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Monday, August 21, 2006

Bemidji, MN

Tomorrow we head off to Bemidji to stay at a cabin for a few days. This will be just a few words about that town.

The day I graduated high school I went directly from giving a goodbye hug to my ex girlfriend Kate to the car of my Uncle Rod, and drove straight from there to St. Paul. The next morning they drove me to the Greyhound station, and I boarded a train for Bemidji.

I was there for the rest of the summer, working in the kitchen at Skogfjorden. Mainly I washed dishes, but I also prepared meals for the rest of the camp, and learn how to coin an entire sack of carrots or peel a few hundred potatos in no time flat.

When I was in school I was made fun of a lot and picked on constantly. I escaped from that and, since that day I departed the bus near a statur of Paul Bunyan, I have been a happier person.

The first night I was in Bemidji, there was a welcome party for the Concordia Language Village Staff members, and somehow, I missed out on knowing where I was supposed to sleep. I didn;t know what to do, but I felt too stupid to ask the question -- "Where do I sleep?" So I kept my bags in the kitchen area and slept on the floor of Gimle, a beautiful dining hall with hand rosemaled ceilings. I did this for three days before someone told me I was supposed to be sleeping in a small cabin a hundred yards away.

The person I called my boss at Skogfjorden was Jay Richards. He was very cool and got me into Mountain Biking. I biked whenever I could that summer, and bought his old bike, a GT Tequesta, for $400. I paid him in 200 $2 bills, which I think he had a fun time using. A year later that bike was stolen, and I got over $2000 from my mom's homeowners insurance as a replacement cost estimatel I used that to purchase a ten year old Italian racing bike for $1500. Thanks again, Jay.

That summer was also the summer I discovered music, especially Joan Baez, The Crash Test Dummies, and the soundtrack from When Harry Met Sally. On rides in the beautiful Bemidji woods I was always listening to something. I have a lot of stories from that summer. One involves inadvertently buying the underage daughters of some of the Concordia Language Village maintenance staff cigarettes just so they would leave me alone while I waited for my shorts to dry after washing them in the Mississippi, and then properly washing them in a laundromat while wearing ONLY my T-Shirt. Now THAT is a funny story.

Tomorrow I'll head up there, again, this time with my three kids and Sandy. I'll watch them try to swim in the same lake that I avoided as a Skogfjorden camper. In fact, we'll be one of the last occupants of the cabin, as the site is being made into a new language village come this Fall. At night, we'll watch movies with the kids, build a fire, and listen to the wildlife. And I will remember that summer I spent, alone in those woods, throwing back gatorade and power bars like there were going out of style. Finding trails to ride on. Finding myself.