The Ghost On State Street

“There’s something you don’t see every day.” – – Peter Venkman/Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters.”


If I remember correctly, I was only four years old at the time of the incident, and it took a recounting or two for me to really cement down what now feel like details.  Granted, it happened 54 years ago, so my memory may not be 100% accurate.  Also, some siblings now have access to my site, so if corrections or different versions need to be made, feel free to fire away.

It was not the proverbial dark and stormy night, but it was indeed dark and I remember a bit of a nasty breeze.  Mom sent us to the corner store which was, I think, about four blocks away from our house.  So merrily my sister and brother and I went to what we used to refer to as “the milk store,” passing many of the decrepit and sometimes abandoned houses.  The neighborhood was ripe with stories about ghosts and warnings not to enter this or that house, and to certainly stay out of the woods.  The populace was almost exclusively Mexicans and Jews.  In later years, not with my family, but with friends, I used to joke that if you went by the right house you could hear a mixed breed ghost saying something along the lines of “Si – – I am feeling poquito meshugana today.”  I had no idea if what I was about to experience was ethnic specific, all I know is that I was pretty scared.

As we passed an abandoned house with one of the many neighborhood legends attached to it, my brother or my sister, maybe both, advised me to pick up the pace and not to look into the house if I didn’t have to.  After all these years I still remember a chill running up and down my spine as if being afraid on demand.  I do also recall an inexplicably creepy feeling about the place we were passing.  But a four year old has a short memory, and by the time we reached the well-lit store a couple of blocks beyond the abandoned house, I was looking hard to see what kind of toys or candy I could manipulate my brother and sister into buying.  I believe I struck out, and we stuck to the purchase of whatever items mom had requested that we pick up.  So off we went back home, and after a block or so of walking we noticed someone down the street waving at us, a distinctly female figure with flowing hair and pacing back and forth in front of the abandoned house.  Cool. Mom is meeting us halfway home, we thought.  I also remember us wondering out loud about when Mom got an all white coat.  It also seemed odd that her hair looked white, but I think we chalked it up to the weird lighting in the soon to be torn down neighborhood.  As we approached we noticed “mom” duck into the abandoned house, a move that puzzled us.  As we got closer to the place, we were torn between looking for mom and not looking into the possibly haunted place as we had been instructed as kids.  We opted for door number two and rushed the rest of the way home to mom, hoping for an explanation of where she got the white coat from.  I remember that as we got about a half a block away from our house, mom did in fact appear: in totally different garb than she had been wearing while in front of the abandoned house.  How had she changed so quickly – – and how did she beat us home if we had passed her back at the abandoned house? I was the first to instinctively look back toward the abandoned house.  I remember tugging on the sleeve of either my brother or sister, and starting to cry as I looked back at the woman in white waving to us again, and then returning my frightened attention to mom in front of our house.  No tears were shed when we moved out of that neighborhood about a year later.  I never wanted to go back in that direction again.

Our address was 271 State Street in St Paul, not far from 253, where the Recovery Church now stands.  It strikes me as ironic that a center that promotes spirituality now stands where “spirits” used to have their way.  Just about the entire neighborhood was torn down after we moved, most of the houses being a breath away from condemned.  For the most part I feel perfectly safe and at peace when I drive toward the church for an event, but every now and then I still get a little chill up my spine in memory of my Lady In White, and whenever I hear somebody laugh at idea of ghosts existing,  I feel tempted to take them aside and say, “Let me tell you about something that happened to me when I was about four years old . . . ”


Or maybe “Boo!”

Happy Halloween


Self Sabotage, Anyone?

“The mind suffers and the body cries out.” – – Cardinal Lamberto in Godfather III

In the final game of the 2012 Minnesota Vikings season, they defeated the Green Bay Packers in a game which saw quarterback Christian Ponder play uncharacteristically . . . okay. He hit wide open receivers all night long, and the local media wrote the next day of his fabulous performance. My own view was that a high school quarterback could have hit such open wide outs. Other than this game, Ponder often didn’t. Also, Christian to me still had that “deer in the headlights” look all night just as he did the rest of his career. I do believe the writers made some mention of Adrian Peterson running for 199 yards in the same game in pursuit of the NFL record. That might have had a little to do with the win. The victory put the Vikings in position to play the same Packers in the playoffs the very next weekend. Then Mr Ponder made what I felt was a curious statement of his mindset. Not verbally, but through his body.

During the game Mr. Ponder had suffered a bruised bicep on his throwing arm, an injury that didn’t seem to bother him much while he threw the ball. But during the week after the game it worsened to the point where coach Leslie Frazier announced that Ponder would not be playing in the upcoming playoff tilt. A pair of sports psychologists ventured a guess that possibly Ponder had manufactured a way out of the high pressure game by pulling up lame. A local broadcaster cried bloody murder as Ponder was after all, a Minnesota Viking. Apparently guys who wear the purple and gold are immune to the egoic shenanigans that can befall ordinary mortals. I didn’t buy it. While I certainly can’t get into Christian Ponder’s heart and head, my experience of him was that he always seemed to play afraid. The timing of the bicep injury struck me as strangely coincidental.

For years hall of famer and former Brewer and Twin Paul Molitor just could not stay off the disabled list. It always seemed to me that it was not until he matured some emotionally and physically that he was able to play a full season. The Vikings had a brilliant running back named Robert Smith who had the same history his first few seasons. Once he got a little maturity under his belt, he was his brilliant self. Amidst many legal woes in the 1980’s, former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson developed a propensity for single vehicle accidents. The product of a chaotic mind? When David Letterman asked him for an explanation, Tyson’s response was “I guess trees just like me.” Currently the Twins have a brilliant young outfielder named Byron Buxton who has been on the disabled list multiple times in each year of his young career in the major leagues. (He even got hurt in the minors this year.) He has yet to wean himself off his habit of running full blast into outfield walls. Like Tyson, I guess outfield walls just like Mr. Buxton.

I was sailing right along about six weeks ago in my training for this Sunday’s Twin Cities Marathon. I ran a 15 miler with no issue, followed by a 10 just a few days after. No pain. I then started noticing a nagging pain in my right hamstring that later spread to my right glute. After putting two and two together, I traced it back to driving. Until late July I had a 3 mile commute to work. My office moved to Coon Rapids (a move I grudgingly accepted)and a drive that used to take me 10 minutes or so has become a happy little jaunt of 30-50 minutes depending on traffic. Cruise control is out of the question due to the stop and go nature of my voyage. Could it be my leg is not used to such a long drive? Or my mind is giving me pause for thought? Maybe it could be called a non-christian ponder.

I like my job. A lot. But quite honestly, 30 years of call center work sometimes feels like its really taking a toll. At this point it has literally become a pain in the ass. After getting completely honest with myself I’m finally fessing up that the drive is really not worth it. Luckily for me, there are plenty of local opportunities to check out in my organization. It seems to me that my body is chiming in (maybe with church bell sized chimes) that its time to move on. I love running marathons and have trained really hard for this one, only to pull up lame with just a few weeks to go, and now only a few days. The impact my drive may be having on possibly needing to bail out on something I love so much has gotten my attention.

My bottom line for all of this is that since my brother’s passing a few months ago, I have gradually approached and entered a deeper spiritual dimension. It feels very nice in here. Like anyone else, my ego is not fond of spiritual growth, and will flex its muscle sometimes as a distraction. In response, my attention is staying firmly on my ethereal body. My spirit can’t run a marathon but I value it just a teensy weensy bit more than anything that happens in my outside world.

I have done acupuncture every day this week, and will go in again on Friday and Saturday. I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. In addition, I have over $200 invested in registration fees and that amount is even before running shoes and various paraphernalia. I would love to do this race, but am open to discretion being the better part of valor. It may not happen. And yes, I am aware of and open to miracles. We shall see. And there’s more to me than running marathons. In the meantime the plan is to steer clear of outfield walls and trees.