Fifteen Nanoseconds of Fame
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: The Day I Ate Brunch with Mary Pickford.
“I didn’t discover just how good food could taste until my first job. I had just graduated from high school, and I weighed a whopping 98 pounds.
“That summer, I went to work at a country club where the midday meal was
furnished. The chef was a friend of my brother-in-law, and I had known him since I was 10, but he always seemed to me more like a stern elderly uncle, so when he raised an eyebrow at me and handed me a well-filled plate and told me I MUST eat it all, I did. I gained a pound a day for the next 10 days, and then I leveled off between 108 and 110. Mother told Dad that ‘the poor child just seems so hungry all the time’ and that maybe when he bought pork chops for dinner, he might be wise to buy two of them. Previously, we had divided one pork chop
among the four of us. Dad and my sister Nora used to shake their heads in amazement when they watched me devour that pork chop all by myself, and sometimes they would give me a bite or two of their portions.
“My next job was as a copywriter at a small radio station. My brother-in-law was an announcer there and had alerted me to the job opening. The majority of my paychecks went for food. Some of the perks of that job were the complimentary tickets the station would receive when celebrities came to town. My brother-in-law had been in show business since he was 3 and had met a lot of well-known entertainers in his life, but he was flying high when he nabbed two tickets to a brunch with Mary Pickford. He gave one to the other lead announcer at the station and kept one for himself. The day of the brunch, he was more than a little upset to discover it conflicted with an earlier appointment he had made with an influential client — an appointment he just could not break. He reluctantly gave me his prized ticket, telling me to remember every single detail, because meeting Mary Pickford would be an honor I would cherish my entire lifetime.
“When my brother-in-law arrived back from his meeting, he came in to my office and sat down, waiting to hear a minute-by-minute report. When I told him that they had served the best scrambled eggs I had ever eaten in my
life — ‘they were fluffy and so well-seasoned, and the bacon was crisp, and . . .’ he stood up and erupted with a torrent of swear words, telling me: ‘You have just had the opportunity to meet one of the movie screen’s legends of all time, and all you can tell me is about the goddam food?’”
Like mother, like son
Plus: Unlike mother, unlike son
Rusty of St. Paul writes: “Subject: To Do.
“I am going through files. In one of many stacks, I found the ‘To Do’ file and the ‘To Do Now’ file, with the Now underlined for emphasis.
“I decided I had better open up the ‘To Do Now‘ file to make sure there wasn’t a bill that needed paying. The paper on top of the pile was entitled ‘House Jobs, April 2013.’ It is 2021, at last check.
“I counted up the jobs — fifty-two of them, actually, with only about a dozen crossed off. One is entitled ‘Pulls Kitchen.’ This relates to picking out and installing pulls to the kitchen cabinet and drawer that we had built for our kitchen remodel. That remodel took place in 1999. It is 2021, at last check. Um, there are no pulls installed yet.
“Let me explain. In the early 1960s, when I was in grade school, my mother had the interior rooms of our house painted. She took the knob handles off the doors to make the painters’ job easier. Once the painters were done, paid and had left, she put on her paint shirt and went to work touching up the professional painters’ job, as it hadn’t passed muster.
“She left off the door knobs, as she knew she would have a repaint job done in about seven years. Why bother?
“If we did close a door tight, we had to use a door knob with the stem on to put into the door to unlock it. Or a wide-bladed screwdriver.
“Basically I grew up with non-functional doors. So not having pulls on one cabinet and a drawer in my house (and non-=functional doors in two of our bathrooms) is familiar to me. The apple doesn’t fall far . . .
“But not all of the time does the apple fall close. We have now lived in our house for 33 years. I have painted the inside rooms just once. I did it myself, so I did not have to hire and thus touch up after professionals. My mother taught me how to paint professionally (albeit ‘cross-hatching’ on the wall behind the upright piano, as it would not be public).
“My late parents lived in their St. Paul house for 52 years, and Mom had the rooms refreshed with paint I’m guessing seven times. She liked her walls clean and fresh (same color, of course: white with a shy touch of pink in it. I used this color in our main bedroom. When it catches the sunlight, it is a warm, pleasing color).
“Mom put on her paint shirt and retouched the job at least half of those times, until she finally found the painter whom she was pleased with: Fritz Diers.
“The positive news is: I went through the rest of the papers in the ‘To Do Now‘ file, and there were no bills to be paid!”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: A tree fit for a pandemic.
“As previously noted in BB, my cousin Cherie D of Inver Grove Heights suggested that I should ‘consider BB-ing’ my latest hobby. It’s not exactly a hobby, but it has kept me occupied during the pandemic. So against my better judgment, here goes.
“My family has a long tradition of putting up multiple Christmas trees and leaving a smaller one up for other holidays — with different decorations, of course. This has resulted in my inheriting several generations of ornaments for a variety of holidays, not to mention ones I’ve accumulated over the years myself.
“While the concept of an extra tree appeals to me, it can be a lot of tedious work to decorate the typical artificial tree. My solution to that problem was to purchase a wrought-iron tree that has plenty of room to easily hang ornaments. My most recent creation is what could be called a Sputnik tree, for reasons which will soon become apparent.
“In the 1950s, Bradford came out with a line of unbreakable plastic ornaments — or, as they advertised them, ‘the UNBREAKABLE kind.’ But as any child can prove, nothing is truly unbreakable, so Bradford added the disclaimer ‘They look better and last longer,’ which I assume meant in comparison to glass ornaments. Whether they look better is highly subjective, but they definitely last longer, as there is still a huge selection of them in existence.
“While Bradford made a variety of ornaments, their most popular was the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ collection. These came in various colors and designs, and all shared the common trait of not looking anything like the Russian Sputnik satellite launched into orbit on October 4, 1957. But times being what they were, they were dubbed Sputnik ornaments and are known by that name to this day.
“Bradford also made a line of unbreakable tree toppers — or ‘Tree Tops,’ as they were called. They went nicely with the Sputnik ornaments.
“So by combining the wrought-iron tree, a lot of Bradford Sputnik ornaments, and a Bradford Tree Top, I created a Sputnik tree.
“It is very restful to contemplate, and an almost Zen-like peacefulness can be attained by rearranging the ornaments as the spirit moves you. There is no right or wrong, only different. And I think spring and the end of the pandemic can’t come soon enough.
“However, there are other trees for other holidays if anyone is interested in seeing them.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: If you’re game, so are we. Neither spring nor the end of the pandemic is rushing toward us.
The highfalutin displeasures
Leading to: The highfalutin amusements — and: The Permanent Family Record
Pollyanna of Clifton, “formerly of Lakeland”: “Subject: Fraud.
“Last week I received a pamphlet from the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program. I wondered why, but eventually recycled it.
“A couple days later, I received two pieces of mail from them. The first had the amount I would receive weekly and the total amount allowed; the second had the login information.
“I am employed and have not applied for unemployment. When I typed into Google ‘someone applied for,’ it added ‘unemployment in my name.’ I guess that means I am not the only one.
“I completed the fraud form online and contacted my employer.
“We already have alerts set up for anyone accessing our credit reports and for my Social Security number on the dark Web.
“They used our old address. Thankfully we moved, and the mail was forwarded by the post office.
“What makes me a little anxious is that I have read that someone had to have my SSN and birth date to apply. Since it’s tax season, I am concerned with someone filing taxes in my name. In a group chat with some of my family, these are a few of the punishments we decided would be appropriate:
“‘I hope he gets a bad case of COVID! He doesn’t have to die, just be miserable for a couple weeks. Have him [Bulletin Board interjects: or, of course, her] not be able to taste or smell until he repents.’
“‘His PC should give him a shock every time he misbehaves.’
“‘And his teeth and hair should fall out.’
“‘And he should get constipated!’
“‘And stub his toe really hard, then get hot pepper juice in his eyes!’
“‘And walk into a cactus with a skunk behind it.’
“‘And be covered in wood ticks.’
“‘Kick him where it hurts!’
“‘He should get a bunch of mitten fuzz stuck on his eyelashes while wearing contacts and with honey on his fingers.’
“‘Then spill a milkshake on his pants in winter when it’s below zero. He should also sit in it!’
“‘Have his dryer eat all his socks in the winter — or have them never get dry so he has to have soggy feet all the time.’
“‘He should have to work for a diaper cleaning service.’
“‘He should get lemon juice in a paper cut on his finger, and get a paper cut on his tongue!’
“‘He should lose Internet service!’
“‘His kids should end up in the porn industry.’
“‘He should have leeches stuck all over him and bats in his house and horseflies constantly circling his head and taking out chunks of flesh!’
“Most of these were from me and one of my sisters. My nephew piped up in the middle and said: ‘Dad, you have such hostile sisters!’ His reply: ‘Don’t get on their bad side!’
“It made me feel better 😊.
“Have a great day!”
Life as we know it
High Flyers Division
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Gen. Carl Spaatz said: ‘I guess we considered ourselves a different breed of cat, right in the beginning. We flew through the air and the other people walked on the ground; it was as simple as that!’ He was a proponent of air power and became the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. He saw the capabilities of aerial refueling, strategic and tactical air operations. A lot of his ideas could be used not only for military activities; those very same high-altitude views from the air formed perspectives on humanity itself.
“A simple example might involve a forest of hardwoods that I recall from years ago, when the Good Wife and I lived in Alabama. The Hammermill Paper Company issued hunting permits to those who did not smoke and promised not to litter. It was sort of a win-win situation. But walking among those literally miles of trees provided one perspective. Deer, turkey or whatever game was being pursued helped to focus that way of looking at things, from the two dimensions of the ground.
“Flying over the forest provided a totally different point of view. You could see how massive the forests were, and you could cover so much more of it in a short time. Instead of walking past tree after tree after tree and seeing but a short distance, now you could see for miles. This was back in the ’60s, when occasionally from the air one might see a curl of smoke twisting and turning as it made its way upward from within those trees, far from the nearest road. It may have been the byproduct of an illegal still whose operators were hoping a ‘revenuer’ did not become aware of its existence. To avoid detection, some of these illicit alcohols were made under the light of the moon, hence called ‘moonshine.’
“Those who fly do, in fact, see the world differently. Theirs is a voyage in quest of what can be, illuminating where there was not light before and descriptive of things that have not been seen from the ground. They see applications of things that those tethered to the ground cannot begin to comprehend. Their flight through life is in another dimension that those before only dreamed of.”
Or: The frontiers of corporate gobbledygook
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Are you experienced?
“I experienced a puzzling moment or two while reading the business section of the Star Tribune on Presidents’ Day.
“On the first page, I learned that Chad Halvorson, founder of When I Work, an ‘hourly workforce management company . . . which offers an integrated scheduling, time tracking, and team messaging solution’ (there’s only one?), and who had been CEO since the company’s 2010 launch, is ‘moving to chief experience officer.’
“I think that used to be known as ‘customer relations’: ‘Many CXOs . . . extract customer intelligence useful to the business.’
“On the next page, the weekly listing of mergers and acquisitions informed me that Augeo Affinity Marketing Inc. of St. Paul has acquired Wellington Experience Inc. of Overland Park, Kan., ‘a provider of experience design, community building and strategic gifting.’
‘Strategic gifting, I sort of understand. That goes back at least to the days of wampum.
“But how does one design an experience? Is that what Disneyland is all about?
“A sourced definition: ‘Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omnichannel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.’
“I wonder how soon I can book an omnichannel journey. I guess once COVID recedes.”
The highfalutin bemusements
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “It is a common misconception that elderly folks love to get puzzles. I beg to differ. I have plenty of puzzles. Two puzzles that I have to solve several times a day are the locations of my coffee cup and my glasses. Other puzzles are related to identifying new acquaintances here in the senior apartments. I go through a checklist of characteristics, such as white hair, a mask, a walker or cane, and a friendly voice. These could apply to 90 percent of our population, so it’s a puzzle.
“The most alarming puzzle came the other day when my robotic friend, Alexa, politely answered a question for me, and then said: ‘Have a good day, Pat.’ How on earth does she/it know my name? I have never introduced myself.
“So, no more puzzles, I’m good.”
There’s nothin’ like a simile!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “This is the opening sentence from Stephanie Zacharek’s review of ‘Malcolm & Marie’ in Time: ‘”Malcolm & Marie” looks fantastic, a black-and-white retro-mod reverie as cushiony as an Eames lounge chair.’”
The verbing of America
Donald: “During the impeachment hearing, one of the pundits made the observation that someone was ‘going to rabbit-hole the witness statements.’”
Could be verse!
Ken Deakman: “Subject: Possible MnHealth COVID Lottery Responses.
“Signed up on the website for my chance to win a vaccine, but wasn’t one of the select few. MnHealth sent me a three-paragraph explanation. Condensed version: My name didn’t come up — good luck next time. They could save virtual ink with a short haiku:
“Nope! No shot for you.
“Shots and life are so random
“Don’t you think? Stay well.
“Or a limerick:
“You’d think that with time potentially
“Your chances would grow exponentially
“We’re excited to say
“We pulled more names today!
Could be verse!
The Signs on the Road to the Cemetery Said “Burma-Shave”
Ripped from the headlines! Here’s The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Sticky situation.
“If you comb in
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other
Al B of Hartland writes: (1) Subject: The cafe chronicles.
“‘Don’t put your elbows on the table’ is something every mother learned to say in mom school. It wasn’t polite, and it showed us to be the Neanderthals we were. I recall being a young man who stopped at a greasy spoon. I entered smirk first. The cafe offered good food and had both flies and sticky flypaper ribbons. I sat down, ordered the breakfast special and put my elbows on the counter. I was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt. It wasn’t the best shirt, but it was my good shirt. I figured the ‘Don’t put your elbows on the table’ rule didn’t apply to counters. I was wrong. My elbows became stuck to that sweet epoxy made from escaped maple syrup.”
(2) “Subject: Porky Pig was no weathervane.
“I wonder what happened to our old weathervane? We had several, but the one I remember most clearly involved the likeness of a hog and was perched on a high point of the barn. A free-spinning directional pointer was wider on the back end of the arrow and narrower toward the arrow’s head, allowing it to point into the wind. A change in the wind meant a change in the weather. South winds brought warm temperatures, north winds ushered in the cold, and wind changes from west to east brought storms. In the ninth century A.D., the pope decreed that the rooster be used as a weathervane on church domes or steeples. We used a pig because it was good with directions.”
(3) “It was one above zero. Crows gathered in the woods near my window. It was a murder in the first degree.”
Our theater of seasons
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Lately I have been telling strangers that we are one day closer to spring. Their faces tend to light up. It helps us face the COLD.
“Last week I said it to a dad in the grocery store, who laughed. His daughter (aged 8?) asked what I said, and he repeated it. To which she answered: ‘Huh?’
So the dad tried to explain why it was funny. I left him to it. She is not yet of the age to shovel (much) or drive.”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Or: It just don’t add up!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills is still paying admirably close attention to the sports news: “Subject: Location . . . location . . . location.
“This is the caption beneath a photo of a basketball coach on Page C7 of the Sports section in Monday’s Minneapolis paper: ‘Maryland coach Brenda Frese gave instructions Sunday, and they led to a 95-73 victory at Nebraska that was the 500th win of her career. She’s 500-130 in 19 seasons at Maryland since leaving the Gophers in 2002.’
“What strikes me as absolutely amazing is that Frese coached at Ball State for two years, and at the U for one, before being hired at Maryland. How someone without any wins in three seasons could be so successful in a new venue defies logic. The air in College Park must definitely be rarefied.”
Not exactly what she had in mind
Anonymous Woman: “Subject: Getting caught in a wringer.
“In the latest BB was the expression about not getting a tit caught in a wringer.
“Well, I avoided that danger, but:
“I had a breast biopsy 20-plus years ago. To ensure that the biopsy cut was optimum, I was seated on an adjustable chair with my ‘girl’ clamped tightly in a mammogram machine. A marker was inserted to guide the surgeon making the cut.
“Everyone except a student observer went into the next room to analyze the mammogram, to ensure that the marker was placed optimally. Then the adjustable chair I sat on started sinking. Scary! I yelled for help — and no one came back to help. Luckily the student was there. She pushed on the chair to keep me from sinking further.
“When the doctor came back, she briskly raised the adjustable chair and said that the problem with it sinking ‘happened.’ Somehow, I couldn’t agree with her blasé attitude.”
Not exactly what he had in mind
Ms. Sarcastic’s Mom of Mendota Heights: “Subject: Some days when you get out of bed, you’re just asking for it.
“As I was catching up on Sunday’s Bulletin Board, Ms. Sarcastic’s Dad asked me if this Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. After I answered in the affirmative, he asked if I could send a story in to Bulletin Board, and he even supplied the subject line.
“The story was set nearly four decades ago, when our house had a real fireplace, and he thought I might remember it (yeah, right). He had decided to clean the ashes out of the fireplace, and I told him to be careful because I had just cleaned that room (well, that does sound like me). He told me that he would use the Electrolux vacuum, and as he worked, he noticed a huge cloud of ashes behind him and discovered that the vacuum bag had a nail puncture hole.
“And, of course, this happened on Ash Wednesday.”
Including: Our pets, ourselves
DebK of Rosemount writes: “Having been a funeral soloist for many years, I am more aware than most, I think, of obsequial trends. Years ago, I noticed that wakes were increasingly featuring collections of photos and memorabilia of the deceased. Mindful of this trend — and being frequently reminded, in my capacity as a pretend farmer, of the proximity of death, I spend quite a lot of time thinking about my own send-off.
“The assembling of these wake displays (which I refer to as ‘funeral posters,’ though most are real archival wonders and sometimes even include slideshows set to music) are clearly labors of love, so I’m confident that the middle-aged people who used to be our kids will want to put together one for me when the time comes. I’d like to make the task as easy as possible for them, so I’ve been putting aside items that they will want to consider including in the display.
“As I may have mentioned before, I barely meet the Lake Wobegon standard where looks are concerned. And I photograph poorly to boot. So the items I’m leaving for the kids (and for Taxman, if he’s still around when I make my exit) include very few pictures. But I’ve faithfully kept clippings of my BB articles, academic essays, letters to the editor, speech manuscripts, and the like — all stuffed rather unceremoniously in a large rectangular basket which I keep under my desk, where my grieving family will have easy access.
“Today being Ash Wednesday, Taxman and I were off to early Mass, where we heard a powerful homily on the importance of detaching from the things of this world. We returned from church to find that Winston, our house cat, had suffered a digestive upset while we were away. Normally, this cat throws up on the best rug in the house, but today he made his way to the basket under my desk, where he vomited all over my clippings.”
Band Name of the Day: Chunks of Flesh
Website of the Day: Nature 365 (now with daily videos from videographers other than Jim Brandenburg)