For more than 20 years, reporters around the world have been receiving poems from a Provo man who reads their work and has something to say.
“It’s an obsession for me,” Tim Torkildson said. “Whenever I read something interesting I just have to respond to it in verse.”
Sometimes sent electronically, other times in the mail, poems range in length but are always witty and always rhyme.
He subscribes to at least seven papers — ranging from The New York Times to his hometown paper the Minneapolis Star Tribune — and responds to anything that “tickles” or “outrages” him.
The first poem he remembers sending was back in 1993, a serious poem about the Waco, Texas siege.
Since then the 61-year-old has written thousands.
During an average week, he’ll write and send five poems to various reporters and news outlets. About 90 percent of the time he doesn’t hear back, but the few times he does is what keeps him going.
In January, Rachel Abrams from The New York Times wrote about the curiosity and persistence that eventually led her to interview Torkildson and publish three poems he sent her.
More recently, Torkildson said he received feedback from a reporter in Europe who called him a “genius” and told him she would “treasure” what he had done with her stories.
To hear feedback like that from a professional writer is gratifying, Torkildson said, especially as a college dropout. He likes the friendships it forms, and hopes someday his hobby could lead to a full-time poetry-writing career.
“I miss doing something that makes people happy,” he said.
For a good chunk of his life, Torkildson worked as a clown for the Ringling Brothers. His poetry writing started years ago when he was a young father traveling with the circus. Since his kids were home in Provo, he’d write them poems as a way to stay in touch and let them know he was thinking of them.
After arthritis forced him to leave circus life, Torkildson spent 15 years teaching English in Thailand before finding his way back to Utah Valley.
In July 2014, Torkildson received some press from multiple national news outlets after being let go from his part-time job in Provo for supposedly promoting a “gay agenda” through teaching about homophones.
In between jobs, he’s searching for something that makes him and others happy.
“I’m not made to cause people unhappiness,” he said. “If I’m not entertaining people I’m not happy.”
(From an article by Keri Lunt Stevens in the Provo Daily Herald, Wednesday, March 4. 2015)
The Man with the Sign is iconic and depressing. He is seen in parking lots and at intersections, holding up a piece of cardboard asking for help. Is he scamming or does he really need help? It’s such a common sight that we usually just stare straight ahead, ignoring his plight, and pass by without acknowledging him (or her) in any way. If nothing else, we thus deny these people their humanity.
So this morning I went over to Maceys in Riverside Plaza in Provo, Utah, withdrew a stack of ten dollar bills (a SMALL stack) from my bank, and stood next to the Plaza exit holding a sign that read: “PLEASE HELP ME GIVE AWAY $10. THANKS!”
In two hours about 50 cars went by me. 45 of them did not look at me or acknowledge me in any way. The other 5 stopped, rolled down their windows, and offered ME money. They couldn’t understand the sign, or didn’t bother to read it – just assuming I was asking for money.
I assured them I was NOT asking for money; I was giving away ten dollar bills.
The looks I got from these 5 strangers ranged from incredulous double-takes to deep suspicion (I must be up to no good!) But each of the 5 took my ten dollars and drove away either happy and laughing, or deeply disturbed and worried that they had broken some law or contravened some basic principle of the Universe.
Two Provo police cars passed by me and didn’t bother to stop; I wonder if they treat all sign holders like that?
Today I am $50.00 poorer, but immeasurably richer in . . . hmmm.
Well, hell – maybe I’m just $50.00 poorer.
ADDENDUM: Dr. Lawrence Gray, of the University of Minnesota, had this to say about my post.
“Very funny, but the outcome was not at all surprising. People’s prior experience is so uniform about people on the streets with signs, it takes more than a sign that says something different to overcome that experience. This is an example of Bayes Rule, which implies among other things that if your prior probability is strongly in favor of one hypothesis, then it takes a lot of contrary evidence to change that in favor of a different hypothesis. I’ll use your example in my probability class!”
This coming Friday, tomorrow, starting at 9:30 a.m., I will go to my bank inside Maceys and draw out fifty-dollars in five ten-dollar bills. Then I will stand at Bulldog Avenue and State Street in Provo, Utah, holding a sign that reads:
“PLEASE HELP, AND TAKE $10 FROM ME. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS.”
I will stand there for approximately one hour, or until my fifty dollars is given away.
The purpose of this demonstration is sheer curiosity.
For further information, contact:
Timothy Robert Torkildson
1274W 1820 N Provo Utah 84601
When you enter this laid-back museum in Provo, Utah, one of the first greeters is Millie, the white poodle. She will sniff your heels and let you pass. Next you are likely to meet Louis E. Crandal, the President and CEO of the Crandall Historical Printing Museum. He loves to talk about printing and the history of printing, and has been a printer himself since the age of 14. He is working with a large corporate sponsor to keep the Museum operating after he retires (but with his energy and enthusiasm, that may not be for another fifty years!)
The tour starts with the history of Johannes Gutenberg and the printing of the first Bible, in Latin, in Mainz, Germany. The museum features an impressive array of displays on this first book printed in the Western Hemisphere.
You will be able to watch as the museum guides actually print a page from Gutenberg’s Bible in the Vulgate Latin. Then a sample of how the Declaration of Independence was printed, and, lastly, a stirring narration on the printing history of The Book of Mormon.
The Museum has daily tours. It is located at 275 East Center Street, in Provo, Utah.
You can call to reserve a tour at 801-377-7777.
For more information on the Museum you can go to their web site by clicking here.
I decided to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) in Thailand for many reasons. One of the main reasons is the food. Thai cuisine is fabulous! Rich, spicy, and always freshly made. I grew up in a middle-class American home, where canned spaghetti and frozen fish sticks were a mainstay – so when I finally had the chance to see the world on my own, I wanted to treat my stomach to the best food on earth. After careful study of cookbooks and restaurants, I decided the best food on earth is in Thailand. And I STILL believe that!
When I arrived in Thailand to teach, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I would get a free lunch every school day, and that it would be authentic Thai food. My very first day at school, after a morning of teaching grammar and vocabulary to giggling young Thai boys and girls, I waited impatiently for the cook to ring her old-fashioned brass hand bell, which signaled lunch time. At the first chime I sidled up to the teacher’s section of the cafeteria and helped myself to jasmine rice and two different curries – one was yellow and one was green. The yellow featured chicken and potatoes, and the green featured fried tofu, Thai eggplant, and sliced kaffir lime.
Ah! It tasted so fine . . . for the first few bites. And then the chili peppers kicked in. WOW! My tongue felt like it was swimming in lava. I frantically downed a glass of water, to no effect. The blaze continued to rage inside my mouth, and wisps of steam came out of my ears. One of the other teachers, taking pity on my melting condition, kindly suggested I take a sip of soy milk to ease the burning. That did the trick, and I finished my meal, between sips of soy milk, in high good humor. Students were not allowed second helpings, but teachers were. I went back for THIRDS, it was that good.
I ate very well the whole time I taught ESL in Thailand. As long as I kept a carton of soy milk by my side to extinguish the flames when they threatened to engulf my throat. My only disappointment with Thai cuisine was when I attempted to eat durian fruit. This strange item grows throughout southern Thailand and is highly esteemed as an essential ingredient in ice cream. I never managed to take more than one bite of it. Like most foreigners, I could not get past the brutal initial odor of the fruit, which the British call “stinkfruit”. It smells like a combination of vomit and mildewed dirty laundry. I never could acquire a taste for it.
Now that I am back in the United States, still teaching ESL at Nomen Global in Provo, Utah, I yearn for those dear delicious dishes I feasted on back in Thailand. Sticky rice with mango. Thin roti pancakes drizzled with sweetened evaporated milk. Green papaya salad.
A Big Mac and fries just does not excite my taste buds anymore.
If anyone has an extra plane ticket to Bangkok they’d like to give away, just stop by my classroom in Provo any weekday!
Okay, you have moved to Provo, Utah, to study at Nomen Global Language Centers. You’ve got your passport and visa all squared away. You’ve got your books and rented a room and found some good places to eat. You’re making friends and learning a new language. Being a foreign student in the USA and learning English is not so hard after all!
Now it’s time you learned how to ski! Skiing is one of the prime sports activities in Utah. One of the main reasons they held the 1998 Winter Olympics in Utah was because of the outstanding skiing opportunities available. You have an abundance of ski resorts that are close to Provo to provide you with instruction and opportunity to glide down ski trails all weekend long. Utah ski resorts are normally open from late October until Mid-May, or sometimes later, depending on snow depth and weather. You may never get the opportunity again in your young life to enjoy such convenience and pleasure, when it comes to skiing!
A History Lesson.
Most historians think that skiing first developed in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Finland and Norway. The record of people using skis to hunt moose, deliver royal messages, and to invade neighboring countries, goes back well over a thousand years. Some historians now believe that it was the Chinese who first invented the art of skiing, in northern China, around 600 BC.
Skiing was not considered a sport until about 1890, after Norwegian immigrants had brought their skiing skills to places like Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah. In 1912 the Wasatch Mountain Club was organized in Salt Lake City to recruit members to learn how to ski and enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of the nearby mountains. Ski jumping was introduced into Utah in the 1930’s, around the Ogden area. A major innovation, and convenience, was introduced to Utah ski resorts in the early 1940’s, when mechanized tow ropes were installed to allow skiers to be pulled back up the mountainside, instead of having to walk all the way back up under their own power. There are currently 14 officially designated ski areas in the state of Utah, most of them clustered around the Salt Lake/Provo corridor. These designated ski areas have plowed trails, ski patrols on duty to enforce rules and help stranded and injured skiers, and an abundance of fine restaurants and other cultural features that mean you not only get to ski the mountains of Utah, you get to enjoy a good meal and perhaps catch a world class first run movie at a resort like Sundance.
What’s the Cost?
There is normally no entry fee into a ski resort. It’s free; what you pay for is a pass to ride the ski lift, which takes you to the top of the skiing area. A typical one-day pass at a resort like Park City will cost about $68.00. Most resorts have discounts for beginners, children, and for certain times of year. So when you decide it’s time to go on up into the mountains for a weekend of fun, make sure you go online to check the resort discounts first. You can often print out discount coupons from your computer, and save as much as fifty-percent on your lift ticket.