?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Columbus Day

Today is the federally recognized holiday that honors Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of America. Every school aged child is told the story. Although Columbus was Italian, he sailed for the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He made four trips to the Americas and proved that the Earth was round instead of flat. He was a great man.

Except . . . most of this is bunk.

Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands, but never set foot in North America. (Actually explorer John Cabot gets the credit for being the first European to land there.) Several famous philosophers and scientists — Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Euclid –had already concluded the Earth was a sphere long before 1492. According to The Washington Post “the big question was not the shape of the Earth but the size of the ocean Columbus had to cross.”

Laurence Bergren, in his biography Columbus, notes that he committed atrocities against native peoples and terrorized the Spanish colonists. He isn’t responsible directly for the almost complete decimation of Indigenous Peoples, but he certainly set a poor example.

Which might make one wonder why we’re honoring him. Perhaps this holiday should go the same way as the Confederate flag.

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The Chainsmokers

A week ago today I was in Minneapolis waiting for my son to cross the Twin Cities Marathon finish line. We’d had a wonderful weekend together, and I had mental material for several blogs. One was about the Chainsmokers, an American DJ band, that was performing at the venue across from our hotel. Another was about a brewery we visited. And the view from our hotel window that framed the beautiful Cathedral of St. Paul. And, of course, there was the race experience itself.

None of these blogs got written; in fact I’ve posted only one entry since returning home. It’s not that I’m overwhelmed with projects or that I haven’t wanted to write. In fact, I don’t really know what it is, but my keyboard and I have been estranged.

Hopefully, it’s short lived, although I probably won’t blog about the Chainsmokers. They don’t seem as relevant as they did last weekend. Still, the name baffles me and so does the group’s official website. Maybe you should just see for yourself by visiting www.thechainsmokers.com.

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Losing Contact

We are becoming anti-social, and technology is partly to blame. I’m not saying whether this is good or bad; rather, I’m presenting some observations.

Before ATM machines, people went into their banks and saw a teller to make a deposit or withdraw funds. It was a moment of social exchange. Before self-checking at supermarkets, those same people put their items on a conveyer belt and greeted the cashier who asked if they had any coupons or bottle returns. It was another moment of social exchange.

Before restaurants started putting computers on their tables and expecting diners to order from an online menu, servers introduced themselves. The same goes for fast food, where the kiosk has become the ordering device. People can pick up prescriptions, grab a latte, and get their newly laundered shirts from the cleaners via drive-up. They can order just about anything online without talking to a salesperson.

And who hasn’t seen photos of a group of teens at the beach on a sunny day, all of them on their cellphones while sitting around in a group? Or a couple in a restaurant, presumably for a nice dinner together, looking at their phones instead of talking together?

Perhaps technology makes things more “efficient,” but it also diminishes the importance of being able to look someone in the eye, say something appropriate, and connect on a basic human level.

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One Less Cub Fan

Manager Joe Madden and the Cubs organization have officially parted ways; and I am saddened, angered, frustrated, and disappointed in the way it came down. I do not read sport columnists or listen to talk radio to form my opinion. But I have watched the Cubs faithfully for the five years Madden coached the team, which gives me some firsthand knowledge.

I also live with someone who’s watched the Cubs – win and lose – for seventy-two years. We both think Madden did wonders. Four trips to the playoffs in five years. A World Series win. And a lot of fun in the game. Personally I think his contract should have been renewed. Who else brought the Cubs this far?

The announcement came the eve before the last regular season game. I imagine team members sensed what was going on long before the news broke. But why couldn’t everyone wait another mere 24 hours? For the record, the Cubs lost 9-0?

All season, they were plagued with pitching issues and injuries. But Madden said it best when he noted that the successful Cubs came under increased scrutiny. I suspect that played a significant role in the outcome. Management said it was a “Win-Win” that Madden was departing, but I don’t see it that way. Rather, there will be other members of his “team” who will be traded away, because that is what happens when expectations soar unrealistically.

I doubt the Cubs will win another World Series for the next 108 years, matching their recent drought before Madden brought them one. But, at age 65, he’s got enough left to coach some other team that sees his value.

And for me? I’m following Joe.

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Blogging

It’s been five days since I’ve blogged. At times I feel guilty about skipping a day or two. But then I remember that I’m basically doing this for my own benefit and not to amass a gazillion readers. Although that would be nice.

But I’m immersed in a literary project for my son’s university’s press. It requires reading manuscripts that were submitted in the hope of publication. I know how that feels as I have been on that side of the table more than once.

It’s interesting to be on the other side. To be in a position to say “Yeah” or “Nay” as to whether a manuscript should then move to the next level of examination. A “Nay” at my level means it won’t.

I have 30 manuscripts to preview by September 30. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had them since July; so nobody should feel sorry for me that this past week and this coming weekend are filled with reading them.

And while it impacts my own writing, I learn so much from reading what other hopefuls submit that it’s worth not blogging for a few days. After all, as I said at the beginning, I do it primarily for me.

And maybe for my children. Because when I’m gone, there are fifteen years of entries that have chronicled my life during that time.

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In the Bag

This year’s grade school reunion is in the bag. It included two great meals and a truly average one in a restaurant that we probably won’t visit again. This year it also included the creation of videos to email those who couldn’t attend. I was struck with how sincere they were. And also, how we all asked the missing classmates to make it next year.

Which is proof that the Cathedral Grade School lemmings will return.

This morning I drove my friend C, whom I’ve known for 65 years, to the St. Louis Airport for her flight to Austin, TX. Then the car turned east as I sat with the same ambivalence about this weekend that’s always been there. If you’re curious, put “Grade School Reunion” in the search field on my website, www.annebrandt.com and you’ll find more than one entry.

Will I go next year? Of course, it remains to be seen for all of us as we navigate health issues, family issues, and financial issues. Still, whether I attend or not – and, let’s face it, I probably will – I hope those missing classmates who got personal videos make it.

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Reunited

I’m leaving in a few minutes to make the drive to St. Louis, MO, where I’ll attend the seventh annual Cathedral Grade School Reunion. I’m as ambivalent about going as I was when the first one was held in 2013. Still, something compels me to be there.

And write about it.

After exploring several variations, we have the weekend’s schedule down pat. It’s a two-night affair with the first being held in a restaurant and the second in Mary Nina’s home. Unlike many of us, she stayed in St. Louis, raised her family, and was widowed somewhere in the time that we’ve had these reunions. Her husband, who was not a member of our class, isn’t the only one to pass on in seven years.

We all agree that Nina’s (She dropped her first name.) home is where the real conversations take place without noise from other diners, ambient music, and blasé servers. One might wonder why we do a restaurant at all, but it’s a good way to segue gently into the past.

This year it’s a smaller group — only 11 of us. I was the youngest in our class, and I turned 75 this past June.  So you can imagine the various reasons attendance is dwindling. In a way, it’s an argument for having the reunions less often. But then we’d probably have to face that others will pass on between times.

Which is why I suspect we’ll discuss the 2020 reunion almost as soon as the 2019 one begins.

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Bread + Bar

Six years ago I wrote about a new restaurant in town. It had all the makings of a great addition to the community, except for one thing. The acoustics were atrocious. Back then, I wrote that I’d return when that problem was resolved.

It was. And I did.

Now Bread + Bar is one of my favorite restaurants around. The menu is much more than standard bar food (Not that there’s anything wrong with bar food.) and includes a marvelous cheese board, fantastic salmon served over lentils, amazing breads, and something called French purses. My friend, M, and I have agreed it’s our go-to place for dining together.

There has been just one small problem. M and I like the same “adult” beverage, but since we started frequenting B+B last year, it has never been on the menu. We’ve asked; we’ve asked again. In fact, we probably made pests of ourselves. But tonight we were rewarded with the Southern Comfort we both like.

As we were leaving, Owner/Host Tim, was by the door. So we made a point to stop and thank him. “Ah,” he said. “You’re the ones.” Obviously, we’d made an impression. But then this just proves that old adage about the squeaky wheel.

Thanks, Tim.

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The Three Rs

In the old days, the three Rs represented classes in reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. They were part of a song titled “School Days” originally written in 1907 and recorded by innumerable artists ever since.

But in our household, the three Rs refer to Earl’s favorite painters: Remington, Russell, and Rockwell. Following up on yesterday’s post, we have works from all three in our home. Not originals, for those are all in private collections or museums.

Still, we’re proud of the replicas in our home. The two Remington sculptures, for instance, are even better copies than the ones sold in the gift shop of the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, NY. The Russell print is a little known copy of a mountain man. And the two Norman Rockwells are from limited editions of 200 prints each.

It’s taken twenty-five years to accumulate the art we love; currently we’re running out of wall space. We either have to purchase a larger home or give up collecting. It’s a hard choice.

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Art

I needed a couple credits in college to graduate a thousand years ago. Being a pragmatist even then, I didn’t want to exert myself any more than necessary to get them. So I took a two-credit art course rather than the standard three-credit offering.

What I remember these fifty plus years later was the professor’s pronouncement that one should be willing to spend as much for art on the walls as for furniture on the floor. I, who lived with my mother in a one-bedroom apartment near the university campus, that we were slowly furnishing, couldn’t imagine having that kind of money.

Fast forward to today. I sit in our living room to read most nights and enjoy the art we’ve collected over the years. Yes, we have pieces that cost more than our couch or our new cooktop. Even more than a week’s vacation.

And while I feel fortunate to have works by Howard Terpning, G. Harvey, and James Bama (all artists of the Old West), I still don’t agree with that university professor. It isn’t the amount of money one spends; it’s the pleasure of having whatever type of art warms your soul. In my book, a three dollar poster in a standard frame that brings back memories means as much as a three thousand dollar artist’s proof.

Perhaps the same can be said for a couch or cocktail table too.

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