Bulletin Board, excerpt

Games people play

From (St. Paul Pioneer Press) Bulletin Board, Oct. 24, 2005

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Games people play

Poet X of PDX: "Five years ago, I found a unique way to enjoy a book while commuting. I'd picked up a very cheap copy of James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man': paperback, pale green cover, around 200 pages. (It was my cop-out choice, because I didn't think I was up to the challenge of 'Finnegan's Wake.') Early in the reading, the book reminded me of Thomas Hardy's 'Jude, the Obscure,' which I'd read a few years earlier and had very much enjoyed (if reading pessimistic doom, squalor and hopelessness can be described as enjoyment). Ultimately Joyce's book didn't 'do it for me,' although I faithfully read it to the end.

"What I did next is completely out of character, and I don't remember how I got the inspiration. Perhaps the front cover came off accidentally? Was it partly because I knew there were copies of the same edition readily available where I'd gotten mine a dozen or more? The thought of destroying a book is abhorrent to me.

"Oh, I remember now. For a home-decorating project, I'd decided to make paper chains like those made out of gum wrappers we made back in the early '70s in high school. Do kids still make them? I had completed several using glossy magazine pages. James Joyce was just a logical next step.

"I started with the front cover, tearing it in half horizontally and each piece again in half horizontally, making four 'links' to begin a new chain. Next came the first leaf: a blank page; four more links. Title page, introduction, Page 1, Page 2. When the chain became long enough, I put it in a paper bag I carried with me like a knitting bag. It made for an interesting conversation piece (but only a couple times; most people pretended not to notice).

"It was done before the temp job ended. I've kept it and briefly thought to display it, neatly coiled say, on the wall of my library.

"When folded into a paper chain and then spun into a coil, 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' is only about the size of a cantaloupe.

"Ah, the things I did when I was in my early 40s."

Law Firm of the Day:

Doom, Squalor & Hopelessness

Posted on Sat, Oct. 29, 2005

When you're alone in an elevator, what do you do?

Writes Wendy of Vadnais Heights: "I remember my mom telling stories about when she was working one of her first jobs as an elevator operator at the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, in the early '50s. She used to tear a couple of chapters at a time out of a novel and put them in her uniform pocket, to read while on the job. If she didn't have anyone in the elevator, she would read a page or two, discarding them as she went.

"She also volunteered to go to the observation deck with binoculars and look for 'enemy aircraft' (this would be in the early '50s; she never mentioned if she ever saw any).

"Now, while I was thinking about this story, triggered by Poet X of PDX's 'book chain links,' I called both my dad and my Aunt Elaine, her sister, for corroboration. I reached Dad first, and he said yes, those stories were true. (I frequently remember stories of family life that my dad and sister don't remember.) When I got ahold of Elaine, she didn't remember ever hearing them, but was a little miffed about not knowing the 'book trick' because she, too, was an elevator operator, at around the same time, for the Rand Tower. Now, I don't remember that building [Bulletin Board interjects: It's still there!], but Elaine said it used to be the headquarters for Northwest Airlines and several high-priced attorneys, etc.

"Her method of relieving boredom was to sing and dance in the elevator! She remembered she had to wear high-heel shoes as part of the uniform, and her feet would hurt, so she would take them off and practice routines. As soon as she felt the elevator start to slow down, she would scramble for her shoes. Now, I've heard her sing all my life, and I told her that sounded terrible, but she claimed she used to be pretty good before she wrecked her voice by shrieking at the Vikings for 18 years. I asked if she still did that, and she said: No, no, no! Asked if she'd heard that Mom looked for enemy aircraft, Elaine said: 'No, but if she would have told me she was doing that, I'd have called her nuts!' "