"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)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

4-H foodstand loses some of its appeal

The family went out to the county fair for 2017. Last year we passed because of confusion over the changed fair schedule. Last year we made an attempt to come out on Wednesday only to be put off by the "private parking" signs at the road leading to the main fair parking lot. I was flabbergasted. It turns out the fair doesn't really get going on Wednesday, even though the community supper has been changed to Tuesday.
This is one of those things, I guess, where you just have to be in the know. Call it one of those small town things. "Didn't you know that? Everyone knows that." Well sorry, guess we're out of the loop.
Superior Industries has moved into the fair and taken a chunk. I guess that explained the "private parking" signs. I was told to check the Lee Center parking area. That's a long walk to the 4-H foodstand which has been our main priority. Last year Mom was not yet wheelchair-bound. The walk from Lee Center would have been too much for her. But even if we had made it, we would have discovered that the 4-H foodstand wasn't open on Wednesday. That would have upset me. I'm sure people checked out the foodstand on Wednesday expecting it to be open. A 4-H parent tells me the organization doesn't have the resources to open that early.
We returned to the 4-H foodstand for the 2017 fair, but that was not a wholly happy experience. In the past when there were three of us, we'd automatically order the "plate special." It included a sloppy joe, chips and coleslaw. This year there was no plate special on the menu. Why not offer fairgoers a nice little meal special?
I also found that the prices at the foodstand seemed high. I discussed this with a long-time 4-H leader on Sunday, and he said "you have to charge what other places charge." Nice little rationalization. Well, you don't "have to" charge what someone else charges. The fair is a tempting opportunity to gouge the public. I would just like to suggest that Stevens County 4-H should be above that. We all want to have warm feelings about Stevens County 4-H.
I heard someone on Monday say the soup seemed awfully "thin" at the 4-H foodstand. My family got overcharged for dessert on Sunday afternoon and of course I decided not to make an issue of it. Sometimes those very little kids working at the foodstand can be overwhelmed. Maybe the very youngest kids should be excused from doing that. Let the older kids and adults handle it. I was told that one pie a la mode and one brownie sundae came to about $9.50. I knew that was wrong but I let it go. I assumed it was an honest mistake. I hope it was.
Here's a theory: Maybe the person in charge of the 4-H foodstand this year wanted to show off about how much money he/she could make for 4-H. Well, money's honey, I guess, especially in the year 2017 when our happiness is determined by how the "Dow" behaves each year. I'm waiting for our benevolent Lord to straighten us out on this. God never rewards sheer materialism.
Next year I think we'll switch to the Hockey Association (VFW) foodstand. At least you have adults waiting on you there. I have fond memories of the VFW foodstand going back to when the VFW's people actually ran it: an endearing crowd with the likes of Darlene Olen. You'd order eggs over easy and Darlene would bark back "over hard." I'd chuckle. I guess Darlene preferred making them that way. At a certain point in the morning, the Elmer's Distributing crew (with Oscar Brandt) would show up and get seated at a couple of picnic tables there.
I loved those peaceful times at the fair when I wasn't preoccupied with newspaper duties. 4-H at the fair no longer needs a newspaper person around. They can do all that work themselves and I think that's nice.
I remember the fair from when it was much smaller than today. The late 1970s saw the fair at a rather rinky-dink level, prompting one to think the end might be near for the event. Commercial exhibits were in a rickety old building. The 4-H foodstand with Flossie Mathison in charge - bless her memory - had seating only around the perimeter. A big deal was made of getting an "indoor livestock arena" but this was really just a roof.
We went through a phase of having big-time country musicians here. A huge deal was made of this. The casinos came along and attracted all the performers. We still have those great "dirt" events. Well, here in the year 2017 our fair certainly seems healthy. We just don't want people getting too greedy, right?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When a deep dark tan in summer was nice

I hate to let go of this summer. Summer never lasts long enough. My generation when young thought it desirable to get a rich "tan" in summer. It was a sign of being "cool" to get such a tan - something that made you stand out in a positive way.
Our band director introduced his own daughter as "Miss Lobster" at the start of a summer rehearsal. We all laughed. Her tan was the optimal one. She was attractive too by the standards of that time. Being thin was a factor that went into the mix of being considered attractive. We have changed that yardstick, for the better to be sure. The human race has evolved since the days of the "wolf whistle" and females being called "babes" or "dames," the latter term tossed out by Frank Sinatra and his peers.
Do kids put any value in having a "tan" anymore? I read once that in pre-baby boomer times, a tan was something associated with having a hard labor type of job out in the fields. It was not desirable at all. My generation came along and suddenly thought it was quite fashionable, along with various behaviors that had questionable value: listening to loud "stereo" music, smoking dope and having a slouched posture. Ah, that was my generation.
I was acquainted with a female in the summer of 1973 who sat outside for long hours, letting the sun bake into her skin so she could get that much-sought deep tan.
My generation tried to act like we didn't care about money. Maybe this was because we didn't feel communism was worth fighting in Viet Nam. Let's try to sympathize with the values of the enemy, then. There was a professor on the St. Cloud State campus who was reputed to be openly favoring the North Vietnamese. Today he'd be "ambushed" and shamed by a Fox News reporter. The institution would apply the clamps to him. I won't type his name here.
At a certain point, the scientifically-affirmed dangers of sun exposure changed everyone's attitude about tans. My generation whimpered into a corner about that. Today the idea is to be protected when you're outdoors in summer. Be under some type of canopy. Get all the fresh air you want - that's great - but protect your skin from sun abuse that could lead to cancer.
My generation would be reluctant to admit much about our past values. I'm an exception writing this post. But I've always felt like an outlier relative to my generation.
I thought it was ridiculous, all the self-destructive behavior we put our imprimatur on, when young. Loud stereo music on expensive systems, which were status symbols, keeping our classmates awake at night. It was socially discouraged to complain about loud stereo music. This scourge was embraced by our young culture. Be ready to hear the Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" play when you're trying to sleep. Watch your peers go to the downtown bars on weekends. This despite the fact these kids pleaded poverty all the time, like they had no money to spend. Where did the money come from to support their wasteful behavior? Hey, let's go to the "Cantina." There was free popcorn, I guess. Listen to Starbuck's "Moonlight Feels Right" on the jukebox. You know why this song hooked us? It was because of the little instrumental fill after the hook line.
I wandered about a bit in this sea of debauchery. I knew what it was like to sit at a table and occasionally "buy a round" and get a wave of thank yous from everyone. We watched shallow TV shows like "Happy Days." This time of year we'd be appreciating the extent of the tan we had achieved. We equated this with sexiness. In the old days it was associated with field labor. Today it's associated with cancer risk. Buy my oh my, my generation sure made its mark with the values it chose, whether counterproductive or not.
And hey, it could have been worse: what if we had supported the Viet Nam war? What if we had been lackadaisical about racism and sexism? So we were forward-looking in some respects. We were also disingenuous or schizophrenic or something like that, because we were all too ready to discard the left-leaning political philosophy we once had. We planted the seeds for the "tea party." We went from not caring much about money to being totally money-grubbing. We have done much to ensure we have Republican leadership in all three branches of government, meaning there is absolutely no hope for the time being of getting humanistic health care reform. People will die because of our foot-dragging. Children will die.
We were the ones who thought it was so unconscionable for 60,000 young men to die in Viet Nam. We shift and ruminate at least on a subconscious level. That's because we are so human an animal. But no more do our daughters seek to get the moniker "Miss Lobster." That was cute, John.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A cup of coffee and thoughts re. mortality

God bless our old Radarage "Cookmaster" microwave oven, by Amana. It's ancient. So simple to operate. Just a few buttons to deal with. So contrary to the trends of today. I see microwave ovens for sale today and there are all kinds of buttons to push. Our old Radarage is like a rock I can depend on. I approach it every morning at 5 a.m., give or take an hour, and prepare my hot morning instant coffee that activates my mental function.
My mother doesn't drink coffee and it was ditto with Dad. Mom has wheat bran flakes, the store brand from Willie's, every morning. Dad enjoyed his raisin bran. Our dog Sandy had his Cesar's dog food. Dad knew that as soon as I got in my recliner, Sandy would come along within seconds and ask to be fed. It became a morning gag in our household. We had Robin Meade of the HLN network on TV in front of us.
These days I watch "Morning Joe" with Joe and Mika - I'm not going to review the spelling of Mika's last name - discussing the notorious issues associated with Donald Trump and his administration. Is it Watergate redux? No one can predict of course.
Mom is 93 years old. Home health nurses visit us. I have never bet against my mother living longer. But of course no one lives forever. I am thankful she does not have the kind of cancer pain issues that I have long been familiar with through acquaintances. I am told that weakness will set in. As I write this, I sense that process is underway. She has enjoyed life to a great extent since coming home from Barrett Care Center.
We were in Barrett so long, it really did start feeling like home. I miss many of the people we shared time with there. Some of them, I'm sure, thought I was a little too overbearing or involved as a caregiver. Some of them seemed to like me totally and that's nice. A fellow caregiver who was also there a lot said to me: "You keep close watch on your mother all the time, and they (staff) don't like that." Perhaps staff fears I'll file some sort of complaint based on an alleged misstep in care. Nursing home residents present a heckuva challenge, and I fully support and admire those who work at these institutions.
Mom, in spite of her challenges, has enjoyed life just fine since coming home from Barrett. We have gone to church regularly along with the Wednesday night ELCA Lutheran sessions at the Met Lounge side room. Bridget serves us wonderfully there. Church at the Met Lounge? We must emphasize it's the side room.
It has always been folly trying to predict how much longer Mom will be with us. She will leave this life and join her husband Ralph in heaven. There she can play the "UMM Hymn" on the piano for Dad's enjoyment.
Mom will also join her sister Mildred and brother Edwin. Mildred of Oregon passed away a couple years ago from esophageal cancer - an unfortunate way to die. She was under the care of home hospice at the end, just like Mom is now. She stayed at the home of her stepdaughter and her husband. Aunt Mildred's husband was Ray Riedberger who had Hawley MN roots. She had a first marriage that produced five children but ended sadly. Let's just leave it at that. Many years passed before I saw any of those cousins again.
Edwin of San Diego had a son, Norman, who won high honors for his service in Viet Nam. My father always wondered if Norman had to do some very unpleasant things to win that. Norman had a twin brother Allan. Norman died of a heart attack several years ago. I regret not seeing more of them over the years. So, Norman will be in heaven awaiting my mother too.
My mother never liked it when I swore, so when she passes to the next life, I will have to resolve to never again utter a cuss word. I will have to remember to keep attending church like the Jimmy Stewart character in "Shenandoah," honoring his late wife's wishes. Stewart would sometimes go to his wife's gravesite and "converse" with her. I asked Del Sarlette once whether this kind of thing is normal or proper. Del said "yes" but he added: "Don't get too carried away with it."
Aunt Mildred was cremated and there was no service and not even an obituary. I will have no problems going that route again.
People come and go in this life. But our Radarage cooker is certain to go on forever, just like the cockroaches and Cher (according to the old joke). Indeed, contemporary products are made more complicated than their predecessors. Dave Barry wrote a column about this. He was inspired by an article he read quoting industry leaders lamenting the fact that consumers don't seem to spend enough time reading their owner's manuals. Barry sided with the consumers, writing that "products are made with too many functions, whereas people buy them to do one or two things." He talked about the "picture within a picture" feature of TVs made at the time. "It's hard enough to find one good thing to watch on TV," Barry quipped.
(Remember how "Radarage" inspired a bit of humor in the movie "Airplane?")
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com