Life (and death) as we know it
The Daughter of the Gram With a Thousand Rules writes, from Hawaii: “Subject: Pearl Harbor Day.
“On Tuesday, December 7th, while attending the National Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony, I had one of those incredible moments in life where the sheer significance of events overwhelms and awes you.
“My husband and I moved to Oahu 17 years ago, raised our kids here, and have always brought our visiting friends and family from Minnesota to the Pearl Harbor Memorial when they come to Hawaii. It is a must-see. When The Gram With a Thousand Rules and my dad came to visit in 2006, they were able to ride the ferry across the harbor and go onto the memorial that floats above the sunken battleship. They saw the soldiers’ names engraved in the white marble and the oil that still seeps up from the watery grave of the soldiers entombed for eternity below on the U.S.S. Arizona.
“Every year, my husband would wish that we could be on the actual grounds on December 7th and meet and thank the surviving heroes of that fateful day. Each year, there are fewer and fewer of them left to attend. This year, on the 80th anniversary of that ‘date which will live in infamy,’ we were among the chosen few who won a lottery and received passes to be right there.
“It poured monsoon rains the night before; we received over 9 inches of rain in five hours. I wondered if the ceremony would even go on, since it was to be on the lawn and pier facing the memorial across the water.
“My very patriotic and excited husband was awake at 3:30 a.m., and we were at the Pearl Harbor gates by 5 a.m. The heavy rains diminished by sunrise, but a dark gray cloud cover and mist kept the crowds down from what had been expected. When the Navy Band began to play to honor the last few survivors, one as old as 102, and those aged heroes in wheelchairs saluted the band back, there were no dry eyes to be seen. The newest battleship in the fleet, the U.S.S. Daniel Inouye, sailed into view with soldiers lining the decks, and pulled alongside the memorial, raised the flag, and saluted the fallen heroes and survivors as we observed a minute of silence at 7:55 a.m.
“I thought back to 80 years before, when my mother, The Gram, was a scared 9-year-old child listening to the horrific news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor come across the radio, heralding the start of World War II. I was in awe to think of the events of that day, the men who gave their lives for their country and all that unfolded after. I wondered what that little girl in Bloomington, Minnesota, would have thought if she had been able to foresee the future and know that her baby daughter would one day live on that distant island that her sister Nora had pointed out on the globe for her that December 7th. Who could have imagined that her daughter would be right there at the site of it all with the survivors some 80 years later?
“I will always Remember Pearl Harbor.
“Mahalo for letting me share.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede‘s camera is enjoying our early-winter snows: “Looking out a lower window, I noticed how some evergreen branches did such a nice job of catching the snow.
“And some of the remaining leaves did, too.
“The deck boards made a nice pattern, too, with the railing shadows making it more interesting.
“One of the squirrels nesting in the nearby oak tree found something to munch on in one corner of the deck. There are two squirrels inhabiting the nest, so I expect to see some young ones come spring.
“A sunny morning really lit up the snow with sparkles that were eye-catching.
“And when I darkened one of the snow sparkle photos, it was very much like a night sky with some Milky Way showing.
“The snow on the oak limbs helps me notice how some branches really have some dramatic turns in them as they grow towards the light.
“I have never noticed other trees with branches that do this. I assume it is the strength of the wood that makes this possible.
“A ‘snaky’ path to the sun!”
Then & Now
Or: The highfalutin pleasures
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: St. Olaf College Christmas Festival.
“It was a very emotional afternoon for the final (Sunday, December 5, 3 p.m.) performance of this year’s St. Olaf College Christmas Festival — the first such in-person in a while, thanks to COVID-19. They were kind enough to provide streaming audio and video, so it was almost like being there.
“Some sadness: They remembered Professor Emeritus of Music Robert Scholz, who died of Parkinson’s Disease last February. Also, it was the final Festival for Steven Amundson, longtime composer, arranger and conductor at the college, as he is retiring after more than 40 years.
“As if we needed something else to remind us of this horrible pandemic, artistic director (and all-around good guy in charge of just about everything) Anton Armstrong tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before the festival and could not attend. He did send a recorded message assuring all that he was asymptomatic and did not expect any lingering effects. He would normally have conducted the final number (‘Beautiful Savior’), but a fitting solution was easily worked out, with Steven Amundson conducting his final song at St. Olaf.
“I cannot imagine how all of the singers managed with face masks (another cruel reminder of the pandemic) while performing. I would think they would get very warm after a fashion, and I did notice a few problems with masks slipping down.
“I actually attended one of these festivals right after high school, and this was a step back in time for me. Glad I put aside the time to ‘attend’ from a distance.”
The Permanent Sonly Record (responsorial)
Gab: “Oh lord, I had to laugh when I saw John in Highland‘s post. Just this summer, while cleaning out our garage in South Dakota so we can sell the property (we will then be full-time Floridians), we came across not only our boy’s cars, trucks, etc., but our grandson’s as well. We had to take several pictures in order to get them all in. We plan on selling these, as no one is interested in claiming them. Hope you enjoy this little collection.”
The verbing of America
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “This appeared on Page 2B of the Sports section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press:
“‘Hayden 1st Black woman to title’”
It just don’t add up!
The Mambo King: “Subject: Do the Math.
“The foodies among BB’ers may have noticed the opening of a new farm-to-table restaurant in Apple Valley, called Farmer and the Fishmonger. While perusing the online menu, I noticed an interesting price structure on ‘Grandma’s Dinner Rolls.’ The menu says these are ‘2 FOR 4 | 4 FOR 9.’ (The Cheddar Biscuits are the same.)
“I’m wondering if this might simply be a way of limiting consumption of glutinous products. But if I’m in the mood for biscuits when I go there, I’ll order two biscuits, and then order two more!”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Since The Mambo King sent us this note, someone at the restaurant must have noticed the same little problem.
Grandma’s Dinner Rolls are no longer on the menu, and Cheddar Biscuits are now “2 FOR 5 | 4 FOR 9.”
Looks like an interesting restaurant!
What’s in a name?
Or: CAUTION! Words at Play! (Boys Will Be Boys Division?)
LeoJEOSP: “Subject: Huong Win.
“Back in the very early 1980s, I worked for a computer company in Minneapolis called Control Data Corporation, with 25,000 employees in the Minneapolis area.
“Many Vietnamese were hired at Control Data as soon as they arrived from camps in Thailand. I was good friends with a gentleman named Huong Nguyen. Huong was one of the smartest people I ever knew.
“His name was pronounced Hung Win. If he saw a nice-looking young lady, he would play his ‘dumb guy’ and walk up to a young lady and say: ‘I am hung. My name is Hung.’ He would play a dumb guy who did not know what he was saying, but he was well aware of what he was saying. He spoke 100%-percent understandable English, as well as Vietnamese and French.”
Could be verse!
Or: ‘Tis the season (Pandemic Division)
Here’s Tim Torkildson, with “Rudolph the COVID Reindeer:
“Rudolph the COVID reindeer
“had a very funny nose —
“he couldn’t smell a darn thing
“and hung around in his bed clothes.
“Down at the vet’s small office,
“he was put in quarantine —
“that was the last time Rudolph
“at the North Pole was seen . . .”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Js the Willard: “I might have had a B-M!
“Friday evening, while watching Triple D (‘Diners, Drive-ins & Dives’) on the Food Network, there was a segment about a Polish restaurant in Hamtramck. Where? I had to look it up. A town (suburb) just north of Detroit.
“Saturday afternoon, while reading the January issue of Trains Magazine, I read a regular feature called ‘In my own words’ written by a 45-year veteran of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (now part of Canadian National). In the story, the engineer shared a ‘red letter day’ from 1997. It was about a short trip hauling auto racks between Pontiac and the Buick-Pontiac-Oldsmobile plant in (you guessed it) Hamtramck, Michigan!”
The vision thing (self-responsorial)
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills writes: “Subject: Remembering — and looking forward to — good times.
“It was December 10, 2021, and I was randomly perusing some previous Bulletin Board submissions when I came across this one from December 20, 1999:
“‘The vision thing:
“‘Subject: A new perspective.
“‘My stepson and his girlfriend were recently here from San Diego for a visit. It was her first time in Minnesota, and my wife and I explained how unusual it was to have such high temperatures and no snow this late in the year. We did have the glass in the storm door, however, and when she first noticed it, this was her comment:
“‘”Oh, you have a clear screen in your door.”
“’Thanks, Mayra, for providing us with a new way of looking at something we take for granted; you’re always welcome here.’
“Well, John and Mayra and their three children will be arriving back in Minnesota (they have visited in the interim) on the 21st, and I hope the weather cooperates once again.”
Or: Ah, the smell of it!
Donald: “Subject: Advertising: Just for the smell of it.
“Why are so many people in TV commercials smelling their laundry?
“I must be using the wrong detergent, because I’ve never felt the desire to be so ecstatic when removing my clothes from the dryer.”
Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?
Rusty of St. Paul reports: “Last week we bought a loaf of semolina bread — you know, the Italian bread that has semolina (pasta) flour in it and is coated with sesame seeds.
“At lunch today, my wife was looking for bread for a turkey sandwich. The semolina loaf was near the tail end and possibly getting moldy, which I’m sure subconsciously entered my mind as I aimed my thumb towards the bag and said: ‘There’s some salmonella bread on the counter.'”
Today’s helpful hint
’Tis the Season Division — plus: Our living language
Kathy S. of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: A suggestion for folks this year.
“This year I lost a friend to ongoing health problems. She left two devoted daughters who are facing their first Christmas without her. Instead of a Christmas card, I am sending them a card saying that I am thinking of them in their loss — Because they need to know they are not forgotten.
“It occurred to me that other people might want to do this, too.”
(2) “Subject: A new word I plan to use.
“While reading an obit for a wonderful woman who worked at Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore, I found the word ‘nibling,’ which I had never heard before. It describes the children of siblings — both nieces and nephews. Which strikes me as very useful and time-saving, even though it also reminds me of chocolate candies.
“Merriam-Webster has a nice explanation of it.”
Life as we know it
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: ‘Mystery Lake.’
“The drive from the Air Force Academy to the Collegiate Peaks wound through tight S-turns and an increasingly steep terrain that foreshadowed some of what lay ahead. Back in the early 1960s, I was, as they say, young, and no, I won’t say dumb, but I had not yet understood my place in this world. I was full of pizzazz and vinegar, grabbing for all the gusto in life.
“I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where, for as far as you could see in every direction, there were concrete streets, homes and industrial factories. People were immersed in a culture, scrambling just to keep up with life. Like a runner on a treadmill, no matter how fast you ran, folks never seemed to get ahead. Now, out in Colorado, I was free from that treadmill belt. I worked hard, going to school and training to be the best Air Force officer I could become. But on weekends I was literally a mountain man.
“I spent weekends, whenever possible, up in the mountains. I would read about places to go. There was the lure of ghost towns and the temptations to become one in nature with elk, deer and pronghorn antelope, as well as those wily brook and rainbow trout. The closer one is to this natural world, the closer one is to their creator and more likely to understand their role in the universe. I planned trips to the most exotic places in Colorado. One of those tempting attractions was a lake high up in the 14,000-foot-elevation wilderness region called the Collegiate Peaks. They stuck up above the terrain just west of Buena Vista, Colorado. They included Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale and the list goes on. I don’t remember the name of that lake, but I’ll never forget the journey getting there.
“Among other things, I enjoyed fishing. Back in the Upper Midwest, I caught bass, pike and bluegills, but trout seemed to hold an aura of mystic proportions. They required clean water, so that wherever trout were found, it had to follow that the water would be super-clean. I did not hesitate to drink the water that trickled down from the glistening white snowpacks of the high Rockies. Heck, I would just lie down in the front-leaning rest position (kind of like doing a push-up), holding my mouth open so it barely made contact with the nearly freezing water flowing beneath me. Slurp! And that was really so refreshing.
“I planned the ascent to this high lake literally for months, and thought that Ted and I would simply drive up to the trailhead and walk to the lake. Ted was a year ahead of me at the Academy and drove an Austin-Healey Sprite. It was a tiny sports car, not terribly powerful, but it more than served its purpose. We had gone elk hunting, fishing and chasing around in that car. Now we were headed to that mystery lake. Ted was from New Mexico and no stranger to the mountains. But by now, I knew as much as he did, if not more. We both wanted to fish a lake so remote that people rarely, if ever, got to it. Boy, we ought to catch those trout.
“It was the weekend before June week, the week of graduation festivities, culminating in the commissioning of another class of second lieutenants for the Air Force. Our weekend pass allowed us enough time to get there, fish for three or four hours and get back for our commitments. That little car just rolled along until the road became too steep. We did a lot of downshifting, but we finally reached the summit where Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale and other ‘fourteener’ peaks proudly stood out in front of us above their neighboring terrain. There still was snow all around, but thinking of those trout just waiting for our lures, we didn’t care.
“We arrived at a little ghost town named Winfield, which had been built along the creek that poured down from that remote, high lake itself. The strike-it-rich fever that infected gold seekers had been short-lived. There were not more than a dozen buildings and the spirits of former inhabitants left here. The weathered structures appeared to be mostly businesses — probably saloons, brothels and perhaps a general store. Any homes likely had been moved elsewhere. In the 1960s, it seemed remarkable to me what had actually withstood the test of time and the elements. It was really interesting to see, but still there was that lake calling us.
“To get started on the trail up to the lake, we had to cross a creek or go about three to four miles out of our way to get around it. That was a no-brainer! But how to cross that flowing water? Wading was not an option with the water deeper than our boots. It was only about 10 to 15 feet across, and the banks on each side were about 6 to 8 feet high. We were lucky in that a huge log made a natural bridge across that swiftly flowing current. We just had to walk maybe 15 to 20 feet on that log. I went first. The log was about 8 to 10 inches in diameter, plenty strong enough to hold our weight. That meant the very top of the log was hardly more than the width of our boots. We both wore military combat boots, which, in those days, did not have an aggressive tread. I just about got across when Ted said something about coming. Carefully he stepped. You had to take ‘baby’ steps, as bigger ones might change the friction vector, and we sure did not want to end up in that creek. It was flowing rather swiftly. We especially wanted to keep our gear dry. Just as I turned around, I saw Ted trying to keep erect, undergoing some weird kind of oscillatory gyrations that increased in frequency, reaching their maximum just as the boot and log rapidly separated. The snow I had stepped on, ‘mushed’ into a slippery surface, was slicker than greased goose droppings. Ted came crashing down, but he managed to land just across the water onto the steep bank, cushioned by a foot of snow. I extended my hand, and he readily pulled himself back up. No one got soaked. We were on our way again.
“The mountain peaks were clearly visible when we arrived, but the sky was now developing into cloudy, storm-like conditions. We were able to see what looked like an opening that formed a trail, but it was closing in rapidly. Both Ted and I knew that it was unwise to continue on with these weather conditions and the temperature falling . . . and what was that? Yes, it was: snow starting to fall all around us. Oh, Sugar! We had gone about a mile beyond that creek crossing, and we could have made it back to the car. Who knew what lay ahead, but maybe it would be better in the morning and we’d be that much farther up the trail?
“We had no tent, but those military sleeping bags were packed with more goose-down fill than you could imagine. We literally laid them out on the snow and ice that covered the trail and slept right there. Actually, we were toasty warm, and, sustained by the minimum rations we had brought with us, we were quite comfy. The night went by rather quickly. After all, the calendar was already at the beginning of June, and the days were getting longer — only a few weeks to the Summer Solstice.
“I don’t recall if Ted or I awoke first, but whoever did could tell that we were not going to get to that lake that day. The weather was too nasty. It was getting colder, and the snow appeared to have added another foot to its white blanket that covered us. We didn’t bother to eat anything for breakfast; we just left. The snow was getting deeper every hour, and now it was well over our knees. We considered stopping and cutting some willows that grew along the creek we were following, to fashion some sort of snowshoes. It had been slow going uphill, but we thought that since we had plowed our way uphill this far, retracing our steps downhill would be easier. In retrospect, I think making the snowshoes would have been better. We got to the log that bridged the creek for us and pointed to where Ted’s Sprite was parked.
“We made it back to the ghost town uneventfully but did not set any record time doing so. Being careful and methodical paid off. We arrived at the car, scraped off the snow that covered it and got the engine running and the heater roaring. In a short while, we were headed back to the Academy.
“The drive back was somewhat somber. Neither of us was happy about aborting our fishing trip — but at the same time, we had no hard feelings. We had learned that as summery as it had seemed back at the Academy, this was too early in the year to approach ‘Mystery Lake.’ Once the road descended below the timberline, we were in pleasant weather conditions again. There would be no opportunity for Ted and me to get to that ‘Mystery Lake,’ because Ted would graduate on Wednesday. Ted would be going on to Pilot Training, and I would be at the Academy another year.
“Because I was now going to be a First Classman (senior), I would still have another opportunity to go to that ‘Mystery Lake’ and test my skills with my trusty old bamboo fly rod. It was intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that it would be unwise to wait until next the May or June. I would have to reach that lake sometime yet that summer, but at its very end.
“People who were stationed at the Academy were very generous. Both officers and enlisted folks had hearts of gold. They always went out of their way to help cadets. Before I was a First Classman and could get my own auto, one sergeant who worked in the dining hall would lend me his Jeep to go hunting. Others would invite us to their homes for dinner or even weekends. It turned out that two officers from the Mathematics Department offered to drive me in a brand-new Jeep station wagon to ‘Mystery Lake.’
“It was perhaps a week before Labor Day, and I was finally on my way back there. It was a beautiful day, and we planned to drive there and back in one long day. So we left early and got to the trailhead, where there was no snow at all. We drove beyond Winfield and found a place we could drive across the creek. No problems with that log crossing.
“Getting to the lake itself meant driving along the trail, sometimes having to go along in ‘granny’ gear, but we got to within a mile or so of the lake. I remember seeing it as we cleared a rise in the trail. The sun glistened off the surface, and it looked like few people ever got here. It wasn’t a terribly large lake — maybe about 5 acres in total area. This was a real gem, shining to let everyone know how precious it is.
“It was amazing how blue it looked, reflecting the crystal-clear azure sky that surrounded the waters. Once you got close enough, you could see the bottom of the lake, the rocks that were more brownish in color, until it got so deep that the color got extremely dark. I rubbed the ferrules of my rod sections along my nose, providing an oily lubricant so that the sections of the fly rod smoothly fit together. I aligned the guides and carefully slid the fly line through them, getting ready to attach some leader material and a fly.
“Not being an entomologist, I had no clue what fly to use. I had no idea what kinds of insects lived at this altitude. I tried a black gnat, which seemed to work in most places I fished. But not here. So I put on a Grey Hackle — not terribly different, but that red tail must have meant something to the fish, for I caught five in no time. I noticed one thing about these fish, which were common rainbow trout. They had enormous heads compared to their bodies. I suspected that with the water so cold and the feeding season short-lived, the heads grew normally, but there was little food each year to sustain normal growth rates. Some years later, I confirmed this when I was a fishing guide in Wyoming.
“But I learned something special about fishing and being one with nature. Catching all the fish you can matters so much less than the fishing experience itself. You can have a great time fishing, and if you catch fish, that’s a bonus. Fishing ‘Mystery Lake’ had nothing to do with catching fish. It was the experience, which lives on long after the fish are fried. It had to do with the expectations Ted and I shared, even though Ted never got to catch a fish there. It had to do with the the journey, with the fish we released and the good times telling others about something they may never feel.
“‘Mystery Lake’ is likely still there. I don’t know what the state of Colorado has done to preserve its mysteries for others, but I hope they will learn as much about themselves and their universe as I did. If someday I can get back there, I will step back in time as well.”
Band Name of the Day: Salmonella Bread
Websites of the Day, recommended by Semi-Legend: