Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another True Thing (When I got shot at)

Back in 1959, my  husband had a job interview in Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is a port city on the western side of Lake Superior. There's a lot of iron ore and grain shipping traffic going out and coal coming in through the harbor.

I had never been to Duluth so it was a really big deal to travel the 300 miles and spend a night in an hotel. We arrived in the early evening and drove around sight-seeing. One of the iconic sights in Duluth is the Aerial Lift Bridge. It's unique because it's constructed so the entire roadbed is raised to allow ocean-going vessels to pass underneath.

 We drove across to the residential side of the bridge and turned around to head back. Just as we started across the bridge, we saw a man come running up behind us shouting and waving a gun. Then he started firing the gun at a man running up ahead of us. It wasn't until the man ahead turned around and started firing back at his pursuer that we realized we were in the middle of a gun battle. The bullets were ricocheting off the bridge girders around us.

We sped up and went to the other side and parked near other witnesses. The cops showed up soon after. By then, the man who was being chased had gotten away. The pursuer, who was barefoot, was out of breath and very angry as he told the cops what happened.

The victim owned a vending machine business and had made his collections for the day. He brought them home, kicked off his shoes and lay down on the sofa to take a nap. He woke to find the robber standing over him with a gun. As soon as the robber fled with the money, the victim grabbed his own gun and went after him.

The cops took our statement and we left. Afterward, we went to a bar to talk about it with other folks. We bought a copy of the local newspaper the next morning, but the robber hadn't been caught.

In retrospect, it seemed like the entire event was merely a part of the whole trip experience. We just went back home and left it back in Duluth. As it turned out, the job offered didn't pay a high-enough salary that the move would be worth it. So, I just filed it away in my memory as the only time I have been shot at.

(My son is a "luthier" who repairs violins and string instruments. He once attended a small convention of luthiers in Duluth. He told me afterward, "I was the Lutheran luthier in Duluth."  He loves wordplay like that.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

This is a holiday weekend. Today is Memorial Day, also called Decoration Day. There will be events out at the huge Veteran's Cemetery near Fort Snelling and all across the country. Most folks just go put flowers on the graves of loved ones, however.

My uncle, Wesley Parrish served in WWII and was a POW of the Japanese. He went on with his life and never talked about the experience. He worked hard and had a family because that's how it was done in those days.

Years later, his son--my cousin, Steve--went to Viet Nam. He came home and went on with his life. Like his father, he worked hard and had a family.

Steve's son, Troy is now over in Afghanistan. He's been deployed for the fourth time. His wife just had their first child.

So, here we are celebrating a holiday for all those veterans and service people, and I can't help wondering--when will it get better? Is it the destiny of the free world to keep "putting out fires" forever?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I loved this movie!

Yesterday, my daughter Brenda had a day off. She's a nurse at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. She wanted to see a movie that was showing only at an "Art House" theater over in Minneapolis. It was her idea. I'm a St. Paul person--I don't do Minneapolis any more than absolutely necessary.

St. Paul and Minneapolis are separated by the Mississippi River but are very distinct cities. St Paul is the State Capitol so there are a lot of government buildings here as well as the History Museum, Science Museum and the State Fairgrounds. Minneapolis is bigger and livelier, and that's where the independent (or "small") films open.

All I knew about "Bernie" was that it's about a murder in a small Texas town. As it turns out, the film is a dark comedy based on real events. And, it is very funny--the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It always makes me laugh

There are those rare things in life that are so funny that every time you remember them, you can't help but burst out laughing.

One of mine happened years ago when my daughter, Brenda was about thirteen. The Avon Lady came to our house selling cosmetics and fragrances. She opened up her case of products and showed us some sample vials of various colognes. Bren asked to smell the jasmine. She took the stopper off the tiny vial and held it up to her nose. It was such a light fragrance that she couldn't get a good whiff. Before I knew it, she inserted the vial into one nostril, closed the other nostril with her finger and snorted it!

She started coughing and sputtering, her eyes watering, as the Avon Lady and I looked on in astonishment. When we realized what happened, we both laughed so hard we were practically rolling on the floor.

Poor Brenda was exhaling perfume for hours afterward.The only after-effect she has suffered is the indignity when we retell the story and laugh all over again. (In fact, I laughed the whole time I was writing this!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Small dogs have big attitudes

From my favorite cartoonist Van Amerongen's "Ballard Street".

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My biggest hit of all time!

I discovered that I can go back through all my old postings and see which ones got the most views. I found this post from October 17, 2009 got a whopping 423 views! What's especially odd is that it got only four comments. Probably someone referred to the posting elsewhere and directed crafters to it.

I got this picture off the Birds and Blooms website. These darling ladybugs are just old painted bowling balls. The directions are shown on their webpage online.

It seems like these lawn decorations would last for many years, unlike the plastic stuff you find almost everywhere. (Of course, if you've been tortured by the nasty, biting Asian Beetles that look like ladybugs, you probably wouldn't regard them very fondly.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mom and the afterlife of plants

My mom, bless her heart, did not have a green thumb. As much as she loved houseplants, she could not keep them growing to save her soul.

Her favorite plant was the Gloxinia, a showy floral with large flowers of magenta, purple or vivid pink. A healthy plant would bloom enthusiastically until it gradually declined and stopped.

Now, the wonderful thing about Gloxinias is that after they die back, you can rest the plant in a cool, dark place for a month or two. The plant will then “return to life” and, with proper care, it will blossom once more.

This was a big factor in her love of the gorgeous plants. While all the African violets, amaryllises, Easter lilies, poinsettias and other plants that died in her care were gone for good, the Gloxinia had the potential to live again. My frugal mom also loved that idea that she could justify the cost as a good buy since the plant could come back to bloom another time.

Every Spring, she bought a beautiful, healthy Gloxinia covered with buds and blossoms and brought it home. When the plant finally died back, she carried it into a dusty corner of the basement to rest-- and then forgot about it.

After Mom died, my siblings and I were faced with the task of cleaning out her basement. Among all the boxes of clutter were dozens of old plastic pots, still wrapped in pastel-colored foil and containing the desiccated remains of old Gloxinias.

I like to think of this as a sweet testament to Mom’s enduring belief in some kind of afterlife—and just maybe, that we all get a second chance to bloom.

              When the gloxinia dies,
              The leaves turn limp and gray
              The last blossom falls off.
              Then mother puts the pot away
              To rest and reinvigorate.
              She believes it will bloom again
              That someday it will be reborn
              And, so will she.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I'm an escapee from the Lutefisk capital of the world!

When I was a kid, Minnesota was a hotbed of Lutheranism. The countryside was littered with small white churches topped by steeples. The church usually had the parsonage (where the minister and his family lived) on one side and the cemetery on the other.

As the years went by, the old farmers retired, sold their farms and moved into nearby towns.The little family farms were absorbed into bigger farms. Fewer farm families meant the congregations declined until the remaining members couldn't sustain the cost of the building and pastor. The old church buildings and land were sold off and the only remaining evidence they ever existed was a small cemetery notched into a farm field.

When I was eleven, we moved to the tiny town of Dovray, Minnesota where my dad was the contractor on construction of a large new church to replace the old one. There was a single church serving the entire predominantly Norwegian Lutheran community. The old building, a typical white country church, was far too small for the growing congregation even with the basement.

                                           (Borrowed images)

I have fond memories of the old church basements where weekly Sunday School classes were held, the Ladies Aid and church groups met, and church suppers were served. The most popular of these was the annual Lutefisk supper.

Norwegian immigrants had brought with them the exotic dish called lutefisk (loo-tuh-fisk) from the old country. In his book, "How to talk Minnesotan", Howard Mohr describes the dish thusly:
A translucent, rubbery food product with a profound odor, created by soaking dried cod in a solution of lye, although equivalent results are claimed for doing the same to gym socks."
The oldtimers really loved their lutefisk with melted butter and potatoes. The suppers were so popular that arrivals had to take a number and sit in the pews upstairs while waiting their turn. The church basement was lined with rows of tables as the hungry throng slowly passed by the counter where the food was served. In the kitchen, on the other side of the pass-through, the church ladies were bustling to keep up with the demand.

Out of courtesy, those who did not want to put any lutefisk in their mouth were offered the option of meatballs. That's what I ate. To this day, I have sucessfully avoided eating lutefisk despite the fact I was born in Madison, Minnesota which claims to be the Lutefisk Capital of the World! (It may well be true since the Norwegians no longer eat it in their country.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another unnecessary movie remake

I got an email from a gal I used to work with at the insurance company--the same one who sends me emails that threaten bad luck if I don't forward it to X number of people within X minutes.

Anyway, the current email extols the wonderfulness of all the hundreds of thousands of hunters populating Minnesota and our neighboring state of Wisconsin. The point being that with all of these guns scattered around the country, if we are ever invaded, those evil foreigners will have our rifles and shotguns to contend with, by golly!

This was basically the plot of the 1984 film "Red Dawn" in which the Russians invade Colorado (of all places!) and a group of teenagers fight them off with their hunting rifles and cowboy savvy. An updated version of "Red Dawn" is set to be released this summer with the North Koreans (?!) as the invaders. It remains to be seen how the teenagers manage to conquer the Red Menace this time, but it will surely be in the Hollywood tradition of the former version.

What is sadly out of whack here is that a real invasion would not be turned back by small arms fire from the hunters. It's a romantic notion that might resonate with the prime movie-going demographic, but the nature of war has become bigger and uglier with each passing decade.

Since I am not in the prime movie-going demographic, I probably will never know how it goes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Revenge of the Fifth

To continue yesterday's pun, Carmella at a Little Brown Blog informed me today is "Revenge of the Fifth".  I became acquainted with the little brown dog when I found her picture online and "lifted" it (or whatever the proper term is for stealing photos). Another blogger informed me of the source and I've been following Carmella ever since. If you go to check out the blog, be sure to peruse the "Art Hound" section--it's delightful!

                             Whoops! I stole it again!

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the fourth be with you!

I got several of these greetings on Facebook today and thought I'd pass it along. If you're not into "Star Wars" the pun will be meaningless.

I adored "Star Wars" (at least episodes 4, 5 and 6) and I'm a life-long Trekker (as opposed to a Trekkie who goes overboard about it). One of my favorite movies is "Galaxy Quest" with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. It was a spoof of the Star Trek phenomenon and really very funny.

Anyway, I've been a big fan of Science Fiction since I was a kid and I belong to a Speculative Fiction Writer's group among others. I've been piddling away at a post-apocalyptical novel for years--which really doesn't give me any kind of credentials but I am trying!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day used to be fun

When I was a kid back in the 40's, May Day was a celebration on the order of Valentine's Day for us kids in elementary school. It was the next-to-last hurrah of the school year.

We'd get to spend time in class making May Baskets out of colored construction paper. The usual type was the cone with a handle attached across the top, although I remember making other styles. The idea was that the basket would be filled with goodies and after school you could deliver it to someone--like a friend or sweetheart. You would hang the basket on the doorknob, ring the door bell and then run away. That was it--not really much of a payoff. That was only if someone gave you a May Basket.

The last hurrah of the school year was Mother's Day. The teacher told us that we should ask our mom for a clean ketchup bottle or pop bottle--but it was a big secret, so don't tell her what it was for. The idea of a conspiracy was great fun.

When everyone had brought in their bottles, the day came for the activity. The teacher spread newspapers on a table and filled trays with a mixture of colored paints. It was serious business taking your bottle and carefully rolling it in the paint to get a variegated, patterned bottle.

The next day, after the paint dried, the teacher passed out sprinkler heads to be inserted into the bottle. (I always hated the sound of the cork squeaking as it was pushed in.) I wrapped the bottle in white tissue paper and tied a red ribbon around it.

After I took it home on Friday, it was so hard to wait until after church on Sunday! It was a very long time for me to keep it secret. The presentation of my homemade gift was delightful, and all the more so because that sprinkling bottle was in use for many, many years.

I went on Google Images and tried to find a photo of a painted sprinkler bottle and couldn't find any. If you should come across one, you might want to post it or even try to sell it on ebay!

                              Borrowed images