Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dateline Normal: "An Inconvenient Truth"--FICTION

Recently all of Wisconsin has been abuzz about all the politiking on the environment-----uplifting us all to be more sensitive to the needs of our world. In fact the phones have been just abuzzing with robocalls on many items. It seems the intensity to improve and make progress just has eclipsed the human spirit---and to make it possible to achieve our highest aspirations, we need to employ robots to make our calls for us.

Sometimes, when I reflect on these matters, I just pick up the phone and call my old friend Herman in Normal, Mn. . What a treat a cell phone call is. For years, Normal was outside of regular cellular service. Last year, an innovative firm offered a unique "bundle" of services that made it all possible. A local bait shop, or rather a beer, bait and ammo shop, a local tai chi and massage salon, and a cellular operator "bundled" their services so that it could be affordable in the northern tundra.

So I reached Herman this morn on his cell phone.

"Herman," I asked, "Have you seen the movie, "Inconvenient Truth?" It seems to be the rage around these parts. It was made by former Vice President Al Gore."

"Haven't seen it, Wolfman. (That's what he always called me.) Up here we still are watching those old John Wayne movies. They are still profitable and run weekly at the "Reel Time" Theatre. I have seen the pitch though. The deal about the heating up of the earth and all. The message just is not too important up here."

"Whatever could be more of an inconvenient truth than that?", I asked.

"Well, Wolfman---up here we are real down to earth. The real threat is MERCURY in the fish. That is going to kill us a lot quicker than a little heatin up of the atmosphere.

"But the number one killer and REAL inconvenient truth is underage drinking. Used to be just a few Elvis rebel types were seen as cool if they smoked and drank. Real hero types. Now with the smokin dying out because of the cancer thing----the real rebel thing has been booze---and what's even worse CHEAP beer. The kids are drinking themselves and all of us to death---death on the highways. The bottom line, Wolfman----ya have to get off the roads by 8PM on weekends. Everyone up in these parts is dead drunk. In fact, they have moved up the happy hour at the Hideaway Lounge to 1pm to 2PM. It has changed everything."

"WOW," I exclaimed. What an energy saver! Ya mean that there is no driving after 8PM."

"Exactly Correct Wolfman. Exactly." "If ya wanna live....ya stay home."

Totally shocked---I got off the phone with Herman.

Thank goodness we live in good old Wisconsin. Where happy hour does not start at 1PM. Where we do not stay home at night so we can be safe. Where we have the freedom to do as we please. Where we still have the power to deny Inconvenient Truth. And welcome the consequences.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Second Opinion"------FICTION

Last week, just as I was about to head out of town, I got the call. A friend from the Twin Cities had gotten some terrible news. "M" as he is called, had been a fanatical athlete all through the years. All these years his motto has been "If a little is good, a lot is better----about candy...and also weight lifting. If I rowed my rower 200 strokes, he rowed 5000 strokes, if I benched 100 lbs, he benched 300 lbs. But that was then....

"I tore my rotator cuff, " "M" said. I went to a surgeon this morn and he said we needed to go to surgery "immediately." What should I do now?"

This was a rare moment. "M" never called me for advice....about anything. He must have remembered that I spent some time in health care...but that was years ago when ambulance runs cost $50....and when hospitals were hospitals and not medical centers with chopper pads up top. I knew "M" was counting on me for some insight. A little leverage that experience brings. So, I said,

"I'll call Herman in Normal, Mn. and see what he thinks. In the meantime, I will come to the Twin Cities in case we need to get a "SECOND OPINION". I heard about them "second opinions" from truly distinguished international medical facilities that have many chopper pads and where many, many languages are spoken...even English. "

"M" said he would be waiting to hear what I could arrange and see me in 6 hours after the drive.

Enroute, I called Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn. . I relied on his down home wisdom and legal knowhow in.... well,...almost every area of life. I know his specialty was real estate....but still.... I hoped he knew something about rotator cuffs.

"Herman", I said on the cell phone, "what do you know about "second opinions" and where could I get one."

Herman let out a huge belly laugh. "Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), "second opinions" are dime a dozen. Just go to any bar and strike up a question on baseball or football and you will get lots of second opinions. In fact, love, money and sports are big areas where lots of opinions are available."

"I need one on "rotator cuffs," I said.

"That's a problem, Wolfman. That's a BIG problem. Second opinions are just for stuff that is NOT really too important....like sports.....or.... politics. When it comes to REAL deadly serious stuff....like medicine....and YES....... engineering matters.....there is really only ONE opinion. It's just that when things get REAL serious, folks that consider themselves second opinion guys get all sensitive about offending the sensitivities of any of their "esteemed" collegues. "

"How could that be?," I asked.

"It's real Simple, Wolfman. Remember when you were a kid and you were in the grocery store and wanted a candy bar. "I want THAT ONE MOM,!!!!!! Remember? Your mom offered a SECOND OPINION. "That's not good for you.....".

"Doctors and Engineers are just like little kids. They know a candy bar when they see one....and .....well.....it's rare that anyone ever gets a second opinion out of them.....". Even a clear cut FIRST opinion is sometimes hard. Sometimes ya just get a "double handed" opinion I call em,....."On the one hand....but on the other hand...."....you know what I mean, Wolfman."

"I disagree, Herman, " I blurted out. I just know there must be total professionals that could help. But I will remember what you have said." Then I hung up just as cell phone reception was getting rough.

When I got through the bad cell phone area, I arranged a "stat" second opinion appointment. Had the records faxed. Told "M" I would pick him up shortly and told him to get his medical history sorted out in his head.

When we arrived after a two hour drive to the world famous medical center, I went over the history:

Sent MRI Left Shoulder
Sent X Ray Right Shoulder
Confirmed arrival
Had MRI taken Right Shoulder
Had X Ray of Left Shoulder

Sitting in the room with "M" I was thinking about the words of "Herman" and the candy bar. I just knew that a second opinion was possible.

Just then, the doctor entered the consulting room. No sooner than he had entered, his cell phone went off. He smiled. "Just be a second," he smiled. He then went over schedule conflicts in a very detailed way. Then he got three more calls.

After about five minutes of calls, the visit began:

"Well, I have good news, " he said. "The right shoulder is not torn. It is strained, but it should be o.k. if ya just take it easy for a while. "

"What about the left, " "M" asked.

"Shucks," the doc said, "If the right is ok, the left is probably o.k. too."

I could still hear Herman's words about that candy bar as the conversation resumed.

"M' said, "Here is the first doctors report that says the left is torn. "

"Well, if it says so, I guess it is torn, " the doc said.

"When would you like to schedule surgery? Yup. We could fit you in next week. Just let my secretary know."

Just then the cell phone started ringing.

"O.K. lets fit a 3:30Pm in and then adjust the.........as the converstation trailed off......"

I had Herman's telephone number on speed dial.

"O.K. Herman. You were RIGHT. Why didn't you tell me that a SECOND OPINION is just another guy reading the first guy's written report and making another charge?

"Relax Wolfman. Relax...... Just step away from the medical center........ Bring "M" up to Normal. Meet me at the Hideaway Lounge. We've got a real good doc up here that can help. Great Bass fisherman........"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Games of Quid Pro Quo"--FICTION

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.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 6:54 AM

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dateline Normal: Saturday Night Lights: "Party Time----at the Grocery Store"--FICTION

Well, it's been a long week. After the long and bruising school board race, there are only so many times a guy can watch Rocky V. After several viewings, I simply got tired of Sylvester Stallone going to the graveyard to put flowers on the grave....It was time to move on.....

I headed out of town and over the long and winding road up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cites to one of my favorite getaway spots---not the only one as some detractors alledge----Normal, Mn.. At the end of that long drive, I was ready for a refreshing beverage. I just could not wait to meet the whole gang at the Hideway Lounge. I had made my reservation at the Spruce Goose Motel so I was ready to party.

I called Herman on the cellphone as I entered town, and he said just to meet him at the Hideway---but they were going to a new place tonight since it was such a special post school board race party. When I got to the Hideaway, I saw the whole gang and they were really dressed up. No scrubby jeans. No rough shaven. No rough and tumble. They were in full party attire.

"What is the deal", I asked. " Why so dressy?"

"It's real simple," Herman belted out. "Up here in northern Minnesota they just passed a law that allows drinking in grocery stores. A free 6oz of beer as a sample. Just in case folks FORGOT how it tastes. Aint that somethun? It's like a miracle. We go out there every Saturday night now. "

I had heard about this new development. Why right here in Wisconsin, our own Gov. Doyle had mentioned that he supported the legislation. In fact, there was hardly one soul in Wisconsin that opposed it. The Gov had said that Wisconsin had a world class product...and well....they had to show off what a fine product it was. It sure was hard to argue with that progressive thinkin. If you have it. Flaunt it. Sell baby sell. Givin it away free is just the way to begin.

"I do not see how 6oz of beer could satisfy anyone, Herman. How does this work?, I asked.

"It's real simple, Wolfman, (that what he always called me.) We just try one bit of a sample and then shop, and shop, .....test another sample...and shop, shop, shop...Why sometimes we spend the whole night.....After a night of drinking beer, it is a natural to buy some snacks....which just happen to be handy. What could be better."

"Wow", I exclaimed. "This is really a dynamite concept."

"Yup," Herman gushed, "It's REAL progressive. That's where the "Fighting" part of Fighting Bob LaFollette comes from. After a full night of beer tastin it is REAL easy to get in a fight in the snacks aisle. The snack shelves sell out real quick. "

Well. Stunned I got in the car and headed back to good old Evansville. Where a Bloody Mary is still available. Where a Martini, shaken not stirred or a Manhatten is within easy reach.....and

Where we party down at Supermarkets---NOT.

Thank Goodness.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tales From Normal: "Going Green Olympic Style"---FICTION

Well the excitement is building for the 2007 Energy Fair here in Evanville on April 27th, with the grand parade of "veggie" cars coming to town. Everyone from toddler to totally retired is thinking GREEN------ thinking of how totally cool it is to be EVANSVILLE-----the SOYBEAN capital of Wisconsin. WOW! What excitement.

Feeling pretty energized the other night, I picked up the phone and called my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer in Normal, Mn., the small getaway town up Hwy 10 just south of Garrison and west of the land of Lake Woebegon. I was wondering if they too were concerned with GREEN.

So I just blurted it out: "Herman, have you heard of this GREEN thing. Energy conservation and all. Gas mileage. Sensitivity to the earth and such. Has this concept been heard of up in the northern tundra?

SHUCKS, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) we invented the GREEN concept up here. It was started up here years ago. It was invented by Henry GREEN----a bona fide genuine relative of RED GREEN---

"Do you mean the legendary Red Green of Possum Lodge and the TV show," I asked.

"YES" Herman replied.

"We love everything about the Red Green Show---that is ----except the Possum Lodge pledge."

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"It's real simple," Herman replied. The "Man's Oath," is: "I am a man....and I can change....if I have to....I think."

"Up in these parts, we just say: "I'm a man....and I don't plan on changing anything..Ever."

"We just adjusted the Possum Lodge thing to our cultural norm. It never changes up here. Period.

"What happened to the GREEN thing, " I asked.

"Well," Herman replied, "Every year on EARTH DAY, Henry Green, takes one of them school busses that runs on genuine USA gasoline, and packs the TRACK TEAM in it. That is 75 kids as well as equipment....and sets an olympic record for miles per pound transported. After all. We feel strongly about conservation.

"Ya mean you pack em in like that all year round?" I asked.

"Shucks no," Wolfman. "Just the track team. The football team needs TWO busses. After all. Someone might get sick and a packed bus could get REAL messy."

Thank goodness I'm back in good old Wisconsin. Where energy conservation means more than just packing a track team of 75 in an old school bus to save some energy.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

Dateline Normal: "Superbowl Punk"

A classic tale from Normal, Mn., on "Superbowl Punk," the classic 1985 Chicago Bears and the global impact of punk on financial affairs, and even on the Normal School District

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Dateline Normal: The Cameras-----Fiction

Last night after watching the live camera in the historic four square of downtown Evansville capture all the live excitement of the vibrant downtown, I called Herman, my countryboy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn. to share the good news.

" Just click on the link on The Observer," I explained to Herman. "Is that cool or what?"

"What is the purpose?" Herman asked.

"It is just to keep track of the historic restoration of our downtown----basically to watch how the bricks are coming," I responded.

"That's nothin, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.) Up here we had TEN cameras. Man was that something."

"What do you mean HAD ten cameras, Herman. Did not the cameras work properly."

"They worked just WONDERFUL, "Herman gushed. "They worked just too darn well. Ya gotta understand, Wolfman, there are only two intersections in Normal, Mn... With ten cameras we had it totally covered. In fact TOO covered. Our cops just sat in the police station and watched their computers. Pretty soon, it became a threat to public health."

"What do you mean a threat to public health?," I asked. It sounds like nirvana to me."

"It was a threat since all crime just dried up. There was nothing for the police or the judges and lawyers to do. It was a real catastrophe."

"Wow." I said. "I never thought of that possibility."

Thank goodness I am back here in good old Evansville. Where we only have ONE camera downtown. And where we have just enough crime to keep everyone busy.