Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Run In With the Law

True story - 23 years ago I had my first and only run in with the law.  I was in college in St. Peter at the time and was doing about the only thing there was to do in St. Peter - drinking beer.  KT and I had just started dating at the time and, along with other friends, decided to go to a party.  The party was your typical early 90's party which involved a $3.00 keg cup, loud music and bad decisions.  This particular party was held in an apartment situated above one of the businesses lining the main drag in St. Peter.  You reached the apartment by climbing a long, dimly lit stairway from the back alley.

As was (and I'm sure still is) the case, word of the party spread quickly on our small college campus and by the time we arrived, the place was packed.  We forked over our requisite admission cost, grabbed our keg cup and got in the never-ending line for the keg.  By the time we neared the keg, we were parched and exploring other drinking options for the evening as it was evident getting a cup full of beer was going to be difficult amongst the throngs of college students in their never ending search for a buzz.  When we finally were able to gain possession of the precious tap, we noticed a commotion at the far end of the apartment near the entrance.  Word soon filtered back that the police had arrived and the party was going to be shut down.  I had experienced legal interruptions to parties before and knew the best possible reaction was to slam as many beers down my throat as possible before the precious keg was confiscated.  So, for the next several minutes, I furiously put down beer after beer, determined to receive my $3.00 worth.

After about 20 minutes, word circulated to our now tightly formed keg circle that this was no ordinary police bust.  Instead of simply taking the keg and telling us all to go home, St. Peter's finest were using this party as a fundraiser.  They were checking identification of each party goer and issuing breathalyzers and citations to those consumers who happened not to be of legal drinking age.  Shit.  Our plans quickly changed.  One of the more adventurous of our gang thought the only reasonable solution would be to rush down the stairs in a mass exodus into the night, allowing the police to grab only a few in their trap while the rest of us would go free.  In my now tipsy state, I was on board.  We moved en masse to the stairway, summoning up our courage and quickly failing dexterity.  Once we arrived at the top of the stairs and looked down, our plan quickly fell apart.  There were no fewer than 20 uniformed officers awaiting us at the bottom of the stairs.  Full of liquid courage as I was, I still had the capacity to realize that this wasn't going to work and I retreated to the back of the apartment to reconsider.

One of my fellow party-goers then mentioned that his brother (or friend, cousin, whomever) swore that he once evaded an underage consumption by furiously sucking on a penny.  Apparently, the copper in the penny neutralized all signs of alcohol and you could pass the breathalyzer with ease simply by sticking a dirty grimy penny in your mouth and going to town on it.  Brilliant!  We all quickly grabbed any pennies we could find and started sucking away.  I can only imagine the sight of the ten or so of us, mouths full of pennies and devilish grins on our face knowing we had outsmarted the law.  Gradually, the party thinned and we were faced with the inevitable - it was our turn to head down the stairs.  One of our party, my friend Nick, chose a different route.  He spied a section in the ceiling he could conceivably crawl into and avoid detection.  He split from us, used a chair as leverage and disappeared into the ceiling where he promptly took a nap.  The rest of us spit out our pennies and got in line for the breathalyzers.

As I watched the first four of my fellow penny suckers fail their "test" miserably, I became concerned that our ingenious solution may not be so ingenious after all.  Time for Plan C.  My brother, attending college 70 miles away, was 21.  As I didn't have any form of identification on me, I could simply say that I was him.  I knew his full name, date of birth and address.  Keep in mind this was before the internet, so quickly verifying with a photo was much more difficult.  I recited his pertinent information over and over again in my head as I waited for my turn to blow into the breathalyzer.  When my turn finally came, I was shaking nervously, but still convinced I would be able to beat this.  The cop asked for my name, to which I immediately responded, "Paul Kruse."  Shit again.  I totally choked.  Now, I had to determine whether to try to say I had erred in giving my name and come up with an elaborate hoax as to how I could have possibly forgotten my own name or just accept my fate.  I chose the latter.

My $3.00 keg cup that evening ended up costing my $173.00 after paying my underage consumption fine.  My buddy Nick, on the other hand, calmly slept for three or four hours before emerging from the ceiling.  He gave a quick nod to the shocked and by now depressed party hosts (they were in much bigger trouble than a simple underage consumption), and walked home.  The total ticket tally for the fine governmental offices of St. Peter was well over 100.  To this day, rumors persist that there is a plaque in our honor in a new city park built with the funds from this party.

Friday, October 24, 2014

True Ghost Story

True Halloween story:  I'm not a big believer in ghosts, spirits and the like, but KT and I both attest the following story is 100% truth.

In 1993 we moved from our beloved Beard Ave S. apartment to a bigger place, a house near 50th and Xerxes in SW Minneapolis.  On the day before we moved in, KT, Al (two years old at the time) and I headed over to our new digs to determine all the things that need to be determined (who got what room, what cleaning needed to be done, etc.).  To distract Al, we had gone to Blockbuster (remember those?) and picked up a few Barney videotapes for him to zombie out in front of while KT and I went about our tasks.  With the videotapes (remember those?) came the requisite helium balloon that Blockbuster gave every snot-nosed kid that walked through the door.

Our new house was, upon our arrival, completely empty.  The only contents were what we brought: a television, VCR (remember those?), Barney videos and the balloon.  The balloon, it should be noted, was on it's last gasps of helium induced life.  Instead of hanging out near the ceiling, it merely hovered a few inches off the ground - it hadn't threatened to float away for several hours.  We propped Al up in front of the television on the ground floor our our house, balloon next to him, and went upstairs to determine what we should do first.  To get upstairs from where Al was sitting required two half flights of stairs and two turns.  We were lamenting how difficult it was going to be to drag our king size bed up this cryptic stairway.  Once upstairs, another turn was required to enter the hallway which led to the three bedrooms and bathroom.  KT and I were halfway down the hallway, in the first bedroom on the right, which we had determined would belong to Al, discussing whether or not to put plastic over the windows when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  KT must have seen it at the same time as our conversation abruptly stopped and we both turned our attention to the doorway.  There, we saw the previously lifeless and limp balloon, floating at eye level.  It hovered in the doorway for a few seconds before slowing entering the room.  Then, it proceeded to make a slow yet deliberate circle around the room, maintaining it's eye-level height.  KT and I stood in stunned silence and watched.  After circling the room, the balloon headed back for the door.  We instinctively followed.

Leaving the room, the balloon turned sharply left and slowly floated (always at eye-level) towards the stairs.  We continued to follow, too stunned to say a word.  The balloon casually floated down half the stairway, turned the corner, and floated down the rest of the way to the main level of the house.  Once it reached the main level of the house, the balloon turned two more corners to return to the room where it began it's journey.  KT and I continued to follow it, mouths agape.  Al, still mesmerized by the giant purple dinosaur, never noticed his balloon had gone missing.  The balloon floated to the center of the room (still at eye-level) to a spot directly above where it had previously been.  It then slowly descended to the exact same spot a few inches above the ground it was sitting when we went upstairs.  It never moved again.

KT and I were, to put it mildly, freaked out.  We considered not moving in after all and begging for our old apartment back, but that ship had sailed.  We didn't last long in that house before moving to another.  Nothing as overtly creepy as the balloon occurred again, but we did have a series of unexplainable noises and we never were able to figure out why all the bedrooms had sliding locks positioned on the outside of the doors, thus making it possible to lock people into rather than out of them.

I'm still skeptical of ghosts, ghouls and goblins, but I have never been able to come up with any possible explanation for this event.  The simply is no logical explanation, which only leaves the illogical.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Pressures of a Third Grade Girls Basketball Coach

I sent the following email to my parents in February 2005.  My mom recently forwarded it back to me.  It makes me realize that I truly miss coaching and how wonderful kids are.

A recap of Audrey's last game:

The characters:
Audrey - a small girl who loves the social aspect of sports.  Not very competitive.
Alex - a tall, slightly hyperactive girl whose asthma tends to bother her only when it suits her needs.
Kira - a short, extremely competitive girl who tends to forget to dribble.
Jennifer - a slightly whiny girl prone to "great and serious" injuries.
Sarah - a very nice, slightly out of shape girl who tends to take things a little personally.
Kristi Lynn - a nice girl, perhaps a bit of an Eddie Haskell.
Paul - an exasperated coach enjoying himself all the same because the girls don't act like they know everything already, unlike another (still undefeated) team he coaches.

5:45PM - en route to game
Audrey - "Dad, no matter what, don't start me because I am not ready for that."
Paul - "I'll do what I can Audrey.  Rachel won't be there already, so we are only going to have six players."

6:02PM - the game begins
Paul - "Ok girls, Alex isn't here yet, so you five are starting.  Let's match-up and figure out who we are guarding."
Audrey - "Dad! You said I wouldn't have to start!"
Paul - "No, honey, I said I would see what I could do.  Alex isn't here yet, so I need you to start."
Audrey - "But can't we just start with four?"
Paul - "No, that would give the other team an unfair advantage.  Now, come on, I need you out on the floor."
Audrey scowls and slowly walks out onto the floor.
Jennifer - "My finger hurts."
Paul - "Oh, that's too bad Jennifer.  Here, I want you to guard number 7."
Jennifer (incredulously) - "I still have to play?!?!?"
Paul - "Yes, Jennifer, we only have five players here."
Kira - "Where are Alex and Rachel?"
Paul - "Alex should be here soon and Rachel has religion class.  The game is starting - do you remember who you are guarding?"
Kira - "No."

6:05PM - Alex arrives
Audrey - "Dad, can I come out now?"
Paul - "Audrey, she has to take her coat off and get her shoes on first."
Audrey - "Then can I come out?"

Paul (nudging Alex onto the court) - "Audrey come off now."
Sarah - "Can I come off too?  I'm tired."
Paul - "Let me give Audrey a little rest and then I'll take you out Sarah."
Jennifer - "But I want to sit out too!"
Kristi Lynn - "I'm  not tired, Paul!"
Meanwhile, Kira makes a steal and begins running full speed with the ball, going approximately half the distance of the court before remembering to dribble.
Jennifer - "My ankle hurts."

6:10PM - End of the first quarter
Paul - "Ok, good job girls!  Just remember, when you are on offense you need to move around and try to get open."
Sarah - "We can't, they're guarding us!"
Paul - "That's ok, that's their job.  You need to move around and try to get open."
Jennifer - "What's the point?  They just follow us.  Is Sarah done sitting out now because if she is it's my turn."
Alex - "I love spaghetti!"
Kristi Lynn - "I'm trying to get open, Paul!"
Paul - "Good, Kristi Lynn, just keep trying."
Kira - "Number 4 stuck her tongue out at me!"
Paul - "I'm sorry to hear that, Kira.  Ok, are you girls ready?"
Kristi Lynn - "Yes."
Alex, Audrey, Jennifer, Kira, Sarah - "No."
Kira - "Are we winning?"
Paul - "I don't know, Kira, we don't keep score."
Kira - "We're losing, aren't we?"
Paul - "I don't know Kira.  The game is starting now.  Try to remember to dribble."

6:15PM  Kristi Lynn is sitting out.  Sarah falls down and hurts her knee.  Paul comes out on the court to talk to her.
Paul - "Are you ok, Sarah?  What hurts?"
Sarah (sobbing) - "NO! I fell on my knee!"
Paul (pretends to give knee thorough examination) - "I think you just banged it Sarah.  Do you think you can still play?  I just took Kristi Lynn out and she hasn't had a break yet."
Sarah (sobbing intensifies) - "NOOO!  IT HURTS SOOOO BAD!!!"
Paul - "Kristi Lynn, do you think you can come back in?"
Kristi Lynn - "Yes, I'm trying my best!"
Paul - "That's great, Kristi Lynn.  Sarah, do you want to sit out for a little while?"
Sarah (sobbing abruptly stops as she hops up and runs to the sideline) - "Ok."
Jennifer (suddenly) - "OOOOOOOHHHHH - MY ANKLE!!!"
Paul - "Sorry, Jennifer, I need you to play for a while."
Jennifer (grabbing throat) - "But I'm sooooo thirsty" (choking noise) "I'm going to pass out!"
Paul - "It's almost half-time Jennifer.  You can get a drink then."
Jennifer (scowling) - "But I'm dying!"

6:22PM Half-time
Paul - "Ok girls, good job!  Let's just remember to stay by who you are guarding and move around on offense."
Sarah - "I don't like playing this team.  Can't we just play the team we played last time?"
Jennifer - "Yeah, they push you and the referee doesn't even do anything!"
Kira - "What's the score?  We're losing, aren't we?"
Paul - "You girls don't sound like you're having any fun out there.  Are you?"
(All at once)
Alex - "It's hard to have fun when you have asthma."
Jennifer - "No, they have three people guarding me."
Sarah - "No, because they guard you."
Kira - "No, we're losing."
Audrey - "No, I like practices better."
Kristi Lynn - "I'm having fun, Paul!"
Paul - "Ok girls, let's just go out and try to have some fun this half.  I want to see you all smiling - ok?  Now, Kira hasn't sat out yet, so she will be sitting out to start the half."
Audrey - "But it's my turn!"
Paul - "No, Audrey, Kira hasn't sat out yet.  You're next."
Audrey groans and scowls
Jennifer - "I have to sit out my ankle hurts and I'm soooooo thirsty!"
Paul - "But Jennifer, you're drinking your water bottle right now."
Jennifer - "So?  That doesn't help my ankle."
Sarah - "I forgot - I jammed my finger too.  I don't think I can play."
Jennifer - "I am not playing."
Kira - "I don't need to sit out, I'll play"
Jennifer (smiling for the first time) - "Yay!"
Audrey - "No fair."

6:33PM - Near the end of the third quarter
KT (from the stands) - "Audrey, move around!"
Audrey give KT a "if looks could kill you'd be six feet under" stare.

6:35PM - End of third quarter
Kira - "We're getting our butts kicked!"
Paul - "It doesn't matter, Kira, we're not keeping score."
Sarah, Audrey, Jennifer - "I'm not having fun."
Paul - "Ok girls, just try to get through one more quarter and then next week at practice we'll try to figure out how to make it more fun for you."
Jennifer - "Do we have to?  My elbow hurts."
Alex - "I have asthma - I can't have fun."
Kira - "What's the score?"
Paul - "I want to see some smiles this quarter!"
Paul is met with scowls from all but Kristi Lynn
Kristi Lynn - "I'm having fun and trying my best, Paul!"
Jennifer - "My head hurts soooooo bad!  Can I sit out?"
Paul - "Fine, Jennifer.  Alex, you check in.  Do you see that Jennifer was guarding number 11?"
Alex - "I'm bilingual!  Hola!"
Paul - "That's great, Alex.  Can you please guard number 11?"
Alex - "Si, senor!"
Alex proceeds to guard number 9.
Audrey - "How come Jennifer gets to sit out again?"
Kira - "Are we losing? We're losing, aren't we?"

6:45PM - End of game
Paul - "Good job girls!  Did you have fun?  I didn't see many smiles out there."
Kristi Lynn - "I had fun and I tried my hardest."
Alex - "I wanted to have fun, but it's hard when you have asthma."
Sarah - "I don't like this team.  I only want to play the other one."
Kira - "Paul, I didn't have any fun because we lost.  We lost, didn't we? What was the score?"
Jennifer - "The other team was mean.  They kept hurting me."
Audrey - "Dad, I didn't have any fun because we don't get treats after the game like we do in soccer."
Paul - "Ok girls, I'll tell you what - When we have our next game, I'll bring treats for after the game if you girls promise to try to have fun and smile out there"
All six girls scream deafeningly loud, jump up and down, smile and cheer "YEEEEAAAAAAA!!!!"

The moral of the story?  Bring treats, and lots of them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Maggie's Halloween Adventure

True story:  11 years ago this Halloween, our lab Maggie went out for her first round of trick-or-treating.  As with all labs, she was, at this age, full of boundless energy and love for people, adventure and food.  Halloween was the perfect storm of all three ingredients; people everywhere, an evening walk to new environments and candy everywhere her nose led her.  At a little over two years of age, her strength was also a force to be reckoned with, particularly to someone not accustomed to it.

On this evening, our friend Chad volunteered to try to harness Maggie as he led the kids door to door.  He pulled valiantly at her leash as she lunged this way and that in an effort to befriend or eat anything she could reach.  Chad wisely kept her down the on the sidewalk as the gaggle of kids ran to each door to collect their just rewards.  After a few houses, however, Maggie determined that the real action was up at the doorsteps with the kids, not stuck back on the sidewalk with Chad.  Refusing to be denied what was obviously the greatest pleasure her mind could envision, she jumped, twisted, pulled and flat out willed her way out of her collar.  Realizing she was free, she bolted before Chad could grab her.

Meanwhile, much to her delight, a kindly elderly neighbor was opening the door for our group of kids to hand out Snickers and other sugary treats.  Maggie interpreted this open door as a grand welcoming gesture and sprinted towards it.  After plowing through the kids assembled on the step, she nearly knocked over the poor lady inside and entered the house.  By now, she was completely overcome with excitement at her good fortune.  She quickly began running laps around her new house, entering the kitchen, living room, hallway and any other place not protected by a closed door.  At one point she even jumped up on the couch to greet the visibly shocked gentleman watching television with kisses.  By this time, Chad had regained his composure enough to realize what was happening and headed to the house to try to contain the chaos that Hurricane Maggie was wreaking.  Seeing Chad rushing towards her, Maggie's game had just moved from "Oh My God, this is so much fun!" to "THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!".  With Chad giving chase, the laps around the stranger's house continued for several more minutes.

Chad was eventually able to dive on top of her and get her back in her leash.  Luckily, and much to the credit of the poor victims of this home invasion, all red-faced apologies were dismissed as unnecessary as they had previously owned a lab and fully understood how such an event could occur.  Chad, on the other hand, decided that Maggie had had enough trick-or-treating for the evening and returned her home to hand out candy with KT and I instead.