Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Digging in to search for name of generous sort

I have several stacks of very important papers on my desks.

They probably number in the thousands. If they weren’t important, I wouldn’t save them. They are all terribly important and I need all of them.

The stacks are between six inches and 18 inches high. Adding to the problem is the fact that I have three desks — one at The News-Herald, one at Lakeland Community College and one at home in the den.

The den serves as my office, library and sewing room. I do not do any sewing. The lady of the house does all the sewing. She is very good at this. For example, if I buy a large (so they will fit around the waist) pair of pajama bottoms, they are usually four inches too long in the legs.

So the legs get shortened in the sewing room — or in my office, if you will.

As noted, this room is also the library, but sewing has nothing to do with reading. It is mere coincidence that pajama bottoms get shortened in the library.

Pajama bottoms is an interesting use of the word “pair.” A pair of socks is two socks, but a pair of pajamas or a pair of pants is one. To look at the grammatical construction here, both pajamas and pants are singular at the top and plural at the bottom.

Thus a pair of pajamas and a pair of pants is singular, while a pair of socks is singular in one regard and plural in another. If you have one sock for each foot, a pair of socks remains singular to a grammarian who is a purist, as I am.

But I digress.

Because I have three desks, and each one groans under approximately eight stacks of papers, it is easy to become confused when looking for a paper that is more than four years old.

I usually know which stack to look in. And I know about how far down in the stack I will have to look when seeking an important paper or artifact.

Thus I began looking about halfway down Stack No. 7 at The News-Herald the other day trying to find a clue that would lead me to a particular CD.

Allow me to explain.

A few years ago I was driving along Route 20 in Willoughby headed west in the vicinity of the West End YMCA.

To make a long story short, I heard a song on the radio by Jo Stafford and said to myself, “She is one of the greatest female vocalists who ever lived.” (In the Olden Days, female singers were known as “band chicks,” but of course, that usage is no longer politically correct.)

I had very few of Miss Stafford’s offerings in my collection, other than some wonderful recordings she made with the Art VanDamme quintet.

One of the sharp-eyed readers of this space came to my rescue. He recorded about 27 of her songs, I presume from the Internet, created a handsome label for the CD (a montage of a dozen or so of her album covers) and sent me the final product.

It was an awesome collection of all the biggest hits of Jo Stafford. If I were a big fan of hers before, I am an even bigger fan now.

I looked her up the other day and discovered she had died in California at the age of 90. She was married for many years to orchestra leader and composer Paul Weston, who is also deceased. She is survived by their two children — Tim, a guitarist and composer, and Amy, a singer like her mother.

I am very fond of what I presume is that homemade CD of Jo’s biggest hits.

I was playing it in the car the other day, and the lady and I were enjoying it immensely. But for some reason the last half-dozen songs have become slightly garbled.

Perhaps the paper label that was pasted on it (the name on the CD said “Jo Sings Pretty for Jim”) was a millionth of an inch too thick for the CD player in the car.

I reasoned that if I copied it on my home computer (one of the relatively few skills I have acquired on the machine) I could make a new version that would be all right.

Guess what? The CD got stuck in my computer. There was no way I could extricate it. I pushed every button on the machine and clicked on every icon — several times.

Nothing worked. I was advised by my computer guru, Greg, there used to be a button the side of the computer next to the little shelf that pops out when a CD is finished, but the computer companies don’t put buttons there any more. So I outsmarted the computer! I actually did.

I shut it down. Then I turned it back on. When the listing of icons came up along the left-hand side, I went to the one that said “Home,” which is the one I use to make CDs.

When the Home page showed up on the screen, one of the questions at the top said, “What are you trying to do?” — or words to that effect. I clicked on the line that said, “Copy a CD.”

Bingo! The little drawer on the side popped open.

Before it could close I grabbed the CD that had been trapped inside.

Well, I was looking through Stack No. 7 of papers on my desk at The News-Herald seeking a letter from the person who may have sent me that CD.

I took me only 15 or 20 minutes to find what I thought was the letter. It was dated Nov. 23, 2007, from Donald J. Miller of Eastlake. But it was the wrong letter.

Don’s note said he was enclosing “a real gem you may not have heard.” He made reference to a Kai Winding concert in Cleveland, so perhaps the recorded gem he sent was by Winding.

I pondered the letter. Had it been Don, who signed the letter “Willoughby Union ’52,” who sent me the Jo Stafford CD?

I called him. We had a nice chat, but his response was in the negative. He had NOT sent me the Jo Stafford CD.

I hung up, a little disappointed.

If he hadn’t sent the CD in question, who had?

Perhaps you can come to the rescue. Are you the thoughtful reader who sent the Jo Stafford recordings? If not, do you have any idea who did?

It’s important that I find out. Well, it’s important to me, anyway.