Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A different side of Justice Alan Page...

Photo source: Wikipedia, 2009
By Jim Heffernan

Much is being made this month of the retirement of Justice Alan Page from the Minnesota Supreme Court. By law he must retire at age 70, which he marks this month.

Does Page need further elaboration? Maybe to a few, but not many in Minnesota. Most people remember him as an all-pro lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s, a player of such skill and power that he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

Even while still playing professional football, Page went to law school, and in 1992 was elected to the state Supreme Court, where he has served ever since.

This is all Google-able information that needs no further elaboration here. What follows is not on Google, because it is a personal recollection of mine of one brief encounter with Page in the 1970s, long before he became a high court justice, and was still playing for the Vikings.

Sooner or later just about every Minnesota luminary, especially in politics but in sports and the arts as well, finds himself or herself in the newsroom of the Duluth daily newspaper – The Duluth News Tribune. I worked there for 42 years, a decade of those years (most of the 1970s) as the entertainment and arts writer and editor. My end of the operation was located in a small, enclosed office with large windows just off the newsroom.

I had plastered the walls and windows with memorabilia reflecting my job, including large travel posters that came to me in the mail because I was also listed as the newspaper’s travel editor (who never traveled anywhere on their cuff). One of the posters on my wall, perhaps 18 by 24 inches, was a vivid color photograph of the inside of an Austrian cathedral showing massive organ pipes rising to a blue ceiling (looked a lot like heaven), with seraphim and cherubim floating alongside (proving it).

One day as I sat at my desk I saw a large man wearing casual but athletic style clothes walking in the direction of my office on his way to an exit. He stopped in his tracks when he saw my travel poster of the cathedral organ pipes and rococo adornments, and just stared, saying something like, “Wow.”

I greeted him and invited him in to take a closer look, which he did as we engaged in small talk about the poster. The encounter didn’t last more than a couple of minutes. Not a football fan, I didn’t know for sure who this visitor was, although I surmised it was someone of importance in the wide world of sports. Yes, of course it was Alan Page, I learned for sure by checking with the sports desk across the room where he had undergone an interview.

Some people you meet you never forget, and years later when he was on the state ballot for the Supreme Court I always recalled my encounter with him. I presume I voted for him. Who could be a better justice than someone representing a minority – African American – who had achieved greatness in his chosen athletic field, educated himself to join the legal profession and who appreciated 18th Century rococo cathedrals?

Page participated in an extended interview by Tom Weber on Minnesota Public Radio Tuesday morning that can be accessed HERE. It’s well worth listening to. A shorter interview by Tom Crann today on MPR's All Things Considered may by linked HERETo learn more about the Page Education Foundation, please link HERE.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Random thoughts: Cecil, Trump, Walker and other outrages...

By Jim Heffernan

Here are a few random thoughts about some recent stuff.

1. We all feel badly about the shooting of Cecil the lion, of course. Aside from the sadness of it all, though, I have been wondering why nobody has mentioned that Cecil’s name is the first name of Cecil Rhodes, the British founder of the African country of Rhodesia -- the former name of Zimbabwe, where Cecil was killed. What goes around, comes around.

2. I wonder why nobody else has mentioned that Donald Trump looks a bit like Cecil. At least as much as any prominent human I can think of. Growls a little like him too, at times. 

3. On the big Fox News debate of the 10 leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stood right beside the leonine Mr. Trump, displaying tolerant smiles. Is Walker a little cross-eyed? He reminds me of Alfred E. “What, Me Worry?” Newman, of Mad Magazine. (Googling Newman to check on the spelling of his name, I noticed he once said, “Listening to opera is to entertainment what falling off the roof of a barn is to transportation.” No mention of attending a blues festival.)

4. With all of this talk about Cecil, it made me wonder whatever happened to Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion. Remember him from the movies? Not to be confused with Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear. You’ll be hearing more about him during the Walker campaign. 

5. I wonder if it’s politically incorrect to even mention cross-eyedness any more. I often force-cross my eyes when confronted with something outrageous, like the Republican debates.

6. We’ve all made mistakes in life, but you know you’ve screwed up if you’ve caused a worldwide outrage, like the Twin Cities dentist who murdered Cecil the lion. It’s not easy to cause a worldwide outrage, unless you are a prominent politician or a famous terrorist. Infamous dentist? Not so much.

This is my last post for a while. Vacation time. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

American Pharaoh ain’t what she used to be...

By Jim Heffernan

Famed horse racing stallion becoming old gray mare...
Here’s the latest news from June 2035.

Stallion American Pharaoh, the last horse to win the fabled Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing and regarded as one of the greatest equine athletes of all time, has decided he is transgender and will become a mare.

The 2005 Triple Crown winner, now 23 years old, “has given us every indication he would prefer to be a mare, not a stallion,” his handler Preakness Everdeen announced yesterday. “For the past several years, ever since his stud services began tapering off, AP (his stallion nickname) has been acting and reacting more and more like a mare,” she said, adding that owners and handlers see no reason why the horse shouldn’t undergo gender re-assignment surgery to accomplish that goal.

“He just wasn’t comfortable in his own hide,” Everdeen said. “His brain is much more female than male.”

“Of course we could go for gelding, but we feel we owe it to him to take it all the way to mare and let him live out his years with the sexual identification he has wanted for so long,” said Everdeen, herself a transgender ex-jockey formerly known as Willie Horseshoemaker.

The stable announced that henceforth American Pharaoh will be known as Cleopatra. “She’s sticking with the Egyptian theme,” said the handler.

Word of the horse’s sex change shocked the horseracing world. As American Pharaoh, Cleopatra was the last horse to win the Triple Crown of racing 20 years ago this month. Before that it had been 37 years since the horse Affirmed won all three races.

News of the change was kept under wraps until it was announced in a cover story in a popular track magazine, Paddocks and Stables, although it had been rumored in horseracing circles for some time.

Racing reporter John Belmont Stakesworthy said recently he confirmed the rumor after contacting the horse’s long-time trainer Howard Mane, who said he had passed it on to the ex-jockey Preakness Everdeen (formerly Willie Horseshoemaker). “The jockey, of course, passed it on to the horse, and the horse told me.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Historic Glensheen"– Book release reception on June 9


Join author Tony Dierckins to celebrate the release of
Historic Glensheen 1905–1930:
Photographs from the Congdon Estate’s First 25 Years

Author Tony Dierckins will give a brief presentation,
followed by a book signing.
Refreshments Served | Beer & Wine Available 
Tuesday, June 9
7 p.m. (Doors open 6:30 p.m.)
Glensheen Historic Estate
3300 London Road
This Event is Free and Open to the Public.
Five percent of the publisher’s sales of this book directly support Glensheen Historic Estate
From Zenith City Online
For more information, click HERE.
Pictures and more about book on the St. Paul Pioneer Press story. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

More about obits and fun homes in Duluth...

Since my last post here looked back on the old "art" of writing obits as a journalist, I thought you might enjoy more on the topic and check out my contribution today on Zenith City Online.
A new Broadway musical called “Fun Home” recently received a casket full of Tony nominations. The title is short for “funeral home” and reading about it caused me to reflect on Duluth’s not-so-fun homes, a part of our history that touches all of our lives at one time or another, especially at the end. (Quoted from "A Mostly Western Undertaking," with my byline, on Zenith City Online.)
The former Olson Funeral Home in the West End, aka “Lincoln Park”.
(Image: Zenith City Press)
At left is the former Fred Olson Mortuary in Duluth's Lincoln Park (formerly West End) where my parents and many of my family end-of-life visitations were held. Check out the post and read more about looking back on Duluth's funeral homes HERE on ZCO. And... explore the new format of this fantastic website that celebrates historic Duluth and surrounding area.