this day in history st patrick's day shutterstock

This Day in History – March 17 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

***

NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

***

THIS DAY IN HISTORY… MARCH 17

***

I am in a storytelling mood and so for the next few blog posts I am going to forego the usual format and do just that. By the end of March I will be returning to the usual This Day in History and hopefully I won’t have driven anybody away by then.

  • St. Patrick’s Day. It is the date of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In many cities around the world there are parades, church services, the wearing of green and a need to consume copious amount of alcohol.
  • Buster’s Bar. A popular watering hole in downtown Minneapolis in the 1960s and 70s.
  • Synchronicity. Definitions by Carl Jung include “meaningful coincidence” and “acasual parallelism.”

***

St. Pat’s Day. 1971 – First a little backstory. 1966 and I was in my first year at St. Cloud State College. One of my roommates, Dale, and I were taking advantage of a warm spring day and sitting on a concrete wall outside the student union. He was a gregarious sort who gave people nicknames. For reasons I don’t remember he started calling a guy in his Phys Ed class “Penn State.” Maybe because with his bullet-shaped head, crew cut, square jaw, broad shoulders and an expansive chest he looked like a linebacker and Penn State was known as Linebacker U. I had been with Dale once when he called him that nickname and noticed a small frown flicker across the guy’s face. As we sat there soaking up the sunshine Penn State exited from the student union. As he passed Dale yelled out, “Hey Penn State!”

The guy stopped and glared at Dale, obviously agitated. He took a challenging pose and confronted Dale in a loud voice. “I don’t know you, I don’t know what this Penn State shit means, I don’t like it, so knock it off!” With that he walked away.

Dale, a big man himself, wasn’t intimidated or even all that nonplussed. He simply shrugged and said, “Guess I don’t call him Penn State anymore.” I thought Penn State had overreacted. He could have simply inquired about the name or made a joke instead of hitting the anger button. I saw Penn State around campus a few times after that. We never acknowledged one another, I doubt he had even noticed me sitting there.

So now it is 1971. I had lost contact with Dale in the intervening years. He had dropped out of college and pursued a different direction in life. Another friend, Dick, had convinced me we should go out and celebrate St. Pat’s Day. We were at Buster’s, a semi-upscale joint, not a dive. The bar was packed with a young, hip, downtown crowd. None of it was my scene. Too crowded, too much forced hilarity, too much obligatory drinking. Over the noise I conveyed to Dick I wanted out. He agreed to leave. But that was easier said than done. No fire marshal rules were in effect that night. The bar was so jam-packed that mere movement was a challenge. Finally we got into a line of people who had the similar intent of leaving the bar. Another line, right next to us, was slowly moving deeper into Buster’s. It was like a slow tide going in each direction. Whether going in or out there was no stopping or escaping it, everybody was forced to move along with the flow.

Then, as I looked up, I saw a vaguely familiar person approaching me in the opposite line. I recognized the guy Dale had dubbed with the unappreciated nickname years earlier. Laughing with friends, face flushed with alcohol, he was slowly moving into the bar. Just as we met I said quite loudly, “Hey, Penn State!” In the brief moment he looked at me I saw total shock sweep across his face. Dale was a foot taller than I am so there was no mistaking us. I doubt Penn State had even noticed me that day at the student union. So I can only imagine his brain was reeling from, until that moment, a totally forgotten and annoying memory. I could almost see the dialogue bubble above his head reading, “What the hell!”

There was no stopping or turning around. I was there for an instant, disappeared, and there was nothing left other than a surreal moment. I don’t know the level of his inebriation at the time, or later in the evening, but I can imagine him the next day wondering if it had really happened.

As for myself I can only conclude that, despite outward appearances and some general opinion, deep down I’m not a very nice person.

To finish off with Buster’s and synchronicity. I had a roommate who was starting a small business. One day he said to me, “Do you know anybody who is selling any office furniture?”

I said, “No.”

He replied. “Are you sure?”

Am I sure? I thought it a silly question and told him so. How could I not be sure? Talking about selling office furniture isn’t something that is routinely talked about. He was slightly exasperated with me and ended our exchange with, “Well, if you hear of anybody selling office furniture let me know.”

Right, like that’s going to happen. So a couple of days later I’m in Buster’s. I hated my job and needed a beer after work. This is when I was still in the corporate world, before Jack Kerouac had convinced me to go back on the road.

A guy sitting next to me says, “Hey, buddy.”

“Yeah,” I reply.

“Know anybody that wants to buy some office furniture?”

***

ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

***

CREDITS

We’d like to thank the following photographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (St. Patrick’s Day clover) –  TierneyMJ / Shutterstock.com

st patricks day photo shutterstock

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

***

OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

December 16

December 18 

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 28

* December 30

* January 3

January 4

January 6

January 7

January 10

* January 11

* January 14

January 15

January 16

January 19

January 21

January 22

January 24

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

February 3 

February 5

February 6

* February 9

* February 10

* February 11

February 14

February 15

February 18

February 20

February 21

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 3

March 6

March 9

March 10

March 12

* March 14

* March 16

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

this-day-in-history-outro