Our pets, ourselves
And: Accidents of mirth
DebK of Rosemount writes: “In the past month or so, our corner of Rice County has been the scene of rooftop activities not generally advised for 75-year-old pretend farmers. Taxman’s exertions have been calculated, I understand, to encourage calving of the ice dams that have formed at the intersections of the various rooflines on this old farmhouse.
“A great deal of snow has been encouraged to part company with the shingles, which has resulted in such an accumulation around the foundation that Hamish the Hungry (puppy) can conveniently help himself to the contents of the bird feeders that hang from the eaves. We are aware that mass intake of bird seed isn’t often recommended for growing dogs, but visiting the feeders has kept Hamish from chewing tractor tires and electric wiring, so we’ve opted to let the practice continue, at least as long as he shows no ill effects.
“The snow-removal phase of Taxman’s efforts came to an abrupt halt when a recent (thankfully minor) surgery placed him on the Injured/Disabled List. Regrettably, this benching came just as dire predictions of another storm (the one currently having its way with us) were ramping up. Taking particular note of the warning that some roofs might be in danger of collapsing due to the weight of an additional foot of snow, Taxman engaged the services of a strapping (and willing) young fellow to take over the shoveling where he (Taxman) had been forced to leave off. At the same time, he decreed that further efforts to clear the driveway leading to the front door were pointless, given that nobody ever uses that door anyway, preferring to enter the house through the garage, where an aromatic collection of barn boots and overalls apparently provides a warmer welcome.
“It was exceedingly odd, then, that on Tuesday — for the first time in our six years on this place — a FedEx delivery was made to the front door. The parcel, which contained the dress I bought for our grandson’s wedding, apparently arrived while Taxman and I were in Northfield laying in provisions, for we were unaware of its having been delivered until the kid shoveling the rooftop advised us that Hamish was in the front yard tearing up a package, a situation that might warrant our attention.
“Taxman leapt into action, returning to the house seconds later with my snow-caked, (dog) saliva-soaked dress, the remains of a zippered garment bag, and a few hunks of a Dillard’s box. As I assessed the damage to my fancy dress, my despair inspired deep sympathy on the part of our roof-shoveler. He assured me that he had survived a similar trauma a year ago on the way to his cousin’s wedding in Chicago. He had just turned onto I-90 when a glance in his rear-view mirror revealed that his rooftop carrier had popped open and was spewing his groomsman’s apparel all over the freeway. He pulled off the road and launched a heroic (if foolhardy) effort to retrieve his tuxedo. Alas, a couple of semis reached the garment before he did.
“I couldn’t resist asking for the rest of the story. ‘Well, eventually there was a break in the traffic, so I was able to grab the tux. We went over it with a damp wash cloth and gave it a little steam in the hotel bathroom. Some of the tire tread marks never came out, but I wore it. Never did find my shoes, though. And that fancy suit-hanger was totaled.'”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede has sent a couple of reports: (1) “For the past three weeks, these two blue jays have come to this window with a bush outside and sat and watched as our water-aerobics class meets and all those people move around to music, waving their arms in unison, kicking their legs, sometimes splashing with scissor kicks. They aren’t usually there when the class begins, but show up after a few minutes and sit in this bush looking at the window the whole time we are there. They leave when the class ends.
“I have been speculating on whether they can see us through the window, or just hear the music we are moving to. What I assume is the male jay flies up and down the window as though looking for a way in, then retreats to the bush and just watches from there.
“I am hoping someone who knows a lot about birds, like Al B, can shed some light on this behavior. Are they birds that like people-watching? Are there bird people-watching clubs out there? There are a lot of trees near the pool, and it is like a patch of forest with a good variety of trees that I enjoy seeing each time I come for the class.
“I decided to bring my camera one day inside a plastic bag in my gym bag, to keep it dry; I would unwrap it once the birds showed up. They were more elusive today and kept flying off, instead of watching us, until the very end, when they settled down. Other class members would clue me in when they showed up, as the class was facing away from the end of the pool where this window is located. I am usually in the spot of the pool closest to the window and had my camera sitting on the deck in the plastic bag until needed.
“We’ve all been enjoying their presence and smile each day they show up.”
(2) “I think this latest snowfall is the prettiest one this year. It was wet enough to cling to almost everything. This cluster of branches on my oak-tree limb look like they are raising their arms in joy. At least that is what it felt like to me when I saw them.
“The maple buds, beginning to be more prominent as spring nears, carried a good covering of snow. Maybe the message is ‘Not quite yet!’
“The vine on the back deck helped produce this interesting snow arrangement.
“And all the purple coneflower heads looked great with fresh hats!
“But all this lasted only a while until the winds kicked up and blew all the hats off and bared the branches.”
The simple pleasures (lacking)
The REF in White Bear Lake: “Subject: Where’s Marie when she’s needed?
“Imagine my despair when I opened the front door this morning! Just the past Thursday, I held and gazed at my snowblower and two snow shovels and determined that — as we near the middle of March — they no longer ‘spark joy.’ (One barely sparks at all, but that’s neither here nor there.)
“On a related note: One would think, with all the media outlets we have here in the northland, someone might have mentioned to expect snow on Saturday!”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Very funny, REF!
Where we live
Formerly Minivan Mama of Woodbury: “Our mailbox on January 25 and then on March 5.”
And now Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “Subject: Hard winter.
“It’s been a difficult winter for humans and animals alike, with all the snow we’ve had. Deer often come to our bird-feeder area to lap up extra seeds that the messy blue jays knock from the feeder to the ground.
“But this little guy has visited almost constantly in recent days, so we hope he’s going to make it.
“We had put our Christmas tree out on the patio after the season was over, and this young’un has been using it for browse. Since the tree was cut last fall by the growers, I imagine it’s not the freshest food in the forest!
“This afternoon, I decided to start digging into the snow piled on the steps leading up to the deck of our guest space above the garage.
“As I chiseled away, I could see all the layers of winter unfold. I got worn out hand shoveling this over the high drifts, and feared an avalanche. I have several days to finish this job before some guests come for an overnight. We haven’t had visitors since fall.
“Luckily, there’s an indoor staircase to use, but I thought for safety reasons we should get this second exit cleared before they come. Yikes!”
Now & Then (responsorial)
Or: Our community of strangers (mostly)
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “I’m always interested in the submissions from Cheesehead By Proxy — especially the recent one which described her sixth-grade fascination with the Beatles. When she mentioned Kate, her eighth-grade sister, it took me back to 1964, when Kate was one of my junior-high students. Their brother, Paul, was also in one of my classes. I met Cheesehead when she moved to the junior high, but I never had the pleasure of having her as a student. Good memories of a nice family. I’ve sporadically kept in touch with Cheesehead over the years, and was especially pleased (and relieved) when she fled the wilderness and returned to (‘Northern’) Minnesota.”
The little treasures
Or: The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I really love the beauty of a Minnesota snow storm, but enough already. I am really looking forward to green grass and flowers. Isn’t everybody? [Bulletin Board says: Everybody we’d care to know!]
“Every February and March, I try to concentrate on sorting through old files and photos and shredding the chaff so I can spend the summer gardening, guilt-free. The official start to spring is almost here, and with all the time I have spent shoveling, I have barely made a dent, but my sorting reward today was coming across this snapshot of my dad driving his automobile in 1914.
“I’m glad he didn’t regard this double-exposure as chaff. I have titled it ‘My Magnificent Dad in His Flying Machine.’”
The little treasures (responsorial)
Grandma Paula: “Response to Mendota Heights Missus.
“Thank you so very much for your kind comments on my hot-air-balloon photos.
“Yes, I guess you could say that I am a professional photographer. I had my own wedding-photography business for 11 years; I usually photographed between 10 and 20 weddings a year. I was the only employee, and I got paid, so I consider myself a professional.
“I have always loved to take photos, and had owned my own camera since I was in the fourth grade. After I moved from Minnesota to Hudson, Wisconsin, in 1982, I joined the Western Wisconsin Photographers Club. It was a small group of men and women of assorted ages, and with different levels of photography skill. We met twice a month, had salons where we judged each other’s slides and prints, and brought in experts to give the members tutorials on photography. We also went out in the community, in a group, and made photos. All of the members were more than willing to share what they had learned through trial and error. They were a great bunch of people, and I considered every one of them my friend. We used film cameras. I did not buy my first digital camera until 2005.
“The first year that I was a member, I turned in one print for the whole year. I just did not think that my photos were in the same league as the rest of the members’. Slides and prints had to receive a high score to make it to the year-end judging. My print got a high-enough score. Our year-end judging was done by a person that the club officers considered a professional. My one slide won a blue ribbon for the best photograph in the Humanity category! My gosh, I was proud! I took a lot of good-natured ribbing from the members who had turned in a combination of six slides or prints at each monthly judging (six was the limit you could turn in each month), and my one and only entry had won big. That validation gave me such confidence to continue on, learning, and turning in more and more of my slides and prints.
“As it happened, the judge who gave me the blue ribbon was a wedding photographer with her own business. She asked me to come to weddings with her, sort of like an apprentice, to help her and to learn the business, but not to get paid. The first time that she let me do the aisle shots, my heart was thumping so hard, and I was so nervous I thought I was going to faint, but I didn’t, and by golly, the photos turned out. She used them in the wedding album. It was after I photographed some more weddings, with good results, that I thought: I can do this! I started my own wedding-photography business.
“So I kept my day job as an accountant, and on Saturdays, I photographed weddings. My husband got sick in 2005 and died in 2006. I wasn’t sure after that if I wanted to continue on with the business. By that time I was 62, and keeping up with young brides and grooms was wearing me out. I finished up with the bookings I had taken for 2006; I quit advertising, and told the brides who were calling that I was quitting the business.
“Digital cameras were just becoming affordable around that time, and I wanted to learn how that kind of photography worked. I had 11 grandchildren by then, and they have added 17 great-grandchildren to the family, so I have lots of birthday parties and family celebrations to record with my camera. I still love making a photograph with whatever subject catches my eye. I feel like I’m still in the photography business. Just not getting paid anymore!
“P. S. I included the photo that won a blue ribbon.”
The highfalutin pleasures
The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield reported, late last week: “Subject: More photography links!
“(I think the first and third articles show the same amazing building in Hong Kong. So cool!)
“Also, in this interim before baseball and March Madness really get started, I’m satisfying my competitive sports-watching interests by following the Iditarod, specifically rookie Blair Braverman. She is a fascinating, amazing woman. Her book ‘Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube’ is wonderful. And she has fully embraced Twitter and its peculiarities, showing the best of what social media can be. The #uglydogs thread (referring to her fans, not her beautiful, athletic team — a Twitter troll had once inexplicably told her ‘Go back to your ugly dogs, Karen,’ and the name stuck) is hanging on every maddeningly slow update. I urge everyone to find her story threads — they’re like serial bedtime stories, in 140-character bursts. (This might help: https://threadreaderapp.com/user/BlairBraverman.) She has also enjoyed a media blitz, with stories on NPR and the ‘Sunday Today’ show in the last week, as well as her article in Vogue highlighting some of the female mushers in this year’s field. It’s what’s making me happy right now, especially considering the new snowstorm forecast.
“Have a good day!”
Life (and death) as we know it
Deuce of Eagan: “Subject: The Candy Girl.
“In 1957, I worked the holiday season as a part-time temp at Schuneman’s department store, downtown St. Paul. It was my sophomore year of high school. The store was located at Wabasha and Sixth Street — multi-stories, with two basements. I worked out of the lower, referred to as the sub-basement. My responsibilities consisted of supplying all departments with holiday gift boxes and disposal of any damaged boxes in a large roll-off container in an alley behind the store.
“On one of my trips to the waste container, I decided to take a short walk to the end of the alley, to check out what movie was playing at the RKO Orpheum movie theater across the street. Immediately I spotted a cute blond girl working behind the candy counter. I recall thinking I’d take a closer look the following evening. I thought of her often that night and the next day during school.
“The following night, on my first trip to the container, I navigated the alley, crossed Seventh Street and peered through the window to get a closer look. She proved to be even better-looking than I had imagined, and about my age — 16. She was wearing a pink-and-white ‘candy girl’ uniform, which included a kerchief tucked into a blouse pocket. She looked like an angel.
“I was not scheduled to work the following day, so I decided to buy a ticket and buy something from her at the candy counter. Much to my dismay, she was not there that night or any other of the following nights that I checked. I was disappointed that I had lost my opportunity to meet her. ‘He who hesitates is lost’ seemed apropos at that point.
“I told several school friends about her, and a couple of them had noticed her as well.
“About a week before Christmas, I was cruising through downtown in my ’51 Chevy, sounding off my great-sounding dual exhaust, and I had a good friend riding along. Approaching Minnesota Street on Seventh, I noted a group of people waiting for the bus. Suddenly, before my eyes, there she was! She and her girlfriend were part of this group carrying shopping bags and watching for the bus. I pointed and bellowed out loud; ‘There she is . . . the candy girl!’ My buddy nonchalantly relied: ‘Oh, I know her.’ (As it turned out, they had attended the same elementary school.) I pulled up to the curb, and we asked if they would accept a ride home. After they conferred for a moment, they accepted our offer and hopped into the back seat, toting their bags. My buddy introduced me to both of them: Lori (the candy girl) and Dianne. I felt on top of the world at that moment!
“As we drove out of the downtown area, we asked them if they wanted to stop for lunch at a popular pizza parlor that was along the route to their homes. They thought it was a good idea, so we stopped. They brought their shopping bags in with them. We all sat at a table, and my buddy and I excused ourselves to go to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, we snickered and bragged to each other how cool we were. We added a little water to our hair and combed our locks back on the sides (as the Fonz did on ‘Happy Days’). Now we began our grand entrance. Much to our dismay, the table was empty. They had ditched us! What a pathetic blow to our teenage egos!
“We caught up to them a couple of blocks away and asked what happened. They mumbled some lame excuse, but agreed to continue the ride. I stopped at Lori’s house a few times that winter, but she did not seem interested in a date.
“Fast-forward the story: We eventually married, had two girls, and enjoyed a wonderful 25 years together. My ‘candy girl’ died of cancer at the young age of 48. The theater stopped showing movies long ago.
“‘A large popcorn with lots of butter, please.'”
Live and learn! (responsorial)
The Mambo King: “Deuce of Eagan offered some good advice with his recommendation that we remember the motto ‘Be prepared.’
“Looking at the state of public affairs nowadays, I couldn’t help reflecting that it would be nice if more us adhered to the Boy Scout slogan: ‘Do a good turn daily.'”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: A neat thought for the day.
“A wonderful quote I heard this week: ‘Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.’
“It was attributed to Pope Francis, but it might be by Oscar Wilde.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Project Gutenberg informs us that the line comes from the Third Act of Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance,” in which Lord Illingworth proclaims: “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
The great comebacks (& non-comebacks)
Plus: Our times
Donald: “Subject: A twofer from SI.
“From ‘THEY SAID IT’ in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated:
“‘”I’m actually good on TV, so I’m just gonna stay here.”
“‘NFL Network analyst Steve Smith, who retired from the league in 2017, after Jason Witten left his broadcast job on Monday Night Football to return to the Cowboys.’
“From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in the same issue: ‘Police accused a New York man of faking his own kidnapping to avoid paying out a $50,000 Super Bowl Squares bet.’”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “Now that I have some extra time on my hands, I am catching up on recent Bulletin Boards.
“Reading the post from February 19, I was interested in reading the booklet ‘Job Opportunities at the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press.’ As a 1971 graduate of Archbishop Murray Memorial High School, I am of the same era and area as the contributor, Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff.
“In the third paragraph, I noticed that one of the positions was a ‘stereotyper.’ Hmmm, I said to myself, they couldn’t possibly have a position dedicated to creating stereotypes?! When I got to that page, I learned that it was a particular form of typesetting: ‘It is a skilled trade requiring six years of unterrupted [sic] training. . . .’ I guess that slipped past the folks in the Editorial Department! [Bulletin Board says: There is very little chance that the news-side folks were involved in proofreading that document.] Sometimes spell-check can be our friend. ;-)”
The highfalutin amusements
Dennis from Eagan writes: “When I selected my remote’s program guide both on November 4, 2018, at 12:41 a.m. and on March 10, 2019, at 12:03 a.m., I photographed how Comcast handles the time changes.
“It’s really weird seeing the documented proof of TWO 1:00-2:00 a.m. hours in the fall and NO 2:00-3:00 a.m. hour in the spring.”
The highfalutin pleasures
IGHGrampa writes: “I have not contributed anything for some months now, and I do most humbly apologize for that.
“Being retired, I spend more time than I should just nosing around the Internet. Most of it is a total waste of time, but maybe not. Here’s something I put together just because it seemed like a good idea:
“I don’t know why I find military parade marching so fascinating. Maybe it’s the dance aspect of it — all of the men and women lined up and walking along in step, swinging their arms the same. It’s like a chorus line, like the Radio City Music Hall dancers high kicking and jumping. When I was in the military, marching was probably the only part of it that I half-enjoyed. Some of the sergeants called out marching songs. Some of them were entertaining the first few times you heard them. This is a site featuring some.
“I’ll not go further on them. Some are not appropriate for any but the marchers. You can search them out for yourselves. I just want to present marchers from various countries. These are all parade-style marching. It’s how the commanders present their troops — as in ‘These are our soldiers. Don’t they look well-disciplined and menacing? Don’t mess with us.’ It’s also a way everyone can see what they’ve paid for in their big military budgets.
“These are my favorites of the marchers. The British way of swinging their arms as they step out has a certain appeal. It makes you want to get over there and join them.
“This next video is the one that started me off in my marching fascination. They are all handsome, strong-looking young men. They’re three abreast in a long line, walking and swinging their arms in unison. Their feet come forward all at the same time. It’s a sight that would please anyone.
“These guys are forming up to march. I’m still not feeling at ease about men in kilts. I notice when they start, they have their weapons on their left shoulders. That seems wrong, too. [Bulletin Board says: We noticed the same thing in the outstanding World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old.”]
“You can see the British influence in their parade marching. In the years since the British left, they have added their own signature on it. What a show they put on!
“Who can forget the Nazi goose-steppers? This was a Nazi propaganda film to show how ‘mighty’ they were. Take note of the sound effect in this video. Further on, I’ll explain why.
https://youtu.be/Xcz-Oho0tlU [Bulletin Board notes: Can’t embed this one. YouTube has disabled the “sharing” potential.]
“This was from the movie ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’ Note the WWI-style helmets. You might recognize some of the actors: Ernest Borgnine and Richard Thomas. The last soldier to receive the iron cross from the Kaiser disgraces himself later by showing cowardice in battle. This video actually has no marching. I included it merely for interest.
“This was a surprise. They march and are uniformed like Germans of the WWII era. I wonder if former Nazis helped them organize their army.
“The French are what you might expect.
“French Foreign Legion:
“You may notice the slow pace of the marchers. It must be merely their own unique marching style. It looks slightly menacing. The marchers wearing the leather aprons and carrying axes are combat engineers.
“It sounds like right out of ‘Star Wars.’ It looks like each unit gets to design its own uniform.
“There is certainly a lot of pomp in this display.
“Russia Victory Day Parade, 2015:
“Their marchers don’t look like they’re goose-stepping, but rather striding out in purposeful steps, as if confident of victory. You can also see smiles on their faces, especially in the women’s units. I can picture their commanders instructing them to smile and look proud. ‘You are members of the greatest army in the world. Look proud and happy. You are Russian!’
“These guys march right along at a fast pace. They have dogs or goats with banners over their backs trotting along with them — some sort of mascot, I expect. They carry big weapons (not the goats). Some soldiers even have things that look like bazookas — rocket launchers of some sort?
“I don’t understand this next video, but obviously the Italians did. Whatever the event was, it was important enough that the band wanted to jog along as they played. Let’s see you do that.
“The Chinese love their military parades. Even the women are there marching in super-disciplined units. The units of young women in their red uniforms are quite striking. Note that they are all the same height and build, all attractive women. One of the videos shows their leader riding in a limo and reviewing the troops. You can’t help but notice his lascivious grin.
“In one of the scenes, you can hear a man calling out something. It sounds like the same call you can hear in the German Nazi propaganda film. Someone must have edited the voice in just for effect.
“Lord, these people are unbelievable. They have a champion goose-step with a little bounce on each step. It must be exhausting to march like that for very long.
“September 6, 2018 Calabanga Military Parade
“I came across this recently. My first thought was: ‘Where in the world is Calabanga?’ I looked it up. It’s a city in the Philippines, down on the skinny southern part of Luzon.
I included it here just because of the name. It says ‘Military,’ right? I also decided it was appropriate because it’s the total opposite of that North Korean parade. There were parts that looked like military parading, but mostly it was just a happy occasion for everyone. There are people walking along with the parade units. I think they’re family members of the marchers, all following along proudly. The streets were narrow, just wide enough for the marchers and families. People crossed right through the middle of the formations. People wiped the brows of the marchers, or gave them water bottles for a drink. There were lots of formations of pretty girls in pretty costumes. There were lots of bands in all sorts of uniforms — even bands of xylophone players.
“I have to say, no one is going to be scared by the military part of this parade. I saw rifles, but they looked like fakes made just for parade fun. Some of the soldiers looked pretty young, too. It’s not an occasion to scare anyone. It’s all a celebration.
“Conclusion: Maybe I’ve been so fascinated by all this marching and parading as an antiwar statement. I hate the idea that these beautiful young specimens of the human race would get all shot up and blown to pieces in an actual war. That’s exactly what would happen. That’s what they’re there for. Whether they’d win or lose the battle is irrelevant. The young Chinese women in red, the color of blood, seems symbolic of their fate in war. What a tragedy it would be for all of those pretty young women to be thrust into a battle.
“I have not included any marches of American troops. I must have seen too many news items of returned soldiers missing arms and legs.
“Since I mentioned Radio City Music Hall, it seems appropriate to present this.”
Out of the mouths of babes
Mom in Boyland: “Subject: Our Kids, Ourselves.
“My preschooler is enjoying ‘career days’ at school, where parents come in to talk about their jobs as firefighters, nurses or being in the armed forces. Today, as I was busy going about my domestic duties, my youngest declared: ‘THAT’S what you could talk about to my class! Doing laundry! You’re really good at laundry!’
“As true as that statement was, I realized that’s probably about the extent of the way my boys see me at home. If only they could’ve seen me in my former PR exec days.
“Then again, the preschoolers would probably rather hear about doing laundry.”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Not just preschoolers would make that choice!
Band Name of the Day: Chewing Tires
Website of the Day: Project Gutenberg