Shopping trip

Once you get the car warmed up, driving during a cold snap is kind of beautiful. Such was the case last night as I trapsed to Fargo as the sun set. The sun dogs were nearly as bright as the sun.

Shopping took two hours. Bought too much, but it's fun.

Found myself in downtown Fargo after shopping, needing some food. Wondered where to go. Don't like to eat a long drawn-out sit down meal if I am by myself.

Got to the north end of downtown on Broadway, took a right, and there in a little strip mall was Alladin's deli, a Mideastern place, the only place with a light on in the whole lonely mall.

So, I went in for a gyros sandwich, which was delicious. I was the only customer, so had a nice chat with the proprietor.

As I was eating, Dennis Wallacker walked in to get some takeout. The name might ring a bell for those of you from around here: Dennis was head of the Fargo flood-fighting effort in 1997, and he got to be something of a folk hero due to his laconically calm statements to the press during the crisis.

He's also a nursery customer and a fellow Ford Ranger owner, so we had a nice chat. His daughter studied in Crete last spring and has maintained a interest in Mideastern cuisine, thus his trip to Alladin's.

Well, when Dennis said he had traveled to Crete, I right away wanted to ask him if he had seen any Minoan ruins. I learned of the ancient Minoan civilization on Crete while teaching this fall, and you always want to flex your new knowledge.

But he beat me to it, saying, "and we saw the Minoan ruins," in the same manner one might say they say the drawbridge in Duluth. I was kind of thrilled not to have to ask what the Minoan ruins were, as I would have had to do a year ago.

Wallacker is a mountain of a man, well over six feet and well-nourished--and he hinted that he stood out in Greece. I can only imagine. When I was with a group of Americans in Poland, we had a couple of tall, big people along, and people pointed and stared the whole trip. We stood out.

I'll never forget when we walked into a restaurant in Poland after we landed. It was a bustling place, very large, very crowded, and as we worked our way through to our table, the whole place fell silent. The silence was broken only by one man who reacted to our presence with what must have been one of his few English phrases: "Oh for cute!"

I think that sums up how the Poles saw us. Sloppy, big, bumbling, cute. Poles are quite pro-American, at least they were at the time, so there wasn't the sense of condescension you get in Western Europe. "Oh for cute!" probably summed up their attitude quite well.

Wallacker had another experience in Greece which was similar to ours in Poland: He and his wife took his daughter and her professors out to supper. They had a big meal, lots of wine, desserts, appetizers, the whole works, and it came to $30. He figured a $10 tip might be appropriate for such a feast, but the waiter wouldn't take it. They settled at $3.