PaperGirl Blog by Mary Fons

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Word Nerd: “Loaded For Bear”

Bear! Agh! Bear!
Bear! Agh! Bear!

Oh, misconceptions. You crazy little guys! I can think of a few:

– when you fall in love, it will be forever
– “He’s got the whole world/in his pants”
– black licorice doesn’t taste good
– the expression “loaded for bear” comes to us from the nautical world

Let’s look at that last one. Last night, I was set straight by a comrade. We were in conversation at an almost handicappingly dim restaurant, nibbling on burrata and tomatoes so fresh they were still mooing.

“Well, there I was, and let me tell you, I was loaded for bear!” my dinnermate said. I stopped him in his tale to ask about the provenance of that expression. It was a nautical term, wasn’t it? I knew what it meant, that a person was ready for a fight, ready for a major event, equipped and prepared to do serious business. But I have operated my entire life (at least since I could read or whatever) that “loaded for bear” referred to the maximum level of cargo or freight a big ship could carry at one time. I was using “bear” as in “bearing weight.” To me, “loaded for bear” meant that a massive ship was packed to the hilt, loaded up “for bear,” perhaps a sailor’s way of saying, “the full weight.” Don’t know where I picked it up, don’t know who might’ve misled me or if I just made it up, but I’ve used the expression properly for a long time and never thought to question it.

“No, no,” said he. “No, it means you’ve loaded your gun for big game. Like a bear.”

I smacked his shoulder. “Get! Out! Really?? A bear?? It means an actual bear??”

“Yes,” he said, and smiled in that way that men smile when a girl in a dress swats them on the shoulder. Happy girl, silly hitting. Lovely hitting.

What a revelation. A bear. I like animals a lot — in the abstract — and when an idiom has been employing one right in front of my face without my knowledge, well, my day is made upon discovery of that.

Loaded for bear! For bear! Of all the things.

How The Mighty Amish Quilts Have Fallen

posted in: Art 3
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.

If you want to feel like you’ve accidentally taken expired cold medicine, I recommend the Discovery Channel’s Amish Mafia. 

When I’m home in Iowa, I watch a bit of television. I refuse to be a no-TV snob, but the truth is, I don’t have a television in Chicago and I haven’t owned a TV since I left home for college. I’ve just never wanted one very much, mostly because I am an enormous nerd who would rather read a book than do just about anything. And besides, commercials are tiny rapes.

Last night, I was clicking channels and found this Amish Mafia show. Have you heard of it? Seen it? Been as dumbfounded as I was by it? For the most part, a person can watch 30-seconds of any show on television and get the gist of it. “Oh, this is a cop drama,” you think, or “Oh, this is a sitcom where the guy is a lump and the smart wife loves the knucklehead anyway,” or, at the very least, “This is a reality show vs. a show with actors playing parts.” The producers of any show want you to do this. They want their shows to be instantly recognizable so you don’t have to think terribly hard and you can just be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that; and the best shows actually mess with the formulas and create great, dynamic television. Consider The Sopranos; violent and humane, dramatic but often hilarious, too. Good stuff.

I watched Amish Mafia for a full 30 minutes last night and I still had no idea what was happening to me. The show follows…Amish people. Mostly men. Who have…guns. These Amish men with guns…collect money from other Amish men? With guns? Everyone is very…angry. These angry Amish men with guns talk to the camera like it’s a reality show, but I’ll bet you two bonnets and a straw boater that THERE IS NO AMISH MAFIA so it simply could not be real. Amish people don’t allow girls to play with any doll that has a face! That’s considered a “graven image” and creates idolatry; how does an HD camera filming Amish in their kitchens avoid the whole “graven image” thing? Even for a Mennonite, this seems as plausible as a fish saying, “I prefer living out of the water.”

The whole show was so confusing and lame and slightly disturbing that I had to look it up. It’s not real. It’s scripted. They’re all actors. It’s fake, fake, fake, and the reality show “feel” is calculated, calculated, calculated. The actual Amish are horrified. The actual Mafia is probably horrified, come to think of it. But Amish Mafia just got picked up for a second season, so we’ll all be horrified together for at least another 6 months or so.

The thing that makes me mad is that I even believed for one second that it was real. I did! I thought, “Gee whiz, the Amish community has heavies that break kneecaps for community funding?? That’s nuts!” And then I realized I had been suckered. I don’t like being suckered by an inanimate object, which brings us full-circle as to why I don’t have a television.

The thing that steams me the most? There are quilts all over that show and I can’t decide if this is good or bad. Should I be happy a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt is shown five different times on a major cable television show? Or should I cringe because the guy sitting on it has a gold tooth and bad attitude?

21 Reasons To Love Des Moines, Courtesy LIFE Magazine.

posted in: Day In The Life 1

I was going to write a list for you today.

I planned to title this post, “10 Reasons To Love Des Moines” and I was going to include things like, “The capitol building is pretty” and “The cost of living is low” and “Two words: BUTTER COW.” But when I searched for a vintage postcard-style picture of Des Moines online, I found a LIFE photojournalism piece featuring Des Moines teenagers in 1947. And my plan went out the window.

Because. Well.

That raaht thur's a kissin' party.
That ruht thur’s a kissin’ party.

And:

I know them. They live in Wicker Park.
I know them. (They actually live in Wicker Park. Shh!)

And of course:

"Joyriding" = "Cruising" = "Rollin'" There is nothing new under the sun.
“Joyriding” = “Cruising” = “Rollin'” …There is nothing new under the sun.

My list was cut because nothing I could say about Des Moines could be better than looking at these photographs. There are twenty-one of them, and they depict the late 1940s, and they depict teenagers, and they communicate heterosexuality and good grooming, sure; they capture all these things and more.

They sure show Iowa. Des Moines. It does kinda look like that, like cars and boys and high schools and kissing parties; it looks like staring off into space, it looks like hiding something, it looks like black and white, sometimes, too. It stopped looking like home to me awhile ago, but it will always look familiar.

Visit scenic Des Moines, courtesy of LIFE, right here. 

Agreeing To Disagree With Mr. Brooks Brothers.

posted in: Day In The Life 2
I would honestly purchase either one of these outfits.
I would honestly purchase either one of these outfits.

So a girl walks into a Brooks Brothers store in Des Moines, IA.

I was looking for a black turtleneck. I’m here filming the PBS show and I needed a black turtleneck. I wanted it to be thin enough to wear under a jacket and nothing that would look like poo after two washes. Des Moines is many things; fashion mecca is not one of them. But there’s a serviceable Brooks Brothers store in a mall on the west side of town, so I paid it a visit yesterday.

Wouldn’t you know it, bam, right there on a table, the exact item I was after. A lucky day. To congratulate myself on something I had nothing to do with and to pay my respects to the Msrs. Brooks, I thought I’d try on the darling jumper I saw in the window. A kind, 50-something fellow with a sibilant “s” helped me to the dressing room.

I came out to examine things in the three-way mirror; I liked the dress very much, but I had an undergarment issue. The brassiere I had on yesterday was not proper for it, but I could see with the right one, the outfit was positively dishy. The clerk came into the fitting room area and gave me an encouraging nod.

“Oh, that’s nice!”

“Well, thanks,” I said, eyeing the shoulders. “I like it, too. I do need a different bra with it, but it’s great.”

“Woah!” he said, “TMI!”

In case you are reading this post from your home under a rock, “TMI” is short for “too much information.” It’s become a noun. Example: your officemate tells you his hemorrhoids are flaring. This is “a TMI.” Another example: your mother tells you, “Your dad was all over me last night, honey! What a naughty boy he is, sometimes!” This is a TMI.

But I ask you: Is a fitting room attendant or retail clerk in a clothing store receiving too much information when a customer remarks that with the right foundation garment, the item of clothing she’s considering will be fabulous? For your consideration, I offer what I believe would have been TMI’s in the fitting room of Brooks Brothers yesterday:

TMI No. 1: “My breasts are swollen, but when they aren’t, this jumper will be great.”
TMI No. 2: “I’m a pig. I’m a pig and I hate myself. I ate an entire cheesecake last night. God! My husband is such a [redacted]! I hate him. I hate him and I hate myself. This is cute, though.”
TMI No. 3: “Is this eczema or something else?”

Thoughts? Anyone? Did I go to far?

Summer Ain’t Over Till The Cicadas Knock It Off.

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 0
"I ate the rest of the Chunky Monkey."
“Yes. I ate the rest of the Chunky Monkey.”

I have a friend whose favorite food group is ice cream. It’s no use pointing out to him that ice cream is not considered a real food group. He has no need for guidelines he had nothing to do with. In the world of my friend, ice cream is a food group and that, he would say with a mouthful of rum raisin, is that.

Iowa is hot today. Earlier in the week, it was hotter still; the temperature reached to triple digits. Whenever the temperature hits that high anywhere, I feel intensely depressed. I picture stifling attics, air conditioners that blow engine block heat, and days that don’t end when the sun goes down. It’s not that hot now, but I walked around the town square today and the word “scorched earth” kept pounding in my temple. When your skin is mad at you, the weather sucks.

Ice cream helps.

Summer is over — another guideline none of us had anything to do with — but it ain’t autumn for awhile. Pull out some ice cream. It’s Friday night! Smooth some mint chip on your tongue. Lick a twist cone. Suck melting vanilla off a pralined pecan. Take out a pint of strawberry — pure, simple strawberry — and go sit outside somewhere. Focus on it.

If you’re eating with a metal spoon, when you’re done with your ice cream, lick your spoon clean and press the back of it right between your eyes. It’ll feel cool on your skin. A little sticky, sure, but no stickier than the day itself.

I’ll bet you did three things well this summer, big or small, at home, at work, or out in the world. Think about those things while the cicadas or the skyscraper air units whirr. Ice cream is a food group and summer isn’t over till you say so.

Hot, cold. Hot. Cold.

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