It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part I

I graduated from college in May of 1985 – and spent the next four months basically trying to figure out what do to next.

It was twenty years ago tonight – Friday, September 28 – that it all started to resolve itself.

I really loved college. Despite the maniacal pace I kept (I averaged like 23 credits a semester), I enjoyed it; after the penal drudgery of the lock-step high school curriculum, the idea of charting ones’ own course and learning it all just for the sake of learning it all was a dream come true. I loved it so much, I never got around to making a plan for what to do afterwards.

I went to an obscure college in my hometown, Jamestown ND. I was in the horns of a dilemma; my grades weren’t spectacular enough to make anything like law school or graduate school a viable option – even if I’d been interested in either. Which I wasn’t. The other traditional option with a BA in English was teaching – but I had absolutely no interest in that, and had never taken an education class.

So.

I spent the summer working a bunch of crummy jobs – roofing and siding, delivering water beds, the local Waldenbooks – during the day, and usually drinking at one place or another all night (as I’d been doing for the whole summer after graduation, five or six nights a week), while I tried to figure out what I was going to do. In those days when only Al Gore had access to the Internet, it was hard to find out what was happening elsewhere, as far as applying for jobs and trying to launch a career elsewhere (even if I’d had a career in mind).

And “elsewhere” was another interesting topic. Where was I going to go? Because staying in North Dakota certainly wasn’t an option. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but I surely knew what I didn’t; pretty much any job I could get on the Great Plains, certainly the ones I was qualified to do – which with my B.A. in English wasn’t a whole lot.

Time crawled forward. My alcohol tolerance crawled upward. Life, however, did’t.

Finally, it was Homecoming time. It was the last week of September. All my friends from the class of ’85 came back to Jamestown, talking about their fun jobs (computer programmers were the big export from Jamestown College back then, but there were nurses, teachers, management trainees, doctors, law students – the whole post-grad works) and cool cities (Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle and, of course, the Twin Cities) and their cool lives.

And I wanted one of those.

We were down at the Elks Club for the “Over 21” Homecoming Dance, a table full of my classmates and I. As we launched into our assortment of drinks with great gusto, we went around in a circle, talking about who was doing what.

Finally, they got around to me. “What are you up to, Mitch?”

“Ummmm…”. There was no varnishing the state I was in. “I’m doing some roofing and siding work, that kind of thing. But…”

I’d had probably five drinks – not that much, given the tolerance I’d built up over the summer, but it was enough to make me pretty toasty. “I’m going to move soon.”

“Aw, awesome!”, they said, happy for my sudden burst of resolution. “Where to?”

I sat and thought for a moment. Where did I want to go to that I could afford to get to? New York and Chicago were out. Fargo was still North Dakota. The Twin Cities, with their music scene peaking at the time and only 350 miles away and relatively cheap at the time by major-metropolitan areas, beckoned.

“Minneapolis”, I blurted out, draining the last of a Vodka Kamikaze.

“Cool!”, they said, nodding their heads.

Don’t let them ask when. Don’t let them ask when“, I silently begged.

“When?”

Oh, crap. OK. How long’ll it take me to get this together. Must…be…deliberate…

“Two Weeks”.

“Awesome!”

I wandered around the rest of the night, euphoric as much from the weight that lifted over having finally made a decision as from the booze. I danced until the band unplugged. I finally had something, at least for the evening; I could tell all my old friends that I, finally, was getting underway. And, I figured, there was no way anyone’d remember the next morning, anyway.

They did, of course. I was cornered. A couple of friends in the Cities offered to put me up on their couches for a bit, while I got going. A few other had some people I could talk to about jobs.

So like so many things in my life, my move to the Twins started as a rash, impulsive response to an unexpected challenge, under the influence.

Not bad, all in all.

More later.

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