Trouble at Paradise

“She was so foxy! She wrote her number on my hand!”

It’s no longer called “Paradise Ballroom.” Instead, it’s the “Lake Waconia Event Center.” How … evocative. And now it’s morphed into something else entirely.

The ballroom was a couple miles outside of Mound, mere yards from Lake Waconia, off Highway 5. Back in the day it always stank of spilt beer, stale cigarette smoke and danger. But we knew it as the former, or just “The Paradise.” I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac and not think of that place. And there’s one particular night—one magical night—connected to it: Friday, Aug. 26, 1977.

We’d just returned from The Family Project’s trip to Indiana, and I was back in the midst of my friends, out of the clutches of said project. It was a hot summer day, one of the last actually, since in two days we’d be back at high school and I’d be starting my senior year. My post-summer camp girlfriend Deeann called, depressed. “When will we get together again?” she said. I said I had to go. Skeeze was at the door and we were going swimming. And—boom—off the phone.

I know, I know. I was being a dick. I was being as fickle with Deeann as girlfriends before had been with me. There was no shirking that fact. But Deeann lived north of Stillwater and things were taking off back at home.

Excitement was building for Skeeze’s big show that night in Waconia at the Paradise Ballroom. He played drums in a band called Tank with three other guys from Delano: brothers Joey and Mike Rumpsa and some guy named Brad. Pete Andreason and I would be helping the band setup and breakdown that night—ad hoc roadies. Roadies always got the girls, so we were cool with that arrangement. How I was able to swing that kind of night out with my parents is a mystery to me. The diary doesn’t report their reaction.

We arrived at 6 p.m., even though people wouldn’t trickle in until 8:30. Pete was dating Mike Rumpsa’s sister Laurie, who had brought along a friend of hers, a “very beautiful blonde” named Karen. People started pouring in: Skeeze’s family, the Svoboda twins, Mark McCurdy and Scott Hanson, a lot of friends from high school.

The whole night became a colorful blur after Pete and I downed a beer each.

Later, while the band played their first set, I danced with Karen, “getting close,” the diary states. We made plans to see each other again; she wrote her phone number on my hand. I was to the moon.

After the show we hauled the drum kit out to Skeeze’s car, only to find his rear tire had been slashed by some of Tank’s Delano rivals. Heat lightning flashed in the west as we jacked up the car and changed the tire. The Rumpsas stopped their car to see about helping, with Laurie and Karen peering out the back seat window.

On the way back into Mound we stopped at the 7-11 for Cokes, then all went for a late-night swim at Tipi-Waken. “Skeeze was so happy,” I wrote in the diary, “he poured Coke all over himself.” It was a fantastic summer night filled with music, friends, romance, all wrapped up in the feeling that summer was winding down and an uncertain last year of school was just starting.

But that was a night for forgetting, about living in the moment. “Funny,” the diary admits, “Venus and Mars were all right, and I didn’t even have to try!”

~ by completelyinthedark on May 26, 2012.

2 Responses to “Trouble at Paradise”

  1. Wow, what a blast from the past – I still remember that night…

    Liked by 1 person

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