It’s amazing how often a supposedly meaningless slice of life from my puny little existence somehow relates to an episode of the 1990s NBC hit sitcom, "Seinfeld.”
Take the “Even Steven” episode. Jerry starts to realize that he lives an "Even Steven" existence. When something bad happens to him, he slowly comes to realize that very soon something good will happen, thus evening things out. Jerry eventually takes a certain amount of comfort in knowing his life safely tucked away in the happy middle.
After attending the Minnesota Boys State Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul earlier this month with two buddies, our three teenage sons and one of their friends, and after looking back on the most hilarious, outrageous and memorable moments, I've come to realize that it was a five-day trip that required me to take the bad with the good. In the end, considering the bonding that took place with our sons, the atmosphere we soaked in, and the laughs we had, the good absolutely outweighed the bad. But I can't help but think that there were little snippets during the trip that, while not making me the second coming of Even Steven, made me, well...something more positive. “Mighty Fine Mike,” maybe?
• As I rode shotgun in my friend's Avalanche as we drove toward downtown St. Paul on I-94, some snowplows clearing snow from the road seriously bogged down traffic. It was cars inching along as far as our eyes could see, and things looked bleak.
But then, the "Alternative Nation" channel on the XM Satellite radio commenced with a killer run of several songs that we probably couldn't have handpicked better ourselves. It began with "Little Black Submarines" by The Black Keys, and was accompanied by my friend pounding on his steering wheel so hard I didn't know what would break first, his hand or the steering wheel itself.
• We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, not exactly a cheap dive. Strolling into our room for the first time, one of my initial interests involved taking some refreshments and snacks out of my cooler and putting them in the mini-refrigerator. But as I scanned the room, my eyes found no such fridge, and there was no little microwave to be found, either. I recall thinking that was a drag, but then I strolled over to our 16th floor window, opened the curtains, and was greeted by a command view of the Mississippi River.
I decided it would be acceptable to replenish my cooler with ice each day, dispensed by a machine that was located – you guessed it – directly across the hall from our room.
Page 2 of 2 - • One of the beauties of the trip, in my mind, was the fact that the tournament ended on Saturday and our plan was to be home by Saturday evening. That would leave me a lazy Sunday to do some catch-up work at the office but, mostly, relax at home and maybe watch Tiger win another golf tournament.
But then, the hotel's valet service lost the keys to the pickup driven by the my buddy with which we were going to carpool home. By the time a locksmith busted into the pickup and discovered a spare set of keys in the console, we'd had a couple cocktails and weren't sure what to do. Then our other buddy with the Avalanche, who’d departed hours earlier because the valet service hadn’t misplaced his keys, called us from around Fergus Falls, saying the snowy, slushy and icy roads were a nightmare, and that he was driving 40 miles per hour in one lane of traffic on I-94.
So we stayed another night in St. Paul, on the Crowne Plaza’s apologetic dime. The drinks were on them, as was the rare New York strip I didn't even need a knife to cut at Mancini's.
• Our kid brought a bunch of cash he made from refereeing hockey games along on the trip in case he wanted to buy some hockey merchandise at the huge Minnesota Hockey Expo at the Xcel. He spent almost a third of it, but had $215 left that he thought was in another pair of jeans, but when we got home he couldn’t find the cash.
His mom called the Crowne Plaza. The guy who answered went to our room, which hadn't yet been cleaned by the housekeeping service, and combed through every square inch in search of the wad of cash. It was nowhere to be found, he said when he called us back a few minutes later. But, he said, he'd alert the maid staff to the missing money.
Our son took it remarkably well, well enough to impress his parents. Maybe after his weekend of fun, he felt a little bit like Even Steven, too. Then, early the next morning before we all ventured off to school and work, the Crowne Plaza guy called. A housekeeper had found the money and turned it in.
After a celebratory high-five, “Doing OK Dad” and “So-So Son” headed out the door to the idling truck in the driveway.