The Permanent Sisterly Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “My two oldest sisters were tap dancers, while my boisterous middle sister was a baton twirler for her high-school band.
“I can testify that baton twirling is more lethal. A lot of lamps were sacrificed to Edith’s baton in those first years of lessons.
“It helped somewhat when she acquired a red rubber replacement practice knob, but even that inflicted at least one injury that I witnessed. In 1939, with the news full of the Nazis taking over Europe, Edith suggested that my gullible sister Nora step outside and ring the doorbell, and she would show her what she would do if Hitler ever came to our house. Now, I was only 7, but I could see where that was going. Nora did as she was told, and when Edith opened the door, she bonked Nora over the head with her baton. Granted, it was the rubber practice knob, but it must have hurt.
“We were all getting sick of her twirling, and none of us could see any future in it until 1940, when the first Aquatennial took place in Minneapolis. All of us sat on the curb on Nicollet Avenue as we proudly watched Edith throw her baton high in the air and catch it — every single time — as she led one of the first groups down the avenue.”
Our theater of seasons
Leading to: The vision thing
KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: How Hot Was It?
“It was pretty hot out. According to all of the melodramatic meteorologists, the ‘feels-like temperature’ was pretty hot.
“When I’m looking at flowers, I don’t much notice anything but the beauty. But when I saw this face, it seemed to be trying to say something to me. I leaned in closer to hear. What I heard was: ‘WHEW — it’s pretty hot out here!'”
Or: Muse, amuse
Again, KH of White Bear Lake: “My Observation (unconfirmed).
“I’m not a botanist. I don’t even plant flowers. Most of the time, I can’t identify a flower when I see it. But I have spent countless hours photographing and analyzing them.
“I am rarely able to corroborate my discoveries. For instance, I’m pretty sure these cosmos are siblings, and that one of them is adopted.”
Our community of strangers (mostly)
The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: Ms. Linda‘s new book.
“Congratulations to Ms. Linda on the publication of her first book, ‘Evvie Drake Starts Over,’ which Pioneer Press book reviewer Mary Ann Grossmann reviewed last week in our fine publication. It’s a great book — and not just because baseball features prominently. I remembered Ms. Linda’s Bulletin Board entries from 9/11 and went back to find them. What a wonderful writer she is.
“From September 16, 2001:
“‘It feels unnatural to laugh, or even to smile.
“‘Life (and death) as we know it: Writes Ms. Linda of West St. Paul: “It is a strange feeling as radio and TV begin to broadcast something other than news; as the world of professional sports wonders when it should start up again; as concerts and parties and music sputter to life after vanishing abruptly for days. It seemed right that they should vanish, but now it seems right that we should have them again. We should have comedy and frivolity and baseball and movies, and when something funny happens, we should laugh.
“‘”Admittedly, it feels a little wrong, at least to me. It feels unnatural to laugh, or even to smile. The Starbucks where I always grab my morning coffee was silent yesterday morning. No conversations, no banter with the baristas — cups and change were exchanged gently, without the usual clattering spoons. And that seemed exactly right. We were quiet. We were thinking. We were praying and waiting, and we were not wanting to intrude on the efforts of others to do likewise.
“‘”But I feel, nevertheless, a certain obligation to keep reaching for normalcy, and that includes happiness and humor and smiles directed at strangers. Not laughing, or not asking other people to laugh, would do nothing but create an unnatural balance where not only does there suddenly seem to be unspeakable horror in the world, but the remarkable humor and kindness and love that are part of people’s lives every day seem to have evaporated. And that isn’t true. It hasn’t happened. One woman I know was on the ground a few blocks from the collapse of the towers, and as she ran, she saw a shirt cuff flutter by and land on the ground. But she also was given a pair of shoes in Chinatown for a dollar by a woman who saw that she was limping in the ones she had on.
“‘”This is the perplexing balance the last few days have revealed to me. There was and is such an overwhelming sense of despair, but since Tuesday morning, there seems to have been quite a remarkable surge of grace as well. Compassion and generosity and immeasurable goodness like I have never seen. And no, it doesn’t do a thing to diminish the losses that have been suffered. And yes, one can question why it takes an event of such magnitude to wring this response from us, and why other injustices we perhaps should not have tolerated have gone forward without it. But in the end, what encourages me is the knowledge that this must have always been in us — this goodness, this grace, this shared understanding of what matters and what doesn’t. Now that we have displayed it to each other in such a conspicuous fashion, perhaps we will more easily remember that we have it. And that is enough to give me hope.”‘
“From September 11, 2002:
“‘Can life go on? How can it not? It can, and it must!
“‘Life as we know it: Writes the recently relocated Ms. Linda of Bloomington: “When I lived in St. Paul, I used to sometimes come into the city on West Seventh from 35E. You can see the whole stretch of that road ahead of you, past the neighborhood stores and all the way into downtown. And I would sometimes look down that road and feel this lurch in my stomach, and I’d have to blink and shake my head a little.
“‘”It was the steam from the ethanol plant. It pours out profusely sometimes, and if it isn’t windy, it can linger. And if the angle was right and there wasn’t too much haze, the steam would seem to press against the taller buildings in downtown St. Paul, and at the crude level where lurches in your stomach are born, it would look like a tall building pouring smoke out of its sides. I always knew, intellectually, it wasn’t true; the plant is blocks and blocks from the city. It was just a momentary illusion, with just enough crude similarities to the horrible pictures we all still carry that it could trigger the thought in my mind, but it always gave me a momentary shudder.
“‘”They’re almost like pen-and-ink sketches now, those images in my mind. Not quite so colorful, not quite so detailed, not quite so complete. But they’re permanent, and now that they’ve been rubbed down to stark black outlines, it takes surprisingly little to suggest them to me. Any tall building. Any plane, any fire, any firefighter, any flag. It becomes absurd at times — any grainy videotape. Anyone giving blood. Any Bruce Springsteen song. The shock I get when that alarm is tripped may not be what it once was, but I am constantly reminded that there are hundreds of wires that run between that alarm and the everyday details of my life. It goes off, I jump, and then I take a breath. Because I can, because I should, and because there are still a hundred other things, every day.
“‘”It seemed, last fall, like nothing else would ever happen, ever again. How could there ever be parties, or comedy, or redecorating a bedroom, or flirting, or shopping for shoes? Well, because there are these things. A hundred other things, every day. Things that I love to do, people that I love to talk to, places that I love to be . . . and it takes surprisingly little to suggest them to me.”‘”
Literally & figuratively
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Love you to the moon.
“On one of the recent programs celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing was a great quote. One of the astronauts said that he truly did love his family to the moon and back.
“That is so sweet!”
Today’s nomination comes from Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “We’ve all seen the commercial countless times: ‘Well, it’s finally happened: Somebody burned down my she-shed.’ But when I really listened to it, it sounded quite sinister. ‘Finally’ — were she and her husband expecting it to happen? Had they been threatened with this arson? As a couple of color, was it racially motivated? Also, it’s dark, nighttime — but her insurance agent is at his desk (and did she have him on speed dial?). Did she call him before calling the police?
“I think about the marketing firms that work for these ginormous companies and wonder whether they have any logic or common-sense checkers.”
The verbing of America
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “My children have been organizing a family dinner. This was part of an email sent by my middle daughter: ‘Okay, folks, calendar our dinner.’”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Comics Page Corollary
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills, again: “The comics section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press provided a Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon focused on the same treat. To wit:
“In ‘Real Life Adventures,’ in response to his wife’s query (‘What are you doing?’), the husband, while drilling into something on a plate, responds: ‘Well, I love chocolate chip cookies, and these cookies don’t have any, so I’m drilling holes, and inserting chocolate chips.’
“In ‘Frank & Ernest,’ the two main characters are approaching a snack machine which asks: ‘Hi, Frank. Chocolate chip cookies again?’”
And now Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: A truly crazy Baader-Meinhof.
“On July 7, the STrib comics had a crazy Baader-Meinhof. Both ‘Big Nate’ and ‘Mother Goose & Grimm’ had strips focusing on someone eating a ‘palate cleanser.’ That is so weird. I figure it is about the most unlikely B-M juxtaposition we’ll see in the funnies.”
Great minds . . .
Erie Coincidence Division
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills, yet again: “Subject: And the Twins were rolling.
“Once again, in their coverage of the Twins, the Twin Cities dailies were dancing to the same tune, this time in their July 14th editions. To wit:
“Pioneer Press (front page): ‘ROCKING IN CLEVELAND.’
“Minneapolis paper: (front page of the Sports section): ‘Kepler keeps rocking Indians.’”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: When one of the rare things you know about Cleveland is that it’s home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the words “rock” and “roll” are likely to show up in an inordinate number of your headlines about the Cleveland baseball club — now apparently known in the STrib, once again, as the “Indians”!
Not exactly what he had in mind
Donald: “Subject: Oh . . . the thrill . . . the excitement . . . the suspense!
“A picture on Page C5 of the Sports section in Wednesday’s paper west of St. Paul features a Washington Nationals pitcher in the act of delivering a pitch. Is it the final pitch of the game?Is it end of a no-hitter? Is it the pitch that sets a strikeout record? Is it all of the above?
“The caption provides the answer: ‘Nationals starting pitcher Austin Voth threw to an Orioles batter during the fourth inning Tuesday in Baltimore. The Nationals won 8-1.’
“High drama, indeed!”
Everyone’s copy a editor!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Proper placement is key.
“This was a headline on Page G2 in the Travel section of Sunday’s STrib: ‘5 spots London in that inspire this filmmaker.’”
Our squirrels, ourselves (self-responsorial)
Vertically Challenged: “I was out sitting on the deck swing and had just read Bulletin Board, which had my last entry in it, when here comes our little resident white squirrel popping up right in front of me only a couple feet away — the closest he’s ever been.
“He seems to be a brave little soul, as he just continued over to make his way to the little hanging bird feeder.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Is this PC (Properly Californian)?
“In case you missed it: Berkeley, California, has decided to erase all gender-defining names from their city documents and speech. Manholes will now be referred to as ‘maintenance holes,’ and ‘they’ will replace ‘he’ and ‘she’ in all city code.
“I’m fine with that, but I’m betting someone on the council has a brother-in-law (excuse me, person-in-law) in the printing business.
“As a side note: if you need to remove a California Closet drawer, don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. Go straight to YouTube.”
His world — and welcome to it!
Tim Torkildson: “In 2005 I moved back to Thailand, where I had served as a proselyting missionary some 25 years earlier, to teach English and to solace a crumbled heart. I thought I was saying ‘goodbye’ to the circus life forever. I was back under the big top a few years later — but that is a different story from the one I want to tell today.
“After obtaining my TEFL certification at a school in Ban Phe, on the Gulf of Thailand, I stayed on to begin my pedagogical career among the children of the Ban Phe fishing fleet. The kids were a rowdy lot of laggardly scholars, for the most part — more interested in going out in their father’s boats than learning to conjugate verbs. I can’t say I blamed them too much, for I, too, loved to stroll along the harbor, inhaling the tang of the salt air (and drying fish) and wishing to be out on the blue waters chasing tuna and mackerel.
“Although studious and cautious by nature, I did manage to chase and capture a curious specimen of Thai pulchritude. Her name was Joom, and perhaps it would be more correct to say that she chased and captured ME. That point will remain forever debatable in the annals of star-crossed lovers.
“We met over dishes of green papaya salad in a seaside cafe during the monsoon, and by the time the dry season was at hand, we were a couple. What drew us together and kept our cultural differences at bay for so long was a mutual love of fishing and the big waters. I had grown up just a few blocks from the Mississippi in Minneapolis, and Joom had grown up on a rice farm in the boondocks of parched northeastern Thailand — where, she claimed, she had dreamed of splashing in the waves and digging clams on the beach since childhood. After working 20 years as a hotel maid in Bangkok, Joom had finally saved up enough money to come to Ban Phe, where living was cheap, to loll along the seaside and find herself a ‘farang’ (foreign) boyfriend. Always frank and up-front about her thoughts and feelings, after the first few dates Joom told me that, as a teacher, I would never make very much money, not really enough to provide her with the lifestyle she had set her heart on, but: ‘You have the good heart, so we will stay poor but be happy.’ Joom didn’t think I made enough for us to get married — but I could date her for as long as I wanted. That was good enough for me.
“This year, 2019, the government of Thailand has closed the fisheries in the Gulf of Thailand for the summer months in order to help the fish stock revive from its exhausted state. But back in 2005, the Gulf still teemed with fish, so one day Joom and I hired a small boat and its crew to go out for a night of cuttlefish netting.
“The Thais consume huge quantities of cuttlefish, either dried and mangled to a shoe-leather consistency, like beef jerky, or dried and then fried in hot oil — which causes the cuttlefish to puff up like a sponge, with a vivid and exalting taste that goes so well with sticky rice and raw Thai eggplant that it was our main meal for days on end when my teacher’s salary threatened to give out before the end of the month. A plate of fried cuttlefish, sticky rice, and a half-dozen eggplants cost about 15 cents to prepare.
“We left the Ban Phe dock at 11 p.m. to chug out a dozen miles, where the captain dropped anchor and the crew aimed a dozen strong flashlights down into the water. Soon the cuttlefish rose from the depths, hypnotized by the light. The captain explained that the cuttlefish think the lights are the full moon, which triggers their mating instincts. So when they surface, they are in the throes of Eros and never notice the large nets that scoop them up by the hundreds. Joom and I spent a happy night netting cuttlefish, while the younger crew members, some barely in their teens, set about gutting them, removing the cuttle bone, and putting the carcasses on ice. Cuttle bones are those white surfboard-shaped items you see in parakeet cages, which the birds nibble at to keep their beaks cleaned and sharpened. Although I don’t know the trade stats today, Thailand used to be the world’s largest exporter of cuttle bones to pet stores and commercial pet-food companies. I know that back in those halcyon days with Joom, there were so many cuttle bones on the market that the price plummeted until fishermen just tossed the things overboard rather than let them take up space — and so the Ban Phe beaches were littered with bleaching cuttle bones for miles in either direction. Sort of a seaside Elephant’s Graveyard.
“At one point in our romance, Joom actually found a small and decrepit fishing boat for sale that I could afford to buy if I spared myself the trouble of eating three times a day. It was a great bargain, said Joom, and because it was her cousin selling it, we could knock down the price even more. Joom, like most Thais, was related by blood or marriage to three-quarters of the population of Thailand — or at least thought she was whenever there was a discount to pursue.
“‘The monks only eat once a day,’ she told me, as a selling point, ‘and look how healthy they stay!’
“But I knew Joom’s superstitious weakness, so I pointed out to her that the feminine eyes that were traditionally painted onto the prow of a boat by Buddhist monks who specialized in that folk art, to ward off the evil eye, had worn off this particular boat. Horrified at the thought of sailing the seven seas in a hex-haunted craft, Joom ceased nagging me about it, and we went back to our billing and cooing — and fishing.
“Joom often went down to the beach to dig for clams, as she always dreamed she would one day. She would bring back several dozen large white clams that she laid directly on the charcoal brazier — where they sizzled, then popped open with the sound of a cap gun. Since Joom didn’t bother to go digging them far away from Ban Phe’s municipal storm drains that emptied directly out onto the beach, I refused to touch her clams for quite some time. But eventually the refulgent aroma of clams steamed in their own juice was too much to resist, and I gobbled a round dozen of ’em in one sitting.
“That was a mistake . . .
“There is no need to go into details. Suffice it to say that there was a run on Sit and Smile-brand TP down at the Carrefour store that same day.”
The great comebacks
That Sharon in Houston: “After being a Divorced Lady for over 20 years, I am delighted to say that I married my high-school sweetheart a few years ago. I love him and his whole family. One great thing about my new family is their love of telling stories. This one is by far my favorite:
“We grew up in Pine City, which hosts plenty of summer tourists who enjoy the two lakes and river surrounding the town. When darling husband was a young man, he and his friends Charlie and Larry would fish along the river. One day the three of them were fishing a narrow stretch, sharing the bank with a rather large dead carp. The carp was upwind, and there was beer, so they really didn’t mind the fish, dubbed Dead Fred.
“A boat with a few young guys and giggling bikini girls motored by, cutting their lines. Words were exchanged. The interlopers apparently found it quite hilarious that they could cut these hicks’ lines, because they did it again in a few minutes. And again.
“The next time they were roaring over to do the same, Charlie was ready for someone to hold his beer. He picked up Fred (remember Fred?) and, with catlike precision, flung that ol’ fish square at the skipper of the boat. That fish was just old enough and squishy enough to cause a mighty spa-LATT right on skipper’s chest, with fish-parts to spare landing on the other passengers. One girl apparently caught some in her open mouth. If you’ve ever had the experience of smelling a dead fish that has been rotting in the sun for a few days, you’ll understand why the whole boatload of tourists bailed out into the water, gagging and crying.
“The fishermen expected full-out fisticuffs later, but they never did return. I guess that was enough for one day.”
Then & Now
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Reunion.
“The Good Wife and I just returned from my 55th class reunion at the U. S. Air Force Academy. Fifty-five years ago, we completed our academic and military training and pinned on golden Second Lieutenant bars. Most of us entered pilot training for another year to earn our wings. We scattered to assignments around this vast globe where aviators used their planes as instruments to explore the world and complete assigned missions that served these great United States.
“We reflect back on the four years during which we learned together and formed bonds that have lasted all this time. Men ‘who love the vastness of the skies’ see the world differently from those who have not loosened the bonds that tether them to the Earth. For 50-some years, we explored, we fought, we aged, guided by the knowledge, character and discipline that laid the foundations for us to serve our country. We recognized that it was not the individual accomplishments that made the difference, for these become stepping stones for society itself. Rather, it was the advancement of Western civilization that permits us to enjoy the freedoms and prosperity we cherish.
“And, when we embraced each other once again, we picked up where we left off (at the last reunion) almost as if we never separated. Already, we are planning our 60th reunion.
“God bless America!”
Band Name of the Day: The Giggling Bikini Girls
Website of the Day: 2019 Audubon Photography Awards