Here’s how to break an awkward silence on the way up or down.

The discomfort of strangers
Leading to: Today’s helpful hint

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Taking humor to the next level.

“I ride in elevators several times a day. I use one to get home, even.

“This morning I called one at the clinic — and when the door opened, there was a couple that had that awkward look that’s common when being invaded by strangers in an enclosed space for an indeterminate length of time. I immediately used my proven ‘ice breaker’: ‘Nobody talk!’ As usual it provoked giggles, understanding and pleasantries until the door reopened and we wished each other good luck.”

The passing show

Bill of Lake St. Croix Beach reports: “Monday, my son and I were waiting in our car just outside the Woodbury Walmart, with rain pouring down like the proverbial cats ’n’ dogs scenario.

“We had parked just to the left of the entrance/exit to avoid my much better half getting totally soaked by the driving rain. So we had a terrific vantage point to view a wide variety of shoppers as they entered and exited the store.

“For about 20 minutes, we witnessed . . .

“— The look on the faces as several people left the store, still protected from the downpour by the store’s entrance: looks of concern, apprehension, determination, helplessness, or ‘So what . . . it’s just rain.’

“— Luckily, some couples carried small umbrellas which allowed them to huddle close together and stay at least partially dry.

“— Some chose to wait it out, as if the rain would cease anytime soon. (It didn’t.)

“— A few just made a run for it . . . probably to the far end of the parking lot. These were the Olympic-class sprinters.

“— I swear a small boy carried a complete box of Legos with a picture of Noah’s Ark, that he probably would assemble in the car on the way home.

“— A few stalwart souls (both men and women) just ventured out into the deep water, figuring that they’d not melt.

“— One guy parked close by and emptied his entire cart into his SUV, leaving the cart for someone else to put away.

“— Another backed his SUV just under the dry entryway and loaded his goods while staying dry. Smart.

“My son and I had some wonderful laughs witnessing this rainy circus.”

Keeping your eyes open
Or: The vision thing

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Noticed, and Analyzed.

“I’ve been accused of noticing too many things, and of overanalyzing them.

“Unfortunately, if I wanted to refute those charges, the following story probably wouldn’t further my cause.

“I much prefer to walk in the woods, but sometimes time allows only a quick walk on residential streets in my neighborhood. These streets are asphalt, which means they are periodically seal-coated. This is a process by which a layer of oil is applied to the street, followed by a coating of very small stones. Some stones stick in the oil, and the rest are swept up after a random period of time. The goal is to lengthen the life of the street.

“On a recent walk, I noticed something. Some of the little stones eventually work their way loose from their tar prison. Water then washes them to low spots, where they settle into little pools the shape of the depression. Most of these depressions are on the side of the road where the road meets the concrete rain gutter. The depressions are typically 6 to 12 inches across, in all varieties of shape, and are mostly uninteresting. But this ‘pool’ of stones caught my attention.


“I immediately thought of three words I read in some thick book recently. Even if you are not a reader of that thick book, it’s hard to dispute the message in those three words: ‘Love one another.’

“I plead guilty to all charges.”

Shirts happen

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “A number of T-shirts from a number of catalogs:






Reckless abandoned
On the Way to Older Than Dirt Division

Otis from Inver Grove: “Subject: Since when did I become old?

“Today I was searching through iHeart online radio and found the ‘cool oldies’ station. While I am not from the Baby Boom generation, I fully appreciate the timeless music of the ’50s and ’60s (oldies). While listening, I began hearing songs from Prince, Huey Lewis, and Bon Jovi. These are singers that hit it big in the ’80s, not the ’60s. Since when did the music I listened to growing up become ‘cool oldies’? Then I thought: ‘Am I now “old”?’ I had never pondered this thought until now.

“While at the Minnesota State Fair the other day, my wife (Mrs. Otis from Inver Grove) and I walked by the All You Can Drink milk booth. The sign read: ‘$2.00 for all the milk you can drink.’ Before I could catch myself, I said to her: ‘Two dollars!? I remember when it was only 50 cents! [Bulletin Board says: We remember when it was a dime. Get back to us when it’s five bucks!] It was at that moment I realized that is something that ‘old people’ say.

“Sigh. I am going to go back to listening to my sing-along hits of the ’80s — no matter how you want to categorize them. I empathize with Billy Joel when he wrote a song about his music getting older: ‘It’s still rock and roll to me.’

“Maybe it is time for a new Bulletin Board category: ‘The moment I realized I was “old” was . . . .’”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We have had such a category — which we called “Reckless abandoned” — since the early 1990s. It has been dormant for years — but is capable of being revived at any moment.

The best State Fair in our state!

K.T. Moller of Shoreview: “Yes, folks, the 2019 rendition of our Minnesota State Fair is now over.

“I reflect back 65 years. It was 1954. We four boys didn’t set out on an adventure to find a dead body, as did the four boys in ‘Stand By Me.’ Yet, a memorable adventure it was: the Minnesota State Fair! I am now 77 years old and remember most details of that day. The four of us — me, 11; Mike, 10; George and Sam, 13, from St. Paul’s East Side — went to the Fair on Kids’ Day. My dad gave me 50 cents. Admission was free. My mom packed a lunch of chopped pickle and mayonnaise sandwiches, two whole tomatoes and a cookie. If we needed more food, George and Mike’s mom worked at the Beer Garden.

“I played a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ sort of game: Pull a trigger in a timely manner for a particular prize in a particular slot. I really wanted and won an expansion I.D. bracelet with a secret compartment. The vendor engraved my first name on it, spelled it wrong, and wrote it crooked. But that was OK.

“We spent the day mostly walking from this booth to that booth, this display to that, filling our free St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch bags with freebies and whatnot. Machinery Hill was one of our favorites. We spent hours there. I was proud to show my ‘city boy’ friends how all the tractors worked. I had driven most of them (John Deere, Farmall, Oliver, Minneapolis Moline, Ford, Allis-Chalmers, and Case) for farmers at threshing time, having worked on my uncle’s farm in Chisago City.

“We went to the Buick car tent on Randall Avenue at day’s end. They had only two of those small pennants (yellow background with black Buick letters) left. I remember they stapled them on your T-shirt or collar. Sam and George got them; they were the oldest, and that was fair. That’s the way it should be.

“I came home with a nickel, but one rich fun memory of one day at the Fair — never to be forgotten! I suspect Mike, George and Sam haven’t, either. There is virtually not a year when I have missed coming to the ‘Great Minnesota Get-Together,’ and with my family, for many more wonderful memories!”

Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: State Fair Aficionado.

“I know there are plenty of us out there, most with a fun State Fair memory or two. My recollections go back to 1949, my first visit ever to the Fairgrounds. I was 8 years old then. My aunt told me of this fun place we could go to by streetcar. I still recall that feeling of excitement as we entered the grounds (in fact, I still get a similar charge when walking through the gates on Opening Day each year). She bought me a scale-model metal Allis-Chambers tractor, which plowed in many a neighborhood sandbox over the years. The only food I remember eating that day was a hot dog, probably about a dime.

“During the 1956 Fair, some school buddies and I rode around within the grounds on the running boards of a 1932 Ford sedan while puffing on those extra-large cigars which were available out there somewhere. I don’t know what the attendance figures were back then, but there was always plenty of room on the streets to cruise. We must have looked pretty dumb, but of course as teenagers we thought it was cool. We knew of a food booth on the grounds where we could purchase a bucket of French fries large enough to feed us all for 55 cents.

“In 1962, a buddy of mine began employment with the Office of State Procurement, located under the Hippodrome. They had quite the armada of surplus vehicles, which we put to use during Fair time. One day, we cruised in a 1943 Navy Jeep. Another time, a large forklift with a trailer — and finally, a fire engine. Now THAT was fun! We always arrived at the ‘ALL THE MILK YOU CAN DRINK FOR 50 CENTS’ booth in style. [Bulletin Board says: It was certainly less than 50 cents in 1962. We can’t find the full price timeline anywhere, but it started off as a dime in 1955 and certainly hadn’t quintupled over the first seven years.]

“For the next 38 years, I took vacation during Fair time. There were some years I had a motorhome in the campgrounds, including an extra lot for a large picnic table so friends could join me in a beverage or two while viewing the nightly fireworks. (One must be a vendor now to qualify.) What a perk that was!

“Our church ran the ‘largest church dining hall on the fairgrounds.’ (I believe there are only two dining halls remaining.) Everyone was a volunteer from the parish, and varied in age from 12 to 80. My wife and I cooked, bussed, served, mopped for a number of years. During the mid-1980s, the dining hall was sold.

“Over the years, I submitted food-booth proposals and never heard back from the Fair on any of them. Then, out of the blue, I received a call to come to the MSF office for an interview. My proposal had been accepted, and I was assigned a booth space in the Food Building.

“I built the booth façade in my garage and transported it by flatbed truck to the Fairgrounds in several bolt-together sections. Kitchen equipment was installed. I interviewed and hired part-time employees, mostly high-school juniors and seniors. Plenty of my friends volunteered, so staffing was not a problem (as it would be today). That Food Building was hot! I had a ‘brothers day’ each year where my four brothers worked the booth: What fun — all business professionals letting their hair down for a day.

“Eventually I sold the business. Not much has changed, however; I can be found wandering the grounds most days beginning about 8 a.m. I have quite a few food-vendor friends, and always make sure I pay them a visit and wish them a successful Fair. I head home right after the parade now; my legs and feet need plenty of rest so I can start the next day.

“Yes, I agree with many of you: It IS crowded, but pace yourself and you’ll enjoy the greatest State Fair ever!”

Everyone’s a (TV) critic!

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “My favorite part of cable television is the programs on C-SPAN channels (available online), which include sessions of Congress. My most favorite are the book talks on weekends — the best of which, for me, are often the history lectures taped in American colleges and universities.

“Tonight they replayed ‘1950s and ’60s Counterculture,’ by Professor William Rorabaugh. My favorite part was when he described the first LSD trip. The chemist who created LSD accidentally splashed a drop of it on himself before he bicycled home. Based on this trip, the chemist concluded that this chemical was quite potent.

“Who says history is boring?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: No one we’d care to know!

Our flowers, ourselves

Mounds View Swede has been out and about: “A nearby prolific gardener has hundreds of different flowers on display. I captured a few of them to share with BB readers.

“Each one has a sign to say what it is, but often the signs are not readily visible, so I didn’t try to make a list as I photographed them

“I like the many variations of the same type of plant, especially the ruffled edges on many of them and the varieties of color.


“This was one of the ‘simpler’ blossoms, and that is what caught my eye.


“And the ruffles on this one are far more pronounced.


“There were other plants as well. I liked how these three blossoms lined up so well.


“The white and deep red were striking, along with the long and pronounced stamen.


“A variation of the second photo with more horizontal red areas.


“Along with the blossoms are occasional lawn ornaments and signs. Now that I am one of the ‘old age’ people, I related to this and try to be this way.”


Gee, our old La Salle ran great! (responsorial)

VJ in White Bear Lake: “In response to Deuce of Eagan:

“I think Toffee Crunch may have replaced Butter Brickle. I, too, am a fan.

“The only outlet I have found is Nelson’s in Stillwater. The lines are shortest in the morning!”

Now & Then


John in Highland: “These days, Goldy Gopher has certainly put on some weight compared with how he looked in earlier times!”



BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Thorkelson Insurance’s version reminds us of one Rocket J. Squirrel — likely throwing a Hail Mary to one Bullwinkle Moose.

Mixed messages (self-responsorial)

In the most recent installment of Bulletin Board, Semi-Legend wrote: “Subject: FREE, sort of.

“The Atlantic arrived in the mail today, the September 2019 issue. My subscription runs until April 2020.

“With the magazine was an envelope that said ‘FREE Renewal Offer.’

“FREE is good. I opened it.

“’Get a free gift subscription when you renew today,’ the message said.

“Under ‘payment information’: ‘You pay . . . Only $59.99.’

“Further down it said: ‘The Atlantic publishes 10 issues annually.’

“A box at the top of the message said: ‘Annual cover price: $179.90. Your renewal rate: $59.99.’ And highlighted in red: ‘Savings on renewal: 83%’ along with ‘1 FREE gift sub.’

“I’m not a math whiz. That percentage-savings figure puzzled me. I took out a calculator. $179.90 minus 83% gave me $30.58. In my head, rounding up, $60 seemed one-third of $180.

“There was no price on the cover of the issue, but does a single issue really cost $17.99?

“I looked at the magazine’s colophon on page 95: ‘Subscriptions: one year $39.95 in the U.S.’ (And it said ‘published monthly except for a combined issue in January/February.’ So, 11 issues?)

“The colophon also said: ‘If you receive a suspicious notification, please let us know at’

“Well, at least I know who to contact.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAID: “We can’t make sense of ALL of this arithmetical razzle-dazzle, but note that an 83% saving on TWO $179.99 subscriptions would result in a price of $59.99.”

Presently, we heard again from Semi-Legend: “Subject: FREE, sort of P.S.

“The day after I got The Atlantic’s ‘FREE’ offer that I wrote about, an envelope arrived from The Atlantic. It said on the outside: ‘Savings Inside!’

“How could I resist?

“The form I was to send back answered two of my questions: A one-year subscription was for 10 issues. And it said the cover price was $8.99 per issue.

“The cost for a one-year sub? $24.95. Well, that’s less than the $59.99 in the previous day’s offer.

“The letter attached to the form said: ‘This is the lowest offer you’ll receive so act now to lock in your savings.’

“Nah. I think I’ll wait a day.

“I like this trend.”

What’s in a (band) name?

The very same Semi-Legend writes: “Subject: Bands of the Day — they’re everywhere.

“I read a story in the Pioneer Press on August 19, headlined ‘Leaked U.K. memos warn of shortages,’ which included this sentence: ‘Although the grim scenarios reportedly outlined in the government documents have long been floated by academics and economists, they’ve been repeatedly dismissed as scaremongering by Brexit proponents.’

“And I thought: ‘The Grim Scenarios. Great band name.'”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Church Signs Division (responsorial)

Reported Bob the Bureaucrat, in the most recent Bulletin Board: “The sign outside the church on Snelling Avenue said:

“‘I shoulda slapped those two mosquitoes


We presently heard from The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “Or even just one of them!”

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: Driving is a full-time job!

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



Vanity, thy name is . . .

Another short dispatch from Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “What’s wrong with this personalized Minnesota plate on a white VW van in a shopping center lot?


Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

B. Dazzled of South St. Paul: “I overheard someone telling a story today. At one point. they said: ‘I felt like all I wanted to do was curl up in the fecal position.’

“They must’ve been feeling really crappy.”

The Permanent Motherly Record
And: Our theater of seasons

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: Melancholy.

“I’ve been in a funk since we dropped H. Benry off for his freshman year of college. I turned to E.B. White yesterday amidst the back-to-school prep for Fanny Pants and the F Bomb:

“‘The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.

“‘The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

“‘Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road. They knew that school would soon begin again. The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.

“‘”Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. “Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”‘”

Including: Know thyself!

From Donald: “Subject: Comparing abilities.

“Overheard in the bar area of a golf course near Cambridge:

“Golfer #1: ‘He’s a single-handicap.’

“Golfer #2: ‘I’m a scratch drinker.’”

CAUTION! Words at Play!

Al B of Hartland: “I told stories in Ohio. In my free time, I went birding with some wonderful Amish men. Later, the wife of one gave me a large slice of sugar pie, with its lard crust filled with butter, flour, milk, eggs and sugar. It was sinfully good. The lard works in mysterious ways.”

Band Name of the Day (because “The Grim Scenarios” is ineligible): The Scratch Drinkers

Websites of the Day:


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