Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 22, 2006

Aunt Olla's 95th

Unlike Aunt Olla's 90th birthday, which I tried to plan and after which attempt she said I was her "worst enemy," (apparently having coffee and cake in the common room of the apartment building where she lived wasn't her idea of a good time) she has taken complete charge of her 95th birthday.

It will be held at my house. Her schoolkids from District 29 will be the main guests of honor, but family will be invited as well. Angel food cake will be the main birthday cake, but there will be chocolate and perhaps a white cake as well. There will be buns with tuna salad on them spread very thickly, plus egg salad sandwiches. The people bringing those items have received specific instructions on the thickness of the spread as well as the nature of the buns.

From Minneapolis, friend Sybil will bring fresh papaya which will be sliced into cubes. It will be placed on a plate interspersed with cubes of fresh pineapple.

After lunch, there will be a program. I am to play a couple of classical numbers of my choosing. Joe and I will sing. Sybil will play. Other nieces will be performing, but since they haven't been informed of that yet, I will hold back here.

The party will run from 3 o'clock until at least six. I could tell that Olla was chagrined that I had a speaking engagement that evening, so I granted her permission for the party to run on after I had to leave at six. That seemed to be a relief. Perhaps she has something like eleven in mind, who knows.

During this time, she said she will be the teacher and it will be like old times (with her in charge of the classroom and the program). I didn't remind her that her schoolkids, now into their eighties, haven't in the recent past been prone to manipulation. For instance, the last time they came out to the nursery, Olla had visualized them all having coffee and donuts--but some of them had the gall to buy a can of pop instead. Infuriating. "They don't listen to me at all," she fretted.

After I was informed of the birthday plans in their full detail, Olla said, "..and that will be the last. After that, I can die in peace." But that was the same thing she said after last spring's Syttende Mai bash at the Fertile Hilton. I reminded her of that. "How can you be so mean?" she said.

Olla's birthday is September 28th (send cards to Olive Burton, 300 Garfield SE, Fertile, MN 56540), but the celebration can't be held until the 5th of October due to scheduling conflicts.

This website will likely feature frequent updates and a full report. Perhaps a column will result, as happened last year with Olla's rummage sale.

THE SUMMIT MEETING for the birthday party was held over coffee at the Fertile Hilton today. Aunt Ede, friend Sybil, Olla and I were in attendance. The meeting followed a performance at the Hilton by Sybil (who drove up from Anoka special) on the piano and the Gunderson boys of Ada and Hendrum on accordian and mandolin, a performance organized by Olla.

I was informed on Wednesday that I was to emcee the event, but I couldn't get there until 2:30 due to class this afternoon. After I refused to "find some sort of substitute" to teach my class so I could arrive at the Hilton on time, Olla had the event delayed until I could get there.

Olla's ninety-five and on a serious roll. You can't argue with that, I guess!

September 21, 2006

Honorary Red Hat

I was honored to be asked to join the group Red Hat photo of the Red Hats who visited the gardens this morning. They had called ahead wondering if they could hear a little music, so I played a few songs. This group is from the McIntosh-Erskine area.

September 20, 2006


Looks like the Twins are going to make the playoffs. If they do, a lot of credit will have to go to the starting pitchers who took over for LIriano and Radke when they went down. Boof Bonser is the best of the lot, but Carlos Silva has come back from a horrible early season to turn in four solid outings in a row, Matt Garza has looked good, and even Scott Baker turned in a good game.

The Twins have had many injuries, but they have continued to win due to their depth in the minor leagues. Neshek, Tyner, Bonser and Garza all spent most of the season in the minors. Reyes started there. Now, they are vital cogs in the wheel at the big league level.

I also did not expect Torii Hunter to come around. In fact, I thought he was washed up. Now he's hitting the cover off the ball. He isn't the center fielder he once was--not even close--but he isn't a liability, either.

If the Twins go into the playoffs, there will be no expectations from me. You can't trust a pitching staff which relies on one dependable starter. If the young pitchers plus Silva continue to be solid, it could be fun. If they fall apart under pressure in Yankee Stadium, it will be an unsightly mess.

In 2002, the Twins had a great bullpen, probably about as good as the one they have today. Well, it fell apart against the Angels in the second round of the playoffs. They gave up 10 runs in one inning to lose the final game. I couldn't bear to listen. It just went on and on.

The World Series will go to the hottest team, not necessarily the best team. The way the Twins are playing right now, that could be a good thing. They are hitting on all cylinders.

Sunshine's back

What a beautiful day. Some places in the area had frost last night. Some places in the nursery yard froze as well, but the flowers were fine this morning.

At this writing, the Twins are attempting to overcome a 2-1 deficit against the Red Sox in Boston. It would be nice if they could, since the Tigers are beating the White Sox.

In the middle of writing that sentence, Torii Hunter hit a three-run home run. Twins lead 4-2. Wow. They are on a roll.

I HAVE GOTTEN some response on the most recent column about torture. One Republican wrote thanking me for writing it. I don't see it as a partisan issue, and it is gratifying to find that there are conservatives who see human rights as important, as I would expect.

The column appeared on the Crookston Times editorial page atop a pro-torture column by Cal Thomas. His point was we shouldn't be "squeamish" about how we treat people who would never in their lives give us good treatment.

I have heard this several times. Anti-torture people are "squeamish." They are naive. Columnist Thomas Sowell has made the same charge. Only wimps have any problem with putting the screws to terrorists.

But torture isn't only about the tortured. It is also about those doing the torture. People who torture are morally compromised for life, as are their superiors. Good grief, when the CIA people were giving people hypothermia, they had doctors on hand for the expressed purpose of getting the tortured people as close to death as possible without actually killing them. In at least 100 instances, they failed.

This is medieval crap. We shouldn't even be talking about it. It matters not one whit what kind of evil people we have in our custody. When they are in our custody, we have complete control over their destiny and we enter a moral universe with high standards and grave consequences.

Dick Gregory of NBC News had the guts to ask the President if such treatment as he wants us to use on detainees would be considered acceptable if given American POWs captured by North Koreans or Iranians. Bush bristled, evaded, got angry, and refused to answer. In the end, he insulted Gregory for the length of his question and refused a follow-up. He does not like to be asked specifics about what he calls "this program."

Oh, and we are hearing euphemisms galore: Tough questioning. Aggressive interrogation techniques. Information gathering programs. What baloney. It is torture plain and simple. I think these interrogations should be recorded and shown the voters to see if they pass the stench test. We're a democracy, and we have a right to see what our tax dollars are supporting.

September 19, 2006

Sun breaks through

At the end of an overcast day, it was fun to look out the front windows and see the sun catch the yellowing leaves of the green ash across the swamp. I ran for the camera, snapped a few shots, and within three minutes, the sun was gone.

September 18, 2006

Necessary gloom

The weather is cold and wet, but I think the consensus is that we need a wet fall to replenish the subsoil moisture. Despite a dry, dry summer, the crops weren't all that bad. That was due to subsoil moisture remaining from the past very wet years. However, if we had two years running of such little rainfall, things wouldn't be nearly as good.

I selfishly pull for rain so the swamp in the front of the house fills up again. It is almost completely dry. The swans won't come back next spring without water. The water drained due to the collapse of an old beaver dam which had been keeping the swamp filled for about ten years. Although I hear it might be illegal to do so, I have taken measures to make dam sure the water doesn't escape again.

I love this weather. I love the turning colors in the wet mist. I love the good sleeping weather. Even so, I can feel the weight of winter coming on. So, I pulled the old sunlamp out and sat next to it this morning before starting my day. They say that if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I do, that you should start the sunlamp treatments after Labor Day and continue them until Memorial Day. I am rarely that regular, even though I know they help a great deal. I would advocate the sunlamp to anybody who gets winter blues, although not all people enjoy sitting in front of a bright light and not all people get good results.

And to be fair, I am also taking the anti-depressant Lexapro, which makes all the difference in the world, especially in winter. I would be slogging in molasses from mid-October through mid-March if it weren't for anti-depressants--or a trip to Arizona, which should be deductible as a medical expense.

Some people have a tough time with antidepressants, so I am hesitant to advocate their universal use. They have some unpleasant initial side effects which tend to go away, but which can be miserable in the extreme. You can either tough it out for a couple of weeks and see if they go away, or change anti-depressants and see if the next one is better.

Once you get acclimated to a particular anti-depressant, you're fine. The side effects go away. But even then, it takes a long time for the full effects of the anti-depressant to kick in. In fact, I think that the effects are cumulative and build over the years.

But by all means, if winter is miserable, or if you feel unlike yourself, unable to enjoy life, unable to motivate, pestered by unshakable irrational thoughts, filled with anxiety at the thought of going to town because it means seeing people, unable to shake off the anxiety caused by the last visit to town--consider anti-depressants. If not for you, for the ones who have to put up with your crazy moods.

Twins roll

They have won eight out of ten. The two losses were one-run heartbreakers. They are one game out of first with thirteen games to go. I could never have imagined such a finish in June when they were fading fast.

Today, I put their chances at victory at less than 25% with Scott Baker on the mound for the Twins and wily veteran Paul Byrd pitching for Cleveland. I didn't anticipate that Cleveland's defense would fall apart. Their team has lost interest.

My satellite dish must have gotten bumped in the wind. It wasn't getting a signal, so I tuned in to the radio. I am not a fan of John Gordon, but Dan Gladden's commentary is very good. He lets opposing teams have it hard when they don't play the right way. I get the feeling he would let the Twins have it hard if they didn't play well, too.

Gladden said that some of the Indians got big contracts and "got in the happy chair." Whatever that is. But I got his point. They no longer play hard--they have their millions. And as soon as he said it, a ground ball rolled right by the Cleveland third-baseman, who, according to Gladden, showed little interest in catching it.

Gladden is candid, which I always admire. He got on a roll talking about the party the Twins had at a hotel after they clinched the division title in 1991. Pitcher Jack Morris came to the party in a $2000 suit. He saw that it had already degenerated into a food fight, so he took off his suit, folded it neatly outside the door of the hotel meeting room, and attended the party in his "briefs," to quote Gladden.

ARDIS, are you still reading?

I found out today that one of you weblog readers is neighbor Ardis, somebody I thought was far too busy to be fishing around on the internet. But Ardis agreed with many of you who tune out when I write about the Twins.

You can't win 'em all.


I wrote a column on torture tonight. I feel very strongly about the issue. Posted below is a letter from Gen. Jack Vessey. To me the quote from Gen. Marshall's book in Gen. Vessey's letter highlights the attitude which we should maintain. It is the traditional American position. And we have blown things badly by abandoning it.

We have faced brutal enemies before. It is a conceit to say that the present threat is more dangerous than were the Nazis or Imperial Japanese. In fact, it is an insult to those who fought the Nazis and Japanese to say that the present enemy is somehow more brutal. Tell that to somebody who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where the Nazis suspended their adherence to the Geneva Conventions and shot helpless prisoners-of-war.