Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.


Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!


Six Degrees (Below Zero) of Separation

Prince b&wTracy McMillanLouie

Tiny TimDylanJudy Garland

When an event occurs half way around the world, my husband and I frequently joke what is the “Minnesota Connection”? We typically only need to tune in at 10:00 pm to our local television stations to find out, they unabashedly report with this angle on a regular basis. It’s a scoop if the cousin of a passenger on a downed flight can be interviewed. A former babysitter, hairdresser or Tupperware Lady to the stars comes with it’s own cachet in Minnesota.

The winters here may be brutally cold but our affections for those who lived here, loved here, died here or simply passed through here are warm.

Last weeks passing of Prince, our native son of funk (who not only was born and raised here, but never left) continues to cast a purple shadow over our airwaves. Just when you think that any story that could be told has been shared, a local radio station will take a call from a former McDonald’s employee who served Prince at the drive-thru once. Saturday night (I guess that makes it all right) the best man from our wedding shared his remembrance of being a young dad in Chanhassen Minnesota over twenty years ago. After being awoken one too many times by his eldest son (crying over being unable to locate his pacifier) he drove to the 24-hour grocery store and bought the entire display of glow-in-the-dark pacifiers, and ran into Prince. His wife shared more typical memories of being an ’80s club kid. She’d gone to Washburn High School, I’d gone to Southwest High School and Prince had graduated five years ahead of me from Central High School. We were all Minneapolis kids, went to the same beaches, took the same buses, roamed the same streets.

As speculation continues over the cause of Prince’s death, I question what criteria makes a person’s HIPPA rights go away. Some have suggested that pain relievers for hip and ankle discomfort had contributed to his plane making an emergency landing in Moline Illinois the week prior to his death. Rumors abound that rather than being treated for the flu, that he had been administered an Opioid antidote. Prince was notoriously private when not on stage and while I understand the curiosity of his fans, I question the necessity and legality of such disclosures. Just like with Michael Jackson and Elvis before him, I am saddened that a contributing factor was potentially a product intended to improve quality of life, not end it. I am not a doctor, I’m not a lawyer. I’m simply a fan who wants to remind people that all celebrities, all icons, are simply people too, with vulnerabilities despite their immense talents and contributions.

As a kid it was actress Judy Garland who I recall being my first known Minnesota celebrity. The Wizard of Oz remains my favorite movie to this day. Born Frances Gumm in Grand Rapids Minnesota, she left long before she became a household name. She was nominated twice for an Academy Award but only ever received a juvenile version. She was the first person I was aware of who died as the result of drug use. Her death was described as an accidental Barbiturate overdose. I was just shy of my sixth birthday.

The year after Garland’s death not only was my state on the map but the very city I lived in. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a situation comedy about a single woman living in Minneapolis who worked at a local television station. The show ran until I was a teenager and likely had some impact on my decision to be a Mass Communication TV/Radio major in college. Wholesome, though edgier than other shows of the era, the best part of the show for me was the opening credits with fictional Mary Richards driving around familiar parts of my city and ultimately tossing her  knit beret in the air. It was not a raspberry beret, Mary was fashionable but not a second-hand store sort of character.

In the last week I’ve seen many references regarding Bob Dylan being a native Minnesotan, most with the the tagline “but he left”. Grief can make people bitter but it’s true that where Bob Dylan rejected his roots, Prince embraced his. Prince’s many talents and pop culture contributions do nothing to take away from the talents of Robert Zimmerman, the impact was just different. Prince hit notes Dylan would never dream of trying to and most of his lyrics wouldn’t make your parents blush and question if you knew what that song was even about. Prince might have referenced used clothing in a song but Dylan looked like he might have acquired his wardrobe from the dumpster behind a second-hand store. Prince impacted youth fashion unlike any other male of the era. As I noted in my blog-post on the day he died; he was wearing fancy gloves in the late ’70s, much earlier than Michael Jackson who is often credited with the trend. I had friends whose parents were the same age as Bob Dylan, Prince was our contemporary. Dylan is bad hair and good harmonica, his essence can be captured in black and white. Prince was at his best in full color, he was was both audio and visual!

Minnesota is a percolator for talent and creativity of all types. We produce writers for TV and movies, musicians, photographers, artists, comedians and authors. Realistically there are reasons people take their skills elsewhere, for some it’s a logistical situation. We as Minnesotans love to claim those who were born here, we embrace those who stay and accept those who choose either Minnesota as their home or Minnesotans as their significant others:

Lizz Winstead the co-creator of The Daily Show graduated a couple of years ahead of me at Southwest. She is back in town annually for a New Year’s Eve stand-up gig. She was a sorority girl and young comic at the University of Minnesota when Prince was only known locally. Both she and Prince can credit First Avenue with memorable moments in their early careers. Gene Winstead, her brother, is my mayor.

Tracy McMillan who graduated a year behind me from Southwest wrote for United States of Tara, Mad Men and other projects you would recognize. Oprah has interviewed her. She’s written a memoir and more recently published her first work of fiction. For two years she had the most read Huffington Post piece Why You’re Not Married…Yet.  She was a youthful patron of First Avenue as well.

The Coen brothers were raised in the neighboring suburb of St. Louis Park. Like Prince, they are also Oscar winners.

Pete Docter of Pixar grew up on the next block right here in Bloomington, where I reside. His parents still live in the house where they raised him and his sisters and come to our annual block party. You recognize his name from Toy Story, Up and more recently his Academy Award for Inside Out. His entire family was inducted into the Bloomington Kennedy High School Hall of Fame a few years ago. He returned to Minnesota (as did his sisters) to receive the recognition before a school play.

Comedian Louie Anderson (who portrays Christine Baskets on the outstanding FX series Baskets) grew up across the river in St. Paul. He was back in town just last week to perform.

Tiny Tim opted to make Minnesota his home with his wife Miss Sue later in life. My peers recall the unusual looking and oddly voiced performer for his ukulele backed song Tiptoe Through the Tulips. I recollect his appearances on shows like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and his 1969 marriage to Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson (it was viewed by 40 million people). He died nearly twenty years ago and his remains are located in the mausoleum at Lakewood Cemetery. If you’re ever in Minnesota, you can locate him under his given name of Herbert Khaury. The historic cemetery is adjacent to Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, between the Linden Hills neighborhood I grew up in and Uptown. I have a number of my own relatives buried in the sprawling urban cemetery, going all the way back to 1888, which doesn’t have the same musical ring to it that 1999 seems to.

I know many people have made pilgrimages to Minnesota this last week and many more will come. It’s a beautiful place, with lovely lakes, fantastic museums, amazing theaters, good restaurants, fun bars, losing sports franchises and a good sense of humor about itself. Come tiptoe through the tulips, in the purple rain and you might think you’re somewhere over the rainbow! Maybe it’s not just our news stations that find the “Minnesota Connections” wherever they can.



The Purple Reign Comes to an End


I originally posted this a year ago tomorrow. I leave it in the original raw format. I wrote it prior to anyone but his closest associates knowing that he struggled with Opioid addiction, that ultimately caused his death. A public figure but a private man. This was written before greed-motivated false claims of being related to him emerged. This week Paisley Park search warrants were unsealed and shared with the world. We learned the name he traveled under, that he had prescriptions in the names of bodyguards to protect his privacy and that an addiction specialist had prepared a plan for a recovery that was simply too late. We know that at the time of his death his petite frame weighed just 112 pounds. A year later and tributes to mark the anniversary are scheduled at many local venues. Paisley Park has become mecca, a “Graceland of the Midwest” and his estate this week placed a restraining order on one of his sound techs who has released a number of previously unheard tracks. Though the ringmaster has left the building, the circus continues. All this and I have been married another year.

Today is my wedding anniversary, a day for fond reflections. I began the morning working a part time job at a local garden center. I came home early because of the rain. I’d sold some of the few remaining pansies this morning, recommending the velvety purple ones to the customer, because they were beautiful and purple has always been my favorite color.

Not long after arriving home I saw a TMZ announcement that legendary artist Prince had died. I went to several sources to confirm it, knowing how many false stories circulate quickly via social media. Sadly, it appears that the original post is true. So I spend the day in fond reflections.

It’s been more than 35 years that I have been aware of Prince Rogers Nelson. Unlike most, it was not his music that initially drew my attention to him. I was still in high school in Minneapolis when I found myself in a diner in Dinky Town (near the University of Minnesota) seated so closely to the next table that I couldn’t see the face of the small man seated to my right. What caught my attention was that he was eating fried chicken, while wearing gloves. Despite it being Minnesota, these were not winter gloves, they were polyester dress gloves. I’ll give you one guess what color they were. After he’d left, my friend Jane said “That was Prince, he’s a local performer.” Jane’s favorite color is also purple. After confirming his death, this was my first fond reflection of Prince.

As I posted “Shedding purple tears.” with a picture of Prince on my Facebook page I heard the text notification on my cell phone. I ran up the stairs to find a message from my husband that Prince had died. It’s our anniversary and I smiled at the memory that he drove a Little Red Corvette back when we met. I then chuckled over the fact that the nickname I had signed my anniversary card to him with was also inspired by a Prince song. It’s my anniversary, a day for fond reflections.

I went back to my computer and found a message from half a world away, a friend who lived on my floor when I was an RA. He shared how he and his roommate from that era had gotten tickets to the Purple Rain concert. I reminded him that we had lip synced Purple Rain with some other floor members for a top ten count-down for the campus TV station that year. Fond memories, triggered by the sudden loss of a great talent.

The next message was from a college roommate who credited me with introducing her to his music. We frequently blared a cassette of his music on my JVC boombox out our open window of Holes Hall toward the Acacia fraternity house. Last Saturday was a final open house for Holes Hall, it’s being torn down. It seems strange the building is still standing and Prince is gone. My sophomore roommate and I also used Prince as the soundtrack of our college experience. A lot of fond memories of my late teens and early twenties.

My final year of college my staff members and I did a performance to The Bird, a song featured in the film Purple Rain. Prince was not simply a stand-alone act, he was like a gateway drug to music by The Time, Andre Cymone and others. He was different, temperamental perhaps, a visionary. He wanted to do eight minutes uninterrupted on Saturday Night Live and they let him. He temporarily wanted to be recognized by a symbol instead of Prince, that worked for him.  So many musical memories.

My kids early on, in their car seats, would be asked “who is this?” when a song came on the radio. Now in their twenties they will tell you that the correct answer was either “Bruce Springsteen” or “Prince”. They needed to know the basics. My daughter just texted me to ask if I had heard the news. More fond memories.

Prince’s fan base transcends age, race and gender. Minnesotan’s take pride in him and many have stories of late night jam sessions at Paisley Park or spontaneous performances at the legendary First Avenue. Jimmy Jam Harris is being interviewed on WCCO right now and he says that music was always the motivation over the money. Itunes is reporting that Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry and Kiss are the top four tunes right now. Local radio stations are all playing Prince. Clearly, I am not the only one with fond reflections.

Today is my wedding anniversary and now I share this date with Prince, a fellow lover of purple.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” -Prince


Returning to a Place We Never Truly Left: SCSU Housing Reunion

The Wall 15

It’s been more than a year since I saw the picture that launched a thousand Facebook posts. A crew of college friends in a bar. Then came the idea, that (while fantastic) seemed like one of many alcohol-fueled ambitions that might lose steam and not achieve fruition. “Lets get the gang back together.” was the general premise. “The gang” referring to the housing staff, predominately former RA’s, from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. This wasn’t simply an effort to get some kids from a few years ago together, it began as a mid-eighties gathering, grew to embrace the alumni of the entire decade and eventually it was determined “the more, the merrier” and nobody was going to be checking credentials or verifying diplomas at the door.

Social media certainly made the outreach an easier task and with Tom/Torgy the ring-leader, at the helm from San Diego, it’s hard to imagine such a feat being accomplished even a decade ago. The end of my SCSU housing career overlapped with the start of Tom’s and the start of mine was the tail-end of several people’s who I had always maintained contact with. There were some who my only contact with since my wedding (in 1989) was an exchange of annual Christmas cards, others were rediscovered friends as the result of Facebook.

I had returned to St. Cloud on more than one occasion; St. Patrick’s Day 1987 and a summer visit that same year, Homecoming 1988, an SCSU hosted “RA exchange” with staff of mine from either Winona State or UW-Stout, a Residential Life reunion where we were able to stay on campus one summer and a canceled reunion that simply wouldn’t die that resulted in many former RA’s roaming the streets of St. Cloud twenty years ago, a job interview in the ’90s, an Alumni Association event that brought back Vanguard alumni and I returned with a number of former Hall Directors and Assistant Hall Directors when the Michael D. Hayman Guest Suite (formerly first floor Sherburne) was dedicated. Since I was not able to speak with everyone last weekend, this is where I put the disclaimer that Mike Hayman is very much alive and that it’s not a “memorial suite”. Unlike faces on U.S. currency, St. Cloud State does not require that a person be deceased in order to name something after them. I can assure you that Mike was present (along with family) during the ceremony and somewhat shy and embarrassed by the well deserved accolades for his years of service as the Resident Life Director. Honestly, over the weekend several people in hushed tones tried to share with me that we had “lost” Mike Hayman. After a trip to The Wall with Sarah Coltvet last Friday, that is a euphemism for death that will have me laughing for years to come.

Tom put out feelers to explore a time that offered some activities on campus beyond a tour of local watering holes. With Dross and Kenny (familiar names and faces to many from the ’80s) still working in Housing it was determined that the third weekend of September would be ideal; coinciding with the 100 Year Anniversary and renovation of Shoemaker Hall, a football game, Family Weekend and typically decent fall weather. A weekend of non-sanctioned merriment. Apparently our reputations still lingered in housing lore and we were too big of a liability. Good call.

A Facebook page was put together to spread the word and a number of us served as sounding boards for Tom who wanted to make sure it was a fun and well planned event without needing a huge cash outlay in advance, with little knowledge of who might actually attend. Then the pictures began being posted and the brief snippets of stories explaining them. You saw pictures of those who were the RA’s when you arrived as a freshman and you saw pictures of your own tenants who were RA’s after you left. You didn’t even need to recognize faces to feel a camaraderie with the cross-dressed staff on stage at the Newman Center during an end of quarter staff party or the formal or informal gatherings at The Wall, the symbolic touchstone for rule-abiding housing staff, the closest place off campus that the enforcers on a dry-campus could go to drink.

Months turned to weeks, weeks turned to days and then it was simply hours, as I tossed a soft-sided cooler and all my alumni apparel into my car and headed west from my home in Bloomington. The last thing I packed was a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies that had been in my freezer since the State Fair. You can take the boy out of Minnesota but you can’t take the Minnesota out of the boy and as a kid with Roseville roots, the Fair was in Tom’s blood just as much as Long Island Iced Teas from DB’s would be on Friday.

As I drove through St. Cloud on my way to the Hotel I was reminded how little I drove while attending St. Cloud State, having only had a car in town during my fifth and final year on campus. Even then I parked it a block away from my “AD spot” so my expectant boss and her toddler had easier access to their car and her husband who worked downtown and drove daily had access to his. Other than the occasional drive home or to shop, most of the activities I participated in off-campus were ones best left to foot traffic or the occasional cab ride. Cabs in St. Cloud during that era were like clown cars, it was shocking the number of passengers that might emerge at a destination. While my car made its way through town, my mind wandered to other changes in the community. A woman wearing a hijab caught my eye and I realized by the time I’d pulled into the parking lot of my hotel that I had seen more diversity in St. Cloud that day, than during my entire time attending school there. Later in the weekend I would mention that “Diversity at St. Cloud State meant that a girl like me from Minneapolis worked alongside people from Cosmos, Albert Lea and Fairmont Minnesota.” An actual floor activity after spring break one year was a “tan competition” judged by our hall director. Typically during winters in St. Cloud, we were pale, paler and palest. Tanning booths became “a thing” towards the end of my time at SCSU, most of us damaged our skin the old-fashioned way, a little tinfoil over cardboard come April at Mitchell Beach.

I checked in, dragged my photo album and other luggage to my room and let Tom know I had arrived in case there was any last-minute details to attend to. He responded that he was having a beer (shocking, I know) at Beaver Island Brewing and wanted to know if I wanted to join them. I demurred (more shocking) and asked that they let me know when they got back. About an hour later I got a text to meet them in the lobby. Minutes later, there I am in the lobby with Tom who I suspect I had last seen in the summer of ’87 and his college friend Brian who had not worked in housing but ultimately was an invaluable team member for the reunion, serving as transportation and right-hand man through the weekend! We headed to DB Searle’s where we enjoyed a couple of beers and caught up, it was shockingly quiet and Brian and Tom expressed disappointment and dismay at the lack of Foosball table in the back room. They had played on the somewhat dilapidated relic the previous summer during the visit where the idea for this weekend had been conjured.

We then headed to the Red Carpet where Thirsty Thursday is just a fading memory of bottomless beers and poor Friday test scores. The horseshoe-shaped bar replaced by a bar along the wall, making the grand room of Happy Hour nothing more than a hallway to the “event center” which I would wait until Saturday to see. We headed downstairs to The Keller, the scene of my graduation party with two of my college besties, one of whom would be arriving the next evening. Described online as a “dive bar” I now wondered where the fish tanks had gone and then questioned how fish had ever survived in such a setting. We tried a Hawaiian craft beer that cost more for a single pint than an entire Thursday night out in the eighties did and then we headed back to the hotel once the band began to play and even our shouting at each other did not allow us to accurately understand what each other were saying. A quick perusal of my photo album and some thoughts regarding topics I might cover before the band played on Saturday and the night was over. Now it felt real, like people were really going to show up. The event had been tagged with the moniker “Back to Our Future”, a play on the title of the 1985 blockbuster movie that comically explored time travel and as I drifted off to sleep that night the concept no longer seemed fictional.

The next morning I met my freshman roommate Jill for breakfast at 8:30 at the Green Mill attached to my hotel. She and I had lived in a triple room in Holes hall together our freshman year. She had married Mark, a former SCSU football player who also lived in Holes our freshman year, they had settled in Waite Park and raised four kids. We caught up on each others families and friends and reminisced about people and events. She offered to drive me down the street to my 11:30 lunch at the White Horse (formerly The Sportsman Lounge where we often played “I Drink Alone” on the juke box while seated in separate booths) with a former staff member from my years in private student housing at the U, a young mother whose home is in the area. Drive me? During the entire time I attended school in St. Cloud the street we drove was a pedestrian mall. This was good information to share later that evening as a crowd of Long Island Iced Tea fortified forty and  fifty-somethings careened around the corner to head to Howie’s which was formerly the 1929 Club, The Courthouse Pub and Zim’s on Ninth (?). Sticking to the sidewalks, our boisterous clan headed to the bar located very near the actual courthouse, which has a facade with columns and a clock on it, quite similar to the Hill Valley clock tower in Back to the Future.

St. Cloud Court HouseHill Valley Clock Tower

While I chatted it up over extended meals with friends from another life, Tom was taking care of a million tiny details. He was still adding pictures to what would be an epic sideshow, managing food, addressing logistics for collecting admissions. When I had wrapped up, it seemed like it was time for everyone to have a drink. Others had been trickling in and it was determined that The Wall might be the ideal place to get this party started. The fact that Brian’s car is a mid-eighties boat that can accommodate six grown adults with its luxurious bench seat just made the trip from downtown to “just off” campus perfect. The fact he had recently had the tinting redone on the windows and they were not to be rolled down made it even funnier. As we turned the corner to the dead-end we see former staff member Bob Hull walking away with his Caribou Coffee cup in hand, we begin yelling and banging the windows (picture people who have been abducted) and Brian began tooting the horn. The hilarious part was Bob looking away, trying to avoid eye contact with the carload of lunatics. The laughter did not stop for me until I was safely home in Bloomington over 48 hours later.

Brian's car reunion '15

The Wall had been covered in some sort of cement, likely done to hide graffiti. While I grabbed a beer and offered them up to the empty-handed Sarah set to work like a Pampered Chef hostess, whipping out a cutting board, rolling a lime and preparing Gin & Tonics like a pro into acrylic stemless wine glasses. Maybe we had grown up. We regaled each other with stories from our times in St. Cloud and our lives in the three decades that had passed since. Some of the stories were funny, some of the situations were sad. The sadder the scenario, the harder we laughed and poked fun at it. As I had predicted upon arrival “I can drink like I used to but my bladder will not hold up as long.”. While Brian chauffeured Tom back to perform some mundane (but needed) task we decided that since it was still daylight and students had already been photographing us from a distance that we were going to play grownup and find indoor facilities for those of us who proclaimed needs. I was laughed at when expressing concern for taking a cooler on campus that contained alcohol, the only alcohol that made it into the residence halls was being processed by Sarah’s and my respective livers. Holes Hall was the closest stop and since I had heard a rumor that it might be torn down in the years ahead it was not entirely surprising to find it vacant, Stearns was our next destination and seeing the abandoned lobby there nearly brought us to tears or our bladders were rising to eye level. At last as we approached Sherburne we gained the attention of an exiting coed who graciously allowed us access (which really makes me wonder how well they are training entering students on “stranger danger” and security issues) and I led Sarah around behind the elevators to the public restroom, where I silently prayed they had not installed a fob system or retina scan. We relieved ourselves and returned to the street alongside Acacia Fraternity where Brian was ready to chauffeur us back to our hotel for a quick-change.

We met in the lobby a short while later and proceeded to the back room of the main floor of DB Searle’s where Tom had arranged for some happy hour food and $3.75 teas. There were name tags and more familiar faces. I drank several ice waters prior to having a featured libation which we all agreed was sweeter than we had recalled. I was thankful that they were heavily iced and considerably weaker than those of my youth. It was a noisy, fun evening filled with greetings, hugs and half completed recollections, a cacophony of middle-aged folks who swore their coworkers had not changed a bit!

Madison retreat group DB's 15Madison '85-86

A bunch of us who had been to an RA exchange in Madison my final year stepped out front to capture a group photo. In our minds we had shamed the notorious party school by showing them how a real school gets it done! Whomever decided that a team of impressionable RA’s should be guided on a road trip with the leadership of Cooch (Director) and Pat McCoy and I as AD’s must have had a real sense of humor. As we stood on the sidewalk Pat reflected on the weekend and when at a rare loss for words I simply said “St. Elmo’s Fire” (another ’85 film release) his eyes got wide and he wondered how after nearly thirty years I was so quickly able to identify what was in his head that he couldn’t articulate. The evening was magic!

Some stayed, some parted, a group moved on to Howie’s and after that a couple stopped at the former Lar’s Bar, which had become McRudy’s Pub during my last year on campus and remained that until a year or two ago. My former coworker-bridesmaid-friend-weekend-roommie “Bobbie” had arrived during our time at DB’s and after 30 seconds of concern she might not know anyone she acclimated to the rhythm of the evening, recollecting that twice her and “Spider” had together earned the coveted “Biggest Partier” accolades at end of the year staff awards. We finally returned to our hotel room and more half-told stories and laughter ensued.

Bobbie, Spider and NER(P)...sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your nickname!

When morning came we opted for coffee and showers while those more diligent headed to campus and tours and the Shoemaker anniversary event. We strolled the cobblestone sidewalks and peaked into shops, went to the drive-thru cash machine as pedestrians and eventually ended up at the Mexican Village where we were meeting up with former Mitchell staff members, having both worked there at separate times bookending our year as coworkers at Sherburne Hall. A delegation of Holes Hall staff and assorted others were there as well. Festivities moved on to the Beaver Island Brewery where the more formal itinerary began. Tom and Brian swung into action with wrist bands and our Sherburne coworker Deb arrived after a business fraternity reunion and football game. It was there I ran into “Kadz” who lived the floor above me during his final year and my first year as an RA. Despite not seeing each other since the Reagan administration it was like time had stood still. He had less hair on his head, I had more hair on my chin but beyond that we were both as sharp and wickedly witty as the duo who had brought “stewed tomatoes on a stick” as treats to staff meeting during the fall of 1983. We were golden!

Kadz, Doug and I Newman end of year '84Kadz, Doug Me '15

Bobbie and I headed back to the hotel to grab a boombox for the main event taking place at the Red Carpet. It was necessary so my Keith Fun n’ Stein tape could be played. Keith had been a one-man act that played filthy drinking songs that we enjoyed during many happy hours when not on duty. It made for a perfect accompaniment to the slide show of old photos from an era when nobody carried phones with them and phones did not even have cameras. More people continued to arrive and I gave a brief welcome and let people know there was some food available. A short while later I took the stage again, shared some memories about life on campus during the ’80s, revisited some truths of the era, gave thanks and acknowledged some of the folks who had impacted us during that time. There had been no need for awkward mixers, these folks had come back to St. Cloud with a desire to visit with people from a special chapter of their lives. Regardless of where we had gone or what we had done since our time working on campus, we were for that time in our lives the “chosen ones”, the students who had snagged the coveted RA positions. Each of us had at one time believed we were on the best staff, with the greatest supervisor and most fabulous coworkers ever. We were all right! Some would never have another job they loved as much or coworkers who knew as much about them.

As I exited the stage the Fabulous Armadillos began to play. Initially it appeared that the performance was going to take a concert format, until Tom and I hit the dance floor and in my best Jared Allen (Viking’s era) imitation, implored others to come down from the balcony, step away from the bar, get up from their tables and dance. It didn’t take much encouragement and the dance floor stayed full for most of the remainder of the evening. The Fabulous Armadillos (a compilation of incredible talent that have graced stages throughout the Midwest and around the world with each other and other artists) played covers of the songs that we’d danced to at T&T, Spring Flings and Newman Center parties. When they played Oh What a Night it was more of a statement than a song lyric.  Prince’s Lets Go Crazy seemed like an anthem and when the song exclaimed “If you don’t like the world you’re living in, take a look around you, at least you got friends!” nobody could disagree. The room pulsated with sweaty dancers, some in their floor shirts, some in new SCSU gear. People continued to connect, share their stories, ask about those who did not attend. A favorite among many excellent moments was looking up to see Tom surveying the dance floor from the second floor, basking in the joy of what his months of planning had wrought. Oh what a night!

There were shots, group photo’s, a trip next door to House of Pizza to taste a memory. Eventually the night wore down and the band finished and we demanded more and when I raised a lighter above my head for an encore and looked around the crowded room, I realized I was the only one in the room with a lighter raised  and knew it likely looked as silly as my brief interlude on the dance floor with the boombox on my shoulder (which was the result of a dare). This was more than a weekend trip to St. Cloud it was a trip down memory lane, a nostalgic detour. The Fabulous Armadillo’s came through with a finale not to be forgotten! Most eventually stopped dancing and stared in awe as the guitar player unfolded the blind singer’s cane and used it to summon the ghost of Hendrix as he pressed it against the neck of his guitar in a manner I imagine nobody in the room had witnessed before or likely will again. It was like a bow atop a very special gift, the gift we had all given ourselves by simply showing up.

There were hugs, goodbyes and faces we had recognized but never got a chance to talk to. It was perfect and it was too short. For some it was a break from busy schedules with kids or grand kids, time away from hectic work lives, a respite from caring for aging parents. For a weekend or simply a few hours, it was our time. During different eras of student programming there were expectations to meet the social, educational, spiritual, recreational and environmental needs of participants. Bobbie, Jessica and I were out on the alley behind the Carpet when they came to dump bottles for recycling, making me  confident that all aspects of programming were covered. For those who missed out or want to do it all over again, St. Cloud State turns 150 in 2019. I plan on being there for whatever happens. So keep your flux capacitor in working order, we’ll be going back to our future!

*No names have been changed to protect anybody, some of us just knew enough to go by aliases back in the day!