Friday, January 30, 2009

Of Snow, Wind, and an Open Garage Door

Ever wake up feeling that you've forgotten something important? Around 3:00?

I did, a few weeks ago. Generally, I like the sound of wind roaring around the house, and snow rustling against windows. It's not as much fun, being jerked awake by the memory that I'd left the garage door open.

It had been a long day, The phone was ringing as I got inside. It was from the paper: one of those things that won't wait until the next day.

Later, with hot stew inside, a storm outside, and about ten hours of concentration behind me, I went to sleep.

One good thing about being awake at three in the morning during a winter storm: If you've left the garage open to the wind, there's just about enough time to shovel the snow out.

I finally realized that closing the garage door would keep more snow from blowing in. By then, I had uncovered one side of my car. With the door down, I excavated between the wheels, piling the snow on the patch I'd cleared.

By eight, the sky had cleared, the sun was coming up, and I had the car and part of the driveway almost free of snow.

Even better, the engine started. I let it warm up, then made a dash down the driveway. All I had to do was break through the rampart left by the plows.

I learned something that day: I don't, ever, want to forget about closing the garage door again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Whatever Happened to "Buck and Becky in Burbank?"

His high school nickname was "Video Vern," for the overgrown camcorder he often carried to school. By the time he graduated, in 1987, he'd written and directed the first television drama made by Loonfoot Falls High School students.

Vernon Pederson left Loonfoot Falls after graduating, headed for Los Angeles, and spent the next few years hopping from job to job. His parents weren't too happy about that: He'd been expected to go into the family construction business, like a sensible young man.

Then, in 1991, "Video Vern" ran an ad in this paper, announcing the premier of " ‘Buck and Becky in Burbank:' a series about a small town couple in the big city." He'd written the first episode.

"Buck and Becky" wasn't the most popular show on television that year, even in Loonfoot Falls. Remember: "Friends" and "ER" were running then. Still, it enjoyed good ratings.

Maybe too good. "Video Vern" was the show's director a few months later, when a reviewer called "Buck and Becky" "a 'Beverly Hillbillies' for the Nineties." That's when a senior studio vice presidents started taking a personal interest in the series. He had ideas that had never occurred to Vern.

Becky became a high-powered corporate lawyer on rollerblades, and Buck joined a tough-but-compassionate biker gang. Ratings for "Buck and Becky in Burbank" fell out of the sky and sank without a trace, somewhere off Santa Monica.

Vern's doing okay these days. He's back in Loonfoot Falls, managing Lakes Area Data Services' public-access programming.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bill and Mavis, and the Incredible Kitchen Fountain

Ladies, if you've been frustrated about the way your husband maintains the house, consider this: it could be worse.

Men, don't let this happen to you.

I was taking a break the other day at one of the eateries here in Loonfoot Falls. Conversation from a tableful of women washed past, until I one of them said something like, ‘Bill's really done it this time.' The name wasn't Bill, and those aren't the exact words.

Like most people, I don't think I eavesdrop. Also like most people, it happens sometimes.

Bill and Mavis – not their real names – had some shelving to put up in the kitchen. Mavis thought the nails Bill was using were on the long side, but he pointed out that they had to be. Those shelves would be holding cooking supplies, and had to be securely fastened.

Bill started hammering. He drove the nail through the drywall, the stud, and a fraction of an inch into the water pipe. Mavis heard a sort of POP: followed by the sound of briskly flowing water, somewhere in the wall.

Bill reacted quickly, yanking the nail out. That might not have been the wisest move. Water was now streaming into the kitchen from a pencil-size hole in the wall.

By the time Mavis got the water shut off, there were few dry surfaces in the kitchen. And, thanks to Bill's attempts stem the tide with a frying pan, the back door had been thoroughly soaked: and was solidly frozen shut.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sorry About That!

My apologies to Ed Brunsvold, whose latest column ("Manda LaFleur: Retiring Art Teacher Looking Forward With a "Quiet Country Sunrise"") should have been posted last Friday.

Actually, the column was posted on Friday: but was not available online until a few minutes ago. Ed finished writing about Manda LaFleur Friday afternoon, posted it to the server here in the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette offices, verified that it displayed correctly, and left for the weekend.

I was still in the office, doing a little maintenance, and left shortly after he did. Ed, I can't blame this on the gremlin. In order to keep off-site users from experiencing delays that my work might cause, I pointed off-site requests to a backup which had been made around noon.

When I left, I did not point off-site requests away from the backup, and back to the correct addresses. Right now, I'm determining how many items were affected over the weekend.

Again, I apologize.

And, Ed? I took the liberty of emptying the cup of coffee you left on your mousepad. The cup's by the second-floor coffeemaker.

Stan Parks

Friday, January 9, 2009

Manda LaFleur: Retiring Art Teacher Looking Forward With a "Quiet Country Sunrise"

Manda LaFleur, art teacher at Loonfoot Falls schools for over thirty years, is retiring this spring. Although her lava lamp and dreamcatcher will be gone from the old art room, she'll be remembered.

Every art class she taught saw a short video that showed 3,000 years of art set to music, at twelve images per second. It was called, reasonably enough, "3,000 Years of Art." Manda LaFleur explained, "a fully conscious, linear, ideation of the creative gestalt is unnecessary if imagery and sound combine to form a visceral appreciation."

I'm not quite sure what she meant, but I left her class more excited about art than I was when I started: and that film helped.

Manda believed that there was more to art class than helping students learn how to make melting letters and brightly-colored paisley patterns. "I wanted students to open their minds to new experiences, new images, new ways of looking at the world," she explained. "It doesn't matter if society labels them as artists, as long as they can reach inside themselves and draw out some of what they find."

Even so, some of her students did get labeled as artists, including interior designer Dillon Johnson and sculptor Andrea Nelson. About Nelson's four-foot mosquito, Manda would only say, "it's quite an appropriate display for that setting."

Manda LaFleur looks forward to an active retirement, becoming a more active member of the Asclepias Society and devoting more time to her own art, like this work: "Quiet Country Sunrise."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking Into the Winter Sky

It might seem that living in a small town means being isolated from the rest of the world: cut off from the ebb and flow of ideas and the rolling wheels of commerce.

Perhaps, but as I gaze out at the starlit sky the universe itself seems as close as the looming trees.

Orion stands in the southern sky, with Rigel, Bellatrix, and Betelgeuse shining like streetlights on some celestial boulevard. Beyond them, the Milky Way marks a galactic horizon.

Somewhere, in the darkness between those glittering lights, other galaxies spin. I can only make one out: the one in Andromeda, toward the west. It beckons, like a neighboring island might to a shipwrecked sailor.

Gazing into the ebon immensity of the intergalactic void, I remember the poet Tennyson's words:

"Many a hearth upon our dark globe sighs after many a vanish'd face,
"Many a planet by many a sun may roll with a dust of a vanish'd race.

"Raving politics, never at rest—as this poor earth's pale history runs,—
"What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns?..."

Vastness. That was the name of the poem.

I wonder: did Tennyson look out on a sky like this when he wrote that?

As I glance from star to star, am I, unaware, looking into the distant eyes of another watcher? If we met, what would we discover we have in common?

Besides being in the middle of a power outage.
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