“Of course, being a boy, I had to do the exact opposite thing from what my mom had asked me to do.”

Life as we know it
Or: The Permanent Motherly/Sonly Record

Al B of Hartland remembers: “When I was a small boy, I walked down the street in Hartland in the company of my mother.

“I love Hartland. Population 315. Everything is within easy walking distance. It seemed as big as the world in those days.


“A woman was headed our way on the sidewalk. My mother whispered: ‘That’s that nice Mrs. Johnson. She’s a wonderful lady, but whatever you do, don’t ask her how she is doing — because she will tell you.’

“Of course, being a boy, I had to do the exact opposite thing from what my mom had asked me to do.

“‘How are you doing?’ I asked Mrs. Johnson.

“She told me in excruciating detail. I learned more about gallbladder surgery that day than I had ever wanted to know.

“Many people can be shut-mouthed about their miseries. There is nothing wrong with that, but I remember Mrs. Johnson’s story because there is magic and power in telling your story. It’s the way we pick fleas off one another.”

There’s nothin’ like a simile!

Email from Donald: “‘Head Games’ is the title of Charles Pierce’s ‘POINT AFTER’ on the last page of the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. These are the opening paragraphs:

“‘UMass Medical Center sits high on a hill on the Worcester side of Lake Quinsigamond, not far from the high school at which my father was the assistant principal, and even closer to the state park where he first taught me to swim. He’d grown up swimming at a pond near where he lived and, during World War II, the Navy taught him even more strongly. He was a great swimmer, until he couldn’t remember how to do it anymore. Later, he forgot how to play golf, feed himself, speak, and, ultimately, be the person he was in the world. He had Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately all four of his siblings did too.

“‘At UMass Medical Center there is a white filing cabinet with long metal drawers. In one of those drawers are the slides containing what is left of my father’s brain. Under a microscope, you can see the plaques and tangles that are characteristic of the disease that killed him. They are black, deadly things, as though someone had put out cigarettes in my father’s hippocampus. Later, I wrote a book about the whole thing — my father, our family and the disease that hangs over us like grapes in a poisoned arbor. There are two things I learned from my experience and through my research. One is that I do not want to get Alzheimer’s, or anything like it. The second is only a fool or a madman would volunteer to get Alzheimer’s, or anything like it.'”

Vanity, thy name is . . .

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “The Dodge Durango headed north on Highway 65 carried this plate: ‘TOTO.’

“I don’t think so . . . it wasn’t a Kansas plate.”

Now & Then

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “If the weather cooperates on August 21st, millions of people across these United States are in store for the spectacular sight of a solar eclipse.

“My daughter and her kids are going to fly about 2,600 miles east to Oregon, while my son and his kids are going to drive over 1,000 miles west to Wyoming, in hopes of seeing it. It will be well worth their effort.

“On the morning of June 30th in 1954, I went out the door of my house, walked 15 feet to the lakeshore and looked up to see one. My folks’ house was surrounded by trees, so they drove over to watch with me. My husband had to film it for the television station, so he saw it through the camera’s view finder, but he missed so much: the experience of being able to submerge himself in the sounds and the feelings.

“Totality lasted for only one minute and 13 seconds, but it was a sensation so overwhelming that my attempt to describe it will never do it justice.

“The noisy morning chirping of the birds began to lessen as the moon began creeping across the sun’s face. We felt a chill in the air, and the birds’ twittering was filled with question marks. Eventually the most persistent little critter gave up with a last-minute feeble ‘chirrup?’ In those brief seconds before totality, we noticed the reflection of the crescent sun everywhere: on the leaves, the house and the water. We felt submerged in some fantasy world. Then at totality . . . silence. Even my verbose Daddy was struck dumb.

“The moment or so of totality has to be experienced to be believed. It was as though some Master Electrician flipped a switch, and for those brief seconds all the stars were shining brightly in the black sky while the corona surrounded the darkened sun like a filmy halo. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more impressive, we saw the Bailey’s beads diamond ring effect.

“The entire celestial event is otherworldly, but what has stuck with me the most for these past 63 years is the effect it had on the birds. As the sun began emerging from behind the moon, those poor confused birds began to hesitantly chirp, chirp . . . followed by raucous noise. I know that birds really can’t cheer and shout, but that is what their jubilant chirping sounded like.

Exactly what they had in mind

The Grand Duchess of Grand Avenue: “Subject: Easy peasey.

“Sometimes those projects they show on TV they say are easy . . . really are easy. Look what the Duke made for me.


“A nice solar-powered accent for the back steps.”

Our times

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Outhouses, manure spreaders, pooping — do I detect a trend?

“Recent Bulletin Board entries regarding the topics in the subject line reminded me of two incidents (one from the past, one recently) that go right along with those memories:

“(1) A number of years ago, my wife’s cellphone rang. She answered it, and the person calling queried: ‘Have you pooped yet?’ By the time my wife could formulate a response, the caller had hung up.

“(2) Early this summer, I accompanied stepdaughter Chris and granddaughter Eve (9) to Como Park. After touring the zoo, mother and daughter headed over to the rides, and I headed to a bench in the shade. It’s always enjoyable to people-watch, and my location was perfect. Among the pedestrians was a 20-something woman wearing a gray T-shirt with a black silhouette of what looked like a runner with upraised arms, as if crossing the finish line. The printing on the shirt read:



Great minds . . .
Headline Division

Also from The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Run, don’t balk, to watch the next Minnesota/Milwaukee game!

“Kudos to the headline writers for the Twin Cities dailies regarding what they came up with in Tuesday’s editions to summarize how the Twins scored the winning run against the Brewers Monday night:

“STrib: ‘It’s a balk in the park.’

“Pioneer Press: ‘BALK TO THE FUTURE.'”

Band Name of the Day: Mrs. Johnson’s Gallbladder

Website of the Day: Solar Eclipse June 30 1954:

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