Type It Tom and Prisoners


Curious kitty Chloe’s first exposure to a laptop. What would she think of a typewriter?

I have always enjoyed listening to National Public Radio, which here in Sacramento I listen to on Capital Public Radio. However I became a more regular, avid listener during last year’s election, and now I listen to it pretty much every day, driving to and from work and to meetings, running errands, etc. Two stories I heard in the last several months have really stuck with me, and they both involved typewriters, for which I have always had great affection.

The first story (part of which also appeared in the New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-one-of-the-last-american-typewriter-companies-survives) was about prisoners using typewriters, and the second was about Tom Hanks writing stories that included typewriters. More about both of those later.

But first, listening to these NPR stories focused on typewriters made me remember learning how to type in a typing class in the seventh grade or so. It was back in my home town of Devils Lake, ND, and the typing class teacher was Mr. Brown, who also happened to be my best friend Shelley’s Dad. I remember him being a tall man with a crew cut, a booming voice, an engaging smile and a gregarious, no nonsense personality. He made learning how to type fun and challenging. I wonder how kids learn to type these days? 

Now back to the NPR stories. The first story was about inmates in prison who want to write for a variety of reasons, many of whom did not regularly write before they became prisoners. However, in prison computers are not available to inmates for such purposes, and the only typewriter that they can now use is a special plastic typewriter – called Swintec – that is made by one company in the U.S. In the story prisoners were interviewed about how they secured the funds for the $225 typewriter, how expensive the ribbons were to replace and what kinds of things they were writing. One of the prisoners was on death row and started typing letters to officials who might be able to stop his impending execution (in which he succeeded). He began to think of his typewriter as his companion in his solitary confinement cell. Another prisoner actually became a journalist in prison, selling some of his articles with plans to continue writing when he is hopefully released.

I think this story stuck with me not just because it involved typewriters, but because prison life fascinates me. Why? In part because I don’t think I would bode well in that environment, and I just have a rather morbid curiosity about how life functions inside the prison walls. Since moving to this part of California I have toured Alcatraz Island and the former prison there three times. The tour includes audio narration featuring interviews with former prisoners about what it was like to be a prisoner there. It sounded like a truly dreary, depressing and dreadful existence.

Now on to a happier story. Everyone knows Tom Hanks as an award winning, extremely likeable actor. But it turns out he also is an avid reader and has long collected typewriters. He acquired his first one around 1978, about the same time he started his acting career. He now has more than 100. Oh how I would enjoy seeing that collection, personally shown and described to me by Mr. Tom Hanks. The actor also recently became a published author via a collection of short stories called Uncommon Type, with each story having a typewriter as part of the story in some way. The book is on my Christmas Wish List, should anyone want to send a copy my way! 

Outside of prison, you don’t see people using typewriters very often, although they probably still have some use in certain settings. When I worked at a library years ago, for awhile we had one typewriter for library patrons to use to perhaps type a letter or an address on an envelope.

Blog picI have one not so very old typewriter, and I don’t even remember for sure now where it came from. An old boyfriend maybe? I would like to get my hands on some much older and funkier typewriters and restore them if necessary. It seems to me at one point we had a quite old black typewriter in our family house in Devils Lake. In fact I paused while writing this blog to text my Dad Fast Eddie to see it’s still there somewhere. Sadly, it is not

So that’s my little ditty for today about typewriters and prisoners. And Tom Hanks

Hashtages, typewriters; NPR, Tom Hanks, prison. writers

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Kit Kat Jenni


My sister Julie (r) and moi.

When I was growing up in a small town in North Dakota my Mom was fond of cats, and we almost always had one in the house, even though my Dad, Fast Eddie, wasn’t so wild about them.  The first one I remember was a gorgeous fluffy Calico named Kitty, who had several litters of kittens. When my older sister Julie and I were about four or five Kitty had one of her litters. One day when we were playing with them we decided we wanted to load the kittens, all of our dolls, miscellaneous toys and ourselves into one of our twin beds, which was no small feat. The kittens were not very cooperative, and I don’t think we succeeded in our mission. We tried various ways to position the kittens in the bed, including putting them under the covers at the bottom of bed where they proceeded to play with our toes, which only made us giggle and wiggle with the rambunctious kittens ending up back on the floor  over and over again.


Could she be any cuter?!

Fast forward a few years – well more than a few – and I got my own Calico, a kitten who I named Jenni. I was living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time and had recently lost a cat to cancer named Morgan (a Tuxedo cat named after Morgan the pirate cat from the  T. S. Eliot book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Jenni was brought to me on Labor Day weekend 1997 by a friend who had some property in West Virginia where a neighbor’s cat had had a litter of three kittens, two black boy kitties and Calico Jenni. I still remember her first night in the house. I ordered a pizza, and she went crazy over the aroma, clawing at the pizza box and meowing fiercely, although I doubt in the wilds of West Virginia she dined on much pizza. Like most kittens she was a fireball, a tiny bundle of energy. In the townhouse where I lived I had a bay window full of plants, and when Jenni first discovered it she proceeded to shred those plants in Edward Scissorhands fashion, her small furry self whirring through the leaves with her sharp claws leaving them in bits. It was around that time that Jenni was introduced to the neighbors, who cooed excessively at her cuteness, and received one of her first nicknames from a neighbor who called her Jennyanydots – another cat from the T.S. Eliot book. Over the years Jenni had multiple nicknames, including Jenny Benny, Jen Jen, Little Girl, Queen Jenni, Kit Kat Jenni and, unfortunately, Barfie.



Jenni on one of our many road trips.

Morgan and other previous cats hadn’t been fond of riding in cars, and I was determined that Jenni wouldn’t be the same, so I took her lots of places as a kitten, including running errands around the Virginia burbs. She would sometimes sit on my shoulder or directly behind my neck on the top of the seat. On some of the initial rides she meowed in earnest, however as time went by she grew content in the car. In fact, over the years she became a champion traveler, which proved to be a good thing because travel we did moving from D.C . back to Denver and points beyond.

She also learned to adapt to other animals, including cats and dogs, although a bossy, feisty side of her could come out in her around them, and she came to be known as Queen Jenni. When I bought my first house in Denver I decided I wanted a dog. One day I went to a shelter and came home with Sammi, a mixed breed adult dog. Upon meeting Sammi for the first time, Jenni (who was a small sized cat with Sammi at least five times her size) sniffed her and then gave her a welcoming hiss, followed by swiping her nose with her paw. The


Sweet Sammi

two never really warmed up to each other completely, and being an indoor cat Jenni seemed to resent Sammi when I would let her outside the sliding patio door into the backyard, sometimes giving her a hiss and a swipe. This kind of treatment resulted in Sammi being somewhat afraid of her, and Sammi would often go to great lengths to avoid her, although they eventually came to a truce of sorts. The household also included cat Cinder, and Queen Jenni liked to sit at the top of the stairs or in the upstairs hallway, swatting her tail and gazing over the living room as if she was looking down at her kingdom.

Jenni inadvertently gave me a scare or two over the years. One of our moves included Wisconsin, where me moved in the dead of winter into a beautifully elegant apartment in a renovated old Victorian house. The only piece of furniture I had upon arrival was a bed my brother, who lives in Wisconsin, had given me. One frigid morning I stepped out early to go to a local gas station to use the facilities, as those in the apartment weren’t working. Upon returning Jenni was nowhere to be found. I walked around for quite some time calling her name, searching in every nook and cranny. After awhile I became alarmed, thinking she might have slipped outside when I went out. Eventually I started walking up and down the streets of my new neighborhood calling her name. I called animal shelters. After a good five or six hours (and a few tears), I was standing in the bedroom contemplating my next move, and out popped Jenni from what seemed to be inside/under the bed. To say I was surprised is an understatement. It turns out she had somehow crawled under the mattress and inside the platform box which was serving as a box spring. I was absolutely flabbergasted and more than a little stunned. Jenni of course was nonplussed and sat in the sunshine sleepily licking her paw. She pulled a similar disappearing years later in my parent’s house in ND, where Fast Eddie and I had to work extremely hard to find her, eventually luring her out of her hiding spot with some catnip.

For 20 some years, Jenni happily greeted me at the door in all of my households, snuggled with me, played with me, road tripped with me, listened to me talk and sing, made me laugh at her antics and more. She was the only constant at my side 24/7 all those years. When you are single and live alone, your pets just aren’t part of the family. They ARE your family.

So it is with extreme sadness that this week I had to say farewell to my sweet beautiful girl. Bye bye dear Jenni. You are now my angel.

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tiny Grilling

imagesCAU2PTDUI have been writing this blog for more than six years now. Those of you who have been following it from the beginning know that it started out as a job hunting blog (happy to report I have been gainfully employed for quite some time now). It then morphed into kind of a small town life blog. Then I moved to California a couple of years ago, and it’s been all over the place material-wise (a blog without a theme) with not quite so many posts.

In California I live in a small (overpriced) apartment with a nice little deck/patio area, where, until recently, I have not been able to enjoy grilling, truly one of my all time, hands down favorite things to do. That is with the exception of the ill-fated  (and slightly embarrassing) charcoal grilling incident. Before moving to California, I was living in Brush CO on the Eastern Plains in a duplex with a spacious yard, where I could freely use a charcoal grill (although over the years I have used both charcoal and gas).


Even though apartment regs in my current abode prohibit the use of charcoal grills, awhile back I thought I’d give it a whirl (shhhhhh!!!!). It was a disaster. The patio is enclosed on three sides and IMG_1393smoke was billowing out of the grill to the point that the guy who lives above me came out on his patio and yelled down at me “Is everybody all right down there? I’m smelling a lot of smoke!” To which I replied, “yes I’m fine” in an irritated voice and hoped he, or somebody else (or all the smoke), wouldn’t rat me out to the apartment police!

Fast forward about a year, and I finally recently bought myself a spiffy new apartment patio size gas grill at Home Depot. I was thrilled when I purchased it, totally psyched when I picked it up and pleased as punch when co-worker Oliva helped me lug it up my two flights of stairs. (Side note: Olivia has been given the charcoal grill since she recently purchased a home with a big open yard, sans any grilling regs.)


Since I was so over the moon excited about my new grill acquisition and the idea of grilling again, I decided to make that my new blog focus – grilling – tiny style. I certainly am no grilling expert, but I have several tried and true recipes that I will share and will test out plenty of new ones. I hope you will come along for the ride!

I finally fired up the shiny stainless steel new toy on, appropriately, the 4th of July. More on that later.

IMG_1397 (1)

Oh and the grill has a name – Jagar – courtesy of Home Depot who misspelled my name on their pickup tag.




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All Things Chokecherry


It’s almost gone!

February isn’t the time of year you think about preserving or canning food products, at least in most parts of the country. However it is a time when many folks are enjoying them. My sister back in North Dakota, knowing how much I love consuming all things chokecherry, gave me a small container of chokecherry syrup as a Christmas gift. I have recently been enjoying it (sparingly – it’s a small jar) on French toast on leisurely weekend mornings, along with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea in my new University of North Dakota alumni coffee mug, another Christmas gift from my sister.

Growing up in North Dakota, my memories of chokecherries go way back. Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and canners, however it’s my maternal grandmother who I remember most making chokecherry jelly and syrup. On warm late summer days we would pick chokecherries in an open area near my grandparents’ home in tiny Oberon, N.D., not far from my hometown of Devils Lake. Picking these tiny berries wasn’t like picking something like strawberries, where you would pick three and eat two as the berries were rather sour and bitter. In fact it was a rather laborious process as the berries were tiny and the bushes gnarly. However the reward was sweet when Grandma would take the bright and dark berries and turn them into divine jellies and syrup.  Even as a kid, I appreciated their dark, rich maroon color and their sweet, deep berry rich flavor. I would slather the pretty jelly over a layer of butter on my grandmother’s homemade bread and generously pour the syrup on a stack of pancakes.

chokecherryWhen I left North Dakota for Colorado, then the D.C. area and now California, I learned many people weren’t familiar with the fruit, much less the jelly and syrup, as the bush and its berries are more commonly found in the northern tier states. If you google chokecherries, you learn that Prunus virginiana is most closely related to the black cherry and was an important part of the diet of Native Americans in the Northern Plains and Rockies for both food and medicinal purposes, including using the bush’s bark to ward off and treat colds and tummy troubles. I also learned that in 2007 North Dakota made the chokecherry the state’s official fruit.

The Internet has made it easy to order chokecherry products online, however I am always on the lookout for them when I travel back to North Dakota. As my Grandma got older and moved out of her home and her ready nearby chokecherry source she didn’t always make chokecherry products every year. Some years back Grandma was still alive and living in her own apartment I made a date with her for the two us to make a batch of chokecherry jelly, a memory I will always treasure.

img_1211There aren’t an abundance of all things chokecherry recipes on the Internet, and I am not sure how many are available in cookbooks. I am guessing that back in the day all the cookbooks produced by churches in small towns throughout Northern Plains and other areas where chokecherries grow in abundance included multiple recipes for chokecherry products. Chef and cookbook author Amy Thielen’s “The New Midwestern Table,” a cookbook published just a few years ago, includes a recipe for chokecherry nectar. Thielen, who grew up in Minnesota, describes chokecherries as follows. “The flavor of chokecherries is like a rogue black currant – the same deep winy berry flavor but with a punkier nature.”

If you also appreciate all things chokecherry, please share with me your uses and recipes for chokecherry products.



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Fatty Fatty Two By Four

When I was thinking of a title for this blog post, Fatty Fatty Two By Four was what first came to mind. I thought the rest that followed was couldn’t get through the kitchen door, but when I googled it I found out otherwise! I’d rather not repeat it here.

When I was growing up in my small town of Devils Lake in North Dakota for much of the time I was a chubby kid, and I got teased for it. And that hurt. A lot. One time it also resulted in physical pain, but I will get to that later.

Like many people I have been immensely enjoying the new TV series “This Is Us.”  If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about triplets born in 1980, one of whom dies during childbirth resulting in the parents adopting a third baby born a few days earlier (brought into the hospital from a fire station) whom they adopt. The show goes back and forth between current day and when the triplets – two boys and a girl – were younger. The img_0912female triplet, Kate, played by the truly brilliant and beautiful actress Chrissy Metz, is a plus size woman who was also a chubby kid. One episode focused on the triplets at about age 10 when the family was enjoying a day at a public swimming pool. Some of Kate’s “friends” write her a note that she reads by the side of the pool that says “We don’t want you to play with us anymore. You embarrass us.” The note also includes a drawing of a pig’s head.

Watching that episode brought back a childhood bullying, fat shaming memory that I hadn’t thought about in many years. Like Kate most of my friends were thinner than I was, however, thankfully I don’t ever remember them doing something like Kate’s friends did to her. I do remember at around the same age – 10 or so – playing at my friend Kelly’s house two blocks over from my house. We were outside and a small group of boys started heckling us from a distance, although I don’t remember what prompted them to do so. They began throwing some rocks at us and at one point one of them yelled at me “you’re a big Fatso” or something along those lines in an extremely loud, taunting voice. It brought tears to my eyes and I decided to leave and go home. I darted across the street and cut through the alley and ran smack dab into one of those boys. I still remember the meanness in his face, his eyes squinted and his face red and contorted with disdain. He had a large rock in his hand and even though we were literally standing face to face he swung his arm with all his might and lobbed that rock right into the middle of my forehead. He then yelled fatso one last time and turned around  and ran away. I remember being dumbfounded and shocked and probably let out a loud wail. I then sprinted the last block home – hand to my forehead – and no doubt tears streaming down my face.

I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I don’t know if I told my parents or my sister about the incident, although I had to have told somebody something because I do remember having a giant welt on my head that I couldn’t hide.

The thing I remember the most was that the cruel bullying was painful both inside and out, and something that I certainly will never forget.The stones not only hurt my bones, they hurt my heart.

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Riding in The Back Seat: Christmas and Other Small Town Memories


St. Olaf Lutheran Church

This time of year when I am Christmas shopping I often think of a favorite childhood holiday candy. Growing up in the small town of Devils Lake, ND, our family belonged to St. Olaf Lutheran Church. We participated in the Sunday School Christmas program and after the program was finished we gathered in the church basement and were given small brown paper bags of Christmas candy to take home. All bundled up in our coats and boots and hats, I remember clutching my bag in my mittened hands and walking out into the frigid night air and snow and icy streets.  During the short ride home, sitting with my sister Julie in the back seat I would open up the bag and look for my favorite candy, which, if I remember right, was bell shaped with chocolate on the outside and medium soft white minty stuff on the inside. I don’t remember what they were called, but.I always keep an eye open for them during the holidays to no avail.

Riding in the back seat in the dark winter night after the Christmas program with my bag of candy is just one of many fond car riding memories I have from growing up in Devils Lake. Before my younger brothers came along, it was just the four of us riding in the car from places like church. We always sat in the same spots. My parents in the front – Dad driving, Mom in the passenger seat – and my sister Julie and I in the back – Julie behind my Dad and me behind my Mom.


We had a number of different cars growing up, including one similar to this – a blue Pontiac although outs was a four-door.

We would go for drives on summer nights and on the weekends – my Mom sometimes admonishing my Dad for driving too fast – around our small town and and in the neighboring countryside, including the nearby lakes. Almost every Sunday we would drive to my maternal grandparents house for afternoon dinner (aka known as lunch in some parts with dinner being supper), in nearby teeny, tiny Oberon, where we had a choice of taking two routes, one being around a park called Sullys Hill, a national game preserve that was home to a herd of buffaloes. During much of the year it was often dark when we drove back and from the safety of the back seat I liked looking at the black sky and twinkling stars and the occasional appearance of the Northern Lights. No electronic toys or in vehicle movies meant you concentrated on the outdoors and the people surrounding you. Although my Dad did enjoy listening to Johnny Cash when we drove to Manitoba, Canada, for summer drive-in-speakerscamping trips. Even as a young kid I enjoyed the Cash tunes as we crossed the U.S. border into Canada. Summer also meant going to outdoor drive-in movie theater, Julie and I often in our summer PJs in the backseat, eating popcorn and watching our Dad hook up the speaker on our car window..Some summer suppers were enjoyed at one of several drive-in restaurants, where after eating our burgers and fries I would silently say a prayer in the back seat that we would also make a visit to the local Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone of a Dilly bar.


The Barrel drive-in restaurant in Devils Lake, N.D. I worked there as a car-hop in my teens.

Looking back that back seat felt so safe and comfortable and, well, like home, and it’s now  associated with an abundance of fond memories. It’s where I didn’t have a care in the world. My job, my role was so simple then. Just get in the back seat, always the same place. No decisions to make. Everything was taken care of, and the good times rolled.



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Why? Why Not Minot

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few years now. Why? Because I am intrigued and a little perplexed why people keep visiting a post I wrote more than five years ago called “Why Not Minot”  At the time, I was living in Colorado and job hunting in my home state of North Dakota. I had an interview at a library in Minot that resulted in the “Why Not Minot” post. The post was really more about job hunting than it was about Minot, although I did provide some information about Minot and how it got the moniker Why Not Minot. To learn why, visit the original post.

One question I have is how do people find the “Why Not Minot” post? My blog does not have a large following – far from it. If you google the words why not Minot, you have to click several pages in to see the link to my post. And why click on it? There is nothing very intriguing about the few sentences that appear. Also, how did it end up popping up in the search engine results for Why Not Minot? Maybe if I knew that I would have more people reading my blog.



Nonetheless, people have been regularly clicking on “Why Not Minot” for years now. Every year. Every month. Almost every week.

I wonder what the people reading my “Why Not Minot” are looking for? Nobody has posted any comments for quite some time, so I really don’t know. All of these musings have left me feeling compelled to share a little more information about Minot.

Minot is not far from the geographical center of North America, located in Rugby ND.
Minot is the hometown of Hollywood Hottie Josh Duhamel, who I understand visits ND quite regularly. He recently appeared in a TV advertising campaign promoting ND.
There is a large U.S. Air Force base located in Minot
Minot, like the rest of ND, can be downright frigid in the winter
During Prohibition, Minot was apparently a hotbed for Al Capone’s liquor smuggling operations (this is new news to me)
Minot is the home to the North Dakota state fair
Minot is where my Devils Lake ND hometown bestie Shelley and I used to go to the state high school track finals

I know that’s not much, but that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more Minot ND Why Not Minot highlights.

And please do let me know what you’re looking for when you read my “Why Not Minot” blog posts.

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