Trip north was great, don’tcha know


There’s a certain amount of gambling involved in being a member of the Tabor College Concert Choir.

What I’m referring to is going on tour each spring and having no idea of where I will be sleeping each night.

Over spring break this year, all 49 of us choir members loaded up on a bus and headed through Nebraska to South Dakota and Minnesota, mainly so that many of us had the opportunity to talk in silly Minnesotan accents, don’tcha know.

(That is, in addition to giving 11 concerts in 10 days.)

Actually, I have to be careful about the jokes I make about Minnesota because there are apparently people up there who—for a reason that is far beyond me—read this column.

After one concert in Minneapolis I was approached by a reader who continues to hold a grudge for a column I wrote in 2006, in which I poked a bit of fun at Minneapolis: “They say that Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But I discovered something during the trip; they are not actually referring to bodies of water. In fact, it’s the town names they’re talking about…. Every other town we drove through contained the word ‘lake’ in its name.”

I pointed out that Minnesota has a severe lack of creativity, citing several town names: Big Lake, Clear Lake, Elbow Lake, Lake City, Lake Elmo, Lakeland, Lake Shore, Minnesota Lake, Moose Lake, Round Lake, White Bear Lake, Wolf Lake and—my favorite, because the “welcome to” sign was 15 feet long—Lake Saint Croix Beach.

So, right now, let me explicitly state that I will NOT make fun of Minnesot-ah and I do NOT hold any sort of superiority complex over it, and if I did, it would NOT be because there are more than 55 cities that contain the world “lake” in the name.

Whew! I’m glad we got that out of the way so we can get back to my original topic, which—having skimmed back to remind myself what it was—is about gambling on choir tour.

Almost every evening while travelling, the choir members gather in one room as members of the church filter in and look the students over in a manner that I can imagine would be similar to a shopper looking over a chunk of beef at the meat counter.

Then the real fun begins.

For those who have read the 1948 short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson—in which a village gathers annually to randomly select, for no apparent reason, who will be stoned that year—it’s quite similar. Except that instead of one person getting stoned, every choir member is delegated to which stranger’s house they will have to spend the night.

I always have more anxiety about this situation than I should, because usually each host family ends up being quite hospitable and enjoyable.

However, there have been those incidents in which the host seems to either have forgotten they signed up to host (“Sorry, all we have for breakfast is this half-empty box of X-tra Bran cereal”) or they are creepy (“You all looked so precious sleeping last night”).

Aside from any apprehensions about being the evening’s unconscious entertainment, I also worry about what sort of manners I’m going to be required to exhibit.

What I usually worry about the most are decorative pillows.

On this last trip there were three specific instances when I got to the guest room, looked at the bed and wondered which pillows were meant to be slept on, and which pillows were meant to be pretty.

I usually just made it a rule not to use the pillows with lace, lest I wake up in the morning with a frilly pattern indented into my face. Plus, I would hate to drool on somebody’s decorative pillow.

Then again, in Minnesota they just might name a town after it.


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