Our theater of seasons
Leading to: The great comebacks (Photographic Division)
Late-Sunday-evening email from Gregory J. of Dayton ‘s Bluff: “While I was outside shoveling snow for the third time today, I remembered something our friendly TV meteorologists like to do when our spring weather gets challenging. For some reason, they believe that telling us that the sun angle and intensity at a given time in spring are the same as at a certain time in summer will make us feel better. For example, the mid-April sun is equivalent to the late-August sun. While my brain knows this is true, the rest of me feels no comfort from the comparison.
“However, the mention of late August means something special to many people: the Minnesota State Fair. And what is one thing we never, ever see at the ‘The Great Minnesota Get-Together?’ Snow!
“Therefore I’m submitting some random photos I’ve taken at the State Fair over the past few years. And in each one, please note the total absence of snow.
“The first one was taken on August 27, 2013. It shows what appears to be the Space Tower in front of an enormous sun that is at least five times its normal diameter. It’s actually an optical illusion. I took the picture as the gondola of the Space Tower eclipsed the real sun. Thanks to weird sky conditions and a not particularly good digital camera, the resultant photo turned out like this. Not that the sun didn’t seem extra-large that day. It was really hot. The temperature hit 95, with a dew point of 73. This was forecast the day before, and the local news people warned everyone that if they went to the State Fair, they were probably going to DIE! So we went anyway. It was an interesting experience. Attendance that day was only 94,076, the lowest in at least the past seven years. Everyone was surprisingly mellow. Giant fans and water misters were set up all over the Fair. None of the buildings were crowded, and there were plenty of places to sit in the shade. We all survived — and as far as I know, so did everyone else who went that day.
“The rest of my photos are far less dramatic.
“Nothing says summer and a lack of snow like the moose statue in the green algae-infested pond behind the DNR Building.
“A couple of Crop Art photos remind us that eventually the snow cover disappears, allowing plants to grow and produce seeds.
“A garden near the Grandstand demonstrates that Minnesota does turn green for a brief period every year.
“Fairchild points to those green things that appear on trees.
“The restored State Fair Arch beckons Fair-goers to see the trees within.
“A crowded street scene reveals not a single person wearing a stocking cap, mittens, or a parka.
“I’m not exactly sure why, but Peters Hot Dogs/Wieners only appear in the hot, snow-free days of August and early September.
“There is nothing like a giant boar in a hot, smelly barn to remind you of those lazy, hazy snow-less days of summer.
“This giant Ferris Wheel would never work in the snow. How big is it, you ask? Big enough to be seen from Indian Mounds Regional Park here in Dayton’s Bluff.
“And finally, a Linotype machine in the Minnesota Newspaper Museum, just because I think the museum is one of the most interesting places at the State Fair.”
Our theater of seasons
Endless Winter Division
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “First off, let me say again: Merry Christmas to everyone!
“We all will have stories and pictures to share about this record-breaking snow storm for many years to come.
“Yesterday I blew out about 12 inches of snow in my driveway, and then we were blessed with around another six inches in the evening. Arrggghh!
“I would like to start off by sharing a few pictures that I took this morning out my back window.
“The first picture is of the sunrise, showing a bird house with a mailbox next to it. My wife uses the mailbox to store some small hand tools for her gardening.
“The next photo shows how deep the snow is around the mailbox. Pretty deep!
“The last two pictures of our BBQ grill on the deck shows the actual amount of snow on top of it that we got.
“I wonder if we ever will have a summer this year? Maybe go from winter straight into fall!”
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. I heard that quote a long time ago, but I have no idea as to whom it should be attributed. Too lazy to look it up.
“Our latest non-springlike weather reminded me of this one, also from long ago.
“People say, ‘April showers bring May flowers.’ Around here it is more like ‘April blizzards freeze your gizzards.’
“Well, this must be a blizzard, because both Sunday papers proclaimed it to be.”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “This weekend we’re hiding from an April snowstorm ‘for the record books.’ I call it the Tortoise (as in the Tortoise and the Hare fable) storm. It will probably top the big storm of April 1983 [Bulletin Board says: It did — by a . . . Hare?], but this weather is coming down in teeny tiny flakes that never stop falling. Since church, etc., were cancelled, many of us are home watching snow dance in the wind. Hopefully, folks will handle the boredom well. I kinda expect some ‘expecting,’ months from now.
“The 1983 storm (the Hare) was more efficient. We all got to work in ‘my’ lab that year and saw snow pound down. Work wasn’t cancelled, even as white stuff heaped up outside. I later heard that the Highway Patrol didn’t want all of us leaving work at the same time and clogging the freeways — so we decided one by one to leave, taking the chance that we would lose vacation time for leaving early.
“The 1983 snow was wet and heavy. Our cars were packed in place, and groups had to shovel and push to liberate each one. I plunged in and worked noisily with the guys to move our cars. It was great exercise, and my cheeks were rosy.
“Back then, I still wanted to find a guy. I flirted with a guy in my lab building, though he never asked me out.
“Anyway, I expected praise or something for helping the get the cars out. Which I didn’t get. And of course another woman working in the building then came out, fresh as a daisy, and got a ride with the guy I liked.
“By the Standards of Then, I should have stood around and acted feminine and helpless. But I have never been capable of doing that.
“The 1983 storm had another consequence. Workers had removed the tarred roof on our flat building before the snow fell. As the snow quickly melted, water came down through the roof. We arrived at work about two days after the storm and heard about the Flood from Above. And found a huge gray (tilt truck?) cart in the anteroom of the office of our manager, ‘Rich.’ To catch water.
“Rich was a much-liked large and tall man. So obviously someone had placed a sign on the cart saying it was a Rich bathtub. The instruction for its use said that to use it, we should add one Rich and one gallon of water.
“Why do I never come up with jokes like that???”
Birdwatcher in La Crescent: “During this nasty winter storm we are having in the so-called spring, we have been confined to being in the house yesterday and today (Saturday and Sunday). We have had a lot of time to watch for birds outside and have seen many, many juncos. In the past when there are juncos around, there is usually one or two, but yesterday and today there are as many as 30 to 40 in the three yards by us that we can see.
“We saw three song sparrows for the very first time. I had a hard time finding what kind of bird it was, thinking that it was a pine siskin, but a pine siskin doesn’t have the black dot on its chest, as has the bird we were watching.
“Also, there was a mourning dove sitting on our bench on the porch yesterday that had lost a great deal of its back tail, so we were wondering what could have grabbed it and removed that part.
“This morning on our back deck, there was a female cardinal that had only one leg. I watched her for a long time, thinking maybe she had it tucked under her, but when she went to the ground I could plainly see she had only the one leg. She didn’t walk; she hopped. We felt sorry for the mourning dove and the cardinal.
“Feeling sorry for all the birds and how hard it was for them to find food during this storm, I was constantly putting seed on the deck and front porch, and we made sure the feeders were full — but with the sleet we received on Saturday, the seed was frozen into the trays, so we had to bring them into the house to thaw out. Poor critters in this weather.
“We, and the birds, need some nice weather.”
Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota, reports: “This bird was at the feeder during the storm. Probably a sparrow of some sort, but we can’t find it in our books. Just wondering if anyone can identify it.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We are no Al B of Hartland (our Official Ornithologist), but that looks like a song sparrow to us. Al B can correct us if we’re wrong.
We’re not wrong about this: The song sparrow is one enthusiastic singer!
Our theater of seasons
What Is Right With People? Division (Where We Live Subdivision)
Double Bogey Mike writes: “In case you didn’t see this story, this is how Minnesotans deal with a historic April blizzard:
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Be sure to click on the “Story Continues” button.
Our theater of seasons
On the Plus Side Division
Monday-morning report from The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill (where the crocuses are in hiding): “Unbridled joy:
“The F-Bomb, 11, ran down the block last night in his socks and in a short-sleeved shirt to inform his brother, who was shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, that they had a snow day today.”
Older Than Dirt?
Or: Know thyself!
Saturday-afternoon email from Gregory of the North: “Random Thoughts on a Blizzardy Spring Day.
“Gregory of the North just sitting here, watching the improbable blizzard outside my window, and musing about the celebrity birthdays list in today’s Pioneer Press.
“I notice that Emma Thompson and Emma Watson are both born on Tax Day, just 31 years apart; and 31 years is 10 years longer than Maisie Williams (‘baby’ Arya Stark on ‘Game of Thrones’), also born on this date, has been alive.
“I notice that an old flame, if only in my imagination, Ellen Barkin, turns 64 on Monday, and the little boy who wanted the BB gun, with which many adults feared he’d shoot his eye out (Peter Billingsley), is now 47.
“Hayley Mills, that once-ubiquitous Disney ingenue, is 72 on Wednesday. She’s always been older than me, but now she seems — well — older.
“The Animals’ keyboardist, Alan Price, who made that broken minor-major-minor bass chord progression in ‘House of the Rising Sun’ impossible for anyone of a certain age to forget, is 76 on Thursday.
“Commander Sulu (George Takei) of the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701) hits his 81st nebula on Friday.
“And on Saturday, Andie McDowell and Elizabeth II Regina share a birthday with my beloved, although Her Royal Highness is 91 to my Bride’s (and Ms. McDowell’s) mere 60.
“So it seems, as I struggle to deal with the ‘auspiciousness’ of having entered my seventh decade a few months ago, everyone else is getting old, while of course, I’m simply aging. (Wink!)”
What this country has been needing
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Simple solutions.
“I implore all of the mothers in America to flood out into the streets and chant as loud as they can: ‘I DON’T CARE WHOSE FAULT IT IS, JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW!'”
Our community of strangers
And: The simple pleasures (Gee, Our Old La Salle Ran Great! Division)
The Original Newcomer of St. Paul: “I used to be a regular contributor to the BB when I lived in Minnesota, but we moved to Tucson in 2011.
“We’re getting ready to put our house on the market, and while culling out stuff to get rid of, I came across this dog-eared (actually dog-chewed) book.
“I’m in it with a story about my then-4-year-old and 1-year-old daughters, who are now an almost-29-year-old daughter and a 25-year-old son. (‘Get Me My Cane!’)
“I was telling my helper about the BB, and realized that for me it was what Facebook now is in my life: a place to connect with others and share our lives. I was absolutely delighted to see it’s still going in this age of such pervasive online social media.”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Yes, and we’ve got this going for us, too:
Whatever privacy you want is zealously guarded here!
Our pets, ourselves
Dolly Dimples: “Subject: Dog days.
“Maybe you’ve noticed the attention paid to dogs this year. The Chinese are celebrating The Year of the Dog, Hallmark hosted its first-ever America Rescue Dog Show, and the movies are featuring a film called ‘Isle of Dogs.’
“I like dogs, although at my core, I am a cat person. But there have been some memorable and wonderful dogs in my life. In my teen years, I buddied with my brother’s dog, Roxy, a cocker spaniel who shared long walks with me around the neighborhood. Roxy could keep a secret. When my adolescent angst overflowed, I would pour out the hurt in my heart to him. He would listen intently and even lick a tear from my face if I had an especially dramatic tale to tell.
“Brandy, a handsome Irish setter, was my son-in-law’s pet and lived with us for a while. He thought he was a human. When we relaxed in the living room after dinner, he would select a chair or the couch, plant his butt and hind legs on the cushion, place his front legs straight down, put his pads on the floor and appear to be listening to the conversation. I am sure if he could have talked, he would have joined in. Brandy was long on beauty but short on common sense, we said. He gave us a scare the day he escaped from us and we tracked him to the White Castle eatery on Lexington and University, which was six blocks from our house. He was stalking the customers as they entered the restaurant. How he ever avoided being hit on those heavily traveled streets, we never figured out. We wondered if his sense of smell was so sharp, he could smell the burgers from our house.
“We had an RV at Pathfinder Village, and our family would spend time there during the summer. A favorite activity was to walk the trails, and Brandy was always gung-ho to go. He’d be unleashed and free to explore the surrounding woods. At the end of our walk, we called for him to come. Whew! We smelled him before we saw him. He had challenged a skunk, and we didn’t have to guess who won. We were told that bathing him in ketchup would neutralize the skunk smell. I don’t remember how many bottles we used, but it did work — somewhat. The next time we went walking, Brandy was not allowed to join us. He was supposed to remain in the camper. When we got back, we found all the window screens in shreds. Brandy had tried to escape his imprisonment by crawling out the windows. On reflection, maybe it wasn’t Brandy who was short on common sense; maybe it was we humans.
“My husband was a commercial milk driver, which means he delivered cases of milk to schools, restaurants, etc. For several days he noticed a scrawny collie-mix dog rummaging around the garbage cans at a restaurant. One day he couldn’t stand seeing that poor dog looking so hungry. He walked into our house hanging on to the collar of this dirty, skinny dog. ‘What have you got there?’ was my question when I finally got words out. What we got was a poor, abandoned pet who needed a loving home and delighted kids to play with. We named her Peggy. We fed her, cleaned her up, took her to the vet and enjoyed her companionship for many years. She and I were especially compatible on camping trips, as we both loved walking the trails on Paradise Island. It was a sad day for both of us when, in the middle of a walk, she sat down and refused to go any farther. She couldn’t do it anymore. Old age had sapped her energy.
“At the present time, we have a rescue poodle-something-mix named Percy. He was on display at a pet store where they were having an adoption event featuring rescue pets. When my grandson saw him, he begged his mom to buy him. My son-in-law had put down his Husky dog, Angel, recently, and this little 10- to 12-pound bundle of no-shed curly fur was quite a contrast. For the first three days we had him, he didn’t bark or make a sound. Did he have a voice? we wondered. One day, someone rang the doorbell and Percy answered with a few woofs. All of us cheered. There were rules to follow: no dogs on furniture, no dogs sleeping on beds. You can guess how long those rules were enforced. Percy loves to cuddle when we sit on the couch. He sleeps on someone’s bed at night. He’s adept at guzzling dropped food. It’s in his mouth before you can reach to retrieve it. He is a lovable addition to our family and a reason I like dogs even though I am cat person at heart.”
Or: Clowning around
Tim Torkildson writes: “I was born with the desire to make people laugh. I practiced funny faces in the bathroom mirror when I was 3. In kindergarten, I used my brother’s pajamas as a clown costume and swiped my mother’s lipstick for greasepaint when we put on a circus for the PTA. By sixth grade, I had perfected a sliding pratfall, so when the janitors were mopping the hallways, I would blithely stroll past them and then let my legs slip out from under me, land on my rear, and glide several yards into the nearest wall.
“In high school I continued to blossom as a buffoon. Marshall-University High School was located at 1313 15th Street Southeast in Minneapolis. It was the smallest high school in the city; the MPS finally closed it in 1982, for efficiency reasons. I started there in 1964 and graduated in 1970. I did not much enjoy high school, refusing to have a senior photo taken for the yearbook.
“The place was infested with bullies and embryonic thugs; the vice principal’s office carried a large collection of cricket bats and steel Ping-Pong paddles that were in constant use on the backsides of nogoodniks. Being a peace-loving coward, with no pugilistic tendencies, I would have been fair game for every ruffian there if I had not started carrying a used nine-iron I bought at the Goodwill store in emulation of Bob Hope. He always had a mashie niblick or some such golf club with him during his monologues. The Marshall-U criminal element was unsure of my prowess with the club, so they left me alone for the most part.
“I shared my risible instincts with some of the teachers there — those who would not box my ears and frogmarch me down to the vice principal’s abattoir. I fondly recall my English teacher Mrs. Goetz, the wife of Peter Michael Goetz, who acted at the Guthrie Theater. Pert and petite, she encouraged my literary zaniness, going so far as to allow me to present a scene from my original play ‘A Day at the Hospital’ in class for extra credit. My play was an homage to the Marx Brothers. All that I can recall of that infantile opus now is that at one point Groucho is operating on a patient and calls for sutures. The nurse tells him they have no sutures, to which he waggles his eyebrows and replies: ‘Then suture self!’ I wrote the whole thing out in longhand, and a merciful providence has insured that it disappeared a long, long time ago.
“Then there was Mr. Chen, the school’s Chinese teacher. Yes, I said Chinese. For reasons that I have yet to discover, the Minneapolis Public Schools system hired a student at the University of Minnesota, a denizen of Taiwan, to offer classes in Mandarin as an elective course. Since the only other elective was Shop, I took Chinese. Mr. Chen was not so much interested in leading us through the intricacies of calligraphy and proper tones as in denouncing mainland China and its communist hierarchy. It was a small class — only six of us. I used the time trying out various comic horns and rattles that I acquired from thrift stores or from ads in the back of comic books. Whenever Mr. Chen had his back to us, writing on the blackboard, I would whip out a wooden train whistle or a mini-klaxon horn for a quick interruption. Initially irritated and tending to denounce me in a high shrill voice, Mr. Chen eventually became first curious and then charmed with my collection of noisemakers. When I presented him with a siren whistle (which I fished out of a box of Cracker Jack) he honored the quid pro quo by giving me an ‘A.’
“Another memorable instructor was Lyle Rockler — a shirttail relative of the furrier L.A. Rockler; my mother stored her red fox fur stole with his company every summer. Lyle (he insisted we call him Lyle and not Mr. Rockler) taught the theater class and put on the school plays. No Shakespeare or Samuel French farces for him! He preferred contemporary and controversial dramas, such as ‘Indians,’ by Arthur Kopit. He cast me as the Grand Duke of Russia in that play — in which I scored a dazzling comedic coup on opening night by pulling out my belt instead of my sword in Act One, letting my pants fall down and bringing down the house as well. Lyle let me keep that bit of business in. God bless him.
“During my senior year, I collaborated with fellow student Mark Frost, the future co-creator of ‘Twin Peaks,’ on an original play we presented to the entire student body (all 200 of them). I should have better recall of such a seminal event in my comedic career, but honestly all I can remember about it is that I choreographed a dance between a ballerina and an atomic bomb to some music by Delibes, and that in the show itself I played one half of a pair of Siamese twins. I do remember the show bombed; the student audience threw pencils, spiral notebooks, and odd wads of bubble gum at us. Although scheduled for three performances, we gave only one. I recently looked at Mark’s website, bymarkfrost, and notice he doesn’t even mention that particular episode in his biography. I wonder why?
“Sixty-four years ago, I was born with the desire to make people laugh, and I’ve been pretty lucky to have spent most of my adult life as a professional circus clown. The sound of a belly laugh is meat and drink to me. Now that osteoarthritis and hyperparathyroidism have slowed me down, I’m angling for the chuckle with my pen, instead of my pratfalls. In the past six years, I’ve sent hundreds of humorous poems to journalists via email, commenting wryly on their various stories. Has it paid off? Well, you be the judge. I recently wrote a poem about a bookstore article by the New York Times reporter David Streitfeld, as follows:
“Where half price tomes once beckoned me,
“With dull remainders almost free,
“And clerks with glasses read on stools,
“There’s now a Zales with chintzy jewels.
“Ecommerce, you’re a villain sure —
“Closing bookeries demure.
“Without book havens made of bricks
“I’ll just stay home and watch Netflix.
“Mr. Streitfeld instantly replied to my email thus: ‘you might have a future writing ransom notes.’
“What comic needs anymore encouragement than that?”
Donald: “Subject: They play them on, but should they play them off?
“An article in Tuesday’s paper west of St. Paul included this: ‘Entry music for closers is a big deal. Joe Nathan used Steel Dragon’s “Stand Up and Shout” when he was the Twins’ closer and Glen Perkins used Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”
“‘But Fernando Rodney, the Twins’ closer, has pretty much kicked them to the curb with a video of “Live the Night” by W&W and Hardwell and Lil Jon.’
“I found Rodney’s choice (which I would never have recognized on my own) to be a partial answer to a question that has been on my mind ever since he became the closer: If Rodney blows a save, will his exit music be ‘Fernando’s Hideaway’?
“Oops, I guess that’s ‘Hernando’s Hideaway.’ Never mind.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: VWD.
“The latest message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:
“‘YOLO, LOL, JK,
“‘BRB. — Jesus.’”
Life as we know it
Al B of Hartland: “The Minnesota Lynx WNBA team is the most successful pro team in the state. I’d never seen them play until a hospital stay gave me the time and a TV capable of seeing their games. I enjoyed watching them.
“I played basketball for many years. It was fun and good exercise. I gave it up after most of my bucketball friends had retired and when it began to hurt. You’re only as old as you feel . . . the day after playing basketball.
“I learned that hooping it up had kept the love handles at bay. Love handles rushed in where basketball feared to tread. Even with the love handles, I’m happy when I look in the mirror and I’m still there.”
Band Name of the Day: The Nogoodniks
Website of the Day: Mark Frost