Friday, September 26, 2014

Beth’s Music Moment: Music is Magic

Bob, Beth, WinstonImagine, if you will…

You’ve admired a musician for decades. Three decades, in fact. You first saw their band on MTV, and then you saw them live, back in 1987. You have almost all of their albums, you know the words to many of their songs well enough that you can sing along. As you are recommending the band to a friend (who is also a musician), you decide to visit the band’s website again, just to see what they’ve been up to.

As you look through the pictures, the tour dates, the updates...you see a spot to contact the band. Because you’ve loved them for years, and because your Official Fan Motto™ is “show the band some love,” you send a message saying that their music has meant a lot to you over the years and you tell them how much you’ve appreciated them and loved them all this time.

Then imagine that you get an email back from the FREAKIN’ LEAD SINGER of this band that you’ve loved for decades, and he thanks you for your email and for your kind words about his band and their songs...and he happens to mention that he does house concerts on weekends, and to let him know if you’re interested.

Thus was born one of the greatest nights of my life.

The band is the Rainmakers (I’ve written about them before) and the lead singer is Bob Walkenhorst. We started an email correspondence, and I scared him at first. I mean, I was writing to Bob Walkenhorst! And he was responding! Tell me everything! What about this song? What about that song? What does this lyric mean? I assured him that I would calm down, and I was true to my word. It took me a bit, but I did calm down. Bob is also an artist, and we bought a gorgeous painting from him, one that I get to look at every day.

I mentioned the house concert to Ken, thinking that he’d say, “Nah, we’ve got enough other things going on...we really shouldn’t spend the money on that.” He totally surprised me by saying, “That sounds pretty cool!” But we knew that our house wasn’t big enough to host 20-30 people in one room to hear Bob play, and that’s where Shane and Matt came in. They were on board immediately, and we started to plan this shindig.

We initially planned it for late May, but because the Rainmakers were leaving for a tour in Norway soon after that, Bob really needed to be home the weekend of our scheduled show. It was obvious that he felt really bad about having to reschedule, but it all worked out okay!

The big show was on Saturday, September 20th, and we had a nice turnout of about 20 people. I wish we could have invited more, but space was limited. Bob got there about an hour and a half before we asked people to start arriving, so he had plenty of time to get his stuff set up and we were able to get to know each other and do all the fan stuff like get things signed. I’m often very nervous and shy when meeting a new person, especially if that someone happens to be one of my favorite musicians! However, I didn’t feel that way at all. He put me immediately at ease, and was wonderfully friendly and kind. Of course, we’d been corresponding a bit for several months, so I had a pretty good idea that he was going to be a nice, fun, and funny person...I just didn’t realize how nice and fun and funny! He had said he’d bring me a t-shirt, but ended up bringing me three, and I got one signed. Awesome!

Bob brought along two of his friends from the Chicago area, Joe (an author) and George (an engineer and Notre Dame graduate). Joe brought some of his books, so we got a few of those, too...a couple of them signed. I was in fangirl heaven. They were both a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting them and getting to know them a little bit. I hope I run into them again one day!

Bob2People started arriving right on time, and we had an hour to talk and have some food before Bob played. I tried to invite people who I thought would appreciate this kind of show, and I think I nailed the mix. Everyone from a friend from high school, to a friend from college, to a friend from the lab (and a guitarist in a local band...another friend who came is the bass player for the band), to a recent friend we met online, to my sister Diana. I don’t know if the party planets were aligned just right, or what, but it was a perfect mix of people who love good music and love a good time. Everyone was talking and laughing and primed to hear some music.

Then Bob played, and it was great.

The End.

HA! No, there is much more to the story.

Bob didn’t just play. He told background stories about these songs I’ve loved for years. He talked and laughed with us and just generally charmed the pants off of everyone (not literally, of course...it wasn’t that kind of party!). He blew everyone away by how good he was. You know, I remember him always having a great stage presence, but to experience it up close and personal was a whole other story. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he had us in the palm of his hand.

His voice was strong and clear, and it’s amazing how much sound he can get out of one acoustic guitar.

He took a half an hour break, giving everyone a chance to talk and laugh and eat and drink some more. He played a second 50-minute set, and then he was done.

I could have listened to him play two more hours. I could have listened to him play all night. I was mesmerized.

Then it was time for more talking, laughing, eating, and drinking. It really was a wonderful mix of people, and we had such a great time together. My sister told me that she’s never heard such a “buzz” among a party crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening, and I think everyone felt the same way. We wound down around midnight, and Bob headed off to the guest room for some snooze time. (Shane and Matt were thrilled to have him spend the night there!) Everyone said their goodbyes, then it was just me, Ken, Shane, and Matt. We cleaned up a little bit, just what we had to, and talked about how it had turned out perfectly and how happy we were that it worked out that we could do this.

(See all the photos here.)

Bob and BethThe seven of us met for breakfast the next morning before the guys headed out and we got to chat a little bit more. Everyone agreed that it had been a great party and a fun show. Shane told me later that either Joe or George asked him, “So what did you think?” Shane thought for a moment and said, “You know, I’d have to say this was one of the highlights of my life.” I completely agree, and feel the same way. It’s something that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. I can’t begin to convey how special it was for me, and what a pleasure it was to meet Bob. He is a genuinely nice guy who is an incredibly talented songwriter and performer. What a wonderful evening. I was a little blue as we parted ways.

After he got back home on Monday, I emailed him to tell him how much everyone loved it and that I was getting some wonderful feedback from people. I said he’d made several new fans that evening, and that made me very happy. I’ve known how good he and the band is for years, so what a pleasure for me to share that with others who didn’t know! I got an amazing email back from him in which he said many nice things that absolutely stunned me, but the upshot was that everything was perfect for him, and that the evening would stay with him as one of the best nights he’s ever had playing. Wow! He thanked me for giving him a night that makes him know that what he’s spent his life doing has all been worth it, and said that “music is still magic” when you can share it with people like us and all the others who are brought together by it. Music IS magic, Bob, and I think we were all touched by your magic on Saturday night. I know I was.

I think that feeling is conveyed quite well by this song, one that he played for us that night. I don’t know if I have one single “greatest night,” but I can say that Saturday night is right up there. (And thanks to Eddie for posting this video!)

“Thanks for being here with me
On the greatest night of my life.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Well, THAT was quite the weekend!

ND vs Michigan 14Aaaaand, I’m spent.

Well, I think there’s still a little kick left in the girl, so a brief update.

This weekend was a total blast. Saturday was the big football game between Notre Dame and Michigan. For those of you not from these parts, I can tell you that this is one of the biggest rivalries in all of college football, and this was the last game they will be playing in the foreseeable future. Notre Dame is an independent team, so they are not in a conference. They have made some kind of deal with the ACC to play more of those teams. In some ways, that’s good, but ending the games with Michigan is kind of a bummer. It’s a great rivalry, and they’re right up the road! A lot of friends and former coworkers are Michigan fans, so it was always fun to talk a little smack.

Saturday was an absolutely perfect day for football. Mostly sunny, but a few pretty little clouds, and temperatures in the low 70s falling to the mid 50s in the evening. The game was at 7:30, so we had plenty of time to tailgate. We had hoped to meet up with a couple of friends, but that didn’t work out...so we made some new ones! A couple from Illinois was parked near us, and we ended up chatting and played a couple rounds of cornhole. (Feel free to laugh...it cracks me up every time. It’s also known as bean bag toss.) We talked to a guy that went to the same high school that I did, and he was a couple of years ahead of me. It was nice to remember that it really is a small world, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

If I thought the day was perfect for football, the Notre Dame team showed me that there was plenty more fun to be had. We shut out the Michigan Wolverines, 31-0. I can’t begin to tell you how huge this was. Notre Dame vs Michigan is one of the great rivalries in college football (I think I said that already), and we smoked ‘em. They haven't been shut out since 1984. The games with Michigan have always been tough, but on the last game we played with them (at least for now), in our house, we completely spanked them. It was bad enough that a Michigan cheerleader flipped off an Irish fan for waving his hat while the Michigan band was playing their fight song. Way to represent your university, dude!

I am truly sad to see the association with Michigan end. Those have been some of the best games over the years, and I hope we’ll see them again in the future. But I really couldn’t have asked for a better way (as an Irish fan) to end the series. I know that my Dad would have loved it!

On Sunday, we were able to have lunch with our pal Andy, who was in town from California for the game. We always have such a great time talking with him and we love it when he is in town! Now if we can only get him to move back here and be a part of a revitalized and growing city…!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend as summer winds down. We’ve got a couple more fun and exciting weekends ahead of us, so we are milking this summer for all it is worth!

More to come!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It’s the end, the end of the summer days

End of summerWell, hello, you little maniacs!

Did you miss me?!

I’m alive and kicking, but decided to take the summer off. No apologies this time for not updating sooner, because I made the decision to take a break and I don’t feel even a little bit bad about it! (Okay, maybe 5% bad. But that is within the margin of error.)

It’s been a busy and fun summer, and I just decided to go with that and not feel obligated to write about everything. Plenty of updates on Facebook and Twitter (you can find me @Luvrte66), but I think all of us who are still writing blogs know that the readers just aren’t there like they used to be. I’m okay with that, although I did get quite a thrill when my hits went through the roof when Duran Duran posted a link to my review of my friend Andy’s book Beautiful Colors on their Facebook page! I do still enjoy writing, so I’ll ease back into it as we head into the winter and things settle down.

Man, we’ve had some fun. We went down to Indianapolis with Shane and Matt to see Presidents of the United States of America and then Smash Mouth; we went to a couple of RiffTrax movies; we went to several local events like Art Beat and seeing my friend Jim’s band High Gravity play; got to see a couple of Silver Hawks games; we got to party with some of my former coworkers when our friend Aubrey got married. We had our annual vegecation in New Smyrna Beach in July, and on the drive back, stopped in Atlanta to do a Walking Dead filming location tour, which was so awesome. Then we spent a couple of days in Nashville, where we visited the Johnny Cash Museum (it was wonderful), went to Printer’s Alley, and went honky-tonkin’ on Honky Tonk Row. It was an unusual weekend when we didn’t have something going on! As much fun as we had with all of these things, we appreciated those downtime weekends so we could recharge our batteries.

Our latest projects are getting ready to have our friend Mark come out from Omaha to spend a long weekend with us. We’ll be taking an overnight trip up to Detroit so that he can see his family, and we’ll be meeting up with some friends while there. I’ve also been busy planning a house party at Shane and Matt’s for later in September, where Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers will play an acoustic show for a small group of us. I’ve loved Bob and the Rainmakers for going on three decades, so it is going to be wonderful to meet him and hear him play in such an intimate setting!

I’ve also been working on setting up a big vacation in October in Vegas, baby! A bunch of family and friends are converging on Sin City for a long weekend of partying friendship and fun. We’ve got people coming from the Detroit area, Texas, and California, and will be meeting up with several friends who live in Vegas. The long weekend will culminate with a meet-up for all of us at the Hofbräuhaus, an exact replica of the Munich Hofbräuhaus. We have some other fun things planned, and Ken and I will meet with Shane and Matt a few days before in Phoenix. Ken has a business thing he needs to go to, but we will definitely be hitting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West while we’re there.

We’ve also had some very positive things happen on a personal level, and I’ll just say that I am very happy for Ken. Reconnections are great...never give up! There were positive things on a professional level for him, too, with a change of duties and director status at the company where he works. I’m very happy for him about that, too!

I always feel a little blue this time of year, because I love summer. It is definitely my favorite season. I love the warmth, I love sunbathing on the deck while reading and listening to music, and I especially love wearing as few clothes as possible. I don’t look forward to wearing all those clothes in the winter! I’m a big fan of not wearing pants. It’s not officially the end of summer yet, but doesn’t the end of August always feel like the end? It does for me. It seemed official this past weekend when I had my birthday, then celebrated with 80,000 of my closest friends on Saturday as the Notre Dame football season kicked off with a win against Rice. Go Irish!

As much as I hate to see the summer wind down, we have ND football, basketball, and hockey games to look forward to this fall and winter. In fact, we just got hockey season tickets! There are many fun things to look forward to, including a visit from our nieces and their family from San Diego over the holidays and some fun shows at the Morris for the Broadway Theater League.

But it still makes me sad when I fill the hummingbird feeders for the last time of the season, using extra-sweet nectar as they prepare to make their long flight south. I did that yesterday.

Farewell, summer. I’ll miss you. I’ll see you next year, though!

Please enjoy this song from Green Day. This is the aural equivalent of my feelings about the bittersweet end of summer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Books and Notes, Notes and Books

Book notesMy niece posted on Facebook last night that she had been going through some old books that she needed to get rid of and she came across an old receipt. It was from the mid-’90s, from a grocery store that I believe has since been torn down, and it was for one candy bar.

She was quite delighted with this find, and I knew exactly how she felt. It is always interesting to find an old note or slip of paper tucked into a book. If it’s your own note, it can bring back memories of where you were and what you were doing at the time. If it’s in a used or a library book, it provides one small puzzle piece to another person’s life. Who was this person? Where did they live? Are they still alive? Did they have a happy life? What did they think of the book? It’s a little clue to a mystery that will probably never be solved. Isn’t it fun to speculate, though?

Anyway, it made me think about how fun and intriguing it is to come across a little note like that, and it made me decide to write little notes and tuck them away into books, especially ones that I borrow from the library and ones that I donate to them. I might even put some notes into books that we plan on keeping. I sometimes read books over or look for references in them, and it would be fun to come across even my own notes!

I’m not the first person to think of this, of course, nor is my niece. It’s just something that I’ve never done on purpose, and I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll look up some neat quotes that I like. Maybe I’ll write a haiku. Maybe I’ll draw a little picture for the next reader. Maybe I’ll even slip a buck or two in there and leave a note that says, “Have a coffee on me!” What fun! Whatever I do, I hope it will brighten someone’s day. I know it certainly would brighten my day to run across something like that! Even if the librarian happens to find it before it gets reshelved, or the warehouse worker sees it as they go through the donated books, it might make them smile, too. Sometimes little acts of kindness can make a difference if someone is having a bad day. It sure can’t hurt! Of course, I will not write IN the book…just a little note on a separate sheet of paper.

A huge thanks to my niece Michelle for the inspiration. Love you, Niecey!

***

Duran DuranA bit of follow-up to my previous entry, in which I wrote about the Duran Duran art book written by Andrew Golub. I was checking my blog visits the other day and saw a significant uptick in the number of visitors. As I checked further, most of them were checking out that particular entry, with multiple visits from Facebook and quite a few from Twitter. I wrote to Andy about it, because I was so pleased that my review got some attention for him. He said that he knew that the band shared it on their Facebook page, and he was very happy about that. I checked, and sure enough, they had shared it there and also on Twitter! They even quoted me from the review. I was absolutely thrilled! And yes, I’m sure it was their publicist who actually saw it and posted it, but I don’t care. My blog post got shared on Duran Duran’s Facebook and Twitter pages! Fangirl was very happy!

So to all those Duran Duran fans from all over the world who checked it out, thanks for stopping by! If I knew you were coming, I would have tidied up a bit and maybe even made a cake! And a huge thanks to the band (band’s publicist) for sharing it. It made my day, and I still love you guys! Look at ’em…how is it that they just get better-looking? I bet they have portraits of themselves in their attics.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beth’s Books meets Beth’s Music Moment: Worlds Collide!

DD1In an unprecedented move, I am joining in marriage two of my usual features here and writing about a book that deals with music. Never before has such a thing been done! Sit back and watch as I…

What? I have done this before? Like in the entry prior to this one? Oh. Never mind.

Anyway, it’s actually because of that entry that this entry came about. An author read my review of Mad World, a book about New Wave music, songs, and artists that I absolutely loved, and reached out to me to ask if I would like to review his book. I normally don’t take requests, but he asked so nicely...AND it is a book about one of my all-time favorites, Duran Duran. [Please note: I am receiving no compensation for this review; it is based on the press kit the author sent me, and the words and opinions here are, as always, my own.]

A Seattle resident, Andrew Golub is a long-time fan of Duran Duran, and has amassed a huge collection of memorabilia. Part of his collection is concert posters: some common and some rare, those that saw wide distribution and those that were never released. His book consists of these concert posters, and Beautiful Colors is aptly named.

[click on any picture to embiggenate]

DD7
DD8

These early posters from 1981 stand in stark contrast to the later image of the band. Duran Duran, perhaps more than any other band, epitomized the color-drenched, lush MTV look. Think of the videos for “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.” (A major exception is the video for my favorite song of theirs, “The Chauffeur.” This moody, atmospheric song gets the black and white treatment, and rightly so.) It would seem that the advent of MTV brought about a change in Duran Duran’s concert posters. If a band recognizes a hot commodity, they’d be foolish to not take advantage of that, and their looks were definitely a hot commodity. Photos of the band begin to dominate the posters.

DD4

Duran Duran was sometimes seen as a bunch of pretty boys making throwaway pop music. I never felt that was true or fair, and I feel that their music stands the test of time. Yes, they were gorgeous (John Taylor, good heavens...when I was a college coed, I absolutely adored him. Kind of still do, to tell the truth!), and yes, they had some great hits on radio and on MTV. But their talent as musicians and songwriters cannot be denied. They crafted some amazing songs, and they were and are all talented musicians. It is forty years later, and if I hear “The Reflex” or “Wild Boys,” I still shake my groove thang! “Rio” remains in my personal Top Ten albums.

DD5

The advent of MTV brought their vibrancy to light, and concert posters of that era showcased that. The colors leap out at you, and their looks are enhanced with makeup and coiffed hair.

DD3

And good gawd, that black leather. [fanning myself]

There is an enduring story in my family about Duran Duran. Three of my nieces, maybe around ten years old at the time, told my Beatlemaniac sister that “Duran Duran is going to be bigger than the Beatles.” I haven’t checked album sales, but I’m guessing that has not turned out to be the case. However, Duran Duran left their indelible and colorful stamp on rock and roll history, and continue to do so. Their sound is evocative of a certain time in my life and as I write this, I find that I have a wicked little grin on my face.

Andy’s book beautifully shows this. The transition from traditional graphic posters to those that showcased the band’s glamorous looks is readily apparent, and as some wise person once said, “Sex sells.” Duran Duran also had the music and talent to back up the sex appeal, unlike many others of that era (or of this era, frankly). The posters in this art book show the development of a Birmingham band working the clubs to MTV darlings and arena artists. It is beautifully done, and any fan of Duran Duran would treasure this volume. A forward by Nick Rhodes is icing on the cake.

Check out Andy’s website here. You can buy the book there or here.

In an amazing case of serendipity, as I finished up this entry, the song that came on satellite radio was “Hungry Like The Wolf.” Karma, baby!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Beth’s Books: Mad World

Mad WorldMad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s, by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

When I saw a description of this book in a Rolling Stone blog entry, I knew I had to get it. In fact, I went right over to Amazon and ordered it then and there.

This was my era of music. I’ve read that the music that resonates the most with you throughout your life is that which you listened to as a teen and young adult. New Wave was an outcropping of punk rock, essentially making it a little more friendly and palatable for American tastes. It eventually took on a life of its own and much of it was subversive in its own right. This was happening when I was in high school and college, and this music is a major part of my life’s soundtrack.

Although I wasn’t heavy into the more electronic stuff like Depeche Mode and Joy Division (I was into the stuff with a little harder edge), I still enjoyed reading about every band and artist in the book. We get details of the friendships, the tensions, the musical influences (Bowie was a huge influence with many of these artists...so was Roxy Music), the equipment, the breakups, the reunions. We get tasty little tidbits of trivia like the story behind Adam Ant’s Apache war stripe, the real meaning of the phrase Spandau Ballet (it’s pretty awful, although the band didn’t realize it when they chose it), and of course, we’ve all wondered what the deal was with the Flock of Seagulls guy’s (Mike Score is his name) bizarre hairdo! Now the truth can be known! Get the book and find out!

There are three bands in this book that I was very much into: Devo, Duran Duran, and INXS. The entire book is great, but the write-ups on these bands alone are worth the price. I was very touched by two of the Farriss brothers talking about how they all coped with the loss of Michael Hutchence. You could tell that there is still a hole in their hearts because of his absence. Mine too, guys. Mine too.

The book has plenty of lush, colorful photographs, but isn’t short on content. It is full of great interviews with usually at least one musician from each band, and a “That was then but this is now” (from an ABC song) feature gives us an idea of what they’ve been up to lately. (The most bizarre has to be Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins, who these days “upholsters furniture using the carcasses of animals who died naturally or who were run over by unobservant drivers.” What?) It was also pleasant to find out that Howard Jones is a genuinely nice chap who strives to be the best human being he can be, and is all about encouraging others to do the same and to look at life in a positive way. What a nice guy!

There is an afterward by Moby, and part of his experience growing up with this music was similar to mine. He writes:
New wave was, for me, also about geographic escapism. I lived in the suburbs of Connecticut, and new wave represented Berlin and London and Manchester and Paris and parts of the world that seemed as glamorous and far away from Connecticut as one could possibly get while remaining on the planet.
This girl from a small town in Indiana knows exactly how you feel, Moby! Music was my exposure to a broader world, and I think it definitely shaped my worldview and made me eager to travel and see some of these places myself. It also made me know that there were teenagers all over the world who were experiencing similar things to me—other kids who didn’t quite fit in with the “in crowd,” other kids who were shy, other kids who felt that these musicians understood what they were going through, because maybe they had gone through it, too.

What really spoke to me the most, though, was this from Midge Ure of Ultravox:
[The eighties] was a different planet. It was a planet where people cared about music. Music was a be-all and end-all to young people. It was our lifeblood. You waited for the next album you were into, you saved up your pennies, and you waved it around proudly when you bought it, and you played it to death. That world doesn’t exist anymore. There’s only a few old-timers and Luddites who do that these days. There are kids walking around with 20,000 songs on their phones, and they haven’t got a clue what any of them are called because they’ve been downloaded—they’ve just been passed from person to person.
If you felt this way about eighties music, BUY THIS BOOK. It will not disappoint. I enjoyed it so much that I used the twitter links provided at the end of the book for the book and the two authors, and told them how much I loved it. They responded immediately, and when I said that I’m really hoping for a Part Deux, one of them said “Us too!” So fingers crossed for a second volume. There are so many more artists to explore!

Cousin Shane and I spent many fun hours in his room listening to albums and poring over the liner notes. We read all the lyrics and sometimes memorized them. We may not have been musicians, but we know exactly where Midge is coming from with his sentiments above. For a few special years, we were totally consumed by the music...and what a lovely way to burn.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beth’s Books: Grand Forks - A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews

Beth's BooksWhew, I’m on fiyah with the reading lately! I’m not trying to make this solely a bookish blog (there are plenty of other fun things to write about along with books), but that’s kind of been my focus lately, and I’ve really enjoyed some of the books I’ve been reading.

This one was especially fun for me, because in the Days of Yore, I spent about five years in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Shortly after I graduated from college, I got married, and my husband (now ex-husband) joined the Air Force. Grand Forks is where he got stationed. When I found out, I cried. But my Dad told me, “Look at it as an adventure!” He was right, and I made a lot of friends up there, as well as getting my first job and getting some great experience that would serve me well in my career.

Anyway, I recall Marilyn Hagerty’s name from the Grand Forks Herald, and a few years ago, her review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks went viral. (I couldn’t find the full column online, but you can find snippets here and there...and of course, the full review in the book!) It went viral because everyone knows that Olive Garden is kind of not that great of food, right? And not all that authentic, right? I mean, it’ll fill you up when you need it, and I have enjoyed meals there in the past, but I don’t think anyone would call it gourmet dining. But Ms. Hagerty reviewed it seriously, commenting on the food, service, and decor. In fact, she praised the decor quite a bit. The DECOR!

It was a funny but charming review, and you couldn’t help but like her for writing it. Having lived there, I can report that it is a smallish city, and any new restaurant opening was indeed a big deal. When I saw a while back that many of her reviews had been published in a book, I knew I had to get it.

I can’t begin to convey how much I enjoyed this book. She reviews everything from Sanders 1907 (which was the nicest restaurant in Grand Forks at the time when I was there) to the East Side Dairy Queen. She goes to buffets at Golden Corral and to the new Arby’s. No matter the restaurant, she writes about it seriously and with kindness. She seems to have her problems about certain things (if you’re her server, do NOT ask her multiple times how everything is...let her visit with her friends, gosh darn it!), but she goes out of the way to find complimentary things to say about every place she visits. The reviews in the book range from 1987 (I lived there at the time) to 2012, and in the earlier reviews, we are treated to descriptions of decor that includes mauves and greens and light wood and brass railings. Can you or can you not picture that exact style of ‘80s decor?!

She also mentions several places that I remember. There was the Chuckhouse at the Westward Ho Motel; Whitey’s Wonder Bar across the river in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (I had a lot of beers and a lot of onion rings at Whitey’s!); Bonzer’s downtown; and one of my regular haunts, John Barleycorn at Columbia Mall. There were many times when my friend Lisa and I would head out after a rough day at the lab and hit that place for Bloody Caesars or the occasional melon daiquiri. (I have yet to find another melon daiquiri like the ones at Barleycorn.)

Some of you may recall that Grand Forks and the area was devastated by a horrible flood of the Red River of the North in 1987. It was very sad to read of all the places that Ms. Hagerty wrote about that succumbed to the flood. The Chuckhouse and the Westward Ho were one of them. John Barleycorn is no longer in operation. Amazingly, both Bonzer’s and Whitey’s are still in operation, but many restaurants (not to mention homes) were lost in what Ms. Hagerty refers to as the Flood of ‘97. Based on what I watched on the news, read in books and online, and what my friends there said, it deserves its capital F. From the book:
Bit of Norway, along with many other Grand Forks and East Grand Forks businesses, succumbed to the Red River of the North flood in April and May of 1997. Says Marilyn of that time: 
“There was a period of time when I did not write because of the Flood of 1997. We had to evacuate and went down to Bismarck, where my daughter lives. My husband, retired editor of the Herald, died down there after a time in a nursing home.
“The Herald called and wanted me to write, so I started in. The Herald was being published in a school in a small town north of here. There were writers from all over the country in here during the big flood. Still, the Herald wanted writing from someone who lives here.
“The Herald, by the way, won a Pulitzer Prize for flood coverage. I can claim nothing to do with the Pulitzer Prize.”
I can tell you, that brought a tear to my eye. The whole book made me think of my time there (I was back in Indiana long before the Flood hit Grand Forks and that area) and I made an attempt to describe some of it to Ken. I felt like a stranger in a strange land at first, even though I’m also from the Midwest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the upper prairies are a different kind of Midwest. People seem a little more insular and distrustful of people from elsewhere. So here I was, from Indiana, not really a hockey fan (that made people wonder about me from the very beginning, I’m sure!), a new graduate on her first job, and part of the Air Force community. In looking back, I had a lot of things going against me!

Grand ForksIt really wasn’t easy at first, but I settled in and learned the job, and got to know my coworkers better, and I made so many good friends there! I’ve lost touch with many of them, but I still get Christmas cards from a couple of them, and I found my former manager in Microbiology on Facebook. (She seemed quite happy when I told her that I’ve become a hockey fan!) Reading this book made me think about all the good times we had, and I’ll be spending a little time writing letters to both Carole and Susan, who are so wonderful about sending me cards every year.

Ken asked me if I’d ever want to swing through there on vacation some time. I said, “Well, it’s not exactly easy to ‘swing through!’ It’s like just two hours south of the Canadian border, so it’s way up there.” He asked again. “Would you like to go there again one day?” I grinned and said, “Yeah!”

I don’t know when this will happen, but I foresee Whitey’s onion rings in my future!

For those who don’t have the connection to Grand Forks that I do, you might not enjoy this book to the extent that I did. However, it is a delightful read that I plan on keeping in a handy spot for whenever I have a bad day. I don’t think it’s possible to read this without a smile sneaking onto your face!

And remember...if the chef includes an orange slice as garnish on your plate, that means he or she cares. Marilyn knows.