Archive for the ‘Repeat Post’ Category

Complications & Fries Again

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The vacant corner lot up the road is being developed. Fences are up, dirt’s being pushed around, and a concrete platform for utility meters has gone up. A sign along the Highway 10 frontage road says that a self-storage place is going in. I’m glad to see something’s being done with the corner – the East Side needs more commerce – but I was hoping for something less prosaic. After all, the corner lot used to be the site of a place that mattered to me. Here’s a post I wrote about the place back in 2009.

Just up the road from our place, right next to U.S. Highway 10, is a vacant building. Sometime in the last year, the auctioneer came by. They sold the booths and the counters, the grill and the deep-fat fryers, the hydraulic lifts and the gas pumps, the tool cabinets and all of the things that made the little building a gas station and restaurant for as many years as I can remember.

It was called Townsedge, and that was accurate enough in a practical sense. For many years, when folks would come into St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, Townsedge was the first gas station or restaurant they saw. They’d pass by a few other places – the marine shop, the masonry place and a used car lot or two – but if folks on the road had the usual travelers’ needs, Townsedge was the first place they saw where those needs could be met: Fill your tank, check the oil, buy a pack of smokes, sit down in a booth for a few minutes and have a cheeseburger straight from the grill, with a couple of pickle slices on the plate and a basket of fries on the side.

It was the kind of place you don’t often find anymore, and that’s truly a shame. There was another place like Townsedge across Highway 10, Fred’s Cafe, a classic American truck stop, and both Fred’s and Townsedge did well for many years. When Fred’s went out of business – that happened during the years I was away, but I think it was in the early 1990s – a chain convenience store/gas station took its place, and I’m sure that took business away from Townsedge. And when a franchised burger place opened up a couple of years ago about half a block from Townsedge, that pretty much told the tale.

After Dad retired, my folks went to Townsedge for coffee a couple of times a week, and after the Texas Gal and I moved here in 2002, I’d walk over and join them every once in a while. As we sat, I’d look around the place and gauge the ages of the customers. I’d see a few single moms with kids, but not many. Most of the time, I was the youngest person in the place (except for one or two of the waitresses). Once Dad was gone and Mom moved, I had no reason to go into Townsedge anymore, and not too long after that, I saw the “Closed” sign in the window as I drove by one day. And eventually, the auctioneer came by.

Places come and go, but Townsedge – as it was in the 1970s, not as it was in its last years – was a special place for a couple of reasons. First, the fries. The French fries at Townsedge – golden and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – were among the best I have ever had. I’ve been to a few other places over the years whose fries were better, but when I was in high school, Townsedge had the best fries in town, and the little cafe was frequently the last stop during an evening spent out with friends.

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the cafe had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And here’s “I Think I Love You.”

Saturday Single No. 513

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Some of my favorite posts from nearly ten years of blogging here are meditations on autumn. Rather than try this morning to do what I’ve already done, I’m offering a post I wrote on the second day of October in 2010. Some of the things mentioned no longer apply: I am now sixty-three, this year’s mix of annuals was different, and neither the red nancy nor the bronze bugleweed we planted along the sidewalk ever flourished. Still, much of this piece applies yet:

Autumn is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.

Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

And here is an early version of one of my favorite autumnal songs: Fairport Convention’s take on “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” written by its own Sandy Denny and included on Fairport’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking. I imagine this version has been posted here before, but it’s always worthy of a listen, so it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘These Precious Days . . .’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

(Life is getting back to what passes for normal around here, and while that process goes on, I decided to take a look in the EITW archives. As I did, I came across a piece written eight years ago today, during our first autumn in our little house just off Lincoln Avenue. I’ve made a few revisions and selected a different version of the song.)

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.

No, I’m not channeling intimations of mortality this morning as I ponder Willie Nelson’s melancholy version of “September Song.” But it is late September, and it is autumn, my favorite of seasons.

I often wonder if there’s some sliver of my being that lingers from the long-ago days of my Swedish and German ancestors, some bit of soul memory that recalls the Septembers and Octobers of Northern Europe. For I connect with that distant past as the leaves turn their browns, golds and reds and then release themselves from their trees. It pleases me on some level to hear talk of first frost, and I noted the passing of last week’s equinox, when the nighttime begins to fill more of our hours than does the daylight, with the quiet satisfaction of a man who feels his best time is come again.

This is my season. Were I a vintner, my wines would be autumnal and bittersweet.

In all those things mentioned above – the chilling of the weather, the fading of the leaves, the fading of the light – there lies the metaphor of our of own chilling and fading. And simple time sometimes reminds us, too. My father had his first heart attack forty-two years ago this week, just before he turned fifty-five. I’m eight years older than that now, and thankfully, show no indications of any heart ailments. I think about that as I look out my study window and watch the oaks trees just this week beginning to surrender their first leaves, one by one.

My father survived that trial and lived through another twenty-eight autumns before leaving on a late springtime day in 2003. I don’t foresee an early exit for me, either, no matter the twinge of melancholy found in both autumn’s winds and Nelson’s version of the song, written long ago by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill. And it’s worth noting that, as drear as “September Song” might seem, it centers on a promise.

Now, promises can be cruel things, and – knowing that – I once told my loved one that I could not promise forever. But, I said, I would promise tomorrow. Come tomorrow, I would promise another tomorrow. And then another and another, until all the tomorrows were done. That’s a promise I will keep.

And here’s what Nelson – and all who’ve offered us “September Song” over the years – promises as the ending nears:

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.
September. November.
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
These precious days I’ll spend with you.

So, for my Texas Gal, and for all those anywhere who hold to love while the leaves fall and the days dwindle, here’s Willie Nelson’s version of “September Song.” It’s from his 1978 album Stardust.

Embrace Love

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

As has often been the case here over the past six years, I sat down to write on February 14, 2009, without having any clear idea of what I would say. The result proved to me the value of something I was told long ago: When you want to know what you think about something, sit down and start writing. The result, edited slightly for reading today, also sits in my memory as one of the posts that most pleases me in the six-year history of this blog.

It being Valentine’s Day today, Blogworld will likely be filled with love songs.

And that’s okay. If there’s one thing that should be celebrated more often, it’s love. And I can’t think of a more appropriate day to do so than today.

But what is there to say that hasn’t been said already, here and in a thousand thousand other places? Maybe nothing, but let’s go on anyway. I think we can say that love – like the songs we write about it – is really about hope, promises, fear, joy, sorrow, yearning, bliss, despair, isolation, companionship, contentment and finally, peace.

I’ve heard it said – heck, I may have said so myself at one time or another, as many times as I’ve taken a climb on this Matterhorn of a topic – that we don’t really choose who we love. We just love, and we recognize the objects of our love when they enter our lives. The choices we make then are: first, whether to acknowledge the love, and second, how to express it. Those choices determine which of the feelings in the above list – hope, promises and so on – will embrace the two lovers.

Sometimes we choose badly. Most of the time, we hope, we don’t. And when one chooses well, when one acknowledges and expresses love in ways that nurture both souls, then the worst things on that list – isolation and despair – can be minimized, if not entirely avoided. What about fear and sorrow? Well, no person who loves another can avoid them. That’s not cynicism talking, that’s – to quote Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield by way of Marvin Gaye – the way love is. Fear and sorrow are the B-Side of hope and joy, and souls who love each other fear the inevitable parting and the resulting sorrow that comes even to those who have loved well and long.

I’d almost presume to say that if we do not grieve at a loved one’s leave-taking, we have not loved.

So, am I some kind of expert on love, to be throwing epigrams and lists of words around this morning? No, I’m just another pilgrim, one who has at times loved less than wisely and now – I believe – has learned to love well. These words are a description of my life, not a prescription for others. The only advice I would have for others on this day when we celebrate love is something someone told me long ago: Embrace love, wherever you find it.

Beyond that, all we need is a song. So here, for all lovers everywhere on Valentine’s Day, and especially for my Texas Gal, are Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell from 1968 with “You’re All I Need To Get By.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Here’s something that showed up in this space four years ago:

Well, it’s Thanksgiving, at least here in the United States.

Other places, I imagine it’s an ordinary Thursday, but here, it’s a day when we feast – those of us who can, that is. As we feast, however, we should also consider the lives of others, both near and distant.

From news reports over the past few days, it’s evident that even here in one of the most blessed nations on Earth, there are people who need the help of others to afford even the most basic of Thanksgiving dinners. The Galilean told his disciples, “The poor we have always with us.” He’s still correct two thousand years later, and I often wonder why we in this nation, in this community of nations, aren’t doing more to be proving him wrong.

And I don’t know the answer. I think the answer – if there is one – gets lost in a morass of politics, economics, theology and ethics. And all the wrangling through those topics doesn’t get us one step closer to putting onto the plate of a poor child a meal of beans and sausage, never mind turkey with the trimmings.

I think, however, that more and more frequently in years to come, those of us fortunate to live in basic comfort – a comfort that must seem like unimaginable affluence to many in the world – will learn what it is like to live on the edge of want and need. It might do us some good, as it might instill in us as people a caring awareness of how fragile life and wellness have been for many who have lived on that edge for years, for decades, for centuries.

Many of us already have that caring awareness, that empathy necessary for us to understand the lives of others, an empathy that one would hope would lead to a driving desire to improve the lives of those others. Perhaps, in what appears to be a coming time of constraint and restraint, those who have not yet shown that trait can learn it. And when better times come again – as we all hope they will – perhaps more of us will be able to feast without the aid of others, and those of us so blessed will be able to lead still more of the world to the table to join us.

In the meantime, on this Thanksgiving Day, may your blessings be – as are the Texas Gal’s and mine – too numerous to count.

Here’s Fairport Convention’s “Now Be Thankful” from 1970’s Full House. (The lyrics point toward martyrdom, which is not something to which I aspire, but the chorus, at least, works today.)

Saturday Single No. 310

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Oak leaves lay thick on our sidewalk yesterday afternoon, reminding me of something I wrote a while back. With many years of writing and more than five years of blogging in the rear-view mirror, it’s not at all surprising to find that the things that come to mind have already been put on the page. So here – modified slightly – is a piece that ran in this space two years ago.

Autumn  is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end: the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-eight autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.

Yesterday marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I headed down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the walk; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles, and it ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

Two years later, as I wander through my sixtieth autumn at the age of fifty-nine, things are much the same. Most of this year’s flowers are gone although the marigolds still hang tough at the southwestern corner of the house. The bugleweed has struggled these past two years, and the red nancy is gone. The lilies, hardy as always, thrived during the spring and summer and have now taken their leave. And I am in the midst of my autumn reverie, kicking the leaves, absorbing the last bits of color on the trees and feeling the wind as it shifts direction. Not far off is the day when those cool winds become cold.

Here’s “Early Autumn,” a 1960 track by Stan Getz. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Edited slightly since first posting.

A Date Forever Wrapped In Sorrow

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I don’t know that I’ve ever rerun a post here at Echoes In The Wind, but I’m going to do so today. Just seeing today’s date has made me feel old and weary and sad (and I doubt that I’m alone in that). Here’s a piece I wrote four years ago this week:

Blank stares. That’s the thing I remember most about November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was killed.

I was ten and in fifth grade that November, and for some reason, I’d had lunch at school that Friday. I usually walked the five blocks home for lunch, but Mom must have been away from home that day for some reason, a church women’s event or something like that. So I was in the classroom as lunchtime was ending and Mr. Lydeen came into the room with an odd look on his face.

He told us the news from Dallas, and we stared at him. I think some of the girls cried. And we spent the rest of the day milling around the room, gathering in small groups, the ten or so fifth-graders and ten or so sixth-graders of our combination classroom. We boys talked darkly of what should be done to the culprit, were he found. We were angry. And sad. And confused.

At recess, we bundled up and went out onto the asphalt and concrete playground, but all we did was huddle around Mr. Lydeen, our backs to the northwest wind. I don’t recall what we said, but I think we were all looking for reassurance, for explanation. Mr. Lydeen had neither for us; I remember seeing him stare across the playground and past the railroad tracks, looking at something beyond the reach of his gaze. The blank look on his face made me – and the other kids, too, I think – uneasy.

Mom was listening to the old brown radio on the kitchen counter when I got home from school that day – a rarity, as the radio was generally on only in the morning as we prepared for the day. And it stayed on through dinnertime, bringing us news bulletins from Dallas and Washington and long lists of weekend events cancelled or postponed. Not much was said at the table, as I recall, and I saw that same blank look on my parents’ faces that I had seen on Mr. Lydeen’s face that afternoon.

That evening, I sought solace in my box of comic books and MAD magazines. By chance, the first magazine I pulled out of the box had a parody of a musical film, one of MAD’s specialties. But the parody poked gentle fun at the president and his cabinet, and if it seemed wrong to laugh that evening – as it did – it seemed especially wrong to laugh at that. I threw the magazine back into the box and went in search of my dad, who was doing something at his workbench in the basement.

I watched him for a few minutes as he worked on something he had clamped in the vise, and then I just asked, “Why?”

He turned to me and shook his head and said he didn’t know. And I realized for the first time that the people I looked to for explanations – my parents and my teacher – were unable to understand and explain everything. That was a scary thought, and – being slightly precocious – I pondered its implications for a few days as we watched the unfolding events on television with the rest of the nation.

Sometime in the late 1990s, about five years before Dad died, I was up in St. Cloud for a weekend, and he and I were drinking beers on the back porch. For some reason, I asked him what he remembered of that day. He’d been at work at the college (not yet a university), and he remembered young women crying and young men talking intensely in small groups. And, he said, he remembered not being able to give them any answers at a time when they so needed them.

I nodded and sipped my beer. I thought of the cascade of events that followed John Kennedy’s death, the twelve or so years that we now call the Sixties: The civil rights movement and the concurrent violence, the long anguish in Vietnam, the deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, race riots and police riots, the National Guard and the police opening fire and killing students at Kent State and Jackson State. I thought about draft cards, protest marches and paranoia and about the distrust and anger between black and white, between young and old, between government and governed.

And I looked at my dad and said, “Yeah, John Kennedy’s death is when it all started.”

Dad was a veteran of World War II, part of the generation that came to adulthood during the Great Depression. His generation, after it won its war, came home and lived through a hard-earned era of prosperity that will likely never be matched anywhere in the world ever again, a time of Father Knows Best and the New York Yankees. From that perspective, my father looked back at November of 1963 and then he looked at me.

“No,” he said, “that’s when it all ended.”


“Crucifixion” by Glenn Yarbrough from For Emily Whenever I May Find Her (1967).

Edited slightly from first posting.