And still I remain

Today was the last day of delivery of the La Crosse Tribune to my door.

Because it actually costs money to deliver it to me, the promise of a free paper for the rest of my life has gotten shuffled to the online world.

I like to hold the newspaper in my hands, thus never reading it online.

I like to hold a book in my hands and turn the pages, thus no e-reader or anything of the sort for me.

I like my magazines the same way, thus no online subscriptions.

So this a blow to the last living Luddite.

Yes, they don’t come much more tech-averse than Geri Parlin. Even this online blog came about because a former co-worker gave me instructions on how to do this. That’s how tech-averse I am. I’m still bad enough at it that I don’t know the number of people who read it. (But I know for sure that my mom is following it.)

Once, when I couldn’t get a new router to work, I just banged on the keyboard for a few minutes in frustration … and the thing connected.

Isn’t that a bit like the 17th Century Luddites smashing the textile machinery when they were displaced by those machines in Nottingham, England?

I have never owned a garbage disposal or a dishwasher. My kitchen scraps go on the compost heap where they belong and my dishes go into soapy water where my hands do the washing. These were supposed to be time-saving devices but I don’t think I spend any more time on these chores than my sister whose garbage disposal seems to break down way too often and always seems to be loading or unloading the dishwasher.

I own a little apartment-size dryer that my mom gave me when she sold the rental property next door. I tried to use it once but it appears incapable of drying anything. That’s OK, though, because I didn’t actually want a dryer.  My house is so dry in the winter that my sheets dry in a few hours. And in nice weather, the laundry goes out to the clothes line where it belongs.

I don’t have a smart phone, partly because they are expensive and partly because I feel my operational level is not where it would need to be to use one. I still have a difficult time answering the dumb phone I own. It could do a bit more if I let it, but I’m not interested in sending or receiving texts.

I have a hair dryer that I use once in a while to dry out something I am refinishing. My hair and that machine have never been introduced.

I don’t tweet, or do Instagram, or find music on Spotify. That’s what my radio and turntable are for.

For a long time, I couldn’t post pictures on Facebook until wonderful Facebook friend Lynn Miller Carr responded to my distress and sent precise directions. Now, I can post like crazy, which gives me rare moments where I almost feel tech savvy.

But now, if I want to know what the Common Council is doing or what nefarious criminals have been nabbed in the Coulee Region, I will be reduced to scrolling through the Tribune’s website.

It’s enough to make a Luddite read a book.






It’s December. That means well-meaning folks are angst-ridden over whether to say
“Merry Christmas,”  “Happy Hanukkah” or “Enjoy the Heck Out of Kwanzaa.” Most have decided it’s great to just say “Happy Holidays.”

I don’t care what you say and I hope you don’t take offence if I mistakenly yell out “Merry Christmas” to you.  What I really mean when I say that is I hope you get together with your family, have some great food, get a few presents and generally feel great.

When I say “Merry Christmas,” it’s not an indication that I expect to see you at Midnight Mass. Let’s face it, many people who never attend church celebrate the commercial aspects of Christmas. Why can’t that be merry?

When I was growing up, religion was not something to be ashamed of, likely because I lived in a largely Catholic neighborhood. Each night in the summer, Dad would lean out the front door and yell, “Parlins in for prayers,” and we would come running into the house, crash to our knees and join my parents in the Rosary. And if some of the neighbor kids were around, they had to crash to their knees, too.  Heck, they were Catholic, too, and, in my house, at that time, everybody was praying.

The Parlins were so well known for praying that when we would go running home, friends would ask, “Is this just prayers or do you have to go in for the night?”

So I can only imagine anyone trying to convince my Dad to say “Happy Holidays” just to be politically correct.

But time rolls on and the world changes. The Midnight Mass I attend nowadays starts at 8 p.m. Honestly, I don’t think I could stay awake until midnight now.

The Parlins don’t come running in for prayers anymore. We are scattered to different cities and pray separately.

But we still get together for Christmas. I am circulating the annual Christmas email right now trying to figure out how many will be there for the holidays and what each family member will contribute to the Christmas dinner table. (It seems we have a surfeit of carbs coming to the table at this time.)

If you find that offensive, then Happy Holidays to you. But I hope they are at least as merry and bright as I expect mine to be.


Don’t vote for me

If elected, I will not serve.

Seriously, after watching all of these political ads, I have to wonder at the people who willingly and eagerly subject themselves to the rigorous scrutiny that follows the announcement of a run for office.

I am not aware of anything in my background that would trip me up on the way to the popular vote, but does anyone really think the skeletons in their closet are going to come out to rattle in the light of day?

Probably not.

But as a graduate of Queen of Angels Elementary School and Pacelli High School, I feel well armed with advice from nuns and priests that has helped guide me through the pitfalls along the path of life. (And, contrary to what everyone thinks of Catholic priests, I never met an abuser throughout my school years.)

I don’t drink. Well, hardly ever.  Once, about 40 years ago, when I was in charge of getting the paper out on time, I let the guy who made PMTs (photo mechanical transfers) go home early. Then I discovered we didn’t have a PMT of the Blue Stars. That may not seem like a big deal but our managing editor at the time was a big Blue Stars fan and I knew I would hear about this at length on Monday morning. So I called a series of bars looking for the PMT guy, but never did find him.

By shift’s end, I announced I was going to get drunk. Every person with me trotted along to watch me down four gin and sevens. I don’t know how I decided on that drink, but I was smart enough to get a ride home and sick enough the next morning that I swore off drinking. That’s my wildest drinking story.

As for drugs, never used them, but I did inhale. At the old Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium, where I was reviewing a Heart concert, the ventilation system was really bad and everyone around me was high, giving me a contact high. I was so nauseous by the time I got back to the Tribune I could barely write.

Since I didn’t drink or do drugs, I didn’t have to worry about drunk driving. Though my car was involved in many car accidents, it was usually parked when it was hit. A car even hit the back door and front porch of my house once, but I wasn’t at home at the time.  Still, it was weird to come walking up the back way and notice a car in my yard and cops questioning folks as they tried to locate me.

I’ve always lived within my means so that means no credit card debit, the house is paid off, and I bought my car with cash.

I’m kind to old people (especially now that I am old) and love babies.

Yes, now that I think about it, I am well qualified to run for office.

But don’t worry, I won’t. I can’t stand to attend meetings and haven’t attended one since I retired from the La Crosse Tribune. I don’t even attend neighborhood meetings.

So don’t invite me to any meetings and don’t ask me to run for office.

I mean it. If elected, I will not serve … and I won’t have a gin and seven.




Cool, cool kitty

I have never been cool.

Not whining or anything. Just telling the truth.

And the truth is, I knew I couldn’t be cool so I never put any effort into it. Why bother with something that is out of reach?

Even when I was reviewing concerts and theater and comedy shows for the La Crosse Tribune, I wasn’t cool. But I was fast on the keyboard and could string coherent sentences together on deadline and that’s what was important when writing for a morning newspaper.

There was never a moment in my life when I dressed cool. (I did own a leather bomber jacket but that alone couldn’t carry the look for me.) I didn’t talk cool. I didn’t drink or do drugs. The only wild side I ever walked on was a weedy garden path.

But a Steely Dan song came on the radio this afternoon as I was on my way to the grocery store. And for that moment, I felt cool.  Every time I put a Steely Dan album on the turntable (yes, I have them on vinyl — maybe that’s a little cool), I am reminded how literate and beyond interesting the band was. I mean, c’mon, what other rock ‘n’ roller has ever written about Charlemagne? Seriously. That is cool.

So when I got home,  I put on “Can’t Buy a Thrill” and felt cool while Walter Becker and Donald Fagen sang about loser gamblers in Vegas.

And then I remembered that a month ago when two of my sisters and a niece were visiting me, we were listing to Gary Lewis and the Playboys sing “Everybody Loves a Clown.”

So much for cool.


geri.parlin is back

For a brief while this morning, my handle was geriparlin2.

I hated it.

I got this new moniker because Gmail decided to not recognize my original email address and I couldn’t remember my password. So I gave in and went with this new, unimproved version of my email self.

It was like Geri Parlin Lite — no full-to-overflowing inbox, no contacts list. Even no annoying promotional emails.

Have I mentioned before that I hate technology?  I’m pretty sure I have but it bears repeating.

My IBM Selectric never made me identify myself before I sat down to pound its keys at 70 words per minute in my high school typing class. My old Remington didn’t care who was at the keyboard in the Tribune newsroom. It just knew it had to spit out a headline in two minutes or less or we weren’t going to make deadline.

Just when I settle into some technology niche that I foolishly think I’ve conquered, some gnome out in Internet Land sends a command to me that I can’t understand and everything stops working.

But I fooled you, Gmail, because I remembered my password while I was showering away my technology angst and I’m back to my original snarky self. Geri.Parlin is back and she’s not going anywhere … until you kick her off again with some other technology wizardry.





Ready, set, bake!

I am not a good cook.

No false humility here. I’m just not.

It’s probably because I cook only for myself so I don’t make a great effort. I’m also sloppy at measuring and that extends into building things of wood and material.

When I sewed clothing, my seams would vary from the standard 5/8 inch down to a quarter inch and up past an inch. I was a speed demon on the foot pedal and ruined many a piece of clothing because of it.

As for wood, my sister Therese does all the measuring and cutting because I can be off by as much as 2 inches, as I just proved to myself last week when I was cutting a piece of wood for a shelf I was “improving”.

But back to baking and cooking.

I blame my lack of talent on books. Yes, it all comes back to reading. I would pop whatever I was making into the oven and then trot off to read. I would pull myself from the book when I smelled the burned cookies, charbroiled pork chops or boiled-to-black-encrusted potatoes. I actually grew to like burned boiled potatoes, but then I like just about anything potato.

I was thinking of all this while watching “The Great British Baking Show.” Their showstopper challenge was to bake an “American” Pie and the bakers all came up with things I’d mostly never heard of except for Key Lime Pie. There wasn’t an apple pie in the bunch.

I guess that’s because the British think of eel pie and shepherd’s pie and other meaty things when they think pie.

Am I tempted to make my own American pie? My only experience of that would be a store-bought crust filled with chocolate pudding and topped with whipped cream.  That was the favorite American pie at my house.

I later grew up to eat blueberry pie (canned filling) coconut cream pie (mom did make the meringue), and French Silk Pie from Baker’s Square.

I guess none of those really count as pie. It’s more like sticking a spoon in a jar of sugar.

Nowadays, I do most of my cooking and baking vicariously through the Food Network and “The Great British Baking Show” — fewer calories and less mess to clean up.



Sprinklers and memories

It’s 95 degrees and the kids next door are running through the sprinkler.

Inside, I could hear the giggles and squeals over the television and air conditioning.

And it brought me back. It’s 1962 or ’63’ or ’64. It’s hot. And my siblings and I are running through the sprinkler, delighted on a hot day to have a fun way to cool off.

Back here in 2018, nobody else is stirring outside. But Dad has the right idea. Let the kids play while he waters the lawn. Rarely does a useful thing and a delightful thing pair so wonderfully. And how else could anyone enjoy a day this hot?

Drawn by the giggles, I bring seed packets and a watering can outside, planting annuals here and there on the little hillside in front of my house. It is not strenuous gardening and I stay out for only about 5 minutes at a time.

I have to go in because I don’t have a sprinkler running so 95 degrees is not fun for me. But I’m glad it’s fun for the neighbor kids.


I walk the line

I just wanted to hang my laundry on the line.

It’s a little thing, I think, in this day of high technology. But how great is it to put upon the bed a line-dried sheet straight from March winds or April breezes.

But the clothesline just wouldn’t cooperate.

When it first broke, I kind of understood and accepted. I had been using the same clothesline for 29 years. It probably figured it had done its service. So when I was at Dollar Tree later that day, I bought some rope. Wasn’t sure if it would work because it seemed kind of stretchy.

I was right to have reservations. My sheets stretched it to the ground.

So I bought something that was labeled “Clothesline.” I had other rope, but I wanted to get this right.

That, too stretched my laundry to the ground. So when my sister arrived for the weekend, I had her pull it taught because she is the strongest woman I know.

A week and a half later, it snapped in two. And the only things on it were two tablecloths and a dishrag.

So this time, I went to Ace Hardware (I highly recommend) and bought wire encased in plastic clothesline. Right now, my sheets are pinned to it and it seems likely they will stay off the ground.

Yes, I could have invested in a dryer when I had my laundry alcove built. (Celebrating its first year anniversary now.) But I never did buy a dryer when I moved out on my own and didn’t really see the need for one.

Besides, that’s something else to break down and I’ve got plenty that breaks down already.

Like my bike. I had a bike seat installed last year that I got in an auction lot. But something on it snapped and it was time to invest in a good bike seat. So I rode my wobbly bike to Smith’s Bikes (I highly recommend) and got the chain oiled and a new bike seat installed. The pedal home was delightful. My Schwinn and I will have many safe adventures this bike season.

I can’t say the same for my computer.  Yes, overnight, it decided it was broken. It does that a lot lately. So I kept choosing options of how to fix it and just choosing them over and over again. And once again, my computer fell for it and kind of fixed itself. I don’t know how long it will last but for now I have typing privileges, my bike is a pleasure to ride and sheets are flapping on my news clothesline.

For this moment, all is right in my world.


Of DVDs and late-night shopping

“When did we stop caring how we looked in public?” I asked my sister as we trudged into Best Buy at 8:15 p.m.

“I think I look fine,” she answered.

But the truth is, we were both wearing our sleep clothes because we had gotten comfortable for the night before she started trying to hook up my DVD/VCR player. When she found I didn’t have the right cords, there was a grim silence and then an agreement that we had to make a late-night run to Best Buy as she was leaving town the next day and this was the one thing I wanted her to do for my birthday.

OK, 8:15 p.m. is not considered late night by most folks. But when you’ve been hauling furniture up and down stairs for five days in order to set up shop in a new location, 8:15 p.m. feels pretty darned late.

Some $20 later, we tested the DVD player only to be greeted by a terrible buzzing noise, no normal audio, and an episode of “The Closer” in black and white.

And this was after we’d taken drill, chisel and hammer to the back of my antique ice chest to widen the hole to get all the cords through.

Then Therese did the most amazing thing — she read the manual. Having armed herself with knowledge, she punched a few buttons on the correct remote (we’d been using one for a defunct TV) and suddenly Brenda Lee Johnson was in beautiful living color and we could hear every word she was saying.

Another miracle of technology had happened in my Luddite house.

And because I am a Luddite, Therese folded down the corner of the instructions so I would know what to read in my hour of need. (There will be many hours of need.) I discarded the old remote, which had not helped us at all, and then we decided not to play a DVD after all.

That’s why I’ve cracked open a Diet Coke even though it’s after 10 p.m. If shopping in my PJs and carving up one of my antiques doesn’t merit a late-night Diet Coke, I don’t know what does.


Wimp out

We’re wimps.

Don’t try to deny it. The subzero weather has kicked out butts and we’re whining about it nonstop.

It wasn’t always this way. It seems to me that we used to be tougher. I know I was.

In my 30s and 40s I was a walker and would walk outside before work even in the worst winter weather — subzero, strong winds, blizzards. There I was, battling the elements for good health.

Nowadays, I’ve wimped out and can be most often found pedaling on the easy setting of my stationary bike.

On the nightly news, the weather people shiver and complain about the long stretch of cold. “When will it end,” they whine to the meteorologist.

In April, I think to myself.

I, too, have been whining. On my call to Mom today I opened the conversation with, “Oh, gosh, that wind. It just cuts through you.”

How do I know? Not from walking outside. I felt it scurrying it into Target to scoop on the 90 percent off Christmas bargains. Yes, that was one mighty frigid gallop across the parking lot.

So I say we quit fighting winter and succumb. Stay indoors if we must. (I think I must.) Wrap up warmly with parkas and scarves and mittens. Turn on the heated seats and let the car warm up before backing it out of the garage. (Yes, I have an attached garage so it isn’t even that bad when I do decide to leave the house.)

Let’s remember where we live. We aren’t from Alabama or Louisiana or Texas. We are Wisconsinites. We laugh at winter.

And then we take the mug of hot chocolate out of the microwave and cuddle up in a quilt to watch TV.

Take that, winter.