Thursday, August 6, 2009

A River Runs Through It

When we first moved to the Twin Cities, I was mystified by ramifications of the Mighty Mississippi in our midst.

Remember, Lone Reader, that I was raised by East Coast liberals who dragged their children to various places in Oklahoma and Kansas as they sought…hmm…what? They never really cared about greener grass. Peace from their own parents? Big sky country? Freedom from the long arm of the law? I dunno. One can see making the move from the ivy-laden confines of Cornell and Ithaca to the University of Oklahoma for one’s first professorial gig. A sad move, but an understandable one. Why, however, did we live in 3 houses in 4 years? And that’s right, one of those houses was on the edge of a reservation. (It WAS the thing to do in the 70s – send your kids to a reservation school.)

Alas, Lone Reader, I digress. As we moved around the lower Midwest, the constant was “going home” the biannual trek to New Jersey and New York. Every summer and over the winter holidays, we would pack up for the East Coast. While there, my parents would stock up on things one couldn’t get in the Midwest – Spatini spaghetti sauce seasoning, Red Rose tea and raisin biscuits.

What did it mean, then, I mused upon arrival in the Twin Cities, to live in a place where items where available only ‘east of the Mississippi’? Did one half of the metro have Dryer’s ice cream and the others ate Edy’s? Was the a black market of traders along the bridge swapping Hellmann’s and Best jars of mayonnaise in unmarked packages?

Eventually the river that turns one metro into two (among other things – Ed.) became commonplace…so much so that when a visitor said, “Take me down to the Mississippi” I replied, “We’re over it right now on the bridge – do you mean closer?”

Yes, river life’s got its own pace and it’s fast around here. But I still get a thrill when I find a jar of real Marshmallow Fluff on the grocery store shelves.

Happy Thursday, Lone Reader!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And all the herring you can eat...

Photo by John Doman, Pioneer Press

Sparky the Sea Lion died. He was 31, which is crazy old in the sea lion world.

Back in the day, I was a video teacher for the local cable access station. I used to certify people on the three-chip cameras and I used to teach video to summer school students. In a desperate attempt to find a project for one of the add-on classes, I decided we’d do a remote shoot. A documentary about the long-time trainer at the Sparky the Sea Lion show, Norm Byng.

Mr. Byng had been working as a trainer at the Como Zoo in St. Paul for 20 years. My group of Hmong girls and I called him, he agreed to be interviewed and we set up a time to tape the Sparky show, along with his commentary, and ask him questions afterward. We prepped interview questions and finally met up with Mr. Byng. It was hard enough getting the girls to speak on camera…it was a nightmare interviewing the trainer.

Mumbling girl: How hasmdnthe reljrjmbrlsn?
Byng: What?
Me: Cut.

Replay that about 17 times.

The end knowledge that we gleaned was that the Sparky show had not changed in 20 years. Mr. Byng said the kids would know if even a word was changed, so he had said the exact same words, four times a day for two decades. That might’ve explained his deadpan, monotone delivery. He looked like lovechild of Nick Nolte and the Skipper and he had the vocal charms of Tom Carvel, yet he was beloved.

I don’t know if Norm Byng is still of this world, but today we mourn the Sparky that so many of us remember. He is saving baby dolls and balancing beach balls in the sweet hereafter.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Everchangin' Days of Blogs and Roses

Hmm…well Lone Reader, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I recently discovered that, despite my cagey maneuvers, relatives are reading this blog and it makes me feel weird. (Velma seems to have missed the “You Know Anyone Can Read This, Right?” day at the blog seminar…Ed.) Is it that my outrageous double-life will finally see the light of day? Nah – I’m cool with that. Do I reveal secrets that were never meant to be blogged about? No. (Rosebud is a sled, Soylent Green is people and Sylvia Poggioli is really a man – Ira Glass told me so.)

I guess I thought of this a place to vent and maybe that’s not what it’s going to be anymore. Sigh.

More soon and love always,