Jim Bartlett's Blog

Posts from November 2013

Another Year of Failure Pie
My family is getting together for Thanksgiving again, on Thanksgiving Day itself, as we've been lucky enough to do for the last several years.  When it comes to holidays, we are a remarkably low-maintenance tribe.  We do not obsess over appearances, who sits next to who, or who eats or doesn't eat what.  If we can all be together, we're good, and the rest is just extra.

My mother probably obsesses the most.  She comes from the old school, and in the old school, you do not have only a turkey on Thanksgiving; you have both a turkey and a ham.  It's what she does because it's what her mother did, even though her mother was cooking for somewhat bigger gatherings than my mother is.  Mom also makes lots of stuff for dessert, although it's a cumulative process.  She's always putting baked goods in the freezer so she can send some home with whichever of us comes to visit, so at holiday time, she can bust out a wide variety of goodies. And there is usually pie.  My mother has never, as long as I can remember, baked a pie that turned out right, or so she says.  Her mother was exactly the same.  You'd compliment Grandma on the pie and she'd say, "Oh, it didn't turn out." (Sometimes she would do this pre-emptively, before you had a chance to compliment her.)  She would say this while the entire family was falling out of their chairs with delight because the the failure of a pie was so delicious.  And the same thing happens at Mom's dinners now.

We always ask if we can bring something.  Mom always says not to, and we always do anyway.  This year we're all contributing a little something for noontime while we all watch the Packer game, then having the main meal later in the afternoon.  "The little something" will be undoubtedly be more than a couple of celery sticks and some cheese, so we won't really need a big dinner, but we'll have it because that is how we roll.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you get to hang out with people you love and eat stuff you like, too.
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What We Remember
Several of us on the Magic crew had an interesting conversation in the office the other day about the earliest memories we have. Ginger says she wondered why the burner on the stove was red instead of black, so she reached up to touch it, with predictable results. Lanette was running with her cousins at a picnic and when she smacked into a hot grill. Mark says he saw what he remembers as a "cartoon mouse" running across his bed. Sara remembers standing on a couch looking out of a window while wearing a string of pearls. As for me, I remember being in a strange house and sitting on the lap of a very old lady, who was my maternal great-grandmother. She died in 1962, so I would have been about two. Two seems to be the threshold for early memories, a bit younger for some of us and a bit older for others. 

I was thinking about early memories the other day, trying to decide if I can remember watching all the Kennedy assassination stuff on TV 50 years ago. I think I can, but I'm not sure--images of that time have been broadcast on TV over and over again for a half-century now, so it's possible the picture I carry of seeing a coffin on a bier in a funeral procession might have come from a later time.

November 22, 1963, was an unseasonably warm day in Madison, although by that evening it was raining, and the next day, temperatures were forecast to be only in the 20s. The Badger football team was already en route to Minnesota, flying by charter plane for their annual showdown with the Gophers, and so were 800 fans who were traveling by train. The game would be postponed to the next Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day. Stores, restaurants, and theaters closed. TV canceled entertainment programs and all the commercials scheduled to air in them. The radio listings in the Wisconsin State Journal showed that WISM-FM, which would one day become Magic 98, was planning to air something called The Stereo Demonstration Hour at 7:00 that night. But it's a safe bet that the show didn't air. Radio stations either followed the news or played somber music.

You'll want to pick up this week's Isthmus for a tremendous article by Stu Levitan telling some stories of what happened in Madison during those four days in November. I wish I'd written it.
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Topics: Human Interest
Locations: Minnesota

Nobody's Different Except Us
There is nothing more annoying than sports fans who claim they're different from other sports fans.  The whole country was treated to this during the baseball's World Series last month, when the St. Louis Cardinals and the self-appointed "Best Fans in Baseball" faced off with the Boston Red Sox, who have millions of fans who have never traveled east of Kokomo, Indiana, many of whom roundly trumpet how nobody loves baseball as much as they do.  Notre Dame football fans can be like this, too; so can fans of the University of Alabama and other teams in the southeast.

That said, however, Packer fans really are different.

(You could see that coming a mile away, right?)

When Aaron Rodgers got hurt the other night, it was a football disaster.  You don't take one of the half-dozen best players in the game off the field and expect everything to be the same.  But it was more than that.  We really wanted him to be OK because we like him as a person, too.

Remember a few years ago, when Brett Favre's dad died a day or two before a game?  There were very few people in the whole state who didn't feel for his loss, root for him harder, and rejoice when he responded with one of the greatest performances of his career.  Would fans of other teams respond in exactly that way?  We like to think they would not. Because we're different.

No really, we are.
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Topics: Human InterestSports
Locations: AlabamaIndianaKokomo
People: Aaron RodgersBrett Favre

Home Work
I used to work in a cubicle, until 2003, when I quit the corporate scene. Although I worked with some very nice people, I had never been particularly happy with the job I had, and after a while the unhappiness started to multiply. One morning between 5:15 and 6AM, after a particularly horrible day the day before, Ann and I decided I should quit. I figured I could get freelance writing work from some people I knew, and I did. Every day, the cats and I would spend the day in my little home office, and we had a very agreeable life.

Ann works in the health insurance industry, and last year she got a new job, which has her working at home. We've always had one of those marriages with a lot of personal space in it, but now we were going to be together all day, every day. This was a little bit concerning. Our place isn't very big, but we figured it out. Now she's downstairs all day (with the cats--we have different ones now and they prefer her company to mine) and I'm upstairs in the office, when I'm not on the radio, or doing something else that gets me out of the house. I have the luxury of being able to take my laptop and write anywhere. Because of the medical privacy laws, she has to be hard-wired to her company's computer system.

Working at home is full of potential distractions---doing the laundry, stuff like that. Ann does a great job of ignoring them. Me, not so much. But since procrastination is a critical part of my creative process, it's OK.
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Topics: Labor

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