Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

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."