The Permanent Paternal Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “When Mom decided it was time to empty out my dad’s closet and dresser drawers, my sister and I offered to help. We told her not to worry; we would bring any questionable items to her for a final decision. Mom contentedly settled down in her favorite chair, afghan over her lap, mystery book on the table beside her, television tuned to a sporting event, and crocheted as she worked a jigsaw puzzle.
“We knew this wouldn’t be a quick job, so we left our husbands in charge of the home front, packed our bags and took the bus out to Mom’s to stay for a few days. When Dad built his dream home, he made sure it had plenty of closets — large walk-in-closets. When they were filled to capacity, he added shelves to each door to store more ‘good stuff.’
“Once his closet was empty, we tackled the dresser drawers. As we expected, they were a jumble of clothing, old letters, play programs, scripts and newspaper clippings . . . and then we opened his prop drawer! Inspiration struck us at the same time. Nora put on the horn-rimmed glasses with the fake nose attached, added the false teeth and then stuck the faucet on her forehead. I put on the fake ears and the glasses with revolving eyeballs, put a pipe in my mouth and attached the Chinese braid to my hair. We trooped down the hall and down the steps to ask Mom a question about a garment. Mom looked up at us, took the garment, looked it over, looked back at each of us as she gave us her answer — without even a flicker of amusement crossing her face. She went back to her jigsaw puzzle, and we walked away feeling utterly foolish.
“We should have known better. Bess had been an excellent straight man to Jake for over six decades.
“A few items saved from Jake’s prop drawer:”
Or: Life as we know it (Unfamiliar Quotations Division)
Tim Torkildson passes along some “words to live by,” from “Schnozzola,” Gene Fowler’s 1951 biography of Jimmy Durante: “‘This great clown stays on with us, as great clowns always stay on in the hearts of men and women and children who seek in the refuge of merriment an hour of escape from the scowls of the long day. And in loving and admiring the clown, we cannot be expected to know that his art is most difficult to come by, or that his every success is challenged. The clown must make us laugh, although he himself may suffer pain, frustration, sadness, despair. To ask how he makes us laugh is almost as unanswerable as to inquire why we were born. Out of his seeming artlessness there shines a surviving sanity in a world gone daft. And against our modern will to destroy ourselves, and against our mad deeds that would undo the heritage that has made America so great, the sage laughter of the clown sounds high and wholesome, high and clean. It seems a glad summons to man’s dimming hope, a call to hold fast.’”
The Permanent “Family” Record
Kathy S. of St. Paul reports: “Subject: Thinking of Caroline Kennedy.
“This week, some documents re: the 1963 assassination of JFK are being opened to the public. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from assassination conspiracy theorists for some time to come. Some stuff never dies.
“When JFK was assassinated, I was 13 and had a huge crush on him. Hearing about his ways with women, I’m now glad we never met in person. But (with my flexible concept of family) I have always seen members of his family as cousins I’d probably never meet — so in 2002 I entered a local essay contest in honor of a newer version of ‘Profiles in Courage.’ First prize included winning a free trip to the JFK Library in Massachusetts and meeting Caroline Kennedy.
“Though I didn’t win the trip, all of us contest entrants were invited to an event in St. Paul to publicize the book and get a free copy of it. And Caroline Kennedy was to speak, though bad weather prevented her from flying that day. She came later, to autograph our books.
“While I waited to get my book autographed, I talked to other contestants, including one of my genealogy cousins. She is my half third cousin, but folks’ eyes glaze when I say things like that, so I call her a genealogy cousin. In any case, my cousin was going to give Caroline a book of poems that her mother had written about Caroline and her pony. I figure it might have gone to the JFK Library.
“That got me thinking about what I would say to Caroline. My grandfather worshipped JFK as an Irish boy who made good, but I figured she had heard that type of story too many times. I concluded that there was nothing original I could say to Caroline.
“So when it was my turn, I just asked her to sign my book without my name, etc. I didn’t tell her how great it was to meet her, though it was. She seemed surprised, and peeked up at me while signing. We smiled, and I left.
“The way I see it, I might have saved my younger ‘cousin’ a little effort. Hopefully she knew it meant a lot to me.”
Today’s helpful hints
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I’m learning that there is a dirty little secret in the Retirement Preparation industry that has left me in a lurch.
“I tried to put enough money into a 401(k); I waited to claim Social Security until just the right time; I downsized and simplified my lifestyle to a sustainable level; I even took a little part-time retirement job.
“BUT: Nothing prepared me for this! I have been deserted by my life-support specialists one by one over the last couple of years, and no one warned me. My barber, my Doctor and my Dentist have all retired, too.
“Please don’t make the same mistake. If you are in your 50s and planning for your ‘golden years,’ Seek out replacements for your future medical needs by switching to younger examples of elder-care specialists. My guideline would be at least 15 years younger than yourselves, and certainly no one less than five years younger.
“Also: Recent experience has shown me that it wouldn’t hurt to make some new younger friends, too.”
Our birds, ourselves
Ask Al B Division (responsorial)
In the most recent (before today’s!) Bulletin Board, we ran a note and a picture sent by Shelly J of Farmington: “I’m looking for some help from our bird expert, Al B. [Bulletin Board notes: That’s Al B of Hartland, our Official Ornithologist.]
“I live in Farmington, and found this unlucky feathered friend — who met its demise with a large window — on our school playground.
“As a bunch of first-graders were gawking at the poor friend, I decided I should help him or her relocate to a more peaceful final resting place. At first glance, I thought it looked like a robin (red breast); however, after noticing the large beak and large feet, and its larger size, I’m not sure what bird it is. I asked several friends, checked some bird websites, as well as my National Audubon Society Field Guide, and am still stumped. So I decided to reach out to Al.
“Thanks for your help.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We haven’t yet heard from Al B on this matter, but we did hear from Aunt Hope (“pronounced in the traditional Minnesotan style: Aunt, not Ant”): “Pastor Bird is of the opinion that Shelly J has found a Virginia Rail. He reports that the bird’s bill was the key identifying feature. Thanks, Shelly J, for giving that beautiful bird a proper burial. [Bulletin Board says: Our Merlin Bird ID App agrees. See today’s Website of the Day.]
“I’ve been reading Bulletin Board without ever writing, until today. Thanks for the stories!”
Al B of Hartland: “My wife and I spent time at a clinic recently. She went to the eye doctor to see about getting her arms shortened.
“I had tests done. They involved an enema, x-rays and blood tests. Sounds like fun, huh? They went well, and the results were everything I could have hoped for.
“I visited with the x-ray technician. ‘These won’t end up on Facebook, will they?’ I said.
He laughed and assured me that they wouldn’t.
“Not long after that, I followed my wife through a store. She pushed a shopping cart. I walked five paces behind, as is traditional for husbands. I wasn’t involved in the shopping process. I had but one duty, that being to wait by the cart when so instructed.
“My wife was hunting for some milk crates for storage. The store had none. My bride remembered the need for toothpaste. She picked up a tube and put it in the cart. She positioned the large shopping cart in line to check out. A big cart carrying a single tube of toothpaste.
“That probably got on Facebook.”
This ‘n’ that
Two notes from Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: (1) “I’ve heard stories about it, of course. Probably everyone has. But I thought it was just an urban legend, nothing but a myth or a setup for jokes in movies and sitcoms. And to think I missed seeing it for myself by just a few hundred yards.
“Obviously I’m talking about the World’s Largest Twine Ball. Not only does it exist, but it is located right here in Minnesota.
“On a recent road trip to Litchfield, Minnesota, on Highway 12, our little band of travelers passed through Darwin, Minnesota, where we saw signs for the World’s Largest Twine Ball. We didn’t have time to stop on the trip out, but joked about maybe seeing it on the way back. But, as so often happens in life when opportunity knocks, we ignored it and continued past the Darwin exit and headed back to the Twin Cities.
“I was curious about what we had missed, so I turned to the Internet for guidance. As it turns out, the Darwin Twine Ball has its own Facebook page, which is chock full of photos and interesting information. The Twine Ball is real and is housed in a gazebo just a few short blocks from Highway 12. It weighs 17,400 pounds, has a circumference of approximately 40 feet, and was constructed by Francis A. Johnson between 1950 and 1979. This last part is important because there are other balls of twine that rival this one, but Darwin’s is the only one made by just one man.
“I discovered we also missed seeing the Twine Ball Souvenir Shop and Pictorial Museum, an old but apparently functional school bell, a railroad-crossing signal, the Twine Ball Inn, and the Darwin water tower, which looms above the Twine Ball. As if that wasn’t enough, we missed by two months the 26th Annual Darwin Twine Ball Celebration, held in August. The town’s motto is ‘Have a Ball in Darwin,’ but sadly we didn’t.
“Have any members of the BB community actually had the chance to visit Darwin and the World’s Largest Twine Ball (made by one man)? If so, I’d like to hear about it.
“There was something else that caught my eye on the Twine Ball page: photos of Weird Al Yankovic visiting the World’s Largest Twine Ball. Intrigued, I investigated further. The reason Weird Al was there in 1996 was that he had written and recorded a song ‘The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota’ in 1989. The mind reels. Being both a ‘Weird Al’ fan and a Minnesotan, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about it.
“The song is available in a number of YouTube videos, but I figured it should be made more accessible to all Minnesotans, so on Sunday I emailed a request to have it played on Stan Turner’s All Request Show on KLBB. Then a number of weird, so to speak, Joys of Juxtaposition began occurring. I watched ‘The Walking Dead’ that night, and it featured a Weird Al song. Unbeknownst to me, the next day, Monday, October 23, was Weird Al’s birthday, a fact noted on KLBB before ‘The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota’ was played. Finally, that night Weird Al was a guest on the Conan O’Brien show.
“Here are two of the better YouTube versions of ‘The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota’ — but I must issue a warning: Listening to the song may produce an earworm.
“Weird Al in concert version:
[Bulletin Board recommends this one:] “A very good fan video:
(2) “The first sentence in the October 26 Pioneer Press article concerning new rules on short-term rentals reads: ‘Looking to rent your home out for Super Bowl XVII in February?’
“Something is wrong here. The upcoming Super Bowl in February 2018 is Super Bowl LII (52), not Super Bowl XVII (17).
“The question is: What sort of error is this — factual, typographical, spelling or mathematical?”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: We can testify, from painful experience, that Roman numerals can be quite confusing.
Forty-some years ago, we and a crew of other summer underlings were put in charge of organizing the movement of a law firm’s client files from the firm’s offices on the eighth floor of the Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis building to the firm’s new offices on the 38th floor of the sleek new IDS Tower across the street.
Each attorney and each secretary (there were about 50 of each) packed up his or her office materials and put them in boxes labeled with a number assigned to each of them, so that the movers could place them in the new offices exactly where they belonged.
The client files were many. They filled perhaps 100 boxes — filled from A to Z, so that they could be easily re-stored in the new storeroom. It occurred to one of us underlings that numbering them “1” through “100” would confuse the movers, and that they would likely end up scattered throughout the offices. The fast-thinking underling’s remedy: Number the library’s files with Roman numerals — from I, II, III all the way to C (and perhaps beyond).
The movers hadn’t a clue. The files ended up all around the new offices, in no order whatsoever!
Now & Then
Or: Where we live
OTD from NSP: “Snow was forecasted for Thursday night (October 26). Radio DJ read weather and made a comment about it being October and snow not lasting. DJ works alone, but a voice was heard from somewhere (control booth? next studio?) noting that Halloween was next week.
“DJ may be too young to remember 1991. That snow lasted until spring.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes again: “I notice all summer how the cottonwood tree leaves often have shiny spots when sunlit. I assume their leaves have a waxy coating which allows the trees to survive in the dryer climates with less moisture loss. This fall, I have noticed how the gold cottonwood tree leaves with those shiny spots made me think of diamonds and gold. While doing water aerobics at a health club, I stay on the edge of the pool that lets me look out the windows and watch the fall leaves, including two cottonwood trees with those bright, glistening spots on the yellow leaves. It works really well when there is a breeze and the leaves are moving.
“Trying to capture that effect in still photos, however, hasn’t worked so well.
“I would find trees near my house with great ‘sparkles’ and photograph them . . . and not see any of that when I look at the results. So, nothing visually ‘special’ to share in this vein.
“I have also noticed that when mowing the grass and walking under a golden, sunlit tree, my spirits rise while there. I think of it as walking in ‘golden light.’
And I wonder if there is a spiritual connection in there somewhere, or if this is something we experience when we have ‘left the building,’ as Garrison Keillor would say on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ monologues.
“And some trees have these rich-looking deep red leaves, adding a nice contrast to the brown and gold oak leaves in the other trees.
“And most of this is gone now, five days later — and with snow on the way!”
Our theater of seasons
Including: Hmmmmmmmm — or: Ask Bulletin Board
Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: A plethora of pumpkins!
“We took a brief trip to southern Wisconsin this past week . . . the fall colors with green amongst the soft browns of oaks, and the golden leaves of other varieties — not sure of the exact kind. The hills around Spring Green and Black Earth are beautiful to drive through, and Birdman knows his way through the less-traveled but always well-kept two-lane roads.
“Pumpkins were a subject for today’s Bulletin Board, and it must have been a good year for pumpkins! All along the highway, the farm stands had what looked like a huge oversupply. They were laid out in patterns and even different color tones, and a van driving in front of us had the whole inside of the car full to the ceiling.
“What do they do with the leftovers, one wonders? Birdman says they may be used for fertilizer and ‘squashed’ up and buried. Anyone know the answer?
“It’s like Christmas trees that don’t get sold. Where do they go?
“We only wish the weather had been as good as the previous week. Spent too much time running from motel to car in light rain, cold temps and strong wind. I think the tendency followed us home to Minnesota . . . looks like winter is not far away.”
Red Vines Division (cont.)
Semi-Legend: “The reference to ‘woodbine’ cause me to think of ‘bindweed,’ and then of ‘honeysuckle,’ and then of the Flanders & Swann song ‘Misalliance’: ‘A piece ostensibly about the habits of climbing plants, but such an intelligent parody of narrow-minded prejudice and class-consciousness!’ — according to the person who posted this to YouTube.
Band Name of the Day: The Revolving Eyeballs
Website of the Day: Merlin Bird ID App