Monday, April 28, 2014

Uncle Bob, man of letters

My Aunt Maxine, my dad's only sister, passed away last September at the age of 81. She was married to my Uncle Bob for over 60 years (61, I think, but being an English major math has never been my forte).

Maxine was a super person, and known to many as the greeting card lady at Lewis Drug (Southgate then Westgate) in Sioux Falls for 25 years. Bob still lives in SooFoo and with the help of his three kids and plethora of grands and great-grands is getting along as well as anyone can after losing the love of their life of six decades.

My favorite memory of Bob goes back to my grade school days when I was at Bob and Maxine's house and playing Yahtzee or some game. Now, as some will attest, I like to do things my own way (see blog header), and anybody can roll dice with their hands. It takes talent, however, to put them in your mouth and then spit them on the board. It's a proven fact you roll more boxcars with that method than any other.  And it also explains why I've been kicked out of every back-alley and after-hours craps game I've attended.

But that night with the cousins, things didn't go as planned and while employing my unique technique I swallowed one of the dice. And as any uncle would do, who was supposed to be watching his nephew so he wouldn't do stupid stuff like that, Bob picked me up by the ankles and shook me up and down to get the dice out. Surprisingly, that technique didn't work either. So began a trip to the ER.

Anyway, that's the kind of guy Bob is. Funny, laid back. He worked at a meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls and is an otherwise Ordinary Joe like the rest of us and our neighbors.  But I have a philosophy about Ordinary Joe's or Bob's, and it's that they all have something more to them than meets the eye. Some hobby, some hidden talent, something you don't really know about until they pull that hand-carved duck call or oil painting out of the closet and say: "Look what I did last week." And you go, "really, you don't seem like a guy who carves duck calls."

Well, Uncle Bob pulled one of those out ten years ago, shortly after my dad died. It was a poem about my dad. Whoda thunkit? Uncle Bob was a poet and I didn't even know it. I'll reprint that one when I get time to retype it. In the meantime, here is one Uncle Bob wrote in February, a few month's after his wife Maxine's death.

Very cool, Bob. Very cool.

It’s Time!

Out of the darkness
Came Maxine’s liver disease
From the head to the toe,
All this fluid, where does it go?
This is the part that frightens me so.

No cure for that as you can see.
She’s lying in the casket in front of me.
Only God will know when it will be,
The time when she is taken from me
Be patient my child, He will set you free.

Where are you going?  Where have you been?
I went to meet Jesus and He let me in.
I pray dear Lord on a bended knee,
Promise me help in my time of need.

In the wake of hours,
He will set you free,
God only knows when it will be.
God only knows she whispers to me.

When this is all over, and the pain is gone,
Life on earth still goes on.
No more suffering, no more pain
Nobody answers when I call her name

Most of life is what we do,
And down the road a lap or two,
Jesus will talk to me and you.

“No” said Jesus, "you must understand!
“Come, I’ll take you by the hand,
And we will go to the Promise Land”.

Oh dear Lord, what should I do?
Oh dear Lord, get me through.
We pause to say ‘I love you.’

                                Robert Larsen | February 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Not Friday, cuz I've been busy, link-oh-rama

It’s been my reading experience that the best-written, most interesting stories don’t appear in what I consider the noisy, cackling newspapers (Washington Post, NY Times) and on-line sites (Salon, Huffington, Breitbart) where their reporters sideline as talking heads on network television. Actually, it’s more like they are talking heads who sideline as writers.

I find the quality stuff in places like The Atlantic, The Economist, Deadspin, even Popular Mechanics and others. Regionally I like Stu Whitney and John Hult at the Argus Leader and David Rooks in the RC Journal. But, frankly, you won’t find a more enjoyable newspaper to read than the Custer County Chronicle.

Here’s a sampling of some quality, thought-provoking writing I’ve seen lately:

** Interesting piece: I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway

** Learn something: How Nigeria’s economy grew by 89% overnight
** 8 Lessons in Manhood From the Vikings

** A court fight that should bring a tear to your eye: Feud over sweet Vidalia onions
As a grower with roughly 3,000 acres invested in Vidalia onions, Delbert Bland insists his three decades in the business make him — and not the agriculture commissioner or other farmers — the best judge of when his onions are ready to come out of the ground.
 ** Yasiel Puig Isn't Perfect, But He's Everything Great About Baseball
It's possible that Puig could learn not to swing at obviously terrible pitches or overthrow the cutoff man; he could certainly learn to show up at the ballpark on time. It's also possible, though, that if Puig learned to play as conservatively as some kid who'd come up on a travel team in Virginia and then been drafted right into one of the better-run minor league systems, and learned to moderate his life and get to bed at a proper time and so on, it would beat the spirit out of him along with the heedlessness, and he'd be not just a different player, but a lesser one.
** Crazy-interesting story on the long-lost KISS guitarist:
Prior to the blowout, Cusano kept to himself and — aside from the occasional pear-tree dispute — lived in relative seclusion. One neighbor, speaking only under conditions of anonymity, said that "I thought originally it was just two women [living at Vincent's home] because of the way he dressed. It was very incognito." When the resident found out his neighbor was not, in fact, a woman but a solitude-seeking rock god, he remembered thinking, "I was like, 'Really?!'"
** Not to say everything Salon writes is useless: My boobs, my burden

** Glowing Reindeer Antlers Deter Car Wrecks

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I would've liked to known you, but ...

My wife and I have really been into the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel the last couple years. We love it. Friday night they had Monroe’s 1956 film “Bus Stop.” It was odd and funny and great. My favorite rodeo movie evah.

I was reminded of it when I saw this quote this week:
“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Here's the trailer.

Here's the Wiki.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finished: Lee Child's 'Never Go Back'

This is the 18th Jack Reacher novel. A fun feature for me was a couple of mentions of South Dakota. I always like a nod to the existence of my state. The novel begins with Reacher arriving in Washington, D.C., from South Dakota, then the entire plot takes place and once resolved he announces his intention to return to South Dakota. No idea what he's doing here, but this week I'll look differently at every person I see with a black eye, broken nose or on crutches.

This was one of my favorites in the series. He busted some skulls, was on the run with a pretty woman, meets who may or may not be his 14-year-old daughter, and it has many of the one-liner features of all the books.

I gave it a 7 on the 1-10 Haugenometer, which is actually my highest rating of 2014. Goodreads has it at 4.5 of 5.

Quotes I enjoyed for one reason or another:
"Reacher's mantra was: Get your retaliation in first."
".. and the guy went down so fast and so hard it was like someone had bet him a million bucks he couldn't make a hole in the dirt with his face."