Friday, October 31, 2008
It was Halloween, I think it was a Friday, and it started snowing. I must have worked the lunch shift (odd) but I feel like it was around the time residents, in their cars, were returning to the neighborhood from their work day. Snow had started to pile up at least a foot. The then head cook, Duke, and I got bundled up in our parkas and Sorel boots and headed out to play in the storm that seemed to come out of nowhere.
We didn't know it at that moment, but that event would come to be known and remembered fondly as the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. A real "where were you when . . . ?" or "I survived the . . . " event.
The snow was heavy and clingy and cars were getting stuck, so Duke and I jumped in to help push a few out of their snow-bound ruts. The snow kept falling for most of the evening. Such circumstances are considered by neighbors and bar regulars occasions for drinking, so everyone within walking or snow-shoeing distance gathered at the bar to drink hot chocolate with Rumplemintz or some other ear-reddening beverage.
Sometime around midnight I decided it would be a good idea to get in my car and drive to Minneapolis to track down a lover who didn't have a phone, and got my own car (a late 70s Dodge Colt with a hole in the passenger-side floor) stuck on Lake of the Isles Parkway. It was dark and there was no other traffic, nobody around to help.
I eventually worked my car out of the rut and got myself home. Yes, I was sufficiently humiliated by the stupidity of my impetuousness (but equally proud of my winter driving skills).
The city was shut down for a few days. Nobody would get in their cars. Most of the neighborhood denizens were smug about being such hearty Nordic specimens and eager to hunker down and wait out the winter just like that. There was talk that the bar would run out of booze because the vendors would be unable to reach us to make deliveries. Since I lived so close, some of the Sweeney's gang spent the next couple nights on my floor.
But within days the possibility of being snowed in lost its charm. Eventually, the streets were cleared, life returned to normal, cars returned to the roads, and my ad-hoc roommates stopped showing up.
This morning, Mark Seeley, U of Mn climatologist and regular weather guru on MPR, had this to report:
"For many Minnesotans the most memorable Halloween was that of 1991 when a blizzard started and began to paralyze the state well into the first two days of November. At least 30 communities reported a snowfall of 20 inches or more from this storm, including a record 28.4 inches in the Twin Cities, and 36.9 inches at Duluth. A 180-mile stretch of Interstate 90 was closed as winds up to 60 mph produced snow drifts of 10 feet or higher. Snowfall intensity at times was equivalent to 2 inches per hour during the storm."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Once upon a time in a land called St. Paul, a group of bar workers formed a group called the Vulcanettes. The Vulcanettes were an answer to the vulgar Vulcans, who, in their red jump suits, black&red capes and goggles, stormed through bars and parades during Winter Carnival, disrupting carnival events, getting drunk and smearing grease paint kisses on everyone in their path, willing or not.
The Vulcans were founded in 1886 as a legitimate group of the Winter Carnival, a foil to King Boreas, who is enchanted by the beauty and glory of winter. "The King of Fire.Vulcanus Rex is the TRUE KING of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Vulcanus battles to end the cold of winter, and seeks to bring the warmth of summer back to the beautiful City of Saint Paul."
Anyway, in 1991 I was working at Sweeney's Saloon when the owner decided it would be fun -- and no doubt a good marketing tool -- to form a group of his own mischief-makers, whom he dubbed the Vulcanettes. He had a small van painted with the Vulcanette logo, outfitted about 10 of us in red satin jackets, capes and masks, and set us loose on the town.
Those were some fun times. I don't remember details -- it was an occasion for much drinking -- but I do recall storming into bars in a cacophony of screeching whistles and giving out candy to enraptured children on the sidelines of parade routes.
This weekend one of the girls on that original squad had a costume party. I pulled my old costume out of the closet and was surprised to find how easily it all came together. I figured she would be the only one who would know what I was dressed as, the only one to laugh, and I was right.
So here we are, 17 years later. Fellow Vulcanette Shamala is dressed as a Vikings cheerleader, "Roxie."
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I just submitted this to the Strib, but I'm posting it here to enlist the help of the universe and cyberspace to get it published!
My husband, Patrick, and I had just arrived in
Our friends had a natty little apartment across from the boardwalk, on the wide mouth of
Because it was early June – the beginning of winter Down Under – the tourist count was as low as the sun; the days were short and the shadows long. It was jacket weather, high 60s, yet locals were clad in coats and scarves, and some even wore gloves. Walking to the next tram stop, the food stand Lord of the Fries caught my eye. French fries are my weakness, especially those “tossed with sea salt” so we stopped and ordered a cone-full. On the menu board there was a long list of sauces in which to dip the fries: “Belgian - our famous euro-mayo; Indian - spicy mango chutney, sour cream; Vietnamese - thick sweet chili mayo; Thai - golden satay sauce; Aussie - rich tomato sauce, vinegar; American - southern bbq sauce.” “American-style bbq sauce” was an everyday condiment here, as would learn, even as a topping for eggs.
We waited for the
The City Circle, which runs in a rectangle around the CBD, would take us past many of Melbourne’s notable locales, including the serene Fitzroy Gardens, to the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, the Queen Victoria Market. We planned to buy the obligatory souvenirs to bring home to family and friends. Along with T-shirts, hats and key chains embroidered with “
The Vic Market takes up 17 acres on the edge of the CBD. The market may be over 200 years old, having grown up along with
We bought the didgeridoo from a stall run by two Aboriginal men. The older, lankier man sported cowboy boots and an Elvis pompadour and claimed to be a singer/songwriter of country music. We declined the offer to buy his CD and asked to examine his collection of didgeridoos. He explained that the instruments, some of which look like a giant’s walking stick, are naturally hollowed out by termites before being carved and painted. To help us decide which one to buy, Elvis “played” a few of the didgis to demonstrate their unique tones, treating us to that eerie serenade that falls between a sustained hum and a groan.
Shopping made us hungry so we headed toward the deli stands. Our friends had recommended a particular ethnic lunch-time favorite, borek, a Turkish bread roll-up stuffed with a savory ground of lamb, cheese and spices. That’s what I decided on, while Pat chose a crusty French bread sandwich of bratwurst and onions. We sat in the sun at a ubiquitous sidewalk table and traded bites of our satisfying fare, quenching our thirst with cold beer. Erected near the curb was a six-feet-high glass wall, allowing us to feel a part of the bustling street scene without having to consume exhaust from the passing cars.