“How many cream-cheese wontons do you want?” said the mother to her son. Was 40 enough? Too many?

Keeping your ears open

Fevered Rabbit: “Subject: How many?

“We were enjoying supper at a local Chinese buffet restaurant. A mom was making up a plate for her son, who looked to be about 6 years old. She called across the tables to him:  ‘How many cream-cheese wontons do you want?’ she asked.


“‘Forty!’ was his reply.

“Mom was a bit put out. ‘I’m not giving you 40 wontons, so how many do you want?’

“‘One hundred!’ came the reply.

“The mom returned to the buffet table several times for more food, and each time brought more wontons for the boy to eat. Did he reach his desired 100? We will never know.”

Life as we know it
Outhouses, Back Houses and Port-a-Potties Division

The Hoot Owl of St. Paul: “After reading some of the recent ‘outhouse’ posts, we can’t resist sharing the story of the double-seater back house on a 180-acre farmstead in central Virginia many decades ago.

“We had ‘out buildings,’ but we called the place being discussed here lately the ‘back house.’ The 8- or 9-year-old visiting with the gathered clan of sisters and the grandmother was bored. So she followed her grandmother and the single aunt who lived there, leaving the other visiting sisters working on canning (or something like that) over the wood-stove range in the kitchen. After they began their gabfest in the two-seater, she had a brilliant idea: Why not turn the wooden knob and lock them in, then wait for them to try to get out and laugh when they began to holler!

“After a while, she got bored and went off to do other childish things.

“Finally, back in the kitchen with her mom and the sisters chatting away, she heard one of them say: ‘What’s happened to Florence and Mama? They’ve been gone a long time.’

“Oops! She had completely forgotten that trick she’d intended to play. She dashed out to the back house, turned the knob to open the door and ran like the dickens.

“Eventually she was caught, and it was decided that Grandma ought to participate in giving her a good spanking. That little 8- or 9-year-old will never forget the gentle love pats her grandma delivered onto her bottom that day.

“P.S. For wiping, there was the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward’s catalog. You ripped off a page or two to do the job. We hated having to use the slick color-photo pages, preferring the black-and-white central pages of sales and order blanks, if there were any left.”

“Boys” will be “boys”

Rusty of St. Paul reports: “Just back from our annual cross-country ski weekend with the ‘Boys,’ in northern Wisconsin. One of the guys is very, very forgetful. One year forgot his ski boots. Another year forgot his sleeping bag for our annual ‘Boys’ camping on an island boat trip.

“This year, he forgot his toothbrush, and I witnessed him using one of the host’s!

“Yesterday he wanted to take photos of us on the ski trail. “Shoot! I forgot my camera!’ Then searches for his cellphone. ‘Shoot, forgot my phone! Anyone got a phone so I can take pics?’

“Near the end of the ski, we stopped for a spell — and next thing we know, he is waving his hand with his phone in it. He had found it. ‘Look! I forgot that I didn’t forget my phone!'”

Everyone’s a (comic strip) critic
Or: Could be (much, much) verse! (responsorial)

Semi-Legend: “That Valentine’s Day poem recited by Walt Kelly’s Churchy LaFemme that Toothy Grin #6 of Minneapolis quoted from [BB, 2/6/2017] is titled ‘Whence That Wince,’ the title taken from the first line of the second verse. The musical version (music by Norman Monath) was recorded on the 1956 album ‘Songs of the Pogo.’ You can hear it here: http://www.whosampled.com/Walt-Kelly/Whence-That-Wince/.

“More about the album here: https://www.amazon.com/Songs-Pogo-Walt-Kelly/dp/B00008OM8O.”

Our pets, ourselves

Ardella P. of the Cerenity Marian Residence reports: “Echo gets a rest after a busy therapy-dog day.”


The Permanent Paternal Record

Gregory of the North: “These are observations made by my late father. He died a couple of years ago, just a few weeks shy of his 93d birthday. He said he was going to send you some of his sayings, but I suspect he never did. He intended to use the handle BIG AL, and his submission would have been made on a very old Underwood typewriter. (Although he had a computer and printer, he much preferred his old typewriter.)

“Anyway, here are some of the things he used to tell me on our trips to the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis:

“‘Life is like a roll of toilet paper; it starts out slow — and towards the end, it gets increasingly fast.’

“‘Life in funny. A bald baby wearing diapers is cute; a bald elder wearing diapers is pathetic.’

“‘How can someone be President who’s never been in the military? The President is the Commander-in-Chief; he’d BETTER know what it’s like to be scared ____less in a foxhole.’

“‘”Getting lucky” has very different meanings from your 20s to your 90s. At my age, “getting lucky” is waking up in the morning.’

“‘As long as you’re on the green side of the grass, anything’s possible.’

“‘All you really need in life is a good woman, a good home, a good job and the Good Book.’”

Then & Now
Or: The highfalutin pleasures & displeasures

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I was thrilled back in the ’80s when we bought our Commodore 64 and set it up next to our TV set. The track-feed printer was bulky and didn’t do much for the decor in our living room, but who cared? We had a home computer!

“In the ’90s, we ditched the Commodore and bought a computer installed with Windows 3.1; with six minutes paid online time per month, I could keep in touch with our Aussie grandkids. I was satisfied. For a while.

“The track feed had to go, so we bought a nice printer.

“Gee, a scanner would be nice.

“The desk area was getting crowded with a printer and a scanner, so we bought a combo scanner and printer.

“In the past 20 years, I have upgraded to Windows 95, followed by Windows 98. I was contented with both of them, and then along came my favorite: Windows XP. Seven trouble-free years — until this past year, when I have watched the computer die a long, agonizing death, taking dear old XP with it.

“I had time to save most of the data, so I figured I could handle Windows 10 in spite of its reputation. The big touch screen is nice. Gaining all that storage space where the big bulky CPU tower stood is a real plus, but so far it doesn’t measure up to XP. Just as soon as Windows 10 quits being a stubborn blankety-blank and accepts my email provider, I will try to be its friend. Until then, the jury is out and I will have to retreat to my iPad for communication.

“Sent from my iPad”

Clowning around

Another circus memoir from Tim Torkildson: “The day I made Verne Langdon cry was toward the end of my term at the Ringling Clown College. I had been struggling with the makeup class Verne taught. He was a knowledgeable and dedicated makeup artist who inspired my fellow classmates to create stunning yet breezy clown faces.

“My attempts at clown makeup were, by comparison, grotesque — not to say frightening. My efforts at applying greasepaint looked like finger-painting. When I tried a hobo makeup, I looked like a refugee from a coal scuttle. My auguste makeup showed the consequences of a childhood spent coloring outside the lines. And when I spread on the classic whiteface, I gave a pretty good impression of Bela Lugosi in ‘Dracula Versus Eczema.’

“Verne, who created the makeup for the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ and who lived in a house in Beverly Hills that was an exact replica of the Seven Dwarfs’ cottage in Disney’s ‘Snow White,’ was very patient and long-suffering with my fumbling fingers as he tried to guide me toward a clown makeup that would not scare off too many circus patrons. But even he had his limits.

“On the day of which I speak, I decided that I wanted to pay homage to Oliver Hardy by emulating his curl bangs and toothbrush mustache in whiteface. The resulting facial carnage was ghastly. Rather than remove the abomination quickly and start over, I decided to brazen it out — powdering my face to set the makeup until Langdon came down to my end of a long row of picnic tables. We were located under the south bleachers of the winter quarters’ rehearsal barn, which opened to the outside with some folding doors to give us maximum use of the natural sunlight.

“When he saw my face, he gasped and sat down. Cupping his face in his hands, he groaned: ‘Ye gods and little fishes, what has Torkildson wrought now?’ When he looked up, his face a mask of pain, there were rivulets of moisture trickling down his tanned and robust cheeks. Vern was considered an artist of note by Hollywood. His obituary ran to five pages in Fangoria Magazine. Some of his work is on display at several museums throughout the world. Yet in me, an obscure dunce from the icy, lefse-haunted wilderness of Minnesota, he had met his match.

“After that episode, he left me to my own devices. I finally decided that a simple whiteface makeup suited me best, and it was nearly impossible to screw up as long as I kept it very simple. So after I slathered on the Stein’s Clown White, I penciled my eyebrows black, put a red dot on my nose, and colored my lower lip red. That was it. It was more mime than Ringling, but Langdon could look at it without shuddering.

“Came the big night of our graduation show, when the rehearsal barn was filled with circus management and most of the inhabitants of Venice, Florida, to watch us strut our stuff. This one-time performance of old clown routines and a few new wrinkles thought up by the bolder students would determine who got a contract with Ringling and who was just given a handshake and sent on their way to eke out a drab existence somewhere else.

“I was nervous that evening as I applied my makeup. Keep it simple, Tork, I kept telling myself. But some evil imp got into me as I put the finishing touches on my face. I decided that a demure teardrop under my right eye would set things off rather nicely. I dipped my brush in the small saucer of lampblack by my side and began tracing. But my unsteady hand betrayed me; the intended shape became an irregular blob; the more I tried to fix it, the more unmanageable it became — until it began to look like a birthmark, not a teardrop.

“There was no time to clean it off and start over; the show started in five minutes. I did my best to smooth out the shape until it looked something like the black eye people wore in Tareyton cigarette commercials. Thinking I had really blown it, I trooped out with the rest of the students for the opening number . . . and found my clown trademark. It was unique; it was attention-getting; and it didn’t scare children. Irvin Feld said he liked the little black eye when he handed me my one-year contract to sign. And Verne Langdon forgave me, saying at the after-show party: ‘You pulled it off, Torkildson! Now for god’s sake, stop trying to improvise and stick with that face.’

“Which I did for the next 30 years.”

There oughtta be a law!

So says Poet X of PDX (perhaps after watching the Super Bowl — or at least the Super Bowl commercials): “Subject: Song appropriation.

“It’s bad enough they are using familiar songs as background music for some commercials, but there ought to be a law against cutting a few bars here or there so that the song ends on the commercial’s conveniently timed closing.”

Band Name of the Day: Borrowed Toothbrush

Website of the Day: “Us Tareyton Smokers Would Rather Fight Than Switch”

BULLETIN BOARD REMEMBERS: We were a kid then. Our parents weren’t upset that cigarettes were being marketed to their children. They were dismayed by the commercials’ ungrammaticality! “Us Tareyton Smokers,” indeed. Snort!

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