Said the woman on the Blue Line, to the man in the orange wrap: “Are you a monk?”

Keeping your eyes open
Or: The passing show

Semi-Legend writes: “Subject: Monk business

“I boarded the Blue Line train this morning to meet a colleague in downtown Minneapolis.

“As I found a seat, I saw a man in an orange wrap that looked a little like the robes worn by Buddhist monks. But he was otherwise conventionally dressed, in jeans and sneakers, and he was reading his cellphone. He was in a window seat. I took the window seat across from him.


“A woman got up from a nearby seat facing him, walked a short distance to him and said loudly: ‘Are you a monk?’

“I didn’t hear his response, but he apparently discouraged the notion.

“She sat down heavily in the seat next to mine and faced him across the aisle. ‘You shouldn’t wear that if you’re not prepared to discuss spiritual matters. I know. I’m spiritual.’

“She seemed a bit agitated. I was hoping she wouldn’t get spiritual with me.

“As the train approached the U.S. Bank Stadium station, my cellphone rang. I answered it, in case it was the colleague I planned to meet. It was a spam recorded call from somebody purporting to be from ‘customer service.’

“As I hung up, I saw the not-a-monk speaking into his phone. He stood up and stepped off the train at the station, as if to get better reception.

“The woman followed him onto the platform. As the doors closed, he stepped back in and sat down. She looked a little stunned as the train pulled away.

“Hadn’t seen anything that slick since Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey in ‘The French Connection.'”


Asked and answered
Or: Then & Now (cont.)

Fudge Brownie: “I have been an avid reader since I was very young. A memory I have is that of my mother frequently yelling at me to get my nose out of that book and do something.

“Now there is no one to yell at me, so I can read as much as I want. So there!”

Mounds View Swede: “I have been enjoying the contributors writing about their early reading experiences with books and libraries.

“There were no libraries in our fairly undeveloped suburb of Chicago when I was little. When I learned to read, each classroom had its own books for the kids to read, but no school library. My mom and dad made sure I got books for my birthday and at Christmas, and it was my mom who introduced me to science fiction. I read all of my books several times, and when my sister started getting Nancy Drew mysteries, I read those, too.

“It wasn’t until I went to a large high school serving several communities that I had a real library to access. If we had a study hall, we could sign out for the library, and I frequently did. I started to explore the non-fiction books, finding true adventure stories of exploration and some science books on the theories about how the moon was created, and our solar system, the age of the earth, etc. I found that information fascinating. And I was puzzled at how different those explanations and theories were compared to the creation story in Genesis. That was resolved later with an increased understanding of symbolic terms used in the Bible.

“Because I like to read, I became an English major in college. I followed my father’s suggestion that I become a teacher and found out I was good at it, and taught Senior English my first four years of teaching. I was also getting a master’s degree in Audiovisual, which is where I learned photography, which I then began teaching to students in the Camera Club I formed. When I finished my degree in Audiovisual, I found a job in Minnesota as an Audiovisual Director for a rural school district in southwestern Minnesota. That was my first exposure to living in Minnesota, and I discovered I loved it here.

“When the superintendent who hired me was retiring, he came to me for a serious discussion. I intuitively asked him if I should get my training in Library Science, too. The answer was an emphatic ‘Yes!’ I could take one class a semester, and it took me eight semesters to get the courses I needed to be certified in Library Science, too.

“I was in my last class of Library Science when the principal took me aside and told me the school board was considering eliminating my position the following fall. The district had a student population of about 1,200 students and a full-time elementary librarian, a full-time Junior/Senior High librarian and a full-time media person. That was a model that was difficult to continue financing going forward.

“The first and only person I told about probably leaving my current job was my Library Science teacher. She immediately told me to apply to the Mounds View school district. They had five openings and were looking for people. I phoned for my application forms, and they asked if I had talked to a particular person in the district. When I asked who he was, I was told he was one of the principals and that I should talk with him. Because he had a doctorate, I was intimidated by this and applied to other metro districts with openings. No one responded.

“Teacher salary schedules are basically based on the amount of training and experience you have. I had 20 years experience and was 20 hours short of a Ph.D., so I would be near the top of the salary schedule, and no one wanted to hire someone that expensive. When June came and I had no job, I phoned back to Mounds View and was again told to talk to the specific principal I had been referred to before. This time I listened.

“I set up an interview and brought with me a portfolio of black-and-white photos my independent-study photography students had made for their assignments. I wanted to show him some of what I had done as a media guy. I taught a lot of photography — not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

“When I got to his office, it was lined with his photos — because he did photography, too. Right away we had a common bond. We had a good interview. The school was impressive; it had a student population of about 1,300, and it would be just me serving the library and media needs of the students and teachers. The ‘economy of scale’ was clear between my old district and this one. The middle-school library had almost 40,000 books in it, too, after getting another middle school’s collection when it closed. Part of my job would be to weed out the unnecessary duplicates and combine the card catalogs.

“When he phoned back to my school for references, he got glowing reports, and I got the job. And the principal was shrewd. He knew he wouldn’t be allowed to hire me at the top of the salary schedule, so he offered to place me on step 10 out of 18 steps, but at the same salary I had earned the year before at my other job. I had lived on that one year; I figured I could do it again. And I could look forward to eight more years of raises. Then he hired my wife to be a special-ed paraprofessional, so we got more money as a family and could adjust more easily to a more expensive suburb compared to a rural-Minnesota small town.

“And I loved it. I still loved reading, and finding interesting and exciting books for the kids to read was a joy. And caring for the media need of the teachers continued to be a joy.

“And I kept my eye out for good science-fiction books, to develop that aspect of the collection. Science fiction was an area that was being missed in many school collections. It was easier to find adult-level reading for the advanced readers that was ‘safe’ in science fiction than in regular adult fiction. One of my favorite Sci-Fi authors became Orson Scott Card and his Ender’s Game series. When they became available in comic form, I got those versions, too. I had learned that not all students could picture how things were in their mind just from reading words and that the pictures would help them a great deal. We got other ‘illustrated’ books like that, too, to support those students. Those books were checked out all the time, and we had multiple copies to circulate.

“My last 20 years were spent in that school, and I still stop in after 12 years in retirement and bring things for the teachers and students in the library. And I still like to reread the Ender’s Game series of books.

“My mom seemed to have put me on a good path.”

Life as we know it
Or: One man’s meat . . .

IGHGrampa reports: “Subject: Studies.

“Here’s something an old guy does to occupy himself.

“I’ve always been interested in paleontology, past ages of the earth. But, it’s hard to comprehend what long times have elapsed in the ages. These are a couple of picures of my latest study efforts — scrolls to depict what has gone on before.


“In these scrolls, I used 1/4-inch quad-ruled sheets taped into scrolls; 1/4 inch represents a million years. That means 16 1/4 inches shows the period of time back to the end of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. My scroll rather optimistically is long enough to show a billion years (you figure out how long that is). I show only a long enough time to go back to the Cambrian Period, 541 million years ago. For that, my scroll unrolls across the room and down the hall.

“It’s been an interesting project, and I have learned a lot.”

Know thyselves!

Hindsight writes: “Subject: In other words.

“Fall has arrived. Grumpus went up on the roof to clean the chimney, so now I have a new project: convincing him it is time to retire from some of the more irritating home-maintenance projects.

“He did hire a crew to replace some siding.

“Yesterday, I was talking to an old friend and I was telling her how pleased I was that he had made that choice: ‘It was great. A crew of three arrived with siding, equipment, drills and even had collapsible horseshoes. No, wait a minute, that’s not right.’ Sometimes the word I want isn’t right there. My mind flipped through my mental files and in a few seconds, there was the word: ‘I mean sawhorses.’

“She replied: ‘Hey, at least you got the “horses” part right. Guess what happened to me? I planned to clean my closet of things that don’t fit. Over coffee, I said to my hubby: “I am even going to get rid of my comfy velcro pants and jacket. Wait a minute, not velcro, ah . . . velvet, velveteen. . . .” The same kind of senior moment. The retrieval system was whirling. “I mean ‘velour.”‘

“Her smiling husband responded: ‘I knew that.’

“‘Why didn’t you just jump in and say “Velour”?’

“Grinning, he said: ‘I’ve been having too much fun seeing how many “V” words you would go through to find the word “velour.”’

“So, can you see why our phone conversations take an hour just to have a little chat?”

Their theater of seasons

Newly arrived email: “Subject: Pine-cone sandwich anyone? Beavers welcome!

“September 10th, I witnessed another hurricane. Matthew was nothing, but I had been told that Irma would be passing right over us. There were a few houses boarded up. Most people seemed quiet, staying inside.

“Winds started picking up around 7 to 8 p.m. Shook the porch roof, and I fully expected it to be blown away. 10:15: I finally was able to open the door. The wind was that strong. A few minutes, then two flashes of light, and off the power went.

“Next morning, I go out. Two branches snapped from our tree. No damage to the house (modular) nor the van. Tree uprooted in front. Power lines down everywhere. Two trees blocked the road: We couldn’t go anywhere if we needed to go. They were cleared within an hour.

“Checked the back. Nine trees down. Three trees across the fence line. Three trees that I would have liked to come down (dead) remained standing. Four or five trees are leaning and could crash down at any time.

“A drive around the area revealed little: downed trees, one outdoor structure damaged, water running over the roads. An unpaved road just a mile or so away — a strange cross between a rapids and a lake. What a mess!

“Nothing to see here, folks. But I’m now involved with what’s likely to be a months-long battle of the branches, clearing the downed trees.

“No power: two days. No landline phone: nine days. No desktop computer/internet: 10 days. I hate to see what happened in Puerto Rico.

“I could use about a dozen beavers to help get these trees down.

“Recovering from Irma here in the Sunshine State,

The Man from Milaca.”

Joy of Juxtaposition

John writes: “West St. Paul observation this morning.


“Can’t make it up.”

Accidents of mirth

Donald writes: “Subject: Not in the ‘nick’ of time.

“From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in Sports Illustrated: ‘Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio missed a Champions League match because of an injury he suffered shaving his legs.

Frozen in time

Dan Hanneman of Maplewood notes: “An interesting photo, perhaps from the late 1920s, that I found in my collection of family pictures: just three people sitting on the bumper of a car, perhaps at a county fair or maybe at a park. Obviously having a good time.


“Who are these people? Are they related? Just friends? We’ll never know, but this particular moment from about 90 years ago lives on.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

Tim Torkildson writes: “Here is how ABC News reported General Conference. Can you spot the howling typo? ‘Cook reminded members that the religion’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, declares that “we all are unlike unto God.” He said anyone who claims superiority based on race, sex, language or economic class is morally wrong and doesn’t understand God’s purpose for his followers.'”

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Offense — defense — what’s the diff?

“Beneath the headline (‘Bethel rolls to blowout victory over St. Olaf’) on Page 7C in last Sunday’s Pioneer Press was this: ‘From news services.’

“These were the opening paragraphs of the article:

“‘Bethel amassed more than 600 yards of offense, routing St. Olaf 64-7 on Saturday in the Royals’ conference home opener.

“‘But it wasn’t all defense. The Royals held the Oles to 100 yards of total offense.’

“Maybe instead of ‘news services,’ the Pioneer Press should employ a ‘new service’?”

Everyone’s a copy editor
Editorial Cartoons Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff writes: “As Yogi Berra might or might not have said, ‘it’s like déjà vu, all over again.’

“There was another syndicated editorial cartoon by Gary Markstein in the Saturday, September 30 Pioneer Press.

171001bbcut-cartoon“Unless I’m misreading it, there is mistake in this one just as there was in the cartoon published on September 9.


“An elephant/Republican is reading the latest GOP Health Plan Repeal. All that is on the page is ‘Step 1: D.O.A.’ The elephant is thinking: ‘Always tough to get passed that first part. . . .’ I believe it should read: ‘Always tough to get past that first part. . . .’ Another possibility would be to rearrange the words and make it ‘Always tough to get that first part passed . . .’ — but that would alter the meaning somewhat.

“I know there is confusion as to the proper usage of ‘past’ and ‘passed,’ so could we ask the all-knowing Bulletin Board for a ruling on this one?”

BULLETIN BOARD RULES: It should be “past.” The GOP very well knows, by now, that the D.O.A. part is the only easy part of health-care legislation to get “passed.”

Month at a glance

October has begun . . . which means that it’s time for our customary (more or less) first-of-the-monthly report,  filed late on September 30 by The Stillwater Scouter: “October is Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, Bat Appreciation Month, Children’s Magazine Month, Fair Trade Month, Learn to Bowl Month, Month of Free Thought, Arts & Humanities Month, Cookbook Month, Field Trip Month, Popcorn Poppin’ Month, Sarcastic Awareness Month, Seafood Month, Positive Attitude Month, Raptor Month, and Squirrel Awareness Month.

“October has Walk Your Dog Week, Great Books Week, Post Card Week, Storytelling Weekend (first full weekend), Teen Read Week, Friends of Libraries Week (third full week), and Freedom of Speech Week.

“October 9 is Beer and Pizza Day.

“October 10 is Squid & Cuttlefish Day.

The Scouter apologizes. He got a (very) late start, is tired, and is going to lie down.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Enjoy your rest!

Great comebacks
Or: What’s in a title?

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A reflection off the ‘glass ceiling’?

“Gina Barreca (Hartford Courant [TNS]) wrote a piece that was carried in the Opinion Exchange section (Page A13) of Monday’s Minneapolis paper. The focus of the article was on Mark Twain, but what caused me to chuckle audibly was the note at the end of the piece. To wit: ‘Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?”'”

The Permanent Auntsly Record
Or: A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants!

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Aunt Sadie and Aunt Ruth were my dad’s younger sisters, and they were my favorites on his side of the family. Their personalities were a lot like my dad’s, minus the cursing. They had zany senses of humor and entertained us whenever they came over. I especially remember when they would demonstrate how they played the piano for the silent movies. We would laugh until we were sick when they would mug how they would forget to play when the movie was absorbing and then begin frantically hitting the keys to catch up with the action. They were our own Lucille Ball and Carole Burnett.

“When Aunt Ruth developed brain cancer at age 64, it was a blow to everyone. Especially Sadie. Those sisters loved each other deeply. I was standing behind Aunt Sadie when Ruth’s casket was being loaded into the hearse, and when I saw Aunt Sadie begin to tremble violently, I stepped forward to grab her arm. It was then that I saw that she was struggling to control her laughter. Without taking her eyes off the casket, she said: ‘Well, Ruth has won, that’s for darn sure.’ She then went on to explain that all of their lives, they had a competition going to see which of them could hold her stomach in and make her fanny the firmest. She said: ‘Yes, Ruth definitely has the firmest and stiffest fanny now!’”

Band Name of the Day: Getting Spiritual — or: Squirrel Awareness — or: The Stiffest Fannies

Website of the Day: Great books


%d bloggers like this: