Archives: January 2006
Tue Jan 31, 2006
Getting in fun was trouble
Yes, Mountain Man was indeed a non-conformist, he was a take-charge kind of a guy, I guess, behind the scenes. You’d just never guess from talking to him, not that people boast of that sort of activity.
So that was on my mind as we slipped into our suits, scrambled into the van, and swooshed over to the Concordia campus. I always thought showing up late to these things was kinda cool; it was like, yeah, we’re here but it’s no big deal, probably gonna lose anyway, but don’t underestimate us cause we might just kick your butts. Something like that- and I’ve already told you how far that attitude got me.
As fate would have it, when we strolled into the lobby, a gaggle of girls from the Aitkin
squad were standing around, and smiling at me was Jenny: short, dark, smoldering brown
eyes, and a slightly devious smile. Had it been Jen?, I thought to myself. No way, she was
too nice, I think she kinda had a thing for me and that repulsed me, but in this group of
potential debaucherists, her currency had just risen.
“Ladies... allow me to introduce to you the next State Champion of Extemp, David
“Oh God, shut-up, Roger!”
“And did I mention, modesty?”
(girls) “Hi Dave.”
We stood together in the lobby for a few minutes, chatting about the blizzard, our
speeches, and then finally I slipped it in:
“So, you guys coming to the big party, tonight?”
I could feel Dave looking at me sideways.
“Umm, I think someone from Grand Rapids is having it up on the 2nd floor- Mountain
“Yeah, what’s his name, Dave?”
“Ummm, I don’t know.” he lied.
“I think it’s, like, Chris or something like...”
A chorus of “Ohhhh’s” and “Yeah’s” and then “Probably not’s” passed through the group
and I examined each face for a sign of guilt, but since they all seemed to be looking at the
ground, it was difficult to tell.
“You guys should stop up- just for a little- we’re not gonna be there long... thinking of
having our own party or something.”
“Yeah? That sounds like fun!” Brightened Jenny.
“Oh look,” I averted “Jack’s waving us over, but uh... we’ll see you guys tonight, huh?”
“Okay, bye Roger, Bye Dave”
“Jesus!” sighed Dave as we walked away. “Party? Our room? Tonight??? Do you realize
we are sharing a room with Stewart!?”
“Yeah, let’s worry about that later.” More...
Sat Jan 28, 2006
We Called Him Mountain Man
We arrived in Moorhead, Fargo’s sister city to the east, early that afternoon, and made our way to- I believe it was a Super 8, or Motel 75, just south of I94 on 8th street. The sleet had continued through most of the trip, slowing us considerably, and now we were running late. There was tension in the van; we’d have little time to check-in to the hotel, change into dress-clothes, find our way to the Concordia campus, pick up our schedules, and then find the site of our first round.
But when we arrived in the hotel lobby, there was a familiar face beaming at us from the top of the stairs on the second floor.
It was Chris Pollard from Grand Rapids, but we called him “Mountain Man” because he’d once walked into a round versus Dave and I, wearing only a pair of shorts and a raccoon-skin hat with a tail, and argued passionately that going back to the days and ways of Davy Crockett was the only solution to the country’s unemployment woes.
He was also the only person from Grand Rapids that we ever talked to. Mr. Armstrong had villainized their team, whose Greg Crowe and Tracy Lessman had won the state championship the previous year, calling them greasers. (Meaning slippery arguments, not 50’s style-haircuts.) And after watching Mike Vergin rock the novice championship for ‘Rapids in my first year, it seemed as good as explanation as any for their success.
“You’re running late, too?”
“As always, you guys wanna hang out and listen to my new speech?”
“Wish we could, but we gotta fly! The girls wanna get there early and scam Cardy
“WHATEVER, Roger!” chipped in Amy Leino.
“Well, hey, you guys- AND girls- are all invited to my room later, gonna be a big party.”
“All right, cool. We’re there!”
“Ewww, not me!” said Amy, under her breath as we turned and headed for our section of
“What?” I said, “You don’t like Mountain Man?”
Amy was a tall, thin-framed junior, quiet most of the time, but excitable to the point of
“Well, let’s just say I’ve heard rumors.”
“Rumors?! What kind of rumors?” More...
Wed Jan 25, 2006
A Rescue Story
Finally we hit the road. There were a dozen of us in the van, driven by our assistant coach -whom I can’t remember except for that he was quiet and liked to listen to Simon and Garfunkel. The rest- Corey Stewart and a couple others -rode with our coach, Jack Armstrong, in his brown, 4-door Buick. We’d barely exited the school parking lot when I noticed it. Jack’s unmistakable nuclear yellow gas-station coffee mug with the red screw-on top: it was resting on the roof of his buick. “Hey everyone, look!” I pointed toward Jack’s car. “What a dough-head!!!” roared Dave. “What? What???” exclaimed Amy Leino. And then, “Oh my God!!!” A cacophony of laughter erupted in the van. The oddity of Jack’s Mug, fixed atop his car as it glided down Central Entrance towards highway 35, had us squealing in delight and speculating as to its fate. Down the entrance ramp and onto the freeway; we groaned in anticipation. Our driver attempted to signal Jack with the van’s hazard lights, but to no avail; The Buick steamed ahead, the mug shimmying along with the rest of the morning rush-hour traffic. How he- or anyone else in the car, for that matter- hadn’t noticed the mug’s absence was almost beyond belief, but it had the full attention of everyone in the van as we began the crawl up the massive hill leading out of the city. Wait! Was it sliding? It looked like it just slid about 2 inches!!! We screamed. More...
Sat Jan 21, 2006
My hair, Jack's hair
Duluth, Minnesota is the western-most point on the world’s largest body of fresh water, Lake Superior... On the morning of my second visit to Fargo...Thousands of orange lights competed with the dim glow of dawn to illuminate the harbor, its famous lift bridge obscured in fog...an inland bay whose far shores formed the city of Superior, Wisconsin.
It was the usual pandemonium...“Just wear sneakers like a good yuppie,”...looking you dead in the eye trying to explain how a certain syllogism cost you the round, screaming as the van weaves over the center line...Garrison Keillor’s voice booms...“A prairie Home companion” cranked over the van’s crappy radio. Bruce Messelt and Judy Grew, they’d won the State Championship...I should’ve been wearing a hat, but I figured that might mess up
my hair...the brown 4-door Buick, pulled up to the van and screeched to a halt. “Hey, you’ve got to hear about this article I was reading in the U.S news and World Report, last night!”
“Yeah?” Jack was a genuine logical thinker... What does a guy do on a computer in 1987, anyway? Did the internet even exist then? playing Castle Wolfenstein on the school’s Apple IIe’s was as good as it got...but that’s when I noticed it: A comb... More...
Tue Jan 17, 2006
Mr. Steele meets Giorgio of Beverly Hills
... is the greatest sport high school has to offer. You skip classes to make road trips...en route to college towns to dress-up and pretend... with punks, anarchists, and outcasts from around the state...all possible because our coach, Jack Armstrong, believed... It was senior year and my confidence was high... finished basic combat training... in the trumpet section, next to mighty Jon Flanders, anything seemed attainable if you just smiled. One of the sophomore girls, Mariah Steele, lived in the central hillside...her Dad inexplicably rolled down his window...my cologne. More...
Thu Jan 12, 2006
The Summer of '76
And I did make it to Montana.
It was the summer of 1976, the country was about to turn 200 years old.
Other guys my age loved it, but handling grimy bait and dirty hooks and those sharp spines on the fish- a guy could get hurt. The real fun was building a fire. We passed under the baby-blue “Gateway to the west” arches on I-94 & University. The voyage from Fargo to Montana is remarkable. we would immediately drive up one of the nearby mountains through a place called “Beartooth Pass”. Time had no place in Montana, for me. I have only inane memories. The town was lit-up. that guy just got kicked in the ribs by a saddle bronc’- .The lady in front of me was really a piece of work. wild, swingin’ in the streets, partyin’ kind of a place. More...
Sun Jan 08, 2006
How in the... did I end up here anyway?
I remember in 1st grade back at Jefferson Elementary in Duluth, Minnesota- Mrs. Aho's Class. I was sitting in the back row with Jennifer Taylor and Jodi Slinger and we were going over the map of the United States in class. I asked Jennifer where she wanted to live someday.
"Montana" she said.
My eyes traced the route on the map from Duluth west, across Minnesota, across North Dakota, and over to Montana.
"Why?" I asked. More...