The mood in Giant Swede’s living room had never been lower.

Of all the weeks we’d been getting together to watch the game, this was the one that mattered the most so far. Earlier, things were good: 17-0 at the half. We have this in hand. The Swede’s preposterous score prediction now sounded reasonable - why yes, why not three more touchdowns in the second half?

Then came the second half. If you’ve ever loved football, you know the creeping dread, the reassurances, the impatience, the sense that the tides are going out. Then those last few minutes on the rack - back and forth, back and forth, and then the Saints were up and there wasn’t any time left. We were spent men, husks, well-kneaded rags.

And then that play - hey great he caught it, hey wait he’s running, HEY WAIT there’s no one around him, and he RAN - IT - IN, and the reason I tell you all this, which you know if you care in the least, is that for a solid minute all four of us simply yelled. Wordless yelling. High fives and Manly Hugs in turn and yelling, and you knew that everyone in the state who cared was yelling the same way, no words, just this great Minnesota yowling of unbelievable joy. I ran outside and yelled. Then went back inside and yelled.

I've been watching the Vikings on and off with these marvelous friends for decades, and there's never been anything like that moment.

It was the best thing of the year so far. Here's the perfect Minnesota detail: when I drove home, I passed a dozen men snowblowing the sidewalks and driveways, because the game was over and it was time to do this now. One man's machine, God bless him, had headlights.



For a while every radio came pre-marked with the little red triangle that reminded you that death could come swiftly from the sky, or slowly from the lethal dust.

You can date radios by this sign. Soemtiems it was more subtle.


I’ve told this story before, and if it weren’t for the Internet I would doubt myself. It’s always a relief to find your memories backed up by a entry.

In college, during the Reagan Years of Imminent and Certain Nuclear War, I would tell the take of the time I hear the Emergency Broadcast System go off FOR REAL when I was a kid. It had been a mistake, but for a while we were certain the nukes were flying.

The memory isn’t detailed. It was just something I knew had happened one Saturday morn while I was watching cartoons. (Checking the schedules for the year . . . yes, it would have happened during Bugs Bunny. Thank God. I would hate to think I'd suffered a loss of sphincter containment during the Hair Bears Comedy Hour or whatever krep Hanna-Barbera barfed up that season.)

Or had I really experienced it? Had I heard about it, and added myself to the story?

I don’t think so. There aren’t any other historical events into which I’ve photoshopped myself, and the fact that I haven’t embellished the story over the years probably speaks to its veracity.

What's amused me for years is the idea that the codeword was HATEFULNESS, which certainly seems apt, and the word that made everyone stand down was IMPISH.

This moment of certain horror would be repeated at camp that year, or the next, when Counselor Charlie Brown - yes, his real name - interrupted evening vespers by the lake to inform us that nuclear war had broken out, and we had best get right with Jesus. After the stunned silence had given way to weeping, he informed us that he was just kidding, but if this was an attack, how would we be vis-a-vis Jesus?

If it was intended to make us more pious, it had the opposite effect; back in the bunks, John Larson, chief bully of the school and camp, informed us of his desire to stab Charlie Brown in the guts, and everyone mumbled assent.

So I can imagine what Hawaiians felt like.

We don't have CONELRAD anymore, and that's just as well - the word was wrong from the start. It just made you nervous to look at it. What did it mean? Well, CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation, which was a peculiar phrase. It had the flavor of something designed by people who spent their time evaluating civilian casualty statistics with dispassionate attention.

Some YouTube suggests yielded some interesting artifacts: here's an animated movie that tells you how to deal with Fallout. Because the actual blast stuff wasn't scary enough.

Mr. John Q. Citizen wears a suit and tie throughout the ordeal.

Having lived through the tail end of that, I am not inclined to see contemporary events as a peril of equal imminence. If you were awake in that era, you know what I mean.





I have a weakness for . . .


Second features. Unfortunately, they're usually a disappointment. They're short, which is nice. They're slight, which is fine. But they tend to have stock plots and situations, and an overall air of "it'll do." Now and then, however, you get a series that tells you something about the times, and this is one of them. Meet . . . Torchy Blane.

First role in 1928; last role in 1970. She's best known for seven Torchy Blane pictures. (The character appeared in nine.) Wikipeda sums it up:

During the pre-World War II period, newspaper reporter was one of the few roles in American cinema that positively portrayed women as intelligent, competent, self-reliant, and career-oriented -- virtually equal to men. Of these role models, Torchy Blane, a smart, beautiful, wisecracking female reporter was perhaps the best-known. The typical plot of movies featuring the character have the resilient, fast-talking Torchy solving a crime (the central element of the film's plot) before her less-than-perceptive lover, loud-mouthed police detective Steve McBride, can.

He's played by Barton MacLane, who seems familiar to me from a hundred similar roles.

We begin with newspaper headlines, of course:

We meet Torchy as she leaps from a car on to a moving train . . .

To get an interview, of course! Shortly thereafter there's a murder, because otherwise what's the point of these things. Someone rich and morally questonable has to die in the first ten minutes to remind the audience that money and class are no insulations whatsoever - why, you're even more likely to be shot! Those heels. Those high-hat white-shoe cads.

Time to go see what's up at the most 30s Nightclub name ever:

Choke on that, ya saps! We're rollin' in it. We meet a singer who might be involved . . .

Wini Shaw. "She is best remembered as the girl who introduced the Harry Warren/Al Dubin song 'Lullaby of Broadway' in Busby Berkeley's movie "Gold Diggers of 1935". She had a few more movies to go, and after that it was USO tours and nightclubs.

At one point they race through the streets of Los Angeles, and while it's hard to find out where this was, it's not impossible.

The key is the theater, of course. It says "Broadway," which was the original name of the Cameo.

So do you need to know anything more? Not really. The movie sets up all the recurring characters, including a phlegmatic desk sergeant:

George Guhl. Made about a million movies.

Jane Wyman. Married Ronald Reagan. (Nice comic turn in this movie.)

There's a bit more inadvertant documentary:

Backlot? I think so. There's one name - Molineaux - but the rest of the signs say "Great Tire" and "Snooker" and "Bakery," with nothing other than generic names.

Anyway, it's brisk and breezy, and Torchy is a motormouth ace deductress. You can't help but enjoy it.


Never occured to them how that would look some day. Don't think they would have cared.

That'll do for now. See you SKOL tomorrow! And SKOL!

Sixty one yards! No seconds left! Incredible!




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