Asked and answered
Or: Then & Now (responsorial) — leading to: A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants! And: In memoriam
The Mambo King writes: “The story from Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff about being unable to find Tom Swift Jr. books in the St. Paul library brought back some bittersweet memories for me.
“It’s almost exactly two years since I traveled back to my home town for my older brother’s funeral. I left there about 50 years ago and visited very infrequently, so he had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who had no idea who I was. I remember standing in front of the church waiting for the casket to arrive from the funeral home when I was struck with a Tom Swifty earworm that kept running through my head: ‘Why are you standing in front of the church? “I’m here for my brother’s funeral,” answered Tom, gravely.’ The thing is: I couldn’t keep from smiling as the Tom Swifty kept repeating. Some of his descendants who saw me must have had doubts about my sanity, but I knew that my brother Manuel, who had been a master jokester, would understand.
“Following the church service, we drove to the veterans’ cemetery at Fort Sam Houston. Amid the tears from my brother’s children and grandchildren, I managed to keep my composure through the rifle salute and the playing of Taps. But I totally lost it when the young officer in charge of the funeral detail took the folded flag, knelt in front of the widow, and said: ‘On behalf of a grateful nation.’ My tears flowed freely. That was truly a moving tribute to my brother’s service in the Marines. Semper Fi, Manuel.”
Asked and answered
Or: Then & Now (responsorial)
Rock Doc of River Falls, Wisconsin: “Gregory J.’s story about librarians who resisted literature such as the Tom Swift Jr. books reminded me of my own experience with an elementary-school librarian.
“I am dyslexic, and reading was a real chore for me to master. However, I was nuts about dinosaurs — and, happily, most dinosaur books had a lot of neat pictures. In fourth grade (circa 1955), we were required to find some novel to read and report on — and it had to be one WITHOUT pictures. As I glumly looked around the school’s library, the librarian called me over and handed me a book called ‘Danger: Dinosaurs!’ by Richard Marsten. It was part of a series of juveniles in what was called the Winston Science Fiction Series. There were no pictures, aside from a really awesome end-paper illustration by Alex Schomburg.
“I thought this was a dumb title. How could dinosaurs be a danger if they’d all been dead for millions of years. But after reading a few pages, I found this was about a group time-traveling back to the Jurassic to study (and, in the villain’s case, hunt) dinosaurs. My mind was boggled, and I was hooked. It was the first book I ever really read completely from cover to cover. It was also the second and third book I read from cover to cover. At home, I even re-enacted some scenes with my toy dinosaurs and army men as proxies for characters in the book.
“Soon I was voraciously reading a lot of sci-fi, plus Hardy Boys mysteries and Rick Brent thrillers, then on to . . . well, everything.
“Several years ago, thanks to the Internet, I discovered that ‘Richard Marsten’ was a pseudonym for Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Ed McBain of ’87th Precinct’ novels fame. I wrote to him and described this experience, just wanting him to know what that book meant to me. He wrote a nice note back. Soon after that, he passed away. I was so happy that I’d had a chance to let him know that he had changed the life of at least one person with that book.
“Now I wish I knew the name of the perceptive librarian who so wisely directed me to just the right book.”
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Ahh, those dogmatic librarians! The recent story about the censorship in the St. Paul Library brought back a memory of a librarian who met up with a special young boy who believes in following the rules.
“Seven years ago, when my middle daughter’s ninth child was in third grade, she came home on ‘Free Reading — Library Day’ sputtering up a storm. It seems the librarian had thwarted her effort to take home yet one more volume of the Princess series she loved. All week she grumbled about the injustice of it all. When the next Library Day rolled around and she jumped off the school bus waving her coveted book in the air, my daughter asked her what had made the librarian change his mind. She explained that the librarian had told her that one of her brothers had presented a very logical argument, so he had decided to allow her to finish reading the series.
“At the dinner table that evening, my daughter looked around the table at her sons and asked which one had talked to the librarian. The 12th-grader shook his head. The ninth-grader and the fifth-grader also denied any part of it. My daughter persisted, saying: ‘Come on, fess up. ONE of you must have done it.’
“To everyone’s surprise, her newly adopted second-grader piped up. (I mean NEWLY adopted. After way too long in foster care, he and his three younger siblings had arrived only a couple of months previously.)
“He said: ‘I did. I simply said that since the rules of Free Reading — Library Day are that we should do “FREE” reading, shouldn’t my sister be allowed the freedom to choose the book she wants?’
“Then he added: ‘SOMEBODY had to stick up for her rights.’”
Gregory of the North: “Gregory J.’s account of sharing his books among friends was reassuring — to find out that Gregory J. and his friends did so, also, and not just me and my nerdy friends. It also got me to thinking about how I managed to get hold of some of my books, originally.
“The house in which I grew up had a huge attic, and in the attic were all manner of ‘treasures’ for a young boy. There were things left over from World War II; there were handmade toys that my grandfather had carved; and then there were the books! My dad was a voracious reader, and was very eclectic about his tastes. And he could never bear to give up a book once he had read it. Up in one corner of the attic was a veritable library. In his collection I found Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Frederick Pohl. I even found some Philip K. Dick, who was to become my favorite in my teen years. I even discovered some poetry — Poe at first, but later Dickinson.
“From there, I discovered more ‘serious’ literature as well. Once I got over the intimidation factor, I read Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Dostoyevsky. I tried Tolstoy, but too quickly got lost in it. (I admit to putting that off until well into adulthood.) Then I came across a book with a funny title, ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ I started to read it, and omigosh, ‘Tom Sawyer’ it was not! My eyes were opening to things my friends and I had whispered about, but which I had never seen in print. Out of some sense of Lutheran guilt, I immediately put it down, and dismissed it as a book I could NEVER bring downstairs.
“Weeks passed, and I would go back into the attic for more books. With each visit, I would ‘sneak’ another chapter of Salinger’s (to me) salaciousness. Then I would come downstairs with something I deemed to be more acceptable.
“One day, my dad and I were talking about Hemingway, one of his favorite topics. Then he casually asked me how I was liking ‘Catcher.’ I think I blushed multiple hues of red, as he chuckled. Then he told me that normal growing up gave me the privilege — even the obligation — to read works beyond my comfort zone. I never got entirely comfortable discussing Salinger with him, but I am grateful for the carte blanche he gave me, expecting me to be my own censor.
“As I grew older, I set aside fiction for the ‘practical’ non-fiction I had to read for my work, and for my own technical writing. It really has not been until my retirement that I have rediscovered the riches of fiction and all kinds of literature.
“My father has been gone for three years this fall, and I haven’t lived in that house for 50 years. But that corner library was the ultimate treasure-trove. It was there that I really learned how to read, and to transport myself to places near, and far, and light years away and centuries distant.
“Thank you for provoking a fond memory!”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Today’s BB has a picture of the Children’s Room in the St. Paul Library circa the 1950s.
“One of my earliest memories is of standing in front of that Circulation Desk. I could barely see over the top of it, so I must have been pretty small.
“And I’m still a ‘patron.’ Mom thought it was wasteful to buy books — especially the number of books I always went through. But I never read ‘series’ romances until I was in library school at St. Kate’s. Other future librarians taught me to read them, and I turn to them when life gets stressful.
“At our 40th college reunion, we library students clustered and exchanged opinions on romance novels. If we were rich, we would have a mini-reunion at Nora Roberts’ B & B in Boonsboro, Maryland — but I’m not holding my breath. Folks don’t tend to get rich while working as librarians.”
Keeping your eyes open
Tim Torkildson has sent us this “Photo Essay: What I saw on my Sunday Walk to Church.”
Now & Then
Or: Out of the mouths of babes
Al B of Hartland: “A friend that I hadn’t seen for a few years shook my hand and greeted me with ‘You look good.’
“He did it friendlily. That’s a word I’ve never used before, but I like the sound and looks of it. It means to do something in a friendly way.
“He meant well, and I should have taken it that way, but I had a flashback.
“I remember accompanying my parents to wakes when I was a lad. We would shuffle past the open casket, and my mother would say this about the dearly departed: ‘He looks good.’
“One time, I said: ‘He looks dead.’
“I was shushed.”
A day in the life
Rusty of St. Paul: “I just went for a stand-up in the bathroom this late afternoon, noted wardrobe malfunctions and just then discovered that I have had my boxers on backwards all day.
“Need I say more?
“I think I shall.
“The garage called at noon to tell me my car was ready. The noise in the front end was gone, and 1,267 dollars were gone from my wallet.
“Then while getting a colander out to make pickles this afternoon, my aqua Pyrex mixing bowl, an heirloom from my late mother, FLEW out of the cupboard and shattered into 100 pieces of all sizes.
“I stared in disbelief and apologized to Mom.
“At least, at that point, I thought I had my boxers on fly forward.”
Our butterflies, ourselves
Mounds View Swede writes again: “I saw more butterflies visiting my blossoms lately.
“I waited until the wings were spread so I could tell if they were monarchs or not. Looks like they are.
“The latest update I saw said they are stalled in their migration south due to warmth and strong winds. As I watched them on the blossoms, they seemed very determined to get some nectar, bees there or not.
“This unattended dahlia blossom was lit nicely from behind, so I had to take this photo.
“The bumblebees have stayed plentiful and are still busy with my raspberry blossoms. The Japanese beetles are thankfully done for this year, so now I can just pick the raspberries and not the beetles, too.
“I find this burst of warm weather enjoyable, even if I do sweat more when outside.”
The Permanent Motherly/Sonly Record
Carp Lips of Wyoming reports: “Subject: There’s a Signpost Up Ahead.
“I hadn’t done any crosswords in my book for quite a few months, but decided to do one today (Monday). One of the clues was ‘Ms. Lane of Metropolis.’
“My mom’s name is Lois, and today would have been her 82nd birthday. I have no doubt it was a sly little reminder from her, and to let me know that she’s watching over me.
“I can’t believe she’s been gone for 32 years.
“As the song goes: ‘I miss you a little since you’ve been gone. A little too much, a little too often, a little more every day.’
“Love you, Mom.”
Band Name of the Day: Lutheran Guilt
Website of the Day: Philip K. Dick