Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 15, 2003

More baseball notes...

The Twins traded their steady catcher A.J. Piersynski, to San Francisco. This was inevitable, given that phenom catcher Joe Mauer is chomping at the bit. But I will miss A.J.'s intensity, his ability to foul the ball off with two strikes, and his feeble looping base hits to left field. I really do look forward, though, to seeing Mauer develop. He has a sweet swing, he's great defensively, and--no small matter--he is a gentleman with the umpires. A.J. was not, and it worked against the Twins. Mauer, a native Minnesotan, is more smooth. In fact, when the kid was catching for the big club in spring training, one of the old crusty umpires walked over to the dugout between innings and told Gardenhire that he had never seen a catcher that smooth behind the plate. The home plate umpire would know. The kid got a million dollar signing bonus and wasn't spoiled by it. This should be fun.

IN OTHER NEWS, Former Twins left-fielder Dan Gladden will be doing some play-by-play next year, instead of just providing commentary after Carneal or Gordon describe the action. I think he'll do very well. He's always trying to steal the mike from Gordon anyway. Gladden was a favorite player of mine, a true spark plug.


Steroids in baseball

The test results are in: a substantial number of major league baseball players tested positive for steriod use this season, even though they knew well in advance that they were going to be tested.

I have always suspected that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds blasted their way past Roger Maris a couple of years ago thanks only to their use of "supplements." Barry Bonds in particular, a svelte player in his early career, all of a sudden became unnaturally beefy. Is it any coincidence that he also turned sullen, another effect of steroids?

Those three made a mess of the baseball record book. Maris' 61 homers in 1961, only one more than Babe Ruth's 60 homer season in 1927, had become one of baseball's magic numbers. Others? Babe Ruth's 714 career home runs. Ty Cobb's .364 lifetime batting average. Joe Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak.

A cynic might point out that if Maris and Ruth had played in the present Yankee Stadium, neither of them would have hit as many home runs as they did. In 1976 the right field fence at "the House that Ruth Built," the shortest in the major leagues for many years, a fence built shallow just to inflate Babe Ruth's numbers, was moved back to a more typical distance. In fact, the record-breaking home run by Maris would probably be caught on the warning track in today's Yankee Stadium.

Nonetheless, Ruth and Maris hit their home runs without the benefit of chemicals. Well, Ruth was on plenty of chemicals, but they weren't of the performance-enhancing variety.

Speculation is also that Roger Clemens, who retired after the World Series, was a beneficiary of the effects of steroids as well. His recent overly-beefy physique and his irrationally irritable behavior on the mound the past few years would support this contention.


November 14, 2003

Headlines

Most people don't realize that columnists have no control over the headlines newspapers put on their columns. Sometimes the headlines make me wince, other times they make the column more complete. Most of the time, I don't look. No matter what, I don't envy the editors who have to come up with headlines for my columns. It would be much easier if there were just a masthead with my name and "Down on the Farm" on it.

The Detroit Lakes paper puts my column on the editorial page with huge headlines. I can barely bear to look--because what I write usually doesn't justify a stack of 32-point type. When I write something more personal, which columns tend to be anyway, I would prefer if it were low-key, well-hidden--so those who want to find it can, but those who are expecting something a little more substantial on the editorial page aren't disappointed to read about my attempts to trap mice or something.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a trip I took to Atlanta. While there, I had a chance to play an enormous pipe organ, and I wrote about the experience.

Well, after I returned, I found out that one paper had introduced the article with the headline "Organ Brings Pleasure." Uff da.

But I don't ever complain about headlines. I worked as an editor at the student paper at UND, and spent many late, late nights attempting to come up with a headline that was appropriate--and filled the space. Not all of them were appreciated. My favorite headline came after a priest named Father Sinner (brother to former North Dakota governor George Sinner) spoke at UND about his opposition to US policy in Central America. My headline? "Father Sinner Raises Hell Over Central America." I couldn't resist! The reporter wasn't happy at all.

To make matters worse, a week later I was introduced to Father Sinner at a student hangout bar in Grand Forks. He had seen the headline. He was about as unhappy as he could be without compromising his priestly demeanor. He gently said that I might have made a better choice of words.

But I didn't regret it.


Close call

I just heard this morning (the electrician is here, and brought the news from town the old-fashioned way) that a local lady had a bullet come through her wall and bounce around her house last weekend. It passed only inches from her head. They found the hunter who shot the bullet, and he was pretty shook up over it. Makes you want to leave for the weekend. Or wear a helmet and a flak jacket around the house.


Hunters arrive

Last weekend, a dozen hunters (we call them the Waubun boys) hunted our land. They've hunted here 25 years. They know the land and always take a bunch of deer, although I haven't heard how they did this year. I just know that they dropped off a turkey in thanks for letting them hunt, as usual, which is appreciated.

Today, a high school friend of mine from suburbia and his two buddies arrived for weekend #2 of hunting. They are out putting up deer stands as I write this. They have fun, and they bring a lot of food, (home smoked pork, enough for a funeral), but, and I am assuming they won't read this, they have netted only one small doe in four years of hunting. They just don't have it. I will give a complete report on their success or lack thereof later this weekend.


Watching CSPAN2

A poor substitute for baseball, but it'll do. My friend Garth, a political junkie, called the other night to tell me there was a filibuster on the tube. So, I tuned in. Sen. Harry Reed (D-NV) had been on for seven hours. By the time I turned on the TV, he was reading from a book had written years ago about the town of Searchlight, Nevada. His purpose, of course, was to prevent any other business from taking place on the Senate floor.

So, he rambled on...interspersing readings from his book with musings about his favorite McDonalds meals, about how the animals were eating the cactus in his yard, and so on. He profusely thanked his "esteemed colleague" Sen. Byrd for advising him not to drink too much water lest he have to leave the floor to find a men's room, thus ending his filibuster.

The Republicans followed with a planned 30 hour filibuster marathon on judicial appointees. I think it ended this morning.

I had never seen a filibuster before. I wrote my master's thesis on Senator Wild Bill Langer of North Dakota, himself a noted a filibuster artist. In fact, it was the only thing he did well. (If you want to read my thesis on the matter, it is available at the Chester Fritz Library on the UND campus. I think six people have ever read it, and most of those are relatives. Please sign the guest list.) Langer used to read out of books about himself on the floor. When he got tired, he claimed medical disability and had the clerk read from the books. For hours. All of what was said had to be recorded in the Congressional Record.

Then, when I got back from Fargo late last night, I flipped on the tube, and there was Harry Reed again...three days later, still speaking to his esteemed colleagues. Of course, he hadn't been on the whole time between, but it gave me a jolt.

I enjoy politics most when it is as its most absurd. When they put television cameras in the chambers of the House and later the Senate, it got worse (better). I think every politician longs to be a television celebrity. The cameras massage their vanity, their false belief that somebody outside the chamber cares what they say. The result: Enough hot air to contribute to global warming.


November 13, 2003

Thursday dawns bright and sunny

Fresh snow, blue sky, sunshine, icicles, hoar-frost on the swamp willows. A sparkling winter morning...it's easier to get out of bed when the sun shines through the bedroom window...MPR at full volume doesn't wake me up if its cloudy...neither does a stiff cup of coffee...am now approaching the bottom of a tin of Folger's...I suspect the grounds at the grounds of a tin lack freshness...I expect a good jolt tomorrow morning when I open a new tin...of Hazelnut! no less...going to Fargo today...have an appointment, no other excuse needed...will peddle books on the way there and back...am looking at heading south the first week of December...might go the north way this time, Seattle, down the coast, over to Tucson...

TRAVEL is hard work, I find. But it livens one up and creates good memories. The ten days I spent touring baseball stadiums this summer were utterly unforgettable. So many different sights, sounds, people, places. Had I spent the same 10 days stuck in my usual routines here at home, not one thing from that time would stand out in my memory. But from the trip I have 100s of memories.

So, although my inclination is to high-tail it to Tucson, I think it would be more rewarding to take the long way around, see the sights, visit people, take my time. Once I get to Tucson, I settle into a routine. Whether I do that routine for 6 weeks or 8 weeks--I'll never remember later.


November 12, 2003

Education reform

The state of Minnesota is once again revamping its education requirements--those mandates and orders from on high they hope will filter down to the classroom. After struggling for years with the ambiguous, bureaucracy-laden "Profile of Learning," a morass of fluffy ideas which confused more than it clarified, now the governor has put a traditionalist in charge who is going to require that kids memorize state capitals and know the Monroe Doctrine.

My question is, what kid in his or her right mind would care about the Monroe Doctrine? I look at what kids have to learn and I say to myself, if I were forced to learn all of that irrelevant boring stuff, I would rebel.

Reading, writing, rithmatic. Those are the main thing. But above those basics, it should be the foremost job of every teacher (they should be called teachers, not educators) to develop the character of the kids to their utmost ability. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Treat your fellow human beings well. Help others. Don't expect anything for nothing. Ever. These basics should be on a teacher's mind every morning, even the mind of the wood shop teacher.

Character matters. I have long forgotten the minutia of the various subjects taught me in high school and college, but I do remember the character of my teachers and professors. I remember the lessons they taught me, mostly by their example, but also through their advice and wise counsel at times when I needed it.

And what about teaching basic manners? I don't mean napkins and forks, either. I mean respect for elders, respect for the opinions of others, kindness towards the less fortunate, consideration of others in public spaces, and, above all, civility.

Of course, none of these things can be taught by boors who are handed orders to make kids mind their manners from the state department of education department. Character can only be taught by people of character.

I was lucky. I had many teachers with sterling character, golden-hearted people from the old school. They weren't buddy-buddy with the students. They were sometimes cranky. But you knew they cared, and not just about being liked.

My question is, how do we find these people? How do we get them into teaching? How do we prevent them from getting disillusioned by the inane requirements and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo pouring down from the fuzz-minded Phds of educational theory perched in their ivory towers in St. Paul?


Word for the Day: Salubrious

Afternoon coffee-time discussion at the nursery today: I said I thought I would have some green tea. I have heard its effects are.... "Salubrious?" Joe piped up. Yes. Salubrious was the word I was searching for. But what does it mean? I thought beneficial would be a good synonymn. Joe thought healthful, and he ran to find a dictionary.

Ken, upon arrival of the dictionary: "They'll just use another big word to tell you what the first big word means." (Ken is our resident cynic. One of them, anyway.)

Well, the dictionary came up with wholesome, favorable and healthful. But none of those words have the luxurious sound of the word salubrious. Sah-LOO-bree-us. "Your visit had a salubrious effect on my mood!"


A Literary Attempted Homocide?

Spent last evening at my friend Lyla's. We solve the world's problems in the Red Nook, which is her study. Because we both read Dickens' David Copperfield in the last month, we discussed the characters as if they were family members.

Copperfield is thought by many to be modeled on Dickens' own life. This raises some interesting questions. In the book, Copperfield marries Dora, a complete ditz. He soldiers through the marriage. Dora dies at a mercifully young age, and Copperfield marries Agnes, a friend and soulmate from way back, the woman he should have married in the first place.

So, what happened in Dickens' own life? Lyla has a book about Dickens and his times, so we did some research. Seems young Charles married a beautiful woman who was a bit on the shallow side. Just like Dora. But did she die at the appropriate time as Dora did? No, she was still alive and kicking when Dickens finished Copperfield in 1850.

One wonders: was Dickens' wife aware that she was apparently the model for the novel's Dora, who so conveniently died? How might it affect one's marriage to kill off a character clearly modeled on your present wife?

Lyla read on: Dickens' wife had a nervous breakdown in 1851, one year after Copperfield. They separated a few years later.

Hmmm.


November 11, 2003

Small-town drug stores

Yesterday, I drove around peddling my book to area drug stores, as well as other places.

Times have changed for small-town drugs stores as a direct result of last year's state budget crisis. Insurance payments from the state were reduced to the point where the drug stores were being reimbursed less than their cost for some prescriptions. They had to fill the prescriptions to fulfill their contract with the state, but if they kept filling those prescriptions at that rate they would lose money.

As a result, many small-town drug stores have sold out to chains. In this area, Thrifty White has taken over at least half-a-dozen stores. The chain has enough buying power to reduce their costs to the point where they make a profit.

The chain sometimes hires the former pharmacy owner as their pharmacist. Thus, a small business owner is turned into an employee. The one I have talked to is relieved that he no longer has to deal with the billing. It is good for him. However, when I brought books in to the drugstores, there was a new complication. Before they could buy them, they had to call the regional sales manager.

Although the logic of the change is irrefutable, always I hate to see autonomy moving away from the small town. There is a difference between making one's own business decisions and having to consult a regional sales manager beforehand.

I automatically balk at centralized control. It might be fine as long as somebody sensible is in charge, but when somebody inept takes over, which inevitably happens, the misery he or she creates trickles down a long ways.

For instance, I think centralized control over education creates stupidity. It subjects classroom instruction to the whims of whatever governor happens to be in charge. A constant flow of mandates comes down to local schools from above, most of them impossible to interpret, and some of them contradictory.

I see nothing wrong with each school deciding its own standards and how it plans to meet them. They do that anyway, until interrupted by another irritating mandate from above. In all likelihood, the Minnesota State Department of Education could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice, just as one seldom notices the day one no longer has a cold.


MPR in the morning

My radio alarm comes on to the Morning Show on MPR with Dale Connelly and Jim Ed Poole. Yesterday, they played "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot, the great ballad written about a ore ship which sank in a storm on Lake Superior. Yesterday was the anniversary of the sinking. Many many memorable lines in the song which begins: "The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the great lake they called Gitchagoomie."

This morning they had a guest who sings about body image and how it has related to her own personal growth. She sang a song about trying on swimsuits in a K-mart dressing room. It was, she said, part of her effort to raise awareness about body image issues.

I think they should have had Gordon Lightfoot on yesterday to talk about drowning issues. I imagine that the imminent sinking of their ship distracted the good shippin crew from their weight problems and relationship difficulties. Of course we'll never know. But when the cook comes up from below deck to say fellows its been good to know ya, it seems that social dynamic on the ship entered a place of acceptance of others based on their common experience of drowning together. At that point, they realized that they were all in the same boat. This broke down the barriers of race, social position and wage differences between them. A pity that they had to drown to come to this realization, but hey, personal growth is never easy.


November 10, 2003

The AVA

My favorite weekly newspaper is a rollicking small town paper out of Mendicino County California called the Anderson Valley Advertiser. It is run by Bruce Anderson, with a couple of dozen contributing writers.

Anderson has no fear. He rakes the local government over the coals. He goes after judges. He goes after school boards. He attacks the local radio station. He attacks environmental wackos as vigorously as he slices up right-wing nuts.

Anderson publishes several left-wing national writers, and lots of local ones of every stripe. Two weeks ago, he published an article by Rush Limbaugh. The week before, he published a picture of a young Arnold Schwartzenegger with a nude woman on his shoulders. The police report often starts, "Several drunken morons were seen..." Anything goes. It's refreshing to see somebody exercise their First Amendment rights to the hilt. It doesn't happen often enough.

The AVA never fails to have over two full pages of letters, many of them running into the thousands of words. Some come from convicts. Some ramble incoherently. Some are brilliant. Sometimes Bruce will write a withering response that's twice as long as the original letter.

The first thing I read in the AVA are the filler italicized quotes at the top and the bottom of the page. You can usually tell what Bruce (or somebody at the paper) has been reading by who he quotes in a particular week. H. L. Mencken, who for a long time was my favorite writer, is a frequent guest. But Anderson's tastes are eclectic: Pitcher Curt Schilling, boxer George Foreman, Jesse Ventura, Garrison Keillor, Frederich Nietzshe, singers, actors, philosophers, wise men and idiots--all might find their way onto the pages of the AVA.

Bruce even prints my column every now and then, which is a pleasant surprise. My writing is lukewarm milk compared to the 100 proof stuff he serves up in the rest of his paper. I mean, I am from Minnesota. We trip over ourselves to be nice. Even when we get mad at somebody, we cover it in sugar.

I get the impression from the AVA that their little valley somewhere in northern California bustles with colorful characters. I would like to visit there someday to see if I am right. Bruce put the address for this website on the tail end of my column last week. If any AVA readers stop by, please say hi. This weblog is probably a little bit mild-mannered for you, but thanks for clicking here anyway. Enjoy the warm milk.

In particular, is Lee Reynolds out there? She's a lady who writes wonderful articles for the AVA from her retirement home in Tucson. Tucson is my favorite city, and she does it justice. Like most of the AVA writers (and I suspect, readers) she's got spark.


Liability, schmiability

I have heard some response to my column about saving old churches. Everybody says, yes, they should be saved, but who will pay the liability insurance? I have asked in return, how much is the liability insurance on a closed church? All I have heard in response is that it is horrible. Horrible.

I can't imagine that the liability insurance for a closed church would be any more than for an open one. Nobody's going up and down the stairs! Nobody will be struggling to get down the basement on a bad hip. The building will be locked. Are they afraid some drunks are going to try to climb the steeple? Just what is the fear?

The fear of getting sued is often brought up as an excuse to destroy old things. In fact, one local church sawed down nearly all the trees in their cemetery because, and I kid you not, the trees might fall over on somebody and we'll get sued! Well, what about all the old buildings, many of them falling over, on private property? And there are trees everywhere! Should we saw them all down to avoid them falling on anybody?

I would like to hear if there has been so much as one country church congregation sued for something which happened in or around a closed building. I doubt it. I asked the cemetery people--have you ever heard of somebody having a tree fall on them in a cemetery and suing? The response: We don't want to be the first.

Some people just watch too much TV and think everywhere in the world is as crazy as California. Even if the concern over liability is legitimate, there is bound to be some way around it. Dissolve the congregation. Turn the church building over to a non-profit which has no funds. Lock it up good so nobody can get in. Take the chance.


Monday, Monday

Foggy this morning, but warmer. I much prefer temps right around freezing with overcast to cold and clear--during the day, at least. When it is in the single digits, clear and windy; when you drive to town accompanied by those wisps of dry snow sliding across the highway, that's when winter seems like it will never end. A few drips off the eaves, a crow cawing from the treetop, a foggy morning, and a person can imagine its the end of March.

Today I am going to drive around and try to find places to sell the book. Drugstores were a good venue for the past two books, but this past summer, I think every one of them sold out to a chain. That makes things a bit more complex, as they have to get permission from headquarters to stock a new item. We'll know by the end of the day how it turns out.

My marketing dream is to have the book next to the tabloids at the checkout at Hugo's grocery store. All of 'em. I am going to try to find out who is in charge of the magazines for the chain and see if I can't get them to try it on one checkout lane. My gut feeling is that the shelf space is controlled by the entity which sells the magazines, but its worth a shot.

There are some old friends to visit: Shirley and Marnie Thompson of Thompson Hardware in Red Lake Falls have enthusiastically sold the last two books. They have amazing traffic. Shirley has turned that place into much more than a hardware store.



November 09, 2003

A book in a month?

This is write-a-novel-in-a-month month, according to somebody on the web who is trying to do just that. The goal for those who are devoting this November to producing a work of fiction is to write 1,300 words per day. That would result in a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month.

This is not such a dumb idea. Writing is more work than inspiration, and the biggest battle is sitting down and getting to work. Thirteen hundred words in a day is reasonable, and it just goes to show how just a little work per day will produce big results in a short time.

No guarantee, of course, that the end product is worthwhile. But most aspiring writers, including myself, spend ten times more time dreaming about the Great American Novel they plan to write than they do actually writing it.

In actuality, one's first effort is usually mediocre or worse. However, you learn far more from making mistakes than you do from sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike.

This might be something I will do when I get to Arizona this winter. (Notice how I am already procrastinating.) I have been thinking a lot about the story of my grandfather lately. I have tried to write about it in the past. As I mentioned below, the working title is The Grandpa Years. Rather than a straight biography of Grandpa, it would be a memoir of the 25 years I spent on the nursery as his right-hand man, of sorts.

Part of me is not eager to take this on. It is a little close to home. My Great Aunt Olla says she sincerely hopes she is gone before the book comes out. There are many people living still who would inevitably be a part of the book. I see no benefit to inadvertently causing hard feelings in the name of writing what I see as the truth.

I understand why people write fiction: They can deny that any one character is anybody still living. They can change things to disguise any reality which might hurt those they love. Most of all, they can lie with impunity--and really let fly with what they think. If nothing else, they can put their most provacative thoughts in the head of a character in their novel, thus ducking responsibility for the fallout.

Also putting me off the task: The ever-growing feeling that I am but walking in Grandpa's footsteps. I own the nursery he started. Every time I look back at Grandpa, at his writings, at the early days at the nursery, I see myself. When I started shaving my head close, people said I looked like him. The columns I write that people seem to most like--they say, "You sound like your Grandpa." After I sang and played an old gospel hymn for a funeral last spring, a neighbor came up to me and said, "Thanks, Little Melvin!"

Well, when one likes to think that one is plowing a unique path in the world, it is a little disconcerting to find that you are a prisoner to patterns laid down by a previous generation! For instance, Grandpa published a book that he sold himself. So have I. Grandpa send out monthly mailings to a list of about 100 people. I now write a daily weblog which might someday have 100 visitors per day.

On top of that, Grandpa's life was not entirely happy. His effusive and enthusiastic public demeanor concealed a dark, brooding side which nobody could penetrate. Only those closest to him saw that part of him. A truthful (and interesting) memoir would have to include the difficulties, memories of which are not fun to revive.

Yet, I sense that I will someday delve into the task of writing a memoir about the years I spent with Grandpa. If nothing else, it would be an interesting psychological exercise. If it turned out to be readable, so much the better...I think.


This week's newspaper column

Last week, a full moon shone on a still night when the temperature dipped slightly below zero. The snow on the ground doubled the brightness. On such nights, the outdoors looks like the middle of the day seen through a welding mask. Eerie, but beautiful.

Because of the moonlight, I didn’t need to turn on a light when I got up for a drink of water in the middle of the night. With no lights on, I spotted a buck grazing underneath the oak tree fifty feet outside the sliding glass door.

He heard me shuffling around the house, so I froze until he went back to grazing. I watched him a couple of minutes before he trotted off to the woods. For bragging purposes, I decided he was an eight-point buck.

Eight points is a pretty good number. If you claim a buck is twelve points, people aren’t going to believe you unless the evidence is in the back of your pickup. Any fewer than eight points and it’s not worth bringing up. So, every buck I see is eight points.

I wonder if my eight-point buck survived the first weekend of hunting without ending up frozen stiff in the back of a pickup with a tag wrapped around his antlers. I hope he did, although I could only shrug if he didn’t.

Cold, clear, still nights in winter are beautiful in a haunted, nostalgic way. Every home looks cozy. Driving past, it is impossible to imagine anything but quiet harmony within. Coffee and pancakes every morning. Ten o’clock news and hot chocolate before bed.

A lone yard light bathes each of the the far-flung rural farmyards in a lonely, blue light. Out in the open fields, the monumental lone cottonwoods spout up like giant geysers frozen in place mid-eruption.

The gnarled oak form a rich, charcoal-black silhouette against the orange winter sunsets. Recent wind-driven snow clings to the north side of the slender poplar trunks. The slightest breeze raises a low, hollow roar from the boughs of the pine and spruce.

Of course, the phone rings and the whole sparkling winter wonderland shatters. Somebody in one of those cozy homes is ill, or upset, or depressed, or drunk on a Tuesday evening, or they want you to consider donating funds to their unquestionably worthy cause.

Turn on the TV and the whole warring world pours into your cozy living room. More dead in the Mideast. Another bizarre murder in California. A mudslide in El Salvador. Another corporate executive raiding the company coffers with no apparent pangs of conscience.

Open a magazine and find that you could have whiter teeth, more hair, male enhancement, six-pac abs, a better vocabulary and a fashionable wardrobe if you would just pull out the credit card. What are you waiting for? Love and happiness await, at an annualized rate of eighteen percent.

Oh, and don’t forget to ask your doctor if this pill is right for you. We won’t tell you what the pill is for, but it could be just what you need. You might finally be as happy as those glowing people who push their giggling grandkids on the swing in the park.

So, which is more real? The tumult of the outside world, piped into our homes with electronic devices? The drumbeat media message that happiness is to be found in the next purchase? The pervasive illusion that contentment can be attained through striving?

Or, the serenity of the moonlit scene outside the window, available without subscription or prescription, without side effects or monthly interest charges, a scene which, if absorbed, can give one a rich feeling that things are pretty good as they are right now?


Book signing

Held a book signing at the nursery yesterday. A nice crowd. Sold 210 books. Signed them all. Brother Joe provided music during the day. Mom made cookies for the event. By the middle of the day Mom had to run home and print out copies of the recipe for her turtle cookies, which she then had to autograph! Gift shop manager Dot sold many gift items. Friend Sheila from Ada came and helped keep the cookie jar stocked.

Some wonderful chats. One neighbor said that although he is generally against suing people, somebody should instigate a class action lawsuit against whoever it was that came up with these stupid new rural addresses. I agree. Soon the post office is going to refuse to recognize old Rural Route addresses. The inconvenience is likely to cost us over a thousand dollars just to update our mailing list. And for no reason whatsoever. The new addresses are a step backwards, a triumph of bureacracy over good sense.

There was only one ethical dilemma worth mentioning at the booksigning. I know I signed two books intended as a gift for the same person. In other words, Nancy is going to have two books under the tree, both signed by myself about twenty minutes apart. Did I owe it to the second party to tell them that their gift would not be unique, that somebody had beat them to the punch? I decided that it was not my business. It wasn't as bad as the book signing two years ago when I lovingly inscribed five books for Hilda. Didn't sign a book for Hilda this year. I'll bet she doesn't even get one this Christmas. Serves me right!


Karaoke

Went to karaoke last night in town. Fun to hobnob, and then get up every twenty minutes or so and sing a tune. About seven people from my graduating class were there. Found out from one that I had been responsible for giving him a not-to-flattering nickname in 6th grade which has stuck to the present day. Ugh, what little monster I was.

Lots of story-telling, lots of laughs. You have to look around first to make sure no close relatives of the story's main subject are around before launching off on one. There are people in town who are just too good to be true. They are legends and they don't even know it, usually due to their peculiar accent or way of expressing themselves. But its still not good form to tell about them if they are sitting across the room, or if their next of kin are in the next booth.

Storytelling is one of the great charms of the small town. Getting together with the storytellers always means a sore gut from laughing. I don't tell many--a story which might work if worked out on paper (or on the computer screen) usually flops when retold aloud.

So, I am one of the audience, one who nudges the topic over to story-telling territory, until one of the storytellers picks of the ball and runs with it. Then, there's no end.