Life as we know it
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin, writes: “Nearly a lifetime ago, I became the prisoner of a wonderful tradition.
“As a young man, I made a big fuss over a Valentine gift of chocolate-covered cherries, which I find cloyingly sweet and quite often sold well after their ‘freshness date.’ I don’t remember my exact words, but ‘favorite’ mixed with others must have sown my faux affection for them deep into the teen-aged neighbor girl’s heart.
“The lie was cast. She thus presented them to me on most occasions over our next few years together.
“As it turns out, the two daughters of that first sweetheart continue to honor their father with the same confections of affection these 55 years later.
“So if, the next time you see a box of chocolate-covered cherries, you wonder who on earth still buys them, just smile and think of springtime, sweethearts and the blessings of everlasting love.”
A thought for today
Including: Could be verse!
Mounds View Swede: “I made a print of this for my wife and on the card wrote: ‘Roses are red and sometimes light pink. This one’a a beauty, don’t you think?’
“Wishing all the readers a Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Or: Like son, like father
Bob Woolley writes: “Subject: Permanent fatherly/sonly record.
“I’m living in Asheville, North Carolina, these days. We are just a few miles from where the total solar eclipse will be visible in August, so my 94-year-old father is planning to use the occasion to make his first visit here.
“When I was at his place last month, he gave me two of the many pairs of ‘Eclipse Shades’ he had purchased — cardboard-framed dark glasses meeting various official standards for safe viewing of the sun.
“The other day, during the lunar eclipse, I saw the chance to yank his chain a bit, so I sent him this email: ‘Thanks for the special eclipse glasses. I’m watching tonight’s lunar eclipse with them right now, and feel very, very safe. Can’t see much, but at least I won’t go blind!’
“He yanked right back: ‘The eclipse viewers state only that they are safe for direct solar viewing. You may have invalidated their guarantee, and may have dangerously risked your eyesight by using them to view a lunar eclipse.'”
The Permanent Family Record
John in Highland: “I was lucky enough to inherit the Red Wing Pottery cookie jar that was always in the kitchen of my Grandma Louise Wermerskirchen Salmon, she of ‘dandelion wine’ fame. She would always make sure that there were sufficient cookies available when we would visit.
“The inscription on the lower part of the monk’s robe says ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’!”
The Permanent Grandmotherly Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “My Crabby Grandma had some good points, I suppose. She treated my Sweet Grandpa nicely, and she baked delicious sugar cookies. She really believed that she was a saintly, pious person. My dad tried mightily to be a devoted son to her, and we visited her regularly. Each visit had the same ritual: We all stood on her porch while she read a passage from her Bible. She would then lean forward and demand a kiss on her heavily powdered cheek before admitting us inside. She would tell us to sit down at the table for a cookie and some coffee, but first she had to read us another few passages from her Bible. As soon as we started to eat those delicious cookies, she would begin to talk. She despised anyone of a different faith or political party, and it was painful to listen to her hateful ranting. When we finished, she would read us another passage from her well-worn Bible.
“No, the visits to Crabby Grandma weren’t much fun. The only visit I remember that kept us laughing all the way home was the time we arrived to find Grandma in an agitated state. She had mislaid her purse, and she was in a panic. There was going to be no time for cookies, coffee or Bible reading that day. Grandma had already exhausted all the logical places where she might have put her purse, and by the time we got there, that tiny old lady was climbing up on the backs of her furniture looking over door frames, jumping down and scrambling on all fours, searching under chairs and tables, all the while loudly lamenting: ‘Lord, Lord, please help me find my purse! . . . Please, Lord, help me!’ Dad decided the best thing he could do would be to get us kids out of there and let her do her looking on her own. As we drove away, Daddy said to us: ‘Kids, don’t bother to say your prayers tonight. The Lord is way too busy helping Ma find her purse.'”
The Permanent Parental Record
And: Then & Now (responsorial)
DebK of Rosemount: “Like The Gram With a Thousand Rules [BB, 2/13/2017], I had a dad who cussed. Dad cussed brilliantly, in fact — with unparalleled fluency and creativity. As gifted a cusser as he was, Dad’s primary genius was dirty-joke-telling, which is not to discount his remarkable talents for mechanics, singing, writing (X-rated) song lyrics, impersonation (of professional wrestlers), and mass intake of liquids. We kids were frequently exposed to all of Dad’s talents, but none was displayed with greater fanfare and flair than his mastery of filthy stories. He never forgot a dirty joke, and he never missed an opportunity to tell one.
“Dad wasn’t particular about his audience. While his most appreciative listeners were certainly Mom’s twin brothers, Gaylen and Gaylord (both of whom had a keen admiration of the art form, but no skills of their own), Dad would just as readily trot out his best material for our visiting schoolmates, which likely accounted for the infrequency of follow-up visits. It was always acutely embarrassing to have Dad perform for our friends. But the mortification intensified for me personally after I assumed the responsibility of bringing my family to Jesus.
“When I became Shepherd of the Flock, I was not a legal driver, strictly speaking, so I thought it best to haul my siblings to the nearest House of God, which happened to be the First Congregational Church, a humble white frame building located on the same block as the former Greenville-Rossie High School, which had been demoted to serving as the junior high for our recently consolidated school district. My sister Sue and I took enthusiastically to church-going. I was old enough to join the adult choir, and both Sue and I immediately signed on to assist with Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, in which we enrolled the little kids. Pastor Dallas Roland was impressed with the Dunn kids — and, I suppose, curious about what kind of family had produced such fervent go-getters. He soon showed up at our house — paying a pastoral visit, don’t you know.
“God works in mysterious ways, and I’ve always believed that Pastor Roland’s visit launched me on the path to Catholicism. Not because he did anything untoward, mind you. Indeed, he was an exemplary clergyman — at least as far as Sue and I could tell as we peered down through the wrought-iron floor register that opened our bedroom to the kitchen directly below. Still, it was a ghastly scene. For the good Reverend’s visit had unfortunately coincided with one of Dad’s drinking days. Mom was sober as a judge, a fact she may have regretted for the rest of her days. She sat at the kitchen table, helpless, as Dad delivered foul witticism after foul witticism. Sue and I broke out in a cold sweat as we listened, but we could not tear ourselves away.
“I never could remember a filthy joke, so I cannot herein record for posterity any of Dad’s gems du jour. And I don’t remember that our man of the cloth ever got a word in edgewise. (Indeed, apart from Dad’s raucous enjoyment of his own repartee, it was deadly silent down there.) Tragically, I cannot erase from my memory the view through the register: Dad’s whiskey-and-sugar cocktail perched at one edge of the Formica table, and, directly across from it, Pastor Roland’s folded hands — looking remarkably serene except for his rapidly twiddling thumbs.
“Soon after this grim episode, I entered the ranks of licensed drivers and began attending the Congregational Church in Peterson. Located, as it was, in another county, that church offered the balm of anonymity — and a pastor who was unlikely ever to make a house call.”
Unclear on the concept
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor
Aggie Girl: “Mary Hunt’s syndicated column provided a great demonstration of something that drives me crazy.
“The article was about homemade cleaning solutions, and along the way it stated that ‘none of these have any chemicals in them.’
“Um, yes, they do. Everything has chemicals in it. A quick look at the recommended ingredients showed they included vinegar (acetic acid solution), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and bleach (chlorine solution). All of these are chemicals, unless they have vastly changed the definition since my last chemistry class.
“I see this fairly often; there seems to be this idea that ‘chemicals’ are man-made and bad, while anything that is ‘natural’ is good. Argh!
“At the very least, the article should have said something like ‘there are no hazardous chemicals’ — though we could certainly debate whether chlorine is a hazard. It would have been more accurate than saying ‘no chemicals.'”
Badvertising (cont.) (responsorial)
Buttercup, again: “When I pointed out that public broadcasting employees like to say that public broadcasting exists to deliver programming to the audience, and commercial broadcasting exists to deliver the audience to advertisers, I figured someone would take the opportunity to point out the similarities between ads on commercial TV/radio and those on public. Thanks, Walt of Wayzata!
“I agree that underwriting messages can look and sound like ads. The fundamental difference, however, is that the ‘ads’ on public TV or radio do not interrupt the program. Once your favorite program has begun, you can enjoy it in its entirety without interruption.
“It seems to me that a fairly large portion of the audience believes that the words ‘public broadcasting’ mean ‘free broadcasting.’ Radio and television programs are increasingly expensive to produce. Money is needed for payroll, utilities, computers, building and tower maintenance, equipment, ad almost infinitum. Corporate sponsors (underwriters in PBS lingo) are increasingly demanding more recognition for their support, so we get underwriting messages that look like the ads you see or hear on commercial TV and radio.
“And as long as I’m on the subject, I might as well mention pledge drives. Nobody likes them. But they serve two very important purposes: The obvious one is fundraising; the second, less obvious, is they allow individual listeners to be counted in a meaningful way. Corporations and foundations need proof that a community values the local public broadcaster, so they always want to know how many individuals have donated and how much have they given.
“So Walt, it’s obvious from your message that you watch public TV and listen to public radio. I sincerely hope you donate to both organizations.”
Farmer Jeff (heretofore known, here [and possibly elsewhere], as the world’s foremost zucchini critic): “Subject: Baader-Meinhof moment if ever I had one!
“OK, I am finally convinced of the uncanny reality of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
“Two days ago, while minding my own business and checking news on the CNN homepage, I encountered the word ‘Schadenfreude.’ I had to look up the meaning yet again, but then, as happens so often, I was reminded that I had looked it up before. That almost created a déjà vu moment, which led me to wonder if there was some sort of neural and/or neurotransmitter connection between Baader-Meinhof Phenomena and déjà vu moments. That, however, raises the question as to how much of either phenomenon is internal versus external versus both. Perhaps unprovable.
“At any rate, as regards the word ‘Schadenfreude,’ a couple of hours after reading it online, I resumed reading my current novel and was taken aback by finding its use in the novel’s current scheme of things.
“May life be full of more déjà vu moments and less Schadenfreude.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Not to be the moral equivalent of a rotting zucchini, but . . . the circumstances you describe do not constitute a Baader-Meinhof — as demonstrated by those two simple words “yet again.” A true Baader-Meinhof involves the first two encounters within 24 hours; yours, per your testimony, were at least the second and third.
We hasten to add that we take absolutely no pleasure in your misfortune.
Band Name of the Day: The Prisoners of Tradition
Website of the Day: “THE SUNDAY LONG READ: The best longform journalism. Every Sunday.”