Cabin Fever Chronicles (cont.)
Or: It happens every winter
Here, again, updating her recent report, is Ramblin’ Rose: “Addendum: We’re Talking Baseball.
“We thought that surviving the Polar Vortex meant the end of the worst part of winter, but this week’s 8-inch snowfall here on the East Side made it feel as if we would never see spring.
“Watching ‘Field of Dreams’ had been a good tonic, but now it was time to bring out the heavy artillery: DVDs of the 1991 World Series, specifically Game 6. It was grand to watch Kirby triple in the first run, scale the Plexiglas to rob Ron Gant of an extra-base hit, and walk us off in the bottom of the 11th with his memorable home run. No matter that the grass was artificial and the sky was Teflon; it lifted our spirits.
“Could there be more of this record-breaking winter? Darn it, yes. So we’re holding Game 7 in abeyance.
“Spoiler alert: It has a happy ending.”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Happy? Make that delirious!
Was that the last time Minnesota’s sports fans could be delirious . . . or was it merely the most recent?
Defying the cold
Including: Today’s helpful hint
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Suggested link.
“I’m listening to a video of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ sung by Israel ‘IZ’ Kamakawiwoʻole of Hawaii. It includes the pouring of his ashes into the ocean — sadly.
“It is a good thought for today — Day 3 on which I am staying home so as not to cause problems for other people.
“I left a jigsaw puzzle in the party room of my building for anyone who wants it. My puzzles have been helping me wait for the sun.”
Our theater of seasons
“Long-absent” East Side Elsie (“currently of West St. Paul”) reports: “There’s hope for spring to come! Today I saw geese flying north and two robins in the tree outside my window. It’s sunny, and warm for a February day. I even have a window open as I am cleaning.
“C’mon, spring, you can do it!”
Our theater of seasons
A pair of photo-essays by Mounds View Swede: (1) “I have been watching the icicles on our east side growing longer as the weather warms up a bit. Today I noticed that some of them were joined together.
“And one had an odd bend in it.
“Some were festooned with ridges, while others were mostly smooth.
“As today’s warmth continued, one decided to grow ‘fingers’ at the tip of its lumpy ‘arm.’
“I am enjoying seeing what ‘surprises’ nature has for me some days of our Minnesota winter. With more snow due tonight, too!”
(2) “I could see this morning that the icicles on the east side had changed somewhat since last I photographed them.
“Some had little side growths added.
“This clouded one had a clear ‘leg’ now.
“And this gnarly one added a ‘claw.’
“Some decided to team up.
“One of the puzzles is why some are cloudy and some are clear. In the center, a clear and clouded one are joined together, but maintain their clearness and cloudedness below that.
“And this one has a squiggly black line zig zagging down its length.
“The large one on the right has a large clear icicle merging into a clouded one, and losing its clear identity in the process.
“What will they come up with next to make me wonder?”
Our theater of seasons
Plastic Snowmen Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “It’s hard to believe now, but back in December we could only dream of a white Christmas. There was no snow to be seen anywhere. We finally got a little snow in early January, and then February happened. My plastic snowmen endured it all, as chronicled through photos from my front yard.
“On December 22nd, winter had just begun and Christmas was almost upon us. The ground was bare, and my snowmen (plus one penguin) took their places in my Nativity scene, acting as the three Wise Snowmen and a couple of shepherds.
“By February 8th, the Holy Family had long since departed and Mother Nature had transformed the snowmen into snow gnomes.
“By February 20th, the snowmen had been transformed into Mount Snowmen.
“By February 24th, one warm day and some strong winds had partially liberated the snowmen. The glow of their internal LED bulbs provided light but no heat to melt any snow.
“Finally on February 25th, the National Guard had come by and dug out the beleaguered snowmen, who survived the ordeal with smiling faces.”
Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Triple-the-Fun in Lakeville: “When I looked out the window this morning, I saw this red-tailed hawk perched just outside our front door, only a few feet from our bird feeder. The bird feeder is typically a very active spot, but there wasn’t a bird to be seen (other than the hawk, of course). I watched for a while, and eventually the hawk flew off. Within 30 seconds, birds were once again at our bird feeder.
“I couldn’t help but wonder how the term ‘birdbrain’ got started. The birds looked pretty smart to me.”
Defying the cold (responsorial)
Mendota Heights Missus: “The photos from Grandma Paula of the hot-air balloons were spectacular! The best I’ve ever seen in the BB. [Bulletin Board interjects, for the umpteenth time: Bulletin Board is not a competitive activity!] If she’s not a professional photographer, she should be.
“I’m almost ready to go up in one. Well, maybe.”
Out of the mouths of wives
Plus: Everyone’s a (humor) critic!
Donald: (1) “Subject: The old-fashioned way.
“While my wife and I were watching a Wild game on TV (insert comment [Bulletin Board comments: Good choice, lately!]), a maintenance person came out on the ice with a shovel.
“My wife’s comment: ‘Look — a poor man’s Zamboni.'”
(2) “Subject: I liked it.
“From the ‘YOU GOTTA LAUGH’ section in the AARP magazine:
“‘FRAN: “What are you doing about your kleptomania?”
“‘STAN: “I take stuff for it.”‘”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Sounds good — if only they were more certain.
“This was the beginning of an email from my health-care provider: ‘Important: Things are about to get even better! The site will be down while we work on it?'”
Plus: The little treasures
Both from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1) “Subject: Dressed to die.
“If I’m ever found dead in my home, it will be in the walk-in closet, on the floor, with blunt-force trauma to the head and neck. Oh . . . and with both feet in the same pants leg.”
(2) “Subject: One picture worth a thousand dollars?
“I came across this 73-year-old photo again this morning. It is my sister Patty’s playhouse. I don’t know to this day how we acquired it. It was cuter than the house we lived in — and, frankly, a little above my family’s ‘luxury items budget.’
“I’ve been thinking about shopping this picture around to various financial planners. Perhaps a billboard that states: ‘It’s never too early to start planning for retirement.'”
Gaining something in translation
Bob Woolley reports: “My girlfriend and I recently decided to try playing pickleball.
“Here’s part of the description of the paddle I bought from Amazon: ‘If you never use this kind of paddle:
“‘You should have this textured paddle, it ‘ s a amazing paddle than you ever saw’
“I also ordered a box of balls. When it came, I found that it promised that the balls have ‘Authebtic Bounc.’
“Every sport has its own lingo, but I’m already worried that the language of pickleball is more than I can master at my advanced age.”
Rancid Beef of South St. Paul: “Subject: Tastes like . . .
“The other day, I made mashed potatoes from scratch and ended up dumping in too much salt by mistake. I tried to get rid of the excess salt, but didn’t have any luck. I ended up crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be too salty to eat.
“I tasted the mashed potatoes when it was done, and it was indeed salty, but not so bad that I wouldn’t eat it. The taste reminded me of something . . . something. Then it came to me. The flavor reminded me of boxed mashed potatoes. The flavor of boxed mashed potatoes is ‘too much salt.'”
The highfalutin amusements
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: Fun with Closed Captioning.
“First of all, let me say that I have the utmost respect for the people who provide us with Closed Captioning, especially on live shows (like the news) where there are few second chances to get things right. But some missteps can provide a bit of amusement.
“At my gym, there is a line of big-screen TVs suspended from the ceiling, and they are visible from about half the gym — the half where the stationary bikes, steppers, ellipticals, and treadmills are. I think some of the machines have a way to get the associated audio, but the CC is active on all of the TVs.
“Some of the ‘bloopers’ are easily deciphered, but others . . . well, not so much. Today while I was on the stationary bike, there was a soap opera on one of the TVs. Part of the plot was that a famous business magnet was on trial. OK, it is easy enough to figure out that ‘magnate’ was meant. Or maybe he just attracted a lot of business. A couple of TVs over had on a local news show, and there I was informed that some naughty guy had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for third-degree nurd. I am stumped by that one!
“Keep up the good work, CC people. Ignore those of us who must find humor in your endeavors.”
Including: Then & Now (Journalism Division)
Tim Torkildson: “The Ringling press kit was a thing of beauty. It was created to bewitch hard-boiled newspaper reporters and editors into granting the show reams of free publicity. It was the keystone of the circus marketing strategy.
“When I joined the Greatest Show on Earth back in 1971, newspapers still ruled the earth. If you wanted to know the weather forecast, you read the newspaper; TV and radio ‘meteorologists’ were considered strictly fly-by-night parvenus. If the newspaper said it was gonna rain, it was gonna rain — and if it didn’t rain, that only meant the weather was wrong, not the newspaper. The sports scores were lined up in proper accurate order to settle many a bet. The shenanigans in Washington were faithfully analyzed and skewered by a legion of reporters who were respectful of the Presidency and Congress and yet faithfully critical of them at the same time. The comics section was generously splashed across several pages, and printed in a bold, large font, very easy for Grandma to read even without her bifocals; on Sundays, it was always in color.
Newspaper journalists were the louche guardians of public morals and trusted chroniclers of everything from an obscure military junta in French Guiana to depressed pork-belly futures in Des Moines.
“Back then, hard-living reporters were killed by damaged livers and tobacco-induced lung cancer, not by assassination.
“Every morning, without fail, when I was on the road back in those halcyon days, I never went to work in clown alley without first buying a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a bottle of Yoo-hoo, and a newspaper. A day without reading the newspaper was a day steeped in ignorance.
“And the Ringling press kit reflected that long-ago, peculiarly American desire to kowtow to the Fourth Estate. It was a massive affair, and must have weighed at least five pounds. Inside a red vinyl case, which closed with an ornate gilt clasp, were more than 70 8-by-10 black-and-white glossies of every performer on the show. Even MY photo was in there. There was a six-page precis of the history of the original Ringling Brothers — all five of them. It was printed on elegant cream-colored card stock, suitable for framing. On the side of the case was a pouch that held a tin medallion, like something out of a cereal box, that gave the bearer the right to enter the Big Top on the cuff at any time during the current season. It could be attached to the lapel of a suit coat or pinned to a blouse, and usually started to corrode after a few weeks.
“And the press releases: There were more than a hundred of ’em.
“There were biographies of all the tanbark stars: Gunther Gebel-Williams; The Flying Gaonas; Ursula Bottcher and her trained polar bears; and Peggy Williams, the first female clown (although she really wasn’t — but she was the first female clown with a college degree).
“There were stories on what elephants ate (which was anything they could get their trunks around — especially cigar and cigarette butts); articles purporting to describe the strange superstitions of clown alley, such as the belief that it was bad luck to lay a hat on your clown trunk, and that each clown painted his own clown face on a Titleist golf ball, which was then sent to the John Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, to be trademark-registered (all a bunch of hooey, but good publicity for Titleist).
“There were press releases on how many miles of electrical cable the show carried and the secret recipe for pink cotton candy; on why the number 99 is considered unlucky for circus performers (aerialist Lillian Leitzel fell to her death after 99 turns on the Spanish web when the swivel snapped); and why John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ is never played by the circus band, except to clear the tent or arena during an emergency.
“The Ringling press agents were prodigal with those wonderful press kits: It didn’t matter if you worked for The New York Times or The Podunk Weekly Gazette; when the show hit town, you automatically were handed one in person by a Ringling press agent.
“Reporters took a more relaxed view of their duties back then. Those news releases were printed, verbatim, in dozens of papers across the land, with the reporter’s byline smugly attached. I know, because I would cut them out to paste in my scrapbook.
“At the end of the season, the leftover press kits were sent down to winter quarters in Venice, Florida, where they were stored in a damp backroom of the rehearsal arena — there to rot away. When the arena was abandoned by Ringling because of a property-tax dispute with the city years later, there wasn’t a single decent press kit left. But by then, the Internet was taking over and newspapers were receding in relevance. The Ringling press kit had become about as pertinent as the rotary dial phone.”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Comics Page Corollary — and: Our times
Semi-Legend writes: “Sunday’s Star Tribune comics section had two strips where someone on a couch (with popcorn) awaits someone’s adventure with the advice ‘Take pictures.’
“‘Arlo and Janis‘ has Arlo preparing to go out as he says: ‘The entire universe is expanding. . .’ and ends with ‘A few old stars are all that will be evident of the universe!’
“Janis says — from the couch, bundled in a blanket, holding a snack in a bowl: ‘Take some pictures!’
“‘The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee‘ has the young Mr. Lee entering his time machine (which seems to evoke H.G. Wells’s model). He says: ‘I’m going to the future to see if I should be hopeful or depressed. Be back in a flash.’ His lab-rat pal, Joules, on a couch with a popcorn bucket and Entertainment Weekly, says: ‘Bon voyage. Take lots of pictures.’
“I asked my wife if there’s some meme I’m unaware of.
“She said: ‘Smartphones. Everyone is so busy taking pictures, they don’t enjoy the experience. I don’t go to ‘Art in Bloom’ at the Minneapolis Institute of Art because folks are crowding around, trying to get the best shot after shot.’
“Makes the couch sound real inviting.”
Gee, our old streetcars ran great!
Deuce of Eagan writes: “I was raised in the morning shadow of the St. Paul Cathedral, located on Selby Avenue. There was no family car for many years. Our family walked a lot and up to the mid-’50s used the public transportation of the time, the streetcar. As a kid, I loved watching them making their way up and down Selby. Somehow I felt an attraction to those wonderful trolleys.
“Because of the narrow width of a tunnel the Selby-Lake line needed to pass through, it could not accommodate the new-style PCC (President’s Conference Committee) type. The Selby-Lake line ran only the older-style trolleys.
“My favorite older-style trolley had a brick-red roof, rear woven-metal gates, yellow wood slats covering the body, front cow-catcher, and a Pepsi-Cola sign attached to the front. One could see those always-dependable trolleys approaching for blocks, owing to their glowing yellow-greenish headlights, a welcome sight day or night. To board, you had to walk about 12 feet onto the street, climb a couple of stairs and deposit a token into the fare box, followed by the tinkle of a small bell you could see within the box. You could make change in those days with the conductor or the motorman/motorette. When the rear gate was clear, the conductor rang a bell to signal it was safe to proceed. It was rare to find a warm interior during the winter months. The rear vestibule was often full of smokers puffing their tobacco products while shivering from the outdoor cold blowing in through the gates.
“No matter the conditions, I loved ’em. They rocked, bounced and had a distinctive ‘clickety-clack’ noise. Most of the motormen called out the next street, and a rider would pull the cord above the windows to signal that he or she wished to exit. I still recall, while approaching Ancker Hospital, the motorman calling out: ‘Ancker Hospital, Colborne, Grace — if you’re sick, this is the place’ . . . bringing a snicker to all of the passengers.
“I felt those old trolleys were somehow my friends. When I rode them as a kid, it was normally a trip to a fun place like Como Park, Monkey Ward’s or downtown for a movie. Then, in the early 1950s, it was suddenly over — with smelly-emission busses replacing them. Following that, it was never the same, a sad end to a faithful bond. I miss you, old friends.”
Now & Then
Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in northern Minnesota”: “I was in the checkout line at the grocery store yesterday when I saw these guys smiling at me from the magazine rack. It was like a flashback to see the young faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo; so familiar to me in 1964, when they looked just like this and I was in sixth grade.
“My sister Kate was in eighth grade then, and she was the one who brought home the new 45-rpm record with ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ on one side and ‘She Loves Me’ on the flip side. I clearly remember Kate gathering the family around her little portable record player to listen to this new band.
“We were all hit with Beatlemania! It was quite the phenomenon. Of course, most people my age clearly remember watching the Beatles appear on television for the first time on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ When they showed John, there was a little caption below that said: ‘SORRY GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED.’
“My sister declared that she was in love with Paul, so choosing him as my favorite was out. I chose Ringo as my favorite, because I thought picking one of them to love was what you had to do. But I was really still just a little girl, and I liked all four of them.
“I was not the screamer type. I always wanted all those girls to quiet down so I could hear the music!
“My mom liked the Beatles, too, and she took us down to Brainerd to see the movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ at the theater (during the summer of ’65, I believe), and to Metropolitan Stadium to see them in person. I clearly remember Paul running out to the stage with his guitar in his hand. The screamers made it impossible to hear a thing, but it was a thrill to see them in person!
“I have my sixth-grade scrapbook that my mom saved and gave back to me at some point. It has quite a few Beatle memories in it, such as Beatles Bubble Gum cards, and a Top Hits flyer from 1964.
“What a great flashback. I don’t know why I didn’t pick up that newsstand issue yesterday, so I think I’ll brave the snow and go back to the grocery store to pick one up today . . . if there are any left! There might be a rush of former Beatlemaniacs out there!
“P.S. To show you the young age I was when the Beatles first came to the U.S. in 1964, I’m including this sixth-grade photo of me (the lower girl) and my friend Natalie (top) at a sixth-grade Girl Scout slumber party at Camp Lakemaga. This photo was in my scrapbook as well.”
Band Name of the Day: CC and the Bloopers
Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “I especially liked #12.”