Here & There
Or: Life as we know it
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Over the years, I have learned of earthquakes in many parts of the world, and I have thought: ‘Oh, those poor people.’
“Now it is different. An Italian village where my family has roots has been destroyed. It has suffered three earthquakes. The third earthquake toppled the buildings that were already damaged and cracked by the two earlier quakes.
“I listen to the phone calls and their translations, read the emails, and look at the photos taken by drones. I see the words terramoto, and sisma, and even though my Italian is limited, I know what they mean.
“Thank goodness Pretare had been evacuated after the second earthquake, so there was no one there. Those who had apartments in Rome and other cities had gone there. Some moved in with relatives. Others were put up by the Italian government in vacation apartments in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic Sea.
“I have watched videos of men in hard hats carefully bringing out statues and paintings and the broken crucifix from the church of Saint Rocco. I watched the sad face of the elderly priest who has been there for over a half-century.
“I have looked in disbelief at the photos of the once-beautiful four-story house which Giovanni and Letizia, my children’s grandparents, built in the 1930s. It has been managed by cousins as a B & B, but was always available to family members for vacations.
“I can picture the old stone bench where Zia Ida, who lived to be 101,would sit, in her dark dress and apron, and greet everyone who walked by. I think of the studio where cousin Filiberto worked on exacting restorations of old art works for museums and individuals.
“I remember walking to the home of Antonio and Angela many winter afternoons some years back, and enjoying roasted chestnuts and wine in front of the fire.
“All of my six children and 11 of the 12 grandchildren have been there. My two Colorado granddaughters even got to be flower girls in a wedding there, and enjoyed the procession, the huge outdoor meal with courses and courses, the fireworks, and dancing to the music of an energetic accordion player.
“I’m not sure when and how this little village will rise again, but I have hope that it will.”
How far back?
East Side Mo: “My warm and way-back memories have to do with a toddler’s views of World War II. Three are still very vivid.
“First: We were at home sitting on the living-room davenport (as it was called then). My mother was holding my older brother and me closely on either side of her. It was dark; the lights were out all around the house, and the shades were down. I wasn’t scared. I remember she said the word ‘blackouts.’
“The second scene was the closet in the back bedroom of our home on Albemarle Street; the door was closed. My brother and I were sitting on the floor when the closet door opened slowly. I looked up at my mother’s face looking down at mine — messy, I’m sure, with the bittersweet chocolate we had been eating. We had discovered the stash of the family’s precious supply of baking chocolate … and Mother had discovered us.
“The third scene was the St. Paul train depot. I was included in a small family group accompanying my aunt, who was to meet her husband, my uncle, finally coming home from his serving in Italy. The train cars stopped in front of us, and I looked up and saw many soldiers come off. My uncle wasn’t there.
“I just recently found out that he had arrived earlier and had gone to my grandparents’ home on Rice Street while we were on our way to the depot.”
Where were you when JFK was murdered?
Tom’s Wife of Arden Hills: “Willard B. Shapira asked what we were doing when JFK was shot [BB, 11/22/2016].
“I was a young girl working in the hosiery department at Field-Schlick in downtown St. Paul. Someone came through and told us that JFK had been shot.
“I will never forget the woman I was waiting on. Her response was: ‘It’s about time.’ I was shocked — and still am — by what she said.
“I have often wondered what she thought when she found out he had died, and what her thoughts were in the following days.”
Buttercup: “I was a sophomore in geometry class at Brookfield East High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Terry Jeffers, a boy I had a crush on, was standing at the blackboard explaining a theorem when the principal announced on the intercom that Kennedy had been shot. Mrs. Rosskopf, our teacher, told Terry he should sit down. The principal patched through the broadcast, and we listened while the announcer, possibly Walter Cronkite, announced that President Kennedy had died.
“Some of the girls began to cry. We were all very grim.
“When I got home from school, I found my mother sitting alone in the living room watching television — very unusual for her at that time of day. I expected she and my father would be happy about Kennedy’s death, because they were fervent Republicans and had hated the Kennedys, but they were as shocked and horrified as everyone else.
“I grew up a little that day and learned something about human nature and the complexity of human values and emotions.”
Cousin G in Wayzata: “On the soccer field at Blake School. One of those days that each generation finds locked in its memory. Like December 7, 1941, or September 11, 2001.”
Old Colonel: “I was a student at the St. John’s Preparatory school at St. John’s University and Abbey.
“Because we used the university’s athletic facilities, we always had a 2-1/2 hour break after lunch, and I had gone to play basketball. A friend of mine told me that someone had just shot Kennedy, I said something nasty to him, and as I walked back to our study hall, I walked by the only classroom with a TV, and the room was full! I found a seat and never left.
“I remember that day and the funeral very well — kind of amazing after 53 years!”
The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “The Monkey Lover spotted this on the window of a metro-area high school’s guidance office this past weekend. Oy.”
Lulu of Hudson, Wisconsin: “My first Baader-Meinhof?
“The answer to today’s ‘Jumble’ puzzle in the Pioneer Press is ‘Brownie points.’ The same words appear in the first panel of ‘Fred Basset’!”
BULLETIN BOARD RULES: Sorry to disappoint, ma’am … but unless you had never heard of “brownie points” till the day in question (a nearly unimaginable possibility), that is a Joy of Juxtaposition, not a Baader-Meinhof.
Perhaps it is time, once again, to restate the humble origins of the B-M Phenomenon, as articulated in Bulletin Board on October 16, 1994, by Gigetto on Lincoln: “Many years ago, I identified a phenomenon so startling and so broad in its application that it encompasses the current wonder surrounding the number 23, as well as many other forms of eerie coincidence.
“I have dubbed it The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon — named after the notorious West German gang of terrorists. The phenomenon goes like this: The first time you learn a new word, phrase or idea, you will see that word, phrase or idea again in print within 24 hours. (This does not apply to topical things — just obscure words, etc.)
“As you might guess, the phenomenon is named after an incident in which I was talking to a friend about the Baader-Meinhof gang (and this was many years after they were in the news). The next day, my friend phoned me and referred me to an article in that day’s newspaper in which the Baader-Meinhof gang was mentioned. Quel surpris! [Bulletin Board notes: You may recall that on two occasions, The Wordsmith of St. Paul reported seeing a word a second time within a day after first encountering it and looking it up — but he didn’t give the phenomenon a cute name.]
“Within my circle of friends, the expression ‘Baader-Meinhof’ is now well known — as in: ‘I had the greatest Baader-Meinhof yesterday.’ It instantly communicates this complex and puzzling experience of seeing something in print so soon after learning about it.
“There are many corollaries to the B-M Phenomenon, only one of which I will alert you to now. I call it The Comics Page Corollary: No matter what newspaper you read (provided it has a comics page), four or five times a year, two comics will appear on the same day with the same punch line. Again, to qualify, it cannot be topical; raking leaves, back-to-school antics, Halloween — these references are to be expected. But every once in a while, completely out of the blue, two comics share the same joke. For example: On the same day, ‘Mother Goose & Grimm’ and ‘Garfield’ dealt with dogs drinking out of toilets.
“You are welcome to start using Baader-Meinhof to explain the inexplicable. I do.”
Photography Division — and: It’s a small world…
Mounds View Swede reports: “We just had to go back to the U.P. in 2008 to try again, following pretty much the same roads we had done before [see BB, 11/14/2016 and BB, 11/16/2016].
“We arrived in the late afternoon, and the sun was behind us when we reached the Presque Isle River. We found that the color was not so advanced as the previous year, though the dates were almost identical. There was less rain in the fall of 2008, so more cascades were visible at the falls and I liked that effect.
“We returned the next morning to see how things looked in a different light. Downstream and with less water, there was no foam to form patterns in the pool of water. Instead I found a vivid, constantly moving display of light patterns on the river bottom.
“The challenge was to try to find an angle or perspective that would form some sort of composition.
“As I took these photos, I was remembering a photography class taught by Craig Blacklock and his wife, Nadine, around 1984 or ’85. It was held on the North Shore of Lake Superior, one of my favorite places to be. We were working along the Temperance River when Craig pointed to a shallow place along the river and said: ‘See what you can do with that.’ I did not understand what he was referring to. It was just a little water and gravelly bottom, so I took no photos.
“Now some 23 years later, I finally understood what he meant — it was the ripples and light patterns he was seeing!
“The next time we went back to the U.P., I showed these photos to my photographer friends and told them the Craig Blacklock story. We all knew him and remembered his wife and how nice she was, how skilled at photography, and how effective a teacher, too. She died in a car accident in 1998. I told them I should write to Craig and tell him about how we all remembered him and his wife and send him some of the photos showing that I finally understood the challenge he had given me.
“Three hours later, we pulled in to the parking lot at the Porcupine Mountains to take another look there … and saw Craig Blacklock returning to his car with his camera gear. I was able to stop and tell him and show him right then about finally understanding the challenge he gave me. I thought the ‘coincidence’ of remembering and repeating the story for my photo friends and then seeing Craig again such a short time later was pretty remarkable. (Another Joy of Juxtaposition?) I had not seen or talked to him since that photo class those many years before.
“Months later, I stopped at his photo store, and he showed me what was then one of his best-sellers: a photo of light patterns on the bottom of a shallow part of Lake Superior. He said that some of his more abstract work was more popular than the scenic views he is so noted for.”
Where Earth ends
D. Ziner: “There are road signs — and even an old faded T-shirt — that explain why those beautiful pictures of fall foliage in the Yooper are ‘out of this world.’
“I spent four college years up there and just realized why I don’t have any photographs of those hardwood forests in the fall. Color film and developing costs would have been one or two less tap beers with dry roasted peanuts and pickled hard-boiled eggs, so black-and-white images of immense amounts of snow on top of my black ’31 Chevy are all I have. Another reason is that those leaves lasted for a week or so, and the snow seemingly was forever.”
“I knew I had a can of WD-40! How could I have overlooked it?” (responsorial)
The Doryman of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Gift idea.
“When I saw Tim Torkildson‘s photo — ‘How to fill a garage — courtesy of my neighbor Duke’ [BB, 11/22/2016] — I immediately thought about what a great jigsaw puzzle it would make. There are companies that make them from photographs. Christmas IS coming … and I’m guessing Duke is hard to buy for.”
How far back?
Or: Life (and death) as we know it (responsorial)
Tuesday’s Bulletin Board included a note from Cindy Bindy of Woodbury writes: “One of my earliest memories came flooding over me as I was helping my mom prepare my dad’s clothes for donation after he died last spring. She had all of his clothes neatly laundered and hanging on a clothesline in the basement. As I sorted and bagged up his belongings, I came across my dad’s heather-gray woolen jacket with a black, knitted collar, which was, I’m sure, quite the bee’s knees when it was new in the early 1960s. I ran my hands over the rough fabric, and I remembered with a broken heart that the last time he wore it was at his final radiation treatment. He was so weak that he was unable to zip it himself. I wrapped my arms around that old, well-worn jacket, sobbing. He’d had that jacket for as long as I’ve been around.
“As I stood there, tears streaming down my face, I remembered quite clearly one Christmas when I was just a little girl. After all the excitement of the day, which consisted of opening presents, visiting both sides of the family, eating entirely too many sweets, and playing with my favorite cousins, I fell almost immediately to sleep for the short car ride home from Grandma’s house. I remember halfway waking up as my dad hauled me from the big old Buick to the house, the cold air stinging my face after the warmth of the car. I felt so safe and cared for in his big, strong arms as he carried me up the stairs to tuck me in, my 4-year-old cheek resting on his scratchy, gray woolen coat.
“I finished crying, took a deep breath, and washed my face. I managed to finish bundling up all of Dad’s things, and I dropped them off at the donation center. I brought everything except that 50-year-old, well-worn, gray woolen jacket. Perhaps it’ll make its way out of the basement another time. I just could not bring myself to part with it that day.”
We presently heard from Shoreview Fan: “To Cindy Bindy:
“Please don’t part with your dad’s scratchy wool coat. You can (or someone can) make it into a memory pillow for you. Check out Pinterest or Google for inspiration. Hugging that pillow won’t be the same as hugging your dad, but it could be the next best thing.”
And from Edgrr’s Mom: “Make mittens out of your father’s coat. Then you can keep it close to you.”
So … worse than, like, y’know, sort of tons of iconic … whatever
Helena Handbasket: “My linguistic gripe of the day is the overuse and misuse of ‘obviously.’ It has literally taken the place of ‘literally.’ Obviously, this REALLY bugs me. Whew, got that over with. Thanks.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: You are most welcome.
It is a little-known provision of the official Sports Professional Interview Training (SPIT) that every answer by every athlete, coach and manager to every question posed by every reporter must begin with “Obviously….”
Band Name of the Day: The Sophmores
Website of the Day: Encyclopedia of Life