The Permanent Neighborly Record
Tim Torkildson writes: “Subject: The Terrible Antones.
“One spring morning, in the year 1962, Jimmy Antone was in a terrific butting mood. Something had got his goat, ruffled his feathers, waved a red flag, and he was rarin’ to start butting. This was his standard reaction whenever he got mad. I was there, and saw it — and narrowly missed being butted in the stomach myself.
“I have no idea what set Jimmy off. All I know is it wasn’t me.
“When Jimmy missed me by a hair’s breadth, he backed up, made a deep gargle sound that he fancied mimicked an Evinrude outboard motor, and took off for the side of his parents’ car. Bang! His noggin left a dent in the side of the passenger door. Not satisfied with a probable concussion, Jimmy backed up again, gargled some more, and roared into the rose trellis next to the front porch. It fractured without impaling Jimmy with any wooden laths.
“Then Mrs. Antone stuck her head out the living-room window, screaming at Jimmy to stop messing around or she’d call his father home right this instant. Jimmy desisted, looking around him with smug satisfaction at the carnage he had already caused.
“Then we got back to spinning our Duncan tops on the cement sidewalk in front of his house — a sidewalk that was cracked and uneven from elm-tree roots. It made for rotten skating.
“The Antones lived two doors down from us on 19th Avenue Southeast, in Minneapolis. Their home was notable for once having belonged to Hubert H. Humphrey, when he was mayor of Minneapolis back in the Forties. Mr. and Mrs. Antone came from Lebanon, and they never let a chance go by to proudly mention their quasi-connection with a political bigwig like Humphrey. This did not sit well with my dad, who hated Humphrey with a passion rare in one of his usually phlegmatic (read: hungover) nature. It turns out that during his campaign for mayor, Humphrey had stopped in at Aarone’s Bar & Grill, where my dad worked, and had a beer. He paid for it and left, without the customary tip to the bartender. This enraged dad, and he never let it go.
“One day, Mr. Antone mentioned their connection with Humphrey once too often in the presence of my dad at a neighborhood barbecue. Dad fixed his beady red eyes on Mr. Antone and said, in a voice usually reserved for cursing Earl Battey at Twins games: ‘That Humphrey is so cheap, he wouldn’t pay a dime to see Christ ride a bicycle!’ The ensuing shocked silence was broken only when my mother sternly said: ‘Don, it’s time to go home.’ The look of murder in her eye would have cowed John Wayne. My sisters and I were told to stay at the barbecue and have another Oscar Mayer wiener before coming home. For once we were smart enough to obey our parents implicitly, and thus avoided an undoubtedly gruesome domestic foofaraw at home.
“The Antones were Mr. and Mrs., with four children: Judy and Rose, and Ronnie and Jimmy.
“Rose was the oldest; she was practically out of the house by the time I grew conscious of the female species — she having gone to beauty college and set up her own beauty salon in Nordeast Minneapolis.
“Judy I recall as a certified little angel — always smiling and speaking politely. I’d like to say she grew up to be an axe murderess, but in all fairness I don’t remember anything else about her.
“Ronnie, as the oldest boy, was expected to be rock solid and protective of his family. He and Mr. Antone got into some epic fights in their screened back porch on summer evenings that reverberated throughout the neighborhood, and were listened to with keen interest from open windows back in those days when air conditioning was for movie theaters and not for private homes. The gist of these loudspeaker discussions was that Ronnie had better settle down and stop drinking beer and playing cards with his cronies down at the factory — to which Ronnie always replied that he would do whatever he damn well pleased and would the old man kindly take a bleeping leap into the nearest lake. After one stormy session, Ronnie finally moved out and the family didn’t see him again for several years, by which time Mr. Antone had become the victim of several strokes, which left him scrawny and hesitant in speech and gait. When Ronnie finally did come back home for a visit, he brought with him his blue-eyed Swedish bride, and no one was more fond of her than old Mr. Antone — who liked to hold her hand when she took him out for his daily walk around the block.
“The pride and joy of the Antones, and the envy of the entire neighborhood, was the 25-foot Chris-Craft boat that Mr. Antone bought with the settlement money he got from the railroad when he was injured on the job and lost his right index finger. That was some fine boat, lemme tell ya.
“And it was the only boat of such magnificent proportions in the entire area. Oh, sure, nearly everyone had a dinky little aluminum punt that you could put a motor on and putter around on Lake Harriet — but the Antone boat was made to battle the waves of an inland sea like Lake Minnetonka. Or even to tow up to Lake Superior for the whiting run.
“And the hell of it was, the Antones never invited anyone ever to sail with them. Never. Ever. It was for family only. Didn’t matter how much you tried cozening up to them. I gave Jimmy my Lionel train set — tracks, locomotive, and water tower — as a gesture of sincere friendship. But do you think that entitled me to a ride on the Antone yacht? No way, Jose! My mother shared her recipe for watermelon-rind pickles with Mrs. Antone — something she would not do with anyone else, not even her sister Ruby — but that cut no ice with the Antones; she stayed as landlocked as ever.
“Once the ice was out of the rivers and lakes, Mr. Antone got the boat out of storage and parked it in front of their house, where he polished it with marine wax until it sparkled like the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Jimmy and I would clamber all over it, shouting nautical and piratical phrases at each other, like ‘Avast, ye landlubber!’ and ‘Shiver me timbers, matey!’ We took turns standing behind the wheel and sailing her to as many faraway places as our anemic geography could supply.
“Then early Sunday morning, when the rest of us peons were getting ready for church, the Antones would hook the boat up to their truck and roll majestically away for a day of fishing and hobnobbing with the other moguls afloat. I have no doubt that many in our neighborhood, as they gathered at their various places of worship, harbored a half-formed wish that the Antones’ boat would be caught in a cyclone and go down with all hands. I know I did.”
Swedish Flowers Division (cont.) (responsorial)
Barbara of Afton: “The pretty blue flower posted by Mounds View Swede is a Mountain Blue — Centaurea montana.”
This ‘n’ that (responsorial)
The most recent Bulletin Board included this report from DebK of Rosemount: “Believing, as I do, that ‘misery loves company,’ I shared with several of my women friends the trauma I experienced last Saturday as Taxman and I made our way glacially to Cedar Rapids over highways that had been turned into obstacle courses by hundreds of abandoned vehicles — overturned (not just jackknifed) semis, stranded SUVs, and well-and-truly-stuck sedans.
“The roadway reclamation effort was in its very early stages as we turned off I-35 and headed east on Iowa Highway 18. A good three hours into our journey by this time, I was feeling considerable need of a ladies’ room. We saw any number of small towns — likely all equipped with the requisite facilities — but every exit was blocked by daunting heaps of heavy wet snow and/or the vehicles that had previously (and unwisely) tangled with them.
“Finally, within sight of Norah Springs, Iowa, I convinced Taxman that things had reached the crisis point. Judging that the exit was impassable, Taxman eased the pickup onto the side of the highway, where I was obliged to do my business while he did his gentlemanly best to shield me from view.
“Confessing my lapse of decorum has opened the floodgates to revelations of a similar sort, including this gem, which arrived just now from Gardengoddess:
“‘When I was a child (in the Fifties, that would be), our family took yearly road trips to California to visit my mother’s sister Helen and her daughter Mollie. My dad, eyes bugged out and fastened onto the road, never wanted to stop. I was an adult before I ever saw the Corn Palace, and we only knew of Wall Drug from the road signs before and after (‘You Missed Wall Drug’). We drove practically nonstop. Up at the crack of dawn in the motel, drive two hours before a breakfast stop, then straight ahead until evening. Lunch was in the car, round cheese waffle crackers, canned oranges and grapefruit. Determined to stop for nothing, Dad always made me and my brother pee in a paper cup. The first time I remember quite well. Dad rolled down his side window and with his left hand quickly flicked the cup contents through the opening, but the force of the air splattered it all back in his face! After that, he developed an alternative technique whereby he would carefully . . .carefully . . . lower the cup keeping it horizontal until the last second, then simply drop it.’”
We presently heard from the aforementioned (but heretofore unboldfaced) Gardengoddess of Apple Valley: “Not wanting to tarnish the reputation and fond memories of my dear father, I need to add that during those drives to California, every morning before we started out, we would attend morning Mass at the local Catholic church, which we would scout out the evening before, in order to determine the very earliest (of course!) Mass we could attend. I have dim memories of churches in Kearney and Chadron, Nebraska; Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie, Wyoming; Provo and Spanish Fork in Utah; Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada. My father and mother did have their priorities right. No time for pee stops, but time for Mass? Yes!
“Now to the lovely flower pictures posted:
“The pink rose is one of the double old-fashioned roses — those parents of our modern hybrid teas, but so much more fragrant, and trouble-free.
“The gold daylily is a heritage variety: ‘Flava.’ It blooms in early- to mid-June here in the U.S., rather than in July, when most other daylilies do.
“The blue flower is perennial cornflower, Centaurea montana; this hardy perennial is perfectly at home here in Minnesota’s Zone 4. I have several clumps in my garden.”
Swedish Flowers Division (cont.)
The Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Fourth five Svenska Blommor.
“When we met a friend of a friend and they showed us their garden, part of it was this huge rock covered with moss and plants growing out of it — a very different ‘garden’ from what I had ever seen. They were pleased with the results.
“This type of flower was also new to me.
“While looking for a great-grandmother’s birth farm, we saw these nice lupine blossoms.
“And also another strange type of blossom.
“What looks like a blossoming Christmas tree was one situated under another taller, blooming tree that was dropping its blossoms.
“I liked the effect — a natural way of decorating the tree and making me think of Christmas in June.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Perish the thought! The way this “spring” is going, it might just look like Christmas in June!
Our theater of seasons
Including: There’s nothin’ like a simile!
Al B of Hartland: “The world was hurrying by at squirrel speed. An entire Olympics could consist of one event: trying to catch a squirrel. Whoever caught one would get the gold medal.
“There were snow-bones, the persistent patches of snow left behind along fence lines toward the end of winter or after a thaw.
“Blue jays called loud and often. I tried to find the cause for their alarm, but could not. Blue jays are like callers to talk radio; it’s impossible to keep up with the reasons for their outrage.
“Robins, having made a colossal commute, looked for worms where they found green grass.
“Birds are beginning to have a lot to say. A rooster pheasant did a double-squawk outside my window. Red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows and house finches sang. It was good to hear them.”
There’s nothin’ like a simile!
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: But what if you catch the wrong one?
”Bandwagons are like buses: There will be another one along any minute.”
Annals of cultural illiteracy
Lucky Buck reports: “Subject: Owie.
“Back in another Trauma Care Unit. Therapy for my aching back.
“While in therapy we heard the conversation of the people next door. ‘Sounds like Laurel and Hardy,’ I said.
“My therapist: ‘Who is that?’
“I was dumbstruck that there are people who would not know one of the greatest comedic duos ever.
“Told her to Google it. She is 25.”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “The Nissan traveling north on Lexington in Arden Hills displayed this personalized plate: ‘UNIQUE2.’
“I laughed as I remembered the old joke:
“How do you capture a unique animal?
“U nique up on it.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Funny.
Had we seen that “UNIQUE2” plate, we’d have thought of what some wag said to a friend of his (or, of course, hers): “You’re unique . . . just like everyone else.”
Or: The Permanent Paternal Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “My dad always loved baseball. He often reminisced about the games he had played when he was a kid on the team in Hospers. He loved the sport,and he took his baseball seriously — as shown on this old photo of him in front of two of his unnamed teammates.
“He was 70 years old when the Twins came to Minnesota in 1961, and, although still actively working as a carpenter, he managed to head out to the old park in Bloomington a few games each season. He would take along a grandchild, a nephew or a son-in-law for companionship.
“Sometimes he found it hard to talk anyone into going with him. You see, he loved baseball with a passion, just as passionately as he despised alcohol and tobacco. This presented a problem because a lot of baseball fans like to drink a few beers while they watch a ballgame. Dad thought that if these boozing, smoking fellows liked baseball, then they must be ‘pretty good scouts’ despite their rude, distracting behavior. So, he figured if he had to put up with them, then damn it all, he was entitled to have some fun, too.
“His guests said that it was downright embarrassing to sit next to Dad, because whenever a fan would order a beer and pass the money along the row to the vendor, my dad would take the money and, with an innocent toothless grin, nod a thank you to the thirsty fellow and start to pocket the money. Or when the vendor would pass the change back along the row, causing a disturbing commotion, Dad would just keep his eyes riveted on the action on the field as he ‘absentmindedly’ pocketed the change. Even more embarrassing for his guests was when the beer would be passed down the row. Dad always made sure he stuck his fingers waaay down in the beer container to get a good grip on it before handing it over.”
The Permanent Grandsonly Record
Arizona Susan: “The smile on my grandson Christian’s face is priceless. He was so excited to see all the beautiful eggs he had dyed for Easter.
“Of course, this picture was taken about 16 years ago, as he is now 19 and in college, but it remains a picture that always makes me smile when I look at it.
“Dyeing Easter eggs is always fun, no matter what age you are. Sort of a magical experience: a plain old white egg becomes a vivid color in just minutes.”
Out of the mouths of babes
Stinky Bananalips of Empire, Minnesota: “Yesterday afternoon, I was talking to 3-year-old Preston on the phone. The normal Grandma/grandson conversation: ‘Are you at your house Grandma? What are you doing?,’ etc.
“He wanted to come over, but it just wasn’t a good time. His dad said they could come Thursday morning for coffee break, meaning donut holes and chocolate milk — but he said he wanted to come ‘right now.’
“I told him he would come in two days.
“He wondered how long that was.
“I told him that in ‘two sleeps’ he could come.
“His reply: ‘OK, bye, Grandma. I’m going to bed now.’
“I think he sort of had the right idea!”
Band Name of the Day: The Red Flags
Website of the Day (one of many dozens we could have chosen; Google “Laurel and Hardy videos”):