Tag Archives: Rochester MN

Of Butts and Billy Graham

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Rev. Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99. The nature of my crazy life has put me an arm’s length away from more “celebs” (actors, musicians, media types, athletes, etc.) than I could ever count, but photos and autographs have never my thing. That’s not to say I haven’t met countless talented, interesting and accomplished people which most people wouldn’t think of as “celebs” but who are infinitely more fascinating to me.  The only celeb photo op I can remember participating in resulted in a single photo of me with the mystical enigma of latenight radio, host Art Bell, on one of his rare trips away from his double-wide headquarters in Parumph, Nevada. That color 4×6 is packed away somewhere in the house, but I couldn’t tell you where.

Today, however, I am reminded of the day I crossed paths with the Rev. Graham. I’ve never told this story publically. In the mid-1990’s I was living in Rochester, MN, the home of the Mayo Clinic. I was having some serious trouble with a narrowing of the spinal canal in my neck, leaving my left arm weak and my mind troubled. Things were serious enough that surgery was a real possibility, so an MRI scan was scheduled.

Mayo is a GIANT place and a logistics machine, and lives and breaths on order and protocol. Upon reaching my assigned Imaging Area I was taken to what looked like a carpeted locker room and directed to disrobe. There was also the added precaution of carefully removing any metal from my person so the magnets in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine didn’t try to, say, pull off my ring AND my finger at the same tim. After garaging my clothes and checking my valuables I put on that timeless favorite: The Hospital Gown. I’m a biggish guy, which means it’s not only hard to put on a gown which ties in the back, but the gown itself is usually about two sizes too small, coming up short of covering my backside. With the slipping on of paper slippers my fashion ensemble was complete, and I was led out to a small but comfortable waiting “cube” complete with rocking chair.

So there I was, quietly rocking and trying to keep my backside warm when who comes shuffling by but the Rev. Billy Graham, accompanied by not one, but two Grade A Mayo Clinic-issued VIP escorts, one on each arm. He wasn’t more than six feet from me, and as he was shuffling by slowly I was afforded an extended view of the Religious Counselor to 8 Presidents’ skinny rear end peaking out of the back of HIS gown. And just like that Graham and Co. walked through a doorway, and the celebrity sighting was done. I had my MRI scan, and I imagine Rev. Graham had his as well. I tried to guess what the Mayo VIP MRI room had than my machine in steerage did not. Perhaps over there was access to a cool beverage, or a warm cup of tea. Maybe some cucumber finger sandwiches.

I learned two very important life lessons that day. I’m never going to be the guy who gets two VIP escorts at Mayo Clinic (or anywhere for that matter) so I should plan ahead and bring my own snacks. Maybe throw in a thermos of coffee. Second, no matter who you think you are…rich or poor, young or old, righteous or damned, celebrity or recluse…at the end of the day we’re all pretty much the same: unable to rock a hospital gown, and with our butts hangin’ out in the breeze..

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Am I Losing My Eggnoggin???

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I need your help.  I’ve talked to 20 people in the last two hours, and no one has EVER heard of Eggnog-flavored ice cream.  One of those people was the Dairy Manager at Hy Vee, and from the look on his face he though the very idea was on par with Dead Mouse and Thistle-flavored gelato.  I feel like a mad stranger in an even crazier land.

I KNOW it existed, and I just remembered where.  Bridgeman’s Ice Cream and Restaurant was a fixture at the Apache Mall in Rochester, MN in the 1970’s.  I remember clearly that when the Plainview High School Choir travelled to sing Christmas tunes at the Mall I had a double-scoop sugar cone.  Or two.  I haven’t seen a Bridgeman’s Restaurant in 30 years, but Bulk Bridgman’s flavors are still made.  However, I went to their website and….NO EGGNOG FLAVORED ICE CREAM.  Am I trippin’?  Have I uncovered the first clue in an alien plot to take over the planet?  Help a brother out if you remember the flavor…know who still makes the flavor…or if a flavor fave of yours (holiday or not) also fell victim to the genetically superior occupants of Ceti Alpha 5.

Strange What You Remember

Memories are fickle. Sometimes they take you back gently, clouding over the bad spots and putting halos around the good. Other times the past returns and smacks you in the face. A couple of days ago Memories flashed me back to October 22, 1989 and punched me in the gut. Like countless others I stopped in my tracks upon learning that the Jacob Wetterling abduction case had been solved, the body found, and the abductor/killer in custody. After all the years of dead-end tips and broken hopes the case had the feel of a mystery which would never be solved. But there it was, in gruesome detail, all the answers to all the questions of what happened to an innocent 11 year old snatched off his bicycle at gunpoint near his home in tiny, safe St. Joseph, MN. The killer, Danny Heinrich, a serial child sexual predator currently charged with child pornography, confirmed every one of our darkest, worst-case nightmarish horrors: Sexual abuse, two bullets, two burials, other victims.

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Danny Heinrich

It’s strange what you remember. It was late in the evening of the Tuesday following the abduction. I was in Rochester, MN and the 28-year-old Program Director at KROC-AM. We were the only local station with a link to the state’s only satellite network.  A man named Douglas Wood, a neighbor of the Wetterlings, had written and recorded a song called “Jacob’s Hope” , which radio stations all over MN were asked to play at the same time the following morning, with the hope that Jacob would somehow hear the song wherever he was and somehow know people were looking for him.

Remember, this is 1989. no one was walking around with cell phones, email was extremely limited and nowhere near able to send audio files, no websites, no universally accessible satellite downlinks. There was no Amber Alert and no apps. The newsroom was just transitioning from electric typewriters to word processing. Not only was it impossible for stations to download the song, it was impossible to let them all know they were supposed to play it the next day. Impossible, except for the old-school ways. I remember getting one shot at capturing the satellite feed (got it), then made copies on reel to reel tapes. I then got in the car late at night and delivered those tapes one at a time to every radio station in town,

The sun was coming up by the time I finished my deliveries. Everyone got the song and played it the next morning at 10am. I knew in my heart the chances of that young man hearing that song were zero. It was an exercise which made no difference, other than give a state full of people a way to show they cared, wanted to help, but had no idea how.

I can’t imagine what the Wetterlings and those close to the case have gone through the past 27 years, and in the last few days. I hope I never have to know. The case was instrumental in making states create the first sex offender databases. It marked the end of small-town innocence in this part of the country. No more kids riding bikes and running unsupervised around small towns in the summer. Afterwards kid’s activities were supervised and scheduled. No more unlocked doors at night. The loss of trust.

Strange what you remember.