From McSweeney's...... Lake Minnesota Days
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 100 17:18:13 -0700
Subject: From McSweeney's...... Lake Minnesota Days
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Lake Minnesota Days
By Neal Pollack
(Author's Note: I performed this piece on Sept. 27, 2000, at the Guthrie
Theater, in front of a crowd of 500 well-adjusted, sensible residents of
Minneapolis/St. Paul, who comprised the inaugural audience for A McSweeney's
It's been a quiet week in Lake Minnesota. Pastor Engquist's wife, Lorna, sat
in the hot dish again. This ruined Sunday supper at the church somewhat. But
Bjorn Bjornsen went out on his boat, cast his rod, and soon pulled in 1,000
walleye, so everyone was feeling better within a matter of hours.
The regular customers at Ingemarr Johannsen's barbershop, Roy Royquist, Lars
Larquist, and Casey Caseyquist, all showed up at the exact same time for
their weekly haircuts. Lake Minnesota people, as you know, are patient, and
the men alternated snips, one-third of their hair at a time, until they had
spent a pleasant afternoon talking about outboard motors, Lutheranism, and
Daunte Culpepper's rushing statistics.
Over at the Hot Box Cafe, Sven Svenson was pining away for Frieda Friedricks,
who, Sven figured, was the most beautiful waitress to pour Sanka there since
his wife had left him so many years ago. All night, Sven Svenson looked out
the window at the moon and remembered the summer afternoon when his wife
Petra left for Bosnia to work as an army nurse.
I hope that Turkish soldier takes care of her, thought Sven. I hope he has a
nice house for her on a lake somewhere.
"More pie, Sven?" asked Frieda.
Sven sighed and asked Frieda to marry him instead.
Frieda, as always, declined.
A bus pulled up to the terminal, and out came the junior-high hand bell
choir, two of whom had just had sex during a regional competition in Chicago,
and Torkel Torkelson, who had been caring for his elderly mother at an
expensive Jewish-owned rest home in Eau Claire. Last off the bus was John
Johnsen, young writer and hopeful radio personality, returning home after ten
formative years in New York City.
John Johnsen was tired of his apartment in the East Village, of sparking a
joint and walking down to Tompkins Square Park to watch the police heap abuse
upon the freaks and their dogs. He was done with the cocaine and the models
and all the burdens that come with being a successful writer. He had come
home to Lake Minnesota, to the seedbed of his patented regional style.
He walked down Ventura Avenue, under the soft glow of the streetlamp. He saw
hooligans chase the town's only black resident, who screamed in terror. He
saw the old men eating their mint cookies at the bait-and-tackle store. He
breathed in the moisture, the sawdust, and the gasoline. The church steeple
loomed gently before him, and across the street, Edna's whorehouse and its
inviting lights beckoned. He was home.
John came along to the white wood-frame house where he had grown up, where he
had listened to the Green Hornet on the radio and watched his grandfather
fall into a coma, a state he hadn't left for 34 years. The door was unlocked,
as always, and, as always, John Johnsen's mother sat at the kitchen table
with a bottle of bourbon, a copy of the collected writings of Martin Luther,
and a steaming bowl of cranberry oatmeal.
"Hello, mom," said John Johnsen.
"Hello, John," said mom. "How was New York?"
"The last decade has been wonderful, mom," John said. "I must tell you about
it sometime. But first..."
"She's here, John," mom said. "She's waiting for you upstairs."
There, in John's boyhood bedroom, with its posters of George Mikan, Fran
Tarkenton, and Rod Carew, among his Prince albums and Replacements EPs, lying
atop his now-valuable Minnesota North Stars bedspread, was Inge Svenson, in a
white cotton nightdress, looking just as splendid and Nordic as the day John
had left her there, ten years ago.
"I'm home, baby," John said. "Are you still a virgin?"
"Oh, yes, John," Inge said. "I, and all of Minnesota, have longed for the day
when you would return and once again make us your own."
John Johnsen took off his Yankees cap, removed a lighter from his front
pocket, and set aflame his New York Public Library card. He was done with the
latest issue of Vanity Fair, and he burned that as well. He had come home to
Lake Minnesota, and to his virgin bride.
Later that night, as John Johnsen smoked a Lucky Strike in the room of his
youth, and Inge, utterly sated, gasped for oxygen in the bed behind him, he
knew that he had made the right choice, because in this state, we wait for
our literary heroes, and then we have sex with them. We're glad to see them.
Now. And forever.
And that's the news from Lake Minnesota, where all the men are funny, all the
women want to date me, and all the children attend well-funded public high
© 2000 Peter Langston