How is cancer like winter?

Life as we know it
Including: There’s nothin’ like a simile!

Al B of Hartland: “I attended the Cancer Auction in Geneva, as I do each year. The venue, Geneva Bar & Grill, was loud and packed. If anything that has to do with cancer could be festive, this was it.


“I was determined to stand. I thought others needed seats more than I did. I stubbornly declined the kind offers of a seat from countless folks.

“I encountered many friends and renewed old acquaintances. Far more compliments than complaints were exchanged.

“I spoke with so many cancer survivors, it left me verklempt. These are people who have had many thumbs on the scales. Verklempt is a useful word of Yiddish origin, meaning overcome with emotion. It caused me to hug more than necessary (some folks think that no hug is ever necessary) and to shake the same hands repeatedly.

“My wife and I were winning bidders of a plate of chocolate chip cookies during the auction. It was a great purchase for her, as I don’t eat chocolate. As expected, we paid enough that if all chocolate chip cookies sold for that price, we’d all be in the business of baking and selling chocolate chip cookies.

“I appreciate the good work and the generosity of the fine people there. That dread disease is somewhat like winter. We brace for the cold and embrace the warmth.”

Our theater of seasons
Including: My first (and only) . . . 

Cat’s Mom of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin: “You folks in St. Paul are in the middle of the Winter Carnival again. Now is the time I tell my story about my experience:

“We went over to visit my cousin and to see the ice palace — this was the year it was on Lake Phalen. [Bulletin Board notes: That was 1986 — as we believed, but confirmed here.] We had to park a few blocks away and walk to the site. Well, halfway there I had my first asthma attack . . . and no inhaler, as I had not been officially diagnosed by a doctor. I sat down in a snowbank while DH flagged down a patrol car. So I got my first (and only) ride in a police car with sirens blaring to the nearest hospital for treatment. I think it was St. Paul Regions. [Bulletin Board notes: In those days, it was called St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center. It didn’t become Regions Hospital until 1997.]

“I did get to see the ice palace. We drove over the next day and could get close by driving on the frozen lake.

“We have not made a trip to see the ice palaces since then.”

Now & Then
Popular Music Division (cont.) (“Galway Bay” Subdivision) (responsorial) (“Danny Boy” Sub-subdivision)

The Mendota Heights Missus: “Subject: ‘Danny Boy.’

“I may as well put my two cents in!

“My brother, Daniel, died tragically 60 years ago in a car accident, when he was 20 years old. For years, our dear mother and the rest of us cried whenever we heard ‘Danny Boy,’ whether it was sung by an Irish tenor or anyone else. I have to admit I had never heard Jerry Lee Lewis sing it, but we most likely would have cried at his version as well. (BTW, I was quite surprised to hear him sing it so well.)

“In addition to feeling the loss of my brother, we’re French Canadian, and we French people have very weak tear ducts; at least that’s what our Uncle Nap (Napoleon) always said. And of course, it’s a very lovely sad song.

“March isn’t far off, and I suspect we’ll be hearing many renditions of ‘Danny Boy’ soon. I don’t cry any longer when hearing it, but it still makes me sad.”

Our jets, ourselves
Or: Our times

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff reports: “It was Super Bowl Sunday, the pre-pre-pre-game show was on TV, and the outside temperature was a balmy zero degrees. So what to do until game time? How about take a trip to Indian Mounds Park, to check out the private jets across the river at St. Paul Downtown Airport/Holman Field. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one who thought of doing that, although nobody stuck around for long. There were supposedly at least 200 planes down there. I didn’t count them, but that appeared to be a good estimate. So without any further ado, here are some photos of the airplanes of the rich and famous.”







Help wanted
From: Our community of strangers

OTD from NSP: “I am asking for help finding something.

“In 2015 or 2016, I noticed an item at a craft show/church holiday sale/some sale of that type. The line at the booth was fairly long, and I didn’t wait. I have looked since then, and I have not found the item again. I looked again this past holiday season, as it would have been a good item for an adult gift.

“The item was a miniature clothes-drying rack that sat on the counter for dishcloths. It looked like the drying rack I have in my laundry area that folds up, has three rods on each side and three in the middle that are staggered higher from the the rods on the sides. It was approximately a foot high and 9 inches wide, made of wood. Large enough for a average dishcloth, and both sides could be used. The display had one folded up and one open with a dish cloth on it.

“I have checked ETSY, Michael’s, JoAnn Fabrics, etc., and I have not found it.

“If anyone knows where I can find these, or who crafts them, I would appreciate the information. I know there are BBers who do woodworking/crafts — maybe one would be interested in a project? I would be interested in buying several of these (can never start Christmas shopping too early).

“Thanks in advance for your help. BBers have always come through in the past when I have had a request.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “After clearing the driveway of most of the snow from our latest snowfall, I noticed the outside lights were illuminating the latest frost scenes on my storm door, so I took a few more photos.



“The places of clear glass showed off the different forms pretty well, I thought.


“With the latest cold front, the storm window was solid frost with a few distinct crystals visible.


“But most of the window looked like this—a solid mass of frost crystals and every bit of glass covered.


“This afternoon when the sun started to warm the glass, droplets and clear places are back again.


“I am still intrigued by the varied results from day to day, sometimes hour to hour — though I am not watching it by the hour, only when I happen to pass by on my way in or out, up or down. If something catches my eye, then I get my camera to take a better look in case there is something I might want to share with BB readers.


“I am enjoying the photos others have sent in, too, and appreciate the contributions of the faithful writers. Thank you for sending them in.”


Our theater of seasons (responsorial)

Rock Doc of River Falls: “Ah, more wonderful frost pictures from Mounds View Swede. And some good questions, which I will try to answer.

“If you get a sudden freeze, the water drops form hard pellets of ice in the same shape of the droplet, but expanded a bit because solid ice is less dense than liquid water. Think of freezing raindrops on your cold windshield. (Ugh, let’s not!) But when the water drops freeze relatively slowly, they make crystals. The crystals expand as they grow outward, ‘organizing’ the water molecules into water’s crystalline structure. Because ice takes up more space than water, the crystals reach beyond the original boundaries of the drop. As the growing crystalS intersect other drops, the crystals join, forming clumps. When the crystals melt in the warm part of the day, the water contracts back into droplets. Water drops form because of the high surface tension of water. They are essentially little bags of liquid water surrounded by a film of linked water molecules.

“Isn’t Nature grand?”

Life as we know it
Including: There’s nothin’ like a simile! And: Everyone’s a (literary) critic!

Tim Torkildson: “Listening to myself breathe this morning, I can still hear the rales of a bad cold from this past weekend. I sound like the bellows of a thrift-store accordion. And recently having recovered from a severe case of plantar fasciitis, I still have little desire to get out and walk among God’s creations. I’m afraid of a flare=up. O ye of little faith . . . and uncertain health . . . and no car.

“To top it all off, I am suffering from a near-terminal dose of Barbara Pym — a British author who wrote sad, disappointing books about sad, disappointing women during Britain’s sad, disappointing decade of the 1950s. I took her book ‘Excellent Women’ with me to my sickbed this past Saturday and Sunday, having bought a cheap copy on Amazon after reading in the New York Times Book Review that she was the most underappreciated author of the 20th century. She doesn’t have to worry, wherever she might be now — her secret is safe with me; she will remain devotedly underappreciated as long as I have a creaky breath left in my body. To read her mousy prose is to taste the oleomargarine of a life not lived, but stifled with weak tea and whale curry. (Can someone please tell me if there really was such a thing as whale curry during and after World War II in England? I have Googled it endlessly but get only Japanese restaurants and the Food Channel — nothing about how this exotic-sounding dish might have helped Churchill beat the Nazi menace.)

“Reading sad books while sick is worse than taking poison. You can always have your stomach pumped and filled with activated charcoal to counteract a chemical poison, but how do you fight off a soul-numbing and toxic literary work once you’ve read it? I am hoping a generous helping of Rumpole of the Bailey and P.G. Wodehouse will pull me out of this blue funk, but until it does I must deal with this shallow melancholy as best I can without losing a few more of my dwindling supply of marbles.

“And so I’m writing a bit of memoir again, as an anodyne. Something I thought I was done with. Something I wanted to be finished with — saying with smug satisfaction to my children: ‘There, it’s all finished; everything you need to know and that I’m willing to tell you about myself. An instant classic, of course — you kids can divvy up the proceeds from this bestseller any way you see fit. I just want a cast-iron statue raised in my honor back in Van Cleve Park in Minneapolis.’

“But I suppose they don’t raise statues anymore to anybody — chances are much too great that I’ll be discovered to be a crypto-nose picker or something, and there will be ceaseless demands by The Hygienic League of Minnesota Authors to have my snotty likeness removed from Van Cleve. No, I guess I’ll settle for a gift certificate to Red Lobster instead.

“I am weary of delving into the debris of my childhood. Of making judgment calls, accusations, or juggling speculations. And I can’t be bothered to lie very much, come to that. It either happened the way I remember it, or it didn’t. Take it or leave it. Like it or lump it. The only axe I have to grind is the one I want to shave my cheeks and chin.

“Which brings me to Butchey Hogley. That is his name. The spelling may be off, but that’s how I and everyone else pronounced it: ‘Butch – ee Hog – lee.’ No particular emphasis on the syllables. I suppose his parents gave him a real first name, but I never heard it. And if I had, I would not have credited it. Some kids come into the world as just plain Butchey. And Butchey was one of them. His dad had a garage down on Como. This was over a half-century ago, and back then motor vehicles apparently demanded oceans of black tarry oil, for Butchey’s dad was forever covered from stem to stern with sooty grease whenever I laid eyes on him. Their house was cluttered with Bardahl-scented socket wrenches, spare engine parts, grease rags, and bars of Lava pumice soap.

“Butchey had a Saint Bernard, which he fed Milk-Bone treats. And he introduced me to their unique flavor by keeping a handful in his pocket to chew on and offering me one from time to time, like Mel Gibson in the original ‘Lethal Weapon’ movie.

“And now my memory completely fails me as I search for a visual image of him. I remember that my pal Junior had six toes on his left foot, and that my pal Wayne was Japanese (or his parents were — they both got locked up in concentration camps out in California during World War II), and I remember my pal Randy had straw-blonde hair . . .  and even that little runt David R_____, whom I hated all through grade school — I remember he had pegged teeth, widely spaced and disgusting. But Butchey? Well, there you have me. He might have been a giant or had two heads — I no longer recall any physical characteristics about him, except that he somehow shared in the universal greasiness of the house that he lived in, where every stick of furniture and every frock and shirt was tainted with Pennzoil.

“Sadly, I cannot remember the boy himself — only his Saint Bernard, and the 1949 DeSoto hulk his dad kept in the back yard. That dog had a huge dog house all to itself in the back yard, which I resented. It seemed bigger than my own bedroom back home. So whenever I could inveigle Butchey into it, we would spend the whole afternoon inside the dog house, rolling around in the dog’s fragrant and dusty blanket until even our case-hardened nostrils began to revolt.

“Then it was off to the DeSoto, which had a bright red plastic knob on the steering wheel, and the remnants of a pair of fuzzy dice dangling from the rear-view mirror. The seats were upholstered with that unique bubbly kind of plastic sheeting that made the Fingerhut Company rich back in the Fifties and Sixties. It grabbed on to unprotected skin like an octopus tentacle, with a fatal tenacity matched only by the comic flypaper seen in Three Stooges movies. Butchey and I took turns traversing the imaginary highways and byways of the country as we yanked the steering wheel to avoid semi trucks and an occasional dinosaur or erupting volcano. What I do definitely remember about Butchey, that good ol’ boy, was that he adamantly refused to let any girls into the car to play. Ever. Even his own two sisters, who were much older than him and looked like the kind of molls who carried blackjacks in their purses. His sisters were verboten, my sisters were verboten, and even beautiful Marsha Henderson, who lived at the end of the block, had soft blonde hair, and was learning to play the guitar, who we all secretly loved in that desperate, heartbreaking way little ignorant boys have (and which most of us never outgrow) — even she was forbidden to enter the DeSoto, no matter how she batted those luscious eyelids of hers. And her dad was an insurance salesman, who belonged to the Rotary Club, for the cat’s sake — in our neighborhood, that was tantamount to being both a four-star general and a millionaire!

“Yes, I liked Butchey for keeping all those girls out of the DeSoto. It was a boys’ place, for wild dreaming and puerile boasting. You could spit out the window and urinate on the back seat. Butchey and I figured that was the way the world was gonna be when we grew into men. We’d drive around spitting and peeing just as we darn well pleased.

“But then Butchey Hogley and his family, with the Saint Bernard, moved away, to some foreign land called Eden Prairie. And I never saw him again. And I never really got to spit out the car window once I got married and had a car — or do the other thing (not that I really wanted to!). And now I’ve still got that bitter taste of Barbara Pym in my mouth, and even writing this Proustian little tidbit has not cheered me up at all.

“So I’m going out. The sun is out, and the forecast calls for highs in the 50s all week long. Damn the plantar fasciitis, full speed ahead! I’ll walk over to the Fresh Market for a piece of deli fried chicken, get a big Idaho baking potato, a jar of chicken gravy, some frozen peas, and a package of Hostess Twinkies — no Little Debbie imitations for Mrs. Torkildson’s little boy! I’ll eat myself into a comfort-food stupor, collapse on my chaise longue, and, as the Bible says, be an old man that dreams dreams.”

Band Name of the Day: Whale Curry — or: The Little Ignorant Boys

Website of the Day: To heck with the Super Bowl. This was Sunday’s best football story!

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