DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Odette And Swann

I took this picture May 31, 2005, of a movie actress taking a break during filming along the Seine River in Paris

She reminds me of Odette de Crécy, an unforgettable character in Marcel Proust’s “Swann In Love,” a component of his larger work “In Search of Lost Time.”

Although Proust died in 1922, “the Search” continues to be read around the world and France regards him as one of its greatest literary sons.

For example, in New York last year Dorette and I noticed the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue is named “Odette” and has a Proust exhibit in its library.

I’ve been re-reading “Swann” as Dorette and I prepare to leave Saturday for Paris with her granddaughter, Avery Dusterhoft. We’ll be in France for 11 days, including May 31.

It should be great, especially for teenager Avery. But can 12 years have gone by since I shot this photo?

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Going Home With Mrs. Hovland

I was 6 years old and in the first grade in the spring of 1950 when my parents received my last report card of the year. It was signed by teacher Sylpha Hovland, who certified my promotion to the second grade at Fram Township School No. 3 in Wellsburg, N.D.

I still have the card.

Later, I moved on to Harvey High School, the University of North Dakota and Northwestern University. But in retrospect, I regard Mrs. Hovland as the best teacher I ever had, bar none.

She was very encouraging, focused on solid fundamentals and instilled in us a desire to learn. My subject matter grades were decent (except for penmanship).

But I fared less well in two habits and attitudes categories: “Responsive to Authority” and “Receives suggestions kindly.”

Yeah, she got that right.

The Vorland farm, in 2004.
The Vorland farm, in 2004.

Although the Vorland farm is long gone, most years I try to visit Wellsburg. This picture was taken in 2004, shot from roughly the center of the home quarter. The buildings and trees are now gone. The current owner farms the land fence line to fence line.

The Wellsburg grain elevators also have disappeared. Indeed, so has most of the town.

But the school building still exists, converted into a personal residence.

I’ll travel to Wellsburg and Harvey this summer, as I have done so many times. The novelist Thomas Wolfe was wrong — you CAN go home again.

And this year, I’ll be thinking of Mrs. Hovland.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — The Tilly Hat Club

One of the best things about Canada besides Justin Trudeau is the fact it’s the home of the great Tilly hat. This iPhone selfie was taken in Lacrosse, Wis., on Tuesday. It’s a tradition to acknowlege another owner like this when you pass someone also wearing a Tilly.

I’ve owned several of the not inexpensive Tillies, eventually losing all of them, most recently during a family trip to the island of Dominica last year. Dorette’s daughter Kara and son-in-law Paul gave me this replacement as a Christmas gift.

I panicked for a moment Tuesday when a gust of wind nearly blew it off my head. Altough a Tilly is guaranteed to float, it likely would have disappeared before I could descend from the very high bluff Dorette and I had climbed above the Mississippi River.

So I’m still good to go.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Eating Well

Dorette is the master chef in our household, no question about that. But I have a few dishes that can also evoke oohs and ahs.

Today (Wednesday) I’ll be making one of my favorites: rhubarb crisp, thanks to the generosity of our Bloomington, Minn., neighbors Sheila and Bob Owen, who shared their rhubarb with us.

Then there’s Russian Cream with Raspberries, sometimes referred to as a “heart attack in a dish.” It includes 4.5 cups of whipping cream, 32 ounces of sour cream, and 2.25 cups of sugar.

I first sampled it at Bucks T-4 Lodge in Big Sky, Mont., and fell head and heels in love. It’s been 20 years plus since then and the old ticker is still beating.

And what could be better than Emeril Legasse’s recipe for sausage meatballs with red gravy?

The meat components are ground chuck, sweet Italian sausage and hot Italian sausage, chopped garlic, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper and dried leaf oregano.

The gravy includes yellow onions, red pepper, fennel seeds, pureed whole tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce. The meatballs are slowly simmered in the gravy and served with it on pasta.

As they say in New Orleans French Quarter, “c’est superbe!”

Anyway, I gotta go start the rhubarb crisp.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — ‘Looking For The Stranger’

A nice thing about being retired is having more time to read.

I’ve just completed two books, one of which I read for first time in college: “The Stranger,” or as it is titled in French, “L’Étranger,” by Albert Camus, published in 1942.

My copy is a new translation in “American English” by Mathew Ward. Set in Algeria, the novel is just 120 pages long.

Camus once described it this way:

“I summarized ‘The Stranger’ a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.'”

The second book was published last year: “Looking for The Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic” by Alice Kaplan. It’s both an excellent history of Camus’ life and of his most famous book.

So what’s next on my bedside reading table?

I’m going to dip back into “Swann in Love,” the novel within the novel of Marcel Proust’s gigantic “In Search of Lost Time.” Just 200 pages, unless I again become hooked and reread all 3,031 pages of the complete work.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Thinking Of The Dead, Part II

This past week, I posted some thoughts after visiting the cemetery in St. Cloud, Minn., where my grandfather, William Vogel, and seven other members of my mother Minnie Vogel Vorland’s family are buried.

I had been struck by the fact I know nothing about what became of the descendants of mom’s nine siblings.

It’s different on the Vorland side of the family.

In this photo, Norwegian immigrants Hans and Anna pose for the camera with their American-born children in Wells County, N.D., circa 1920.

From viewer’s left, my father Kermit, Herbert, Hans, Anna holding Ruby, Stella, Ellen and Arlie. All are deceased.

In 1901, Hans homesteaded next to his brother, Peter, and sister, Johanna. Later, he purchased her land when she returned to Norway. Until 1956, my parents and their three kids lived on the farm, which remained in the family until 1963.

Thanks in part to Facebook, I’ve been aware of most of Hans and Anna’s descendants. Many of the youngest I’ve yet to meet in person, but hearing about them makes me happy.

For years, the unofficial godfather of the Vorland clan has been my cousin, Gaylen Tuttle (his mom was Arlie Vorland).

He helps keep us in touch with the newest generation, as do other relatives from North Dakota to Illinois to California to Hawaii and elsewhere.

I hope to find some expert genealogical help to do more tracking down of living relatives on both sides of my family. It would be a great way to pass the time during Minnesota’s upcoming winter.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — The Liberation Trilogy

A while ago, I read the 887-page third volume of historian Rick Atkinson’s liberation trilogy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945.”

I highly recommend it to those interested in the history of World War II.

Just last night, I finished the first volume, “An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943.”

It opens like this:

“Twenty-seven acres of headstones fill the American military cemetery at Carthage, Tunisia. There are no obelisks, no tombs, no ostentatious monuments, just 2,841 bone-white marble markers, two feet high and arrayed in ranks as straight as gunshots. Only the chiseled names and dates of death suggest singularity. Four sets of brothers lie side by side. Some 240 stones are inscribed with thirteen of the saddest words in our language: ‘Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.’ A long limestone wall contains the names of another 3,724 still missing, and a benediction: Into Thy hands, O Lord.”

Next on my “to buy” list is volume two, “The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy.”

But first, I’ll dabble in some fiction. Since visiting Ireland last year, I’ve intended to take on James Joyce’s formidable “Ulysses.”

The time may have come.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Films Galore!

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is under way, with more than 350 movies being shown over 16 days at several venues. If I could do it over, I’d work in the movie industry as a writer or technical professional.

I still recall a movie I saw as a North Dakota farm kid, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” starring William Holden and Grace Kelly. I’d seen Life magazine’s spread about James Michener’s novel being made into a movie and convinced my dad to take me to town to see it.

Most important, I now realize, it was just the two of us. The experience is one of my most cherished memories.

I shot this iPhone pic (above) as Dorette and I were on our way to the St. Anthony Main Theater to see “Desperately Seeking Susan,” starring Madonna and Rosanna Arquette.

It’s a 1985 movie, but seeing it again made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes. Afterward, the co-producer Sarah Pillsbury interacted with the audience, providing insight into how this film came to be made with a mostly female executive team, rare back then.

We also saw a double-feature: a remastered 1927 silent film “Wings,” complete with a new score played live by the Prima Vista Quartet; followed at another venue by a brand new film, “A Quiet Passion” about the life of the poet Emily Dickinson. Reaction has been mixed. The New Yorker was very hard on it — the review even included some nonsense verse written in the Dickinsonian style.

Anyway, we hope to see a couple of more flicks before the Festival ends Saturday. I’m looking forward to “Crazy Horse,” a French documentary with English subtitles about the legendary Parisian strip club.

Dorette is passing on that one.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — More Hemingway

I renewed my membership in the Hemingway Society the other day and jotted down the location and dates of its next international meeting — in Paris in 2018.

I may not get there, but I WILL continue to buy new books about Ernest Hemingway and his art.

You’d never guess he’s been dead for more than half a century.

Unlike the case with his contemporaries — among them Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald -— huge numbers of readers still buy his books, and every year experts write new biographical and analytical works about him.

I own many of them and continue to acquire new ones. So far in 2017, four:

  • “Hemingway, Style, and the Art of Emotion” by David Wyatt.
  • “Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park,” by Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch, and Mark Cirono.
  • “Hemingway’s Brain” by Andrew Farah. It arrived this week after being back ordered for several months. Of it prominent Hemingway authority Scott Donaldson said: “The book is first rate and should establish once and for all the persuasive medical intelligence on the much-debated subject of what destroyed Ernest Hemingway.”
  • “Writer, Sailor, Soldier Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961” by Nicholas Reynolds, ordered from Amazon today. I’m a tad dubious about this one, but it’s getting good reviews.

I wish my University of North Dakota friend and mentor, the late Dr. Robert Lewis, 1930-2013, a founder of the Hemingway Society, was still here to discuss them with me.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Medora On My Mind

I took the above picture in 2006 of Sentinel Butte, N.D. Its population today is 61 compared to 229 in the early 1950s, when our family lived there for several months.

The town is a few miles west of Medora, which in those days was not yet much of a tourist attraction. Neither was Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which had been authorized in 1947 by President Truman.

Dad had moved the family to Sentinel Butte to partner in a water well drilling business, but it didn’t work out. I threw a major fit in the spring when told we were returning to our Wellsburg, N.D., farm.

Later in the mid-1960s I was employed for a time by the State Highway Department’s tourism bureau, with my duties including promotion of western North Dakota.

The late Bismarck entrepreneur (and multimillionaire) Harold Schafer was busy putting Medora on the vacation destination map. His foundation has kept it there ever since.

The Badlands still resonate with me. It’s 500-plus miles and an eight-hour drive each way from Bloomington, Minn., but it may be time to schedule a return visit.