Once in a while, brute strength proves positively poetic!

Fifteen Nanoseconds of Fame
And: In memoriam (Man’s Man Division)

Rusty of St. Paul: “Minnesota’s first poet laureate, Robert Bly, died recently. I have a Robert Bly story:

“My father was an English professor at Macalester College for decades. We lived two blocks from campus, and Dad occasionally brought home guest lecturers for a break from their lecturing. One afternoon he brought home Robert Bly, who was in need of a nap.

“After his nap, he came downstairs and said: ‘I had a heck of a time getting your hot water to work, but finally got the handle to turn.’

“This was in the 1970s, before Mr. Bly had written ‘Iron John’ and came to be known for starting a men’s movement. He was a stocky man, and I’m sure he had large, strong hands.

“My family had an old pedestal sink in the bathroom with separate hot- and cold-water faucets. The hot-water valve had been stuck shut for years. Neither of my parents was very handy, and one of them was too frugal to call in a plumber, so it had stayed stuck shut.

“Mr. Bly got it unstuck with brutane! And it worked fine thereafter.”

The Permanent Family Record
Including: Then & Now

The Happy Medium: “Subject: Potato Chips and Pickles.

“Growing up in rural Wisconsin, we had many memorable times when the family got together. Thanksgiving was one of those times.

“It might have been memorable for us as children, but it was a lot of work for Mom. She was in the kitchen by 4 a.m. peeling potatoes, making the stuffing using her special recipe, washing and stuffing the turkey, front and back, and placing it in the oven by 5. To be certain the oven was hot enough, she stuck another chunk of wood in the stove. Mom and the wood cookstove, with its reservoir, did a great job of preparing food for the family.

“The rest of the menu included sweet potatoes mixed with apples and covered with marshmallows, a rice salad, homemade pickles, cranberries, homemade bread and Mom’s pumpkin pie topped off with real whipped cream.

“Because we six were too little to ‘help,’ Mom did all the Thanksgiving preparations by herself. Even when I was older and could help with preparations, I was told by my sister to just bring potato chips and pickles.

“After the turkey was in the oven, Mom would head out to the barn to milk cows with Dad. Throughout the morning, she would rush to the kitchen to baste the turkey with butter, then return to milking cows.

“When the milking was done, we all sat down to a breakfast of cereal and milk. This is when we six could be of help. We cleared the table and washed and dried the dishes. No dishwasher at that time, for sure.

“Now it was time to set the table. We all worked at extending the dining-room table for 10. Mom’s parents were the extra two. The fall-colored tablecloth fit perfectly, and we brought out the ‘good’ dishes for the special occasion.

“Everything was set. Now was the time to wait for the turkey to finish cooking.

“All of us sitting around the wonderful-smelling food on the table would have matched a photo-shot of the Waltons at their Thanksgiving dinner. Looking back, I think Mom and Dad were so proud and happy to have the family together with such a bountiful Thanksgiving table of food set before us.

“Later in life, each of us would ask what we could bring to a festive occasion. Mom would assign each of something to bring. And what was it I was asked to bring, you ask? Potato chips and pickles, of course.

“But that’s not the end of the story.

“Our parents have been gone for many years now, and we are left to celebrate Thanksgiving by ourselves. This year, five of us got together at my brother’s home — the home-place, as I call it. My brother provided all the food, and guess who prepared it. No, I didn’t just bring potato chips and pickles this time. I prepared the meal of roast beef with carrots and potatoes in the electric stove oven. I fixed the cranberries from scratch. My sister-in-law brought her delicious salad, and my brother baked the frozen apple pie made by the neighboring church ladies and gentlemen as a fund-raiser.

“We had a good time recalling remembrances of our younger selves growing up on the farm. And the best part was: We didn’t have to wash and dry the dishes this time. We used the trusty dishwasher. Progress.”

Our times
Don’t Let This Happen to You Division

Arwen of Inver Grove Heights: “Subject: A cautionary tale.

“I’m sending this in case it helps someone else avoid what I went through.

“I was reading the newspaper today when I got a call from the ‘[Internet provider] tech department.’ They said they wanted to run a test on my modem to see if it was up to the current speed. (It’s not; it’s an old modem that runs at 12 megabytes per second; I have been meaning to update for a while.) Through a number of tests that took a long time, it was determined that my speed is too low — I’m paying far too much for that speed — so they said I would get a refund. More time and more tests of different sorts went by, plus some long holds on the phone, and the tech said he would put me in touch with the [Internet provider] billing department. Then a woman got on the line, and we went through this whole long thing about setting up a link to credit my account. I was asked to enter the amount I was supposed to be credited — $1,000 — but when I went to enter it, the system took it and added a zero, so it was $10,000. Then the billing person said that this was really bad, a catastrophe that could cause me problems with the IRS (the deposit was labeled ‘unauthorized credit’) and cause her to lose her job, and we would have to find a way to return the money to [Internet provider].

“She gave me three options: I could have the bank credit the money back to [Internet provider], but if I did that, they would charge me 18 percent as a transaction fee and charge her 18 percent as well. Or I could go to the bank, withdraw the money in cash, go to UPS and send it overnight to the address she would give me. Or I could go to Walmart and buy $8,500 worth of gift cards. I wondered why I could not just send a check, but that option was rejected. I said I would go check with my bank, but she said not to do that, because if they found out, they would charge me the 18 percent. She was really big on the gift cards, and she wanted me to leave right then to get them (situation urgent, she said), and she was even going to stay on the phone with me in the car on the way there.

“At this point, I had been on the phone with these people for two hours. I was tired, and I didn’t want to get out of my lounge clothes and go anywhere right then. So I said I had other things to do and I would go in a while. She gave me her phone number, told me she’d be waiting for my call, and I hung up.

“I got dressed and ready to leave, but as I was doing that, I was puzzling over all this and thinking that all of this just did not sound right. And I remembered times when people had been told to go withdraw money that seemed like it had been put into their account when actually it hadn’t. I wondered whether this actually was a scam, so I called the FBI local office. He said that it was, indeed, most likely a scam and not to call the people back. So now I had a real problem, because I had given these people access to the bank account to deposit the fraudulent funds, so I went to the bank and spent two or three hours there closing all the accounts and transferring the funds into new accounts. Then I spent more time at Best Buy getting these people’s software out of my computer. I will have to spend a lot more time updating my account information with the many companies I deal with online and setting up new online bill payments.

“I feel really embarrassed to have been taken in by these people. I’m an intelligent person with a college education. I read the news every day and pay attention to the scams going around. But these people were so good at impersonating tech and billing people who work for real companies that I didn’t catch on, and my critical thinking apparently went offline while I was trying to understand what they were saying and follow their instructions. Only after I hung up did I think: ‘Wait a minute. What was that?’

“So I’ll give you some advice that I’ve frequently given my mother, which I usually follow myself but didn’t this time: Never Answer The Phone If You Don’t Know Who It Is.

“I lost the better part of a day to close the bank accounts and open new ones, and I’ll have to spend more time updating all the online billing from different companies. Stress level: high.

“I think I deserve some hot chocolate now.”

Know thyself!

First, Semi-Legend: “Subject: Self-penned bio.

“My reading, during the COVID days, has turned from political to poetry and fiction. One of my favorite lit’ry journals is The MacGuffin, a triannual (ain’t that a great term?) outta Schoolcraft College, Livonia, Michigan.

“Robert Hasselblad had an impressive poem in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue (I’m a little behind), so I checked the Contributor Notes: ‘Robert Hasselblad of Mount Vernon, Washington, has been writing poetry for half a century ago. Recently retired from forty-plus years in the lumber industry, he devotes time to writing, walking, reading and speculative napping.’

“Now there’s someone after me own heart.”

And now LeoJEOSP: “After years of drooling and getting food on my shirt, I ordered a bib to wear when I am eating at the table.

“Classy and not messy.

“One could moan about having to use a bib, but these are so ridiculous, all you can do is laugh!”


In memoriam

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Eight decades have passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor. I reflected on that as I lowered our flag in respect of Senator Bob Dole’s passing, because our symbol of freedom would still be at half staff when the calendar turned to December 7th. As President Roosevelt said, that date ‘. . . will live in infamy — the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.’ I was way too young to remember anything about it personally, but I did know one person who was there that Sunday morning: Colonel Dave.

“I met Colonel Dave when I was a Cadet at the Air Force Academy. I had grown up in Chicago, where hunting opportunities are, shall we say, limited. I was deer hunting on the Academy grounds and had just shot a nice buck. I was gutting it out when Colonel Dave pulled up in his white Jeep. He offered to help. He took some pictures with his camera — pictures which later showed up in Sports Afield, an outdoors magazine. We loaded the carcass onto the tailgate and pushed and shoved it into the back end so we could take it into the Cadet Dining Hall (Mitchell Hall, which was affectionately named Mitch’s’). There the staff processed it and made it available for our squadron to eat. That began a long friendship between two people who dedicated their lives to the service of our country and shared an affinity for hunting and fishing.

“Colonel Dave and I did a lot of hunting and fishing together while I was still at the Academy and for years afterwards. I could share a lot of stories about our experiences. Colonel Dave called that ‘research,’ because in his retirement he wrote stories for Sports Afield about better ways to hunt and fish. He did, but not very often, tell me bits about flying in WWII.

“He was a young fighter pilot stationed in Hawaii in December of 1941. There had been a formal ‘dining in’ which officers were obliged to attend. These events often ran into the wee hours, and it was not uncommon for attendees to consume alcoholic beverages. He was still wearing his mess dress uniform that Sunday morning when the attack began. Everything was chaotic. He told me that the airplanes were not loaded with munitions (for safety reasons), but that he still took off in that Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, to prevent it from getting destroyed on the ground. He was shot down on takeoff, but lived to fly again. He upgraded to the Lockheed Lightning P-38, where he had the opportunity to fly wing for Dick Bong, America’s leading Ace.

“Colonel Dave made a lasting impression on me, for his respect of the outdoors and wildlife. But he also helped me to understand those who served in the military and how important they are to preserving our freedoms. Their blood paid for it. Pearl Harbor signifies what America is all about.

“I will always remember Colonel Dave and his wife, Bobbie.”

The Permanent Sonly Record

John in Highland: “Our youngest son was destined from the start to be an engineer. Every year at Christmas, his favorite presents were cars and trucks and what he referred to as ‘workings.’ When he grew up and moved out, most of his Matchbox-size cars were boxed up and forgotten.

“Recently we discovered a bag with dozens of them inside, tucked in the back of a closet. There were tow trucks, ambulances, race cars, delivery trucks, dump trucks, and on and on.

“One group that serves as a sort of timepiece is a 1990 set of all four of the ‘Days of Thunder’ race cars that Tom Cruise drove in the movie of that name. Who could forget his love interest, Nicole Kidman?

“Up in our attic there is a big box labeled as containing all of our son’s ‘Micro-Machines.’ We are waiting to open that one!”

Keeping your eyes open

Dennis from Eagan writes: “A Bloomington church is probably looking for you to add a ‘$’ in the middle of their worship.

“A Duluth car-wash is offering free vacuum-cleaner use to members, not vaccinations — but whichever way you interpret Tommy’s message, you just need to ‘suck it up’ to be successful.”

Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “The political pundit on cable TV made a comment about ‘ignoring the gorilla in the room.’

“Do they even eat peanuts?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Oh, they eat them constantly. That’s how they get up to 800 pounds!

Our times
Pandemic Division (responsorial)

The REF in White Bear Lake: Grandma Paula’s recent puzzling submission brought to mind a puzzle we finished here recently. It came from a collection of ‘WASGIJ’ puzzles, where the picture on the box gives a hint to what the finished product will look like. One has to try to construct the puzzle using the point of view of a character in the picture . . . which doesn’t appear in the finished product! Confused yet? A picture, in this case, may be worth my remaining 921 words.”

Could be verse!

Another “timerick” from Tim Torkildson: “When driving down the road of life / you have to meet a little strife / but when the price of gas explodes / you can’t afford those handy roads!

“Instead you stay at home and sulk / or as pedestrian go skulk / on sidewalks, paths, in alleyways — / muttering of ‘end of days.’

“A bicycle will melt some fat — / if you can be an acrobat. / Or try a skateboard, gnarly dude, / if you have got the fortitude.

“Public transport would be nice / if buses smelled like edelweiss / and trains showed up on time, you know, / instead of running awful slow.

“A horse might do the trick, by Jove! / But then, it costs a treasure trove / to feed it in a stable where / they cater to the millionaire.

“If I had wings, O how I’d soar / these holidays like pterosaur! / Back to the family manse I’d flit / around the Xmas tree to sit,

“cracking nuts and singing Yule / instead of feeling like a fool / by bumming rides with Uncle Fred / who drives his car like some bobsled.

“But who am I to so complain, / about gas prices inhumane? / I’ll drive my car but once a year, / and travel just for Xmas cheer!”


This ’n’ that
Musicals Division (Stephen Sondheim Subdivision)

Two from Kathy S. of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: Stephen Sondheim.

“Broadway master Stephen Sondheim died last week, and many are mourning. Recently I figured out that my ‘fidget’ in life — what I turn to when I am restless or upset, or trying to figure something out — is words. And Stephen was a master of words. Amidst the memorials, I ran again into his lyrics to his song ‘No One Is Alone,’ from the musical ‘Into the Woods.’ I wonder if it could be a theme song for the messes and disagreements we are all in now — because it is hard to see a path to comfort when everyone feels lost in a forest.

“Re: ‘Into the Woods”: I haven’t seen the movie, but the musical was on PBS some years back, and I fell in love with it. It is based on familiar fairy tales. In Act One, we see the traditional stories: Jack goes up the beanstalk, and Cinderella marries her prince, etc. In Act Two, the fairy tales dissolve. Among other things [Bulletin Board interjects: SPOILER DIRECTLY AHEAD!], the handsome prince is cheating on Cinderella. You might enjoy it. I have to watch it again.”

(2) “Subject: How times have changed.

“A new movie version of ‘West Side Story’ is coming out. When the original was released, I was in eighth grade. I could not see it because I was told it was too adult for me, whatever that meant. My classmate Francie did see it, so I asked her about the movie. She said the star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony had a scene on a fire escape in which Maria wore only a slip while they sang a song. Neither of us ‘got’ why this was a problem. That scene seems unbelievably proper, now.

“I plan to see the new movie, and how they handle the ‘balcony’ scene over 50 years later.

“And I have to mention that I found James Bond books confusingly educational, back then.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul, is a careful reader of the sporting pages: “Subject: From the Sports sections of the Twin Cities dailies.

“In chronological order:

“(1) 11/27. STrib.

“A photo on Page C5 features Sara Scalia driving toward the basket in the Gopher women’s victory over Bradley. This was the beginning of the caption beneath the picture: ‘God things happened Friday for the Gophers’

“Sounds like a case of divine intervention.

“(2) 11/28. Pioneer Press.

“The headline on Page 4C reads: ‘St. John’s rally falls short against Linfield.’ Subhead: ‘Late field goal ends Johnnies’ comeback, sends Wildcats to semis.’ The article consisted of five paragraphs, and 190 words and numbers.

“The only thing missing? The final score.

“(3) 11/28. Pioneer Press.

“Clever headline. This was the headline on the front page of Sports after the Gophers defeated the Badgers to reclaim the Paul Bunyan trophy: ‘AXE MORE LIKE IT.’

“(4) 11/29. Pioneer Press.

“My high-school classmate Mike of Stillwater called my attention to this one.

“On the front page of Sports is an article detailing the Vikings’ loss to San Francisco. The continuation of the piece is indicated by this: ‘VIKINGS WIN, 3B

“This appears on 3B: “CONTINUED FROM 1B

“‘> Vikings win”

“At least they were consistent.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: As are the Vikings, of course — consistently disappointing!


Asked and . . . answered
Corndog Corner Division

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Is it just me, or . . .

“I watch a lot of boat builders on YouTube, and one of them just did something that I think looks cobbled together and inappropriate.

“I’ve done some things like that myself and found that the test of whether it’s just me — or does it look stupid to everyone? — is asking the Runabout: ‘What do you think, Honey?’

“To which the faint-praise reply is always: ‘I think it will be OK.'”

Band Name of the Day: Hot Chocolate

Website of the Day: Literature Clock

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