Monday, Feb 4, 2002

Duluth Days

Dear Political Diary,

Last night I watched the Super Bowl and hadn't bothered doing my paper work or packing for today's trip. I'd watched the game for its vaunted commercials but stayed tuned to the end for the game itself. I rooted for the Patriots since they were the underdogs. My brother is from St. Louis but his Rams had already won the big show a couple of times. Besides, being from Minnesota I identify all too easily with the teams which suffer the shame of being the second best in the world.

The Super Bowl cost me dearly. I had planned on finishing my damned campaign finance report on Sunday but no longer had time. It was due on the last day of January but I knew from previous experience I had a few days grace before facing a fine. I hastily grabbed some old finance forms and stuffed them into a duffle bag planning on finishing the report later in the day in St. Paul and handing it in personally while at Duluth Days. Unfortunately I grabbed the file for my 1999 school board election not the file for my 2000 Senate campaign. Throwing my gear in the car I rushed off to the Central Administration Building to the City Spelling Bee with my word list in hand.

I've been the local pronouncer for four or five years now. I pronounce the words, use them in a sentence, and give the definitions to the contestants who ask for them. The city bee is a quick contest because there are only thirteen schools represented. The regional bee in March will have over forty contestants. 

Some of the kids and their parents have become familiar over the years. A young lady from our church was a three time winner. The son of the School Board member whose place I took when she retired Mickey Fergusson has been to the bees with her son for the past three years. Mike Akervic took a break from work to root for his son and our Director of Transportation Ken Willms had both his daughters in the bee.

The correct spelling of "Contiguous" won the event. Perhaps the most 

The most jarring moment for me came when I read the predetermined sentence for the word "cafeteria." It applied to my son so accurately it was almost as if someone had put it there to give me the heebie jeebies. It was something like: "On the last day of school the boy started a food fight in the cafeteria." After my son's senior year is over I'll tell the story. I'll probably call it, "like father like son."

At the bee's conclusion I took off for St. Paul and the Duluth Days confab picking Dennis up on the way out of town.

Dennis was a student of mine at Proctor when I first got to town in 1974. Proctor was a disastrous experience for me which I spent the next decade trying to forget. On the other hand the aftershock has been a compelling motivator as well burning into me a hunger to both atone for it.

Through the years students I had in class reappear and introduce themselves. Most I can't recall well because I had worked so hard to forget everything. Dennis is one of them.

Dennis introduced himself a few years ago. He had just gotten involved in the Independence Party. By now he was disgusted with Jesse Ventura for of all things using his patronage power to pull Republicans and Democrats into his administration rather than pump life into the new party. It was true that Jesse had made himself the party and it would die when Jesse retired or was defeated. It was a classic case of a man hogging all his political capital and  refusing to share it.

Dennis had been in a rammy class. It was interesting talking to him about his memories. If anything I've found my former students to have considerably more sympathy for me than I had for myself. We talked about the kid who loaded up on codeine every day from his father's pharmacy and all the kids who reeked of pot having tuned out before school began. 

After my decade of trying to forget I did a turnabout and began wondering why I had failed so miserably. Talking to my former students is both helpful and therapeutic although they unfailingly look back with rose tinted glasses which don't particularly give me confidence that I'll ever fully understand what happened.

I dropped Dennis off then headed over to the Capitol to fill out my finance form only to discover my mistake. Disgusted I walked into the Senate Office Building with no particular plans and an afternoon to kill before Duluth Days evening show began. As soon as I was in the building a line of Duluthians filed past heading in the Senate Minority office. I just followed them in where I discovered they were lobbying for money for Duluth's Spirit Mountain. I joined them in a huddle for a few minutes but quickly determined I'd be of no use to them. I excused myself and headed upstairs to talk to the Republican reapportionment expert Greg Peppin. I was eager to find out anything I could about the possible new lines for Duluth's legislative district. His office was closed so I headed over to my Mother's house in Minneapolis where I planned to stay the night.

Duluth Days began at 5:30 in the Armory. I got there and milled about. I spent some time hobnobbing with Duluthians and some with legislators. I spent a while at the Duluth School District's table talking to the Superintendent our lobbyist and the three other administrators who'd come along.

Dale Swapinsky walked past and shook my hand. I couldn't help but wonder if he was hostile or not since by now I expected him to have learned of my support for Yvonne Prettner Solon in the Senate race. He seemed cordial but passed on quickly.

Tommy Rukavina joked that he'd patched things up with Doug Johnson so he didn't want to be seen talking with me. I told him I was sorry he'd reconciled and groused that Rangers were always feuding then making up.

Evidently Julio and other Duluth administrators were going to meet with Johnson the following day to lobby him. I told the Super I thought it would be better if I stayed away and Julio smiled as he complimented me on my political astuteness. 

One fellow told me he'd been up at Laskiainen and just as he was about to take a picture of my white elephant its head had fallen off. I hope its not an omen of things to come.

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