Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Economic Development in Focus----FICTION

Well finally the temperature has risen and the flip side of flooding has risen its head. I was so excited to be able to drive on flat pavement again that I could not resist the urge to head out of town, up that long interstate to Normal, Mn., a small fishing town just south of Garrison, Mn., and a little west of the Land of Lake Woebegone.

Relax. I made a special point on the trip to stop in at the Norske Nook and power up with some blueberry pancakes and a special muffin. Wow. Sure makes traveling a pleasure when ya have a full stomach.

When I arrived in Normal, I headed over to Betty Lou's, the Coffee shop just kiddy corner from the Bait Shop. Herman was waiting for me in a booth. It was one of those vintage 1950's booths with the cracked red vinyl seats etc. A little Johney Rivers "Secret Agent Man" was playing on the juke box, and it felt great to be on the road again.

Anyway....the first thing I asked Herman was about Economic Development. We have been talking a lot about it in our fair city, and I just wondered about his perspective.

"We have a real successful Economic Development Program up here in Normal, and...shucks, it has been almost 10 years now just gettin better every year," Herman said.

I chimed in: "Tell me more. I am all ears. We are looking for just such a program."

Herman launched in on his topic. I could tell it was a favorite of his. "Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), it must have been about ten years ago a couple of the ladies in town, Millie, Norma and Eloise, had a hobby of making puppets for the local school kids when they put on a small puppet show at school. The more they thought about it, the more they felt this was a goldmine of an opportunity to engage the entire community, get to know one another better, and create a little productive commerce between everyone. So...they recruited other ladies to help with the knitting of the puppets, and lo and behold, soon almost every woman in town was involved.

Quickly, the brainstorm came to the folks at City Hall. Why not use this wonderful opportunity to engage the broader community and make it the centerpiece of the economic development for Normal. Wow. Everybody loved the idea. There were ten sponsors for the ordinance to have the city fully fund this wonderful project. It has been just a wonderful experience. In fact, up here in Normal, we call it the "Normal Miracle." It has just brought everyone together. Who would have thought that a little...or a lot...of puppets could have done that."

I was just a little stunned to hear about this. "But Herman, what has this to do with Economic Development? And besides, you have not added a new business to Normal in 50 years so what is the purpose of all this?"

I could tell by the look that Herman was offended by my question.

"I don't care what others think, Wolfman. We are real proud of our Economic Development Program up here in Normal. It makes us feel real good. And that is what counts."

And that is when I just went for a second cup of coffee, extra strong, with sugar and whipped cream in the dark blue Minnesota Viking mug. I could tell that the subject was closed. Those Minnesota Viking fans sure are stubborn folk.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "The Virtual Prom"------FICTION

Well. This is the most difficult time of the year. There is an intense urge to break away for a winter getaway, but the perils of driving prevent it, and the costs of an upscale tropical getaway are prohibitive----so I just thought I would give Herman, my old friend in Normal, Mn. a phone call instead....just to reach out and see what might be happening in the frozen tundra.

I wasted no time with formalities once I got Herman on the line.

"Herman, here in Wisconsin we have been in a tizzy about Prom planning and all. It seems that some folks felt that if a destination wedding was the modern thing, a destination prom would be likewise a real attractive option. After all. All the kids would be sharing quality time. The event would create little cleanup. And besides the kids would be on the bus to and from and the risks would be minimized of wayward conduct. So. Lots of plusses. What do you do up in Normal, Mn., Herman?"

"Shucks, Wolfman( that's what he always called me) you completely misunderstand the culture of modern youth. The point is not to share lots of time together. It is really just to spend a few moments uplifting and upscaling the fellow classmates at the ceremony, and then to split to party separately. All the while the parents think they are sipping ice water at the event.

Up here in Normal, Mn., we just do the event virtually-----we just have a VIRTUAL Prom----EVERYONE gets what they want. The school gets no fuss and mess. The kids get to party privately. And what is best of all, nobody gets to drive anywhere. What could be better? Besides. It is so cold up here in Normal, Mn., that nylons and fancy duds are just plain freezing. It just makes sense to go VIRTUAL.

I explained to Herman that here in Wisconsin, we are dead set against VIRTUAL. In fact, WEAC is at war with anything that is not hands on, down home, and hireable.

Herman was not sympathetic.

"If you do not believe in virtual, then you must stop whining about the muss and fuss of real events. Up here in God's country, we are in touch with the new....and the old. It's just the natural way."

Well. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can rail against virtual while we are on the computer 24/7 and never notice the inconsistency.