"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Be patient with miserable news - it can end

I swore as a kid that Viet Nam (the war) and inflation would be with us forever. Boomers have such memories.
The "baby boom cohort No. 2," of which I'm a member, is a little too young to have been threatened by the draft itself. However, we soaked in all the miserable news. Many of us had older siblings or friends of the family who were directly affected.
Michael Kinsley once wrote that inflation comes along once every generation, for a reason. The reason is that we can forget how ominous and pernicious it is. We forget, then we let it slip into our reality again.
It's true there are blips of inflation today. But hey, you young 'uns, you know nothing about what a dark cloud this can be - a world in which restaurants must have new menus printed often, such is the nature of price hikes.
The Morris McDonald's restaurant has hiked some prices too much for my tastes recently. The interval between the last two was too brief for me, so I have made a "statement" by deciding to go to Willie's in the morning where I can get a creme-filled bismark and free coffee (in a Willie's mug) for a total price of 65 cents. It seems too good to be true, which it may well be, so I'm holding my breath hoping that cost won't get bumped up. The only disadvantage is that I don't have access to the Star Tribune which I probably would have at McDonald's.
It doesn't seem as necessary today to view the Star Tribune. I have noticed of late, the mere existence of a "sports section" in the Star Tribune bothers me. These huge photos of athletes. Those reams of data about various sports teams. Are we really all that interested? Is the traditional "sports section" becoming a vestige of a bygone time?
Many of us remain interested in sports, to be sure. I have fallen out of those ranks. But the sports aficionados have endless data conveniently available to them through today's electronic media. Take ESPN for example. My generation could hardly have envisioned such things when we were young. No, we couldn't envision them. Movies that you could check out from the library, punch into a device and watch (or re-watch) at your convenience? And today, we're told that those old "tapes" are obsolete and on the way out. The library isn't adding to its tape collection, I'm told. DVDs are the norm of course. As a kid I would have considered the tapes nothing short of a miracle.
Our library in Morris has been through a disastrous summer. Summer is a time when families with young children use the library as a means of advancing knowledge and learning. These families have been challenged to fill the gap I'm sure. They'd likely have to spend some money to do so.
The library is a priceless public resource that relieves people of having to spend that money. Our Morris Public Library with that "flat roof" got done in by simple rain. Just to show that wasn't a fluke, the Catholic School was afflicted by the same debacle.
On Sunday I was told by a city council person that a "softball" was the culprit at the library, blocking drainage. A softball! I wonder how that thing got deposited up there. Kids fooling around, no doubt. I remember that when I was a kid at Longfellow Elementary, the big challenge for boys, the oldest of whom were in third grade, was to be able to throw a rubber ball up on top of the building. We'd play a game where a ball was thrown off the side of the building and then there was a scramble to see who could catch it. Occasionally one of the older boys could get the ball way on top.
If a mere softball can render our library more or less a disaster area, I'd suggest there are design flaws in the place.
The word on the street about the Catholic school is that a "wine bottle" blocked drainage. That's just as weird and disturbing, not to mention rather Biblical, one might suggest.
The father character in the movie "Spencer's Mountain" rejected religion because it frowned on drinking and some other vices that he had no problem with (like card-playing, dancing and kissing). Henry Fonda played that character. The movie has a distinction of giving us perhaps the saddest scene in all of movie history: when the tree falls on the old man, remember?
Us boomers learned the Viet Nam war could finally reach its end. You see, the losing sides in wars - we were the losing side - generally desist when they run out of money. As loud as the Viet Nam protests were, this element was probably less important than the sheer drain on our financial resources.
As for inflation, we learned that this, too, wasn't like some mysterious boogeyman that would hover outside our control. Economics is a science. There are ways to extinguish inflation if this is the desired outcome. Paul Volcker took over at the Federal Reserve. We took our medicine.
Boomers look at the Viet Nam war and pernicious inflation in the rear-view mirror. However, there is one very real boogeyman that persists. The boomers may well go to their graves seeing no relief from this. What I'm referring to, is the seemingly endless depressing news about the Israelis vs. Palestinians.
Dave Barry has written about this. Barry embodies the boomers' consciousness. Normally a humor writer, Barry wrote  with a quite serious tone about the annoying repetitiveness of headlines about Israelis vs. Palestinians. He even questioned the news judgment. "News" is defined as man bites dog. We don't go out to the airport to cover all the successful landings and takeoffs. Israelis vs. Palestinians isn't man bites dog, because it has become the virtual norm.
Barry wrote his piece at the time when "suicide bombers" were cropping up in the news. The first few may have been "news." But Barry argued that as this phenomenon became day-to-day, each instance didn't need to generate such breathless news coverage.
Right now we are getting the drumbeat of updates on that miserable conflict. My viewpoint is the same as Helen Thomas'. I won't elaborate.
What if we could wake up some morning and learn that the "Middle Eastern strife" was over? Well, Viet Nam ended as did inflation. Miracles happen.
Here in Morris, the upcoming Stevens County Fair should get us all cheered up. It has been a disappointing summer, what with the infrastructure disasters I cited, and the culmination of this very disturbing episode involving our high school principal. The only "winner" in that episode was the principal himself. Otherwise that episode leaves quite unsavory residue for the community. I'm very curious how things will go when activity picks up at the school and the school year nears.
Will parents truly be comfortable having this individual "back in the saddle," as it were? I'm not totally comfortable but maybe I've become more Puritanical in my advancing age. Perhaps my sense of morals and decency is actually higher than the Morris Area school board's. Perhaps I'm a hopeless prude, worthy of laughter as I continue my lifestyle of having hot chocolate before going to bed, retiring at about 9 p.m., rising at about 5 a.m., sitting on the portico in the afternoon and going to church and church pot lucks.
Go ahead and laugh at me, this is how I live. If drinking, bar cruising and recreational sex are your lifestyle, then you're on a different wavelength from me.
See you at the fair. You'll probably find me on a chair in front of the rest cottage. Say "hi."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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