In the spring of 1965 Morey Amsterdam was in the Twin Cities for a gig, which must have been during the height of his fame. While he was here, he wrote a one-liner about Minnesota that has hung in my mind ever since:
“Minnesotans are people who have snow in their driveways, have water in their basements, are missing the roof to their houses, don’t know what time it is, and can’t buy paint on Sunday.”
The last two parts you may not appreciate if you were not here in ’65. The legislature overdosed on stupidity pills that year. They did not pass a law to define when Daylight Savings Time started. As a result every city set its own time, which among the many cities of the Twin Cities made chaos. That was one of the reasons Congress passed a national law for uniform DST, which the logic-benders of Arizona ignore.
While they legalized the sale of liquor on Sunday, the legislature also outlawed the sale of many items on Sunday, such as hardware. That law stood up in court for about .321 seconds. Boone and Erickson were doing riffs on bootleg paint and high-speed nuts and bolts runs from Wisconsin. Perhaps the lawmakers were right; a Sunday reprieve from the contagious frenetic pace of modernity would not be a bad thing.
Spring ’65 was, of course, also a time of floods and tornadoes. I was working at the University of Minnesota medical school as a sub-lowly lab tech. On the evening that the tornadoes tore through the northern suburbs, I was working late, not sure why, what with my insignificance, but there I was. The janitor on my floor of Diehl hall, a person who was otherwise impossible to find, invited me to join him and some others on the roof of the highest floor of Mayo Hospital, which at that time was about as tall a building as you could find outside of the Foshay Tower. It was up on that roof that I lost my innocence.
I lost my innocent belief that you could trust other people’s observation, and by extension, my own. Person after person called into WCCO radio, to which we were listening, to report tornadoes. No one called from the northern suburbs where the tornadoes were, because they could not. Many called from places we could see clearly to report nonexistent funnel clouds, such as over the Sears Tower, where a bright shaft of light was streaking down through the clouds.
If I were to serve on a criminal journey, I would mutter to every eyewitness, “Yeah, right.”
When have you or someone else’s observation been proven wrong?