In the spring of 1964, when I was a 19-year-old college freshman, I visited St. Paul with a group of friends. On that trip we went to the Cathedral of St. Paul twice - once for a mass and then later for a tour. It was the first Catholic mass I had ever attended and the first Catholic cathedral I had ever seen.
There was one very small Catholic Church with just a handful of members in my hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee. I had only met one real live Catholic in my life. I was fascinated by the Cathedral and the taste of a "forbidden" religion - at least it was forbidden for a Protestant/Pentecostal from Appalachia.
I saw a door with a red light over it. A friend explained that behind the door was a confession booth. I decided to give it a try. Opening the door, I found a little place to kneel and got down on my knees.
A man's voice on the other side of a screen asked if I had come to make a confession?
"No sir," I told him. "I'm not sure how to make a confession but I wanted to ask you a question. Can you please tell me how I can be sure that if I died today I would go to Heaven?"
"Are you a Catholic?"
"No, Sir," I'm a Protestant."
"Well, first you will need to go to catecism classes, be baptized and join the Church. After that come back here, I'll take your confession, and you'll be forgiven." He then proceeded to tell me when and where the classes were held.
"But I'm just visiting in town and can't go to the classes. What if I died tonight? Would I go to Hell? How Can I be sure I would go to Heaven if I died tonight?"
With a concerned tone the priest asked, "Is there any particular sin you're afraid might send you to Hell?"
"No, Sir. My conscience is clean. I just want to be sure."
"Well, Son," he consoled, "If your conscience isn't bothering you, then don't worry about it. I'm sure you'll be alright."
I thanked him and left.
I've related this story, and many more from my youthful quest for truth in my book Growing up Pentecostal.
Many of the great paths around our urban lakes, parks and riverfront areas are split into two - one for walkers/runners and one for bikers/bladers. Look for markings indicating which is which, or just watch what others are doing and follow along. These paths can converge at points so if there's just one walkway and it doesn't have indicated lanes for biking/walking, just stay right and let faster traffic go around you.
If biking or blading a combined path, PLEASE give walkers/runners advance warning that you're approaching from behind and about to pass ("On your left!") and always keep your speed down. This is more than a courtesy - it's usually a posted safety rule. It's very easy for leashed dogs, children and faster walkers/runners to unexpectedly stray into, or pass via, the left side and into your path. Walkers/runners, do the bikers a favor and keep ipod volumes low enough to hear their warnings.
We were very fortunate that during our visit to Fort Snelling a small group of Union Civil War Reenactors were there. Actually, the two men pictured here with Karen were just leaving when we arrived. When I told them I was the descendent of many Confederate veterans they seemed excited to talk with someone from the other side of the conflict and stayed around for another half hour showing us around the fort.
Fort Snelling was the scene for recruiting and training the Volunteer Minnesota Infantry during what was called The "War of the Rebellion" in Minnesota.
As a person who has a strong interest in the War Between the States, I am very pleased that thousands of people throughout the United States, and even small goups in Europe and Australia, keep the history alive by becoming Civil War reenactors. Most of them go to extreme lengths to wear the exact same kinds of clothing, use the same tools and utensils, etc. that people commonly used at the time of The War - 1861-1865.
Most of that great footage you see in movies of the War Between the States is of reenactors pursuing their passion. My hat is off to them.
Watch the weather on the news. Everyone up here likes to talk about the weather. Learn the weather forecaster's names, and you have a shoe-in conversation with anyone!
"Hey, did you see Ken Barlow's forecast yesterday? 8 inches of snow! Is he nuts?!"
Immediate friendships will be formed.
Minnesotans favorite subject is the weather...Everybody talks about the weather....If you feel like talking to anybody, mention the cold or the wind and we will most definitely have an opinion=)
If theres a fair going on while you're here, make sure to go, Minnesotans love food on a stick! There's corn on a stick, corn dogs, pork chops on a stick, ribs on a stick, cotton candy on a stick...no if they could only put Tom Thumb donuts on a stick...Tom Thumb donuts are the BEST!!! Have some!
...don't forget the beer garden!
St. Paul has a growing Asian community. In fact, it has the largest Hmong population in the U.S. If you like Asian cuisine, try heading over to Frogtown (I know, it's a funny name), a neighborhood in St. Paul that has many good Asian restaurants and stores.
These young people performed at the museum. They are keeping their Native American culture alive by doing these performances. I hope they take pride in what they do. They were on their way home but allowed me to take a photo.
Local custom number 1, disregard your larger neighbor to the west.
The monument in this picture, by the way, is in honor of the men and women of St. Paul and Ramsey County who lost their lives in World War I.
Winter fun in Minnesota!
When it snows, all the kids throw themselves down the hills riding a flimsy piece of plastic called a sled. What fun!
The Leif Ericsson Memorial on the State Capitol grounds represents the long, rich Scandinavian heritage of a large portion of the local population.