“Musta been a whole acre of ’em…

and much funnier speeches than they had last year.” 1 Graduation is upon us and social distancing seems to have disappeared. While the graduation ceremony itself was open only to students (no family, no spectators), the after ceremony picture-taking and milling about looked like 2019 or earlier. You can see a few people in masks in the background of this photo. The crowd had just thinned – I took the picture while stopped in traffic so I didn’t have a lot of time to wait for the right moment.

The Tayles, a local band of my youth, wrote a song called “Master of the Arts” looking into the future of a friend with an advanced degree (“We all say that we knew him when…”). I wanted to play that for you but cannot find the cassette it was on – I may have thrown it and others out when I had no way to play or digitize them. (It’s available on Amazon Music for those who subscribe.) That’s a long way of saying that I am now the parent of a Master, one of the graduates honored this weekend, though in an online ceremony with the department only.

But since I’m talking about The Tayles, here they are at The Nitty Gritty in 1972, from the album “whoaretheseguys?” For some reason, this is on YouTube, while “Master of the Arts” is not.


Per the photo above, my proclamation of the Death of the Bubbler appears to have been premature.

I got to hug my son and daughter in law Sunday for the first time since Christmas 2019, or maybe birthday the next month. I wasn’t keeping track of it then, not knowing it would be the last time for over a year.

When people asked if I ran, I used to answer, “Only if I’m late for the bus” or “Only to chase a soccer ball.” Living with a dog who likes to walk, trot, canter, and gallop, I now find myself running so he can run.

Rhubarb season is back. Since we’ve been watching “The Great British Bake-off” I was inspired to make my first lattice-top pie in years.

Not a perfect lattice, but that won’t affect the eating. The dark rim is the drip tray under the pie.

Lloyd Price

We lost a musical giant last week. Lloyd Price died May 3 (I have seen 3 different dates published, but this date is quoting his wife, who ought to know), at the age of 88. He had his first hit in 1952 with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. He went on to start a record company, develop housing, and help to promote the “Rumble in the Jungle”, the heavyweight boxing championship match in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

It was my introduction to New Orleans-style piano, featuring the great Fats Domino.
While many have recorded Stagger Lee in various forms, this is the version I grew up with. My older brothers may have tormented me (see below), but they had good taste in music.

Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia is underway, back to its traditional spring running as the first of the Grand Tours. Like the better-known (in the US) Tour de France, the Giro has various colors of jerseys for leaders in different classifications. The last place rider in the Tour is known as the Lanterne Rouge (red light – like the light at the back of a train). The Giro’s last place rider formerly won the black jersey (Maglia Nera), which was discontinued due to the fierce competition for the jersey. Once again, we honor Luigi Malabrocca and Sante Carollo as honorary members of the half-fast cycling club.

1 Martin Vanderhof (character), speaking of a college graduation in “You Can’t Take it With You”, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. This is the role that made me realize I was an old man at age 16.

Death of the bubbler

Everyone knows that the thing that you get a drink of water from is called a bubbler.

When I lived in California, folks called it a water fountain. Everyone knows that a water fountain is the thing in the town square into which you toss a penny and make a wish. To drink from a water fountain is disgusting, unless you’re a dog. I compromised and called it a drinking fountain. Back in Wisconsin, compromise is out. You want a drink, go find a bubbler.

I could tell you why it’s called a bubbler, or where it’s called a bubbler, but that’s beside the point. (If you really want to know, check out the Dictionary of American Regional English. Access to the online dictionary itself requires a subscription. If you are affiliated with a school, you may have access.) Do I have to tell you why we call that four-legged best friend a dog?

When I was a kid, the bubblers were turned on on Memorial Day and turned off on Labor Day. In between, they ran constantly so you didn’t have to wait for the water to get cold. The first bubblers I knew emitted water straight up – imagine holding a garden hose vertically so the water, when running slowly, goes straight up and runs back down along the hose. Later bubblers aimed the water so it came out in an arc. That was supposed to be more sanitary, since the water that didn’t get swallowed didn’t fall back onto the outlet. They also added a shield, so you couldn’t put your mouth on it.

The best bubblers had a cast metal bowl below. Water that wasn’t drunk ran down and filled the bowl. This was used as a birdbath when there weren’t people around, as a dog bowl when thirsty dogs were around, and as a step stool by shorter kids so they could reach the water without needing a big person to lift them. If you weren’t careful, standing on the rim of the bowl could result in falling in and getting wet feet.

Image from Yowcow.com. Imagine a bowl just above the tripod pedestal and you get an approximation of what I’m talking about.

Later bubblers came with valves to shut them off so water only ran when you held the valve open (but some of them could be locked open). Later yet (and indoors) they held a tank and refrigerant so water was pre-chilled.

Then people started buying water in throw-away plastic bottles – the kind that made a floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean – and bubblers started disappearing. Folks realized that you could carry a refillable bottle and they started replacing the remaining bubblers with bottle fillers or combination bubbler/bottle fillers. Really, why carry a bottle around when you can just stop at the bubbler when you’re thirsty? Don’t you have better things to do with your hands?

Today marked the end of an era – the last of the bubblers at work had yellow bags placed over them saying “out of service” and they are now only usable to fill bottles. I suspect this is a sign of the pandemic and fear that we could pass the virus via the bubbler. Pretty soon, bubblers will go the way of telephone dials and analog clocks. (A famous and simple cognitive screen is the draw-a-clock test. You get points for being able to draw a circle, put the numbers in the right places, and draw in the hands to show the time the examiner tells you. This week we had an 18 year old tell the therapist that he never learned to tell time on an analog clock. Is the test about to become obsolete?)

I promise the next post will not be “Hey kids! Get off my lawn!”

Great blue heron – Yahara Place Park