Category Archives: Stories

Two Bits

I see in the news that Maya Angelou is going to gracing our nation’s 25-cent piece this year.  I was actually a little skeptical about this, seeing as how Harriet Tubman hasn’t made it onto the twenty-dollar bill yet and they’ve been talking about THAT for years.

But apparently there is a whole series of 2022 American women quarters planned: Sally Ride, Maya Angelou, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong.  While I know Sally Ride (physicist, first American woman in space), Maya Angelou (writer, social activist) and Anna May Wong (first Chinese American film star in Hollywood), I have to admit that I didn’t know the names Wilma Mankiller or Nina Otero-Warren.

Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected as principle chief of the Cherokee Nation and a lifelong activist for Native American rights.  Her surname Mankiller is a Cherokee name (Asgaya-dihi) and refers to a traditional Cherokee military rank, like major or captain.  She was elected Principle Chief in 1985 and served very successfully for ten years.  She was Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year in 1987, was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton.

María Adelina Isabel Emilia “Nina” Otero-Warren was a woman’s suffragist, educator, politician and the first female superintendent of the Santa Fe public schools.  In her role as superintendent she advocated abolishing the practice of sending Native American children to boarding schools  and sought to integrate ethnic cultures and languages into the New Mexico school curriculum.  She became the Director of Literacy under Franklin Roosevelt and later worked to preserve historic structures in Santa Fe and Taos and continued to promote Native American arts, language and culture.

I wish I had known who they were earlier, but I suppose this is better than never knowing them.  I’ll have to make sure to get one of each of these quarters in the coming year.

Did you ever collect coins?

Never Enough Dragons

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned dragon books.  Right after that, one of them came up for check-out at the library – Here, There be Dragons by James Owens.  It’s part of a series called Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica and true to it’s title, we had imaginary creatures (dragons) on the first page. 

As the story unfolded we also got references to King Arthur, Captain Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, trolls, dwarves, centaurs, Pandora’s box, Stonehenge and, of course, talking badgers.  Although the story starts out in WWI London, almost all of the story takes places in the “archipelago of dreams”, a world which is apparently one of many alternative realities. 

As the first in a series, this one was a little bogged down by all the explanatory bits related by various characters, but the fascinating weaving of all kinds of myths and stories into the plot was just enough to keep me going as well as the quote: “Did he now?” said Charles as a smile began to cheshire over his face.”  That alone was enough to make me want to pick up the next volume.  And no spoiler alerts but the last chapter was worth its weight in gold, in terms of pulling together the strands of the story and leaving you with a tingling feeling that you should have known it all along.

If you could make one fantasy/imaginary place come alive, what would it be?

Misery Loves Company

“Cyril, a good judge of human mood, nudged gently at his side.  Canine body language for “I understand”.  Dogs understood misery.”

This is a quote from The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith.  It’s a fabulous little book that I’m about half way through.  But quote above is in the first chapter.  Bertie, who is seven, is disconsolate over having to attend a mostly-girls birthday part.  Cyril is the next-door neighbor’s dog.  When I read this, I was immediately reminded of a time when I was about seven and was completely heartbroken over something.  I don’t remember what the issue was but I do have a snapshot in my memory of sitting on the wide stairs of my home and crying as if there were no tomorrow. 

While I cried, our family dog, Princess (aka Princess the Wonder Dog) crept over quietly and sat down beside me.  She laid her head in my lap and I clutched her to me as I bawled.  I remember this as if it happened yesterday – the feel of her clearly sympathizing with my misery.  It’s true – dogs understand misery. 

I can’t wait to finish this book; I’m assuming there may be some other nuggets that will speak to me.

Do you remember when you found out the truth about Santa Claus?

Groutfit

On Monday YA ran an errand over lunch.   It was a short errand, so I decided to just go out in my work-from-home clothing.  Gray sweatpants and t-shirt.  At the last minute decided to throw on a sweatshirt; I have a new one that is gray with a blue-tone logo. 

YA didn’t say anything while we were out, however when we got home she said “you’re wearing a groutfit”.  Normally everything about my sartorial choices is met with YA’s disdain.  I assumed she was making the word up, a combination of grungy and outfit.  She said that it was a real word although she did not define it.

I looked it up later to see if she was just messing with me and it turns out it is a combination of gray and outfit.  And surprise surprise, apparently it is considered a chic casual trend.  You can find lots of groufit shopping opportunities online.  One of the funniest things I found was this quote:  “Dress it up with fun shoes and jewelry, or lean into groufit territory hard with some gray legging or dozy socks.”

Of course, as I think about it, I’m sure YA was just suggesting that I was all in gray, not that I was looking particularly chic!

Have you ever been accidentally trendy?

Ouch!

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

Accidents are part of life, and kids are especially likely to take risks or do dumb things that result in injuries. One of my sister’s sons was a wild child who lit fires, jumped off garages, climbed trees, explored dangerous caves, ascended water towers and did other unsafe things. As an experiment, he once bit a wire attached to a lamp, a lamp that was plugged in. Electricity burned a hole in his tongue, sending him to a doctor’s office.

Apart from my one wild nephew, kids in my family have been remarkably prudent and accident-free. My daughter had only two accidents of note. Well, she had three if you count the time a dog bit her, but I blame the dog for that one. That accident had an unanticipated benefit. My daughter had struggled to remember which was her right and which was her left hand. After the bite she knew that her right was her “dog-bite hand,” and never again was confused about left and right.

My grandson is a good example of a kid who is naturally cautious. One afternoon he was walking with scissors in my apartment. My daughter reflexively said, “Be careful Liam!” He wasn’t running, and didn’t appreciate being cautioned. In a quiet voice, Liam responded, “When have you ever seen me not being careful?” I thought that was a nice sentence from someone who was six.

I must have had that same natural caution, for I had very few accidents in spite of living what would now be regarded a risky childhood filled with BB guns, bicycles, bows and arrows, hunting knives and many firearms. While swinging on a very tall swing set at school I used to pump for speed and then “bail out” to sail through the air. In fact, all of the play equipment I used so recklessly as a child would be banned as too dangerous by today’s child safety experts. But I never broke a bone, suffered a concussion or had a cut serious enough to require stitches.

The one exception was when my buddy Mike shot an arrow into me. When I was fourteen I discovered a dump that was heavily infested with rats. The dump, as was true of all such places at that time, was just an open hillside where garbage was strewn willy nilly on the surface. Of course, the place stank from rotting garbage. Plumes of rancid smoke wafted over the dump, making our clothing fragrant.

For reasons that escape me now, my friends and I spent many hours hunting the dump rats with bows and arrows. Although it was a pointless activity, it was challenging. The rats were smart and quick, and they rarely ventured anywhere in sight because they had a fantastic system of tunnels in the rubbish that let them travel unseen.

One day a young rat made the mistake of leaving the security of the tunnels, and it ended up running in little circles around my feet because it apparently didn’t remember where there was an opening to the tunnel complex. I always wore four-buckle black rubber boots for trips to the dump. With the rat running right around my feet I was hopping about in panic. My panic deepened when Mike came up with his bow at full draw—a bow powerful enough to hunt deer—and let loose an arrow. Mike was a superb athlete but somewhat excitable.

I’ll never forget the astonishment of looking at my foot. Mike’s arrow had gone through the boot, through the leather street shoe underneath and was now sticking up proudly like a little flag pole. I limped out of the dump and pulled off my footwear. The arrow had hit my big toe, but apart from that had done little damage.

Back home, I handled the wound the way any teenage boy would have: I kept quiet about the accident because I didn’t want my mother to explode with anxiety. But when I left for school the next day, my mother couldn’t fail to see I was limping, so she forced the story out of me. She was not mollified by my insistence that I was okay because “it was a new, clean arrow that had only been through one rat.”

Did you have childhood accidents? Have you had some close calls? Did you ever do things as a kid that you now know were stupidly risky? Do you remember any painful or unpleasant remedies for childhood mishaps?

By Any Other Name…

Names are a big deal in my business.  You have to have legal names for air ticketing, names for namebadges, nameplates for dinner seating, names on awards – sometimes one person can have four different names in these situations. 

Over the years, I’ve seen some doozies.  One couple asked for “Chief” and “Boots” on their badges – the client said no.  I’ve had requests for Princess, Houdini, Sport, even the Big Lebowski.  Several times participants have “exaggerated” their titles when they register for programs.  It’s always pretty clear when someone’s title shows up a President of their company.  I did have someone once type in “Grand Exalted Poombah” – guess he thought we didn’t really need the information and he could have some fun. 

The best name I ever came across was Waightstill Scales.  His nickname was Booger. And the company that he worked for had an award named after him since he was their top salesperson of all time.  The Booger Scales award.  And his namebadge?  You guessed it, Booger Scales.  I kid you not.  I think you’d have to be really confident to carry that name your whole life and then to give it to your son, whose nickname was Waighty.  Waighty Scales.  I swear, I am not making this up.

What’s the funniest actual name you’ve heard of someone having?

Door Stoppage

Photo credit:  The Avocado

On Friday Steve suggested a book be used for a doorstop that Clyde needed.  My very first thought was Ulysses.  I was an English major at Carleton and there were two infamous lists.  One was the short list – about 100 titles that you’d better have read before your comprehensives at the end of your senior year.  Then there was the long list – this was about 500 titles – that the English department thought you should read if you wanted to be truly well-read.  I know, I know, incredibly  presumptuous.  I got copies of these lists in my sophomore year and kept them for years.  As you can imagine, Ulysses was on that list and while most of my brain knows there is no reason I have to read this, a little bit still thinks that I should wade through Joyce.

Three years ago when I started getting rid of excess stuff, I realized I had THREE copies of Ulysses.  Unfortunately for Clyde’s needs, I got rid of all of them, along with most of the guilt that I never could get through the first chapter, much less any farther.

But it made me think about what other books I could imagine consigned to doorstop-hood.   I pulled up my reading list to look for 1-star titles that I wouldn’t mind using to keep a door open.  I started keeping this list in 2007 but didn’t start assigning stars until 2013.  I actually don’t have too many two-star titles, and next to no one-star ratings (it’s a 1-5 rating).  Life is too short – if a book isn’t shaping up, it goes back to the library (or if I actually purchased it, on a pile to be donated to the library).

I do have a few one-stars, but they bring up a secondary problem… I don’t actually remember all of them.  So here’s a short list of my one-star doorstop recommendations:

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (not even a whiff of memory about this one)
  • The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (I know that tim loved this one, but it didn’t have enough surrealism to support an unbelievable plot)
  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. I kinda liked the first few and I do like the Hallmark movies made from the series, but this one stunk and the main character stepped over so many lines (moral AND legal) that I couldn’t believe it.
  • Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick. You all know I love alternate-reality future stories but this one did NOT satisfy.  Several concurrent stories, which did not ever intersect, did not wrap up  in any meaninful way and one that jut didn’t make sense.  (And in looking at the reviews of the tv series, they pretty much didn’t use 95% of the book.)
  • And then my one and only negative star title… Swamplandia by Karen Russell. I only finished this because it was a book club title.    Unbelievable set-up, unlike-able characters, tragic outcome and ending that could not happen in anybody’s reality.  There are actually good reviews of this book, but I can only say that hallucinogenics must have been involved.

Any nominees for a door stop?

Rock Bend 2021

Today’s post comes to us from tim.

this years rock bend was a solo trip for me

it had been mentioned earlier that maybe a group effort would be fun and i responded with a yes but as groups sometimes do it got lost in the shuffle

i am not as good as i could be at putting x on my calendar when i’m doing something so without a reference i signed up to do my delivery ditty on saturday night. i get dibs early because those spots tend to disappear quickly and friday and saturday nights are prime time so i had committed for 5-7 & 7-9 on saturday which would mean leaving rock bend about 4.

i looked up when it started and who was playing and discovered that the family who does a nice foot stomping version of old timey and appalachian banjo kind of stuff started things off at 12 and city mouse which is mike pengra’s band was at 1 with special guest pat donahue and then pat was to play on the little stage where krista used to work at 3.

the first group was good city mouse was great and pat donahue was a treat as an addition and pats solo performance on the songwriters symposium on the little stage was fantastic

i really like him and his songwriting talent is something i really admire

i went in packed light. i had a thermos of tea and a tea cup that’s it. i walked in 15-20 minutes early and looked to see if vs or linda might be there and not seeing them plunked down in a similar front row position to what we usually achieved. this was easy with one butt and a thermos as the required space criteria. after i got steeled in i noticed i recognized that many of the surrounding faces were familiar from years gone by.unfortunately the way these memories were tweaked was by the fact that after i was seated a bunch of folks showed up and set their folding chairs up in front of the front with no regard for the views they were blocking out who had gotten their prime spot by showing up on time and choosing unobstructed site lines.

i have a problem with the people who are so self important that they just do it and never think about what a crappy thing that is to do to someone else. bad enough on the freeway to line butters who go up to the front and cut in line in front of all us minnesota nice wimps who let them in but at a concert to block someone view is unforgivable . this was followed by an observation that maybe had been going on previously but i hadn’t noticed because of being there with a group but all around me people were in conversation while the music was playing. if the music got loud they had to raise their voices to be heard over the music. this combined with folks who stood and chatted with someone who they knew in front of a group they blocked the view of.

i felt like an old curmudgeon who was spoiling my own fun but it really bothered me

at the final ditty where pat donahue was on stage with two other songwriters i had front row seats and had talkers laughing and exclaiming and paying no attention on either side of me.  there was empty turf between me and the stage and so me and my thermos went and laid down in the grass and a couple little kids cam and the their moms and sat down closely with me ans i thoroughly enjoyed the show glad i letting the talkers back there as they continued to expound

sunday i have scheduled a football bar b que get together at my house carte blanche this year an hour before kick off so my mom at age 92 has somewhere to celebrate her football enthusiasm, she had to leave at halftime to go to another meeting called by someone who is not football sensitive. it was a good gathering and i thought about heading over to bbc afterwards but as sometimes happens these things drag on and it was 430by the time things wrapped up

too late for bbc

too late to go catch the end of rock bend

i’ll probably put an x on next year and tri it again now that i know it’s the weekend after labor day but i may be

setting myself up for misery

it was easier with friends and wine but isn’t everything

what kind of calendar are you using these days to keep yourself on track?

52 Loaves

Clyde sent me a reading recommendation – 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by Wiliam Alexander.  It’s the year-long journey of a man trying to make the perfect loaf of bread.

I was a bit leery.  I’ve read quite a few of these “set yourself a journey” books in the last few years.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – to name a few.  While mostly enjoyable, it started to feel like a fad to set yourself a year-long challenge and then write a book about it. And I was a little worried that after about 8 weeks of bread baking, I’d be ready to toss the book in a 550-degree oven.   But I’ve never gotten an unsatisfactory reading recommendation from Clyde (well, except for that Death by Rhubarb), so I picked up Loaves and read it through.

It was quite nice.  Just about the time you never wanted to hear about air holes and crumb texture again, the author would veer off on a related (or not so related) topic such as the history of pellagra, the maker of the Quik Lock – that little plastic bit that hold a bread bag closed, building an oven in his backyard, a trip through the streets of Morocco.  He does eventually make what he considers a perfect loaf; interestingly enough it’s when he ends up teaching some monks in France how to bake.  And then at the end of the year he realizes that his single-minded pursuit of that loaf of bread had really kept him from enjoying his kitchen and lets it go.  

I used to make more bread.  I have several bread cookbooks and even two bread machines (long story) but these days, bread just doesn’t get eaten fast enough around here.  One of my favorites is a thick, moist oatmeal bread but YA doesn’t like it much and I can’t eat it fast enough before it spoils.   Maybe I should just find a neighbor that I can foist a half loaf on every time I bake!

Any bread stories out there?  Make your own or have a favorite bread bakery?  Knead by hand or with a dough hook?

On A Roll

Three vignettes from yesterday.

Since I’m still working from home, I had on my “uniform” yesterday of jersey shorts and a tank top.  I threw on a nicer top for a client call and never took it off.  At noon, YA and I drove down to Walgreens to get our drive-thru covid tests (since we’d been to the fair so many times).  When I got into the car, YA looked me over and said “you’re not wearing THAT, are you?”  I replied that since I wasn’t getting out of the car and the Walgreens technician would only see the top 1/3 of me, yes.  YA rolled her eyes.

On the way home (both tests negative, by the way), as I was waiting at an intersection to turn right, a man with his two white/cream golden retrievers was standing on the corner until the “walk” light came on.  The dogs were gorgeous, so I rolled down the window and called to him that his dog were beautiful.  He said thanks; I turned right and drove on.  “MOOOOOMMM” said YA. 

I purchased a thing-a-ma-gig at the fair that makes it easy to put my hair in a bun.  I’ve been playing with it and when I got home I put my hair up, making the bun pretty high on my head.  Then I had a client call.  A bit later YA came into my studio.  “Did you have your hair like that during your call?”  I replied yes and she responded “It was already bad enough that you’re wearing that shirt” and then she proceeded to show me a picture of an anime character (see above) and although she didn’t say it directly, the implication was that I look like Zeniba.

So I’m three for three in embarrassing my child in one day.  Not sure I can best that record without seriously trying.

Tell me what cartoon character you look like?  Or would LIKE to look like?