Meet the big dork of the Don Squad!

Forty-five nanoseconds of fame
Including: Oh, and was his face red! — and: It’s a small world (Especially Around Here Division)

Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “Subject: Don Vogel, Chris Mars, and a big dork (that would be me).

“In the early- to mid-’90s, I was quite a fan of talk-radio personality Don Vogel. I used to listen to his afternoon drive-time show every day. Through listening to Don’s show, I learned that local artist/musician Chris Mars, the original drummer of critics’ darlings The Replacements, was also a member of the Don Squad. That’s what Don called his fans.

“Each year KSTP-AM 1500, now 1500 ESPN, would send their on-air talent to broadcast live at the Minnesota State Fair. One year, a friend and I went to watch Don and his cohost, T.D. Mischke, put on a show.

“As Don and T.D. did their thing, I looked over the gathered crowd of fans and curious onlookers, and I spotted Chris Mars. I was a fan of The Replacements (still am), and I knew it was him.

“That’s when something very strange happened. I don’t know what possessed me, but I felt compelled to tell the show hosts that an illustrious fan was in the crowd.

“At least I waited until the show was in a commercial break to pursue this madness. I got Mischke’s attention and attempted to tell him, but he couldn’t hear me while he was in the booth. I didn’t want to shout, because I was trying to be discreet. I wasn’t completely overtaken by the madness. Still he couldn’t hear me. Eventually, I tried to just give it up: ‘Forget it, T.D. Never mind.’

“But when they came back from commercial, Mischke called me over to the mic provided for crowd participation. Now he would be able to hear me. And so would everyone else. I felt I couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t just run away. (Well, I could have.) I went to the mic and told Don and T.D. that Chris Mars was in the crowd.

“They were excited and invited Chris into the booth for an impromptu interview.

“I slinked back to my friend, who asked me what the hell just happened. I didn’t know. I guess I was star-struck. It was weird.

“The interview ended, and Chris left the booth and returned to his group of friends. I wanted to go over and apologize, but I was too embarrassed.

“Sadly, in 1995, Don died. His show was gone, and the Don Squad just had to go on with our lives.

“In the fall of 1996, I started working as a staff artist at a silkscreening shop in Minneapolis. It was there I met my friend Dave. Dave was one of the printers who had worked at the shop for many years. We found that we had much in common, including being members of the Don Squad. We hit it off almost right away.

“Dave is also good friends with, get this, Chris Mars. Yep. That Chris Mars.

“One day, when there wasn’t much to do in the art department, I was helping Dave print a big job. We were chatting, and the subject of Chris and Don came up.

“Dave said: ‘You know, Chris was on Don’s show once.’

“‘Oh?’ I said, as a cold sweat began to break out.

“‘Yeah. It was when Don was broadcasting from the State Fair.’

“‘Was there a big dork in the crowd who told Don that Chris was watching?’

“‘Yes, there was.’

“‘That big dork was me!’

“How’s that for a small world?

“Through Dave, I was able to eventually meet Chris and apologize for putting him on the spot. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He found the whole story rather amusing.

“He’s just that cool.”

The highfalutin displeasures

The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “I’ve had a safe-deposit box at the bank for decades. It’s a simple process. Probably hasn’t changed in a hundred years: You bring in your key. The attendant produces a card for you to sign, confirming your identity. Then with your key and the bank’s key, the attendant opens your box for you. Simple.

“Well, it used to be.

“When I went in recently, I was told there was a problem. Oh, no! Had the bank lost their key?! No, nothing as simple as that. Instead, it was the same old (new) problem: The computer was down.

“The computer? What did that have to do with it?

“Well, nowadays when you come in, instead of signing a piece of paper, they look you up in ‘the system,’ and have you ‘sign’ an electronic pad. So if the computer is not cooperating, you’re out of luck. No matter that you could still easily walk into the vault and use the keys to open your box. If the computer isn’t cooperating, we’re helpless.
This is progress?!

“There’s an expression about ‘the tail wagging the dog.’ This reminds me of that, but maybe with an update. ‘The tail disabling the dog,’ maybe?”

Our pets, ourselves


The Stitcher of Woodbury: “The NSPguy and I have finally found the newest member of our family! It’s been nine months since we lost our Pete and Pepin, and we recently visited the Animal Humane Society. We found Bobby, an almost-3-year-old male who was given up because his owner was undergoing chemotherapy and couldn’t care for him. He’s pretty mellow and very friendly. Lucky us!

“Check out; your next best friend could be there waiting for you now.”

Our pests, ourselves

Dragonslayer of Oakdale: “Subject: Back in the old days.

Dragonslayer of Oakdale remembers when I worked at American Hoist & Derrick. The plant was old and had wildlife of many types patrolling the plant — some two-legged, some four-legged.

“Our lunch room was an entertaining place. Under the refrigerator lived a family of mice. Next to the refrigerator was an open-topped trash barrel. The two-legged wildlife would throw their food scraps at the barrel; they often missed — and often on purpose, to watch the four-legged wildlife come out from under the refrigerator and retrieve the bounty.

“One day, two-legged Jim threw a chicken leg bone next to the refrigerator; a mouse came out to retrieve the bone; he couldn’t move it; he ran back under the refrigerator, came out again and tried to retrieve it — no luck. Back under the refrigerator he went. A moment later, two mice came out and dragged the chicken leg bone back under the refrigerator. Very entertaining, and showing me that mice are more intelligent and communicative then I thought.

“Lots of fun, until they got into the sunflower seeds in my locker. That was war. I brought several mouse traps to work, and in an eight-hour night shift, I trapped 10 mice. I pinned them by the tail to a cardboard panel (they were dead, by the way); it resembled a trophy board, and I left them for the morning shift to witness the extent of the mouse problem I had exterminated.

“I did not sign my name to it, though. I thought it best to remain anonymous. Just as well  — I wouldn’t have been given a medal for my effort.”

Our birds, ourselves

Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “Subject: Our friendly female cardinal.


“Last year, this cardinal started flying into our windows. I was afraid she would hurt herself, so I asked my husband if he could make her a perch. This is what he came up. She must like it. The feeder is nearby, and she will pick up a seed and then fly to the perch to eat it.


“Once in a while, the male will join her. The picture with the two of them is from last April. It’s almost April, so maybe he will start joining her more often.


“My husband made another perch for the other window she would fly into. That one does not have a feeder near, but she keeps coming to the perch and looking into the house. Sometimes I think she is just snoopy.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Donald: “Subject: ‘On’/’over’ . . . take your pick.

“A headline in the BUSINESS section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press: ‘Facebook falls as pressure mounts on over data.'”

Our times

Twitty of Como: “Subject: Unclear on the concept.

“My grandson just sent me something on Snapchat. I don’t know what, because my iPhone wouldn’t open it.

“Now, I’m not totally ignorant. I’ve heard the phrase ‘Snapchat’ before. I’ve seen the phrase in print, too. But, I don’t know what it is or what it does or what it’s for — or why I should need it, for that matter. But my grandson . . .

“So I googled ‘Snapchat’ and found a ‘YouTube’ video that would explain everything. The moderator was an earnest young fella — young being a relative term, at my age — who had before him a drawing pad on which he’d drawn a series of diagrams. Some of them looked like my iPhone. The fella was speaking English; of that I’m certain. And he surely was sincere. I watched the whole video, sincere in my effort to learn. But I couldn’t. I have no idea what he was talking about. Sigh . . .

“Never mind. My grandson just sent me another message. I hope it’s not in Snapchat.”

Our community of strangers (responsorial)

DebK of Rosemount: “I just now finished rereading, with considerable pleasure, recent submissions by long-silent members of the BB community, several of whom attribute their reticence to the unremarkable nature of their lives.

“It’s a situation I understand well, given that nothing ‘that exciting,’ ‘really interesting,’ or at all ‘important’ has happened in my life since . . . well, ever. That state of affairs used to bother me. But I’m now keeping company with the happy notion that noteworthiness is overrated. Let us embrace minutiae!”

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Strawberry fields forever (responsorial) about 14 years later.

“I hope Sharon of Roseville is still residing in our community of strangers. I miss her contributions. I always felt as though we were not really strangers, that maybe we had actually played in the same acreage on Old Shakopee Road and picked from the same strawberry patch — albeit a decade apart in time.

“We moved to our little house on Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington in February of 1941, and the snow-covered landscape belied what awaited us. When I lived in Minneapolis and played on the barren narrow lots our houses stood upon, I had no idea of what I was missing. That first spring in the country, when I was nearly 9, was a revelation of nature that I had never before experienced, much less imagined.

“Mother took me by the hand as we explored the six acres around us. We found tiny wild roses, a variety of apricot-colored wild snapdragons, some sweet-tasting oval-shaped yellow tomatoes, tiny little wild strawberries and, to Mother’s great surprise, a large untended strawberry patch.

“This turned into a veritable money machine for any of us willing to pick and sell the fruits of our labor in the corner vegetable stand. My brother Johnny was now working at the farm across the road and bringing home milk, cream, butter and eggs. Mother made strawberry shortcakes as large as her oval roasting pan — as often as we wanted her to. Oh, summer was wonderful in the country.

“Our next-door neighbor, ‘Old Bill,’ owned the vegetable stand, and he let us sell our berries there — as long as we would sell his, too. We had a built-in clientele thanks to the Greyhound bus driver who drove the ‘rich’ ladies from Minneapolis to the Auto Club for fancy luncheons. (How did we know they were rich? They wore fur coats even on the hottest days of summer, that’s how . . . and since they were going to an AUTO club, why did they take a bus? So many questions.)

“The bus driver would stop by our little stand to tell us how many ladies he had on board and what time he was scheduled to make the return trip to town. We would then head out to the patch and pick just as fast as we could pick, because we knew those ladies would buy everything we offered.

“Way back in 2004, I clipped a Bulletin Board column with a story by Sharon of Roseville where she told about sitting by the side of Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington selling strawberries for 25 cents a quart. Ours sold for 3 cents a pint, so I figured she must have followed us by a decade or so, but I like to think that she was talking about the same strawberry fields — and fun to know that, although strangers, we share the same sweet memories.”

Birdwatcher in La Crescent: “If I had a life, I would submit stories, but I lead a boring life and don’t remember much about my childhood to share, like other people that I enjoy reading about. As an example:

“I am now removing wallpaper from our bathroom — floor to ceiling. It is coming off in little tiny pieces, along with some of the Sheetrock paper — ugh. Now we will have to hire someone to come in and repair that. I have all the tools: the scoring tool, Dif, really hot water, and a metal scraper. I wish I would have started this in January, because golf is just around the corner, and when someone calls to golf, I am dropping everything. A couple of the courses are already opened around here, as we have no snow anywhere. Fore!”

The Permanent Roommate’s Fatherly Record

Writes joegolfer: “My first (and most beloved) college roommate, Victoria, was from Chicago, but her father and his many brothers were St. Paul-born and -bred.

“I loved visiting V during school breaks. We rode the train into the city, ate Chicago-style pizza at a joint in East Cicero, and thoroughly enjoyed her mother’s doting and her father’s stories.

“V was a latecomer to the family, and her father was old enough to be her grandfather. When I knew him, he had already begun to show signs of dementia. He would tell the same stories, ask the same questions. Pop studied engineering at the U of M, and his first job was with ‘that sandpaper company.’ What was that sandpaper company? 3M? Oh, yes! Cracked me up every time.

“He would ask me every visit where I was from, and then would tell the story of his college friend Howard, who was last seen riding away on his motorcycle, headed to my hometown. And every time I would respond that, yes, the story at home was how Howard rode into town on his motorcycle and proceeded to wire the rural parts of the county for electricity.

“I learned patience from Pop, and Pop learned the rest of Howard’s story from me.”

Not exactly what she had in mind
Headline Division — plus: Our community of strangers (responsorial)

Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “I was reading the St. Paul Pioneer Press online when I came across an article with the headline ‘Panic at the Disco at Target Center.’ My reaction was confusion. ‘There’s a Disco at Target Center? I never noticed a Disco there. Why would they still have a Disco? It’s so ’70s. And what was the cause of the panic?’

“I continued reading. Panic at the Disco is the name of an Alt-pop band, and they’re booked to play at the Target Center in July. OK. So glad there was nothing to panic about.

“And now I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who stepped up, wrote something, and forwarded their treasured words to BBOnward. I haven’t written lately, as I was either snowed in, iced in, wind-chilled in, or just plain stuck in the house with no opportunity to get myself into some ridiculous situation that I could write about to send to BBOnward. I have to admit that it was kind of nice to be stuck in the house, but able to get to the library every so often to pick up new books to read. But now that spring has sprung, I’m happy to be outside and hope to have new adventures to share with the BBOnward community of strangers.

“You know, I don’t really think of you all as strangers — more as family and friends. I love reading about what you are all doing/thinking/experiencing.”

Our theater of seasons


Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “It’s a little late for this photo, but then spring is in no hurry, either.

“My Christmas decorations were still partly frozen in place, so I decided to upgrade them for St. Patrick’s Day with green light bulbs (energy-efficient LEDs, of course). With more snow in the forecast, these guys might be outside for a while longer. Let’s see, what can I do with them for Easter?”

Not exactly what she’s had in mind
Memories Division (responsorial)

The Linguidiot:Great Grandma Paula shouldn’t be so hard on herself because she misremembered ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ as ending with Butch and Sundance jumping into a raging stream. I have two years on Great Grandma and see this happen often among my friends.

“I’ll bet she’s also a fan of the film ‘Thelma and Louise,’ which ends [Bulletin Board says: Spoiler alert!] with Susan Sarandon’s and Geena Davis’s characters driving a Thunderbird off the cliff of the Grand Canyon.

“Two great movies, four great actors, two scenes with the same emotional impact (until [Bulletin Board says: Spoiler alert!] we find out Butch and Sundance survive), easy to conflate at our age.

“That scene in ‘Butch and Sundance’ has, for me, one of the best exchanges ever. After a brief argument about who should jump first, Sundance says he doesn’t want to because he can’t swim, to which Butch replies: ‘Are you crazy? The fall’ll probably kill ya!”

Joy of Juxtaposition

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Hold the presses! Scrunchies in the news!

“I just read two stories in the space of 10 minutes that mentioned the retro hair ties.

A feature about my favorite SCOTUS, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, details her deep and abiding love of scrunchies. Her top three cities for buying scrunchies? Zurich, London and Rome.

“A few minutes later, I read a piece by Allison Kaplan about a Minnesota State Fair music announcement. Here’s her lede: ‘Grab your scrunchies, pin your jeans: Boy George and Culture Club just signed on to perform at the Minnesota State Fair along with fellow 1980s pop stars the B-52s, and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey. It’s the stuff of high school mix tapes. Like, totally.’”

The workshop chronicles

IGHGrampa, checking in again: “Subject: Box update.

“I think the problem with my octagon box is the wood I used. White pine is just too soft. An old wood chopper like me just can’t avoid getting little chips, dents, splinters and flubs on the various parts.

“I’m just going to finish it up and trust in the 6-foot phenomenon. The gist of that is: If you don’t examine something from closer than six feet, you won’t see the flaws.”

Northwoods Honey Bunny: “I enjoyed Stinky Bananalips‘ comments on quilting mistakes. My dad was a carpenter working in the Twin Cities for many years. He’d say: ‘It’s OK. It won’t show from the road.’ He’s been gone 18 years, but I still use that expression when I goof something up.

“On an (almost) related subject, I saw a quote today: ‘A perfectionist is a person who takes great pains and gives them to other people.'”

Unclear on the concept
Or: The self-incriminators

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Dead giveaway.

“We just returned a missed call that turned out to be a scammer. A real person answered: ‘United States Tax Department. How may I help you?’ We hung up immediately but later thought we should have said: ‘You guys are really stupid to think that anyone would believe that a government office would be open on Saturday.’”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Not to mention . . . who doesn’t know it’s called the Internal Revenue Service?

Come again?
Highfalutin Division

Another episode of creative hearing, reported by Al B of Hartland: “I text on my cellphone. I can’t text while driving if I wanted to. It takes me a long time to compose a text. My thumbs aren’t meant for typing.

“Because of that, I sometimes use the speech-to-text method. I hit the little microphone icon on the screen. I talk; it types.

“An editor from Ohio had inquired as to my health. I wanted to text her that I was swell, with nary a complaint. It popped up on her screen as ‘I am swell, with malaria complaint.’“

Life as we know it

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Just preachin’ to the choir!

“I don’t know why that title bugs me a little. It’s like some people think those of us who come Sunday after Sunday to sing may have a more direct line to heaven? You’ve heard speakers in and out of churches say: ‘Well, I know I’m just preaching to the choir. How can I get through to the rest of you?’ Alas, the choir loft holds just as many whose minds may be wandering — perhaps even more so. We’ve maybe heard the sermon twice already that day.

“This Sunday is Palm Sunday, so choirs and organists — anyone who makes music their choice to volunteer — is now going into high gear. That sounds like perfect attendance may be necessary. Never happens. The ‘snowbirds’ disappear for weeks; people who got the flu need to stay home for as long as they are sick. And that’s not all: tournament time in several sports, the children or grandkids are playing — who wouldn’t want to be there for them? Etc. Etc.

“It’s not magic, but somehow the music gets learned. The director always prays for the best from everyone, and with Easter lilies’ aroma, the pews packed with some who don’t get there too often, new outfits to enjoy for the first time! Putting a choir robe over a new outfit and wearing it for several hours through three services, perhaps, is not a good idea. As we sit there in the choir loft, and the high-heeled gals walk by, we are a bit envious of that ‘put together look’ — and isn’t envy one of the worst sins to have?

“Don’t let this keep you from joining a choir, or any group that sings together. There is a feeling of ‘family’ and belonging that can’t be had elsewhere. Struggling to learn, trying our best, knowing we are just like or worse than everyone else — it’s a good feeling and always has been, but these days we need something and somewhere to feel needed, hopeful, and at the same time have a sense of purpose in our lives.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Church Board Division

Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Is that a biblical term?

“The latest message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:



Band Name of the Day: The Don Squad

Website of the Day, from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Ran across this while trying to scour out Facebook:

“Neat dance sequence.”


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