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Across The Lake

You may recall my absence from this spot a few weeks ago. My daughter used the occasion of my brief stay in the hospital to pen a column that prompted a lot of cards and phone calls. Your support was appreciated, as was her writing, but if she finds out how many of you liked her style, I may have a problem.

While my absence was short-lived, it did not halt either the e-mail or the snail kind, either. Last weekend I took time out to catch up. It's surprising what you can learn from some of the e-mail that doesn't get filtered out, a lot of it from people you know.

Like the retired broadcaster who spends much of the winter in Texas, starting even before the first snowflake has fallen at his South Dakota home. He writes that he finally realized what he wanted wasn't a career -- it was paychecks. Says knowledge is knowing a tomato is not a fruit but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. Offers the suggestion that a newscast begins with "Good evening" followed by news that proves it isn't.

The man is sort of a philosopher. He figures women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they're sexy. He also says he didn't fight his way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian. Is he getting on in years? Sounds like it when he keeps referring to "happy hour" as being time for a nap.

Got mail, too, from a bookkeeper in Colorado. For financial advice, he offers the suggestion to always borrow money from a pessimist because he won't expect to get it back. He used to believe you could fight fire with fire until he saw the fire department uses water. He also used to be indecisive but now he isn't sure.

Retired newspapermen are full of good advice. From one now living in Florida comes the idea that whatever the job, you only need two tools. WD-40 and duct tape. If something won't move but it should, use WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn't, use the duct tape. The guy is a baseball fan and observes that no one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team is winning. Soberly, he notes that there are worse things than getting a phone call at 4 a.m. and finding it's a wrong number... it could be the right number.

Friend in the next county down from here thinks every day should be a good one and regularly offers a thought to brighten the current one. Thoughts such as the reminder that 40 years from now, rap music will be the golden oldies. Or that by then there will be thousands of old ladies running around with tattoos. He's an advocate of the lutefisk diet which consists of looking at a plate of lutefisk until you lose your appetite.

Knowledge of Minnesota history is not his long suit. He thinks the snowmobile was invented in Roseau as a means of allowing families to get to the Fourth of July picnics. Tonka trucks, he insists, are still being manufactured despite the obvious dangers to GI Joe dolls in rollover accidents -- no airbags, no seat belts. All this from the same person who believes the state song starts out: "Some day the Vikings will win..."

This one came from two directions, but bears repeating. Some classmates came back for a 20th graduation get-together and decided to have dinner. After a lengthy discussion, the 40-year olds decided to go to Hillcrest because they'd enjoy the food. Ten years later, all of them now in their 50s, they met again and again decided to go to Hillcrest because the food was good and the wine list impressive. Ten more years passed and when the old classmates, now about 60, met this time, they again discussed where to eat and Hillcrest again was chosen because the ramp made it easy to get in with their wheelchairs and it was smoke free. They met again when they were 70. Once more they discussed dinner plans and this time they decided to go to Hillcrest, because they'd never eaten there before.

Thoughts while drying the dishes... In all those gems there was one that had a quality of reasonableness. Always be yourself, read the suggestion, because the people that matter don't mind and the people that mind don't matter.