Verne Gagne’s Scrambled Eggs
Like a portent of the school year ahead—my junior year in high school—something as simple as opening your new locker on the first day of school seemed like a good omen.
At Mound Westonka High, it was chaos. Greeted friends I hadn’t seen all summer, and went through the lineup of new classes: homeroom in the Home Ec department, Geometry, German, Western Civilization and Chemistry. But the most exciting thing about the day was getting home in time to call Linda. I asked her to the State Fair the following night. To my utter surprise, she said she’d go.
So Friday I was obviously distracted at school, anxious about our date. It was something new for us, without other friends around—a real “date” date.
Before our family (Mom, Dad, Brian and his neighborhood friend Joe) left for Falcon Heights, I called Linda to say we were on the way. Her mother answered the phone and said Linda was already at the Fair, working at her father’s booth, “Paul’s Landing,” which dealt with fishing and boating supplies. I was more than a little chagrined, since I thought we were picking her up, but we continued on anyway.
It turned out to be one of my best State Fair experiences ever. I glowed about it for days. Because it was the Bicentennial, the fairgrounds were decked out in red, white and blue. When I got to the Paul’s Landing booth, Linda ended her shift and we took off to walk the fairgrounds. We went up the Space Needle and rode the Skyride to the Midway. We talked a lot and, at one point, even held hands. Heaven.
Later we ran into my family and they offered to give Linda a ride home. After stopping off at Shakey’s Pizza in Excelsior for dinner, we dropped Linda off back in Orono. The next day I wrote in the diary, “Last night at the Fair was perfect. Linda and I are 100% more relaxed around each other and we both learned a lot about each other while talking last night…It seems there’s a new look in her eyes.”
Now, remember, I’m not yet 17. I’m still crawling like a baby when it comes to reading girls. But that would bear itself out in the days ahead. My first clue should’ve been the crossed wires on the pickup plan.
That fall I practiced driving, meeting with an instructor to get my first driver’s license. Meanwhile, the work slog at the Club continued. On August 29, 1976, I caught a ride to work with Dan in his dad’s station wagon. I somehow got out of scrapping plates that brunch and served on the buffet line. It was one of those days where familiar faces greeted you on the other side of the buffet: our neighbors down the road, the Aslesens, my old junior high Math teacher Mr. Fishbach, and—bulking up, apparently—the “professional wrestler” Verne Gagne.
That Sunday turned into a double shift, with the two Steves and I working a wedding reception of 250 in the main ballroom. We set up scraping stations off the ballroom in the enclosed wraparound porch, which had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Crystal Bay.
During breaks I gazed at the lake as boats glided by, their green and red bow lights reflecting off the water. The Paul McCartney and Wings concert at the beginning of the summer echoed back to me: “Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine, a good friend of mine follows the stars, Venus and Mars are all right tonight.” I’d get all moody, wondering what Linda was doing, since Paul’s Landing was a scant mile or two in the direction I was looking. Looking back on it now, I was like Jay Gatsby watching Daisy’s green dock light across the water in East Egg.
I got home that night, exhausted.
That September I worked nearly every weekend. Going out with Linda again seemed like an impossible fantasy, so close by, yet so far away.