He had a good role! (responsorial)
The Linguidiot: “Subject: Memories of Mel.
“Although I spent the better part of 12 years in college classrooms, Zoo Lou’s recollections of Mel Jass reminded me I was not a particularly dedicated student.
“I was a Minneapolis-campus student at the University of Minnesota, but I lived and worked on the St. Paul campus. In the late ’60s, the U started experimenting with closed-caption TV presentations across the two campuses, and I was able to attend one of my classes via CCTV just a block away from the St. Paul Campus Student Center where I worked. I jumped at the chance to avoid more rides on the inter-campus bus.
“The class, Historical Geology, was off-major, even off-minor, for all four of us who chose the CCTV option. We soon found that none of us was thrilled by discussions of Pre-Cambrian deposits near the St. Croix River. Four or five days after the class started, someone suggested seeing if we could get something else on the TV. Turns out we could, and the class time synched with Mel’s Matinee Movie.
“In no more than a week, what started as a quick peek to break the boredom of lectures by people who were way too excited by old rocks became the focus of the class. After another week, we gave up any pretense and simply set the TV to Mel right away and never turned back to the class. Once in a while, I’d make an effort to read through old lecture notes on file and hit the textbook hard, but I found I liked reading about old rocks even less than I liked hearing about them. My midterm test score reflected my lack of discipline.
“Soon the quarter was over, and it was time for the final test. Pretty sure the test would have far more to do with old rocks than with old movies, I took out the class text and planned an all-nighter. A couple hours in, a friend called to tell me he had two tickets to the high-school hockey tournament. They were for the same day as the final. I took a minute to consider what I’d picked up during the two hours of hard study and calculate the probability of my doing well enough on the test to pass the class. I opted for a day of high-school hockey.
“In all those years of college, it was my only ‘F.’ I’d like to blame youthful folly, but I was in my mid-20s at the time. I’ve always marked it down to the irresistible allure of the charms of Mel Jass.”
Rusty of St. Paul: “I enjoyed reading about the Mel Jass/Alfred Hitchcock connection. I asked my wife to guess which Twin Cities TV personality had a connection with Alfred Hitchcock. It was clearly a guess, but she had it correct. I had guessed Dave Moore, as he was in theater productions (not counting his newscasts).
“This may be Urban Folklore, but I remember hearing the story of Mel chatting up a housewife during a movie break. ‘What does your hubby do?’ He gets her reply, and his face loses its smile. ‘Oh . . . I see. I am sorry. Well he HAD a good job!'”
Fifteen nanoseconds of fame?
Tim Torkildson writes: “Subject: Ole Bull.
“In the summer of 1969, I discovered a statue of my ancestor Ole Bull in Loring Park. I was in high school, taking a summer acting class at the nearby Guthrie Theater, and we often went to Loring Park for fencing lessons in the great outdoors. Bull swaying on his plinth was a figure ripe for the mocking, until I casually mentioned to my dad that there was a funny old Norwegian statue in Loring Park.
“‘You mean Ole Bull?’ he said.
“‘Yeah, maybe,’ I replied, with a teenager’s habitual reluctance to reveal anything at all to a parent.
“‘We’re related to him,’ he announced, puffing importantly on his Salem cigarette.
“‘How?’ I couldn’t help asking.
“‘Oh, your Grandma Lena is his cousin a few times removed”,’ he replied. ‘He gave money to poor Norskes like us back a hunnerd years ago that he made playing his fiddle.’ A calculating look came into his eyes. ‘Mebbe he’s set up a foundation for Norwegians or something. You should check it out to get something for college, ’cause I ain’t gonna send you there — that’s for damn sure. No hard feelings.’
“None taken. I didn’t plan on going to college, anyways. I had in mind a jaunt out to California to become an international movie star, or, lacking that, a concupiscent pool boy for Ann-Margret.
“The next time class was held out by Bull’s statue, I grandly informed my fellow thespians that Ole was a dear departed relative of mine, and that undoubtedly part of his millions would be given to me as a grant or an outright gift by a grateful and generous committee — something along the lines of a Nobel Prize.
“I was immediately hooted down as a pretentious nincompoop, so, in an artistic huff, I dropped the subject with them completely — the acne-riddled philistines.
“But I developed an obsessive, if silent, respect for Ole Bull. I read up on him at the public library. He was considered a rival of Paganini. And Franz Liszt was one of his biggest fans. Plus, he married a buxom teenage bride when he was old enough to be her grandfather. He was quite the guy. Quite the wealthy guy. Generous, too. He bought a whole state park and gave it to Pennsylvania, or at least it turned into a state park after he couldn’t make it go as a farm.
“My loyalty to cousin Ole was put to the test in August, when our acting class ended and we had a little party at the Guthrie that featured a chaste selection of Hostess cupcakes and lukewarm RC Cola. The after-party was held, unbeknownst to our instructors, at Loring Park, and it featured several styrofoam coolers filled with Hamm’s beer. Our debauch had not proceeded very long before several of the beefier class specimens decided they would have to relieve themselves — and would do so around the statue of Ole Bull.
“‘This cannot be!’ I told them righteously (or words to that effect — my memory is a bit muzzy on the subject, since I’d had a few Hamm’s myself.)
“‘Aw, gwan, beat it!’ was their reply.
“I stood in their way, barring the path to my noble kinsman. They had no trouble knocking me down and stepping on me on their way to do the evil deed.
“And I never found any groups or committees that would give away any of Ole Bull’s money. I had taken a beating for nothing. So I was forced to do yard work around my neighborhood and then said to hell with it and hitchhiked to Florida to join the circus.
“So Ole Bull can kiss my F Holes . . .”
Close encounters of the natural kind, reported by Arwen of Inver Grove Heights: “The birds are back!
“Two years ago, a bonded pair of barn swallows nested in my garage. There is a barn, but they apparently decided that the garage suited them much better.
“I can understand that. It’s dry; there’s a lot of light (with the door open), there are no predators and it’s out of the weather. Perfect! :-O
“Not counting the mess they made on the floor and the cars, it would have been fine to nest there except that the place they chose for a nest is a piece of particle board, attached to the ceiling, that warped downward in one spot. There are no rafters up there — nowhere for the babies to sit once they get too big for the nest. So the babies ended up on the garage floor, and then I had to try to catch them and put them in the lid of a garbage can. Two ran off and disappeared. Only two survived. It was a nightmare. Incredibly stressful. I was counting the days until they fledged.
“Last year, I didn’t see the birds. I thought we were done. I breathed a sigh of relief. So when they showed up this year, I thought ‘Oh, no!’ and tried to keep them out of the garage by keeping the door shut. But they were determined. Inevitably, I’d forget and leave the door open, and then they’d be in there again. Eventually, I gave up.
“Now they’re in there again, and I have a front-row seat to their activities. They don’t mind my going about my business in there. Sometimes I stand in the door to the garage and watch them fly in and out and feed their babies. They are diligent parents, coming in to feed insects to their babies about every 10 minutes from morning until sunset.
“They are protective, too. Once, a parent didn’t like that I was there and cheeped a loud alarm call. And those babies, though only a few days old, knew what it meant. They all flattened themselves into the nest so you could not tell they were there. No heads visible!
“They are beautiful, elegant birds and amazing flyers. They can fly fast and turn on a dime. They are skilled and strong (they migrate here from hundreds of miles south, and return to the exact same spot without a map!), but also so small and vulnerable.
“Every night at sunset, or when there’s a storm, the birds return to their places in the garage. One bird perches on the nest edge; the other, surprisingly, sits on a wire just above the door from the garage into the house. When I open the door to check on them, I look up to the right, and there Mr. Bird is, sitting only about 18 inches above my head. It’s so charming.
“They are also a pain in the neck because of the waste they create and launch onto my car and the garage floor. I have down newspapers, and the car often stays out. I had to move the recycling bin because they were pooping in it.
“In short, they’re both vexing and very dear. In spite of the extra trouble, I’m drawn to take care of them — my beautiful, exasperating, elegant, wild pets.
“I need help with the babies. If I don’t do something, they’ll end up on the garage floor again, with the oil and the cat and other predators. I need a way to keep them up high. I don’t have building skills, or I’d build a scaffold with a platform they could land and stay on. I thought maybe a platform on top of two step ladders, but I have only one. A box lid suspended from the ceiling with duct tape might work, but my ladder doesn’t get up that high. What to do? They’re growing apace, so I have to figure out something soon.
“Tonight again, like clockwork, the parents will come back to roost at sunset. Again, I’ll check on them to see that they’re OK. Only then will I go to bed. And wonder: What will I do with those babies?”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other
Al B of Hartland: (1) “Barn swallows flew overhead and reminded me I was in Vienna once. When my mother had to be gone at mealtime, my father whipped up his specialty, which was a can of Vienna sausages and toast, so I felt at home in Vienna. I crossed streets while dodging Smart car taxis and stopped to admire the statues of famous composers: Mozart, Schubert, Brahms and Strauss. But the first music I heard there was that of crows and barn swallows. The barn swallow is the national bird of Austria.”
(2) “Everyone looks good when bending over in a garden, but gardening is no bowl of cherries. It’s not even a bed of roses. Or maybe it is a bed of roses, complete with thorns. We’re all in this together. That includes rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, slugs and a dazzling array of worms and insects. The rabbits have been eating well this year. Apparently, the rabbit economy needed a stimulus package. The secret is to raise only onions. Rabbits aren’t fond of them.”
(3) “I listened to a rose-breasted grosbeak, a brown thrasher and a Baltimore oriole sing. Their blissful voices blended pleasantly. The first thought finding my brain was ‘The Chad Mitchell Trio.’ I’m not sure why. I don’t remember a year of so many indigo buntings and gray catbirds. A friend, excited with what she’d seen outside, phoned and exclaimed: ‘I saw an indigo catbird!’ I liked the image that pushed aside The Chad Mitchell Trio in my mind.
“My spirits were high, but birds managed to raise them.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Perhaps, despite the obvious sadness herein, this will raise them further!
Mounds View Swede‘s camera has been busy again: (1) “Subject: Five ‘Wow!’ blossoms.
“June finds a lot of early bloomers looking their best.
“In one of my front-yard gardens, the Asiatic lilies are really showing off.
“And the geranium annual I planted has some striking blossoms, too.
“When I went annual shopping, I was impressed with the great variety of colors one could find on petunias. I thought this one was rather striking.
“A different geranium had this blossom.
“And then the Stella D’Oro started blooming, too.
“Each blooming plant feels like a celebration: ‘Yes! You did it!'”
(2) “Today I saw the first butterfly of the season and went out to take a look. It was busy visiting the milkweed plants I have growing amidst the rhubarb plants in our garden.
The milkweed was in bloom, and the butterfly was interested.
“This view gave me a better look, and I was able to find it online and identify it as an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
“I keep hoping Monarchs will find the milkweed I have for them, but in the meantime, any and all other butterflies are most welcome.”
Kathy S. of St Paul reports: “The plywood is gone from my local grocery store’s windows. And on June 18, a panhandler was back playing an accordion in the parking lot. I hope things are settling down.
“But when I came out of the store, I wondered: Should I see it as a bad omen that the musician was playing the theme from ‘Titanic’? Or should I concentrate on the lyrics ‘my heart will go on and on’?”
Rusty of St. Paul, again: “Subject: Hair and cuts.
“I wrote in a little over a month ago that with my Crisis hair, ‘I look like Einstein . . . without the smarts.’ That was after three months without a haircut. Add in another month, and I had quite the fright wig.
“With the warm weather, I am uncomfortable, and my curls are tickling my upper eyelids and my ears, neither of which appreciate this.
“I can’t go to my barber, as I am High Risk.
“My wife is a crafter, so she said she could watch a few YouTube videos and have at it. She did so today and said: ‘I’m ready. Are you? Let’s go!’
“She had at it and felt she did an adequate job. ‘Pretty good for an amateur, eh?’ she said.
“I put my cap on to go outside and looked in the mirror. I had two huge side tufts of hair sticking out and up from behind my ears. Goodbye, Einstein. Hello, Bozo the Clown . . . without the funnies.
“I told her my impression — and to her credit, she agreed.
“I’ll fix it tomorrow.”
Perchance, to dream . . .
Bob the Bureaucrat reports: “I dreamt I saw a women walking on the side of a road. I stopped to ask if she needed a ride. She hesitated. I said: ‘I have an extra mask.’ With that, she smiled and got in the car.
“Poof! End of dream.
“Never so swiftly have current events penetrated my dream world.”
The Permanent Paternal Record
And: In memoriam
Father’s Day report from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “These teen-aged boys were catching crawfish on the banks of the mighty Mississippi here in Prescott. How fitting that on Father’s Day they were practicing a skill that a father must have passed on: ‘Pick up a submerged rock. Careful now, do it slowly; don’t cloud the water, or they’ll get away. Grab for just behind the head — see there, the broad shell above the legs; he can’t pinch you then. Go to the next rock now and do it again. They’ll be more that come back if you wait a while. They’re good bait, and folks down South even eat ’em.’ How fitting that I heard my long-gone Father’s words again today.”
Our birds, ourselves
Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “Go find a bigger house!”
Half a century ago . . .
Email from Dave Kunst: “Subject: The walk.
“‘June 20, 1970 (Saturday) . . .
“‘Dave Kunst and his brother John Kunst, along with a supply-carrying pack mule named “Willie Makeit” [Bulletin Board interjects: The mule called “Betty Don’t” was otherwise occupied], set off on foot from Waseca, Minnesota in an attempt to become the first persons to walk around the world . John would be killed, and Dave would be wounded, by bandits while traveling through Afghanistan in 1972. After recovering from his injuries, Dave resumed the journey in 1973 from the spot where his travels had stopped and, on October 5, 1974 , would complete the first verified “circumnavigation by foot” (he flew on commercial airlines to cross bodies of water), calculated to have been 14,452 miles (23,258 km).’
“Check out the Earthwalk Presentation on YouTube:
Another episode of creative hearing, reported by The Mambo King: “I was watching golf on TV today when a commercial came on, so I started checking my email, turning my attention away from the TV. I was brought up short, though, when I thought I heard ‘You can vomit with confidence’ coming from the tube. After a while, I was able to re-create the actual language of the commercial: ‘With the Tour V5, you can bomb it with confidence.'”
Till death us do part
An item in the Permanent Spousal Record maintained by GramB of Nisswa: “We now have a refrigerator repairman in the family, but what a couple of days this has been!
“On Tuesday, our 18-year-old fridge went on the fritz, with the inside temperature being 59 degrees. I immediately started shopping online and making phone calls to find a new one. Meanwhile, GrampG got out the slim duster and started cleaning underneath on the floor and the coils of the fridge. This act produced, I must admit, clumps of dust, the amount of which I am unwilling to measure! Next step was a long coil brush, which brought out more ‘unmeasurable’ dust. He then removed a panel from the back, and the brush produced a bit more. Next he vacuumed the coils.
“At the same time, my shopping search wasn’t very successful, as all refrigerators are on back-order because of the coronavirus; it would be at least a month or two before we could have one delivered. We have a smaller one on the lower level, which would have to suffice; however, the combination of contents from both are not about to fit in the one downstairs.
“Back to GrampG. He had now discovered that the freezer in the ‘fritz fridge’ was still working, but not self-defrosting as it should, and had to be defrosted manually. We couldn’t save the freezer food, as it took overnight to defrost. So out went the freezer food and the excess fridge food.
“Moving right along, GrampG washed and shined the entire interior of the fridge; it looks brand-new! The next day, after it was defrosted, he did the same with the freezer.
“So now, after three days of hard work salvaging, disposing, dusting, vacuuming, washing, drying, I no longer have to shop and wait; we have reached the 40-degree mark hoped for! Because of my ‘keeper’ husband, I now have a ‘keeper’ fridge for the time being!
“Moral of the story: Clean your coils!”
Live and learn! (responsorial)
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “I enjoyed reading the story from The Astronomer of Nininger about used auto parts.
“I got introduced to this world before I reached the age of 10, by a couple of older brothers who did most of the auto-repair work on family vehicles. I especially remember going to the large junkyard down by New Market and rummaging around what seemed to be a gold mine of parts to keep our old Chevys on the road. They asked that you bring your own tools (not sure if cutting torches were allowed; probably not), though in a pinch they would lend out a wrench or two, even to a young lad such as I.
“These places have survived, though in some ways they have evolved quite a bit. Places like U Pull R Parts (or U-Pull-R-Parts) always seem to be busy. (Apparently there are those among us smart enough to work on today’s complicated autos without owning the equally complicated diagnostic machines professional shops use.) There are a couple of these in the Twin Cities area, and my venerable old GMC van Bessie ended up there after about 25 years of service and 280,000 miles. At least I ended up getting a few bucks for her. Bring your own tools. NO torches!
“But what was possibly my most interesting junkyard visit was to one on the north side of St. Paul. I had inexplicably managed to become the owner of an old Ford Ranger pickup truck (that was more under-powered than a ’65 Falcon). It had a nasty habit of half-starting, and then kicking back on the starter. One of those episodes ended in all three mounting flanges getting blown off the starter. Someone I knew (this was about 30 years ago!) referred me to this junkyard, so off I went.
“The grizzled old feller there was busy with another customer, but soon helped me out. I told him what I needed, and he scratched his chin for a moment, then said: ‘Three or four mounting bolts?’ When I told him ‘three,’ he said he knew just where to get one, but he had not yet pulled it from the host vehicle, and it would take him a few minutes to go out and do that. Boy, what great service!
“So off he went, and I was left to amuse myself in what passed for an office. Various parts were strewn about, and a few were even on the lone counter with tags on them, ready for customer pickup. There was also a beat-up old refrigerator, and I definitely did not want to know what it held. But the coolest thing there was a genuine junkyard cat. Yep, not a junkyard dog (as in Jim Croce’s ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’), but a feline like none I had ever seen.
“It had gold fur (I think) absolutely loaded with grease and all matted down. And three legs. That did not stop it from bouncing around the office, on the floor, up onto the counter (where there was a small, partially eaten dish of food and some water), and also to the top of the refrigerator. I felt a little sorry for the creature, but it seemed very happy as it came to me, meowing for attention. Naturally, I just had to pet it, which it obviously enjoyed. But I paid a bit of a price for my compassion. GOBS of grease-laden cat hair came off and coated my gloves and sweatshirt. I knew that I would have to do something about that before I went back into my house, as cat allergies lived there. Some partial disrobing outside and vigorous shaking of the affected items was quite effective.
“But I will never forget the courage and attitude of the three-legged junkyard cat, who seemed to make the most of what we’d consider a somewhat miserable existence. I am glad I petted it.
“And the starter cost me about $15.”
Our pets, ourselves
LeoJEOSP writes: “Subject: Me and my cat named dog (Frank).
“We had friends over last Saturday. We sat outside, and we all practiced social distancing and other COVID restrictions.
“One of the guys was telling of his experiences with a cat who thinks he is a dog. Frank is a tough cat; he lived outside for two years, in Warroad. Winters in Warroad are much colder. The distance to Canada from Warroad is 26 miles. Some of my friend’s pals who live in Warroad had been feeding Frank during wintertime. One of the Warroad guys discovered by accident that Frank will come to you if you whistle. My friends adopted Frank and brought Frank to St Paul. Seeing Frank in person and watching him respond reminded me of a song that was released in the mid-1960s.
“The artist’s name is Norma Tanega, and the song’s name is ‘Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog.'”
Band Name of the Day: Vomit With Confidence — or: The Three-Legged Junkyard Cats
Website of the Day: Where “Timericks” Come From