Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

June 12, 2004

Simi Valley

The television pictures of last night's memorial service for Ronald Reagan showed some of the beauty of California. TV flattens out things--the presidential library is atop a mountain and it features spectacular views out to the Pacific ocean. I am glad I stopped by there last winter--it gives one a notion of what is going on.

The most affecting image from all the funeral pageantry to me was a picture of Gorbachev tenderly hugging Nancy Reagan. In the 1980s, who could have imagined such a scene? Has the world ever changed since that time.

Not to mention Gorbachev sitting next to Margaret Thatcher at the funeral--and both of them acting like old friends.


June 11, 2004

Twins win again by playing the game right

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has always had a fear of using up his catchers. He always leaves one on the bench in case of an extra inning game or an injury.

Oddly, last night the starting lineup included all three of his catchers. Blanco behind the plate. Mauer at DH. LeCroy at first. He had played out his entire hand, very uncharacteristic of Gardenhire.

The line-up came back to haunt him later in the game. LeCroy got a hit in the ninth with two out and the Twins down by one. There he stood on first, chubby, puffing, slow--on any other night he would have been replaced by a pinch runner. But Gardenhire couldn't take him out.

Pinch hitter Jose Offerman lined a double to the gap in left-center. LeCroy chugged around the bases. He would have been out by a mile if the Mets' outfielders had the sense to hit the cut-off man.

The Mets lost two games to the Twins this series due to their outfielders throwing the ball over the heads of the cutoff man. We were taught that in Little League--never miss the cutoff man. It amazes me that major leaguers do this so often. It is one of the little things that wins ballgames, one of those little things that the Twins almost always do right.



June 10, 2004

More Reagan

Uncle Rolly and I were talking the other night. We thought it odd that the very thing which scared us so much about Reagan--his conviction that the Cold War could be won--was the issue about which he was most right.

A lot of stories are coming out. For instance, Reagan's aides finally realized in his second term that Reagan was deeply opposed to all nuclear weapons. In fact, he felt they were immoral. They tried to hide that fact, since it would have been, they feared, bad for such news to reach the Russians. Of course, Gorbachev soon knew himself that Reagan wanted to reduce nuclear weaponry to zero.

While washing his face in the hospital bathroom after the assasination attempt in 1981, a nurse found Reagan scrubbing the floor in the hospital bathroom. He had spilled, he said. She said, we have people to clean that up, but he didn't seem to think he should leave a mess.

Jane Wyman left her marriage with Reagan out of boredom. They maintained a dignified silence about each other to the end.

Ideologically, I think all this pageantry and hero-worship is bunk. When it comes right down to it, though, I find the spectacle irresistible.


Aunt Norma

My great aunt Norma Bergeson passed away at age 85 yesterday morning. She had struggled with bone cancer for many years. She went peacefully with all her children present.

Lots of good times at Johnny and Norma's house over the years. When they threw a party, you knew there would be good food and lots of music. For many years, Johnny and Norma entertained around the area with their two banjos.

Norma was an ace cook. She could whip up a great meal of fried chicken with little notice. Her mashed potatoes were a favorite--she later confessed they were instant. Instead of water, she used milk, I believe.

And, Norma was a great story-teller. Many times we heard her story of the time she sent Johnny to the wrong funeral. Lucky thing he forgot the card. Norma had heard on the party line that somebody had died, and she just assumed it was Norman Lindahl (or something like that) since he was so sick. Well, after Johnny left for the funeral, Aunt Millie called up. Nope, it wasn't Norman's funeral--he was still alive.

So, they laughed themselves silly and Norma waited for Johnny to come home. When he came in the door, Norma said, "Well, how was the funeral?" Oh, pretty good, Johnny said, except for that the minister got the name wrong every time.

"Well," Norma said, barely able to supress her laughter, "how'd he look?" Oh, Johnny said, they all look about the same.

A much better story when Norma told it.

The last time we visited, she talked for two hours about old times. Johnny courted her after Norma's first husband was killed in an accident, leaving her with three small children. They got along famously. Johnny was a bit absent-minded, so Norma sort of steered him along.

Norma always seemed young, always seemed like the one taking care of everybody else, always on the go. But the last few months--with chemo taking its toll--were difficult, and she spoke often of being ready to go.

Norma and Aunt Olla often teamed up on excursions. One time, I decided to cook the two of them supper in my house. That was quite a role reversal since those two had cooked me countless meals over the years. We had a blast. They enjoyed my porkchops and stayed on to talk for many hours.

Aunt Olla called yesterday--she is sad, of course, but that doesn't keep her from seeing the best in every situation. Norma was in such pain, and we had such good visits with her in the past few months. Plus, her kids threw her a nice big birthday party last month, so Norma got to visit with many old friends once more. All in all, according to Olla, "Things couldn't have turned out more perfect."

Olla and I went out for lunch at the new diner in Twin Valley, a cute little place decorated like a 1950s era restaurant. Chrome. Tile. Spinning stools at the counter. Elvis on the stereo. The food was quite good.


June 09, 2004

Great win for the Twins

Had the pleasure of watching the Twins beat the New York Mets last night in the bottom of the ninth by a score of 2-1. That's baseball! Good defense (at least on the Twins part) and great pitching. Radke was on (a reader noted that since I criticized him here, he has been virtually unhittable), and it was a pleasure watching Tom Glavine drop his changups off the outside corner.

The Twins won due to audacious base-running. Hunter stole third in the seventh inning, which seemed like an odd move, but he wouldn't have scored on the subsequent out if he had not. In the ninth, Jones scored from second on an infield hit by Cuddyer. The Twins continue their habit of running until they're tagged out, a policy I really like.


June 08, 2004

More on Reagan

I find it interesting to read the commentary in the various newspapers across the country commenting upon the death of Ronald Reagan. His death brings new focus on his years in power.

The repeated clips of old Reagan speeches make me feel ambivalent. He could be so corny. Sometimes his speeches were overwrought, especially when you know that he was sort of a cold fish in private. What kind of man could be so cold in private, only to gush when in front of an audience? Even Nancy confessed that she felt Reagan's distance at times.

Various world leaders have chimed in their tributes. Gorbachev wrote a glowing column for the New York Times. Soviet dissident Natan Sharanksy wrote about how a feeling of joy spread through the Siberian gulag where he was imprisoned when word reached the prisoners that Reagan called the USSR an evil empire. Finally, somebody with the courage to call a spade a spade.

When I was in Poland, I heard former dissidents speak in worshipful terms about Reagan. He inspired them a great deal. So, you have a man praised both by the leaders of the former Soviet Union and those who were the victims of Soviet oppression.

Of course, Castro's newspapers weighed in with the observation that Reagan "should never have been born."

Some surprising observations: Some foreign leaders have mentioned how important it was to them that Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers. That convinced them, they said, that Reagan meant what he said and would keep his word.

I think I will take off time and watch the funeral on Friday. It probably will be a once in a lifetime occasion.


Suddenly, a perfect June

Seems like we had no spring. Yesterday was hot and muggy, but today is perfect--cool, a bit cloudy, no rain, great working weather.

We are finally getting around to planting the gardens. It will take about a week with about six or seven people working on it full time.

The hostas are at their peak right now. I just went out to take pictures of the various varieties, each with its own texture and habit. When winter comes, I always regret that I didn't take more pictures when things were green, so I am determined not to make that mistake again this year. However, I tend to take pictures of the same things every year and omit those items I don't find that appealing.

The long, long hours of sunlight this time of year add a touch of unreality to the proceedings. The sun gets up so early that there is just no way to get up at daybreak. But getting up when the sun is already 1/3 of the way across the sky doesn't feel right, either. I person should go to bed about 9 o'clock, but it is still light then, too. I find it difficult to sleep eight hours in June.

But there is nothing like the greens of June. The fields are beautiful. The yards, when freshly mowed, are verdant, particularly after all the rain. The leaves are fresh and tender. We have a month of this before we turn the corner--the next stage of summer comes when the first grains start to turn tan. Then, there is a whole new color scheme.

I once talked to an artist who said that the hues around here change every couple of days if you watch closely enough. Things happen fast and furious in a northland summer.