“It’s more visceral when you can feel it in the action of a key clobbering a wet ink ribbon against a page.”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Or: The lowfalutin pleasures

Auction Girl of PL writes: “Subject: Garage-sale typewriter brings life back to writing.

“When my 12-year-old niece first set eyes on the 1940s Royal with Magic Margins, a heckuva hefty iron machine with round and square keys, she seemed delighted. ‘It’s just like the computer,’ she exclaimed.

 

“I loaded a sheet of paper into the carriage, showed her how to make caps with the shift key and a letter at once; told her the l was a 1, the ‘ and the . had to be used to make a !; and told her that you pushed the return when the bell rang to keep on going on the next line.

“She was off, consumed in her own world with that clattering old machine. Just the day before, I had taken it to Vale for a new ribbon. Vale is like a portal to a much saner world, where speedy typing didn’t exceed the ability to say or think words. I passed typing in 10th grade, and can still hear the distant hammering of those springtime typing drills about the fox and the dog, the good men who seem to have forgotten that the country might need some aid, and all that.

“The woman on Hillcrest who sold that machine and its Olivetti script sequel to this would-be writer for $5 apiece would be happy to know her old father’s well-kept machines still have a story or two to tell. They brought joy to me and to a child who may not have thought about writing as an ‘activity.’ It’s more visceral when you can feel it in the action of a key clobbering a wet ink ribbon against a page.

“‘I like the way it sounds,’ said Bella as she made up a story, ‘On Life and Death,’ about a ballet dancer who controls the forces of life in the world and an evil dragon bent on the destruction of anything beautiful in life.

“After four paragraphs, the summer heat, her best friend, Gabe, and a hotel pool drew her back into the world of childhood. The Olivetti, same age as me, is now in pristine condition with a battered case. ‘They all have a broken zipper,’ said the man at Vale. ‘I really wish they had given the case just a half-inch more space on each side, to hold the typewriter and not pull the zippers apart.’

“For $125, he removed the surface rust stains, cleaned the interior, un-bent the return lever and polished the keys. It even smells good, like fine machine oil. I wish it were as easy and reasonable to restore a person to their best.”

Now & Then

John in Highland: “In today’s world of digital media, young people have no appreciation for the methods that we used in a bygone era to keep track of important business contacts.

“This came to my attention recently when a friend alluded to having looked up something on his Rolodex. A younger person asked: ‘What is a Rolodex?’

“I still have one that sat on my desk years ago, right next to my land-line, dial telephone.

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“When a new business contact would give me their card, the department secretary would use a typewriter to copy the information onto one of the Rolodex cards and re-insert it.

“‘What’s a typewriter?’?”

The great comebacks

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “My sister Nora and I used to love to go to the Prom Ballroom on University Avenue when the big bands came to town.

“I remember the night Ray Anthony was playing. We were waiting for our dates to pick us up when our dad started reminiscing about how much fun he and Mom had going to dances when they were ‘courting.’ Suddenly he turned to our mother and said: ‘How come we never go dancing anymore?’ Mother gave him a snort and dismissed it as a rhetorical question.

“Dad was serious, and he persisted, saying: ‘How about it, Bess? Just take your apron off, and let’s go with them.’ She gave him a ‘You’ve got to be kidding’ look and another snort.

“Dad wasn’t about to be dissuaded. He said: ‘Just give me two good reasons why you don’t want to go.’ Mother looked him in the eye and said: ‘My right foot and my left foot.’ Dad look stunned, and then he started to chuckle. He was still chuckling when we walked out the door.”

The Permanent Grandchildrenly Record
Or: Vive la difference!

Vertically Challenged: “Two little cousins tried fishing for the first time. Little Luke is thrilled with his catch.

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“Umm, Adriana . . . not so much!”

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A thought for today

Passed along by Sally, the Cleaning Lady of Shoreview: “‘If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.’ — Robert Fulghum, author (b. 4 Jun 1937)”

Rules to live by

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Not everyone reads Nora Roberts’s books, because they’re romances. And they have somewhat tamer naughty bits, by today’s ‘Grey’ standards.

“Nora’s most recent stand-alone book is ‘Shelter in Place.’ It is about people who survived a major shooting in a mall — and especially two of them (teens Simone and Reed) who (wait for it!) later meet and fall in love.

“But it is the description of Simone’s grandmother Cici that adds life to the book. Cici is the quintessential hippie who lived life by her own rules. My favorite of her four life rules is number 3: ‘Be an a**hole when necessary.’

“I would list all of her rules here, if I weren’t concerned about copyright. But they do lighten the mood of the book.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: There’s no need to worry about copyright infringement. This is fair use.

These are the other rules:

1. Try not to hurt anybody.

2. Have the b*lls to say what you think.

4. Help when you can.

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede writes (and photographs) again: “It has been fun for me to see the variety of blossoms that have been ‘popping’ with our early warmth and some rain. I do not know the names of many of these, but enjoyed their beauty and want to share them with BB readers.

“This first one is one of my Siberian Iris. There are now about 15 blossoms out and many more getting ready.

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“In a nearby, fully flowered yard, I found this little one.

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“And a stack of iris blossoms.

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“Walking around the retention pond, I spotted these guys. I haven’t tried to find out what they are and am not sure how to describe these flowers.

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“This is one of the dahlias I planted in my own garden, hoping the bumblebees will find it as enjoyable as they have in the past.

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“And some of the Forget Me Nots are still going strong, while many of my Forget Me Not blossoms seem to be drying up.

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“You have to get down close to appreciate their beauty, but I find it worthwhile to kneel and gaze.”

 

Our pets, ourselves

Mary Marchetti of Maplewood: “Last week, a normal weekday morning, we got up and let the three dogs out to go ‘potty.’ At the same time, I take a cat count. We have three of them, and we were missing one.

“The one that was missing: His name is ‘PeeWee,’ and he is known for trying to escape to go outside. We were calling his name and even yelling ‘Treats!’ . . .and still no sign of PeeWee. I was searching the house upstairs, the deck and the back yard.

“I went downstairs to the basement. I noticed that the dryer door was open, and I closed it. After an unsuccessful hunt, we gave up and agreed he had found a really good hiding place, and he would show up eventually.

“Later that morning, I went downstairs to the washer to put that load of clothes in the dryer. I opened the dryer door, and PeeWee ran out. He was so mad and was very vocal as he walked up the stairs, constantly ‘yelling at us.’ I have never heard such an upset meow.

“I felt sorry for him, and I said I was so sorry.

“He was safe all night, but he must have been trapped in the dryer for at least two hours after I closed the dryer door.

“Within half an hour, as we noticed PeeWee jumping off the kitchen counter, we noticed he had left us a present in response to his ordeal. He actually pooped on the counter. I guess he really taught us a lesson. My husband was upset, but I just laughed. I cannot imagine what was going on in PeeWee’s little brain and his revenge tactic.”

Know thyself
Or: Bartolo, we hardly knew ye!

Donald: “Subject: Putting your best stomach forward.

“From ‘THEY SAID IT’ in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated: ‘”I have a lot of big belly, so I can take it.” Bartolo Colon, the 5’ 11″, 285-pound Rangers pitcher, after a 102-mph comebacker nailed him in the abdomen.’”

The Permanent “Neighborly” Record
Or: Life imitates Mother Goose

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: A tale of bovine bemusement.

“Today I was driving by a farm and noticed how fast the corn was coming along on these past few hot and humid days.

“And then I noticed something totally out of place. There was a cow standing in that field. As a former gardener, I imagined those beefy hooves tearing up the tender shoots and baring their delicate roots to the sun that giveth and taketh away. I summoned all of my Good-Samaritanitis and made a U-turn.

“As I went up the long driveway to the farmhouse, I encountered a young man on a riding mower. He told me he was just hired to mow and that the farmers weren’t home.

“Undeterred and over-determined, I asked him for the landowner’s phone number, which he provided. I reached said farmer and explained to his skepticalness what was going on in his absence and my heroic efforts to reach him. He ended the conversation in a rather beleaguered tone, stating: ‘OK, it must be the neighbor’s. I’ll come and check it out.’ He then hung up, thanklessly, before I could say: ‘You’re most welcome!’

“Only now, while searching for a way to end this, I realize that I had actually reenacted a Mother Goose nursery rhyme. Like Little Boy Blue upon seeing the cow in the corn, I got on the horn.”

See world

Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Twitty of Como: “I sat by the camp stove. On the ground beneath the stove, a slug made its way across the gravel toward me. He was operating in dangerous territory, it occurred to me. He was crawling along in the exact spot where a person doing the cooking might stand. It wasn’t me, so crawl on, little slug.

“My wife came over to check on her sausages, which were beginning to boil. She interrupted my quiet contemplation, and, forgetting the slug, I stood with her to look into the pot while we talked.

“When she left, I sat again. Then, remembering the little slug, I searched where I’d last seen him. Slugs are not known to be high-speed travelers. I figured he couldn’t have gone far. I searched farther out, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. Fearing the worst, I removed my flip-flop. Ah — there he was, hiding on the bottom of my flip-flop, a bit worse for it, I’m sorry to say.”

Keeping your eyes open

Lola: “This is on my screen door today.

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“I thought it might be a butterfly, but my son says it’s a moth.

“Whichever it is, it’s beautiful.”

Our birds, ourselves
Ask Al B Division (responsorial)

Barbara of Afton recently wrote, in this space: ““Subject: Bird behavior.

“This is a question for Al B of Hartland [Bulletin Board’s Official Ornithologist].

“Today I saw a male and a female cardinal in the pine tree outside my window. They looked as if they were kissing. I’m wondering if they were feeding each other and whether this is mating behavior.

“Today I finally saw an oriole. I know they are eating from the oriole feeder, but hadn’t seen one until today, as it tried to figure out how to get nectar from the hummingbird feeder.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: In the meantime, we have heard from Al B:

“Dear Barbara of Afton,

“It is pair-bonding behavior. It might have been what precipitated the creation of the word ‘precious.’ The male tends to not pay much attention to her over the winter, but when his fancy turns with the increased day length, he offers her a tasty morsel such as a sunflower seed. If she accepts it, they kiss and are pronounced bird and missus bird. In some cases, they have renewed their vows from last year.

“It’s an extremely cool thing to see. I’m glad you witnessed it.”

This ‘n’ that (responsorial)

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Bits and pieces?

Al B‘s bird visitors inspired me to tell what we’ve had at our feeders just this past week.

“A beautiful group of rose-breasted grosbeaks landed, but sadly did not stick around long. Three pairs, and wouldn’t it have been fun if they’d stayed and nested here? Red-headed woodpecker at the suet [Bulletin Board interjects: Really? A red-headed woodpecker — not a woodpecker with a red head, such as the red-bellied woodpecker? A red-headed woodpecker is quite an unusual sighting nowadays!], plus a pileated woodpecker, lots of goldfinches and two pairs of house finches. The robins seem to be in other people’s yards now, and an indigo bunting paid us a very brief but lovely visit. What we are missing are the hummingbirds so far. All that nectar going to waste!

“When Birdman comes home from his part-time job at the Wild Bird Store, he tells what others are seeing in their yards; hummingbirds are high on the list. He also tells me about the dogs that regularly come in with their owners and always get a doggie treat! Nice dogs, always very polite, offering their paws to shake your hand in thank-you.

Gram With a Thousand Rules opened with ‘Straighten up!’ — and I am reminded of my mom, who passed at age 55. She always was tapping me on the back and telling me to straighten up! Being not so tall, I did need every inch, too! Gee, now as I age I have lost an inch. Mom, I wish you were here to tell me to stand tall always!

“Anyone planting or being outside at all must have noticed all the gnats that are so annoying! I regularly sing with a stroke patient who has severe aphasia but can sing with me on perhaps a hundred hymns and songs. He and I sit out at their patio table when the weather is nice. Sooo, last week he and I sat outside for our half-hour, and the entire time I was swishing gnats away — from under my glasses, especially! I had thought by the next session the gnats would have given up. Ha! Now I have bites that are much bigger than the gnats, who are so tiny it’s hard to believe — they must be all teeth!

“Anyone who wants to help plant my annuals and also loves gnats is welcome to come anytime. I’ll be the lady with my whole body covered with either clothing or very smelly repellent!”

God (not to mention the devil) is in the details!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul, writes: “Subject: What time are the worms available?

“An insert in Thursday’s Pioneer Press contained this information.

“‘Don’t miss these deals!’

“‘SHOP NIGHTOWLS
“‘FRIDAY
“‘3PM-Close.’

“‘SHOP EARLYBIRDS
“‘SATURDAY
“‘OPEN-1PM’

“If only I knew what time they opened.”

His world (and welcome to it!)

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Who Stole the Fish?

“From previous narratives of my LDS mission in Thailand, the reader might glean the mistaken notion that I did nothing but act the merry madcap in my capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the Church. True, I did more than a hundred clown shows during my two-year stint there, but I was never excused from my official calling as a proselytizing missionary. Sometimes a month or more would go by without a show. During such intervals, I and my companion tracted, held street meetings, and taught the codified Discussions, as all LDS missionaries were required to do at that time.

“And that brings me to today’s missionary memoir: The Case of the Missing Fish.

“In Pak Kret, a northern suburb of Bangkok, I and my companion, Elder Lang, found ourselves living in a pillared mansion that included extensive grounds quickly reverting to jungle, as well as an ornate marble guest house in the back that had sunk into the moist ground and was now three feet under water in the middle of a pond. Some mornings, the maid’s little boy would silently glide into the sunken guest house to surprise a large toothsome carp for our lunch.

“Let me backtrack:

“One of my contemporaries in the mission field, Elder Nebeker, had run across this particular mansion while tracting with his companion, Elder Ah Ching. The old woman who lived there all alone was impressed by the good looks and good manners of Nebeker and Ah Ching, and asked if they would like to rent the whole shebang for a very modest fee; that way, she could go live with her daughter up in Chiang Rai. As Elder Nebeker explained it to our Mission President, Paul D. Morris, the mansion would make a wonderful chapel for our members in northern Bangkok. In fact, he guaranteed that if President Morris gave the OK to rent the place as missionary barracks, they would have it filled with newly baptized members in a matter of months.

“The mansion was rented, and three sets of Elders set up housekeeping there: myself with Elder Lang; Elder Nebeker with Elder Ah Ching; and Elder Wright with Elder Reidhead. The mission office paid for a maid to cook and do laundry for us, so we could concentrate on bringing in the sheaves. Back in those days, all the food had to be bought at the local outdoor market, with much time-consuming haggling. There were no supermarkets. So a native maid was a necessity, not a luxury.

“Elder Lang was the senior companion, meaning that his two years of service were just about up, and he made all the decisions for us about where and when to go proselytizing. And he was pretty trunky. This is LDS jargon for a missionary who has already arrived back home, in his own mind, even while his corporeal body is still knocking on doors in the mission field. A trunky missionary tends to be rather laid back and unambitious. And a shopaholic.

“Each morning after our prayers, scripture study, and language study, Elder Lang would survey a map of our district tacked up in the dining room, and decide which street held the most gold and gem shops. We would then spend the morning and early afternoon traipsing among the red-lacquered gold shops, with their somnolent guard posted by the front door and Chinese girls in corruscating silk cheongsams hustling gold chains behind the glass counters. These places were lit up with flood lights and played an excruciating loop of Chinese opera music that was all gongs, bells, bamboo flutes, and what sounded like soggy bongos. I was terrified of these loud, garish places — since my Thai was not all that good. But Elder Lang would greet the guard in fluent Thai, find out about his family, give him a pamphlet, then start flirting with the Chinese gals behind the counter. He had a fair amount of Mandarin at his command. And he had an expensive Leica camera that he took along to snap photos of everyone in the store. They’d show him a dozen or so supple gold chains while he told them the Joseph Smith story. Sometimes he’d pick out a modest gold chain for his mother or aunt or girlfriend back home. He’d leave the simpering clerks a few pamphlets, and we’d walk to the next gold shop. Or a gem emporium — these places were rather dim and looked like a feed store, with burlap sacks lying about, and indolent Thais scattered around with no apparent purpose besides sticking their legs out for me to trip over. Elder Lang had an unerring sense of who actually ran these places, usually an older Thai woman who sat in the back endlessly eating pumpkin seeds. He would cotton up to her with flowery compliments about her dismal store and her youthful looks, until she would smile and tell him to beware — the ants would soon be crawling up him to reach his ‘sugar mouth.’ And again, while he would narrate the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, she would bring out sapphires, emeralds, and polished jade pieces for his inspection. If he liked the price, he’d buy ’em.

“What did I do during all this? Stood around gawking, for the most part. Elder Lang would let me bear my testimony about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon at the end of our visits — but by then the clerks were ringing up his purchases and they paid little, if any, attention to me.

“This was engaging work, at least for Elder Lang, and so we often came home very late in the afternoon, long after the maid had served lunch to the other Elders. Our plates were left on the table, under coarsely woven rattan baskets to keep the flies out. And there was always supposed to be a big fat fish, bathed in a delicious tamarind and kaffir lime sauce, waiting for us. But someone started to eat our fish before we returned — so all we had was rice, klong weed soup, pork balls wrapped in Thai basil leaves, and cold glass noodles. When we quizzed the maid about who ate our fish, she only shrugged her shoulders and said ‘Ling.’ Monkey? Monkey, my foot!

“We quizzed Elders Nebeker, Ah Ching, Wright, and Reidhead about the theft, but they all pleaded innocent. I had my strong suspicions about Elder Ah Ching — a former quarterback at BYU-Hawaii who could wolf down a dozen skewers of chicken satay in the blink of an eye.

“Well, we never caught the malefactor, which is probably why I was so prickly to Elder Lang when it came time for him to go back home. I dropped him off at the Mission office in Soi Asoke, where I shook his hand and said: ‘Now I can get back to some real missionary work!’ He just gave me a sleepy smile and asked to take one more photo of me with his Leica.

“Elder Nebeker’s promise to fill that mansion with new church members on Sundays never panned out — but darned if several of those Chinese clerks that Elder Lang had chatted up on our shopping trips didn’t come out to our services and eventually joined the Church. I sent him a postcard telling him about it, but never heard back from him. He was probably too busy surfing out at Malibu, which is what he told me he planned on doing for the rest of his life once he got home. He invited me to join him there once I finished my hitch — maybe I should have done just that . . .”

Band Name of the Day: All Teeth

Website of the Day: “Devotion”

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