the Collegium Instrumentale Dornbirn.

American composer Frank Stemper (right) confers with conductor Guntram Simma during rehearsal for Stemper’s Symphony No. 4 (Protest), in Dornbirn, Austria. Photo by Nancy Stemper.

For now, we have a substantially appreciative and not overly judgmental review, by a German critic. Stemper is pictured after the performance in the bottom photo of the review layout.

If this review page opens in a German text, a mouse right click should allow you a translation function:

p.s. Qualifiers aside, I really do like most Stemper music that I’ve heard over the years. I’m not sure whether it likes me as much.


1 The rough-and-tumble analogy to demanding modern music holds true in that pianist Stemper — a high school footballer and amateur rugby player — once badly injured one of his hands playing the “impossible” piano part of Schoenberg’s song cycle Pierrot Lunaire. Old Schoenberg clearly won that arm-wrestling match — from his grave.

2. However, I did not purchase the Beethoven bobble head from eBay, rather it came from Art Smart’s Dart Mart and Juggling Emporium, on Brady Street. in Milwaukee.

3. The Kurt Vonnegut reference above, to his famous philosophical phrase “So It goes,” from the novel Slaughterhouse Five is quoted in hopes that at least part of the implicit “protest” evoked in Stemper’s piece is anti-war, and especially meaningful for Europeans who still honor the allied D-Day invasion that turned WWII. After the performance, composer Stemper and his spouse Nancy visited Normandy Beach, France, site of D-Day in World War II. The visit to Omaha Beach prompted these reflections by composer Frank Stemper:

“I cannot imagine what it was like to be part of something so grotesque, and I am glad that I cannot imagine it.  And thankful.  I had to go there, I guess to thank those that had to do it. Nancy’s dad was in the Pacific building air fields on islands. The CBs.  My dad was in rural Georgia taking care of German POWs – he never made it to any war zone.  He was scheduled to go to serve as a shrink at the Nuremberg trials, but his points ran out and he was discharged…Gus (Valent) paid at (Guadalcanal)  

Anyway, it’s life.  It’s our flawed species…Link below to one of the many D-Day videos – although this is mostly just the old soldiers remembering.  
The bad news is that D-Day and war in Europe was the so-called “Conventional War,” by the rules – as absurd as that sounds.  But it does have some validity and meaning when compared to the war in the Pacific.  The Japanese didn’t know the rules, and, I’m afraid, that THAT part of WWII made D-Day look like a picnic.  Damnit.”

The Stempers also provided these photos, including of another artist’s work, honoring that occasion (footnote photos by Nancy Stemper, unless otherwise indicated):


Omaha Beach, Normandy. 

“Les Braves” Normandy beach memorial sculpture, to the fallen and the victorious, by Anilore Banon.