Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Magic of Running the Uncontested Race-------FICTION

Recently, to get away from the stress of the holiday shopping, I headed up that long and winding road to my favorite getaway town, up just south of Garrison, Mn., just east of Lake Woebegone, yes, you guessed it----- Normal, Mn..

I had been reading about all the national news and debate in Iowa and New Hampshire and have noticed that as the voting time comes near, the debates have become very heated. Lots of candidates sure have created a lot of controversy---every WRINKLE has been examined---especially on the candidates faces. Even some of the news pundits have feared that some of the candidates might AGE during the campaign, or even during their term of office. Such heartfelt concern. Such compassion.

I had left a little early on Friday and hence arrived in Normal a little ahead of schedule, and picked up a copy of the Garrison weekly paper, The Garrison Fish Tales. I noticed in the paper that all of the office races for towns were just listed and noticed that every candidate was running "uncontested". Every single one.

After I had met Herman at the Hideaway Lounge, in our usual spot, right under the 30 point buck on the south end of the spacious lounge, I just blurted it out:

"Herman, how come all the political races up here are "uncontested." How could that be? Is not there ANY open debate about crucial issues up here? Talk to me."

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh:

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), up here we are in God's Country. All the races are "uncontested." It's just the natural way. After all. The guys and gals seem pretty rough and tough------ but deep down, they are real sensitive types. An open and direct discussion might hurt their feelings. We just vote quietly and ....we vote from our pocketbooks...."

"What?", I exclaimed. I have never heard of such a thing. And furthermore, "What does "vote from your pockebooks" mean?"

Herman went on. "That is the simplest of all." Then he picked up one of the many blank yellow legal pads that he had stuffed in his law satchel, and put it on the bar.

"Ya just draw a line right down the middle here," he said. "On one side its marked "IN" and the other "OUT". If the candidate would result in money in, the answer is YES, and if the result would be out, the answer is NO. It is called "self interest." Up here in God's country, it ain't no fancy debate. It's just real down home logic. Money logic. It's just the natural law. "

"And further more," Herman went on---"this ain't no OHIO. We don't have no new fangled electronic voting booths that take four years and extensive legal action to get things even more confused. We just vote on little slips of paper---in ball point pen of course, and then count em up. Real simple."

WOW. I sure am glad to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where we have contested elections. Where we have open debate. Where we have more than little yellow legal pads for analysis. Where we do not have electronic voting, even if we do have PAC telephone robots.

It sure is good to be back home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"The Normal Mutual Bank"---Fiction

Ed. note. This is one of a long series of fictional tales of a land up in northern Minnesota near the Land of Lake Woebegon. These tales are available on cd and are shipped in a brown paper cover, clearly marked, FICTION. They are also available by Podcast RSS feed. Any resemblance to reality is purely accidental.)

Usually I never enter the state of Minnesota after Thanksgiving, due to the frigid weather. However, with the wonderful weather warm up, on Monday, I headed up that long and winding road, Hwy 10, up to my favorite town just this side of Garrison, Mn.---- Normal, Minnesota.

Over the long drive I had a chance to review in my mind the many meetings recently....and.... I called ahead on my cellphone and told Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend to meet me at the coffee shop---right across from the bait shop---for a cup of coffee. I needed his counsel.

After settling into the comfy booth, I just got right to the point---"Herman, back in Wisconsin, banking seems like it is so complicated. There are Redevelopment Authorities, Economic Development committees, Banks, financial advisors, and more. This reminds me of the time that I went on a long bus trip with the school kids to New York. Afterwards, I told my youngest that it was good we could share some of the experience of high school. She looked at me and smiled. "Well, just because you were there does not mean you are well informed." Yes. It dawned on me that I did not really understand a lot of what happened. But then, all the guys were wearing those cool shades like the blues brothers==== that made it pretty mysterious to an old guy like me. Herman interrupted-----

"Get to the point, Wolfman....you digress.."I went on, "Anyway.....in the recent banking meetings here in Evansville...I have felt likewise. That there were a few things I did not understand. Yes I had the audio. Yes, I had the video. Beautiful color. But still....there was just a little something that I was missing in the "understanding" area."What is it like up here in God's country Herman. How do you do banking in Normal?"

Herman smiled. "Up here we keep it real simple. We have "Mutual" Banking." Then he let out one of those chortling laughs.

" 'I still do not understand, Herman. I know that there used to be "mutual" insurance companies back in the 60's and 70's in Wisconsin, but most of them were converted into "stock" companies. "Mutual" companies are a real dinasour." There is no such thing as mutual banking anymore."

Herman just laughed. "Wolfman,(that's what he always called me)----- you are dead wrong. Up here in God's country we take our "Mutual" companies REAL seriously. It's all about committment. "Mutual" ranks right up there with fishing and whiskey.

In a mutual company, the "customer" is the owner. Up here----- we take our religion and our "mutual" banking real literal like."

" I still do not understand, I wondered aloud. How does this make a difference?"

Herman grew impatient, "It makes ALL the difference in the world, Wolfman. Up here we just walk in and TELL the banker what the terms are. We are the boss. It is just real natural. Real simple. It's really the natural law up here in God's country.

Thank goodness I'm back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't have any "mutual" banking. Where customers are customers, and bankers are bankers. Alleluia.

Dateline Normal School District: GTT Program in Normal Gets Award---FICTION

Well it has been a real hectic Christmas season this year. Folks have been gathering their cash up and waiting, and waiting, and waiting to shop after Christmas. Sales have been good for books, and bath salts and lotion. And yes, sales of 'The Tales From Normal" have exceeded expectations.

After pondering all the minutes of our local school district, and watching the budget stress in our fair state----and seeing the cuts being made---yes there have been BOLD cuts to eliminate MATH competitions in Janesville, BOLD cuts in Edgerton to AP programs in Chemistry and Physics---cut to one semester---just cut enough to ensure enrollment but not success in passing the AP exam. And first on the BOLD cuts list has been the GT programs for the brightest of our students. Yes. It is kind of like cutting the tallest basketball players from the basketball team----after all. Gotta make things fair for everybody.

As I wondered about these matters, as I often do, I just picked up the phone and called my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer from Normal, Mn.. Herman is a distinguished member of the Normal School Board, and yes a practicing lawyer, specializing in real estate. Well. Mostly recreational real estate. Fishing shacks mostly. I knew that Minnesota was real high on identification of talented students, so I just plain out asked him:

"Herman----what do you folks have in the way of GT education up there in Normal, Mn.?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Shucks Wolfman, we are way beyond the GT programs. We have GTT programs. The problem with the GT programs up here in Normal---well there were several problems. First, all the kids up here in Normal, Mn.are gifted. Everyone is on the National Honor Society. It's just the natural way up here in God's country. Secondly, we got to the point that all we had was GT staff and no money left to administer any programs. It was a real fiscal problem."

"What ever did you do, Herman?" I asked.

"It was real simple, Wolfman (that's what he always called me.) We changed it to the GTT Program----The Grand Travel Tour Program. Each year we take as many kids as possible on a tour of countries abroad, with their teachers of course. We simply do not believe that any "virtual" tour is comparable to the "enriched" hands on real life experience of world travel. "

I was totally shocked. "You mean every child is enriched by world travel?"

"YUP" Herman chortled. "If they wern't Gifted before the world trip.....they sure was gifted AFTER they got back."

"How could you call it "classroom instruction" I asked?"

"That is the breakthrough," Herman explained. In reviewing the "virtual school" concept we discovered that by a slight modification of the definition of "classroom" we could make any flightplan comply---and presto the Travel Tour program was born."

"WOW" I gasped. That is stunning. " "And what about the frequent flier miles, I asked?"

"Those extra frequent flier miles are simply given to the teachers. Our accounting system just did not have a category for em. It works out real handy."

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where our schools still have GT programs and not GTT programs, even if the GT programs have only the staff and no money to dispense.. ...... And where we do NOT confuse the junket expenses with enriched educational programs.

What a relief.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dateline Normal, MN.: "Book of Minutes" wins Best Fiction Award

Well, it has been a long week....with the weather and all...the slick roads...the heavy lifting of snow shoveling....and I thought it would be good to get out on the road, the freeways should be better I thought....and head up to the good old frozen tundra for some old time ice fishing. This weekend was the annual fishing contest in Normal,Mn, that famous fishing town just south of Garrison, and just west of the land of Lake Woebegone.

After I checked into the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel with stuffed animals on every wall, and the pull down king size beds in the wall, and of course with the mini-dove bars in the ash trays for a touch of upscale cache---I decided to take a short nap--too many hours of following snow plows and stopping in gas stations with sub par coffee had left me weary.

As I reached over to the nightstand, I noticed a book there with the usual sacred red cover, and the faint picture of a sundial on the cover..... I wondered..... I usually just dismiss the usual Gideon Bible thing, but wondered about the cover. The sundial just got my interest. Then I noticed the title: "The Book of Minutes".

I was familiar with the Book of Virtues, the Book of Psalms, the Book of Noah, etc, etc, but never...."The Book of Minutes." As I browsed through the nicely arranged book, I saw the art of Herman at work. All the minutes of the meetings of Normal, Mn. were in perfect order. And, there was even blank pages....I assumed that this was for folks to make notes in the margin for questions to ask. After reflection on the deeper meaning of the minutes.

After a brief nap, I headed over to meet Herman at the Hideaway Lounge. After slipping into the empty spot at the bar, i just asked him directly, before I could forget:

"Herman, "What is with the Book of Minutes, anyway?"

"Shucks Wolfman,(that's what he always called me)the book of minutes is what we call "The Good Book" up here in God's Country. It has all the doins of City Hall and such. And folks read it before going to bed at night---it is guaranteed to make them real sleepy...and fast."

"I understand the minutes thing, Herman. It's just the blank pages that I do not get. What is up?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh:

"Shucks. Those are the minutes that they forget to write. But the way it is written, it looks like it is spots for folks to write their own minutes. It could be that too. We leave it kinda vague on it. Still. Half of the book is blank. We intended it that way. It lets the folks use their imagination about what actually happened."

"What ever happened to the Gideon Bibles?" I asked.

"Shucks, Wolfman---we don't need them anymore. And besides. Ya can't write in them. " And the best part is that we have won a National Fiction award for the Book of Minutes. The Critics just loved it."

Well after a great weekend, I headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we don't have any fiction in our Book of Minutes. Where even if we could have the Book of Minutes in the nightstand of each room in our brand new hotel....we would still have the Gideon Bible right beside it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Big D"---"The Pearl Harbor Strategy_---FICTION

Dateline Normal: Big "D"; or "The Pearl Harbor Strategy"--FICTION

(Ed.note. This is one of a long series of fictional sketches from a land in Northern Minnesota, just south of Garrison, called Normal, Mn. These sketches are available on Cd and are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked, FICTION. Any resemblence between this land of make believe and reality is purely accidental.)

This weekend, anticipating the big Packers-Vikings football game, all the relatives headed up to the cabin for the last time to savor a moment in Normal, Mn.. Mark, Chris and Patrick all gathered with me at the little diner across from the bait shop for a little pre-function prior to the game. I introduced them to my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer, and a member of the Normal School Board. Both Mark and Chris, being business owners, hit it off instantly with Herman, cause of his crazy legal theories and wild sense of humor.

Mark began his analysis of the upcoming Packer game with a long discussion on "Big D" and that it was very unclear who had the best defense, the Packers or the Vikings. The anlaysis was very detailed. Mark had the theory that defense was what won football games. Yes, even with explosive passing teams like the Vikings and Packers.

Herman listened for a long while. I could tell he was pondering something deep.

"What are your thoughts on this, Herman?" I asked.

"Up here in God's Country, "Big D" has a deeper meaning. It stands for DEBT. "

I just then felt a little remiss, because I had not explained to the guys that Herman had been in a long battle as a member of the Normal School board that had added lots of debt to their balance sheet, and in fact had vaporized their fund balance---an act that had caused an uproar of community anger. I took a moment to give the boys a little background.

"Man, up here we are called to lead. It's called the big D----DOMINATION. I know the folks do not want to follow, but ....well....that's just their role. I am going to dominate. It's just my natural way. I just use the Pearl Harbor Strategy. We load em up with debt, take all the cash and then tell them that we need them to bust the levy limit. It's just a wonderful strategy. It's sheer moxie."

"You mean that you deliberatley create disaster in order to lead your community?" Mark asked.

"YES. YES. That IS the plan exactly," Herman said with wild enthusiasm. "It is the ultimate management tool. It is asymetrical warfare.

Mark was just stunned. He was a master of leverage. Just the thought of disaster as a management tool was a shock to his senses---- still, I could tell the "Domination" part was pretty attractive.

I had thought that Big D was about football. I had not thought of the deeper meaning. Like big DEBT, big DOMINATION, or big DISASTER.

At half time, after Favre has thrown a couple of wonderful passes, I had the feeling that the Packers would have their way. I knew how ugly Herman could get when the Vikings could not dominate, so I headed down Hwy 10 for the long drive home.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where big "D" is about DEFENSE. Where DEBT, DOMINATION and DISASTER are NOT the strategy of our school boards. And where our favorite colors are the green and gold---not purple.

Dateline Normal: "Administrator Estates"---a Thanksgiving Day Tale

Dateline Normal: "Administrator Estates"------a Thanksgiving Tale

(Ed. note. The following is one a long series of sketches that are also available on Cd and mailed out in a brown paper wrapper, clearly maked FICTION. Any resemblence between these tales and reality is purely accidental.)


Some years back we made a firm and fast rule that we would make our last trip to Minnesota on Thanksgiving. Too many ice and snow problems. So----yesterday--on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I joined the millions and headed up HWY 94 and then at the Twin Cities it was bumper to bumper as I headed north to that famous land near the land of Lake Woebegone---the land of Normal, Mn.

This morning, Thanksgiving, I headed over to the local diner to get a bit of Thanksgiving turkey and chat with all the locals. There I met with Herman, my countryboy lawyer friend, who in additon to being on the Normal School Board, was a celebrated lawyer in the northern parts.

I mentioned to him that we in Evansville were hiring a new administrator. We had two excellent administrators but both had only served two or three years and then taken other jobs but remained in the town to raise their families. I just wondered how things were done in Normal.

"Shucks Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) we have plenty of administrative talent up here in Normal."

"How could that be?" I asked. It is so isolated up here and there is so little to do. How could you attract fine talent?"

"It's real simple," Herman replied. It's called "Chains of Love." We lure them with the benefits. "

"I still do not understand," I said.

"We do the real natural thing up here in God's country. Once they have served three years, we give them a paid for home, tax free in a special subsection called "Administrator Estates." Shucks, it's got a club house, a beautiful park---even a golf course is within walking distance."

"That must be very costly," I wondered.

"Not really." Herman quipped. "Ya gotta think strategically, Wolfman. Once they have served and have the wonderful home, they continue to live here and serve on committees, budget and such. Shucks, we have some of the finest talent in Minnesota right here in this little northern burg. So------it is very cost effective."

Then Herman pointed to the wall where there was a large picture of the main lodge of Administrator Estates. It had that A-frame look but was in very upscale style---almost like Grandview Lodge of Minnesota.

"It looks wonderful," I said. "But does it have a Starbucks?"

"Shucks no, Wolfman. Up here they are so excited by the wonderful homes, the career and the family life that they don't need any fancy coffee. Just simple Maxwell House, lots of sugar and whipped cream."----in the dark blue Viking mug of course.

All the "Normal" benefits of service are just our way of saying Thank You for all their fine work. It's kinda like Thanksgiving."

Tomorrow I have to head back to good old Wisconisn. Where we have some Starbucks and fancy coffee and such. Still. I had to admit that the concept of Thanksgiving as Herman and the folks in Normal did it was pretty nice. I just wondered what the locals would think of "The Administrator Estates" concept. There was 8 1/2 years to think about it till a new subsection could be platted. That seemed plenty of time to plan properly.

(Happy Thanksgiving to all those who have served or are serving our community.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dateline Normal: Earplugs out of stock in Normal; "To Hear....but not to Listen"----FICTION

After a hectic weekend near Chicago midst the snow and sleet, I thought a little break was in order. I headed on up that long and winding road up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities to my favorite getaway town, Normal, Mn. The regular tourists have long gone as the conditions are not passable for anyone but the regular hardy boys---the regulars that ice fish right through the winter.

After checking in to the Spruce Goose Motel, the one with the pull down king size beds, with the stuffed animals on every wall, and yes, with the small mini-dove bars in the ash tray to give it a touch of upscale class.....I headed on over to the law office of my countryboy lawyer friend, Herman.

Before I got to the office, though, I headed into the local five and dime store to pick up some earplugs---something that I have become accustomed to needing for stays in small town motels. Now that I was ageing slightly, I needed a full nights sleep uninteruppted by neighbors.

"We are all out of earplugs!" the petite sales girl said. 'All the local politicos have cornered the market. We will not have any more till the first of the year."

Just a little bewildered, I headed over to Herman's office.

"Herman," I said, what the heck is going on with the earplugs. There has been a run on them. Next to big screen tv, it is number two in sales in Christmas retail trade up here. "

Herman let out a large bellylaugh.

"It's real simple, Wolfman (that's what he always called me.) The local politicans have promised the voters that they will listen. However, there are some real fine political plums that they know the citizens do not want. They want to be honest. To keep their word. The only way they can honestly say they have NOT heard the voters protest, is to put earplugs in their ears. It is a real tough minded thing."

WOW. I was totally stunned. Voluntary Deafness is a rare political strategy.

I had a rough weekend with very little sleep. Noisy neighbors. I sure was glad to get back in our fair city. Where we still have earplugs on sale at our stores. Where politicians do not wear ear plugs so they do not hear the voters opinions. and where due to the toughness of character, voluntary deafness is a trained skill and does not require earplugs.

Friday, November 30, 2007

(Orig Post 11/30/2007): Dateline Normal, Mn.; The Maze of Love; The "MAP" is the key----FICTION

(Ed.note: The Tales from Normal---FICTION are now available in book form. Click on the post for the first volume. They are also available via podcast on Itunes. You can subscribe to all the TALES by scrolling to the end and clicking "subscribe." Now you can be up to date and never miss an episode. Just think. Someday even cites will have their minutes and agendas available just like the Tales From Normal. Imagine.)



Well this morning I have been reading in the headlines that authoritative pundits have discovered that men talk as much if not more than women. Yes. Quite a surprise. However, what the newspaper articles do not discuss, is whether the talk is about anything similar. I would think not.

As the parent of three girls, and the youngest now graduating from high school, I can say that I have tried to diagram the content of the discussion of the last decade in order to find my way out of the maze of analysis of relationships----and despite my total dedication to discovering the secret, have come up empty. Yes. I need a MAP.
After all, without a map, whether it is about LOVE or SWAMPS, ya just do not have ANYTHING.

Wondering about all this, as I always do, I picked up the phone and gave my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer in Normal, Mn. a call. He must have some knowledge about his. He was single however. A confirmed bachelor. Still. I wondered if he could be of some help.

Herman was a specialist in real estate law. And he was a prominent member of the Normal, Mn. school board---- Normal, Mn. was up in the lush fishing territory of northern Minnesota, just south of Garrison, Mn., and it was surrounded by water. I figured that Herman must have some experience with SWAMPS as well as LOVE. I hoped anyway.

"Herman---what is the MAP of "love". I really need some help here. Is the situation anything like the MAP of SWAMPS?"

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me.) The MAP is the key thing in LOVE and in SWAMPS. Without the MAP it just ain't REAL. It is just BOGUS. You can be knee deep in love ....or a swamp, and never know it without a certified MAP. Of course ya have to pay a consultant for a MAP. Even if it is drawn on a napkin. Then ya pay the fee..... usually a high fee. Then it becomes REAL. It is real MAGIC."

Up here in Normal, each parcel comes with a MAP and every woman comes with one too. That way, they are prepared for the real world. They are CERTIFIED real."

I was just shocked.

Still. It made sense. Ya just needed a MAP. Without the certified MAP, ya could be in LOVE, or be in a SWAMP, and nobody would know.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Old Time Religion"---FICTION

Recently I have been reading of the efforts of one of the "Old Time Religions" to put an end to the new fangled guitar folk dudes that have infiltrated the sacred time of the era of Gregory----the days when Gregorian chant was king. I had grown up midst the old time chants, since I had been raised and taught by the Bendictines. As I got older and the folk music came to all the churches, I kinda adjusted to the guitar folk music. After all, Bob Dylan was playing at the four corners on the University of Minnesota. Nothing like a good version of "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" to get me in a real bluesy or soulful mood.

It seems though that some felt this was an intrusion into the sacred notions of religion. I just wondered what was a reasonable philosophy to have about it. The whole nation seemed pretty divided about it.

The Church wanted to appeal to all those folks that they had lost back in 1960 when the Latin was changed for the vernacular. Those were the folks that were in their 60's then. They would be about 100 years old now. It was hoped by the reintroduction of the old time chants, that those folks would again return to the churches across America, and begin contributing at the collection plate.

I always have loved sales, and marketing. There just seemed to be a problem with the nonexistence of the market segment they were hoping to attract. After all. Those folks had been dead for years.

I was willing to listen though. And I thought to give it a fair hearing, I should call my old friend Herman in Normal, Mn.. Herman was a countryboy lawyer there, and as you know, a distinguished member of the Normal, Mn. school board. When it came to "quid pro quo", fishing, or Latin....he was the closest thing to an expert in the town. It was a cold, wintery day, so my cell phone call went right through.

Herman was out in the fish house ice fishing. I could hear the music in the background.

I got right to the point:

"Herman, what is the old time religious music like up there in Normal, Mn.? Do you still have any of that Gregorian chant stuff up there?

"Shucks NO Wolfman----up here in Normal, Mn., we have had to make an adjustment in order to SURVIVE-----up here it is real cold. Years ago, we had a preacher that introduced the POLKA Mass here in Normal, and it was a huge success.

The first thing to note about the POLKA Mass is the pace----the music is at CUT time---and folks have to move quickly---and that makes their blood flow and they experience an "Inner FIRE" that makes them experience a real warmth. Once they had gotten hooked on the POLKA Mass, they just could not go back to the chanting. Besides, there are no exercise clubs up here in Normal, and the exercise of the polka dancing is real healthful. "

WOW. I was just a little stunned. I had not thought of SACRED TIME as referring to a musical time signature. Still, the more I thought about it, the adjustment of Normal, Mn. seemed to be perfectly suited to the northern tundra.

I just wondered though. Was it cold enough in our fair city to have the up tempo TIME? Maybe it would be too fast a beat.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Normal Insurance"---FICTION

Recently, after a long drive up HWY 10 north of the Twin Cities, I cruised into my favorite fishing town, Normal, Mn.. It was a fast, smooth drive, with time to listen to some of my favorite Bob Dylan tapes that brother Denis had given to me as surplus.

Right as I cruised into the brief business district of Normal---which is really only a block long, I noticed something that I should have noticed long ago---there were no insurance agencies in Normal---not one.

When I caught up with Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend, I asked him right away:

"Herman---how do you guys up in Normal, Mn. function without any insurance agents? I just do not get it."

Herman let out a loud bellylaugh. "Shucks Wolfman, (That's what he always called me,) It's real simple. Up here in Normal, we live by the natural law. We take all the risks in stride. We make no attempt to take artificial accounting measures. We just leave it up to the Lord. It's just the natural Way."

I was just dumbfounded.

"WHAT?"-----I said.

"How could that be? What do you do if you have a fire loss? What EVER to you DO?"

"It's real simple, Wolfman" We just apply for TIF assistance. It sure beats buying insurance. It keeps our lives real economical up here in God's country.

WELL.

I got back in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we have plenty of insurance. Where we are real sophisticated risk takers. Real professionals. And where business owners take out FIRE insurance rather than apply for TIF assistance.

Thank goodness.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Progressive Meetings"----Fiction

I was shocked to see recently that next Monday no less than three meetings will occur in one day for our School District, the Policy Committee at noon, the Buildings and Grounds at 4:30PM and then the regular Board meeting at 5:30PM.

Wondering what to make of the back to back meeting rage, I picked up the phone and called my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer in Normal, Mn., way up north on Hwy 10 North of the Twin Cities--my favorite getaway town for fishing.

"Herman," I asked, What is with the new fashion of back to back meetings. What is the deal with this?"

Herman replied: "It is PROGRESSIVE---- It was modeled after the Progressive dinners---you know the ones. Ya start at one house for salad, then to the next for main course, the next for dessert, and then the final for happy hour. We have been doing it like that for over 20 years up here in Normal. This way, all the business gets wrapped up in one day.

We used to call the last part, "ACTION ITEMS" but over time, with the introduction of two for one liquor highballs, it was called "Happy Hour". We all vote unanimously. We just have to become consensus leaders. Somedays it takes more highballs than others. "

What a shock! I had thought "progressive" came from the progressive movement in Wisconsin. I never realized it was named after progressive dinners.

Still. It made a lot of sense. Politicians needed a life too. Packing all the meetings in one day sure would be efficient. That way they would have most of the month for real living.

I just wonder whether all the local folks could get used to the progressive style. That "Action Items" or Happy Hour sure was a selling point. It sure does make the word consensus leadership more understable.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dateline Normal: " Reflection; Reassessment;" ===Fiction

Well, with all the stock market plunging, and the crisis in CMO debt securities, I simply headed the car up that long road up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite fishing town, Normal, Mn..

On the long stretch up north, I simply popped in a cd of zen reflections to pass the time. It has been a stressful period for homeowners. With homes falling in value. The piggy bank of home equity as a way of financing the fun things in life is over. It is a rude awaking. It is really a time for reassessment.

When I got to Normal, I checked in to my favorite motel, the Spruce Goose Motel, the one with the pull down king size beds, and with the stuffed animals on every wall, and the little mini-dove bars in the ash trays---just a little touch of country class.

I quickly met Herman at the local diner, where I ordered up my usual coffee, extra bold, extra sugar, with lots of whipped cream, in the dark blue Viking mug. Man it sure beat that stuff that passed for coffee in the gas stations on the way.

I got right to the point with Herman.

"Herman," what in the world is America to do. The real estate is assessed at over 100% of what it was worth a couple of years ago, and it may be ten years till another assessment is required. Till then, everyone in our town has to pay inflated tax bills--real taxes on funny numbers of assessment. What is a guy like me to do? What do you folks do up here in Normal?

"It's real simple, Wolfman---(that's what he always called me.) Up here, even though we are a simple fishing town, we have an old IBM computer, one with the 8 inch diskettes, and we reassess the real estate after each and every sale. If the comparables go down----the real estate appraisal goes down. If it goes up, it goes up. And the best part---all the numbers are available on the Normal, Mn. web site. Ya see, Wolfman, we live in the present. NO accounting games up here in God's country."

Over the weekend, I reflected on Herman's straight talk. It sure was good to get back to good old Wisconsin. Where we are high tech. Where we have cameras that take pictures of our historic town. Still. I wondered. How come we could not reassess on every sale like they did in Normal?

The more I reflected, I realized that this was the quality of life thang. Cold winters. High Tech. Historic towns. Strong cheese. Great Beer. Backward accounting. It was just the High Life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dateline Normal: Herman explains the O.J. Saga; ---FICTION

Oh how I love it when the big story breaks. The thrill of going to work, with all the tech toys to separate the real from the fake video, ala. Bin Laden video, and now the latest masterpiece---the O.J. Simpson audio of the break in.

O.K. It was a little incoherent. But the most disturbing part--- the lingo made me feel real out of date----I mean it was hard even understanding the profanity, much less the content of thought. Finally----I just threw up my hands in despair. How could I publish an audio of incoherent profanity? Besides, I have always followed a "four expletive deleted rule"-----If there are FOUR "bleeps" necessary in one sentence----the sentence---well---- it must simply be deleted.

Wondering how to handle the breaking coverage, and being always responsive to my demanding readers, I moved quickly to pick up the cell phone and dial Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn., a historic fishing town, just south of Garrison, Mn., and yes with the brick stone bait shop. Up in those parts, they put their bricks on the houses.

Herman answered on the first ring:

I blurted out: "Herman, what's with somebody breaking into a hotel room to get his old sports stuff back---like old jerseys and pictures and stuff. Let me just ask you, Herman-----do you have any old sports stuff that we might need to do a little burglary to get back?"

Herman started laughing uncontrollably. "Of course not, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) I am NOT a star. When you just watch the football stars on Sunday, you have a wife and such---the rule for us normal folks is that we cannot "covet our neighbor's wife"-----with the guys that are STARS, they have so many women, and so few wives....that the sports momentos are the things that are coveted---and fought for. It's just real natural. It's primitive..It's rude and crude, but it goes back a long time.----" The Don't mess with my xxxx Rule." It was around long before Moses.

Wow. Now I understood.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wiscosnin. Where we don't just covet the old sports photos and such. Where we have wives. Where we do not have the huge harem of groupies that take all our time. Where our stuff is right at the end of the bed and there is no need to commit a little burglary to find it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dateline Normal: " The Biggest Score---the Longest Game"-----FICTION

Recently I sat through a football game. A really lopsided affair. In fact, the game was over quickly in the first five minutes when fans saw our hometeam slicing through the opponent like butter.

The funniest part was with 16 seconds to go in the first half, with the hometeam leading by 35 points, a timeout was called. I was in disbelief. The coach had the hope that one more score could be launched before halftime.

It was just not like I remember it in the old days------- Why back in the 60's our old coach had three squads and rotated them throughout the game. One, Two Three he used to shout.
Everyone got to play. Win or lose. Nowdays, no matter how tired the starters were, or how many concussions they had, they were in there.

Usually when I do not understand some local matter, I pick up the phone and call my old friend, Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn.----he is a trained lawyer and sits on the Normal School Board in Normal, a small fishing village just south of Garrison, Mn., and west of Lake Woebegone.

"Herman what do I not understand. Something must have changed.?"

Herman just laughed. "Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), nowdays coaches are compensated on a total points system. Yes........ there is a flat yearly stipend---but there are bonuses for so many points per game, per half, points per season, as well as the number of points scored against by opponents.

"If that coach had got just one more touchdown before halftime, he might have qualified for a $1000 bonus. It was a real moxie move."

"But what happened to sportsmanship.....and .....what happened to the old "mercy rule", where coaches were required to play third stringers after the points had reached 35."

"The days of mercy are over, Wolfman. It's just pure free enterprise. Only the first stringers get to play these days. "

I was just stunned.

I always did like the old rotation though. The games were real exciting to watch. Nowdays, the excitement is whether the coach will keep playing the first stringers after their second concussion. Now that is a real crowd thumper.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dateline Normal, MN.; "The Longest Flood; The Longest Yard; The Longest Review"----FICTION

The other morning just at the break of dawn, over a fresh cup of coffee, extra sugar and whipped cream, my wife asked me the question, "How come we never hear of Mrs. Noah.?"

Being the Observer, I normally get to ask the questions. Being on the receiving end of such a tough one led me to simply smile and suggest that we get out of town for a weekend.

Yes, it is rare when I head out of town, up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, that I would bring my wife along, bein that mostly its just the guys that frequent the Hideaway Lounge and the sacred spots of the north. However--- I decided to make a special exception in the case of the "Longest Flood."

When we got through with the pleasantries at the Hideaway Lounge, having ordered the "dry martini, shaken, not stirred, and the wife ordering her usual dacquiri---I opened with the observation that I wondered if it was my imagination whether as we get older in life, the trials get "longer" in duration. The floods get longer, etc. ------
The guys were very amused.

"Absolutely not, Wolfman!" Herman burst out in partial laughter. "It must be that your mind is getting slower. These trials have ALWAYS been LONG. Your memory might be failing. Remember those famous films----"The Longest Day"===Wow what a great war flick that was!! And how about that football flick "The Longest Yard"----that was one of my favorites. But the ALL time favorite "Longest" film was the classic "The Longest REVIEW." What a blockbuster that was!!!!!!"

"I don't remember "The Longest Review", I said. "Are you sure it was not some grade "B" movie or maybe just a Minnesota Public Television special movie.?"

"NOPE", Herman replied. It was a national release.

It was a story about a school official that kept coming up for review, but the school board just kept postponing it. It dragged on forever and forever. "

"I don't understand what is so difficult about a simple salary review. It is just one slip of paper," I asked in an innocent tone.

"Well, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), this was a case of sheer moxie. By delaying the salary review, for a full TEN years, the official was locked in to the previous salary rate-----What a great way to deliver COST CONTAINMENT!!! "

"Do you mean that the delay was a form of salary administration?, I asked.

"YES", Herman roared. And what a moxie move it was."

I was just TOTALLY shocked. Thank goodness we are back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not even KNOW of such moxie moves as the TEN YEAR Salary Review. We might go a YEAR or so, but TEN is just way off the chart.

I did have to hand it to those folks in Normal, Mn.. They really knew how to set the standards. TEN years is quite a record. Maybe....Just maybe....If we pursued excellence....we could go for the record.

Maybe

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "The NOT For Sale Sign"---FICTION

Well....after thirty days and thirty nights of rain, I decided to head out of town to one of my favorite getaway spots....you guessed it, Normal, MN., just up Hwy 10 from the Twin Cites, just this side of Garrison, and just West of the Land of Lake Woebegone.

As I was rolling into town, I was surprised to see a house with the sign -----"NOT FOR SALE"-----I was totally shocked. Bold RED letters on a white background.

Just as soon as I met Herman at the Hideaway Lounge, I asked him: "What's with the NOT FOR SALE signs? I have never seen that before.

"It's real simple, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me) we have a huge real estate crisis up here. In fact, NOTHIN is selling. We only had a population increase of 1 last year. With everyone wanting to sell their home, the real estate brokers ran out of signs for their customers. What a crisis!

"What did you do?,"I asked.

"It's real simple. We just added the word NOT and then only needed a couple of signs in the whole town. It has been a huge saving."

Well...thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin....where we can put up all the For Sale signs we want, even if they do no good. Switchin to the NOT FOR SALE concept just seems too big of a change. Sometimes being historic means just bein stubborn. Make a note of it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dateline Normal: Epistles of Noah---Part II---FICTION

(Ed. note.: This is one of a long series of tales of FICTION from the land of Normal, Mn., a land up in northern Minnesota, up Hwy 10 just south of Garrison, and west of the Land of Lake Woebegone. These tales are on podcast on Itunes, and can be downloaded to listen on your ipod for FREE. When shipped out in CD form, they are always shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked FICTION. )


The other night, right after a huge thunder clap had hit near the house, I thought I heard the phone ring. It was faint. Sure enough. It was the phone. But who would call at the unheard of hour of 2am------you guessed it. It was my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer from Normal, Mn.. But he never called. Something must be up I thought.

"I found the motherload", he yelled. "I found it!"

"What are you talking about," I asked.

"Well, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.) You remember that in the Epistles of Noah, I had translated from the Hebrew---with great skill and difficulty I might add-------the last blurred part as 1 MILLION YEARS----or the complete text was "Notwithstanding this FLOOD, we will develop WEST and NORTHWEST ...in 1 million years------" Remember that, Wolfman?"

"YES, YES, I do remember, Herman. That was quite a translating event. Congrats!"

Herman went on: "That is nothing!"

I looked at the number again, and the final number is " 100 MILLION YEARS"----CAN you imagine THAT===Herman bubbled.

"No---I cannot imagine anything that long"---I said. I suppose that was the problem. It seemed not possible so you missed it."

"YES," Herman went on. Noah just could not bear to think that the wait would be that long. Such a long time to wait for further development. I fully empathize with him. He was an action kind of guy. It must have been tough."

I got off the phone. WOW. I suppose I could have told Herman to call me during regular office hours. But then it does not happen very often.

Thank goodness we're back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't have to wait 100 MILLION years to develop WEST and NORTHWEST. It would be tough to wait that long. Even if it was the right thing to do.

Alleluia.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "The Gospel of Noah"---FICTION

Recently, with all the rain and all, I have been wondering about weather patterns. One of the concerns is whether that axis of rapidly intensfying rain extended all the way up to the frozen tundra of Normal, Mn.

So----I just decided to pick up the cellphone and call Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend, who was not only a practicing lawyer in Normal, but a distinguished member of the Normal Minnesota School Board. I just wondered what Herman was doing to cope with all the rain that seemed to be plaguing the Midwest right now.

Despite the rainy conditions, I did get a cell phone connection.

"Herman," I yelled into the phone, "Has it been terrible with flooding up in Normal?"

"YUP"---Herman replied. "It's been a mess. It's been no problem though, cause we are mostly in a flood plain and do not build houses there, and the school board most certainly does not build houses there. "

"Why not?", I replied.

"It's real simple," Herman replied. "First of all, as a member of the school board and all, but mostly cause I am a lawyer, I have a fiduciary responsibility to not be negligent and build in a flood plain. To do so would mean my removal from the school board. Just search it on the internet, Wolfman. A lawyer has a serious responsibilty not to be negligent in things like building in flood plains."

"I never heard of that, Herman. Where is this found?"

"It is simple law school stuff, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.) It's just part of Prosser on Torts, the bible of torts, or negligence in law school.

"But besides the law, there is the RELIGION."

"Whatever do you mean, Herman?" What does RELIGION have to do with it.?"

Herman replied: " Up here, Wolfman, we believe in the Epistles of Noah---it's one of them "LOST' texts. I have even seen copies of the parchment scrolls, which are copied and printed with the epistles of Mary Magdaline and the Epistles of Thomas.

In one fragment, as Noah is entering the ark, he says:

"Nothwithstanding these flood waters, we will still build West and Northwest, but will just add as many holding ponds as necessary........"

"What was that part at the end, Herman?

"Well, it was a little blurred, Wolfman. After careful review of the original Hebrew, I have discovered that Noah said, "We will still build West and Northwest AFTER ONE MILLION YEARS. "

"Great research work, Herman. What a discovery!"

"Yes," Herman replied. Even though it would be a million years till there would be further development, Noah still was POSITIVE. POSITIVE about the million years part anyway. "

Well there it is. Even though the gospel of Thomas and yes the gospel of Mary Magdaline is ...well....maybe......possibly fiction....ya gotta believe in the gospel of Noah.

Alleluia.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Religion Comes to Normal, Mn.; Or, "It's an Act of God."--FICTION

It's been pretty hot, hot, hot around these here parts, and humid, and I just could not resist the temptation to head on up that long and winding road, up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite getaway town, Normal, Mn.

"The Pretenders" were playing live at the Hideaway Lounge when I arrived---I had missed the first set, which stoked me up, but I just could not speed, being that I had the blog signs on the car and all. Needed to be an example of following the speed limit.

Got settled in to listen to the live band and visit with the guys----I was one of the last folks there, so the only seat available was next to a huge speaker. Days later I could still hear the bass loud and clear.

About 11PM, a uniformed police officer, one of Normal's finest, came over and tapped Herman on the shoulder. They went out of the bar to talk for what seemed like the whole last set.

When Herman returned, I just could not resist asking.

"What was it all about Herman?

"It was just nothin, Wolfman. (That's what he always called me.) It was just an Act Of God."

"Whatever do you mean?, I asked.

"It's real simple, Wolfman. One of Henry's sons ran off the road and totalled the car. The car was filled with beer cans. However, the youngster was just trying to avoid hitting a 30 point buck. Went to extreme lengths to avoid that fine animal. It was really a "miracle." In fact.......It was an "Act of GOD."

I was speechless. "But Herman, nobody believes in God up in these here parts."

"Yes, that is true. Still, Wolfman, even in the case of extreme unbelievers---in time of extreme necessity----- ya have to have some explanation. In the end, it had to be the media------ or God that was to blame."

"Did the officer believe the "Act of God" or "miracle" story," I asked.

"Frankly, I am not sure. And it does not matter. He needed to get religion real quick or every fisherman in 100 miles would have been on his case."

Wow. I was totally amazed. I just got back in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Thank goodness we live in a fair city that has beliefs, and not just religion that is convenient in a time of emergency. Thank goodness we do NOT brand an "Act of God" on every inconvenient tragedy that occurs.

Alleluia.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Planning Commission Movies: The Mystery---FICTION-

Well. It sure has been hot...hot...hot in these here parts. Kinda like the weather of "Good Morning Vietnam.....". I felt it was just about time to head the car up north to cooler territory---up that long road to Normal, Mn., up on Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cites, just south of Garrison, and west of the land of Lake Woebegone.

There was a rush of fisherman cause of the great weather up north, so I had to check in to the Spruce Goose Motel right away. Thank goodness I did, cause I got the last room...a king size pull down from the wall bed with the deer and bear mounted on the walls...and yes with the little dove minibars in the ash trays for just a hint of upscale cache.

I met Herman over that the Hideaway Lounge where it was Elvis impersonation weekend. What a packed house. Anway, no sooner had I sat down, did Herman begin to rib me about all the video.

"What's with all the video, Wolfman? Herman laughed with a huge belly laugh. "And all the close ups. Ya need to do the long shots with the old guys. It's the young uns that you do the close ups with!." Ya really need a Busbie Berkely overhead shot--that would be really neat.....then he laughed uncontrollably....

"That's enough....that's just enough, I shouted.....which was rare for me..being so controlled and such.....We are working real hard at planning...and I am just doin the best I can to let everyone know in a real closeup way the fine job folks are doin....."

"What are you guys doin up here in Normal? I have not seen any movies of you guys. What's up?

Herman took a deep breath-------"Wolfman----(that's what he always called me) up here we can listen. We are in tune with nature. We love to fish. We know when folks are not able to buy----why meet and share and meet and share and connive and such when the folks have spoken-----they do not need your services. PERIOD. That is what a national housing slowdown means, Wolfman. Up here....we understand.

"Are you saying that we are hard of hearing?

"YES", Herman replied. That is exactly what I am saying. We have not had a planning meeting in over a year in Normal. And we do NOT plan on one till we see some demand. We have more important things to do---like fish.

Well. I was just shocked. I just got in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we hold planning sessions even if nobody is buying. Where we have great close up movies of old guys and not just young movie stars. and where we can plan decades ahead even if nothin happens.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Normal celebrates "Justice Desserts"---FICTION

Recently I have been reading about the upcoming celebration of all the volunteers of Evansville and the special recognition that will be held at the Evansville High School called "Just Desserts."

I thought the idea was pretty cool. The reality is that communities need a vigorous volunteer involvement to make everything work to the maximum. Whether it is a hospital, a church, or a city .....volunteer participation is key.

So....I picked up the phone and called my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer from Normal, Mn. . I was just wondering whether the spirit of volunteerism was alive up in fishing territory.

"Herman----have you every heard of something called "Just Desserts?" I asked.

"Shucks no, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me). I think you have the name wrong. Up in these parts we call it "Justice Desserts." I think you shortened the name up from a noun to an adjective. That makes it something completely different."

"I just don't understand, Herman----what could Justice Desserts be about?

"It's real simple Wolfman. Up here we just have homes and do a lot of fishing. So the guys up here are mostly mechanical types---craftsmen---that love the call of nature. "

"OK"----I think I understand that part, I said.

Then Herman went on. "Up here we want to foster a committment to quality craftsmanship. So. We made a simple change. We do not issue building permits. We just issue occupancy permits. Each home is inspected and if it does not meet code to the high standards of Normal, the occupancy permit is not granted. Simple as that.

Then each year, we honor the finest craftsmen of our town with the "Justice Desserts" plaque. A real plaque program. On each plaque, is the symbol of the scales of justice and recipient's name. On each home site, the guys just compete like heck to do the very best job they can to meet the specs so they can win the award. It is real amazing to watch.

"But what if there is error?", I asked. What happens then?

"The home just sits empty. It serves as a warning to others. Kind of a reverse role model of sorts. And of course it is a total loss."

"Wow." I was just stunned. Thank goodness we live in our fair city. Where we have "Just Desserts" and NOT "Justice Desserts"----where mostly builders just need building permits and not occupancy permits.

Still. The more I thought about it, the more I really wanted one of those Justice Plaques. With the scale on it. Boy would that look neat on the wall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dateline Normal: "It's practice time again."---FICTION

Well. Cool weather is just a month away. The Fall cross country team is beginning their night runs---the Lake Leota 2, the Stand pipe 3, the Water Street 5 and the Porter 5. Ah the good old days. I am still running the track 800 meter.

Still..... the excitement of fall sports is palpable. The lights are up on the soccer field, ready for those night games. The grass cut nice and short on the fields so the watering can run all day to prevent burnout.

I was just sitting on the bleachers resting from an 800, when I picked up the old cell phone and called my old friend Herman, in Normal, Mn.. I just wondered whether this fall excitement was happening up there in Normal. The weather was clear and the cell phone call went right through.

"Herman, what is with the fall sports in Normal? Is the excitement building up there?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Shucks NO, Wolfman,( that's what he always called me) Up here we only have cross country. We cancelled the football program years ago!"

"What?" I exclaimed. "How could that be?"

"It's real simple, Wolfman. Up here, all the athletes drink. And if ya drink, ya can't play football. It's just pretty simple. We just gave em a clear choice. They decided which was most important. It just was not football. "

"WOW." I was just speechless. "Thanks Herman" I finally said.

As I ran around the track once more, I was just very relieved. Man....it sure was good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where athletes can drink and still play football. Where we do not have to choose which is more important. And where officals are sensitive and such. And never dare to enforce the law so as to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities.

Alleluia.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Legacy Thang"-or; "Unfinished Projects Reviewed"----Fiction

Well it's summertime again. Time to review the list of projects around the home. Time to review the budget for all the repairs. And get the time to begin....and finish...all of them.

I have been giving a considerable amount of time reflecting on completion. It seems that our President Bush has been doing the same. It's the legacy thing. Must git R done. Complete the mission. See the meaning of our supreme accomplishment.

In fact, in the heat of last week, there was some heated discussion here regarding getting some of the projects done. In fact, just some progress would be good. What was the problem?

I decided to just pick up the phone and discuss this with my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer in Normal, Mn. ---also served on the Normal School Board. I always counted on his wisdom for a little balance to the frenzied life in these here parts.

"Herman how do you handle the pressure to complete projects and such. You seem so relaxed all the time. Are you NOT worried about the Legacy thang?"

"Shucks, Wolfman. (That's what he always called me.) You just need some fishing time. It would make things perfectly clear.

"Up here, we leave the project thang-- the vision thang--- at the edge of town. It is important to ask for the right things. You know not what you ask for......"

"Huh?---I asked.

"You think you want to know. All the good. All the perfect pictures of your legacy. You forget....If you got that....and it would be much more good than you think.....you would by law....have to get all the bad too.....all the evil.....a lot larger than you think too......"

"So what is it when President Bush wants his legacy," I asked.

"It's not about that at all. He wants to survive to the end of his term. He does not want to see at all. Can't bear to face it. Take personal responsibility for it. "

"And besides," Herman went on, " Since when did you become the creator of the universe, that you should know the supreme meaning of things. Up here in Normal, we just fish. Mostly just catch and release. That's best. We leave the fame and esteem to others. "

I was just shocked.

I got off the phone in dismay. Thank goodness I am back home in our fair city. Where we can quest for fame. For projects with our name on them. Whether they make sense or not. Whether they benefit anyone. As long as they are on our watch.

Alleluia.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Budgeting Time Again in Normal"---the FTE Con----FICTION

(Ed.note; The original date of this post if October of 2006.)

Dateline Normal: Budgeting Time Again: or; moxie budgeting revealed- Fiction
(Ed. note. The following is fiction. Any resemblance to reality is purely by accident.)

My readers have been begging me to head out of town for some R&R and to stop writing about money matters, so I wheeled out the old Lincoln for one last trip up Hwy 10. The transmission has been slipping a bit so I felt it might be the last such long trip. After arriving late, I was lucky to get a room at the Spruce Goose Motel. I arose and met my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer, at the local coffee shop, just adjacent to the historic bait shop with the colored stones.

Before I had even ordered, the waitress, Ginny, came over smiling with my "usual." And in the Blue Minnesota Vikings mug. Right away, I blurted out to Herman, "I have had enough of budgeting for awhile. How do you deal with all the FTE analysis up here in God's country."

Herman just burst out laughing.

"Shucks Wolfman," we don't do any of that FTE stuff up here in God's Country. It is forbidden by the natural law here.

I interrupted, "But...But...how can you present a budget that makes any sense so the elected officials can decide?"

Then Herman spoke boldly, " Just shut up and listen, Wolfman. Up here we have real moxie. Our fiscal year ends on 9-30 so for budget purposes we always propose to the alderman that we add a person on 9-29 of the first year, and quote for all the citizens to see the cost. For example, if we added an employee, we could say we are adding an employee for a cost of $230. The cost of $230 is of course the cost only for the last day of that fiscal year, but the real cost is $60,000 for the next year.

When the citizens see the minutes published in the paper showing the cost of $230 they think we are miracle workers. We are legends up here in God's Country.

"But don't you have to talk to citzens about FTE's," I asked.

"Heavens, no, Wolfman". Talking about that FTE stuff is strictly outlawed up here.
After all, remember the story about the good shepherd. Man, ya gotta treat the folks like sheep in order to be a great shepherd. That was exactly what the good Lord was talking about."

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where men are men and the numbers are straight and transparent...... and FTE increases are clearly discussed. And the shepherds lead more than weak sheep to pasture.

Alleluia.

Dateline Normal: "The Candidate Forum"---FICTION

Dateline Normal: The Candidate Forum---Fiction

(Ed. note: This is one of a long series of tales from the land of Normal, Mn., up just south of Garrison, Mn., and west of the Land of Lake Woebegon. It is not on the Google Earth map, but then neither is Evansville. These tales are on ITunes for FREE and can also be downloaded from this site onto your Ipod. When shipped on cd, they are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked FICTION.)


This week, with the cold weather alert and all, I thought I would just call Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn., rather than making the long trip. It would save lots of time, and besides, I had called for reservations at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel in Normal where the premium down comforters were standard. All the rooms were taken. They were fully rented all weekend. In the midgst of the cold spell.

"What's goin on up there, Herman? I asked.

"It's real simple, Wolfman, Herman replied.

"It is Candidate Forum Weekend up here in Normal."

"Tell me more. I still do not understand, " I replied.

"Well---we are deeply committed to democracy up here. Our community has over 20 school board candidates. In fact,....we recruit candidates. We have a pre-function at the Hideaway Lounge on Friday night, the Forum on Saturday morn, along with the bake sale, and then the ice fishing contest all day Sunday.

"Why would you recruit candidates?, I asked.

"It's real simple, Herman replied. Each year we have a candidate forum bake sale on Saturday morn. The proceeds from this event are the main source of revenue for the Daughters of the American Constitituion, the big political social group up here. All the ladies belong. In order to ensure that we have enough attendance at the bake sale, folks are actually recruited to run for office so that their relatives will all come to the candidate forum---which is held on Saturday morning DURING the bake sale."

"During the bake sale?", I asked.

"Yes," Herman went on.

"We begin the candidate forum and break for intermission. Then when ALL the baked goods are sold we resume the rest of the program. Sometimes it takes ALL DAY till all the baked goods are sold. "

"Do you mean that the candidates are held hostage to the baked goods?"

"I never thought of it that way, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) In the format of the forum, each candidate is asked why he/she is running for school board. Most say in a loud confident voice that they are running to ensure the success of the bake sale. The crowd goes wild. They just love the loyalty of them folks."

"Then, right after all the baked goods are sold, the candidates that are just running for the bake sale success can withdraw--but not before. It's a real firm rule."

I was just stunned. You mean that candidates just run to raise the attendance at the forum in Normal. And some withdraw after the baked goods are sold?"

"Exactly" Herman replied. "In fact, Wolfman, you might consider trying that format in your town."

The battery on my cell phone was starting to run low, so I had to get off the line.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't just hold candiate forums for baked goods revenue. Where candidates are serious and do not just withdraw after the baked goods are sold.

Still. I could understand why someone that was just running for the baked goods might want to withdraw. In fact. I had to agree with Herman. It might be best.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 6:52 AM

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Reverse Growth Rate or Declining Birth Rate Con"----Where Normal made their Big Mistake--Fiction

Well it has been sheer delight---two full days of fishing with Herman with that little 25hp Mercury motor. Clear skies. Just a slight breeze. And weather in the upper 60's. What could be better! Not a touch of cloudy weather in sight. WOW.

Last night, right after catching our limit of sunnies, and after a couple of tall cold ones, I just had to ask Herman the question of the moment:

How could Normal have calculated the lots needed for development at 9000? I did grant him a lot of moxie. He got the deal done real quickly. One 24 hour planning session and it was done for all time. Herman was a proud man. He said it was planned that way. I wondered. So I just asked:

"Herman, how did you come up with the idea that you needed 9000 plats for Normal to be developed?"

Herman just let out a huge bellylaugh.

"I knew you would ask, Wolfman. (That's what he always called me.) It's real simple. This was the one time we went outside our town to hire a contract planner to determine our needs. He calculated that since 1776, our growth rate was on average "x" and if we wanted to prepare for the declining birth rate of America, where less and less children would be in each home, just to keep even, we had to add 9000 lots.

"But Herman, I exclaimed, " Normal was only settled in 1899.

"Yup," Herman sighed. That was the big mistake. That planner was one moxie kinda guy----he simply pulled the wool over our eyes-------yes---- he pulled the reverse Freedom Fighters Dollar Averaging con-----I read about it in law school. It was really all my fault. It was one of the most famous cons of all time. I should have known."

"Ya just take the current growth, and in addition to the data, add the zeros back to the American Revolution, and then come up with all this "catch up demand" that necessitates immediate action. I am totally ashamed of falling for it.

I assured Herman that it was common for communites to fall for this con.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where even though we have hundreds and hundreds of unsold homes, we are not tricked by the backward averaging con from the American Revolution to justify busting a controlled growth plan.

Alleluia.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Town that couldn't say "NO"

After a long series of Planning Commission meetings, I felt a need for a little R&R----a time to just fish and relax.

After I got settled in the short fishing boat with the 25 hp Johnson----I always let Herman, my old countryboylawyer friend from Normal, handle the motor. Just baiting the hook or getting the lures out for casting was enough of a challenge for me.

What about all them planning commissions up here in Normal, Herman? Back in Good old Wisconsin they just cannot seem to say NO. What is the point anyhow?


Herman let out a loud bellylaugh. "Shucks Wolfman---(that's what he always called me. Up here it's real simple. We have a platted map for 9000 homes. We did it in a marathon session with a special computer program. Real simple."

"Do you mean you annexed it all and platted it in one fell swoop."

"YUP" Herman said. "That way we got all the pandering out of the way in just one 24 hour session. "

"But you still only have 200 folks in town. That does NOT add up, Herman".

'Oh YES it does add up,"--Wolfman.

We never have to deal with any of them folks again. All the plattin and pandering is DONE. Now its just fishing and regular life. It's just real simple."

I was just stunned. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can meet each month and smile and make speeches and al and never get tired of it. Thank goodness we are free to say YES all the time.

Alleluia.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mailbag: Dateline Normal, Mn.: Herman writes: Actors Call: Alert: Normal School Board: Special "Battle of the Little Bighorn scheduled."

(Ed. note; The following note from Herman I have reprinted without alteration:)

Yo. Wolfman. You may remember recently after the General Custer reinactment of the Litle Big Horn that I wrote: (Tales from Normal.)

"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."

I am writing all actors a special notice that a special performance is coming shortly in the annual battle and request all those that saved ammo and horses-----bring em.

Everyone, and especially the t.v. cameras did such a wonderful job last time. I just know we can be very ready for the upcoming production. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Why Debt Comes First"; Thinking Green:---FICTION

(Ed. note: This is one of a long series of tales from a land up in northern Minnesota.....a land of fiction.....but other than that.....it is a lot like our own. Enjoy. )

Recently, after watching just one too many videos of the Plunkett Raysich study, I took a long drive. It was spring. I needed a break in the schedule. To fish. To play a little tennis. So I headed up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities to Normal, Mn.

On the long drive, I kept thinking of all those charts of the consultants----the ones that showed that even though locals were not increasing their birth rate.....it was those folks from out of town that kept coming.....and coming....and coming....and they were the ones we were building the schools for. We needed to get ready and incur some debt for them. Why I wondered.

So, I just blurted it out to Herman: "Why would the debt come first Herman? I just do not understand.

Herman just let our a huge bellylaugh. "You are just too busy, Wolfman. (that's what he always called me. It is real simple. The debt always comes first when a revolution happens. Always."

"Whatever do you mean, " I asked.

Herman went on: " In a community where there is a broad section of ages, folks stay in their homes till they die. It is real stable. Real diverse. Real stable."

"Exactly." I said. That is what Evansville is all about. A diverse age range that makes life interesting."

Then Herman said; "The problem is that those old folks pay a small fee for property tax compared to what a young couple would pay with two kids. Two kids would be worth $16,000 of revenue to a school district. Thus, it motivates a sophisticated leader, to add debt, big time....and force seniors out of their homes with higher taxes so younger folks can move to town. It is called in planning documents "recycling the housing stock."

"It sounds pretty "green," but it is terrible news for seniors," I said.

Herman mused, " I guess debt is a form of security for a long career. Nothing is more threatening to a career than a stable community. And lots of seniors. They just got to move on to keep the enrollment up. "

"That's pretty cynical Herman, " I replied. "Do you mean to say that the reason to incur the debt is to keep the enconmy moving by moving the seniors out of their homes?

"Yup," Herman replied. That is what all that "Applied Population gismo" is all about.

It was a long trip back home. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not believe in any of that debt first and then enrollment growth. Where we believe in a diverse community of all age groups. Where we resist sophisticated plans to divide and conquer.

Alleluia.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Quid Pro Quo"----the game---FICTION

Well. It's Father's Day time again. The glorious celebration always seems to fall on the hottest day of the year. Finally, I have adjusted and just head on up to Normal, Mn. for the weekend. It just happened that Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend called me last week and reminded me that this weekend was "Vegas Weekend" at the Hideaway Lounge. What perfect timing!

So I just asked Herman: "Herman would you explain all the Vegas thing up here and what it is about?"

Herman said: "Sure Wolfman,(that's what he always called me)...Don't misunderstand. Vegas Weekend was not about show girls and the like. It is true that the promotion showed some showgirls on the billboard. Some might think that was leading folks on. I personally think the guys like all the promotion. Really, the Vegas Weekend is a serious economic development activity sponsored event by the City of Normal,Mn. and specifically supervised by the "Public Benefits Committee". Rather than the ususal games of chance, such as Poker, Black Jack or slot machines, the weekend focuses on three games we just love in Normal: "Liquor licenses," "Grants", and "Zoning." There is no chance about it. It is the CERTAINTY that the guys love.

We just call them all, "The Games of Quid Pro Quo"-----the guys up here are just experts on the details of the games.

You know all about the liquor license game thing, and the zoning game is just like monoploy, but my favorite is the Grant Game. Here is how it works. As you all know, if you give, you should get back in equal value. Not necessarily the same identical thing, but something of equal value. That is called "Quid Pro Quo." In contracts, it is called "consideration."

"In these games the things you give and receive are NOT paid for, but are provided by the taxpayer-----just like Christmas but without the credit card debt. O.K.? Now you can see why the guys like the game. "

"It is a four player game. The first player just shares his feelings----" I need X"---then he waits till someone of the group has something of value that can be traded---some land, some zoning, some grant, something of value of someone else. If there is nothing, they work to manufacture something for that player. Yes. The Game does take time. Years in fact. The guys are real patient at keeping score. They had a special method, though it did not resemble double entry bookeeping. Under the rules of the game, the bookeeping always has to be kept under the table."

Well. It sure was a long Saturday night. Even with Herman's explanation, it was just too darn hard to figure out what was going on. There had been deals over the years that only the four guys at the table knew about and quickly I became confused. Even with my video, and playing it in real slow motion, it still was hard to figure out some of those sly zoning switches.

Thank goodness I am back in home sweet home. Where we celebrate Father's Day in style and not with a bunch of "quid pro quo" games. Where we realy pay for the consideration. Where all the deals are above the table. And where if there are showgirls on the billboards, ya really see them in the show.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.----"The Liquor License"---FICTION

Well. It's the first weeks of June and everyone is headed out of town. Time to buy some sunscreen, some refreshment, some bait and then hit the road. As ususal, I headed up that long road to Normal, Mn.-----straignt on 94 to the Twin Cities and then up Hwy 10 to just south of Garrison.

Some folks have told me----"You sure live a long way from Normal."

To which I always reply....."YUP".

This trip, I vowed to find a new spot to hang out besides the "Hideaway Lounge." I was getting sensitive to smoke in my old age and wanted to see what the alternatives were. I searched on the Internet and found a whole bunch of bars to go to. There was the "Beer, Bait, and Ammo Lounge," The Speakeasy, The Club, The fishing Line, The Almost a Gentleman Lounge and The Fish Shop Lounge."

When I searched for the addresses for these places, I came up empty---or some had several addreses with the letters AKA, 192 Exhange or AKA 234 Union or etc. I just was thoroughly confused.

I dialed the cellphone and asked my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer friend from Normal:

"Where are these bars, Herman? I just do not get it.?"

Herman let out a loud bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman. Those are just "tradin bars." It's real simple up here. Ya have to have a physical bar in order to get a liquor license. So the guys just make one up for the city folks for the hearing. Once they get the liquor license, they can trade it like a stock and bond."

Do you mean it is traded like commodities---like a futures option like a Ford September 25 Call option or Put option?"

"Exactly" said Herman. "The only difference is that the value is traded not on any exchange, but rather during "Happy Hour" at the Hideaway Lounge. It is kinda like Monopoly but with a tinge of intoxication thrown in."

Wow. It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where we have real bars and not just "Trading" bars with liquor license futures.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Graduation"-------FICTION

Recently we in Evansville have been engaged in that month long exercise of May that is called "Awards Season"---and ..... which conveniently reaches its peak at the moment called "Graduation." It sure has evolved as a process over the last 50 years. In fact, locally, the celebration can become so intense and frenzied that it can be a serious threat to public safety. Yes. So, I thought I would just pick up the cell phone and visit a bit with Herman in Normal, Mn., that town up in the northern tundra just South of Garrison, Mn....Just a small fishing village...a getaway spot...but nevertheless a beacon of reasonablensss for the Observer.

"Herman"----How do you deal with all the frenzy of celebration that has become graduation these days? Talk to me."

"It's real simple, Wolfman (that's what he always calls me). We have just eliminated graduation."

"WHAT?", I exclaimed. "How could that be?"

"Take a moment and think a little deeper, Wolfman. Graduation is just one moment. There are many. That is the message we want to send our kids up here. We do not want to make the whole deal bigger than it is. After all, they have their whole lives ahead of them. It's not like this is the peak or anything."

"What about the graduation certificates and all. And yes, the tassels?, I asked.

"Shucks, Wolfman"----we just mail out that stuff a week before the end of school. We don't want to forget any award or recognition----

And....

After all, that week in June is the beginning of fishing season. We want to make sure to clear the decks so that we focus on the really important things....

like FISH."

WoW----what a shocking concept. Thank goodness we are back in good old Wisconsin. Where we still have a huge ceremony and celebration. Where we don't have to focus on FISH and other important things....

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Normal Bell Curve"----FICTION

Well it's graduation time again. Time to pencil in all the graduation parties into the schedule. Time to cut back on the normal eating so as to fit in all those goodies, like cake and ice cream, chips and etc.....

I've been getting a lot of announcements lately, and frankly....I am a little confused. One graduate is a valedictorian. But there four in a class of 125. Something has changed over the years. Just to do a reality check, I picked up the phone and called my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer in Normal, Mn.. As you will recall, Normal is up North on Hwy 10 in Minnesota and just south of Garrison. A small fishing village.

I was running out of cell phone minutes, so I just blurted it out:

"Herman, how in the heck could one get 4 valedictorians out of a class of 125? What is goin on? What is your experience up there in Normal?

Herman just let out a big bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) we solved that problem 30 years ago. That was 1977 I recall, and that year we had 30 valedictorians out of a class of 90. It was real messy. The state scholarship came down to a tardy pass. It was a real small difference between them all!

What happened to change things, Herman?, I asked.

"Shucks, Wolfman, that was real easy. We just got fed up with buying all those plaques. It simply blew the budget category. So we came up with a real simple solution.

"What?", I asked.

"Well, in our town square, we have a bell. We just put all the graduates test scores down on a piece of paper, and put the bell on them. That way there is no fooling around. Just a perfect bell curve. Just the natural way. It is real simple!

"Do you mean you have only ONE valedictorian?"

"Exactly", Herman replied.

Wow. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do NOT have a bell in the center of town. Where we do NOT have just one valedictorian. And where we can have as many valedictorians as can fit on the stage!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dateline Normal: The New Normal "Unified "Municipal Code---Simplified---FICTION

Recently I have been browsing through Chapter 130 of the municipal code and the proposed additions to make this legal code a "Unified Land Development Code."-----At first I thought if it was "Unified" it might be simpler or shorter. No so.

I picked up the phone and called my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer from Normal, Mn., who in addition to being a lawyer, also sits on the Normal School Board.

"Herman, I just do not get this. What is the whole unified code about?, I asked."

"First of all, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me,) when they say "Uniform" you must understand that they DO NOT mean "simpler"----the uniform they are referring to is "Armani suits." "Uniform" code is always very much longer and more complicated than "simple" code. Up here in Normal, Mn., we have just 5 municipal codes. Now THAT is simple. It is just a mathematical thing. Pure beauty."


I don't get how math comes into it, Herman. How come?"

"It's all about Probability. When you have just 5 municipal codes, the number of variations is 5times 4 times 3 times 2 times 1======24. See. Anybody can handle that number of combinations. BUT.

"But the new "UNIFIED" code has 100 sections, " I said.

"That's a problem-----or a blessing, depending on who you are, Wolfman. The number of combinations would be 100 times 99 times 98 etc....and it would be a huge number.....In short, Wolfman, a town would need 10 or twenty lawyers to just handle routine business. "

"Do you mean to say that the folks that are "UNIFIED" are just the lawyers?"

"That's EXACTLY correct, Wolfman." Up here in Normal, we do not have another lawyer besides myself. In fact, everything is so simple------- a notary could handle it."

"WOW." I exclaimed.

"Thank goodness we are back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can have hundreds of codes and have hundreds of folks that look after everything and not just a notary.

Alleluia.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Can't We All Be in Charge?"--or "Shared Governance" Shines in Normal, Mn. ----FICTION

Monday, September 25, 2006


Dateline Normal, Mn. : "Can't We all be in Charge?"; Or "Shared Governance" Shines In Normal, Mn.--fiction
(Ed. note. The following story from Normal is dedicated to one of my daughters who has been debating issues of "power" and "shared governance" with The Observer. Any resemblance to the real world is purely coincidental.)


It's been a pretty quiet week here in good Old Evansville, so I thought I would head the road up on Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, and spend a night or two in one of my favorite getaway towns--- Normal, Mn.. I stopped in late at the Spruce Goose Motel and rose in the morn and met my old friend, Herman, the country boy lawyer, for a spot of coffee, as usual, in the deep blue Viking mugs. It felt good. The Vikings were losing on T.V. The Packers were victorious. What could be better. I could at least be tolerant of the differences within the frozen tundra and sip from a Viking mug. I was tolerant and compassionate and benevolent. I could listen. After all, the Packers were in the win column.

I reflected to Herman that I had a few concerns about power these days and .....wondered how power operated in God's country. After all, Herman had recently been elected to the Normal School Board and also was a big activist in Normal, Mn. politics. I figured he should know.

"Shucks, Wolfman," (that's what he always called me) up here, we don't have any power."

"What?", I exclaimed.

"Yup", Herman went on. " Many years ago, we figured out that we could declare a budget crisis and just lay it on the line. We did not have the money to pay for supervisors, so we let every employee take a day as "Shift supervisor." The best part was, though, that we told everyone that normally we would cut wages, because of the budget crisis, but if they took the "in charge" for the day assigned, they could keep their normal pay."

"I cannot believe they fell for that," I said.

"They grew to love it, " Herman explained.

"Even when they were not "in charge", they were always looking over everyone's shoulder and in fact, they became a total auditing department. It is just wonderful!."

"So in fact everyone and noone is in charge?." I asked.

"Exactly" Herman exclaimed. "I know it is hard for you to understand, Wolfman, being as you like those chain of command charts, and being old fashioned as you are, but these are new fangled times, and .....besides.....it's a whole lot cheaper lettin everyone be in charge."

I had heard a lot about this new fangled "empowerment" and "Shared governance" but I never though it could have happened in God's country. What a shock.

Thank God I'm back in good ol Wisconsin. Where we have a structure to our lives. Where we have someone to report to. Where folks are accountable. Where it's not just some web of everybody ...and nobody....that decides.

Alleluia.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 4:54 PM

Dateline Normal: "The Rational Business Model, RBM"---FICTION

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Dateline Normal: The Rational Business Model, RBM----FICTION
(Ed. note. The following is one of a series of fictional tales from Normal, Mn.. These tales are available on CD and mailed in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked, FICTION)

The news has been real confusing lately, with all the political ads----and to make it worse, I have been sorting though all the audio from local school board meetings, trying to make rational sense of all the pronouncements.

So---I decided to head up Hwy 10 north to my favorite city, Normal, Mn., to see whether the brisk cold air could clear my mind. It is tough gettin old. Tough to get all the facts straight. Tough to make heads or tails of what the rational folk are saying.

After a good night's sleep at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are down, and the beds are pulled from the wall, economy style, I met Herman at the local diner. Yes, it is just like the old Mickey's Diner in Downtown St. Paul, which is featured on "The Prairie Home Companion," the movie.

I explained to Herman, over a tall, black, no sugar, but lots of whipped cream coffee, served in the blue Minnesota Viking mugs, that it was real hard to compare apples and oranges like I was trained to do, back in grade school. How could one analyze anything if the cagetories kept changing?

Herman just laughed. "Wolfman," (that's what he always called me) the problem is you are not familiar with the "RBM."

"Whatever could the RBM be?", I asked.

"Well, it's real simple. It stands for the "Rational Business Method."

"I still do not understand, " I said, in amazement.

"Well," Herman said, "Remember when Pres. Bush said that we got attacked by the terrorists, and then........ attacked Iraq?"

"Yup," I said. "I remember that real well."

"That was the RBM," The Rational Business Method. If you are attacked by A, it is always best to retaliate against C. It is the classic move. It is sheer moxie.

"It looks different locally," Herman went on. "Up here in Normal, some years back we had a huge crisis in space needs for the elementary school. Man was there division! It was real tense."

"Whatever did you do?" I asked.

'It is real SIMPLE," Herman replied. "We built a new high school." That is the RBM way.

"But how did that solve the problem?", I asked.

"It did NOT solve the problem," Herman went on, "but it did create a real award winnin high school, and besides, we got some real neat athletic stuff."

"What did you do with the elementary school? " I asked innocently.

"Nothing," Herman replied. " We just did away with early childhood education. After all, we are all late bloomers and ..well....sports...and booze...and well....cheese are real big up here in the north country."

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where they do not use the Rational Business Method. Where we do not start wars that do not make sense. And where we do not cut early childhood resources and add soccer lights in the same motion.

And where RBM stands for Real Bunch of Malarkey and not Rational Business Method. Alleluia.

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Posted by Evansville Observer at 1:07 PM 0 comments



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dateline Normal: "In Loco Parentis:" The Doctrine of the Crazy Parents---FICTION

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Dateline Normal: "In Loco Parentis;" Doctrine of the Crazy Parents---Fiction
(Ed. note. This story is one of a long series of fictional stories from Normal, Mn., a fictional town in just south of Garrison, Mn., near the famous land of Lake Woebegon. These stories have been recorded and are available on cd, and are shipped to readers in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked---FICTION." Readers do have the permission to download the audio directly from the Observer site. Relax while running, and driving and listen to a land so unlike our own----- the land of Normal.)

Last week, toward the end, while I was learning how to edit video, I had reached the instruction manual breaking point. There is a rule in our family, now that we parents are over 40, a rule that is even stronger among my brothers in law, that we never read the instruction manuals----we just wing it. Anything that can't be seen as "user friendly" or understandable in 15 minutes is simply returned as defective.
So---I decided to take a break and head up that long and winding road, Hwy. 10, north of the Twin Cities to Normal, Mn.

It was great to get back to the Spruce Goose Motel, right kiddy corner from the bait shop, and the only motel in Normal that had stuffed animals on the wall as standard, and yes of course, the fold down beds that lowered down from the wall, and of course the standard comforters---the highest down quality. After a relaxing sleep, I headed over to the coffee shop to meet Herman, my old college chum, now a country boy lawyer, and member of tbe Normal School Board.

I remarked to Herman that schools sure have come a long way. I just could not understand how the United States was able to survive until 1850 when our schools were organized in the territories. How ever did we produce folks like Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton?

The other thing I wondered was how schools in the northern Tundra handled the doctrine of "In loco parentis", in the place of the parents, the traditional doctrine that public education was founded on. How did it work up in God's Country.

Herman just let our a huge belly laugh.

"Wolfman, it is real simple, " he laughed. Up here we use a real straightforward interpretation of "in loco parentis. I never did learn no Latin, so I just call it the "LOCO PARENTS Rule"----It is just so easy to read Latin. It's just real strightforward. "

"But Herman," I exclaimed, "The role of the schools is just a partial one under the traditional definition."

"NOT UP HERE!" Herman laughed.

"Up here, we simply take charge. We do it our way. The parents are crazy and we have to take over. That's just the way it is. That's our role. It's real simple."

Herman was such a good friend. I just wish he had taken some Latin.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where "In LOCO Parentis" does not mean "The Crazy Parent Rule," and where we have choice as parents as to the role that schools play in optional areas of instruction.

Alleluia.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 10:10 AM 0 comments



Thursday, November 02, 2006

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

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.

Friday, May 4, 2007

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.

Alleluia.