A funny thing happened on the way to the James J. Hill House!

Oh, and were their faces red!

Deuce of Eagan writes: “My brother and his wife have always enjoyed taking part in Twin Cities events, concerts, and exploring historical places.

“One Saturday last year, while enjoying eggs and toast at a restaurant claiming ‘The Best Breakfast in the World,’ they discussed stopping at the James J. Hill mansion for a tour along their drive home. They had driven Summit Avenue for years, enjoying all of the architectural masterpieces along both sides of the avenue, and thought it about time they took in a tour of the Hill House.

“They pulled up in front of the large, dark brown house, surprised that there were so few other cars parked nearby. They expected more visitors and had heard of others waiting for up to half an hour for a tour. They walked up the front stairs, admiring the intricate architecture. At the beautiful entry doors, there was a man outside standing on a tall ladder, doing some repair on a light fixture. They assumed he was a handyman doing what they do. They exchanged pleasantries with him and entered the home.

“Once inside, they were immediately met with a stunning library. While waiting for their tour, they pulled books from the shelves and perused their pages. They sat in some large, ornate, velvet-upholstered chairs, taking in the beauty of the room. Soon they noticed a large but silent dog lying on a rug on the wood floor, apparently enjoying their company.

“Somehow a dog seemed out of place to them. Confusion set in, then mild panic. Were they in the right place? They stepped outside to ask the gentleman on the ladder. His calm reply was: ‘You missed the Hill House by three blocks.’ Now totally embarrassed, they mentioned the ‘beautiful library’ to the gentleman and walked sheepishly but quickly to their car.

“They went east three blocks to the real Hill mansion and enjoyed the second beautiful library of the day.

“Questions remained, however: Was the gentleman on the ladder the owner? Why didn’t the dog bark at the two strangers in the home? Why didn’t the residents investigate who was making themselves at home in their library?

“They will never find out, probably, unless the owners read BB.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Well, why wouldn’t they?

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Our Official Attorney, Mr. Tulkinghorn, unofficially reports: “I did the L.A. Times crossword yesterday morning. (It’s in our local paper here in Connecticut — go figure!) One clue I had to work out was ‘Scriabin work.’ I’d never heard of Scriabin, but ‘etude’ fit.

“Then yesterday afternoon about 2 o’clock, my wife and I were driving and had a classical-music station on the car radio. Almost never listen to classical, and am almost never driving around at that time on a rare (these days) beautiful Saturday. So we are listening and, out of the blue, the announcer says that the next selection was by a composer who was trying to be ‘very Scriabin-esque.’ I heard it distinctly. I immediately said to my wife: ‘That’s a classic B-M!’ She is not a BB reader [Bulletin Board interjects: Well, why isn’t she?], so she looked at me blankly. (I’m well used to that, anyway.) I explained how I’d never even heard of Scriabin before that morning, and here he was mentioned on the radio not a few short hours later.

“She agreed it was very weird. I’m still amazed.”

The vision thing

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Steady now.

“I’ve been noticing the last few years that’s it’s become more difficult to hold my camera steady, especially on close-up shots. But I didn’t realize how shaky I’d become until I saw this photo I took of the Como Conservatory.

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“Now I know how Don Knotts must have felt in the movie ‘The Shakiest Gun in the West.'”

Then & Now

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The Gram With A Thousand Rules: “Every summer when our kids were through with their annual dental checkup, we would take them up the elevator to the top of the Foshay Tower. They would peer through the mini-telescopes, trying in vain to spot our house. They never could — but they never stopped trying.

“All of that came to an end in 1971 when the IDS Tower was built and blocked our view of Roseville for good. I’m glad we did this when we still could.”

Come again?

Another episode of creative hearing, reported by tia2d: “We were talking with a group of friends about the ways we are aging, with vision and hearing and other problems. One friend said he was talking to a neighbor and she told him: ‘I screwed a guy in Mexico.’ This was totally not the kind of things they had talked of before, and his face must have shown his shock and confusion.

“She asked: ‘What do you think I said?’ He told her, and she said: ‘No! I scuba-dived in Mexico.’

“Life becomes more exciting/interesting with creative hearing.”

Could be verse!

Sally, the cleaning lady of Shoreview: “At 104, my aunt can still bring a smile.

“A poem by Carol Robertson, formerly Centenarian Sue and Nonagenarian Nana“:

104

My hair got gray, my butt got flat
My bosom — hate to think about that
My eyes got bleary, my legs got weary
My skin got crepey, my neck got drapey
Can’t drive my car, can’t travel far
Don’t even try to reach up high
Nothing’s working really well
Even the libido’s gone to hell

But I still can stand upon my feet
And I really do love to drink and eat
I’ve my family and friends . . . that joy never ends
There’s music to hear and books to be read
There’s the beauty of nature, there’s laughter ahead
So now I’m thinking, truth to be told
I’m still the same “I” . . . just my body got old!

Our husbands, our pets, ourselves

DebK of Rosemount: “Taxman has a reputation for thrift that is contradicted by two situations that invariably overcome his habits of frugality.

“In the last decade or so, the more troublesome has been his favorite retailer’s recurring siren song: ‘11% off everything in the store.’ But in the years before he became a pretend farmer, Taxman’s grip on his wallet was most frequently loosened by TV pitchman Ron Popeil, with whom Taxman kept company while I was otherwise occupied — grading student essays or directing the parish choir, perhaps. Such periods of inadequate supervision resulted in Taxman’s purchasing an array of products ‘guaranteed’ to make my life easier: Kitchen Magician, Veg-o-matic, Splatter Screen, Ginsu steak knives, and the like. Very often, because Taxman kept the telephone and his credit card at the ready, he was able to act in time to snare a pair of these items for the price of one — plus separate shipping and handling.

“Popeil’s retirement coincided roughly with our acquisition of St. Isidore Farm and the consequent passing of TV from our routine. Mind, during extended stretches of bad weather, Taxman still tunes in reruns of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ or ‘Gunsmoke.’ Those departures from our TV-free lifestyle are evidenced by the acquisition of several Sham-WOWs, a couple of cans of spray-on leak-patching compound, and a Silver Bullet collapsible garden hose.

“In the last couple of weeks, my evenings have been tied up with rehearsals and meetings, during which Taxman has had to entertain himself. Left to his own devices, Taxman somehow fell under the influence of Mike Lindell. He ordered himself a pair of My Pillows (managing, however, to pass on Giza Dream Sheets), which were apparently delivered while we were eating lunch today. BB readers may recall that we keep three dogs whose responsibility it is to inform us of the arrival of visitors and delivery persons. As luck would have it, when the pillows arrived, Rosie and Spike were, we surmise, begging for a bit of leftover lamb Bolognese (Michael Symon’s terrific recipe — with lots of fresh mint), leaving only Hamish on duty outside.

“We were oblivious to the delivery, but Hamish knew. He disemboweled both pillows, which contained ‘special, patented fill’ that is now spread over the front yard like the first snow of the season.”

Our pets, ourselves

Arizona Susan: “My brother and his family live in Mendota Heights, in a beautiful wooded area. They are big animal lovers and have two dogs and two cats. One dog, Molly, has the cute habit of whenever a package is delivered to the house and left by their front door, she goes and picks it up in her mouth and just hangs on to it until someone comes home and takes it from her. She doesn’t chew on it or anything; she just hangs on to it.

“I had sent a package up earlier in June for my brother’s birthday, and he had to send me this picture of Molly and the package that he took when he got home from work one day. She was there waiting for him.

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“Pretty cute!”

Our pets, our rodents, ourselves

The Dame of Big River Farm: “Subject: Welcome Home, Mama!

“My 16-year-old outdoor cat, JoJo, brings me gifts from the meadow early most mornings. Usually it’s a mouse he leaves by the door for me. Yesterday, when I arrived home from work, he was so very proud to have gotten a striped gopher to leave on the Welcome Home mat for me!

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“Welcome Home Mama! Wth love, JoJo”

Then & Now

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: The Best is yet to come . . . again.

“Tonight the Runabout took a couple of kinda-thin sirloins out of the fridge and sent me out to the grill. These days,everything reminds me of something. And away we go!

“Back in the late ’60s, my first real job out of college was on University Avenue near Snelling. I had an hour for lunch and wasn’t into brown-bagging, so I usually hit the Hamline Cafeteria, Burger King or The Best Steak House. All were close by, and if I did Burger King, there was time to peruse the latest liquidation loot at Ax-Man before returning to work.

“The memory that the large, thin steaks triggered was of course my favorite of the three: The Best Steak House. The aroma of the char-grilled beef as you waited in line was seductive. When it was your turn to order, you were hooked like a walleye on a shiner. Price didn’t matter anymore! ‘Gimme a T-bone, medium, with a baked potato, sour cream and Texas toast!’ I always skipped the salad (a needless expense). The guys on the line always kept the hungry onslaught straight, somehow.

“I just Googled them, and they’re still there and still in business. I wonder if anything but the price has changed in 50 years? I’ll soon find out!”

Our times
Or: Know thyselves

Gregory of the North: “Subject: Generation gap.

“Yesterday my wife and I went to a store selling high-tech products, in search of a cellphone update. We were struck by the marked differences between us Baby Boomers and the Millennials who waited on us.

“For us, looking at the latest generation of phones was perplexing and even sometimes intimidating. For them, everything was casually simple. We were treated with great respect, and they were very helpful and made sure that all of our questions were answered. But they seemed blasé, almost bored by what to us were almost miraculous devices.

“We decided that the torch indeed has passed to a new generation. Such a dramatic revelation can be unsettling. Indeed, on our way home we saw a bumper sticker on a minivan with which we could identify completely and made us want to reach out to as an ‘instant companion.’ The bumper sticker was white lettering on a black background that said: ‘I USED TO BE COOL.’

“Sigh! In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, ‘And so it goes!’”

Now & Then

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: How times has changed.

“On Saturday, I attended the centennial of an engineering department at the University of Minnesota. Some of us had chosen to go on an excursion. Before we boarded our bus, a guide checked our names off on a list of attendees. What cracked me up was how he — seemingly of Asian descent — pronounced many Asian names correctly and beautifully. But I corrected him on Moran — an Irish surname.

“The times, they is a-changing. . . .”

What’s in a name? (Self-responsorial)

A note from Lola: “It is so thoughtful of Nabisco to introduce a limited-edition Oreo commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and celebrating my daughter’s birthday. Both events occurred on July 20, 1969.

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“Here is my contribution to BB sometime before 2001, when I changed my handle from Lois of Maplewood to Lola:

“‘What’s in a name? From Lois of Maplewood: “My daughter Kelley was born on July 20, 1969 at almost the same time Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Kelley has heard the ‘Kelly, Kelly, Kelly’ song more than once, and one of her friends calls her Kelleydonia. [Bulletin Board notes: That’s a new one.]

“‘Her father and I had not settled on a name for her the morning after she was born, and one of the nurses suggested she should be given a name to reflect the day on which she was born — and suggested Lunar Module or Moon Walk.

“‘Kelley is very happy with her name.’

“I believe the Kelleydonia reference was to the town of Caledonia, and I think there was a discussion going on about liking or not liking your name.”

What’s in a (team) name?

The Original Robyn from Maplewood (“now Woodbury”): “When Golfer Guy Mike and I were in Albuquerque in April of last year, we visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. What we had considered a site for a quick morning stop turned into a four-hour stay, because the exhibits and information were so well presented.

“Given that America’s nuclear age began in New Mexico, it was no surprise for me to read online a few days ago that Albuquerque’s AAA baseball team (affiliated with the Colorado Rockies) is called the Isotopes.”

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other

From Al B of Hartland: “A man told me that in his retirement, he spends more time with his small dog. He and the dog spend 15 minutes each morning staring out the window. The dog points things out with its eyes. They particularly enjoy watching the crows. Crows are always up to something.

“I watched a groundhog kit and a cottontail rabbit eating dandelions on the lawn. The rabbit was larger than the young woodchuck. Suddenly, the baby groundhog raised up on his rear legs like a miniature grizzly and looked menacingly at the bunny. The rabbit ignored it. The groundhog charged the rabbit. The last I saw of the two, they were headed around a pass between shrubs and trees.

“I needed to walk, to stave off planned obsolescence. The weather wasn’t on its best behavior, so I opted to take a brisk hike in a quiet mall. I listen to an iPod while walking. I enjoy podcasts. There are even podcasts about podcasts. I use wireless earbuds. It’s a feeble attempt at being cool. I ran into a friend. Not literally. We small-talked. He ribbed me in the way of guys by saying; ‘You look goofy with those things in your ears.’ The joke was on him. I look goofy even when I don’t have anything in my ears.

“I canoed the Missouri River, camping where Lewis and Clark had during their epic adventure. I read Stephen Ambrose‘s book about their trip as I traveled. One morning, there were two baby rattlesnakes near my sleeping bag. They were seeking warmth. I like snakes, but I like rattlesnakes best at a safe distance. I gave my bag a good shaking. No harm was done. Another paddler told me that he’d once pitched his tent on top of a baby rattler. When he discovered that, the man became rattled.

“Sooner or later, a man learns that not everything that looks like a towel is a towel. The sooner he learns that, the better.”

The highfalutin displeasures

Gma Tom: “Subject: There ought to be a law.

“Well I’m sure there is, but it’s not being enforced.

“At first, the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ worked fairly well — but no longer. So I signed on to ‘Nomorobo,’ which again works fairly well except for hacked local numbers. If a robo call comes in, the phone rings only once and then is sent to another number. Lately I’ve heard it ring once, then a half-ring, and was curious about that. Since I was standing right by the phone when it happened again, I picked up the receiver to see the Caller ID. I was more than a little annoyed to see that I was robo-calling myself. The hackers had hacked my own number and then robo-called me! Uuuggghhh!”

Where did the time go?

Another report from Deuce of Eagan: “Our Shortcut Took Longer.

“I attended Cathedral Elementary for eight years, beginning in 1947. School buses were for the kids commuting from cities far from St. Paul. We walked. My group of friends — three boys and one girl — would gather each school-day morning at one of our houses and walk about six blocks, which included the steep Cathedral Hill (no, it was not ‘uphill both ways and without shoes’). Rain, shine, sleet or snow, we prided ourselves in never being tardy in all those years. Our walk to school took 15 to 17 minutes — and if there was a fierce snowstorm, maybe 20 or so.

“We couldn’t figure why it took up to a half-hour longer to walk home. Our parents would often ask us that same question. Could the law of physics somehow change when walking in a westerly direction?

“On our homeward-bound trip, we always took a shortcut. It included traipsing over, under, and through impediments along our secret shortcut route. As we all are aware, shortcuts are about saving time — right?

“I’ll attempt to solve this quandary here and now — scientifically, as Al Einstein might. Let’s see — we walked north about a block, then turned west and hiked behind every home, garage, business and apartment building for the next few blocks. Our first daily challenge was a 6-foot-high boulder wall that we needed to climb, followed by scaling a series of wooden fences, climbing up and over an old garage, and stopping to pet several dogs who came to know us as friends over the years. Then came the very high chain-link fence surrounding a business — admittedly a challenge that slowed us down a bit. The older we got, the easier that climb. Then came the final two blocks, each with its own obstacles. We shimmied through an old wood-slatted shed that leaned at quite the angle, and then clung to a low-hanging elm tree branch to cross over to the adjoining yard. Then, I recall, the final block required climbing two more fences and a stop to pick some fragrant lilacs if in bloom.

“Luckily a couple of kids carried canvas book bags to tote our books.

“The longer I look at this — as we always had so much fun on the way home, Tom Sawyer-style, who cares why our shortcut took us so much longer!”

Where in the world are we?

Carp Lips of Wyoming writes: “Subject: Unclear on the Concept/Location.

“According to her website, on October 16 Sara Bareilles will be performing a concert at the ‘Theater’ at Xcel Energy Center. And it’s now located in ‘Saint Augusta, MN.’

“Hope the out-of-towners don’t end up really far out of town.”

His world . . . and welcome to it!

Tim Torkildson writes: “There’s a little bit of carny in all of us -— a smidgen of delight at absurdities on display. That is why I read with much interest a recent article in the New York Times that included this inspiring paragraph: ‘”The troll museum is probably the silliest idea I had in my life,” she said. “But people responded to it, so I have to keep it going. If more people carried out their silly ideas, then the world would be a more interesting place.”‘

“Yes, indeed: Making the world a better and safer place may be the primary goal for most people, but I have always subscribed to the belief that making things interesting first and foremost will inevitably lead to utopia — where parking meters pay ME and Bismarck herring run in shoals past my front door, free for the netting.

“And that’s why I became the proprietor of the Museum of Invisible Things in the town of Spencer, Iowa, back in the year of grace 2007.

“I came to Spencer at the behest of radio station KICD, which was in need of a news director — the previous one having departed for the bright lights and State Fair butter cows of Des Moines. I had passed through Spencer the previous year, fronting for the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, and left my business card with the radio-station manager. He was a fellow Brownie — a graduate of the Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Minneapolis, which I had also attended. Brownies, like Harvard men, stick together. He offered me the position at a crisis moment in my circus career: Disgusted that my circus salary was several weeks in arrears, I had vowed to spurn the Big Top in favor of the saner music and weaker wine of regular employment.

“With my ballyhoo instincts at full throttle, it wasn’t long before I had whipped the news department at KICD into a well-oiled machine that ground out local news bulletins like sausage: a few news patties for the morning program at 7, more substantial baloney at noon, and plenty of prerecorded leftovers for the evening news roundup at 6. This left me with time on my hands, which I used to open a museum.

“During my years of travel with various circuses, I’d run across some fascinating museums in Iowa — such as the Hobo Museum in Britt; the Squirrel Cage Jail Museum in Council Bluffs; and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. These are spots to warm the cockles of any nomadic heart. In Spencer, unfortunately, there was only the Clay County Historical Museum — which featured a large array of the latest calico sun bonnets (circa 1870), corncob candelabra, and a dispiriting display case chock-a-block with cast-iron bedpans. Dissecting pudding would generate more interest.

“So I opened the Museum of Invisible Things in my spacious apartment, above the HyVee grocery store on Grand Avenue. I got the idea from an old ‘Candid Camera’ segment — where a large bowl full of water and nothing else was put on public display with a sign reading ‘Invisible Goldfish.’ Dozens of people were subsequently filmed squinting into the bowl in a vain attempt to locate the non-existent fishies.

“I had a placard made up, which the HyVee produce manager let me tape to the wall next to the staircase leading to my apartment:

“TORKILDSON’S MUSEUM OF INVISIBLE THINGS.

“Upstairs on the Second Floor.

“Open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays only. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Admission free to children, pet owners, and latitudinarians.

“Admission for all others: $1.00.

“I featured the goldfish, of course. I also had an invisible original Picasso, entitled ‘Family of Saltines.’ There was an invisible diamond tiara from the Romanovs; an imperceptible shrunken head stolen from the Sea Dayaks of Borneo; the impalpable stuffed carcass of Schrodinger’s cat; and a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth (you could see the baseball, but not the autograph — the Babe had jokingly used invisible ink.)

“I put up a used crib, with a sign reading: ‘PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE INVISIBLE LEPRECHAUN MIMES.’

“There were other exhibitions as well, as the fancy struck me, but after six months I had to admit that I wasn’t exactly doing a land-office business. Even though I had slyly promoted my museum during a few news broadcasts at KICD, my visitors book showed a grand total of seven names for the past six months — and two of those had been housewives under the mistaken impression that I was part of HyVee’s produce department and could tell them how much red cabbage was per pound. When I left Spencer for greener pastures a year later, there was no mourning in the streets for the loss of my treasury of invisible wonders.

“Since then I have given brief and fleeting thought to opening a Linoleum Museum, or displaying a Diorama of Paint Drying — but those notions all came to naught. With the current administration dispensing so much silliness already, why try to compete? Today I am content with putting an egg in a jar of vinegar and then showing the results to my grandkids a month later. SEE THE AMAZING RUBBER EGG!”

Fellow travelers
Or: Keeping your eyes open

Dennis from Eagan writes: “Subject: Cresco’s Rock-Star.

“My wife and I traveled to Cresco, Iowa, for a June 20-23 hotel stay. The city has pet-friendly and affordable lodging that is only 20 miles south of Minnesota attractions in Harmony and Lanesboro. If you’re a loyal Kwik Trip customer, look for Kwik Star in that state to avoid confusion with another chain named QuikTrip.

“About a half-mile northwest of that gas station, there’s a very rocky real-estate plot which appears to be two boulders shy of a licensed quarry.

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“Fred Flintstone would’ve been proud to live in that gem!”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said ‘Dead End’
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Judge not, lest . . .

“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:

“‘DON’T JUDGE SOMEONE BECAUSE THEY SIN . . .

“‘DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU DO.’”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Even with the grammatical error, we like it!

Band Name of the Day: The Invisible Things

Website of the Day, recommended by The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: ‘FRED episode 1 – the world at your feet – Fred Dibnah.’

“Here’s a link to a YouTube series I stumbled onto a few days ago. It takes awhile to understand his accent, but he’s a pretty interesting, clever, talented and funny guy — the kind of guy who would be fun to have as a neighbor (if he was out of sight, and you could visit him but he couldn’t visit you). How he ever stayed alive in his steeplejack business is a miracle. If you subscribe, there are several episodes that are very entertaining (to me, at least). Give him a try.”