Life as we know it
Personal Theme Song Division
Hindsight reports: “‘What a Wonderful World’ is my theme song. Every one of us, every day, can see something that makes these lyrics sing.
“A few days ago, Grumpus, driving along a country road, spotted an American Bittern, a bird that usually feeds at dusk and into the night. Standing not in its usual habitat, a shallow freshwater marsh, but rather in the shorter grass, the bittern posed for a photo.
“This streaky-brown-and-buff heron knows how to hide. It strikes a concealment pose, head up, pointing its beak to the sky. In brown swamp foliage, camouflage works. This time, it didn’t conceal the 2-foot-tall bird.
“The other odd and wonderful thing about the bittern is that in the spring, its call is a gulping noise that sounds like water in a pipe: pump-er-lunk. Listen to the song at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Bittern/id.
“Grumpus saw a bird he hadn’t seen in years, in a place that he didn’t expect to see it, even at the wrong time of day. What a wonderful world!
“Are you watching and listening?”
Keeping your eyes open
Or: Fellow travelers
Mounds View Swede, still taking pictures in Santa Fe, New Mexico: “While on a delightful walk near a river in Santa Fe, we came across these solitary carved pieces of art. The first looks like a tree trunk turned into something else entirely. I am not sure if there was intent here to show something or just creative whimsy at work.
“These next three ladies all have makeup on their cheeks.
“And this one had painted red toenails, too.
“I am not sure what this man is made of. Could be stone.
“And when I saw this prairie dog looking up at me, he reminded me of the statue I had just seen. There was quite a colony of these creatures near the highway, and it looked like someone was providing some food for them.
“We seem to have much less ‘street art’ here in Minnesota — and no prairie dogs, of course.”
Now & Then
Monday email from Bloomington Bird Lady: “One of life’s little ‘certainties’ for me: As I am nearly 85, I know I am not pregnant! Comforting, right? Then why am I awake at 5 a.m. thinking about it?
“Well, two days ago, I fell down, not really hurting myself, but for the past two nights, I have lain sleepless with the knowledge that it is hard to turn over in bed! If you’ve ever been in the last couple of months before giving birth, you remember how it is: lots of bathroom trips; you have to roll over to get out of bed; it’s hard to do, and so you put it off a few minutes, and more often than I care to remember.
“It’s Labor Day now. What better thing to think of than that other meaning for labor?
“And why am I not sleeping? Birdman has one of his bad coughing, lung-clogging colds, caught at a recent party! I had moved to the guest bedroom to escape and still am wide awake from a pulled muscle on my side. Annoying, for sure.
“Another little certainty: I don’t have that ‘baby’ anymore to send off to the first day of school!”
Then & Now
Sunday Dinners Division
Tim Torkildson writes: “One of the main reasons I watch ‘Blue Bloods’ is not that it stars Tom Selleck — although he is a pretty slick piece of merchandise. No, I dote on those Sunday dinners after church services where the whole family sits down to a sumptuous repast that always includes a hefty roast, real mashed potatoes, lots of bread and butter, a great big green salad tossed and served in a pressed-wood bowl, and something fatally chocolate for dessert. Never mind all the wine they guzzle during the meal — that’s just Hollywood flummery. Any real family that tried to drink that much vino during dinner would wind up on skid row in a matter of months.
“My own mother endured long sessions over her Kenmore every Sunday after morning Mass at Saint Lawrence Church in Southeast Minneapolis, whipping up fried chicken or succulent pork chops with a huge casserole of potatoes au gratin in the oven and creamed peas percolating in her one good copper pot. There was always a homemade pie — either lemon meringue or apple.
“I immediately missed those Sunday feasts when I went to work for Ringling as a First of May on the Blue Unit some 45 years ago. The Ringling pie car featured nothing out of the ordinary to celebrate the Sabbath Day — same old burgers and fries or wilted iceberg lettuce salad with canned olives and sclerotic tomato slices. If you wanted something decent to warm the cockles of your heart on a Sunday, you had to eat out — and many towns still had blue laws those long years ago that shuttered the best restaurants on Sunday because they sold liquor.
“Tim Holst and I, the only two Mormons on the Blue Unit, were always invited to a member’s home after morning church services on Sunday. Back then, Mormon families were larger than they are now — there was always a spare daughter or two that Mom and Dad thought ready for a Temple wedding. Back in the day, Holst was considered a Good Catch by the discerning paterfamilias — a returned missionary, hard-working, and with a clear tenor that could give the Mormon Tabernacle Choir a run for its money. I was viewed, on the other hand, as his slightly half-witted sidekick — hadn’t served a mission yet and was too young and dopey-looking for anything but a few laughs; so I was usually fobbed off on the young children after dinner to keep them occupied with balloons.
“A half-century ago in most of the United States, the typical centerpiece of a Mormon Sunday dinner was several loaves of baked Spam with some kind of ketchup glaze drizzled over it. My mother never allowed Spam to cross the threshold of my childhood home, so I had no idea what it was. The first time I saw one of these concoctions, I innocently asked Holst if it was a meatloaf. There was always a big ceramic bowl of instant mashed potatoes. Another big ceramic bowl of canned corn (sometimes gussied up with a jar of pimentos). Bottled peaches as a relish to go with the Spam. And really really good homemade bread with all the butter and honey I could handle. And I could handle a lot. Dessert was inevitably Jell-O — with a Dream Whip topping.
“Or, if our luck was out, we got to eat a Food Storage meal with the family. Mormons have been counseled since the days of Brigham Young to keep an emergency supply of essential foodstuffs on hand for a Rainy Day. Back when Holst and I roamed the countryside as Ringling gypsies, it was a common practice for LDS bishops to cavalierly choose several families in the ward and challenge them to live off their food storage for a week. And if the two of us were invited to a Food Storage meal, we had to be satisfied with rehydrated soup, freeze-dried vegetables, and a leathery dried beef jerky that chewed like a Firestone tire — and tasted like one, too.
“Since most Sundays with Ringling were move-out nights, the matinee and evening shows were moved up a few hours, so Holst and I usually had to eat and run -— with Holst dutifully taking down the address and phone number of the daughter(s) while I made one last wiener dog for the clamoring kiddies. Then Dad would drive us back to the arena, where Holst and I would scramble like mad to get into makeup and costume before Performance Director Charlie Baumann could balefully announce: ‘You’re late for come-in — I fine you five dollars each!’
“It is a tribute to both the good cooking of LDS women back then and our own cast-iron stomachs that I never knew either Holst or myself to suffer from indigestion after snarfing down one of those LDS Sunday meals.
“Today I don’t think an LDS family would be likely to offer such a Sunday meal as I have described to a visiting circus guest — but I haven’t had the chance to find out in a long time. I myself keep a couple of cans of low-sodium Spam in the pantry and will often pop one open on Sunday to fry up a few slices with some eggs for breakfast. If only I knew how to bake bread like those LDS ladies of long ago . . . .”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “The Fusion in the Shoreview Target parking lot displayed this personalized plate: ‘BITSY.’
“Could ‘ITSY’ be in the vicinity?
“How about ‘TEENY? Or ‘WEENY’?
“I searched and searched . . . no luck.”
The highfalutin displeasures
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “More and more restrooms are getting automated equipment nowadays. Just yesterday, I showed a nice lady where to place her hand to get a paper towel.
“In general, the automation (and the wastebaskets near the door, for those who now avoid touching bathroom-door handles) are an improvement.
“But I beg the installers to be aware of how they set up the toilets. They are designed to flush once the user rises and moves away, but some are set to such a short distance and/or Time To Flush that they start flushing while I am still seated — because I have short arms and often must bend over and stretch to reach the TP while seated. So the sensor says I am gone — and I must hop off while it flushes, or experience what I call the Bidet Effect.
“Here’s hoping that a person of sense will adjust these sensors.”
Band Name of the Day: Dream Whip
Website of the Day: Black-Tailed Prairie Dog