Archives: February 2006

Mon Feb 27, 2006

“What a bust!”

I was wearing a faggy 80’s sweater, tons of cologne, and had just made a final adjustment to my hair when Corey all but shoved us out the door. Did we even have keys to get back in?
“Oh, well,” assured Dave, “we’ll just have to pound on the door till the sonofabitch opens it.”
I imagined Corey finally jerking open the door to the hotel room we shared, two in the morning, standing there red-faced, and then I remembered the bruise he’d left on my arm from that punch the other week.
“Yeah,” I winced, “or maybe we can just get the guy at the lobby to ring him till he answers.”
We rounded the corner into the lobby and headed up the stairs towards Mountain man’s room. I noticed it was still snowing outside, kind of a drizzle or sleet, driven at an angle by gusts of wind. What a dreary, cold, windy, dark place Fargo-Moorhead is, I remember thinking.
I hesitated and knocked for the third time on mountain man’s door. This time there were
sounds, footsteps and then the door cracked open. A bleary-eyed Mountain Man squinted at us.
“Oh, hey guys... hold on a second.”
The door closed and re-opened a few moments later. Chris’s shirt was buttoned low and
crooked, his hair a tousled mess. And a girl, whom I didn’t recognize, sat on the bed, knees tucked up towards her chin, a blanket wrapped below her bare shoulders.
Dave, I think not realizing what was going on, struck up some small talk, and Mountain man admirably returned his volleys.
I nodded, embarrassed towards the girl on the bed, and then mentioned something about
the girls on our team having a get-together in their room.
“Oh, really?” said Dave.
“Yeah, I think we’ll be headin’ down there- just thought we’d stop by and invite you.” I motioned to Dave and we headed for the door.
“Yeah, I’m thinkin’ it’s gonna be an early night for me. We’ll catch you guys tomorrow.”
offered Mountain Man as we left the room.
“What a bust!” I sighed to Dave as the door closed behind us.
“Yeah, why’d you tell him the girls on our team were having a party, anyway, Rog?”
I was cutoff by the sight of four pretty girls heading down the hall in our direction. I raised my eyebrows and nodded in their direction.
What luck! It was the Aitkin squad.
They were led by Jen, a short, fiery-spirited brunette who More...

9:24 pm

Sat Feb 11, 2006

How I got punched over a JFK joke

So, we’d made it to the tournament, we’d drawn our schedules, and we were headed for the first round of competition, which for myself and fellow seniors Dave Schramm and Corey Stewart, was extemporaneous speaking, or extemp, a category in which you draw the topic you’ll be speaking on just minutes prior to your speech.
Extemp topics are based on current events and ask such questions as, “What should the government do to stop the spread of AIDS?” In each round, students from several schools speak on a multitude of topics before judges who decide which speakers most effectively addressed their questions.
Dave and Corey and I had been on the extemp circuit for the past two years and of the three of us I was the weakest speaker. I enjoyed the little things: the thrill of opening up the little slip of paper with the question on it- like a fortune cookie, and the challenge of mustering a speech in a matter of minutes.
My problem was depth, a lack of it. I held only a passing interest in current events because reading magazines like Time and U.S. News and World Report put me to sleep, and the valuable insight that our coach Jack Armstrong offered never took root with me. I tried to make up for it by keeping things simple, organized, and by being dramatic, but most judges sensed it was superficial.
Corey, on the other hand, was prepared. He was up on the issues, kept an ear open to Jack’s advice, and worked hard to prepare his speeches, which were deep on analysis, but often lacking the charisma needed to deliver his point.
And then there was David. He had something in spades that neither Corey nor I possessed: sincerity. He spoke in an easy-going, but deliberate manner that gave you the impression of a grandfather telling a parable, his heavy-set frame draped in a tan pinstripe suit, a solemn expression on his face; deep brown eyes imploring from behind beat-up spectacles, everything told you that he was serious about whatever he was talking about. And he’d grown into an excellent speaker over his junior year, showing vast improvements with each tournament.
In between my own speeches that day, I decided to sneak over to the room where Dave was competing. He was giving his, “Every journey begins with one step...” introduction to warm-up a judge to the idea of improving trade-relations with China. Where other speakers would come at you with glitz & glib, facts and figures, Dave would tell a story, weaving in examples and statistics precisely when the listener needed them, building suspense that eased only when he drew you back to his original conclusion.
What had Jack said about Dave? -That he was a plow-horse. And we’d ribbed Dave a bit about that. But now he was reaping the harvest. His delivery, though still natural, had smoothed out nicely. He sounded... polished. And the judge, I could see out of the corner of my eye, was already nodding towards him in agreement.
That had to be a good feeling. My judges often got a quizzical expression on their faces. Which was actually helpful as it’d cue me to go into explanation mode- or BS mode in my case; either way the judges knew it wasn’t prime-time.
So it was no surprise that by the end of the day, after four speeches, Dave had scored high enough to guarantee an advance to the quarter-finals on Saturday, while Corey and I were on the outside looking in; we’d need top scores in our first speeches on Saturday morning, otherwise we’d be out of it.
Dave’s high-scoring, along with some smaller sophomore successes, had put the team in a good mood, and we all went to Pizza Hut afterward to celebrate.
It was easy to be excited for Dave because he was modest. If it had been Corey, I think I’d have been jealous, but with Dave it was like having your brother do well- and that’s the kind of friendship Dave and I had.
It was around 8pm when we arrived back at the hotel. Jack smiled wearily and admonished us all to get to bed early so we’d be up for tomorrow’s competition.
Corey took Jack at his word, eagerly unpacking his things and preparing for bed as soon as we'd returned to our room.
Ugh! I thought to myself. Friday night and it’s what? -not even nine o’clock. And to make matters worse it was my turn to share a bed with Corey. Last time that happened, a few weeks earlier, Dave and I had stayed up late making wise-cracks from across the room, ignoring Corey’s pleas for silence when I pushed it too far by making a crack about John F Kennedy’s alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe. Suddenly he turned over and punched me in the arm as hard as he could.
“Shut-up, Hastings! That’s a bunch of bullshit that no one’s ever proven, and if you guys don’t shut up now, I’m gonna beat one of you up.”
I buried my face in my pillow and screamed, dying of laughter, my ribs busting up, hurting twice as hard now, and Dave wasn’t helping, wasn’t trying to hide his laughter.
Corey just shrugged and rolled over.
Apparently the incident was still on his mind, too.
“Hey, I don’t want any bullshit out of you guys tonight, all right? I’ve got a good chance tomorrow and I don’t want you guys to blow it for me.”
I took advantage.
“Dave’s got a better chance than you, Corey, and we’re going out tonight, right Dave?”
“Ummm. Yep. Aitkin girls, right?”
“Umm hmm, Mountain Man’s party.”
“Well, whatever you guys decide to do, just don’t wake me up, all right? Otherwise there’s gonna be trouble.”
“Whatever, Corey.”
“Rog, da ya have to spray that shit in here right now before I go to bed? How can anyone stand that stuff anyway?”

10:20 pm

Sat Feb 04, 2006

Just another chance at a good time

The Concordia campus was alien to me; I wasn’t getting any kind of a vibe from it, yet I was only blocks away, only minutes away from my future. In a few years, my band, Pica, would come to this campus and fail an audition to play Cornstock, the college’s yearly spring party, where a year later I would meet my closest friend and collaborator for many musical projects. My future wife and I would meet just a mile from here and our first child would be born across the river in Fargo.
Even the past was nearby, on a small farm south of Moorhead, my Grandpa Seth, the hired man, created upset when he More...

11:24 pm

Thu Feb 02, 2006

Punk rock was being born in Fargo

My recollection of the rest of that afternoon in 1987 is blurry, but I know what was on my mind: Mountain man's escapades, the Aitkin girls, and what might happen that night. Lewd scenarios leapt across my mind, distracting me throughout the afternoon.
I thought I was in a strange place, in a strange town, on just another weekend getaway.
But I was surrounded by my future. Punk rock was being born in Fargo. Paul Erickson and Paul Sanders were out there, experimenting with guitars and sprouting the scene with bands like The View, December's Children, and Floored, eventually adding drummer Jeff Mooridian to forge the pummeling sound that would become the staple of Fargo for years to come, in a band that would exert an immeasurable influence on my peers by the time I returned in the early 90's: HAMMERHEAD.
I had a guitar.
But it was gathering dust in Duluth because More...

9:54 pm