Labor Day weekend is traditionally when Fargo, as for most every weekend in summer, becomes a ghost town. Most go off to Lakes Country, leaving sort of a skeleton crowd in the city itself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s quiet, one can have run of restaurants, concerts, or anything else in the city, and to be honest, the people left are usually more fun than the college crowd. Many of them are nice, but many, the ones who have never seen a street musician and think every busker is a worthless hobo who will scrounge for every quarter, tend to throw around the little power they think they have. If anyone picks a fight, it will be them.
The Redhawks had their last game of the season, with Redhawks pitcher Jake Laber setting an all-time team record for wins on Labor Day. Our manager, Doug Simunic, actually kept him into the ninth, and then inexplicably changed pitchers with two outs and seven runs up. I’m not as much of a fan of our manager, who is known to make two and a half hour games into four for the amount of time he spends switching pitchers, no matter how well they’re doing. Conservative with baserunning, I’m not sure Simunic has ever let a batter get more than a triple. However, one of the faults of the game, in my mind, is when they put base coaches to tell the players when to run at all. The game is much more exciting when the players had to decide. At any rate, the Hawks retired from one of their worst seasons.
Not that there wasn’t improvement. The evolution of the beer gardens has been ongoing all summer. One man- I call him Ty, because he wore those sorts of shirts- has been crowned king of his domain. The beer gardens at Newman Outdoor Field are somewhere beyond the third base line, underneath tents. Like clockwork, sometime around the seventh or eighth inning, the crowd there get started. Catcalls, jeers…. all led by Ty. Ty, a middle aged man with a visor and sunglasses, started out pretty primitive. A few catcalls, a few screams. When a foul ball hit the zone (which is fenced off like zoo animals), it disturbs the tranquility of its patrons, making it go all aflutter, as people looked up from the $5.25 beers and realized that a large, blunt object was hurtling toward them. Doubtlessly sent by the enemy, they would yell and scream, led by Ty. By the last game, he had picked up some followers, and had developed a certain amount of coordination. This could be as complex as yelling and getting a callback, or stringing together sentences. The beer gardens had improved.
Not that baseball was all that was traditional to Labor Day. The Steam Thresher’s Reunion takes place, as usual, every Labor Day weekend in the small town of Rollag, Minnesota. Using a campground, volunteer bring back enough oil, dirt, and old engines to create a small cloud of acid rain, and the region celebrates its agricultural heritage. Horses, trains, and about everything else that any pioneer ever used descended on Rollag, one of the more popular festivals in the area. Missing only about one since 1989, I attended with the usual gusto and expectation, missing only the traditional breakfast served by the Lutheran church, which is usually superior to what they had going for the lunch. I did run into a Norwegian, Jens, who had a heavy accent, but I assumed he was just a third generation from a small town. Long story short, I now have an invitation to go to Norway, if I so choose.
The music world was surprisingly active this weekend. I went and found Mitch and Jim in their usual spot. They gave me some good tips, and we chatted a bit. Sarah Bomb was playing in a up the street, on top of a new basement bar called “The Boiler Room”. She was doing the thing where she was reading the lyrics, which my one mentor and teacher (my dear mother) told me never to do for a crowd, and it is some of the better advice I have received. Sarah is a twenty/thirty something real-estate agent, who got a degree in English Literature, a degree she said one could get while being high the whole time. A German-Russian, she has a funny haircut and a nice voice, and sings quite loud. She was too busy concentrating on her song, so I left.
Across the street from my usual spot, some musicians have taken to using speakers in front of the Hodo bar and hotel. Given that this ruins the effect for the whole street (and is against the rules, but the cops don’t really enforce it) I played in front of a drugstore down the way. The first night was okay, the money was good at least. Some young guys really liked it, and ended up emptying their pockets by the end. Rezil stopped by, and bailed me out twice by playing Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and getting a few blues licks by request. The next night was a little more complicated. A drunk college kid went as far as to touch my guitar, and I put a hand on his chest telling him to go. You could see his face change. He was gearing for a fight. Luckily his friend came and took him away, as he stood there saying he could “beat the f#%& out of me.” I think I could take him, but who wants to try? My biggest worry is keeping my guitar intact, and unfortunately that requires one not sinking to the level of a drunken college student. Nevertheless, I wish I could say these stories were not unique only to me, but I can’t.
Sometimes later, Glen stopped by. After giving money to The Enemy up the street, we were chatting with Rezil when Michaela came.
Michaela is the person who I think is most likely to get me beat up sometime. If you sort of combine a cheerleader, a cannonball, and use alcohol to take away any sort of filter, that is Michaela. I had met her over the summer, in which she turned twenty-one and learned the joys (but not yet the sorrows) of barhopping. Every time we met, she got more talkative. One day she introduced me to her new boyfriend, Matt. Asking where Glen was that night, I said he was off with his girlfriend, which she said was lame. Poor Matt has a hard road to go. I remember that night as something like the following, although there is much more detail that now escapes my memory:
Glen:…well, you know, I had to give them money, I was just being nice, I didn’t-
Michaela’s friend: Hey, I like this guy!
Michaela (coming around the corner): OH MY GOD MATTTTTTHHHHHHHHEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!!
Michaela: OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOU! (hug). Do you love me too?
Me: Well that’s a strong-
Michaela: You are my favorite busker! Oh my God, I literally have over a hundred pictures of you on my phone!
Me: That’s not disturbing.
Michaela’s friend: She does, she’s not lying.
Michaela: You were gone, where have you been? (turns to Matt) We’re Facebook friends (we aren’t, but she doesn’t know that). Oh my God, I love you, don’t you love me too?
Me: Sure I do. I love you too, dude (friendly arm punch).
(I should intercede at this point and mention that the present Boyfriend Matt, is a large, hulking gentleman who looks like he belongs as a permanent in a Disney film. You know the sort where thirty-year olds play highschoolers).
Matt: Oh, burn! (Matt was unperturbed)
Me: So Glen, where’ve you been?
Glen: Yeah, well, I’m drinking tonight-
Michaela: Let’s sing a song!
Me: I don’t think we know any-
Michaela: I don’t care. Just do it.
I then proceeded to choose a verse or two of the poppiest song I knew (Katy Perry’s ‘Hot n’ Cold’, the only one I know), which Michaela, drunk as hell, slurred along to, while also doing some dance I can only describe as a softshoe combined with twerking.
Michaela: That was great, let’s hold hands! (I gave a firm, friendly handshake).
Michaela: No, hold hands (she grabs my hand and strokes it). Look Matt, we’re holding hands! (To me) I’m kind of dating you because you have the same name, but I dated the wrong Matt.
At this point, I am really glad Boyfriend Matt seems to be the mellow, patient, non-punchy sort, because this is the kind of thing that can lead to a nighttime parking lot and a morphine drip. There were some other pleasantries exchanged, including when I left and she cornered me and tried to take a bunch of more photos, to which I put my guitar to my face, and demanded my love, as drunk people do. I finally said goodbye, and that was the end of Labor Day weekend.
As a final note for musical endeavors, I played with Zach, one of the better banjo players I know. We’ve been getting an act together, and hope to debut it soon. Meeting in the park, it was one of those hot, cold, rain, and sun that will eventually result in a tornado, as it nearly did last night. Our street debut will hopefully take place this weekend.
P.S. As I side note, I should mentioned that the aforementioned public piano lasted ten days, not fourteen, and was immediately replaced, but that piano has some problems, so it is under repairs. I should point out that this is grant money, so there isn’t any need to worry about funds.