Life as we know it
Sharon of Roseville: “There are some truths in life that are indisputable:
“You can never have too many books, ever.
“And your garden always has room for more flowers.
“Yesterday I learned that there is a fine line past which you reach the tipping point.
“I stopped at Fresh Thyme in the morning to purchase four 4-inch pots of one of my favorite flowers: Lisianthus. To say I was obsessed with purchasing them was an understatement, as the store employees searched the store to find the little display. Finally there they were: perfect purple flowers grown in Canada. (I love Canadians.) I brought them home and found a container that seemed appropriate and located them on a step just inside the courtyard door.
“After I went into the house, I realized that they didn’t look right next to the bright red geraniums and pink wave petunias. They weren’t tall enough. I moved the petunias and pinched them back, thinking they would look better, and left for lunch.
“When I got home, they were clearly in the wrong place, or, at least the geraniums were. I moved the plant stands and the geraniums across the courtyard and put them in front of my new tree. This did not make me happy.
“A few hours later, I was back rearranging pots of flowers without success. I am thinking that the geraniums would be happier with my son’s girlfriend, Paula. And, with any luck, my garden will have ‘just enough’ flowers to make me happy.”
Keeping your eyes open
Including: Fellow travelers
June 27 email from Rusty of St. Paul: “Subject: June light.
“This morning I read in the Pioneer Press of the ‘Honey Moon,’ the full moon tonight. So at 9:45 p.m., while I was watching west, as that skyline was still bright, the Honey Moon sneaked up behind me to my left. When I turned, there it was!
“There was a full moon, but still a fairly bright sky to the west. I love June for its light.
“What is it about light? It is essential to life. Maybe it makes us feel safe? I cherish it and chase it, though at the same time I am a night owl. Once the sun is down, I start to read, catch up on emails, wash the dishes — all sorts of things I don’t care to do when the sun is up.
“Years ago, my brother and I were in the Highlands of Scotland. It was June — high light in the Northern Hemisphere. We left the pub at 11 p.m. Being Scotland, there was ‘Soft Weather’ out: cloudy skies and a Brownian Motion of mist. You didn’t need an umbrella, but your skin was appreciative.
“And the light! As it was cloudy, it wasn’t totally bright, but it certainly wasn’t dark. The clouds were light gray. I gauge late night light by ‘Can I read by it?’ I could have read by it.
“Flash forward 40 years. My wife and I finally made it to Alaska, close to the June solstice. It’s 11 o’clock. We look out from our hotel window and . . . it’s still light out! We can’t waste this experience, so even though we’re ready for bed, we dress, head down and out, and hike the grounds. Again I assess: ‘Can I read print?’ And I can.
“My same brother, who traveled Scotland with me, visited the Arctic Circle in Norway 45 years ago. He gave a stunning report of the extended light.
“I worked in St. Paul, with a Native woman from Alaska. She lives in Alaska, but commutes to St. Paul biweekly, as she makes more money here in her profession (medicine) than there. She LIVES on the Arctic Circle! So she has to have light-limiting blinds on her windows in order to sleep.
“People in Minnesota want to go south in our winter. I want to go farther north in our summer, to chase the light. I can’t get enough of it. I want to live on the Arctic Circle in the summer.
“I wonder, though: If I lived on the Arctic Circle, would I soon have enough of it, would I have light-limiting shades on my windows, and eventually would I want to head back to St. Paul?”
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “I made my annual trek to Snelling Avenue in Roseville to watch the vintage cars go by as they went to the ‘Back to the Fifties’ show at the State Fairgrounds.
“It has become something of a tradition for me to stop by a coffee shop on that route to buy my favorite $7 cup-o-joe (Campfire Mocha with dark chocolate). While one of the workers was taking my order, one of her cohorts rushed past as if to retrieve something, and it sounded to me like she announced: ‘I’m out of butt powder.’
“Hard for me to believe that those words were actually spoken, unless I am not privy to some coffee-shop lingo.”
Now & Then
Or: Not exactly what she had in mind!
The Gram With a Thousand Rules remembers: “I hear on the news that many stores are no longer selling Compact Discs.
“I remember back in the ’80s, when I first learned what they were. I came home from work one day and told my teenage college kids that the two kids I worked with had a little more sense than I had given them credit for, because I had heard them discussing how many CD’s they had purchased. My kids both gave me a quizzical look, and I went on to say that even though they hadn’t mentioned the value of each Certificate of Deposit they had purchased, the mere fact that they were investing at their ages was impressive.
“I recoiled from the burst of laughter coming out of my darling children’s mouths, and that was when I learned what a Compact Disc was.”
Stories with teeth
Silver Haired Fox of Almelund: “Last summer on a beautiful day, my husband and I decided to take a nice ride. As my husband put gas in the tank, I went inside the station to pay. As I went by a shelf, there were packs of Hubba Bubba bubble gum. Oh boy! The fun of years ago — so I bought a pack.
“As we went on our ride, I put two pieces in my mouth and started chewing. Then the fun began. I blew one good-sized bubble. I did it! Then I blew a second bubble that was bigger than the first one. Next I blew the third bubble even bigger.
“As I started chewing the gum again, I felt something hard, so I took the gum out of my mouth . . . and there was one of my front teeth in the gum. No more blowing bubbles.
“The dentist bill wasn’t fun.”
Know thy classmates! Know thyself!
Culminating in: The great comebacks (responsorial) — and: Only a _________ would notice!
The Linguidiot: “Subject: Picking nits.
“I enjoyed DebK‘s account of Taxman’s reunion with his classmates. However, I dispute the heading, ‘The first-wave Baby Boomers always bring. . .’ Barring extreme circumstances, a 1962 graduate would have started first grade in 1950, having reached the required age of at least 6 years old no later than December 31, 1950. This, obviously, necessitated being born before January 1, 1945. While some have tried to stretch the limits for historical convenience, the term ‘Baby Boomer,’ in its original meaning, denotes those born between August 1946 and August 1964.
“As a ’62 graduate myself, I can assure you we ‘War Babies’ have spent our lives as supernumeraries to history and non-entities to marketing departments everywhere, swept aside by the tide behind us. Many of our accomplishments — and misdeeds — have been incorrectly attributed to the Boomers, but that’s the price we pay for our distinction.”
Only a __________ would notice!
Twitty of Como: “There’s a commercial for U.S. Bank that’s been ongoing for a while now that’s driving me CRAZY! I just caught it again on FSN, during the Twins game.
“It shows a crew working on a house. In the opening sequence, a worker is hammering on the roof — either shingling or nailing down a roof board; you can’t see because he’s on the other side of the ridge. All you see is his head, arms, and upper torso, and the flash of the hammer in his hand each time he swings it. And that’s my beef: His hammering is repetitive and so slow. It goes ‘bam’. . . hesitate . . . ‘bam’ . . . hesitate . . . ‘bam’ . . . hesitate, and on like that.
“Almost no one hand-nails shingles anymore, but back when they did, it was a tap-bam, tap-bam, tap-bam, tap-bam sound: four nails per shingle. You ‘start’ the nail with the ‘tap‘ and quickly ‘set’ the nail with the ‘bam’ — no hesitation; no delay; no slow-motion. Most shinglers could nail down a ‘square’ of shingles or more per hour, alone.
“No one hand-nails roof boards anymore, either. Most roof ‘boards’ these days are sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot plywood — not boards — and they’re fastened down with an air nailer. But back in the day when they were hand-nailed, it was the same tap-bam sound for each nail: ‘start’ the nail with the ‘tap,’ then drive it home in one blow with the ‘bam’ — no fiddling around; no hesitation; no slo-mo arm action.
“Sheesh. They oughtta hire writers for these skits who’ve actually done the work.”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Donald: “Subject: Patrick pores it on.
“In the ‘PATRICK PLUS’ column on Page C2 of the Sports section in June 24th’s Minneapolis paper, Patrick Reusse commented on Sid Hartman commenting on Harmon Killebrew and Miguel Sano: ‘Impressive though it was for Sid to pour through Baseball Reference . . .’
“I hope Sid’s pouring didn’t cause damage to the site.”
Dennis from Eagan reports: “I found this church sign misspelling in Lino Lakes on Saturday. They’re looking for donations towards St. Joe’s Summer Festival, happening August 11-12.
“Where’s spell-check when you need it?”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Sally, the Cleaning Lady of Shoreview: “My husband, the semi-Canadian, was amused to see this license plate in Vadnais Heights today. I feel bad for the driver: ’02BNLUV.'”
What is wrong with people?
Fudge Brownie writes: “I have another instance of rude audiences that I experienced back in the day.
“Hubby and I took my young teenage brother and sister to a Jackson Five concert. There were just chairs lined up on the floor, with no assigned seating. We managed to get seats in a row pretty close to the stage. There was a good-sized distance between the stage and the front rows.
“Rows of people behind us decided they wanted to sit closer to the front, so they took their chairs and moved them into the empty space in front. Security people then came out and wanted everyone to move their chairs back away from the stage. I was having none of it. We hadn’t done anything wrong and were staying where we were.
“The concert finally started, and as the Jacksons were singing their first song, some of the people in the front started climbing up on the stage. The lights went out, and when they came back on, the Jacksons were gone and the concert was over.
“As you can imagine, there were many angry people fighting their way out of the parking lots.”
Till death them do part
Papa Doofus of Roseville writes: “What are the odds . . . that a group of 14 new friends, 20-somethings dumped together by chance, who enjoyed activities and socialized together through their young-adult years, would pair off and marry within that group, and that, after 50-plus years of continued friendship, would now be celebrating golden anniversaries together, with all seven marriages (to original spouses) still going strong?
“Well, about a month ago, a bunch of old farts (ages 70+/-) converged on a resort hotel in Wisconsin for a celebration. This group of seven couples, ‘The Hiway Gang.’ has been getting together for special occasions and other miscellaneous excuses for well over 50 years. This gathering marked the three 50th wedding anniversaries occurring this year within the group. The four couples who are not celebrating their own golden milestones this year will be following suit over the next few years. The folks involved believe their group is pretty unique and very blessed.
“This story germinated back in the mid-’60s, in a public office building in St. Paul, with its seeds originating from various locations across Minnesota over many years before, as 14 totally unconnected kids grew up in their own separate little worlds: in St. Paul, in West St. Paul and North St. Paul and South St. Paul; in Wabasha, Alexandria, White Bear Lake, and Minneota; in Rochester, and in rural Norcross and Detroit Lakes, all in their typical ’50s ‘Ozzie & Harriet’ family cocoons, where they absorbed values of decency, commitment, character, balance of work and play, respect — that kind of stuff.
“So back to that office building, where 12 of those kids more or less simultaneously began their careers with their first ‘real jobs’ as total strangers in different offices on various floors of the 8-story headquarters of what was then the Minnesota Highway Department. The sprouting of the lifelong group relationship took place in the ‘hot-houses’ of activities groups that were a part of the social culture that was actually fostered by the employer (those were different times). Friendships formed, and romances gradually blossomed among the group — in a mixed-doubles bowling league, a fledgling ski club (actually founded by some of the subject individuals, and also still going strong, albeit without them), in an organized employees’ social club, and the inevitable informal after-work gatherings and parties. Two of the gals found guys who were ‘outsiders,’ but were readily assimilated. Couples paired off (without an excess of soapbox drama), and weddings ensued. At the first wedding, someone re-purposed a car-top political campaign sign for a ‘Just Married/Amateur Night’ declaration to adorn the newlyweds’ car. That sign subsequently appeared on cars at the following six weddings over the next several years. This ‘traveling trophy’ has reappeared on cars at most of the five-year-interval anniversary parties since then.
“Besides all those anniversaries, there have been many other parties and celebrations over the years. Significant birthdays. The Holidays. Births of kids, and weddings of those kids. And, lately, retirements. As testament to the group’s camaraderie, several years ago the entire gang traveled to Cleveland for one of the kids’ weddings, and just this past March gathered in Houston for another. At this reception, there was an ‘elimination dance’: All of the married couples began, and the DJ counted off escalating numbers of years of wedded bliss that had been achieved, with couples leaving the floor as their anniversary numbers were announced. When the count got well into the 40s, the DJ wondered if all those couples still out there could hear him. It was a special proud moment for the Gang to be the last ones on the floor (with the exception of the bride’s proud grandparents, who had that one-generation head start).
“Of course, through all the years, there have been many of life’s ups and downs for all of the couples, but they’ve always been there for each other, and it seems remarkable that all have maintained such a close bond, and all are indeed still married to their original spouses. And the kids and grandkids are doin’ well — they all are acquainted with each other, and know all of the original Gang members. Maybe there are not very many other groups of so many, who all started out together but are not originally related by family ( . . . maybe that’s the key?) who have happily hung together so closely for so long, beating the odds for well over half a century.
“P.S. Some stats, just for info:
“A couple of the members stayed with MHD/MnDOT for their entire careers. Four actually worked together later at another place for some years.
“All are now happily retired.
“Six of the couples are still in the greater TC area. One couple lives in Ohio; they come back and touch base a couple times a year.
“Two Miss Minnesota Highways titles.
“Fifteen grown kids — 10 now married.
Our birds, ourselves
Al B of Hartland writes: “A robin had begun singing at 4 in the morning. The bird had a strong work ethic.
“Each season of every year, I watch birds come and go. They are the heartbeats of the world and weave wonder into my life.”
While we have been playing golf, uprooting buckthorns, pulling garlic mustard and decimating the wildly spreading noxious weed known as narrowleaf bittercress (but mostly playing golf), Mounds View Swede has been busy with his camera.
Several recent dispatches:
(1) “We spent a recent weekend at the University of St. Thomas for the state Special Olympics basketball, track, swimming and gymnastic competitors. Between matches, I walked around the interior plaza and looked at what was growing there.
“I had never seen red helicopter seeds before. They do belong to a type of maple tree.
“I liked this photo because of the buds/blossoms combinations.
“There were two different ‘pollinator paths’ with plants for the bees. This first photo shows alyssums.
“This is pecante purple salvia.
“And these are Cape Daisy blossoms.
“They had a long row of blooming hosta plants, too.
“I liked the opportunity for ‘extra-curricular’ photo ops and to learn more about good pollinator plants to consider for my gardens.”
(2) “I have been wondering if my milkweed plants were going to do any good for the Monarch butterflies. I saw a spot of promising orange while looking out the window and went to look more closely. As soon as I got in the yard, the butterfly started flying wildly all over the place. I stayed still, and eventually it headed back to a milkweed plant. I have about 20 in the garden now, though some that I transplanted from my lawn are very stunted. I haven’t learned what butterfly eggs look like or how this proceeds, but my hopes are up that these plants will help the Monarch population.
“While out to the back garden, this spot of red caught my eye. It was the first of the backyard day lilies, and it was a striking color. It seems a shame that the bloom lasts for such a short time, but many more buds are getting ready to do their thing, so I can continue to enjoy them for a while.
“The first purple coneflower doesn’t look very purple, but at least it’s blooming for the bees and butterflies to use.
“My giant hosta plant has really large clusters of blossoms, doing everything in a big way.
“The variety of things to see keeps me interested, especially when beautiful blossoms keep opening up.”
(3) “The sun came out for a few minutes after the nice morning rain stopped on Sunday, July 1st. I went out to see how things looked.
“Nearby hosta plants had nice, shiny leaves.
“The Asian lilies’ petals were glistening.
“I thought this hosta flower cluster looked kind of bedraggled.
“The back-yard day lilies had one blossom still looking good. It must have opened late yesterday or this morning.
“My first purple coneflower blossom, now with purple petals, looks like it’s near the end of its bloom. There are lots of other buds close to opening, but they seem to be taking their time.
“I haven’t seen as many bees yet this year, and I am beginning to wonder why. They are usually buzzing all over the place, but have been largely absent from the gardens this spring and early summer.”
(4) “Bringing my bucket of food scraps to the compost site, I noticed hollyhocks were blooming in the wildflower garden, and I was surprised at the varieties of colors showing. While growing up, my mom’s hollyhocks were always pink. Things have changed a lot since then.
“I think it is rare to find a blossom that is almost black.
“This pink one is closer to the color my mom’s hollyhocks were, but I don’t remember this large round blossom shape.
“The recent rains have almost flooded out the new wildflower garden at the compost site, I am keeping my finders crossed that the plants will get through this and really go to town.”
Bloomington Bird Lady: “I will call this ‘The Ballad of the Navy Blue Socks’ or ‘Where have you guys been hiding?’
“Such a common thing:” The laundry is done, the last bit pulled out of the dryer to be put safely away, leaving the pile of underwear and socks to be folded or rolled up in twos. Several months ago, the number of men’s socks did not come out right; one navy blue sock was missing. Since it was still early spring and quite cold and snowy, it didn’t matter, as Birdman was still wearing the heavier, warmer variety. I put the one
remaining sock in the drawer alone, hoping to discover where its mate had gone.
“Flash forward to these past past weeks, when nice warm socks have finally been put away and cooler ones are needed. ‘Where are my navy blue socks? You know, the ones that go with my summer stuff?’ I heard, as we were dressing for our 66th anniversary last Sunday morning. I really had been on the lookout for that sock, but didn’t I hear ‘socks’? Now we have two or three missing?
“Things like this are a puzzle for everyone, but for two 85-year-olds, we may feel we are ‘losing it’ for sure.
“Last verse of my ballad comes when suddenly, on the floor several feet from the dryer, lies one blue sock. Then I shook out a dark blue polo shirt before hanging it in the closet . . . and another sock landed at my feet. Ahhh, now we have one complete pair, plus one
orphan sock. Back in the drawer it goes, another loner, waiting for its mate to show up.
“I know these mysteries are common with most people. And I did find where one had been hiding: the toe of his slipper.
“Explain why on one Sunday I pulled a dryer sheet out of my choir robe sleeve!”
His world (and welcome to it!)
Tim Torkildson writes again: “Subject: The beds of my life.
“I am reading Patrick O’Brian’s rollicking biography of Picasso, and one recurring theme in the book has me thinking back over my life: O’Brian continually mentions how Picasso slept in until noon for most of his busy artistic life. How does a man do that — stay in his bed until lunchtime? Picasso must have had some beds as beautiful and alluring as his mistresses. I’m not so much interested in the carnal side of a man’s bed here, of my own beds, but of the kind of bed that can hold a man until the day is half over. I’ve rarely, if ever, had that kind of a bunk.
“Try as I might, I cannot recall anything about my childhood bed, except that I often fell out of it. This is not a comic exaggeration. I was a thrasher. First I’d kick the covers off; then my pillow would fly off the bed from an unconscious thrust, and then I’d roll off and continue my uneasy repose on the carpeted floor — usually winding up underneath my bed by cockcrow.
“I shared a bedroom with my two sisters until the age of 12, when my older brother Billy moved out of the house and I inherited his room and his bed. That’s when I discovered the unalloyed pleasures of reading in bed at night. My parents did not care if I stayed up half the night reading; it beat having to keep tabs on me during school nights. I delighted in the Bantam paperback adventures of Doc Savage and his muscular band of do-gooders. I developed a taste for inexpensive Signet paperbacks of fusty classics, such as ‘Oblomov,’ by Ivan Goncharov — about a Russian guy who takes 50 pages to get out of bed and go sit in a chair. I thought to myself then, as I think to myself now: That must have been some bed. I thrilled to Jules Verne’s ‘Off on a Comet’ in the cheap Dover reissue; the pages started to fall out and litter my bed like autumn leaves.
“But of the bed itself where I read ‘The Groucho Letters’ and ‘Erehwon,’ I can recall nothing. Like the kitchen table and the faded but well-padded furniture in the living room, I took it all for granted. Many years later, when I rented a bungalow in Thailand stocked with unupholstered rosewood chairs and low benches, my aching hams compelled me to look back on my childhood home as the very sine qua non of comfort. And since most Thais prefer to sleep on bamboo mats on the floor, or in a hammock, they had no idea how to manufacture a proper mattress for a proper bed. The fiendish contraption I had to make do with on my bedstead was first cousin to a sandbag. About five hours was all I could take at one time.
“I have often written with great affection about my Murphy bed on the Ringling Circus train. I had to step out of my cramped roomette in order to pull it down. The mattress was thin, but at least it was stuffed with cotton or kapok or something soft. And when the train rushed through the night to our next stop, the swaying motion and insistent clicking of the passing rails underneath were a potent lullaby.
“With other circuses, my bunk was not so cushy. I shared a motorhome with a heavy smoker on one show. He ran the concessions and so was higher up on the social scale than a measly clown; he took the main bed for himself. I got the slide-out doodad that functioned as a padded bench with a table during the daytime and then slid out into a three-section torture rack at night. In theory, the three sections should have aligned into a straight horizontal plane, over which I would spread a sheet — but in practice, each section was skewed and lumpy. I woke up every morning with a secondhand-smoker’s cough and incipient scoliosis.
“On another show I had a bunk bed in the back of a semi that was too short for my 5-foot-11 frame. Unless the door was left open at night, there was no ventilation — so I either roasted or froze.
“After my divorce, I gave up keeping my own home for a number of years — instead crashing with family and friends on hideabed sofas that inevitably had a sinkhole in the middle. But a divorced LDS man who does not quickly remarry to regain respectability is often made to feel superfluous by the Mormon pecking order, and I figured I probably deserved my disagreeable sleeping arrangements.
“When I moved out to Utah in 2014, I discovered La-Z-Boy rocking recliners for the first time. Even though I had a perfectly good bed with a 3-inch layer of memory foam overlaid for decadent snoozing, I preferred tilting back in my recliner with a volume of ‘The Discourses of Brigham Young’ of an evening and reading myself to sleep. With Brother Brigham’s heavy preaching, it didn’t take long for Morpheus to come knocking. Or if insomnia paid a call instead, I could click on a YouTube series of old radio shows, like ‘Fibber McGee and Molly,’ to lay oil on my troubled sleep while I rocked away the middle watches of the night. I save my traditional bed for bouts of the grippe or mild sciatica.
“But a bed where I could snuggle under the covers until noon? Even now when I’m retired and have no appointed rounds to make for anything or anybody, the robin’s early chirp finds me awake and restless to get on with the day. Perhaps it’s because I know that after lunch I will close the blinds, turn off my cellphone, and fall into a heavy doze in my recliner — something I thoroughly enjoy as I contemplate the many, many friends and family who are still working a steady job and are not allowed to take 40 winks.
“But still, I envy Picasso his remarkable bed. If I had a bed that enticed me to embrace it until noon, I bet I could be a painter, too.”
Band Name of the Day: Butt Powder
Website of the Day: Narrowleaf Bittercress