Did you hear the one about the Norwegian and the Swede?

I had to sidle up to the banana bleachers at the grocery store tonight, because an elderly lady was front and center, working the entire display like a symphony conductor. She was selecting various bunches, pulling one banana off each, and placing them in her cart.

“I like to get a variety of expiration dates on my bananas,” she told me in confidence. “I hate it when they get too ripe.”

That’s what we Boomers have to look forward to, I thought to myself. Timing our bananas, like IEDs in Baghdad. Hello, retirement! On the other hand, by the time I retire they may have genetically altered bananas with little digital clocks on the stems.

In connection with Phil’s post about The Dangerous Book for Boys, here’s a fine article from today’s American Spectator Online, (link defunct) about contemporary childhood in England, by my friend Hal Colebatch. (Of course I realize I’m dropping names. I like dropping names. When I’m retired I’ll have leisure to drop names on a carefully timed schedule, like ripening bananas.)

Something I thought very weird (even eerie) happened on Saturday. As I drove to my favorite local Chinese place for lunch, I was listening (as I generally do) to the Northern Alliance Radio Network guys on our local talk radio station. They were doing live coverage of the dedication of a new World War II memorial at the Minnesota state capitol.

To fill time, they were talking about what else you could see on the grounds. They talked about two large statues in front of the capitol building, statues of prominent (now pretty much forgotten) politicians named Knute Nelson and John A. Johnson. One of the guys was reading information on the two men, probably from some kind of guide book.

So I get to the restaurant, sit down in my booth, and open the book I brought—Fifty Years In America by N. N. Rønning, a book I mentioned a couple days ago.

And what is right there, where I pick up my reading?

Character sketches of Knute Nelson and John A. Johnson.

(In case your wondering, Knute Nelson was, according to Rønning, “the first Norwegian[-American] politician who gained national recognition.” He was a Minnesota congressman, governor and U.S. senator. A Republican, though he broke with his party in not supporting protectionism.

John A. Johnson was a Swede and a Democrat. He hadn’t distinguished himself much before the 1904 Democratic state convention, but in a lackluster field he won the nomination for governor. As the campaign went on he began to find his voice as an orator, and started attracting popular support. His opponents uncovered a skeleton in his closet—his father had been a “drunkard.” After they published the story he responded with the greatest speech of his campaign. His opponents found that they had tarred their own image rather than his. The same year that the Republican Roosevelt won a landslide victory over William Jennings Bryan, Johnson was elected governor of Minnesota by 7,000 votes. He was reelected in 1906 and 1908. He was considered a serious presidential contender when he died unexpectedly in 1910.)

The coincidence of the radio program and my reading material shook me considerably. Although I theoretically believe in coincidences, it seemed too fortuitous to be mere chance.

On the other hand, what could it possibly mean?

I’m open to suggestions.

7 thoughts on “Did you hear the one about the Norwegian and the Swede?”

  1. I always thought cosmic convergence was just part of our life as Scandinavians.

    Knute Nelson made his home in Alexandria, MN, my home town. His home is there & open as a museum.

    An older Christian gent I know once said “I’m getting so old, I don’t buy green bananas.”

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