He was 16 years old, passing over Lexington Avenue on Highway 36, when the moment arrived for “the first line of my own story.”

Then & Now
Or: Mundane to Profound

The Linguidiot writes: “Subject: Tales of a youngest child.

“Been a long time since I’ve written, but reading others’ offerings lets me know that many BB’ers of a certain age fill some of the quiet time reflecting on the mile-markers of our long and — for me, anyway — fascinating journeys. As BB assures me, I’m never the only one, and I find it infinitely entertaining to assay what part these remembrances of mine played in getting me to where I am.

“Some are still too puzzling to wrench into place; others murky enough that I’ve probably polished them with imagined details to suit the purpose of my preferred narrative. Some, though, I remember with such clarity that the number of years between then and now shocks me, and their effect on who I became is undeniable. Such is one warm summer evening when I was 16. I knew on the spot, in an instant, my life had changed forever.

“A friend who had just passed his license test picked me up for a ride. On the Highway 36 bridge over Lexington Avenue, ‘The Theme From “A Summer Place”‘ playing on the radio, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that, even at 16, didn’t take much reflection to recognize. Until now, I had been the often-burdensome, tag-along ‘baby brother’ to my sister and three brothers. But this? For the first time, I was going off for the night with my own friend, making our own decisions about where we were heading. In the ensuing 60-plus years, I’ve driven that bridge thousands and thousands of times. The literary creature inside me never fails to appreciate having a nearby physical structure that’s such a strong metaphor for my transition from ‘baby brother,’ trying hard to be like my siblings and grabbing at their shirttails hoping to share some part of their adventure, to being me, writing the first line of my own story.

“To this day, one of my true ‘happy spots’ is behind the wheel of any vehicle, going wherever. On the move. Being free to revisit familiar routes, or take an unpredicted turn and see new sights. It keeps life unceasingly interesting. I dread the day my kids and I will have to have ‘the talk,’ but I’m sure walking, or ambling, has its attractions, too.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We would love to hear other Bulletin Boarders’ stories of the seemingly mundane moments that, in fact, marked turning points in their lives.

Here’s some excellent music to remember by:

The Permanent Family Record
Pandemic Division

DeAnne Cherry of Woodbury: “Subject: FAMILY HISTORY.

“I am writing today to the seniors who read the Pioneer Press.

“Since March 13, 2020, life has been so different. If you live alone, you know what I mean. I spent most of the year 2020 staying at home. However, in 2021 things did get better. I attended five Twins baseball games with my grandchildren and other members of my family. No one sat in the row in front of us, and no one sat in the row behind us. I went out to lunch a few times. But I still was home alone a lot.

“How did I keep myself busy all those days when I was alone? I did not stare at the TV all day. I read books, and I started to write family-history stories for my children and grandchildren. Following are some of the things that were in my
stories:

“My first story in 2021 was about my Grandfather Frank, who was born in 1890 in St. Paul. In school at age 10, Frank grabbed and dipped into his inkwell the blond hair of the girl sitting in front of him. He certainly was in trouble. Later in life, he married and built a house on Geranium Avenue on the East Side of St. Paul. When Frank was in his 50s, my brother got a cork gun for Christmas. Long before the movie ‘A Christmas Story,’ my mother told my dad not to buy the cork gun. She actually said: ‘Someone might get hit in the eye.’ What do you think Grandpa Frank did? He asked my brother to show him the gun. Frank then used our Christmas tree as his target and broke some of the ornaments. Of course, he was in trouble again. [Bulletin Board notes: Straight out of “The Thin Man,” 1934.)

“My second story was about my Grandmother Kate’s life. In 1905, at age 17, her occupation was listed in the St. Paul City Directory as a stripper. We have laughed and have had fun with the thought of Grandma being a stripper. However, below her occupation was the name of the tobacco company that she worked at. When I was a child, Grandma Kate told me stories from the past about our family. I loved hearing the stories.

“My third story was about the life of my mother, Melvina. As a young woman, she worked in the sandpaper division at ‘The Mining,’ later named 3M. In 1937, on a hot day in July, Melvina and a friend walked down Arcade Street and stopped for a nickel beer at Heinie’s Bar. The minute that she walked in, my dad noticed this lovely woman. Like in the movie ‘Casablanca,’ ‘of all the gin joints in all the world,’ my dad could have said: ‘Of all the beer joints in all the world, she walked into mine.’ On her second visit to the bar, my dad asked her out on a date. The rest is family history. [Bulletin Board notes: Let’s agree to let the “Casablanca” analogy pass without further comment!]

“I bet many of you seniors have great stories to tell. I think your family would like to hear or read stories about their past relatives. I hope I have persuaded you to share the past with your family. You will now have something to keep you busy when you are alone.

“I also wrote a story for my family about being a teenager in the ’50s. I lived on
Payne Avenue, and I went to Johnson High School. In 1955, a friend and I were at the Saint Paul Auditorium when Johnson won the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament. Also: My friends and I went to Borgstrom’s on Payne Avenue for nickel cherry Cokes, to Porky’s on University, and to the Prom Ballroom for Teen Night Dances. We could safely walk down Payne Avenue and hope that boys would drive by us and honk their car horn at us. These are just a few things that made life great in the 1950s for teenagers.

“I bet you are going to sit down and start working on your family stories. Have fun.”

Then & Now
The Dreaded Permanent Record Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff reports: “I’ve recently discovered one of those items that are often mentioned, either in jest or as a threat, but which few people have actually seen. It is none other than the dreaded Permanent Record. It does exist. In this case, it is the Permanent Elementary Grade Record — Archdiocese of St. Paul. I assume public schools had something similar, but cannot confirm it.

“I am not at liberty to divulge how or where I was able to temporarily peruse and secretly photograph this record, but will say there are many more where this one came from. I personally knew the person it belonged to, but have redacted personal information for security purposes. The information contained therein is correct although somewhat incomplete.

“This person was born in 1923, entered first grade on September 9, 1929, and finished eighth grade in June 1937. You can also see that according to the Kohlmann-Anderson ‘Mental Test,’ he had a slightly above-average I.Q.

“The back side of the record contains his Scholarship Record. Besides the classic three Rs of reading, writing/penmanship and arithmetic, it also has entries for things like Half Days Absent, Times Tardy, Deportment, Civics and Hygiene. A number system was used, rather than letter grades.

“This person has now passed on, but his Permanent Record has survived him. Students from the computer age can take heart knowing that the chances of their records’ outliving them are slim. But for those of us who are Older Than Dirt, our permanent records will be around far longer than we will be.”

What’s in a name?
Plus: CAUTION! Words at Play!

Semi-Legend reports: “Subject: Two recent household neologisms.

“On the shopping list, my wife wrote ‘Chef B.A.D.’ I knew it meant ‘Chef Boyardee.’ She became fond of its spaghetti and meatballs during COVID lockdown. I said: ‘Sounds like a rapper.’ I’m feeling generous, so any rapper can claim the moniker.

“My wife told me that my friendly old-codger remarks to a cashier at a supermarket were too flirtatious. I said I’d said similar things to older cashiers at a different store. She said the younger woman seemed annoyed. She asked: ‘Would you say the same thing to a male cashier?’ I pondered that.

“She said I had slowly, during COVID lockdown, become more of a mensch. Now I had slipped back.

“‘It appears,’ I said, ‘I have become the victim of de-mensch-ia.’ She, appropriately, groaned.”

Know thyselves!
Matching Pair Division

Rusty of St. Paul: “This morning I sent an email to a friend with a link to a newspaper story. I didn’t want to wreck a portion of the story that would be a kick for him; thus, I wanted to tell him I would not be including a ‘spoiler alert.’

“I couldn’t come up with that term, ‘spoiler alert.’ I asked my wife, and as I was describing the term, I had a feeling that she would not be able to come up with it, either — as that has happened to me in the past: being put on the spot in the moment and then getting all brain-anxious and unable to come up with it. Indeed, she had lost her nouns in that minute and couldn’t think of it, either.

“This afternoon she asked me what time she should go to her friend’s dad’s funeral tomorrow. I wanted to ask if she was planning on going to the visitation or just the Mass, but couldn’t come up with the word ‘visitation.’ After flustering, I said: ‘Are you going to the pregame ceremony?’ It was the best I could do, and, I thought, as a sports fan, brilliant — but she had to ask me what I meant.”

The simple pleasures
Leading to: The highfalutin pleasures (Keeping Your Eyes Open Division) — and: Everyone’s a critic! (Sitcom Division)

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: The little pleasures.

“For some of us, it really does not take much to identify something as a little pleasure. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and the shows I do watch tend to be older ones . . . and almost always I have seen multiple episodes multiple times: ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘Matlock,’ ‘World’s Dumbest,’ and ‘Frasier,] to name a few. If I am up late (which happens a lot), I tend to go to the Hallmark channel for ‘Frasier.’ I usually do not pay a great deal of attention, though, as I have seen all of the episodes.

“Now, to my little pleasure: At the beginning of each show, there is a drawing of the Seattle skyline and a bit of animation, along with a little musical ditty. If I am paying attention, I try to guess which animation will be displayed. I told you it was a little pleasure. I’ve always wondered how many of these little animations there are. To the Internet!

“Believe it or not, I found a discussion group (this one based in the U.K.) about this very topic. Turns out there are 21 different animations (and a separate musical ditty for each). For inquiring minds, here are the animations:

“A helicopter appears over the city.

“A rain-cloud passes over the city.

“A crescent moon rises.

“Lightning storm.

“A full moon appears and turns into a Jack-O-Lantern.

“A rainbow appears over Seattle for the last show only.

“The light at the top of the Space Needle flashes.

“The lift travels up the Seattle Space Needle.

“Lights go on in the skyscrapers.

“Nothing happens.

“Fireworks explode over the skyline.

“A blimp flies over the skyline.

“A crane lifts a load over the skyline.

“A full moon rises.

“The Space Needle is decorated with Christmas lights.

“A monorail is seen traveling across the city.

“A hot-air balloon passes over the skyline

“An airplane files overhead with a KACL banner.

“A shooting star passes over the skyline.

“Party balloons float up from behind the skyscrapers.

“Radio waves at the top of the Space Needle.

“I actually have been right, oh, three or four times over the course of several years. Each of those events has been cause for an arms-in-the-air celebration. Yeah, big whoop.

“By the way, with Valentine’s Day approaching, one might want to keep an eye out to see if a special episode (Season 6, Episode 14, first aired February 11, 1999) of ‘Frasier’ will be run. Probably my favorite of all, the episode is entitled ‘Three Valentines.’ ‘Frasier’ typically has secondary titles for each section of the show as well, and the first 10 minutes or so of this one is called ‘A Valentine for Niles.’ You would swear you were watching a shtick from a 1920s silent movie. The first time I watched it (starring only Niles and Eddie the dog), I was ROFLOL before I even knew what that meant. Check it out. I give it 5/5 stars.”

Our times (responsorial)
And: Everyone’s a (food) critic

Tia2d: “Subject: Crackers.

“Reading about Triscuits reminded me of the time we accidentally bought low-fat crackers. My husband declared that they were not too bad if you put a lot of butter on them.

“On the other hand, we accidentally bought a no-salt can of green beans, and there was NO amount of salt you could add to make them tasty.”

Our theater of seasons

Again, here’s Mounds View Swede: “As the sunrise moved farther north, it came up between some trees which provided ‘framing’ for its ascent.
I like how the branches break it up a little and mute its brightness.

“Our storm door frost is different this year, with a lot of lines or individual bits of frost.

“As before, it clears each day and starts with a blank ‘slate’ the next morning when I step out for the newspaper.

“I do like how elaborate some of these frost crystals become.

“From a lower window, I got a close look at the snow after if piled up a bit. You can almost see individual flakes on the surface.

“The deck railings had collected their share of the recent snows . . .

“. . . and I was intrigued by the way it melted with time, leaving bumps in certain areas.

“This is the southernmost deck railing, exposed to wind and sun. The pattern formed was quite distinct.

“It seemed ‘Nature’ was having fun with its ‘Art.’

” Keep it up, ‘Mother!'”

The Permanent Sisterly Record
Including: Our pets, ourselves

The Happy Medium: “Subject: Best of Show.

“One of my sister’s hobbies was raising Pembroke Welsh Corgis (the Queen of England’s pet dogs). My sister has many championship trophies to show for her expertise in producing the best-looking Corgis for shows in such locales as Pennsylvania, Canada, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Minnesota.     

“Because of health issues, she could not show her dogs in the rings. That’s when she called on friends and family to show them for her.     

“One of the first dog shows was in Duluth. I accompanied her to this one, as I had done before, with the expectation of watching from the sidelines. As luck would have it, try as she could, my sister couldn’t locate anyone to show her dog, Cider. Yes, you guessed it, I was ‘elected’ to take him into the ring, even though I loudly protested.     

“I remember there was much hustling and bustling, with owners primping their dogs before heading into the ring.     

“Amongst this mayhem was my sister quickly instructing me about how to walk Cider; how to lift him to the table for the judge to inspect; finally, how to post him for the judge’s inspection. With all that information tucked in my brain, I led Cider into the ring. My knees were a bit wobbly, but we made it around the ring without me tripping. When it was Cider’s turn, I lifted him to the table, and the judge looked him over. After that, the judge had me remove Cider from the table and told me to walk him around the ring once more. I did that, knowing we were being watched ever so closely. Stopping in place, I posted Cider to show his best features, and I held my breath.     

“Finally came the moment of truth: the judge’s choice for the Blue-Ribbon-Win.     

“Alas, Cider came in second, yet I proudly accepted the second-prize ribbon for him.     

“Dear reader, you need to know: Cider would easily have taken first place if only the other dog had stayed home. “

This ’n’ that

Both from Bill of the river lake: (1) “Subject: Historical leaders.

“The Lone Ranger, Batman, Robin and even Zorro were way ahead of their time, with no pandemic mandates.”

(2) “Subject: It’s all uphill.

“We were sledding with our son the other day, and a young family was also there enjoying the mild winter weather.

“Their son — about 9 or 10 — slid down the hill but climbed only about halfway up and went down again. He repeated this several times.

“Since I was curious, I asked him why he did this.

“He answered that it was his lifelong dream to climb Mount Everest, but only
halfway, then returning to the first basecamp.

“Whatever works, I guess.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: He would certainly improve his odds of surviving, that way.

Then & Now
Photography Division (responsorial II)

Like Booklady, I preserve my travel memories via photo albums. I also write a travel journal to accompany the photos and often refer to them whenever watching a documentary about a country or region that I have visited. And like Booklady, these travel albums are for my own enjoyment to relive when I am no longer able to travel. “

Gma Tom: “Little did I know that my last trip, in January of 2020, would probably be my last one, since COVID has definitely put a stop to my overseas adventures, and my age/health will get in the way of any future roaming. Besides the obvious scenery photos, I always try to get a photo or two of the local cute kids; it makes my albums so much more interesting.

“I still have ‘just one more’ trip on my bucket list for whenever COVID becomes history.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills:”Subject: After midnight? Or: On the weekend?

“This was a headline from the front page of the VARIETY section in the January 24 edition of the STrib. The item featured a photo of ‘Shaved beef with au jus and freshly made potato chips . . . .’

“‘The 5 best things we late last week’”

Muse, amuse
Million Dollar Ideas Division

D. Ziner writes: “Subject: February’s Days of Note.

“There was a time when I considered myself a creative failure if I had to actually purchase a birthday card. As one who doesn’t throw anything away, there was always something in a desk drawer or a box in a cabinet that could be repurposed into something that would commemorate just about any occasion.

“But when I looked at the calendar to find the day and week of a friend’s birthday in February, I noticed that there were quite a few notable dates — more than I would have expected for what I considered a doldrums month. After a couple of nights of those ‘can’t seem to get there’ dreams, the answer became clear: I would create a card that combined all the notable February dates — including a birthday theme.

“Not only would this clever card entertain my friend, but I planned to repeat the process for the rest of the months. I would then make millions by selling just 12 basic cards to satisfy the needs of the masses for the entire year. Reduced investment, simplified inventory, and all the other efficiencies of this dandy dozen. What could possibly be wrong with that business model? Probably just that my marketing and sales skills are even worse than my artistic skills.

“February was as far as I got, and thus the greeting-card industry could breathe easy, and the card consumers would never know what they were missing.

“The card’s artwork is about 50 years old and has not improved with age. And based on a modern calendar, I would have to add Lunar New Year, World Wetlands Day, and the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count.”

Our times

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: In honor of a wonderful young woman.

“I just read about the death of a recent Miss USA, from what may be suicide. It sounds as if she was a bright light for this world.

“Recently I told a younger relative who works in health care that, if she needs to ever call someone at 3:00 in the morning, she may call me. Because people who become too off-balance in life sometimes just need someone to break through despair — to help them hold on until they get trained assistance, and to tell them that we need them.

“An author of a new book said we all have PTSD from events in recent years, and she is right. Very few of us are at our best, right now. So maybe the world needs 3 a.m. buddies, who help each other the way sponsors in A.A. help those in danger.

“The lives we save may save the world.”

Life as we know it

The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “Subject: Scotch Tasting.

“This weekend, we engaged in a Burns Night Scotch Tasting event at the home of The Astronomer of Nininger and the Good Wife. We invited friends, most of whom were graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy — Officers and Gentlemen.

“We recognized that Burns could not have attained his status as the greatest Scottish poet were he not surrounded by remarkable women. In his short life of barely 37 years, he fathered 15 known children by at least five women. Beginning with the Selkirk Grace, we thanked the Lord with toasts to civilization and culture. We continued, with the assistance of five specially selected drams of Scotch whiskies from the different distilling regions of Scotland. We acknowledged the Lads and Lassies in attendance and those whose misfortune prevented them from being there. I led the toast to the Lassies, and the Good Wife led the reply.

“Auld Nature swears the lovely dears

“Her noblest work she classes.

“Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man,

“And then She made the lasses!

“We trained our palates and other senses to recognize subtle differences in Color, Nose, Taste and Finish, so we could appreciate the fine notes of our civilization. We ended the dinner by singing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ Now we are looking forward to next year and tasting more single-malt whiskies. The most important part is the camaraderie and getting together.”

The unspoken rules of the game
What Are the Unspoken Rules of the Game? Division

Rancid Beef of South St. Paul writes: “Subject: I’ll take ‘What’s a question?’ for 500, Alex.

“From time to time, I’ve been involved in training sessions at work where we play ‘Jeopardy!’ I’m not a fan. People don’t learn much by playing ‘Jeopardy!’ It can be fun, but as a teaching method it’s not very effective.

“My first exposure to the game was in seventh-grade home ec. I had never seen the TV show, so the teacher had to explain the rules to me. (To this day, I’ve never really watched ‘Jeopardy!’ I’ve seen more minutes of fake ‘Jeopardy!’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ than the real game show.)

“It was my turn, and under the category ‘State Capitals,’ the answer was ‘Minnesota.’ (If you’re wondering: No, that was not the real question answer. I don’t remember what it was, after all this time. Since the class was home ec, that was definitely not it. But it’ll do for this telling.)

“I started to reply: ‘St. Paul is . . .’

“The teacher stopped me, reminding me that my response had to be in the form of a question.

“I started again. ‘St. Paul is . . .’

“The teacher stopped me once again. ‘Remember, a question starts with who, what, why . . .’ The other students took the opportunity to chime in: ‘Yeah, that’s not a question! Don’t you know what a question is?’

“‘Yes, I know what a question is!’ I said, exasperated. ‘Just let me finish! St. Paul is the capital of what state?’ There was a pause. The teacher begrudged: ‘Well, yes. That’s correct.’ Then added: ‘But that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it.’ She went on to tell me I should have said: ‘What is St. Paul?’

“Wait, what? She wanted a question. I gave her a question. How was I supposed to know she had additional unspoken rules about the form of the question?

“And who says ‘What is St. Paul?’ My question made much more sense. Stupid game.

“I am still a bit grumpy about ‘Jeopardy!'”

Band Name of the Day: The Baby Brothers — or: Big Whoop

Website of the Day: Burns Supper

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