Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rita Hayworth

OK, it's before our time, although the music is after our prime, but this is a pretty impressive collection of dancers teamed up with Rita Hayworth, and an awesome edit job with the Bee Gees music.  If you were ever close to this skill set my hat is off to you!  This is just a normal segue from Elvis . . . to Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire . . .

For those receiving this post by email, go to the blogsite to view the video.

Monday, January 28, 2013

another brush with fame

Somewhere in Florida, Chuck and Janis Hendrickson had a brush with fame, or a facsimile thereof.  This fellow may or may not have the singing skills of his mentor and Janis made no mention of it in her email, but he certainly seems to have some of the girth.

At a Lions Club event a few years ago we sold out the hall with an Elvis impersonator and I thought he did a really good job.  Afterwards he told a few of us privately that he was disappointed that some in the crowd seemed to have some disgust with what he was doing, unfortunately.  "They just don't get it," he said.  "I'm supposed to be the guy pretending to be Elvis, and they're supposed to be the audience pretending to be entertained by Elvis.  What don't they understand?"

In its own way, that was indeed profound.  Janis, did you get this fellow's email?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

what's weather to a Californian?

After my post about the cold, Stan Arendts sent along his memories, and Marilyn Weidler Ulve made comments as well.  Made me think more about the hoarfrost in the barn.  There was so much moisture there that many of the windows would collect the moisture from the air, alternately chilling and heating it to the point there was typically a bank of ice at the bottom of the window.  Just like the insides of a poorly designed refrigerator.

Here are Stan's memories:

I can really identify with this. Aside from 2 misadventures to CT and one to OH, I have spent most of my post NKHS days in warm climates. During the Iowa winter, I could not keep warm. I even resorted to sitting on the furnace grate, to no avail.

If we failed to keep the humidifier stocked, the wood in the house would actually begin to split from the dryness. Sometimes the window hoar frost was so bad, you couldn' see outside.

One of the few advantages was to comb your hair with water, go outside and let it freeze. Worked like butch wax, however, if my mother found out she would have a hissy fit. One of my sisters still lives in IA (Marshalltown) and fortunately for her, she loves the snow.

If I ever considered moving back to the "auld sod" I think my wife would divorce me. Even though she is from NYC she has never seen anything like the IA winters. I have never been anywhere else where you could tell someone was approaching by the squeaking noise made in the snow.

I spent a New Years Eve in Minneapolis around 1965. It was -26 (no wind chill) the day of departure the brand new demonstrator my father let me drive would not start. I made a pledge to God "Please deliver me from this wilderness and I will never return" I have never set foot there again and do not intend to do so.


Meanwhile, 20 miles west of here at the St Paul Cathedral, the true winter lovers are in the middle of their Winter Carnival and several crazies are participating in the Red Bull Crushed Ice skating competition.  Strangely, it was so cold the other day that they had to delay their start by 3 or 4 hours so the ice would warm up.  Seems that sub-zero weather (mid-20s are ideal) makes the ice so dry it cracks and causes problems.  That would fit Stan's comment about knowing someone is approaching because the snow squeaks.  Personally I think the squeaking mostly only happens up north.  You know, Bemidji, Duluth/Superior, Warroad, International Falls, Ashland.  I mean, it gets COLD up there.

You can watch competition live today as it is streamed at this link. It's way too cold for me to bother to attend, and I lack the interest to view it online. The whole drill seems an exercise in self-flagellation.  Here's a video of one of the skaters taken from his helmet-cam.  It doesn't really show how often he is actually in the air as he goes over several humps.

Friday, January 25, 2013

in the cold

Today the temp is darn near up to 20 degrees, which feels pretty good after the -10 and -16 we had over the past few days.  Stan and Merrilee, eat your hearts out!

Now that my brain is thawed out a little bit I thought I might come up with a story about the cold but fortunately didn't have too many.  Until I think about it.

Our farm house had an oil-burning space heater as the primary source of heat, and a small kitchen stove that was used to burn paper and some scraps, and in the cold of winter, pieces of wood or coal when we had it. When Mom got up she would close off the two doors that go into the kitchen and crank up that stove so one room would be nicely heated.  And it was.

Dad was the first one up, Mom shortly after, and I was next.  By the time I got my lazy bones rolling it didn't take long to dress because it was colder than blazes in our upstairs bedrooms.  In those days there was absolutely no insulation, and though we had at least some storm windows that would replace the screens, we still had a lot of hoar frost on the windows, or enough thin frost that you could write on it with your fingernails.  That meant the bedroom was cold . . .

Once dressed I would race to the barn where it would be so much warmer.  In the winter we housed 21 milking cows, 10 or 12 heifers, and 15 or 20 calves, all providing a heat source, putting enough moisture in the air that we ran a humidistat-controlled fan to get rid of some of it.  And in between duties it felt good to lean up against one of the cows because they were good and warm.
Talk about  hoarfrost on the windows - much was written on them, which only served to make my hands colder than they were.  Seems like all winter long my hands were rough and chapped because of that hoarfrost and the primary assignment of "washing" the cows.  The hands were never dry. I shake my head when I watch them milk the cows over at the Minnesota Zoo.  Something is not right about the automation.  Or the carousel platforms apparently in use in warmer states.

Could have been worse, I suppose.  Dad milked 10 or 12 cows when he started farming, all by hand.  Until he decided he should have more cows and less work so he bought a milking system.  My grandpa milked four cows every day as long as he lived, I think.  I don't know how you do that and sure wouldn't want to start today, but then again if you've done it forever I suppose your body is used to it.  Regardless the weather.  Just seems like a waste of time, and extraordinarily difficult with arthritis in the hands.

It might be easier to farm in the winter today with better equipment, insulation, and an elevated technology, but it was a pain 50 years ago because cold is devastating.  Water pipes break, handling anything is dangerous because of the heavy clothing you're wearing, tractors don't want to start - And we call this fond memories?

Friday, January 18, 2013

today's birthday party

Remember when a birthday party was a few friends, cake and ice cream, and everybody left not long after the ice cream was gone?  Or maybe your grandparents made a visit from a few miles away and their focus was primarily to visit with your parents?

More changes . . .  I got a call about a week ago from my son-in-law who had a load of 8 boys including my now 11-year-old grandson, who would soon be passing through town.  They had been jumping and bouncing for 2 or 3 hours in Oakdale, MN at JumpUppity, where kids can thrive in Jump Up Heaven.  (Or if you need corporate team-building you can bring in that "team" in need of liking each other, and turn your corporate world around.)

Brett and his buddies had slowed down very little by the time they made it to our house, where his Dad served ice cream with chocolate syrup.  And talk about a high level of noise and energy!  We old folks aren't used to that, for sure.  It's comical to watch them racing to and fro, upstairs and down, for no particular reason other than being somewhere else is better than being here.

That's our world today.  Here in Hudson we have the Giggle Factory, operating under the same premise. We use it for those rainy days when the grandsons are here and sanity is preferred. Though we haven't done a birthday party, the Giggle Factory is also set up for it.  You just bring the kids.

To their mind, we should go there every day, but honestly the shrieking is just about more than a person can handle, so we prefer the outdoor "Castle Park" with lots of swings, rope ladders, stairs, poles, horns, bells, and parents/grandparents happy to have a super place for the kids - for free.

So when your grand kids had their party, in Mason City, Des Moines, Chicago, or wherever, I'd guess you've seen the same thing.  Boundless joy, but it seems as if they never really wear out.  Like I would.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

non-linear linear thought

Logic is never linear.  It dashes to and fro and bounces off walls and makes hairpin turns and gets lost during detours.  Anything can be a catalyst, usually something unrelated to the task at hand, ricocheting your thoughts into an unexpected direction - a direction that inevitably leads to a solution linear thinking could never have approached.

That paragraph is from a Myron Bolitar book by Harlan Coben, and describes with great accuracy the process my thinking goes through as the stories of our youth pop into my head, with beautiful, symbolic phrases occurring to me in the middle of the night, often forgotten by morning when I may want to sit down and write out the story.  Or a song is played that reminds me of a moment or a time slot that has stuck with me, faithfully with time.  And sometimes one of you will write something to me that bounces and flies simultaneously, and I may forget it, pounce on it, or fail to tuck it back into the linear sequence that allows the reader to understand it as well.  Or it may become a centerpiece of a post.

A song like Blues for the Night Owl by Ramsey Lewis will make me stop what I'm doing, look at nothing, and recall the late-night KGLO radio program, Jazz Late Night, or some such title.  I'll hear the music in my head while visualizing a light snow, driving a '57 Pontiac down Highway 65, returning from an evening in Mason City, and the hairpin logic takes over so I may segue to thoughts of the other people who were in the car, a snowfall during which we may have been turning donuts, or how that relationship of that night may have ended - or took hold.

I may not have mentioned your name in any post, but I have been talking about you - did you notice?  The story is always about you - and you and you and you and you.  And there are many of you, some more cited than others, and all of you from the era we lived together.  If you don't understand any of this, that's OK, you don't have to, because this is just me, in the present, telling the process of that short time slot in my life that doesn't exist anymore except in my head.  And you have your own track that may or may not carry your own detail and may or may not have significance in your life anymore.

It's the human condition - the memory may escape, perhaps on purpose, or you may have it buried deep, in need of a prompt to pull it out of the deep blue as I often do. Hopefully one prompt will lead me to another - and another - to flesh out a story and share the memory.

How?  Perhaps your picture jumps out of the yearbook at me, an unknown youngster runs past my house, or an email arrives that triggers a memory.  As Myron says, anything can be a catalyst, usually something unrelated to the task at hand.

And so it is that I leapt from my chair to examine the concept I had just read, and to tell you I am eager to hear more from you so I can sort out more pieces.  And if you're not sure that I am talking about you, rest assured that I am.  I have no idea how much I don't know, about you or those times.  Share if you would.


If you're wondering where the heck all that came from, just know that I was totally struck by the Bolitar description of linear thinking, thoughts bouncing off walls, ricocheting, and sometimes getting lost.  The Oscar Mikkelson post is an example.  I had long thought of several stories about him, and they pretty much all came out when Jerry Pixley's Confirmation Bulletin arrived.  Then the process was one of establishing a linear connection so my jumbled thoughts would become understandable to others.

And sometimes you just have to unload, get things off your chest, as I just did.  The thoughts caused by Bolitar were bouncing and ricocheting, and writing them out was my only mental relief.  This time I chose to share it with you, for whatever reason, and maybe you learned something about me.  Or you.

It's just amazing how and when things come together.  My family knows I have unusual dreams.  OK, they would call them weird, but I prefer unusual.  For example, about a month ago I had a dream about a woman named Connie, who was the mother of students of mine in a prior life.  She was a good woman, and well known because she was an active parent and I saw her often at school.  After the dream about her, I realized I couldn't recall a single incident about her in our very separated social lives, and I honestly hadn't thought about her in more than 30 years!  So why in the world she was the subject of a dream in December of 2012 I will never know.

Such is the non-linear part of my thinking.

So why the Ramsey Lewis song?  It popped on my Google Play just after I read that Bolitar paragraph, and it came at a perfect time.  The song, by the way, had much of the syncopation and style of the typical jazz trio on that late night program, but if you listen to it you might also think of it as music used in a slinky strip club. If that offends you, sorry.  Or too bad.  If you care to hear it, click this link, which will take you to my Dropbox.

Send me something decent to write about, willya?

(I know, Wilma wouldn't accept willya . . .)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Confirmation and Oscar Mikkelson

Fran Pixley sent along a copy of the church bulletin from the Confirmation Services at First Lutheran Church on May 17, 1959.  I don't know that I can recall very much about that day but the legend of Oscar Mikkelson is lasting.

I'm not sure how Mom and Dad swung it, but Pastor Mikkelson was an honored guest at our home that day, and sat across the dining room table when we had our Confirmation Dinner.  It's a bit like having the Pope stop by, as I recall it.  And if I'm not mistaken it was the second time he had come for Sunday Dinner.

The first was following the Baptism of my sister in 1952.  That's in my head, anyway, so for purposes of the story, so be it.  Mikkelsons had just moved to town and we were honored, for the first time, with his presence, and like a good politician he was out and about mixing with the Congregation.  We moved outdoors to the woods near the house where Dad had set up a horseshoe pit, and the Reverend O was an eager participant.  Beyond that, he was glad to accept a cigar or two, which presumably were purchased to celebrate Kathy's birth.

Somewhere in his life he had spent time in Kentucky and had learned the virtues of a fine cigar so he was more than happy to partake.  He may not have liked the cigars that much but he endeared himself to the several Congregants in attendance by doing so and that's what it's all about.

Where that story may fall apart is the timeline of the events.  To be outside pitching horseshoes would have meant at least an April or even May event, which might stretch things given Kathy's birth in February. But like I say, I'm the writer, and so be it.

My most memorable interaction with this fine fellow was the Saturday morning Bible class when someone brought along a couple of white mice.  Bill Roberts would seem to be the correct culprit for this but he was a Methodist, I think, so I don't know why I think of him to do so except that's the way he would be.  Or maybe it was Mike Olson.  In any event, they wound up in my possession.  I thought they were pretty cool and was enjoying how they were sneaking up my sleeves - unaware of how ghastly quiet the room had suddenly become.

If you're guessing the Reverend O had noticed them, you are correct.  He was not at all amused by this provoking disruption of the class, expressing his anger to the point of banishing me to a room nearby.  Sitting there in isolation, I promised God I would read the Bible daily, never again partake of such silliness, or even further never sin again, all promises that lasted probably a week.  Maybe.

I don't know how long I sat there, several days it seemed, until he opened the door to beckon me back.  In truth, I think Reverend O was a bit embarrassed by his anger because when he did invite me back to the classroom he had a smile on his face to let me know all was forgiven.  So to speak.  And I don't think that story ever made it home.

One of the tasks of the Confirmands was to act as a candle lighter for the regular church services.  On some occasions I was hooked up with Arlo Severson to perform this duty, and what I remember the most is that through the task Arlo learned where they kept a supply of matches - and we accessed and used them for something that fortunately does not come to mind but was likely nefarious.  I just recall that Arlo was pretty enthused about having that access.

The most daunting part of the Confirmation process was the Questioning Sunday, when we stood alone in front of the Alter, parents and Congregation who dared to attend while we were theoretically grilled about our learnings and belief.  I can imagine no minister would ever want to display his failure to educate and most of the questions were pretty softball, some more than others.  Think of questions that might be answered with, say, the names of three books in the Old Testament.  Like Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Lambeau.  Or maybe it was Leviticus.  Let's face it, some members of the class who were confirmed had not been as, shall we say, studious as they could or should have been.

The late Jerry Pixley was indeed one of the confirmands, and his likeness is included in this photo of the class, second from the right in the front row.  The date must have been important enough for Jerry, or his mother, to have kept the Church Program, and thanks to Fran for passing it along!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

the transitions continue

Last week my Dad was back in the hospital again, this time with pneumonia.  He should be coming home today IF all the tests check out properly.  He had just begun getting back on his feet, using his computer to read and listen to music, making jokes with the nurses and feeling frisky, when he fell in the middle of the night, and progress was reversed.  Again.

Because of an original fall in September he was tightly watched, with numerous alarms attached.  For a man who's always been in control of his world and inventive about making things work, this was more than he could take.  Having only one arm hadn't stopped him from figuring out years ago how to clip his own fingernails, so he's pretty capable, and by golly if he wants his little toolkit he should have it.  At least in his opinion, although we don't know for sure what it is he's going to fix.

After a visit to the neurosurgeon to address the consequences of removing the alarms a plan had been put together with the agreement of LRH and he was ready to "get out of jail."  Until that mid-night fall.

Those who had or have had parents in nursing homes are familiar with the story, one I link to the issue of transition from care recipient to caregiver.  It's not like talking to your children about having to obey rules and being compliant, because he still sees himself as a fully capable adult.  The conversations are at times a little tense, and sometimes I know he's smirking behind my back, just like I did to him 50 years ago.  He's figuring that what I don't know won't hurt me, but he has more people reporting on him than we ever had teachers reporting on us.  As it should be.

As frustrating as this relationship is becoming, a lifetime of memories have become the source of solace, and a longer lifetime than others may know.  Many of our classmates lost their parents long ago.  Or there's the example of my grandson's girlfriend, now about age 21, whose father disappeared from the family a couple years ago, and whose mother died from cancer this fall.  There, indeed, is a load to bear.

Makes a person think about all the energy and creativity that we had but didn't appreciate in our youth, and now may pine to replace, knowing that we can't.  Call it "coming of age" perhaps.  We'll never have it all - except the transitions.  On to the next phase, right?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wilma Helgeland Obituary

Wilma's obituary was just posted in the Globe-Gazette.  To view it, click here.  A celebration of life service will be held at a later date.

The family would like to suggest that those wishing to give a memorial in her memory consider a memorial contribution to the Northwood Public Library.