Our pets, ourselves
DebK of Rosemount reports: “My 69th birthday can now be seen in the rear-view mirror. It met the Lake Wobegon standard — and might very well have done better than that if not for our worries about Hamish the Hungry and the mystery of the coffee beans.
“Hamish, our border collie pup, will soon have a birthday of his own — his second, marking the official end of his admittedly checkered puppyhood. Taxman and I have recently begun feeling sanguine about Hamish’s progress in the general direction of responsible adulthood. But my birthday found him giving near-constant evidence of serious regression. He was, in short, a horror from start to finish.
“I blamed Hamish’s poor behavior on the severe cold, which was keeping him confined to the house more than suits his breed. But there was also the problem of his frequent coughing jags — powerful but unproductive retchings, something I could not explain away. I was on the verge of dialing up the vet when I glimpsed a green something-or-other lying half-buried in a snowbank just off the back landing.
“During the Hamish era, Taxman and I have acquired extensive experience with mangled parcels, so I had no difficulty deducing that Hamish had intercepted a birthday surprise intended for me, investigated it thoroughly (roughing it up a bit in the process), and abandoned it in that snowbank. Once Taxman retrieved the mystery parcel, I further managed to suss out the genesis of Hamish’s coughing problem:
“The package contained the remains of a pound of very fancy coffee beans: ‘Single origin Bali Kintamani Highlands beans. Notes of boysenberry, lavender, milk chocolate, plum and cinnamon.’ Sadly, the brand information (and about a quarter-pound of the beans themselves) was missing from the bag. Worse, all other packaging was missing, along with any clues as to the identity of the sender, all apparently having been consumed by our dog and triggering his pathetic gagging.
“Early this morning, as I was sipping a second cup of coffee made from the mystery beans, I mentioned in an email to Mom in Boyland my distress at being unable to thank my benefactor. As luck would have it, the giver of the gourmet beans was Mom in Boyland herself! I might’ve guessed as much, for she well knows my fondness for a good cuppa — and she has from time to time had children in the coffee industry.
“It turns out that the cardboard box that originally contained the bag of coffee also contained a pound of Dove chocolates — the ones wrapped individually in purple foil. Taxman has since found fragments of the cellophane candy bag and of the cardboard box itself, along with a sheep-themed birthday card and a Crayola Magic Marker original by my godson, James the Lesser. The card and the artwork are in perfect condition, thankfully, but there’s nothing left of the chocolates. Not even a wrapper.”
The Permanent Granddaughtersly Record
Grandma Paula writes: “When Grandpa and I used to travel to fun places that we had never been to, we would send post cards from those places to my grandchildren. They seemed to enjoy receiving them, and when some of them were old enough to go on vacations with their parents, they would send post cards to us.
“I have three granddaughters from one family that I call the three A’s. (Their first names start with an A.)
“When the girls were in grade school, they went on a vacation to South Dakota. They sent us these three post cards.
“I read Amy’s first; she was the youngest, her mom wrote what Amy wanted to tell us about, and Amy signed the card.
“Next I read Amanda’s, the middle child: hers was more news of what they had seen.
“I read Ashley’s last. She is the oldest, and hers gave me some insight into her practical mind.
“I laughed so hard when I finished reading hers. Evidently the only thing that made an impact on her was how HOT it was in South Dakota.
“Gosh, love those three sisters! They are grown-up young ladies now, and have made us so proud.”
Life as we know it
Twitty of Como: “Greetings from across the seas!
“I haven’t posted much since my son died, a year and a half ago. I guess my heart wasn’t ‘in it’ for much of anything these past long months. A long time. I’m guilty — I’ve been getting up in the morning and just sort of going through the motions. But my wife had this trip planned . . .
“I didn’t want to go. I hemmed and hawed. I balked. I complained. Some of my issues were valid: It’s a 19-hour flight; it’s too hot and humid in the tropics; it would be expensive; I might be bored. All this I’ve done — and gotten sick each time! I’m too old now to enjoy getting sick again. Then there was this new coronavirus, not to mention a volcanic eruption to consider . . .
“But through it all, my wife held fast: She wanted me with her. I went.
“Well, the flight was smooth and effortless. We breezed through Customs and all the checkpoints, and her brother picked us up and took us to our pre-arranged lodging. It was after midnight by then. The next morning, the whole family came by, deliriously happy to see her and everyone trying to talk over each other. They woke me up with their laughter and talk. I dressed and came down the stairs. Everyone jumped up to greet me, smiling and laughing and patting me on the back, all talking at once. I confess, I got emotional.
“It had been 15 years since I’d seen the adults. There were three in-laws I’d never met, and, likewise, many new-to-me nieces and nephews. I was blown away. I caught myself smiling and laughing, picking up shards of conversation in a language I’m not fluent in and enjoying the sheer joy of being in their company.
“English is a seldom-used second language to them, but all were game to struggle through. We laughed at our mutual difficulties and were bonded by them. I’m a grandfather back home. I love playing games with my grandkids. So I happily played Uno with the nieces and nephews here. I had a ball. I think they had a ball. Their smiles and laughter are genuine and beautiful — and their wit, brilliant. Each day I find myself looking forward to seeing them again, and I know I will be deeply saddened when it comes time for us to return home. I will miss them dearly.
“If there be a lesson in this narrative, may I suggest this: Allow yourself to be open to challenges. Time passes, and things change — faster than we imagine sometimes. Now that I’m here, I already know I want to return before too much more change has transpired. I need to see these people again. This has been an unforgettable experience, and I owe it all to the persistence of my lovely wife in getting me here and to the kindness and acceptance of her extended family in going out of their way to anticipate and provide for our needs.
“Someone wiser than I once said: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.’ It’s true. But sometimes the weight of those battles can be eased with a kind smile, a hug, and a caring demeanor. They gave me that, and I hope I gave that back to them.”
Then & Now, There & Here
The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “Subject: Selma, 1965.
“From 1965 until 1970, the Good Wife and I were stationed at an Air Force pilot-training base in Selma, Alabama, a sleepy Southern town. There I taught young officers advanced jet-flight techniques in the old T-33 Lockheed Shooting Star and the supersonic T-38 Northrop Talon. If we had stayed on the base and did not become part of the community, we might not have experienced the culture shock that we did. It was a radical departure from the lifestyle we knew growing up in the Chicago area. But there we were, and we were determined to make the most of it.
“We chose not to live on base like many of our friends, but instead rented one side of what had been the old country post office, about three miles east of Selma, on Highway 80, leading to Montgomery. For us it was kind of romantic. We were newlyweds and, for $75 a month, living in the country. The house we lived in was a simple two-bedroom duplex, but it was furnished — important to us because all we had was what fit in our car, a 1963 Chevrolet.
“Highway 80 is the road on which Martin Luther King had led the march from Selma to Montgomery, earlier that year. People told us that walkers had camped on our front lawn and actually torn down the picket fence that enclosed the front yard. They needed firewood for warmth. To the east was the Edmund Pettus Bridge, across which the famous Selma march began. The three-day trek happened shortly before we moved there, but we were able to feel the tingly, electrified air of history around us.
“Most people learn about the Deep South by reading stories that others penned, describing what they saw and experienced. But that is, in a way, secondhand. You are reading about the perceptions of someone else. Here we were, actually living in the Deep South, and it was more than just an experience. We became part of the culture, and we drank fully of the cup placed before us.
“While I was busy flying two or three times a day, the Good Wife let nothing grow beneath her feet. She found employment at a local doctor’s office. The first time she went to call a black patient, she did so by his full name. Immediately she was reprimanded and told that blacks were called only by their first name, not given the respect of using a proper surname. This almost floored her, and me too when we discussed the day’s happenings. We were shocked even more so when we saw separate bathrooms, separate drinking fountains, and even separate file cabinets. We could tell you about even more egregious conditions. We had grown up in the Land of Lincoln, where all men are created equal.
“Now it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that Martin Luther King was compelled to lead the march. His peaceful, non-violent resistance took a powerful lot of courage. And today we see a different world.
“Things in 1965 were different down there than they were back home. I recall that the big hit movie then was ‘Doctor Zhivago.’ We had to drive to Montgomery to see it. Seated in the row immediately in front of us were George and Lurleen Wallace. They had no bodyguards. We could have touched them. They greeted us. Prior to this, politicians were in a distant world. We had never seen this before. It was almost as if they were like one of us. And the Good Wife’s sister got a personal reply from Governor Wallace when she questioned why the Confederate flag was flying at the Alabama Capitol. I think she still has that letter.
“We learned a lot about life, and about people, living in Alabama back then. Some was good, and some was shocking. But all of our experiences helped us grow into who we are today. May God bless Alabama, and God bless America!”
The Permanent Family Record
Including: The little treasures — and: Gee, our old La Salle ran great (NOT!)
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Sorting through old photos.
“My dad took this photo of my uncle in the late 1930s.
“He worked in this gasoline station about a block and a half from his house. We always thought he was a celebrity and stifled the urge to shout: ‘Hey! See that guy pumping your gas? He is our uncle!’ Uncle Hal was my mother’s younger brother, and he married my dad’s younger sister, Sadie, and they lived just a few blocks from my Crabby Grandma, so we saw them often. Their youngest daughter, Patsy, was just five months younger than I, and we enjoyed playing together nearly every Sunday.
“When I hear people wax nostalgic about the good old days, when the world was a safe place for children, I remember the night we heard about our uncle on a news report over the radio. We were all seated around the dining-room table eating our dinner, Daddy was amusing us with funny stories about his day on the job, and the radio was playing in the background. Suddenly Mother said: ‘Hush up, everyone!’
“The announcer was telling about a 48-year-old filling-station operator by the name of Smith who was in critical condition after being beaten up by a gang of thugs. Mom and Dad immediately jumped up from the table, made a couple of phone calls and rushed down to the hospital. The notorious Kid Cann was the leader in this union-busting incident, but he was never charged in the crime. The mobsters controlled the police, so they were able to get away with murder during the ’20s and ’30s
“Uncle Hal spent many months recovering from the beating. When he had finally recovered enough to go back to work, he asked my cousin Patsy: ‘Why don’t you walk to work with Daddy like you used to do, honey?’ Patsy bluntly told him: ‘Well, it seems to me that if a great big guy like you can’t defend yourself, how are you going to protect a little kid like me?’ My uncle died two years later of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by the damage from the beating.
“Yes, those ‘good old days’ had more than a few ‘bad guys’ in it: John Dillinger, Al Capone, Kid Cann and all of their dastardly minions, to name a few.”
Life as we know it
Or: Two roads diverged . . .
From Lucille: “After growing up in the Depression and learning to ‘pinch every penny, when, as an adult, I’d saved a thousand dollars, I felt rich. I debated whether to keep my money or invest in a promising stock. I kept the money. Years later, and now married, I was told that if I’d invested in the stock, I’d have been a multimillionaire.
“After a 50-year marriage, I’m now widowed. I’m not rich in money, but I have a large, loving family of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren surrounding me. I’ll never know if ‘money brings happiness’ — or what turns my life might have taken. I only know I’m happy with what I have.”
The Permanent Maternal Wisdom
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Mom used to say that, if you sneered too much, your face would get stuck in that expression.
“There is a mean girl in a ‘senior’ apartment building who sneers at and tries to pick on folks like me.
“Judging from this woman’s resting ‘itch’ face, Mom was right.”
The little treasures
A Blooming Blossom: “Subject: New wheels — 1950s style.
“Besides being great fun, they were also the primary means of transportation to the District 106 country schoolhouse in Newry Township near Blooming Prairie. Eight grades in one room, with one teacher to guide them, provided a unique and memorable education for many rural kids.
“The District 106 classroom disappeared in 1955, when it was consolidated into the Blooming Prairie public-school system. It was an exciting but scary adjustment for country kids being bussed to the larger school, where class sizes grew from three or four students to as many as 100.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division — plus: Vanity, thy name is . . .
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Dust to dust.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘LENT IS COMING!
“‘GET YOUR ASHES HERE’”
The same Red’s Offspring further reports: “This was the Minnesota plate on a Hyundai in the parking lot of a church in White Bear: ‘R KAY O.’
“I saw no sign of a tower emitting lightning flashes in the vicinity.”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Some of our younger readers might find that reference wasted on them. See here:
They don’t make trailers like that anymore! Movies, either.
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Saw this Iowa license plate: ‘LV2CAST.’
“My first thought was that this person ‘lives to cast’ — an apparent
reference to a love of fishing. Love? Gee, maybe it meant ‘love to
“Either way, I guess Iowa does actually have fishing waters!”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Could be “leaves to cast” where the fishing is better. Like, say, in Minnesota!
Sem-Legend: “Subject: Whodat?
“The Star Tribune on February 22 had a story headlined (online) ‘Longtime adviser, “Amy whisperer” at the helm of Klobuchar campaign.’
“The profile by Patrick Condon of Justin Buoen had this passage:
“‘Buoen grew up in Arden Hills and attended the University of St. Thomas. He was a successful high school and college football player who, he said, ultimately had to decide between that and his other passion — politics.
“‘”I chose politics, which was the right decision by far,” Buoen said.
“‘It ran in the family: his grandfather, Clifford Buoen, was a Twin Cities labor leader. His father, Roger Buoen, had multiple editing jobs at the Star Tribune over 27 years, a career that overlapped with longtime Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, the senator’s father; Justin’s mother was a reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.’
“She was unnamed. Was this bias against women or the Pioneer Press?”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Either? Or both? Who knows?
Oh, and by the way: Justin’s mother’s byline (we’re not certain she uses this name legally) is Cynthia Boyd. We called her “Cindy,” at the Pioneer Press
We have another question: How does politics “run in the family,” when “labor leader” is the closest thing to a political position?
You might as well say that politics ran in the family because his parents and more distant ancestors were citizens!
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Or: Only a __________ would notice
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Great story . . . wrong date.
“On the front page of Friday’s Sports section in the Pioneer Press is a picture of Gregg Wong, a former reporter for the paper, holding ‘a framed copy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press from Feb. 23, 1980, the day after the U.S. upset the Soviet Union 4-3 in a hockey semifinal game at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.’
“The headline across the top of the 1980 paper reads: ‘U.S. hockey mines gold.’
“A subhead for a story on the right of the front page reads: ‘Brooks lets loose after 4-2 victory.’
“Therein lies the problem: The U.S defeated the Soviet Union 4-3 on February 22. The U.S. defeated Finland 4-2 on February 24, to win the gold medal.
“The paper Wong is holding must have been the February 25 edition of the Pioneer Press.”
Our birds, ourselves
Including: Fun (avian) facts to know and tell
Here, once again, is our Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland: “Songs and calls are the cellphones of the avian world.
“A bird’s song is generally related to mating. Birds may sing to attract mates, claim territory or for pair-bonding. Songs are often sung repeatedly.
“A call is more flexible in usage. Many calls are short notes or phrases that birds use to convey alarm, provide identification or maintain contact. The dapper black-capped chickadee’s ‘chick-a-dee-dee’ call can be used to communicate danger, with research suggesting the number of dee notes increases in proportion to the perceived threat. A chickadee is as good a ventriloquist as Jeff Dunham, so it could be hard to place when it vocalizes without moving its lips.”
Life imitates art
Zoo Lou of St. Paul writes: “Subject: ‘Here’s another fine mess . . .’
“I recently watched the 2019 film ‘Stan and Ollie’ and was awestruck by how much actors Steve Coogan (Stan) and John C. Reilly (Ollie) resembled the incomparable comedy duo. I especially liked the beginning, when the boys are walking to the set of ‘Way Out West’ and discussing opposing views on their contracts with Hal Roach Studios before being confronted by the movie mogul himself. After some heated words from Stan and a conciliatory tone from Ollie, they film that hilarious dance scene in front of a saloon.
“Funny, sad and insightful, this film brought back some very special memories. When my late mom, Phyllis, was having problems with dementia, she would still smile and laugh whenever we watched Laurel and Hardy. For those few precious moments, she was her old self again.
“And then there was time I watched ‘Saps at Sea’ with my young nieces Brooke and Cassie years ago. Stan and Ollie are trapped aboard an old boat with an escaped killer (Nick), who dubs them ‘Dizzy’ and ‘Dopey.’ Although the boat has no food, Nick, while waving a gun, insists the boys rustle up some grub. So they get creative, using string for spaghetti, red paint for sauce, sponge for meatballs, soap for grated cheese, and tobacco for coffee.
“But Nick finds out what they’re doing, and when dinner is served, he makes Stan and Ollie eat it. The sound effects and reactions of the boys as they force down this synthetic feast had my nieces screaming and jumping around with delight. It was a perfect example of the timeless appeal of Laurel and Hardy’s comic genius.
[Bulletin Board notes: The whole movie is a gem, but the scene in question begins at around the 43:00 mark.]
“For a while afterward, Brooke and Cassie were calling each other, and just about everyone else, Dizzy and Dopey. That didn’t sit too well with their mother, and when she told me about it, I looked at the girls, furled my brow and said: ‘Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!'”
Once a Cubs fan . . .
Donald: “Subject: Leaving nothing to doubt.
“This appeared in ‘THEY SAID IT’ in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated:
“‘Donations in Joanne’s memory may be directed toward the impoverished Ricketts family of Chicago, Ill., for purposes of assembling a near-major major league-caliber bullpen.’
“‘The obituary of JOANNE DEVRIEZE, of East Moline, Ill., who died on Jan. 19 at age 95.’
“Now, that’s what I call a dedicated fan!”
Live and learn!
Writes Bill of Lake St. Croix Beach: “Subject: Rules . . . rules . . . rules.
“A prominent wall poster in a metro school listed the ’10 Classroom Rules’ for all to read and follow diligently. Among these very important rules are:
“1. No hitting.
“2. No spitting or biting.
“6. Tell the Truth.
“And finally . . .
“10. KEEP YOUR PANTS ON.
“No, this is not high school — just a lively and precocious preschool class.”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Dave the Bus Driver: “This goes back to Halloween, because I forgot about it.
“We were in a costume shop off 98th Street & 35W. We were walking around, and my 7-year-old granddaughter, Aiyana, saw a shirt on the wall that said ‘Son of a Witch.’
“She nudged me, pointed at it, and in a low voice she said: ‘Papa, they made a mistake on that shirt.'”
Band Name of the Day: Another Fine Mess
Website of the Day: RKO Pictures