Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"The Chamber"-----Fiction

Well it's been a real wild and crazy school board race, so right before the election, I thought I would go counterintuitive and escape to do a little reflection, and drive up to my favorite getaway----Normal, Mn.

About an hour this side of town, rolling along nicely on Hwy 10, I called Herman on my cell phone to see if he could meet me at the Hideaway Lounge.

"He's at "Chamber", his secretary said. "He should be through by 6PM. Just meet him at the Hideaway. I will get him the message."

As I parked the car at the Hideaway Lounge, I could see Herman's four wheel jeep, with the "No fear" sticker on the window, a trademark he loved just because it made him feel so young.. He waved a big wave from the bar and I headed towards him. He had already ordered me a drink.

"What's with the "Chamber" I asked. What is that?

"It used to be called the "Chamber of Commerce." Years ago, guys got frustrated cause that is just too darn long a name. Anyway, it still sounds like a death chamber or a gas chamber. The guys just call it "The Club."

"I suppose the purpose is really to drum up business for Normal?", I asked.

"Heavens no," Herman exclaimed. "We haven't added a business here in almost 50 years. The real purpose of the meeting is the lunch. It comes with membership. Once you pay the $150 annual fee, you get the monthly lunch and highball. The lunch is really special since it is the lunch combo special. Guys would cancel a vacation to get this deal. And yes. The regulars usually bring a half-pint of Jack Daniels in their coat to mix with a 7-UP. Sometimes ya need more than just one highball. "

"Besides," Herman went on, "Chamber" is really about keeping folks out----not letting them in. It is real important that we don't get any new fangled business in here that might harm one of the regulars....if you know what I mean. So when we do get a new prospect....we kinda hang em if you know what I mean."

The word "hang" kinda reminded me of the Saddam Hussein "chamber" and it kinda gave me the willies just to think of it.

It sure is good to get back to good old Wisconsin. Where we still have Chamber of Commerce and not just Chamber. Where we really can welcome the new.....and not get on with the hanging.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"The Life Saver"------Fiction

Last night, right after the Planning Commission meeting, I experienced a once in a life time event-----the chance to save a life. Yes.

I got the cell phone call from the Garrison Hospital Emergency Room at 9PM. Herman, my old country boy lawyer, had been taken via med flight there after suffering heart attack symptoms. I dropped everything and rushed to his side.

I rushed right to the intensive care where he was on a breathing device.

"How did this happen, Herman, ?" I asked. You seemed fine right before Valentine's Day. Then he explained.

For Valentine's Day, his wife gave him a surprise gift. A large Lane stratolounger and a large big screen tv. She explained that she was proud of him, and being that he was on the Normal School Board and all, she felt he deserved it.

The next day, after very little sleep, with all the channels to explore and all, he felt his wife deserved a matching stratolounger----with beautiful leather just like his.

The problem began to build right away however. With the two large stratoloungers and the big screen TV in action, there was no room left to entertain...and even move about.

Then Herman's wife had the solution. A 4000 square ft home was available at the edge of town in the fashionable new area.

"You deserve it, Herman, " she said.

It seems that there were no homes that just had a large living room and nothing else large. It was "supersize" or nothing.

Besides, his wife explained that their "building capacity" had changed and that according to her calculations, they were 2000 sq. ft. short.

What a crisis situation! It was worse than any I had faced here at home. After all. She thought she loved him.

After a whispered conversation with Herman, with all the breathing tubes and such really in the way, I reminded Herman that under Minnesota law, he had a "cooling off period" and I begged him to use it.

He agreed. When his wife saw what rough shape Herman was in, she also agreed.

After arranging for the return of both stratoloungers and the big screen T.V., and cancelling the house purchase agreement, I headed back to good old Wisconsin.

It sure is good to get back home. Where we don't redefine "building capacity" on a whim and give folks a heart attack.


"The Moot Squad"--or "The Fire"--FICTION

On fires, On investigations, On mute or "moot" squads....and much, much, more.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Dateline Normal---"The MOOT SQUAD"----Fiction

Well....after a real hectic period of weeks in the midst of a wild and crazy school board election race, I decided to take a little time off to go ice fishing. I headed up that long and winding road up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities to my favorite getaway town, just south of Garrison, Mn. , Normal,Mn.

Just as I was within a half hour of Normal, they announced on WJCX, the only real down home country radio station in those parts, that the snow plows were being removed from the roads due to decreasing visibility. It was a little harrowing. I just eased the little Mazda up behind a Hummer and proceeded into town. Thank goodness there was still a room left at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel in town with the standard premium down comforters, the stuffed animals on the wall, and the pull down beds.

I was just famished from the long drive. I went right over to the ash tray and grabbed the mini-dove bar that was standard as a little upscale treat, and headed over to the local diner for a hearty breakfast.

Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend, was already right in the middle of his "double-down home hearty breakfast," a plate of 4 eggs, 4 sausage of your choice, double hash browns and a double expresso, when I arrived. I was sold immediately.

"I'll have what he is having, " I blurted out to the waiter.

Before I could even ask about the fishing, Herman announced: "Our plans have changed, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.)" We have a full fledged fire investigation on our hands. "

"Whatever could have happened," I wondered.

"Real simple. " The local beer, bait, and ammo" shop, called "The Bait House," just burned to the ground the other night. It looks real suspicious. All the locals are on the job investigating. The MOOT SQUAD has been called to officially handle the case."

"I just don't understand", I said. WHY would the "Moot Squad" and not the FIRE MARSHAL be called to investigate. "

"It's real simple, Wolfman. Up here whenever there is a fire, we do not waste time looking for a pyromanic.....we just look for the root of all evil----or at least the root up here....and that is beer....bait ......or ammo." That is precisely what the MOOT SQUAD specializes in. "

"I do not understnd why you call it "The Moot Squad," I wondered.

"Well, the rest of the world calls it the ATF, but up here we always call the "MOOT SQUAD", a group of highly trained professionals, investigators, lawyers and administrators---and whenever asked about the investigation-----------they always know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. That's where the MOOT comes from."

Thinking back on many of the fire investigations I could remember------- I did have to agree with Herman. As soon as the spade work of the locals starts, absolutely everyone who is questioned or does the questioning knows absolutely nothing.

" I know nothing. " "I didn't ask. He didn't say" "I dunnow", " Maybe, Maybenot." they all reply. WOW.

"YUP," Herman chuckled, "It's a real tight knit group. Total professionals. They know absolutely nothing. It's just the way up here. It makes a man proud to just live in these parts."

After a relaxing weekend talking to all the locals about what they knew, I headed back to good old Wisconsin.......where we don't call the MOOT SQUAD first and not the fire department. Where it is the ATF, not the MOOT SQUAD. And where they are saying nothing,.....at least for now. We will see about later......


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Destination Wedding"

On Destination Weddings, the theory and practice. On love and fishing in Normal. On no extra charge....and much, much more.

Dateline Normal: "The Destination Wedding"---Fiction

(Ed. this is one of a long series of tales from the land called Normal, Mn., a land not so unlike our own, up HWY 10 north of the Twin Cities, west of Lake Woebegone and south of Garrison. These tales are available for download FREE from Itunes, and when they are shipped out on cd, they are wrapped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked FICTION. )

As a baby boomer, now that the kids are graduating from college, and beginning to pay their student loans, it has come as a shock to me that many have decided to get married----a shock since as I calculate it in my mind, they barely can afford an apartment and car with the wages that entry level jobs that are available can provide........

Recently, an excited friend announced that she was going to wed....and planned a "destination wedding." I was unsure of what she was talking about initially. Then she went over the details.

"Destination weddings can save $20,000 from the cost of a regular wedding," she declared in an excited tone. " In fact, by inviting one's closest family members, the lucky couple can get a special discount on lodging and air fare.........and....with the savings can upgrade to even a higher level of luxury. "

Then she just popped the laptop down in front of me and showed me the website. It seems that one could get a dream wedding and honeymoon that regularly cost $60,000 for the superrich, for only $20,000.

She did explain that she well understood that some family members might be unable to pay the 4-6,000 to getaway for a special vacation with the bride and groom. To accomodate those folks, the couple would come back to a local hotel later for a special reception so folks could give more gifts. Absolutely nobody would be overlooked.

As I listened to her speak, I could feel my windpipe begin to close and I felt that an inhaler was not going to help. Indeed, the anxiety was total. Then----just when my breathing was getting mos difficult, she blurted:

"Don't worry. We plan on putting this all on our credit cards. No problem."

I was speechless.

I sat down in the small diner after I arrived in Normal, and soon Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend, joined me for my usual coffee----dark bold, extra sugar and whipped cream, served in the usual dark blue Minnesota Vikings mug.

Herman looked over at me and said:

"Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) you look awful. What is the matter? "

"Do you know anything about "destination weddings, Herman?", I asked. I just do not get it. What has happened to the old fashioned ways? "

Herman let out a huge belly laugh.

"Destination weddings are just for folks that don't know where they are going, " Herman said. After all, who would design a celebration that nobody could attend except by putting everyone in financial peril.....and then to make it worse....... do a double dip and plunder the locals who could not attend? "

Then Herman went on. "Up here in Normal, we have PURPOSE. "Purpose" and "Destination" are different."

"How so,?" I asked.

"Up here.......... everything is real simple. We love nature. We just love to fish. And yes .....we love rock and roll at the Hideway Lounge. Love just comes at no extra charge. We do weddings right in the midst of a fishing trip. .....It's no big deal. We just focus on the "purpose" and leave the "destination" thing for confused city folks. "

"Aren't you being a bid hard in this matter Herman?", I asked.

"I am just telling it like it is, Wolfman," he replied.

Then we were off to fish. Herman was helpful in getting the bait just right, getting the right location----wow were the fish hitting.

All the while as we were drifting and casting, I kept going over what Herman had said. Especially the part about the "love" being at no extra charge. I needed to go over the details of that on the next trip.

I have to admit. On the long drive back to good old Wisconsin. I did review. Thank goodness we live in the land of cheese and beer. Where we have "value meals",......and "value weddings".....and where one can schedule a "destination wedding".....and such.