It’s Just Not the Same

Today’s post comes to us from Occasional Caroline.

Occasionally, I start writing a comment on the Trail and my comment gets so long that I think I should just make it a blog of its own. So here goes. This started out as a reply to the 11/7 Old Favorites post from BiR.

Something that happens quite a lot, is that I “discover” something in its early stages, when it’s free-to-inexpensive, and easy to get seats to. Then it grows and grows, until it’s expensive and you have to get tickets well in advance or buy a whole season if you want to get in at all, and finally it’s out of my price range and a long term commitment.

Two examples are Talking Volumes and the Music at the Zoo concerts. I know that if they hadn’t grown, they probably would have been gone long ago, but I liked being in the little group who appreciated what they did and the way they did it and that they appreciated everyone who was there and we knew it.

In the early years of Talking Volumes, they had 5 or 6 events per season and they were spread out between about September and May. Now there are 4 or 5 and they all fall between October and early December. Too much, too close together. It feels like a job to go and they commit a lot of seats to huge book clubs. It’s just not the same.

When my sister and I started going to concerts at the Minnesota Zoo, tickets were $12-$15 and the hard wooden bench seats were labeled for approximately 20 seats per row (that’s an arbitrary number as an example, I’m not sure of the actual numbers). Several years in, prices started going up but all the seats were still the same price and if you purchased early enough, you could get one of the boxes at the top of the amphitheater if you purchased all 4 seats in the box. You had a good view and a chair with a back. Then one year they renumbered the bench seats and a row that formerly had 20 seats, now had 25. Fine if everyone on the bench had a 12-inch or narrower rear-end, but pretty cramped if there are even 1 or 2 plus size folks in the row. And prices continued to rise. My sister started getting the standing room only passes which was a good deal and it was easy to decide at nearly the last minute to take in a show. Now, when you buy a SRO pass, you have to choose your concerts when you buy the pass. None of this is terribly out of line, but when you started when it was simple, spread out, and cheap, it’s just not the same.

I hope to discover some new start-ups to support until they price themselves out of my range. I did hit on a promising one with daughter #2 last Saturday. She lives in Lakeville and had spotted an interview with Lorna Landvik interviewing Lakeville’s own Loretta Ellsworth at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. Tickets were free and since we are big Lorna fans, she asked if I’d like to go with her. It was fantastic! The book Loretta had written (Stars Over Clear Lake) takes place partially in the 40s and features the Surf Ballroom. We were expecting a Talking Volumes-type event, which would have been fine, but this far exceeded our expectations. First, a chorus from a Lakeville high school performed a variety show of WWII-era music. They came out in different size groups, ranging from 1 to 20 members and almost all of them were excellent and all of them were well-rehearsed, enthusiastic, and charming young people. Then came the interview which was good and made you really want to read the featured book as well as Ellsworth’s earlier, young adult novels. Then, there was an excellent concert by the Hoplions Westwind Swing Band. They played a rousing set of big band, 40s tunes that was excellent. Great musicians and singers and a fun playlist. It was a wonderful show and we will keep an eye out for others like it in Lakeville, until they get to popular, too much in demand, and too rich for our blood.

 Anything just not the same for you anymore?

34 thoughts on “It’s Just Not the Same”

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  2. First thing that comes to mind for me is the Cedar Cultural Center. The performers there used to be nationally and internationally significant and the prices were modest. The venue was small, so all the seats were close to the artist(s). We saw so many fabulous shows there.

    The performers have gotten to be more obscure (to me) or of less interest (to me) and the prices have risen to the point where I am no longer inclined to take a chance on an unfamiliar performer.

    Two venues that are the same and a real bargain are the concerts in the Minneapolis parks, which includes the Lake Harriet Bandshell, and the Vintage Band Festival, which is held in Northfield every three years (next one in 2019, I think).

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Major league sports. Decades ago, you went to the game, bought a beer and a dog and some peanuts or crackerjack or frosty malt for a few bucks and just watched the game. The organist would play charge once in a while during the game and entertain between innings or during timeouts. SImple.

    Now there’s pregame hype, postgame hype, on field “entertainment” that starts an hour before the game. Programmed music that fills every second that there doesn’t seem to be action on the field. Nonstop ads flash around the inside perimeter of the stadiums. Jumbotron scoreboards that replay every play several times and then show commercials during breaks. Gourmet food that’s twice the price inside as it is in a restaurant a mile away. Announcers who scream and yell and try to whip the crowd into a frenzy for the entire game. Cheerleaders who often appear to be doing choreographed stripper routines and dress like it. Cannons, fireworks, and light shows celebrate every little minor achievement–such as hitting a home run, scoring a goal, making a tackle, sinking a three-point basket.

    I much prefer watching sports on TV now because I don’t have to deal with the constant noise, ads, flash editing videos and message scrolling neon signs, overpriced food, ear-splitting din in an indoor arena, annoying music, electronic cheerleading, and pyrotechnics.

    I’m old, but I prefer to enjoy sports for the accomplishments of superior athletes and concentrate on the tactics and strategy of the game. Oh yeah, and ticket prices??? Give me a break. The little guys, working-class and middle-class, have been priced out of the market by the constant upgrading of stadiums, corporate suites, and exhorbitant salaries for players as well as bloated staffs, state-of-the-art facilities, greedy owners, and whatever else that has caused ticket prices to rise about as fast as health care costs (I’m just guessing, don’t quote me on that.).

    Being entertained is just so much work these days. 😦

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Oops, the swing band at the Lakeville event was from Hopkins, and in no way related to anything “Hoplions.”

    Also, if you get the box seats at the zoo concert now, you pay a $50 box premium, above the ticket price. And, if there is lightning, the suspend the show until it stops, or if that doesn’t look likely, it’s cancelled and there are not rainchecks. It can be quite a gamble for a $50-$75 or more ticket. It’s still a great place to hear music on a summer night, but I don’t so it much any more.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Construction work at airports is not the same. In my career, I’ve worked at many airports where the environment was little different than building a house. I was just told that my next project is at Cincinnati Airport. Some of the crew are already there. While on break, one of them left a utility knife unattended. The entire crew were taken by security to the local FBI office for interrogation. The company faces a $10,000 fine.


  6. I used to attend author book signings at local bookstores – I gave up on (then) Amazon Books and Once Upon a Crime after a couple of events where you couldn’t even get in the door. I think it was Sarah Paretsky at Amazon… Birchbark Books solved it by hosting any signings at the Lutheran Church a couple of blocks away, and that seemed to work.

    The older I get, the less inclined I am to want to stand in line in crowds.


    1. I used to attend book readings/signing at various Barnes and Nobles and was at a reading by Bill Holm at the Swedenborgian Church with Garrison Keillor shortly before Bill died, but since I stopped taking the StarTribune, I just don’t hear about readings as often. I also think that the kinds of authors I am most interested in seeing aren’t touring as much anymore. Maybe that sort of promotion isn’t considered as worthwhile anymore.


  7. Going to the Prairie Home Companion show used to be dirt cheap. At about a dollar for a ticket if you were a member of MPR, it was a real bargain. I could afford to go every week if I wanted to. It was a more spontaneous, unrehearsed show that featured almost exclusively local talent. As it grew and became nationally syndicated, it began featuring national and even international talent, and it was rehearsed, became more professional; no more flying by the seat of your pants. The spontaneous magic that occasionally happened was gone, and so were the shows that could only be described as duds. It also gradually became more expensive, and along with that, the audience changed.

    I still like the show, but no longer listen religiously, and I haven’t attended a live performance since Chris Thile took over. Not that have anything against Christ Thile,I think he’s doing a fine job. Garrison’s were huge shoes to fill, but the whole “feel” of the show has changed. Not necessarily for the worse, but it’s just not the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first time Robin attended a PHC performance (I wasn’t there. I don’t know why), the audience sat in folding chairs and Garrison’s big guest act was a belly dancer.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. A belly dancer on a radio show makes a special statement doesn’t it?

        The early PHC shows moved around quite a bit. I recall attending a couple of performances in the Park Square Court building by Mears Park. The seating there was a choice between folding chairs or a low bleacher type of staggered seats without a backrest.

        Those were very close up and intimate performances. One show that I attended was on Christmas – I’m guessing – 1995. There were only a handful of people in the audience, and the crew had brought cookies, other treats, and wine for everyone.


        1. Early on in the Morning Show, soon after Dale started there, he showed slides of his vacation. I enjoyed them very much.

          I seem to remember most of them were of him sleeping.

          Liked by 3 people

  8. I don’t want to offend people who are uncomfortable with hunting, but that world has been changed drastically by the complicated effects of money. As a kid I hunted pheasants on farms where my dad or our friend Doctor George was known to the farmer. Later on I hunted farms where a hunter with a friendly face was welcomed, and I have fond memories of a few farm meals I shared during those hunts. Things were friendly and casual. Farmers and other rural folks enjoyed sharing friendship.

    Then southern hunters began telling South Dakota farmers they were “fools for giving away something you should charge big bucks for.” Farmers found it difficult to resist charging when they learned hunters would pay $100 or even $200 a day to hunt their lands. In just a few years hunting was no longer available to people of average means. The most desirable lands were reserved by wealthy hunters who could pay the price of leasing them.

    At times it feels like people with money get to live in a special world and enjoy all kinds of special privileges. I miss the way things were.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Calhoun Square has an annual coffee event that I used to go to every year. You paid something like five bucks for admission, they gave you a ceramic mug, and then you went around and got coffee from different companies, mostly local roasters. As time went on, though, there were fewer companies offering coffee samples and more selling stuff like those K-cup and espresso machines, milk frothers, and other trendy kitchen stuff. I haven’t gone in several years. Parking got more difficult as the event gained popularity, and it just didn’t seem worth it after awhile.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My auto-pilot brain isn’t the same as it used to be. You know how, after you’ve lived somewhere for a while, you don’t have to think about how to get to your regular errands, you just aim the car in the right direction and you end up in the right place? Well, both the north-south street and the east-west street next to my house are being torn up to replace gas lines and boy is it messing up my auto-pilot. I can no longer go east on 25th Street, but when I head west on 25th, the auto-pilot thinks I’m going somewhere else, so directs me to the wrong streets. For instance, last night I had to go south and east a ways – and normally I would head east on 25th Street, but couldn’t. Since I had to go west on 25th, next thing I know I’m heading west on the one way street that I take if I’m going somewhere like Lake of the Isles. Kind of the opposite way of where I needed to go. Luckily I figured it out and managed to go just a few blocks out of my way, although I did feel kind of stupid driving down Chicago Ave. to get to the neighborhood around Riverview Theater. This sort of thing is happening all the time now.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. My greatest sticker price shock was Vikings tickets. Mary and I used to go to most of the games 14 years ago when the tickets were $60 plus parking. I wanted to surprise her for her 50th birthday with tickets to a game in the new stadium. They cost $350 each for mediocre seats. Besides the outlandish cost, the Vikes lost in overtime when our kicker missed the field goal. Two other times, they were 6″ away from the goal line and just couldn’t get it over. Personally, I think that with those ticket prices, the least they could’ve done was win!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. OT – I told you about our vacuum cleaner catching on fire last week. It’s a Filter Queen, Majestic model. Hans discovered that there was a recall on that machine because of the exact problem we had, two wires breaking and shorting out involving three parts of the vacuum but not the actual motor and the canister itself. Despite the fact that it’s a vacuum that I bought, used, four or five years ago, Hans called Filter Queen, and, would you believe it, they sent us three brand new parts to replace the ones involved in the shorting out. They arrived today, and it works like a brand new machine. Now that’s service!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Sure, that may well be the motivation behind the service, but it’s service nevertheless. And they were prompt and pleasant about it.

        The appliance gods are smiling at me at the moment. This evening as I was cooking dinner, I started the timer on the stove – and it worked! Last week I had gotten an error message on that function. Hesitantly I tried setting the oven temp, and again it worked, and the oven started up. Of course, I now don’t trust the damn thing to keep functioning; when will it quit in the middle of a dinner again? Maybe it just needed a couple of days’ rest.


  13. Speaking of Calhoun Square – in the 40 years since I moved to the Twin Cities, a number of those squares have come and gone – or dwindled to nothing worth checking out, or been replaced by something else. Butler Square in downtown Mpls comes to mind, St. Anthony Main… They were a lot of fun when they first opened, shiny and unique, with new restaurants to try out, new shops. But none of these things have managed to stay – the fickle public always wants something newer – grass is greener effect, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure if it’s because of fickle public or unrealistic projections by some developer. LaSalle Court is another example.

      I remember going to St Anthony Main when it was first developed at Christmastime. It was pretty and festive but there was nothing there to ever go back for. Typically those places charge such high rent that nothing practical can afford to be there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Galtier Plaza in downtown St. Paul was another one. When it opened it had a theater and some shops and restaurants. Now there’s a somewhat new restaurant on the first floor that seems to be doing okay, but the theater closed long, long ago and most of the storefronts are office space now.

      I remember Lasalle Court – there was a nice little coffee/tea place there in the 80’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. To my mind, the most anguishing change has been the skyrocketing cost of higher education. When I was a grad student it cost about $135 a quarter to attend the U of MN. I couldn’t guess what it costs now, but college education is being priced out of the reach of middle class students, and those who do get a college degree are often so burdened by debt that they are driven to make awkward financial decisions for the long time they’ll pay off that debt.

    Increasingly we are evolving from a middle class country to one dominated by the extremely wealthy, and I see nothing good in that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with this. The cost of education. The cost of housing. Good grief, how is someone with educational loans and earning $15-$20 an hour supposed to afford an apartment anywhere?


  15. I miss Heritage Square at the Fairgrounds, too. The new area, whatever it’s called, seems to be popular, but the dusty rustic stuck-in-the-70’s feel of the old market had its charm, with the used book shop and the deep fried cauliflower stand and the old timey stage acts. I saw Riders in the Sky there, and Storyhill, and that country singer whose name I can’t think of at the moment, the guy who had a big hit four or five years ago. Dale Watson/Junior Brown kind of sound. What is his name?

    Liked by 1 person

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