“AND WHAT WILL YOU BE HAVING TONIGHT, SIR? STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS STRIKE YOUR FANCY? NO? HOW ABOUT BULLHEADS FRIED IN CRACKER CRUMBS?”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Or: Now & Then

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Like many of my contemporaries, I have more past than future.

“That past seemed better in most ways, if for nothing more than comfort.

“Not too much worry about health back then. A doctor and a dentist once a year at the most — save pneumonia, polio or broken bones. Death was a last surprise to many — and mercifully unpredictable. If you felt good today, you were likely good-to-go for tomorrow.

“The food was not a known threat, either. Bread was the staff of life, and milk built strong bones.

“There wasn’t much plastic, and straws were made of paper.

“I’m sure there is a longing such as mine for that innocence among the Boomer generation, although we best not voice it. We weren’t very enlightened by today’s standards. We walked to work, drove the same cars for 15 years, paid our taxes, kept our problems to ourselves, and most of us obeyed the law for fear of reprisal.

“There is no chance that any of us fogies will be able to go back home again, but there is a lucrative, mutually beneficial opportunity for some imaginative entrepreneur with a recipe box from 1950. A younger soul with energy and ambition to spare. This is my gift of riches to that person in the new year: a restaurant that serves comfort food like my generation had in grade school. How about this menu?

“Dried beef gravy on toast.

“Salmon patties with cream pea gravy.

“Liver and onions with bacon strips.

“Veal cutlets.

“Tuna casserole.

“Swiss steak over mashed potatoes.

“Stuffed cabbage rolls.

“Sloppy Joes with pickles and chips.

“Hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy.

“Chicken pot pie.

“Stuffed green peppers.

“Spare ribs and kraut.

“Oyster stew.

“Codfish and gravy.

“Bullheads fried in cracker crumbs.

“Bread pudding.

“Just to name a few.

“With regard to venue: I would advise roomy booth seating, with wide aisles to accommodate walkers, abundant coat racks, convenient rest rooms and patient waitrons who speak loudly, clearly and for God’s sake slowly.”

Know thyselves!

Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Ever since I moved into my new senior abode this past summer, I have watched the dark blue van picking up residents and taking them shopping. I have thought that this was for those other people — those old ones.

“Today I actually tried it. I signed up, got on the van, met Pete the driver, and went shopping. It was wonderful: a private chauffeur, no parking, no sliding about in a parking lot. There was a set time to meet, and a specific bench to sit on, even a chance to grab a Chai Latte before we were gathered up.

“I have now realized that I could give up driving. It would be a real change, but I could think of it as a service to my fellow St. Paul citizens. After all, I am approaching 90, and have occasional dizzy spells. I think I’ve got this.”

In memoriam

Kathy S. of St Paul: “Sports don’t usually interest me. But the death of a probably flawed man and a daughter who was part of his future has me in tears.

“Everyone makes mistakes. It is what you do next that counts.

“No hero is ever perfect. That is why we love them.”

CAUTION! Words at Play!
Plus: Come again?

A pair from Rusty of St. Paul: (1) “I read in our paper today that Wayzata’s plus-sized pro golfer, Tim Herron, nicknamed ‘Lumpy,’ is turning 50 and joining the senior circuit, the PGA Tour Champions.

“His first event is next month. It is called the Chubb Classic.” [Bulletin Board says: He has to be one of the favorites — and if he does win, he’ll certainly be in line for a second nickname: Chubby!]

(2) “My wife and I seldom spend the night together anymore, as I snore for the first half of the night, keeping her up; then the second half of the night, it is as though I am sleeping with ‘Mr. Ed.’ (Insert horse snoring here of an inhale, then an exhale that vibrates lips.)

“So she gets the upstairs bedroom — and I, the main floor.

“In the morning we compare notes. ‘How did you sleep? How many times did you get up to pee? What did you dream about?’

“This morning, I was short-ordering breakfast and had the range hood going. I don’t hear well anymore on a quiet day, and with my head near the hood, all bets are off. The first thing she actually said this morning was ‘I heard from Cassie today.’ What I heard was: ‘I am gassy today.’ I said I was sorry about that; it must have been the beans in the minestrone last night.

“Speaking of dreams: I have been retired almost two years now from an often-stressful medical job. But I continue to dream about work, and of course nothing goes smoothly in those dreams. My wife pointed out a recent cartoon in The New Yorker where the gal is in bed telling her partner: ‘I need to figure out how to get paid for my dreams about work.'”

Joy of Juxtaposition

From JJ the Willard:Last Sunday, I watched a documentary on TPT about the Lincoln Highway. Interesting piece of Americana. Wealthy men from the then-young automobile industry wanted to promote cross-country car travel and in 1913 designated a motor route through 13 states. It ran on roads of every type between New York City and San Francisco. Part of the thoroughfare even followed a Pony Express trail in Utah.

“On Wednesday, I found a book at the library on the subject and have been enjoying reading it; many more details than the TV program could include.

“On Friday, a friend of a friend of my wife posted a photo on Facebook of a corner building in Clinton, Iowa. There on a light pole was the insignia for the Lincoln Highway. Through the years, roads have been numbered and improved, but many of the original signs installed across the nation by the Boy Scouts are still visible. The route today loosely follows U.S. Highway 30.”

Keeping your ears open
Leading to: Fun facts to know and tell (And: Fun facts to not know and wonder about)

Kathy S. of St. Paul, again: “I was in a household-goods store today. A young woman nearby announced that she didn’t need one more thing for her hay rack. I stopped to ask her what she meant. She said that, in her part of Iowa, a person’s estate sale-type belongings are put on a hay rack to sell them.

“Searching online, I found notices for farm-retirement sales with a list of items that were sold. One listed farm hay racks and ‘Misc items found on a retirement, not a lot of smalls (approx 1 hay rack).’

“Another sale listed ‘Several hay racks of misc. items and some great collectible JD [John Deere, of course] lawn tractors, boats and acreage items.’

“Now I’m looking for pictures of hay racks and searching for a definition of ‘acreage items.’ So far, they seem to be plots of land.

“In any case, those of us who dislike the word downsizing can now announce we’re clearing our hay racks. And spend considerable time describing hay racks.

“It’ll keep us busy when we’re snowbound, right?”

Our theater of seasons

Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “Subject: Tracks in the snow.

“I put on my cross-country skis today and ventured out into the deep snow, heading to my neighbor’s place through the woods. The snow is so deep that the deer are leaving troughs as they walk, rather than hoofprints.

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“I know that’s what this track is, because I saw a few of them wading chest-deep in the snow off of our driveway the other day.

“It’s going to a be a tough winter for them again this year. Last year they were pretty skinny by the time spring came around.”

Our birds, our squirrels, ourselves

Princess Marcie’s mom, Kathy reports: “Subject: New breed of bird.

“Our resident red squirrel seems to think that he is a bird. He has taken total command of our bird feeder.

“The entry hole was too small, so he merely chewed the wood until he could squeeze inside. Now he hangs there like king of the hill, scaring off anyone who dares to come too close.”

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Our pets, ourselves

The Mendota Heights Missus: “Subject: Life is good for my cat Rosie.

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“A morning cuppa and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.”

Joy of Juxtaposition
Movie Review Division

Semi-Legend: “Subject: Look! Don’t look!

“The movie review pages of the January 24 Star Tribune apparently had reviewers watching through their fingers.

“Manohla Dargis of the New York Times began her review: ‘Periodically while watching “Midnight Family” you feel as if you can’t look at the screen for another second. But you can’t look away, either.’

“A page later, Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service starts her review: ‘Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency” opens with a sequence that’s hard to watch, but impossible to look away from.’

“Can you get a discounted ticket if you don’t watch all of it?”

There’s nothin’ like a simile!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “This was included in a Stephanie Zacharek Time magazine movie review: ‘Color is everywhere in (Pedro) Almodovar’s astonishing and deeply moving “Pain and Glory.” But a brilliant filmmaker can always make you see the world in a new way, and the colors of “Pain and Glory” are like a newly discovered dialect in a familiar language.’”

Everyone’s a fact checker! Plus: Everyone’s a copy editor!
Including: The highfalutin pleasures

A pair of dispatches from Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: A good story, but not in the Good Book.

“During a political discussion Monday evening on MSNBC, Brian Williams made a reference to ‘the Biblical story of the blind men and the elephant.’

“I’d first heard the story years ago (a group of blind men touched different parts of an elephant and reported to the others what the animal looked like; different parts equaled different descriptions, which resulted in disagreement), and felt it just didn’t sound as if it came from the Bible.

“Wikipedia to the rescue: The parable has appeared in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain texts. No mention of the Bible.”

(2) “Subject: Oh, does they?

“The ‘NATION & WORLD’ section on Page D3 in Wednesday’s (January 22) STrib included this headline under ‘AUTOMOTIVE’: ‘Honda, Toyota recalls vehicles over air bags.’”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: If the vehicles are over the air bags, no wonder they need to be recalled!

The highfalutin displeasures
Or: Our times

Kathy S. of St. Paul, yet again: “Subject: A question.

“Why is it that, every time I have to OK a new electronic Privacy Policy, I have to OK less privacy?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We’ve just now run across a passage we saved six years ago, from a New Yorker piece by Harvard historian Jill Lepore (possibly the most prolific excellent writer in America): “In the twentieth century, the golden age of public relations, publicity, meaning the attention of the press, came to be something that many private citizens sought out and even paid for. This has led, in our own time, to the paradox of an American culture obsessed, at once, with being seen and with being hidden, a world in which the only thing more cherished than privacy is publicity. In this world, we chronicle our lives on Facebook while demanding the latest and best form of privacy protection — ciphers of numbers and letters — so that no one can violate the selves we have so entirely contrived to expose.”

Seems relevant here, no?

Our times

Donald: “Subject: A teachable moment.

“From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in the latest Sports Illustrated: ‘The board of education in Killingly, Conn., voted to reinstate the high school’s controversial Redmen mascot, overruling the students who had approved the change to Red Hawks in October.’”

Oopps!

Sunshine in Roseville: “It has been awhile since I have submitted anything of interest. But I thought the attached photo might generate some chuckles.

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“Our Lutheran congregation in the northern reaches of Roseville normally has Sunday-morning services, as well as Wednesday-evening services during Lent and Advent, with the random funeral/memorial or wedding service thrown in during the year.

“Last fall, the congregation undertook an access upgrade program with the installation of a full-service elevator to connect the lower level with the parking-lot entrance as well as the main street-level entrance and the choir loft. Early on, temporary walls were installed to block off the existing stairwell before demolition could begin. Temporary signs were attached to this wall immediately in front of the entrance from the street level, to help direct members and guests to alternate access routes within the building. As demolition has progressed, the time came to remove existing quarry tile flooring from the main entrance and Narthex. This created potentially hazardous conditions at the joints between the tile and the other flooring materials. Our general contractor was on the ball, though, and added additional warning, just in case?”

Know thyself!

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Just sayin’ . . .

“I’ve got so many dirty dishes in my sink, I’m thinking of just adding some potting soil and planting an indoor garden.”

Live and learn! (responsorial)

Gregory of the North: “I read Zoo Lou’s story about the newspaper not being a toy, and it prompted a memory from my undergraduate days in the late 1960s on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.

“I worked on a student-run monthly magazine called ‘Interaction.’ It was a periodical that published all manner of student-originated works (essays, short fiction, poems) that probably weren’t good enough to be published in any other venue. Because other campus publications, most notably the Minnesota Daily, was free, issues of Interaction also could be taken at no cost. We did not have the advertising or the student fees to support us like other publications in or about the campus, so all of us who worked on the monthly considered it a labor of love; in other words, we weren’t paid. The few ads we did manage paid for the paper, printing, and other costs associated with publishing as well as a (very) small flat fee for article writers.

“For reasons I still cannot fathom, I was assigned to be the poetry editor. I was a psychology major, and I guess the ‘Chief’ thought I would be able to discern truly meaningful odes from the scribblings of ‘wanna-be’ undergraduate poets.

“One month I received a contribution, from a female student, that I deemed excellent, if overly long for the poetry section of the magazine. (It dealt with newly discovered feminine passions.) I showed it to the Chief, and he agreed that it was good enough and sufficiently tasteful to warrant being published as the sole poem in that issue, as compared to the usual practice of publishing four short works. The Chief suggested that I interview the writer and add a short bio at the end of the work.

“Normally, our ‘writer notes’ consisted of something like ‘Jane Roe, an English major, is a sophomore from Austin, Minnesota.’ I wasn’t sure what else would be appropriate to include, so I went into the interview with really no preparation. We talked about many topics, but I came away from the interview puzzled as to what I should include in the writer’s note. I finally came up with a short and dry paragraph about why she developed the poem, what she planned to do with her English major, and so on. And in a fateful moment, I included something like the phrase ‘Jane is the girlfriend of John Doe, a junior physics major.’ Apparently, the Chief signed off on the article without reading the whole bio.

“It took less than a day after the issue was published for me to be called in to face the Chief and a group of angry young women, among them the poem’s author. Colorful language ensued as we ‘discussed’ (I mostly sat silently and listened) to how inappropriate it was to include any reference to ‘John’ and how much it embarrassed her and devalued her work. The Chief assigned me to write a paragraph for the next issue, describing ‘Jane’s’ aspirations and talents, without reference to anyone else. ‘Jane’ was satisfied, but also demanded that she receive the money I’d be paid for the paragraph about her. When told I’d receive nothing, she laughed and made some reference to being paid what I was worth.

“I never did write the paragraph, as there suddenly no longer was a need for an unpaid psychology-major-poetry-editor, and I surrendered my post before the next issue was assembled. The ‘explanation’ paragraph never appeared, either, but ‘Jane’ wrote a letter to the editor decrying the blatant sexism of the magazine. It was a sobering and humbling lesson for a young psychology major. ‘Interaction’ itself ceased publication a year later.

“Not the most auspicious foray into literary journalism, I admit, but eventually I did grow up to be reasonably successful in other things.”

Band Name of the Day: The Wanna-be Undergraduate Poets

Law Firm of the Day: Lumpy & Chubby

Websites of the Day:

& The Lincoln Highway Association