02surfside_colorImagine being back at a place you haven’t been to in a long time.

Maybe it’s a classroom, a childhood home, the roof of said childhood home, or even the back piano bar of a long-gone restaurant.

The latter would be Surfside (at left and below, courtesy of Mr. Tom Rockvam)—which overlooked Cooks Bay on Lake Minnetonka, near the intersection of Commerce and Bartlett Boulevards in Mound, Minnesota. It was torn down in the spring of 1985 to make way for luxury condominiums.

Saturday, Feb. 10, 1979, the journal reads: “I drove out to Surfside and talked to Geoff for a second…” Geoff Morrison worked in the kitchen there after we graduated high school in 1978. We’d become buddies while attending the University of Minnesota that winter.

At the time, Surfside was owned by Butch Essig, brother-in-law to Geoff’s girlfriend Dannette, a lovely, whip-smart older blonde. Surfside always hosted our high school’s Homecoming pizza parties, since they could contain all the underage drinkers upstairs, away from the bar downstairs.

Early that Saturday afternoon my brother and I went to Ridgedale for haircuts. “Everybody was there,” the journal states. “Brian and I ran into Sara Beck and she told me that Darla just had her baby yesterday and it was a boy. That was the kind of news that stunned me—” You see, Darla and I had dated when I was a senior, so she was still in high school. And having children out of wedlock was not a common occurrence, at least at our school. Brian and I ran into a lot of other kids, and I even introduced him to Steph Pinsky, my love interest from the U, who was shopping “at the Shirt Shack.”

Once home again, I was back to writing The Crowded Room and knocking back some vodka. No mention in the journal of where the rest of the Family Project was at the time, but the folks may’ve been out of town. “I got tired of rotting around the house pretty loose, so I got in the car and went up to the Burger Chef, went by, [but] there was absolutely no one there.”01surfside_color

It was then I decided to check in with Geoff at Surfside. He finished his shift at 11:00 p.m., and was planning to hit a party. Did I want to stop back and join him? Surfside had a back piano bar that only regulars knew about—I’m certain I got the initial scoop on it from Geoff. The piano bar was just past the restrooms, the doors of which were labelled “Inboards” and “Outboards.”

But that night I wasn’t sure I wanted to party. “I drove around some more, felt real nice going nowhere. I drove past ‘the empty field,’ stopped in by the hockey rink and watched two guys passing around a puck.”

I loved those meditative drives around town, or out on back farm roads, where I fantasized about story scenes and characters. With the radio or cassette player blasting, I was completely in the zone.

When I returned to Surfside, Geoff had already left. “I was about to call it a night when I decided to stop by the 7-Eleven one last time.”

The Spring Park 7-Eleven was the hub of high school activity any given Saturday night—the place to go when ideas were running low. “When I pulled up, Michelle was walking out after paying for some gas. I ran up and we grabbed each other, arm in arm, laughed, ‘Michelle!’ ‘Michael!’ It was really great. I put the gas in her Monza … she said, ‘I wanna read your book when it’s done!’” She had to go, since she was meeting up with her friend Julie Bialon for a midnight movie.

So, here in late October 2013, I imagine being in that space again—outside the 7-Eleven before midnight on a wintry Saturday night in 1979, energy flowing between me and Michelle—but it’s like a scene in a Michel Gondry film—no past, no future, just a present quickly dissolving even as it’s happening.

Then, the following Monday, Feb. 12, I awoke from a dream. The journal records it in full:

“…Michelle and I were lying together on her bed, on the verge of making love. It seemed that she was seducing me. Well, in the dream, her Mom walked in on us (I don’t remember her reaction—it wasn’t big). Anyway, Michelle’s ‘stepfather’ (she hasn’t one) came in on us and he was really mad, bitched us both out and I argued that Michelle’s true father, who I knew, wouldn’t have minded if we were together. The dream, the story, isn’t what’s important—it’s the idea of Michelle, how she secretly has me captivated and can play upon my emotions as she pleases.

“The dream was telling me what I already knew.”

~ by completelyinthedark on November 1, 2013.

10 Responses to “Surfside”

  1. I remember falling through the ice at Surfside as I was walking home from school in 1974. It was an unseasonably warm winter’s day and Bryan Hagen and I were cutting across the bay towards home. I failed to give the red fence around the open water a wide enough berth and the next instant was in the drink. The ice was breaking apart in my hands as my heavy boots and parka were filling with water. Bryan, in the grip of an adrenaline rush, pulled me completely out of the water and set me down on the ice. We went into Surfside to call for a ride and the manager started yelling that I couldn’t come in the restaurant soaking wet. I looked at him and said, “You’re gonna have to move your fence”. Then he was nice.
    A better time was had seeing The Trashmen play the upstairs ballroom c.1979.
    Thanks for jogging my memory!

    Liked by 1 person

    • heh heh. Great story, Eric! That manager was likely Butch, since he bought Surfside in 1973. He told me another great story just this morning about Geoff Morrison. Seems when Geoff started working in the kitchen, they couldn’t get him to shut up. He was talking to everyone, constantly. Butch said he was about to fire him when he realized Geoff would be better carving prime rib on the Sunday brunch line … which he did successfully and the customers loved him. Thanks for checking in on the blog. Best, Mike


  2. I let my step father (Butch Essig) know of this site and he mentioned that you had attempted to friend him, but he didn’t recognize your name so he didn’t accept. BTW, Dannette is my aunt (only 4 yrs older than me), and we all have many fond memories of our Surfside daze…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also fell through the ice outside the Surfside, while my mom was there .. I was chasing the geese .. Wow .. Seems it wasn’t to safe out there .. Ya think ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG, i remember when Geoff nearly cut off his finger and nearly passed out,while carving the roast, i knew Geoff and Mike, brings back many good memories growing up in mound, playing on the lake and more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another good memory, Butch Essig was my boss for , at 16 i started at surfside washing dishes, quickly learned to make pizzas and after several months learned the menu and was running the back line cooking from 4 pm to close and weekends, Butch was the best boss. letting me use one of his boats several times on my off time, i remember him encouraging Geoff to go to the u of M, I remember visiting years later i was sad to see surfside had changed, I’ve raised a family and now enjoy being a grandpa

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My first job at age 15 was dishwasher at Surfside, the summer of ’76, I think? My sister’s BF was a pizza cook there and got me the job. I remember working with one of the Morrison’s though I can’t recall if it was Geoff or Mike. (I think Mike). I remember them telling me about the “ghost” that haunted the restaurant. Supposedly, the upstairs was particularly haunted, with furniture seen moving on its own accord and such. I’m pretty sure it was all BS but one day before our shift started, we were all sitting at the bar having a Coke and there was a loud crash in the kitchen. When we ran in there to find out what had happened, we discovered the refrigerator doors thrown open with all the ketchup bottles laid out broken on the floor. That was kind of creepy! I’m wondering if there are any other haunted Surfside stories, or if they were just attempts to scare off a local teenager?


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