The last time I remember seeing tiny but obstreperous Tommy Rukavina he crawled out from under a table at a candidate’s forum I was attending as a Republican candidate for the legislature. Tommy died yesterday. After cleansing my front yard by replacing Cheeto Boy with a new snow sculpture I know just what to post under the picture of the new one. Its the last letter Tommy wrote to my favorite Minnesota newspaper, the Timberjay, before he passed on to that Union Hall in the sky. God go with you Tommy!
Hate helps no one, love solves everything
A letter from Tom Rukavina
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2019 5:33 pm
This is the last letter to the editor we received from Tom Rukavina (who over the years submitted many). At the request of a reader, we are posting it on our website….
Marshall, Your editorial on xenophobia touched my heartstrings. As your readership may know, I am currently in the University of Minnesota Medical Center receiving excellent care after my bone marrow transplant on Nov. 14.
Every day a nurse walks in who is a little different than me. She or he might be Somali or Hmong or Japanese-American and have a little bit of an accent – just like those old Croats I used to listen to on the northside of Virginia. Or, my nurse’s assistant may come in to take my blood pressure and tell me how she fled the war in Liberia when she was a young woman and what a wonderful opportunity it is to be here in America.
Then the housekeepers come in, they’re in a hurry, they say hi. They are Somali or Ethiopian or Liberian. One was a male who stopped emptying the wastebaskets and talked to us. About how he came from Ethiopia five years ago because of tribal conflicts. He already had a master’s degree in chemistry and is now working two jobs while going to school to become a pharmacist so he can give his three children a college education. He was particularly proud of his four-year-old daughter whose teacher told him was extremely intelligent. He told us his dream is that she will grow up to do something good for her country – this country, America.
I could go on and tell you that one of my transplant doctors is from Brazil and my primary oncologist is from India. She came to get her degree at the U of M and decided to stay on here to pay back for the great education she received from our state.
So, it’s puzzling to me that some of my friends and their children have forgotten that they are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. That they came to America for the same dream, to make life better for themselves and their families. And they were treated as badly as today’s immigrants. I can’t help but relay the story told to me by one of my dad’s best friends.
They had milk cows on the northside of Virginia and it was Bruno’s job, as a 12-year-old kid, to deliver the milk in the morning to the mining locations – Lincoln, Higgins and Minorca – which sat above the hill north of Virginia. One early morning on his way to deliver milk, he saw smoke coming from the top of one of the mine dumps, so on his way back after delivery he decided to climb up there and investigate. It was a smoldering cross put there by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate the Slovenians and Croatians because they were Catholic, and the Finns who they claimed were radicals. He also happened to notice there was a little book on the ground. He picked up the book and put it in his pocket and he brought it home to his father.
His Italian father couldn’t read English so they brought it across the street to another Italian immigrant who could read English. The book contained the membership list of the Virginia KKK. Rinaldo got so scared he threw the book in the kitchen woodstove and burned it, because it contained the names of some very important “American” people in Virginia. To this day I still remember some of the names that were told to me that were in that book. Much to my surprise I’ve kept those names to myself, and all of you knowing my big mouth, it has been a chore to not blurt them out at times. But, among the descendants of those individuals were many good people. My hope is that someday, the descendants of those people who are currently creating so much hardship for our new immigrants, will learn that people are people no matter their color, religion or country of origin. That they are good people coming to the land of the free for the same reason our ancestors did.
On a final note, I can’t help but think that if not for the care of all these wonderful Somali and Liberian and Ethiopian and Brazilian and Indian and Hmong and Japanese immigrants that I’ve met here, I might be six feet under.
Hate helps no one, love solves everything.
I still subscribe to the DNT because I would miss things if I relied solely on checking it on my cell phone. And despite my sometimes contentious, if not acrimonious, fuss fests with its editors I regard my ongoing subscription to the paper copy as a civic duty. I want a local paper of some consequence however diminished it may be from the golden age of broadsheets.
I learned two things. Why it was that St. Louis County Sheriff Litman was shepherding former Vice President Mondale around. And I learned what happened to the fellow I began referring to as “my buddy” for long years in Lincolndemocrat. My oldest readers may recall those occasional email exchanges I put on the blog. (“My Buddy” shows up in 245 posts in my search function)
“My Buddy” was Vic Ulmer a longtime attorney for the City of Duluth. I first met him forty years ago when my wife briefly worked for the Personnel Office under Personnel Director John Muldoon.
Vic stopped replying to my blog posts about two years ago. This was the last time I posted one of our email exchanges. Vic died last February apparently after moving back to his old home state of South Dakota. That’s when he died. last February. In the early days of the blog I would simply call him Vic until it occurred to me that readers might be able to deduce who he was from some of his writings. He was single and died apparently unlamented until he was remembered in another DNT story about local attorneys honoring attorneys who had pass on the great courtroom behind the Pearly Gates this year.
Our latter emails began growing contentious and I would stop replying to his until we simmered down. If there’s a heaven Vic, I hope you don’t let it put too much of a damper on your ornery opinions.
At ten last night I dismantled the New Year’s Baby and tried to hide its gaudy painted snow. I took a reserve of sticky snow and until midnight molded it in the rough shape of a more sober sculpture meant to take its place. I slept well till 8AM. Now that I’ve got a couple things off of my chest its time for me to see if I can find that sculpture in my pile before it turns too cold.
I attempted an untested surgical procedure in order to return the New Year’s Baby’s dismembered head to its rightful place. Present to record, for posterity, this unusual procedure was crack Fox 21 News reporter Nicky Davidson. I hope she offers her viewers a warning that they look away during any airing if they were squeamish .
The procedure was a double crainiotomy in order to relieve pressure on the surgeon’s back. First the jaw was cleanly sawed off and replaced on the severed neck with freshly warmed surgical snow. There was some failure at the jawline but enough glue left over for the placement of the middle piece of skull including a recently deviated nasal septum. The scalp will have to wait until tomorrow after more fresh surgical snow is melted to a snowball consistency.
I chatted through the procedure with Nicky and observed that if I had discovered the miscreants who pushed the New Year’s Baby’s head off while living in a good Republican, “Stand your ground,” state and properly armed, I could have gotten away with plugging them for their trespass and damage to property.
This is the current state of the New Year’s Baby while it awaits a final operation followed by some cosmetic repair. It reminds me of the characters on the Simpson’s Itchy and Stratchy Show.
Why would I be a revelation in Congress? Because I truly took to heart Will Roger’s maxim, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
I’ll teach Congressman that they need not detest each other just like Noah loaded the animals onto the Ark……..two by two.
Here’s an old scratchy video clip from before the Lewinsky Affair right after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992:
That was twenty-five years ago. I’ve made more snow sculptures since then.
I had the house mostly to myself today as Claudia went to St. Paul to lobby our legislature with folks worried about the poor and homeless. It was also the week that Duluthians poured into St. Paul to lobby for Duluth. I got to stay home, read the news, grimace, finish Pardon Mon French – my next Reader column and finish Batman for my grandson. Here’s what will melt tomorrow in my front yard.
I also took a picture of a huge contrail over my house from a jet that circled twice. Wonder what that was all about?
I suggested that Claudia watch Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” as part of our viewing of French movies to get us in the mood for our trip to France. Then Claudia watched the CNN coverage of voting results in Pennsylvania. The Democrat Lamb (not to the slaughter) running against the Republican Suckthumb something or other. Poor guy was barely mentioned by President Trump, who came to Pennsylvania to huff and puff about how successful his Presidency has been and, oh yes, support Congressional Republicans. No final result yet. Lamb leads by a hair. We won’t know the results until tomorrow’s absentee ballots are counted. I think Lamb will win by a shake of his tail, maybe 350 votes out of over 200,000. Win or lose the Democrats will feel exultant and so will I. (Trump won here by 20% last November)
Time for bed.
Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow’s paper will have a story about how the School Board can’t wait to spend 2 million to tear down New Central High. As of my bed time 101 folks on Facebook have heaped abuse on the Board. That’s what I predicted would happen a couple days ago to friends but – last November Duluth elected a board mostly eager to turn the old school to dust. The lone exception? Alanna Oswald.
The story from yesterday on raising class sizes won’t improve voters attitude and neither will future plans to ask for more $ in a referendum.
My children and my wife make sport over me whenever I began talking about natural phenomena. They all call out “glaciers!” when I get going. That’s because I got overly enthusiastic once when my kids were little explaining how even now, ten thousand years after the mile thick glaciers retreated under the sun the ground in Minnesota continues to recoil upward. Its just like a mattress after a sleeper leaves the bed. Its only a very little annual recoil, but still.
Gravity is having the opposite effect on my snow sculpture outline map of Minnesota. In concert with the sun it is pulling it down and making it squatter. I wouldn’t mind that so much but because I undermined the area under the Olympic rings it began a slow topple towards the hill below it. The picture in the last post from last night was taken after I was satisfied with its appearance. Half an hour later I looked out my front window to check on what seemed a dicey situation and discovered a fist-wide crevice half way up the sculpture where Minnesota was about to break at about Hinckley’s latitude. Instead of joining my wife to pick up our grandsons from school I raced out to prevent a disaster like California’s sliding into the Pacific.
Before I could pause to take the picture above I first shaved off much of the snow in the top front of Minnesota removing it five or six inches deep to take the weight off below. Then I replaced snow under the rings to give the lower sculpture firmer support. Then I punched holes in the back where the rift had opened up and shoved more snow inside so that there would be less of a void along the back of the sculpture.
In the process of doing all this the Sculpture suffered. The sides and circles got dinged and scraping away so much snow from the front exposed the Cat in the Hat. The cat portion was faded pink and an ugly blemish. I decided that the quickest fix was get out more red dye/paint and make the blemish a heart, rather like the one discovered on the proto planet Pluto. (that’s fun to say although it may be a dwarf planet)
That didn’t work out so well. The snow I painted was wet and in short order the valentine became a bleeding mess. One of the editors at the Reader came over to snap a picture and texted me to ask if the bleeding heart had been from a vandal. I sent him the clean picture but it was too late for it to become the front cover of this week’s Reader. Working on the sculpture may also have cost me my column in the Reader. I had thought I could get it done quicker but frittered away the afternoon that I had planned on using to write the “Wayning of America.” I turned it in at 9 PM and in my subject heading I simply typed, “I hope its not too late.”
If it is I’ll just put it in the blog.
This morning I scooped up some snow, put it in a plastic bin and took it to my basement to warm up. I also dug out the offending red blob and tossed it under my spruce tree. I used the melted snow to fill in the crater. I think the chances that Minnesota will last one more day have improved to 50/50. I wasn’t sure it would last overnight but it did with some new narrower crevices still visible this morning. The colder evening temps have stabilized it a little.
I’ve confessed before that I don’t mind the attention that my snow sculptures generate any more than an actor opposes applause. The loss of the Reader front cover has been made up for by Facebook. The preceding post is essentially what I put in Facebook 18 hours ago. Since that time it has gotten over 500 “shares.” I don’t recall getting 10 or 20 for any previous post. Its a felicitous sculpture on a subject dear to the hearts of any Minnesotan – our Olympic representatives. I suspect their success helps make up for the blowout loss the Vikes suffered in the Conference Championship before the Superbowl.
I’m enjoying my moment in the sun too; more so than my sculpture which will soon melt away.
…that in the 2018 Olympics “it was more like Team Minnesota.”
An email I’ve just sent to Lowell Elementary School:
Dear Lowell Community,
Last year I was contracted to help build a snow sculpture for Lowell by a purchase of my services in a fundraiser to pay for mulch replacement. I was surprised a month or so ago to learn that Principal Larva did not know of this.
We are about to get 20 inches of snow according to recent forecasts and that will make for excellent snow sculpting conditions. I am open to any number of ways to honor my commitment. I could make something of my own design all by myself or I could do the same for any reasonable subject requested for example a school mascot.
I would also gladly work with students to show them how I sculpt and how they can sculpt. They could make their own sculptures with my direction or work with me to make a larger one.
The ideal conditions would be a period of just above melting temperatures which might require a little flexibility for scheduling. The teachers and or PTA might like a hand in thinking how best to redeem my obligation. Please email or call me at 218-***-****. I will be out of town next week when the snow flies.
I did go swimming as I planned but haven’t started proof reading the last post. I spent the afternoon practicing French. And I decided the Grinch needed a fresh coat of color before the snow hits tomorrow or Thursday.
I used the bottles of what was likely food coloring but they faded pretty quickly so I did what I did on the Yellow Submarine. I mixed my acrylic paints into water and Voila, you can now seek Max the dog against a green and red backdrop of Grinchiness.
Passersby seemed pleased. My midnight visitors made the right choice…..even if it wasn’t mine.
When I peeked out of my window this morning to check on the Grinch I saw that he had turned a shade of familiar green. It was not of my doing.
I had thought about giving the old coot some color early on but was so satisfied with his looks I decided he could keep the bleeched look. Someone else thought otherwise. Fortunately, they did a fine job of coloring Grinchy poo and Max’s scarf. I don’t encourage others to improve my work at night but I can find little aesthetic fault in this nocturnal change. However, it was not fully sufficient.
When I’d contemplated doing the same myself before abandoning the idea I knew that the Grinch’s yellow eyes would need attention. Well, when I found the frozen spray bottles of coloring agent I knew that since I couldn’t beat or undo the technicolor I would have to join in. Now the old Christmas thief has suitably sinister eyes – fit for the Oval Office if you ask me.
A small disappointment. Contrary to any thoughts that I’m all that humble about my snow sculpting I enjoy the attention the sculptures get. My current sculpture is pretty modest in size but the weather was perfect for me to gather up the modest snow in my back yard and sculpt it into the Grinch. It wasn’t quite melty enough so I had to cook it one lovely day that reached 33 degrees.
The process was described in this old DNT story:
The solution is to make his own wet snow. One way is to fill a tub with snow and let it sit in his house. About 7 years ago, he discovered a method he calls “cooking snow.” With this method, he pours water on a pile of snow and then covers this pile with other snow. The insulating properties of snow cause the whole pile take on a wet consistency that is good for creating details.
My Grinch is pretty good as is his trusty reindeer “Max” the dog. But what makes it is the inspiration of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan applied to Whoville. However, I couldn’t tempt the Trib’s photographers to come over and take a picture and KBJR which did mention it didn’t show a picture of it. Even my Facebook post only got 33 views. Pffft! Last year my Jabba was mentioned somewhere and picked up by Reddit picking up about 600 comments.
Jabba may have had one advantage over the Grinch. It was non political and some of the commentors spent by a harsh Presidential election enthused about that quality. That can’t very well be said about this one. At least no one took down my sign and the frigid weather we will be getting will preserve the Grinch nicely. Everyone returning to Duluth this Holiday Season will get a chance to take the Grinch in in his full glory.
A couple of days ago someone anonymously left a very nice gift and a suggestion at my door for a public art project. I took it that it came from a fan of my politics and my blog. It ended with the all caps request/plea “DON’T GIVE UP!! NEVER GIVE UP!!” Taped to the conclusion was a tiny pressed four leaf clover.
I very much intend to honor that plea. It was not really necessary but I appreciated the encouragement. I’ve planned to live to be a hundred since elementary school and in my college years I locked on politics and governance as my mission. I’ve been running for public office since 1976, 41 years ago. As a candidate I’m getting close to my sell-by date but I’m not sure being a candidates is my forte – witness my recent electoral defeat. Still, I think I’ve got more than vapors to run on. When I turned sixty, seven years ago, I presumed I still had another twenty years of sentient life left in me to do something useful. Despite the lapsing of seven years I am still keeping that twenty year horizon in view. Maybe when I turn 90 it will have shrunk to ten years.
Actually, its writing more than sculpture that I think will prove to be my métier. My eight loyal blog readers know all too well my yen to write a book. I yammer about it all the time. There’s a little alliteration in that. Or is that consonance? Its been a long time since my poetry unit in pre-college English.
The Public Art project my anonymous friend suggested to me was one about our tribalism. It sketched out for me two monolithic Easter Island like heads and suggested decorating them with different scarves to depict their mutual antithesis. In the gift bag were two huge, gorgeous pieces of fabric for me (or some sewing adept) to craft into scarves with the suggestion of intertwining them perhaps to hint that the tribes weren’t really all that different.
Well, I am too protective of my fingers to operate a sewing machine and I’m pretty resistant to other people’s artistic suggestions. Besides, a short time later an idea popped in my head that I subsequently put on my front yard that pretty takes sides with one tribe over the other.
Its often said we should not look gift horses in the mouth and I wouldn’t subject this gift to that kind of inquisition. I haven’t figured out what to do with the bolts of cloth but there were two other gift items I plan to use. One was a tea towel with “this is my protest dish towel” emblazoned across it. The protesters on it were doves which are famous for their moderation. I liked it. I’ve always considered myself something of oxymoron, in my case a “militant moderate.” I could be a petulant dove.
The other gift was a very loud pair of orange socks with the image of a fellow fighting a lion. Its legend said: “Thou hast balls.”
Why, yes, in fact. I think I do.
Oh, and if anyone would like to have some very beautiful fabric send me an email at: email@example.com
My cat Moloch likes it too.
I wasn’t sure if I had another snow sculpture in me. Guess I did.
The only snow sculpting that ever made me cry.
Fifty snow sculpture cards for 30 cents apiece for only $15.00.