Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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Tales from Normal, Mn. Headline News---FICTION

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dateline Normal: Police Squads with Kiddie Car Seats--Fiction

Dateline Normal: " Police Squads with Kiddie Car Seats"-----Fiction

(Ed. note. This is one of a series of FICTIONAL sketches from Normal, Mn., a town near the famous Lake Woebegon up near Garrison, Mn.. These sketches are available on CD and are mailed to purchasers wrapped in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked FICTION. Enjoy.)

Last week I turned the heavy Lincoln up north on Hwy 10 for a little getaway from the hussle and bussle of breaking news here in Evansville. I needed to get the little cabin in the woods ready for the winter months of the frozen tundra.Just before I entered the city limits of Normal, something unusual happened. An older black Chevy Caprice roared by me in the passing lane, and then sped on. As I slowed down to enter the city limits, I noticed the police cruiser with the flashing lights and the black Chevy with the driver spread eagle over the trunk. I did not think there was much law up there in the north country, so I was very shocked.I was also shocked at what I saw in that police cruiser.

The police officer was a real large bruiser type, which was normal for Normal, but----- in the back seat of the police cruiser was a CHILD SEAT. That totally took me by surprise.

When I slipped into my usual seat in the coffee shop, just kiddie corner from the bait shop, I asked Herman:"What's with the baby seat in the squad cars?"

"That's just Normal," he replied. Up here several years ago they intalled a full day 5k kindergarten program, and eliminated the half day option. They also of course have 4k, 3k and are considering implementing a 2K program. Up here, it's all full day. If a parent pulls the kid from school, the kid is considered "truant."

"TRUANT?" I asked in disbelief."Yup," Herman replied, "TRUANT.""Up here we take education REAL SERIOUS LIKE. We have a real strong TRUANT policy in our schools, and folks are fired if they exceed the standard truancy rate. The police are real vigalent to enforce full attendance. So---if a kid goes astray, the squads need to have the child seat.

Thanks goodness I am back in good old Wisconisn. Where we don't have baby seats in squad cars. Where we know the difference between truancy and normal livin. Alleluia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dateline Normal School District: "Reduced Lunch--the tale"--FICTION

Dateline Normal: Reduced Lunch---the tale--fiction

(Ed. note. The following is one of a long series of fictional sketches from a city up in northern Minnesota, called Normal. It is just south of Garrison. These stories are available on cd. They come in a brown paper wrapper and are clearly marked--FICTION)

It has been a real hectic week. I just felt it necessary to head on up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, and try out the new car. It just was not that old Lincoln ride. But is was a whole lot more relaxin. I just didn't have to worry all the time about breakdowns. Maybe this year I could stay within my three AAA calls. Alleluia.

Anyway, I arrived ahead of schedule, and met Herman at the little diner. Yes, it did look a lot like the Mickey's diner in the movie, "The Prairie Home Companion." It was an old railroad car conversion thing. Right across from the Spruce Good Motel. And the coffee was so dependably good. Very rare in northern parts.

I mentioned to Herman cause he was on the Normal School Board, that I just did not understand how Normal could get the full measure of educational benefit of diversity as we know it in the larger cities of America.

"Shucks--that is real simple. Up here in God's country, we are totally diverse. It just comes with the territory."

"How could that be? I asked.

"It's real simple. Up here, we just have EVERYBODY sign up for reduced lunches. If they need some help, we just help em with the numbers."


"Even the kids that go home at 11:30AM?" I asked."Even the kids who do not eat lunch at school?"

"Yep----EVERYBODY," Herman laughed.

"It's all a matter of gettin your data sets in order. This ain't no sliderule stuff up here, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me). We just keep it real simple.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where AAA has fast response times. And where data sets are real and not just played with.

Alleluia.

Dateline Normal: "The Saga of Control Data II"---FICTION

Dateline Normal: The Saga of Control Data II----Fiction

(Ed. note. Control Data (click on the post for the history) was a historic corporation that grew out of the cryptographers of WWII into the new computers. It had as its first employees, Seymour Cray, inventer of the Cray Computer, as well as the founder, William Norris. As a young gradeschooler, my father invested my piggybank in Control Data stock at $1. per share. Thanks, Dad. My wife also has a history with Control Data, working on the lawsuit that Control Data won against IBM that broke up the monopoly. I dedicate this story to this strong family tradition---controlling the data.)

I had been listening to all the speeches, reading all the graphs, and doing all the research surrounding the budget stuff of our locale, and got data overload----so I headed up to the Northern tundra, up Hwy 10 to my favorite town, Normal, Mn.

I met Herman, as usual, at the little railroad car diner, kiddy corner from the bait shop, the one with the colored stones on it, and settled into the leather booth seating and launched right into a very strong coffee, lots of sugar and whipped cream.

I told Herman that I had been thinking about all the good times and the days of Control Data and how it had changed Minnesota.

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me,) I know you get sentimental about controlling the data, but up here in God's country we have a little bit of Control Data II----It's quite the scandal.

"Whatever are you talking about, Herman, I asked?

"Well, it seems that the local prison warden, Willie Schwartz, was pacing in the local prison cafeteria a few months ago. He was deeply dissatisfied with the size of his office and the general sad state of funding for projects that he loved. Most folks would have given up. Not Willie. He had the tenacity of the American Way. He had creativity. He had determination. And he loved numbers and -----yes--- controlling data.

It seems that the major problem was the data. The prison population had been very static up here in Normal County for at least a decade. That did not stop Willie. He knew all about data and how to use it. He talked to the local Normal sheriff's association, and the guys all agreed. If it was data that Willie needed----that is what they would provide."

"What possibly could they do," I asked.

"It's just real simple, Wolfman. You are just so naive an all---they had a little roundup----a real no holds barred clean up in all of the local counties. The arrest citations just soared. Everone was shocked that it could have happened up here in God's country. All those arrested folks were given some generous time for court appearances. A little compassion------- as Willie described it. The statistics on arrest were noted. They were soaring.

Then Willie got out his Applied Population Model and prepared the Willie Planning Model which showed that at the current rate of arrest, all of Normal was headed for a catastrophe in corrections. It was clear that they needed a new, large correctional facility---he wanted to call it "The Rock". The stunned voters----- deep in fear mode----- approved the referendum that was rushed through.

Then, months after the referendum, those arrested folk with the delayed appearances were seen in court. And their cases dismissed.

Willie just smiled.

"It's all about the numbers," he said. "I'm just a numbers guy."

Well. Thank goodness I'm back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't just gather the data and make the numbers work out for our grandiose plans. Where we serve the community interest and even listen occasionally. And where we work on the freedom model and not the prison model.

Dateline Normal School District: "Option #3---The Leaseback School"

(Ed. note. This fictional tale is one of a series about Normal, Mn., a fictional town in northern Minnesota. Any resemblance to reality is pure accident. These tales are available on cd and are clearly marked FICTION so as not to be confused with reality.)

With all the hubub of street reconstruction and ruminations of politics in Evansville recently, I felt it necessary to head the old Lincoln up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities for a little breakaway. My brother in law, Mark, had agreed to go ahead of me in his brand new Lexis, in case the tranny failed on the old Lincoln. The Lincoln seemed to love the clean air up north and performed well. What a relief.

We stopped for coffee, straight, lots of sugar and whipped cream, in the Minnesota Viking mugs at the coffee shop as we arrived in Normal, just short of Garrison. Mark was the CEO of a prominent Twin City company---he had gone to see Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate some years back, and had got the message. Plastics. Yes-- he started his own plastics business. He had done well.

I always asked Mark those intricate questions about accounting that were mysteries to me. Up here in Normal, Mn., they had gone to an innovative "leaseback school system" that provided unique taxpayer benefits and was considered a role model for America. I frankly was mystified as to how they did it.

I simply asked him, "Mark, how do these guys deliver such low cost education up here? I just do not understand!"

"Well, Wolfman (that's what he always called me). It is REAL simple. The school district builds the buildings to their specifications. Then they sell the buildings to Wal Mart, who leases them back to the district on a "full list" basis. The lease amount includes everything, staff, heat, light, transportation. ...all benefits etc. There is a "shared arrangement" of employee selection, but the bottom line is that all the employees are employees of WalMart. The State of Minnesota then allows the costs of the full lease amount as reimbursable. It is real magic.

He then went on, "The real magic is with medical benefits. There are no post employment medical benefits or anything like that. WalMart just uses Medicaid up here in God's Country. It is real simple. Anyway, it saves a cool half million dollars in post retirement benefits on an annual accrual basis."

I glanced down at Mark's coffee napkin which was spread out on the table with a diagram of how the leaseback worked.

"Shucks," I said, "how in the world can anyone understand how this works?"

"That is the whole point," Mark said. If they do catch on, we make it more complicated by making something called a "Blended leaseback," which is even worse. That really baffels them!

Then he let out a loud bellylaugh.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin, where things are straightforward, and where I can go buy some things at WalMart and not go to school there.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Breaking; "Pinnochio" Johnson named Administrator of Normal, Mn====FICTION

Citing a need for "moxie" the Normal, Mn. common council of Normal, Mn. named "Pinnochio" Johnson administrator today, capping a 2 year search. "Pinnochio", affectionatly called "Pin" by his Notre Dame alums, was the clear hands down winner in the competition, by demonstrating an affinity to slavish obedience to any and all authority figures yet a willingness to do almost anything to succeed....an art clearly timely in Normal, Mn. ...stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dateline Normal School District: "The Battle of the Little Big Horn"---FICTION

Dateline Normal; The Battle of the Little Big Horn---Recap---FICTION

Well. Last weekend was a really hectic one for me. I had just purchased a new movie camera and decided to head on up that long winding road, Hwy 10, north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite little town to relax in--- Normal, Mn. Last weekend was the famous Reinactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn---or as some know it---"Custer's Last Stand."

After a night of blissful sleep at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are pure down, and all the walls are covered with stuffed animals, I awoke, folded the wall bed back into the wall, and headed over to the little diner to meet Herman, my countryboy lawyer friend, for my usual coffee.

Herman had written me that he had a special role for me in the reinactment. I was pretty honored that they had thought of me. I had dreamed all the way up in the car of being in the cavalry. Ah the glory.

Herman wasted no time in dismissing my illusions.

"Shucks no, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) you're gettin just too old to ride a horse under these high pressure situations."

"But...But....they are such old horses, Herman. I just know I could handle it," I replied.

"Well, " Herman replied, "The truth is that we only have a handful of uniforms, and they are all 42 or smaller. You need to stay behind the camera, and leave the riding and the glory for the younger folks. And besides. Normal has minimul liability coverage, and letting you ride a horse would be "prima facie gross negligence."

I always hated it when he threw that legal stuff at me....but...I had to admit that a 42 would be too tight a fit. I suddenly saw that the camera positon might be a good one for me after all. And besides, Herman promised to help me with the directions on the camera. It would be hard to do the camera zoom on the top of a horse.

After the reinactmact was over, Herman was pretty frustrated.

"That guy Custer just never learns. I do declare. When will it dawn on him? What a waste of human life."

I tried to explain: "Herman---this is a reinactment---it never will change!!!!!"

Then I realized that the beautiful girl that played Custer's wife had caught Herman's eye. If it had been Herman, I think the battle would never have been fought. Amen.

After it was all over. Herman spoke in a loud voice to all the actors------"Well done all. And remember----be real kind to your horses. And more important----SAVE the AMMO. I don't want any wild shooting or celebrating. Ya never know when we might need that ammo."

Two big lessons emerged from the battle. Always save the ammo. And..... Always wait for the cavalry.... expecially the cavalry with the t.v. cameras.

Amen

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dateline Normal: "Criminal Complaint Wins National Fiction Award"---FICTION

(Ed. note: This is one of a long series of fictional stories from Normal, Mn., a town just south of Garrison in northern Minnesota. Where fish are fish and bait are bait. Where seasoned anglers are trained to know the difference. Where it's always daylight saving time. Just to keep things simple. )


This morning in the North American Writers Quarterly Newsletter, there was a startling headline------"Normal District Attorney wins National Fiction Award for Criminal Complaint."
Stunned, I picked up the phone and called my old countryboy lawyer friend, Herman, who has a law office in Normal. I was lucky. I caught him just as he was about to head out to lunch at the Hideaway Lounge.

"What's goin on up there, Herman!", I asked. Since when are district attorney's winning awards for great fiction?"

It's real simple, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.) Up here we do not have a separate category of school for "Fiction Writing." That's for English Majors. Up here---It is a down home part of real life. Just the natural way. "

"We just go over the recent criminal complaints and----well-----then we review which "over" or "under" charge was the most creative.....which complaint showed the best....best.....fictional content. We have real high standards. This is a real competitive category. After all. We gotta get recognition somehow up here. It is in the FICTIONAL category that we really shine. "

I was stunned. "Can you tell me the details of the winning criminal complaint?, I asked.

"Sure, Wolfman. It was the case of a real popular local up in these here parts. He was originally charged with attempted murder, but then he was finally ticketed with jaywalking. The rumble happened in an uncontrolled crosswalk right next to the Hideway Lounge. Up in these here parts----- we have a real tight jaywalking ordinance. "

"That's just outrageous," I exclaimed. And that criminal complaint won a national award? "

"Yup," Herman chortled. "Aint that something." We won a $5000 cash prize for it. It won "Best Under Charge Award."

"Wow. Now you got my attention. We can do better than that right here in Wisconsin. Where do I send the entry. Then Herman gave me the address.

Thank goodness I am back here in good old Wisconsin. Where we can compete with anyone! Even Normal, Mn. Where we have a high quality of fiction. And where our criminal complaints are the best fiction around. And we will show up Herman. I can't wait to win that award.

Dateline Normal School District: "The Marathon Man"---FICTION

Ed. Note. This is one of a long series of tales from the land of Normal, Mn., just west of the Land of Lake Woebegon and south of Garrison, Mn. Any resemblance between these tales and reality is purely an accident. These tales are available from ITunes in the comedy section under "Tales from Normal" and also can be downloaded from the Observer site. When shipped in CD format, they are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked "FICTION." )

It has been quite a hectic week here with the pace of the school board election picking up, so I decided to brave the cold of Northern Minn and head up HWY 10 to my favorite town, Normal, Mn.. The roads were pretty slick, but after I stopped at Osseo at the Norske Nook cafe and had a little of their good home cooking, I was powered up for the long drive. I got to Normal and quickly checked in at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel with all goose down comforters, and a trophy game on every wall, and where you get a little mini-dove bar in the ash tray as a little up-scale treat.

I headed over to the local diner and met up with Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend. I remarked to Herman that the drive had just been very tiring, with the weather and all. I asked him what he had been up to.

"Well," Herman smiled, " I have been gettin in shape with some marathon training. It is REQUIRED if you are on the school board in NORMAL. It looks like you might benefit from some fitness training, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), cause ya really need it."

" I just don't see what marathon training has to do with serving the public on the school board," I said.

"Just wait and see," Herman replied.

"Up here in God's country, It's just survival of the fittest. Our leaders on the school board schedule marathon meetings that can last as long as 12 hours. Only the very fittest can survive to vote on the finance matters at the very end of the meeting. "

"How could they last 12 hours," I asked.

"Well, it is real tough to cut off the sharing that folks want to enlighten the board with. In fact, it is the real plan to wear down the opposition till only a minimum of board members is still not sleeping in their chairs. Then the approval of bills and the motion to adjourn are lumped in one final motion."

"You mean the meeting is not adjourned till the bills are approved as presented."

"Yup," Herman said. "It is sheer moxie."

"So, I have been in marathon training so I can say awake longer without takin any of that no doze stuff. "

I was pretty tired just thinking about those long meetings. I headed out early to head back to good Old Wisconsin----where we don't have to be marathon athletes to compete for the school boards. Where the bills are a separate motion from the motion to adjourn....and where meetings are not deliberately lengthened to avoid unpleasant topics at the very end.

Alleluia.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dateline Normal: "Field Exercise Days"---FICTION

Recently I have been up to Normal, Mn., up that long and winding road, Hwy 10, to a little spot of heaven just south of Brainerd. After my usual night's rest at the Spruce Goose Motel I headed across the street to the diner for coffee with Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend. Herman had recently been nominated to head the Police Commission as well as the Public Safety Committee of Normal. They had been combined to be more efficient.

Over a strong, black coffee, with lots of sugar and whipped cream, I mentioned that getting older was really a bummer---that one had to be an exercise fanatic just to maintain ones weight. I mentioned that I had noticed that Herman as well as most all of the police officers in Normal seemed very thin. I wondered what their secret was.

"Well, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me) we pride ourselves up here as being the "Champion of the Field Day Exercises."

"Huh?", I responded.

Then Herman went on, "For the past 40 years or so, the last two weeks prior to school getting back in session is called "Field Exercise Days." It is a real sacred time.

Police from all the surrounding communities get together to do exercises to become more effective in using their radio gear, their manuevering techniques, and yes their fitness. It is just wonderful! You must realize that up here in God's Country we don't have any of them 5k runs for fitness. That's for the metro folk. Not us.

"I still don't get it," I exclaimed.

"Well," he said, "let me explain further. Up here prior to school getin in session, there is a real problem with underage drinking. In fact, every single night during these two weeks, there is some place where young teens are gathered in the fields to drink illegally and defy the law."

"So, up here, we dress up all the police from all the communites in "full battle gear" so to speak, and then raid the beer parties. It takes real skill to detect where the party is going to be held, and when, and to make the bust. Most of the time we end up chasing young folks in the corn fields.....in full battle gear."

"I can't imagine police staff in full swat gear running in the corn fields," I said.

"It's a thing of real beauty," Herman replied. Kind of a cross between a Rocky IV and a Prefontaine movie. We even listen to Rocky music before each raid. It really gets the guys pumped."

My mind raced ahead as to the revenue possibilities in the concept. "So, there must be tons of fines and revenue for Normal involved?" I asked.

"Shucks NO, Wolfman," It's about the EXERCISE. All the young folks have parents who know parents and it is just not worth our time to prosecute anyone. We just do it for the EXERCISE."

"And for the TROPHIES," he went on. Then he pointed to a huge trophy in the diner that was inscribed "Champion, Field Exercise Days, 2005."

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin where we DO have 5K fun runs for fitness. And where folks don't have to get in full battle gear and run in the corn fields just to get and stay trim.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"The Castle and The Moat"----FICTION

Well, we've been doing a lot of nostalgia lately, with the new brick downtown street here in our fair city, and I spent some time thinking about it during a long drive last week, up that long highway to my favorite fishing village up Hwy 10 from Mpls, just south of Garrison, yes, Normal, Mn..

There was a real flat bit of highway for an hour or so, and my mind went from thinking of the bricks, and the good old days, to the land of big brick---the land of castles and moats.

After cruising into Normal, I met my old countryboy lawyer friend, Herman, at the local coffee shop, right kiddiecorner from the Spruce Goose Motel, and ordered my regular---- the dark roast coffee, straight, extra sugar and lots of whipped cream.

Then I got directly to the point. "Herman", I asked, "I realize that these are pretty fine times with all the fishing and all, but don't you think it would be grand to be back in the days of castles and moats?

Herman paused for a moment, and seemed a little shocked by the question.

"Wolfman", he replied, looking a little stern with me, "you are just in a real looney nostalgic mood. There was really very little difference between THEN and NOW!!!"

I could not believe my ears.

"Herman, how can you say that? There are HUGE differences," I shouted.

"How so, Herman retorted. In those days there was a brick castle surrounded by a moat----a moat where folks from the castle threw their sewage. It also served as a source of their drinking water."

I took the leisure to interrupt: "See. That is my point exactly. It was a real backward time. Not modern like us."

Herman replied: "You are wrong Wolfman. Even in your own town, and in historic towns all over America, they are historic at the core, and all around them, they are surrounded by polluted--- nitrate polluted water. Folks are just as dumb about it as folks were in the middle ages. They did not get it THEN. They do not get it NOW. See."


Well. That really stoked me up. I just got right up and headed out of town. It sure is great to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do NOT have our fair cities surrounded by animal manure and polluted water. Where we have a strong tradition of Fighting Bob LaFollette and clean air and clean water---even if we disregard the law....we still love to talk of the tradition.

(Ed.note: Click on the post for the documentation of the use of the moat for drinking water as well as waste recepticle.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

URL Tracking Post

Tales From Normal URL Tracking post.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Dateline Normal: Pastor Hickenmueller Destroys His Sermons

Well it has been hectic getting ready for the Holidays, and also getting through all those Presidential debates of the past months----I had read all the news articles about the presidential candidate that when asked about all his prior sermons as an evangelical, simply said they were not available. What a shock! I have been saving and recording sermons for historical record my whole life..... Some to treasure..... Just in case the immediate as well as the long term memory fades.....

Whenever I come across a mystery such as this, as I often do, I simply call my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer in Normal, Mn., a small fishing town just south of Garrison, and west of the Land of Lake Woebegone. Herman was a lawyer, and while he was not a regular Churchgoer, nevertheless, was an expert in amnesia on the stand in the courtroom. I figured he might be of some help.

"Herman," I blurted out, "I am just dumbfounded by the story of the presidential candidate that has not made his religious sermons available for the press. Have you ever heard of such a thing."

"Shucks, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me) that type of thang is just commonplace. Why we had a pastor up here in Normal from the Evangelical Pentacostal Church, Pastor Hickenmueller, that right in the middle of one of his sermons, right after he called on the Name of the Lord to cast out evil amongst us, was.....well...struck speechless."

At first we thought it was just dramatic technique---after all, the good Pastor had been a volunteer who constructed the stage sets at the local Normal High School theatrical productions....and folks just thought he might have wanted to do a little dramatic interpretation. But not so.....

We were lucky though---the only doctor in town, Dr. Goodenough, was luckily in attendance that fateful morn, and he stepped forward to diagnosis the situation. He quickly called for the ambulance, and simply said that the good pastor had suffered a mild thrombis or stroke, and ....well.....the entire congregation was speechless."

"But Herman, "I protested, "there is a huge difference between running for political office and forgetting...and suffering a stroke and being left deaf and dumb."

"Not really Wolfman. It is pretty much the same up here in Normal."

It sure is good to be back in our fair city. Where folks do not need a thrombosis to forget. Where pastors are especially cautious on calling on the Lord to cast out all evil, without being more specific. Where there is really a big difference between being struck deaf and dumb and running for political office. It sure is good to be back home.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dateline Normal: "The Case of the Trellis Manager"----FICTION

Dateline Normal: The Case of the Trellis Manager; Or," The Code Breakers"-----Fiction

Recently I attended a long Planning Commission meeting where the new "Fence Ordinance" was discussed. It covers everything. It seems that the biggest problem in our fair city is that we just do not have enough ordinances, or at least ordinances that are specific enough to address the fine details of current life.

Now take the problem of "TRELLISES." Not a big problem for some of you. O.K. 99.9% of you. But to a professional planner.....they are a BIG problem. Solving it might take a year or two...maybe even longer when you consider commute time.

Trellises are plants that grow on top of--- or around--- fences. They seem just like a plant. Well. They are a plant. But symbolically...and this is where the planner comes in, they are a sign of deep lo down lawbreaking....and the worst threat to civilization faced by civilized folks in these here parts in ages.

Our fair city hopes to solve that menace by the following language: " Trellises: A trellis may be incorporated into the overall design of a fence provided no part is taller than 8 feet and does not extend for more than 10 percent of the length of the side on which it is located." (sec. 130-538 Proposed)

What a stunning accomplishment. What precision. Still....as I thought about the problem of TRELLISES, I pondered that I might need a second opinion. Yes. I needed to call my old countryboy lawyer friend, Herman, in Normal, Mn., and see what he thought. He was always so down to earth. Downhome. I just knew he had some experience with this problem.

It was pretty clear weather, and I easily got him on the cellphone.

"Herman", what do you know about fences and trellises up there in Normal, Mn.? I need some of your wisdom about this matter."

"Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) you are going AT the problem ALL wrong. You are focused just way too narrow. Think about this. VISUALIZE the community you wish to become. Then look to the code of THAT community that you visualize. It is just REAL simple."

"We would like to be a renaissance community where folks can come from all over and walk up and down, shopping in little shops and sipping a latte at the same time. Later they would sit outside and sip cocktails and eat elegant roast beef au jus or maybe specially baked salmon."

"O.K. Wolfman. That is a good beginning. Now you need to go further. If you think real hard you can see what to do. We did in Normal. You want the CODE of a renaissance city-----PRESTO you simply get the municipal code of Rome, Italy---it is on the internet for free. Then you just use a computer translator and you have an instant municipal code that has a PROVEN record of high achievement. AND the history of ENFORCEMENT to prove it."

"Do you mean, Herman, that if we get this code of ordinances of Rome, Italy, we will produce such masters as DaVinci? Will the code of Rome solve everything?

"Not EVERYTHING Wolfman. We had to add parts of the code of VENICE for more watery areas of Normal. A little experience with water comes in REAL handy."

"What ever happened to your city planner, Herman?"

"We have NONE in Normal. We spent $25 for the translation from Italian to English---wudda been cheaper except that there was some Sicilian dialect thrown into parts of the code for the enforcement section. All we have is a part time seasonal trellis manager that cuts grass, inspects porta potties and trellises in the summer. We keep it real simple."

WOW. I got off the phone. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can spend years developing code that was discovered centuries ago and is available for no charge with just a simple language translation. After all, we need it home grown.

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Porta Pottie Time"----FICTION

Recently, while I was back visiting in my favorite fishing town, Normal, Mn., I got carried away during a visit to the Hideaway Lounge---yes it had been after a few drinks. It was one of those guy to guy banter sessions and we were trying to best each other.

I had simply said that we in Madison had made a tremendous advance in cultural progress---after all, the Wisconsin Badgers, which in 1970 could hardly win one football game, now won many and besides--- folks came from all over the country to the games. All of the news media...... or at least the Wisconsin Journal only covered the Badgers. That was how important they were------ and just to prove how successful we are, all of Regent Street are lined with Porta Potties on game day. What could be more successful than that?

I could tell in a heartbeat that my argument had gone too far. Herman was offended.

"Shucks Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) up here in Normal we are An All Porta Pottie Town---and have been for at least TEN years. "

I was stunned. How could the whole town just rely on Porta Potties. I had thought the Spruce Goose Motel was unusual with their outback porta potties. I never realized that it was citywide.

"Yup", Herman went on, "Years ago, we needed to restore the historic bait shop. It was a city historical treasure, and we also wanted to redredge our city marina---after all, we live by the fishing trade. At that time we also needed a new sewage treatment plant. The problem was that we only had debt capacity to cover two projects. The choice was real clear cut.

"Do you mean that you have a restored bait shop rather than a new sewage plant? "

"Yup", Herman replied.

"It is true that some folks who were offended by the trip to the porta potties in the dead of winter, were upset. Over time, they toughened up. Yes...... their swearing lessened. And the city made some compromises. They switched to softer Charmin in the public porta potties to make it more comfortable in cold weather."

I was just stunned. How could they have got themselves into such a terrible mess. And denied it besides.

I just got back in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we face our porta pottie problems head on. Where we could also switch to porta potties just as Normal did. And besides. We don't need no Softer Charmin. We are tough enough here to handle the regular brand.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"The Payback"---Fiction

Well...it has been a real bruising political season, so I thought I would take some time off and head on up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, up just south of Garrison and west of the land of Lake Woebegone to my favorite getaway town, Normal, Mn..

Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend, who also was prominent on the Normal School board, promised to meet me at the Hideaway Lounge and go over exaclty where I had gone wrong in my political campaign. I was eager to hear everything he had so say. He always was real direct. When I got there...he was ready. He had a Jack Daniels ordered before I had a chance to order.

"Sit Down," Wolfman, Herman said. "Gulp that down cause we just have a few minutes before we have to handle a little "payback."

"Whatever do you mean, Herman?", I asked.

"We have to collect some info for some special energy assistance grants and community development block grants. We have a real strong habit of getting all those wrapped up right after elections. We need to get the "payback" figured right."

I had heard a lot on the payback issues, cause I knew that windows and doors and heating improvements had to have a proper payback in order to justify the investment---sometimes it is called in tech lingo--"the contribution"---

"Yup," Herman said, "Its a real smooth dance step. You know this hip,hop dance stuff, Wolfman. First the contribution. Then the payback. Back and forth. Back and forth."

"I still don't think you get it, Wolfman". It's not about the ROI on the windows. We could care less about that. It is the payback of the campaign contribution that is the focus."

Then Herman lowered his voice and proceeded to draw on a blank napkin with an old pen and diagrammed how the contribution would be paid back with an attractive multiple in the form of a tax free grant approved by folks of similar persuasion post election.

I was thoroughly stunned.

It sure is good to get back to good old Wisconsin. Where the payback is just about the windows and the investment and not about the contribution and the dance step. It sure is confusing up there in those frozen tundra parts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "The Twist and Shout"--FICTION

Nostalgia: (12-31-2006): Dateline Normal: The "Shout and Twist"---not the "Twist and Shout"---Fiction
(Ed.note. The following is one of a series of tales from Normal, Mn.. These tales are available for your listening from the Itunes store at no charge, under podcasts, and titled, "Tales from Normal." When they are mailed out, these tales come on cd, and wrapped in a brown paper wrapper with large letters that say----FICTION. It is certanly a mystery, which came first, the twist or the shout. One of my loyal readers has requested that I republish this famous tale in memory of all those TIF battles of our fair city.)


Last week to get away and bring in the New Year, I headed up that long, long road, Hwy 10, north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite getaway--- Normal, Mn.. Yes, it is not on Google Earth, but then neither is Evansville. It is just south of Garrison, Mn., and just west of that famous Lake Woebegon we read so much of.

I settled in at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are down, and where all the beds are the pull down variety, and NO they do not have fine Godiva mints under the pillow, but do leave a couple mini--dove bars in the ash tray during the holidays to get the visitors in the right mood.

After a quick clothing change, I headed over to the local pub, "The Hideaway Lounge, " to meet my old friend, Herman, the country boy lawyer. Herman was several drinks ahead of me, but I ordered a double to catch up. There was some great rock and roll music being played by one of the local bands, and ....the dance floor was hoppin.

I turned and over the loud music, shouted to Herman, "Do you remember the "Twist and Shout". That was a famous oldie in the 60's I think.

"Ya....vaguely," Herman replied. But up here in God's country, we call it the "Shout and Twist."

Then he let out a loud belly laugh.

"Whatever is so funny,?" I asked.

Herman went on, "Well, Wolfman, that's what he always called me, the "Twist and Shout" is kind of a back to the 50's sentimental title. Up here in God's country----- we are all natural----we just see things the way they are. And in the real world, the shoutin comes first."

"I still do not understand," I said.

Herman just smiled. "Well," he said, ",maybe cause I'm a lawyer I have a unique perspective on all this, but in the real world, folks just do not deeply need your services. Ya got to fill them with fear.....yes and also with greeed.....and then you....do the twisting for the money. It is just the same with the big high rollers------they have real moxie......and the "shoutin" always comes first. If they don't get the special deal, why....all the heavens will come crashing down. It will be real bad. But......if......this is the twist part......one could make some further consessions or provide more money at say....no interest.....well ....maybe the end of the world will not occur."

"Shucks, Wolfman, "Twist and Shout is just for rookies. In the real world it is always------- the "Shout and Twist."

Man was that music loud. The drummer was great though, and it was wonderful to get the old dancing shoes on to relieve some of the year end anxiety.

Still----as I drove back home to good Old Wisconsin, I could not get Herman's words out of my head.

Thank goodness I am back home. Where it still is the "Twist and Shout" and not the "Shout and Twist." Where all the shoutin of grade B actors is not followed by a predictable "Twist."

Alleluia.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dateline Normal: On Firetrucks: Size Makes a Difference-----FICTION

With all the construction in town, and with all the folks getting their camping gear and boating stuff ready and heading out of town, my thoughts turned to where exactly I would spend the 4th of July.

Curious as to what would be happening up in Normal, Mn., I called Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend, who also sat on the Normal School Board, and just blurted out my question. "Herman, What have you guys got on the program for the 4th up there?"

Herman just let out a huge belly laugh.

"Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), we are having our annual Fire Truck Parade on the 4th. Every fire truck from 100 miles is coming to town. It will be fabulous. There will be at least five fire trucks coming."

"That's nothing," I replied. "We have that many right here in Evansville. And we have a huge fire station to be built to house more of them. How about that?"

Herman just laughed.

"Well the real deal is that we only had one fire in the last five years up here. We have the most fire trucks relative to our size in the whole country. That is the key thing. How many fires did you have.?

"I'm not sure, Herman. They never even talk about fires. It's all about the trucks."


"That is the point precisely, Wolfman. It never IS about the fires. In real life, when you are young, the hot guys have the loud mufflers. All the young girls know this. Later when those hot guys get old, the guys with the biggest fire trucks and fire stations are the hottest. Listen up, Wolfman. "

"Do you mean it has nothing to do with public safety?"

"YUP" Herman laughed. "Now you get it."

I got off the phone quickly. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we have cheese to make us stand out, and not just fire trucks. Where we have a lot of candy to throw out on the street on the 4th and where all the hot folks have beer as well as large fire trucks to celebrate with.

I have to admit though. I do wonder how many fire runs we have. And also what the growth rate of fires is. It must be over the 26% of the Smart Growth Plan if we are getting more and more fire trucks. Wow. We must have a real big fire problem.

But then maybe Herman is right. Maybe it IS the size of the fire truck or the station that is important.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dateline Normal: "It might be about you"---FICTION

I wish to recognize the many folks worldwide who have written and wondered about each of the episodes of the Tales from Normal and have asked the simple question: "Is this about me?"

For efficiency purposes, so that each of you has a prompt response, I will simply say: "YES. It might be about you."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Normal News"----FICTION

Well. It's homecoming this weekend. Lots of hubbub, parades and such. Normally I stick around for the parades and the candy....but..... they eliminated the candy....so this weekend, I decided to head on up that long winding road, up Hwy 10 North of the Twin Cities to my favorite fishing town, Normal, Mn..

Sure was great to get the usual king size single at the Spruce Goose Motel, with the pull down bed in the wall, and the little mini-dove bar in the ash tray, just for a little upscale treat.

After meeting Herman at the Hideaway Lounge, I had the chance to ask him a question that has been simmering on the back burner for a long time.

"Herman, how come I never see a newspaper here in town? There should be plenty of news to support a local paper. What's the deal?

"Yup, there is a newspaper. It's called the "Normal News." In fact, over at the bank building, there is one of them gold nameplates showing that it is domiciled there. Real official like."

"How come I never see a paper?, "I asked.

"It's real simple," Herman replied. Up here in Normal, the paper receives a stipend per month for their services. It covers 10 stories per month. The only thing unusual is the paper is paid to NOT print the story. It sure makes it a profitable deal. In fact, last year we had a barnburner of a news year, with over 20 stories per month....in that case, the paper earned a premium for each story it did not print over the regular budgeted 10. "

"Do you mean to tell me that the paper is paid NOT to print?"

"YES". In fact, it makes things real peaceful like. There is sure a lot less stress with folks not reading what is happening. Everyone is real serene like. They know kinda what is goin on, but it just aint in print. It's just real natural."

I was just totally stunned. I always wanted to be a newspaper man. And a profitable one too. The Normal, Mn. style must be the way to make it profitable.

I just got in my car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we don't have any of those papers that don't print the news. Where cheese is cheese... beer is beer... and ads are ads .....and sometimes....just sometimes.... what happens is even printed in the real newspapers. Sure is good to get back home.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Dateline Normal: Superbowl Punk: Run on Shades and Bears 85 Attire"

Dateline Normal: Superbowl Punk; Run on shades and Bears 85 Attire

(Ed. note: I wish to apologize for writing this story, since I have always deferred to my esteemed sports talk bloggers locally to cover the sports punk scene. However...just this once....)


With all the hype of the Superbowl, and the tendency of all of Minnesota and Wisconsin to simply take off the SuperBowl week to get properly prepared for the festivities, I headed up that long and winding road, Hwy 10, to my favorite hideway, Normal, Mn. . As soon as I arrived in town, I noticed the change. Everyone had shades on. Everyone had Chicago Bears attire. Everyone was acting very rough, tough and roudy.

I was pretty stunned. So...I wandered over to the Hideaway Lounge to meet up with Herman who was just getting finished from a Finance Committee meeting with the Normal School Board.

I saw him coming from a mile away. Herman was dressed up as Jim Mc Mahon---the famous punk dude that was the Chicago quarterback. He starred in the famous video that the team made prior to the Superbowl victory of 1985.

I asked him about the attitude thing: "Herman---how can you be a role model for all them students when you are dressed out in all that Chicago punk style attire?"

"For once in my life, Wolfman, I do agree with you. It has been a REAL finance nightmare."

"How does this all affect FINANCE?, I asked.

"Well, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), it is one thing when the big stars get kinda a punk defiant attitude, but up here in Normal, it has been REAL catchy. Virtually EVERYONE has the style now. It's a real GANGSTA type of PUNK attitude thing. "

"I still don't get the problem, " I replied.

"Well, Wolfman, we are in the middle of budget season. And just when we thought we had an understanding about the LIMITS thing, the punk defiant attitite wrecked everything. It has blown the budget to simthereens. It is a disaster. "

WOW.

I sensed trouble. So. I got in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we have limits. Where we know that GANGSTA style is just for the clothes. Where leaders are responsible. Where plans are long term. Where the sunglasses are cheap and easily available and ------just sunglasses----- and not a total lifestyle.

Alleluia

Saturday, April 1, 2006

"How Normal got its name"-----FICTION

Last weekend was that annual peak moment when the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers met on the football field of the Metrodome in Minnesota.

It was great to get the vehicle out on the open road with the Packer flags waving on the side windows all the way. It is true that when one is a true Packer fan, one likes the open air stadiums----- not the Metrodome.

I well remember one such Viking game back at the old stadium near the airport -----on a crisp cold fall day with the leaves changing and the stands crammed full of fans in bulky jackets breathing plumes of steam in the cold, cold air. Alas--those days are gone. Now one can watch the wall to wall tv. monitors and never really even see the turf in the Metrodome.

Rather than struggle with the traffic, I simply steered the car, Packer flags and all, around 694 and headed up HWY 10 to good old Normal, Mn, just south of Garrison. On gameday at the Hideaway Lounge, they always saved a special parking stall for us out of towners.

As I entered the Hideaway Lounge, the guys were abuzz in discussion about the "field" vs. turf of the Metrodome, and whether this would be a curse for the Packers. Being in a more reflective mood, and yes maybe dazed a bit by the long drive with the loud rock music blaring, wondered how we named things these days. It used to be a football "field" when I was young, but now it was "turf". So.....I just blurted it out:

"Herman, I just wonder how we name things these days. Why DO they call it Normal, MN?"

The whole group was pretty startled by my question. They all listened while Herman rose to the occasion to give the answer.

"Well, Wolfman (that's what he always called me.) You are correct that it was not always called Normal, Mn..( In fact, readers who travel up Hwy 10 well know the bait shop with the colored stones so often referred to in these fictional tales. I trust they will keep the secret.)

But the answer, Wolfman. Years ago our fair city was graced with a creative citizen who had a .....plenty of ......wonderful ideas for improvement and investment in our town. And what's even better for...well...him...each idea had a substantial investment necessary from the taxpayers. At the beginning this was wonderful. Folks were excited to get the very latest. Over a longer time, and once the taxes had skyrocketed in town, the city fathers gathered together to take dynamic action to preserve the essence of the town and guarantee the peace of fishing that has made it famous."

"In short, Wolfman" they offered to name the town after him-- Normal, Mn.. In return, he would propose no further taxpayer funding for his ventures. Mr. Normal readily agreed. He was thrilled. So were the taxpayers and citizens. Today---just as the major football stadiums are named after corporate sponsors---well....that all started up HERE in Normal, Mn. We did it first. And the best part----today, since we have no white elephants to contend with, we have the lowest tax burden in Minnesota. Everyone is happy here. Affordable living. Peace. What could be better?"

What a shocking idea!! And yes. A wonderful one too.!! Rather than letting him buy the city....they named it after him instead. WOW.

It was a wonderful game. Brett Favre set the all time touchdown passing record. Soon it was time to head on back to good old Wisconsin.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin...... good old cheese country. Where tycoons are bigger than life. Where any tycoon worth his cheese could never settle for just having a town named after him. Never!! That's just no substitute for owning it.

Still. During the long drive back home...the more I thought and thought...Maybe...just maybe...