The Almanac Trip, or "So now I guess I really should write a novel"

If you missed my segment on TPT’s Almanac this weekend here’s the link (My bit is at the :30 mark, halfway through). The trip to the Twin Cities was a success and a welcome February diversion. We got home Saturday night before the big snow storm hit Sunday.

As I wrote last week, Almanac is the brass ring of Minnesota-based TV shows. My dad drove me to St. Paul and we waited in the green room, which is really just the TPT lunch room. I got antsy and talked my way into the studio early. Dad got to see the chortling class prepare for the panel discussion next to a giant “Dragon Tales” poster. I got to see the run-through.

After years of watching the show repeat a comfortable Friday night formula it was reassuring to watch the program operate much as you’d expect. Almanac is like wearing an old pair of slippers while walking down the hall where you hang the family pictures, each year’s school photo hidden behind the new one. The people at Almanac were kind to me. Naturally there’s the thrill and drama of live TV, but it all seemed pretty understated. Everyone seemed calm and experienced. Many mildly amusing things took place, and the people there seemed genuine in their mild amusement. I didn’t hear any cuss words. I don’t know why I thought I might. 

Gov. Mark Dayton was on the show. He has to be the least assuming governor in the nation. He walked in with one young aide who waited by the door. Dayton shook hands with Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola and then sat off in the peanut gallery wearing what I assume was the same anxious expression I had before he was called to stage. I always think of Dayton as the kind of guy who could dig a tunnel with a spoon over a 30 year span. Then one day he’s gone and people realize, holy crap, he was digging a tunnel with a spoon this whole time. I mean this as a compliment. 

My segment went alright for the time we had. Like my recent MPR interview, also with Cathy Wurzer, it’s hard to cover a broad topic in five minutes but I crowbarred a couple moderately amusing/thoughtful tidbits into the conversation. I also unflinchingly stated that my next book will be a novel. Ooooo. Had to go there. I’ve been turning over two different stories in my head for a couple years now. It’s time to go back down to the fiction mines.

Meantime, the family and I had an excellent visit with my dad and stepmom in South St. Paul. It was the boys’ first visit to the Twin Cities and they were impressed with the sites and traffic of the city. We drove in through St. Paul. The gang was mostly speechless as we crossed into the city. An evening of spoilage at grandpa and grandma’s place took place. The next day we went to a place called Adventure Peak at Edinborough Park in Edina. It’s an indoor …. well, park I guess, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a climbing, sliding, bouncing, tunneling, ball-throwing, cart-riding, seething mass of humanity and humanity’s parents. It’s run by the city of Edina. There is no outside signage; like an exclusive night club you know about it because you know about it.

I could say something about how unfair it is that Edina’s tax base can provide this service to its children while schools and towns on the Range must scrape to provide basic education and library services to its children. I could, but the slides were cool and it’s best not to involve the kids in grownup disputes. You know what I’m saying. 

Back to Adventure Peak. Our country-raised boys were overwhelmed. The several hundred kids in this thing didn’t care if you were a grown up, a kid or a punching bag. It was all the same to them. If you were slower they climbed over you. If you stopped they pushed you to the side. We had met up with some friends and relatives to go there, so there were seven adults watching our three boys and baby niece and we still couldn’t keep track of them. 

At one point we lost Doug, who is 3, for a few minutes. Turns out he was trapped in the tree climb, pinned down by the successive stomping of a thousand little shoes clambering over him. Using his own guile he managed to escape into a tunnel, weeping. We spotted him that way from the ground. I actually had to enlist the aid of a suburban mom guide to rescue him. It was like Apocalypse Now. By the time we got to Doug he had learned the ways of the tunnels and could spirit through them quickly like the Viet Cong. By the time we left the boys had the look of battle hardened soldiers who would never be able to work a desk job. To a man, they all said they wanted to come back some day.

On the way home we drove north through Minneapolis but the Doug and George were asleep before they could see the really big skyscrapers. Henry nodded off as soon as they were in the rear view mirror.

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