Category Archives: class divide

Leith Hall

We slept in, although for me that meant 7:00 am.  I had forgotten to bring milk up to my room so I crept downstairs to the kitchen.  All the doors make that “eeeeeeee…” creaking noise that doors make in scary movies.  When I offered to oil them once, Richard explained that they like the creaking because it tells them when a dog is sneaking in or out where he shouldn’t.

I managed to get into the kitchen without waking the dogs. I fetched milk, turned, and there was dear old Cosmo, lying in his bed in the corner looking at me with his misty bluish-brown eyes.  I walked over and squatted down to talk to him. He briefly moved as though to get up but must have realized I didn’t have food, so he settled back down with his head resting on his paws with his eyes rolled up to look at me.

“Who’s a good boy?  Isn’t it nice and quiet.  No Merry and Pippin to bother you.  Aren’t you the lucky dog.  What a good life.”

He heaved a sigh which rattled his whole body as if to say, “Okay that’s enough,” and I tiptoed back to my room to work until everyone else was up.

Sabrina had booked a pony-riding tour for herself.  Simon was dropping her off, then driving to MacDuff to visit a cemetery and learn more about the Jacobites.  The Star Tribune recently published his article about this.  He and Sabrina were leaving the following day so they packed in two distillery tours after lunch—Glenlivit and Glenfidditch.

Lynn asked if I wanted her to drop me off at Leith Hall on her way to somewhere else.  I didn’t know what it was, but I said yes.  I wanted to do everything.

Leith Hall is a “typical laird’s home.”

I got lucky and joined a tour that had just started with a young couple from Germany and a dour, elderly Canadian couple. It was one of those times when I felt like a stereotypical American, with my enthusiastic appreciation of everything, exclaiming, “Wow!” and asking lots of questions.  The guide loved it, but I got the impression the Canadians found me annoying.  The Germans stared at me as Germans do—as if I was a specimen to be studied.

Photos were not allowed inside except in a few locations.  This is Henrietta, or Henny.

She was Northern Irish.  She outlived the laird and their three children. A niece who could have inherited was lesbian, so Henrietta donated the hall to the National Trust in 1945.  It’s interesting that Henny knew her niece was gay, and sad they she disinherited her.  Henny lived in the house until her death 20 years later.  I would love to know what the niece thought about it all.

I had to—had to—have a photo from the taxidermy exhibit.  I fell behind the group pretending to be seriously interested in reading the plaques about boxing squirrels, then whipped out my camera and surreptitiously snapped a pic.

The tour was brief and then we were cut loose to explore the small military exhibit, where photos were allowed.

In generations pre-dating Henny, the younger sons had been sent to Australia or the Americas. One came home with these articles and the dubious claim that the Cree Indians loved him.

This was a standard issue musket given to British soldiers in America.  It was finely carved.  I wondered by whom.  Was it issued this way or did the soldiers have lots of time on their hands to literally whittle away?

I liked this miniature knick-knack shelf carved by a prisoner of war.

I spent my last £2 on a bottle of water so inspected the tiny gift shop just for fun.  Mostly it was garden-themed items, which was apropos because the gardens were really the highlight of the place. You could wander for hours, and I did.

There was a kitchen garden kept by students of nearby Clatt Primary School.

What a downer of a story for a beautiful tree!

Too late—it was time to meet Lynn—I discovered the walking paths that went for miles through the fields and woods.

Sacrificial Lamb

“I have to stop at Raeburns to order for the summer party,” Lynn said.  So we drove down a street I hadn’t seen, passing a bakery and confectioners that didn’t look as though it had sold anything since 1968.

There was a lovely vacant building built in 1907; apparently the last failed business to give it a go there had been appropriately named Bygones.

The one bustling business was this one.  At first I thought it was a mobile e-cigs vendor, but then I realized there was a tobacconist storefront and the owner had slapped this sign onto his van out front to ensure no one missed it.

Then we were at Raeburn, the family butchers.  That doesn’t sound right.  It’s a family-owned business.  Lynn asked what meats she could order in quantity for BBQing at the summer party, and the lad behind the counter answered her.  Or at least I assumed he was answering her, because I couldn’t understand a word due to his accent.

Thanks to Richard being a mighty hunter, the freezers at Dunrovin were full of carcasses so we had no need for these.

I gazed into the cold case.  I haven’t eaten pork in 40 years, but I appreciate the time and skill it takes to produce things with “home” in the name.  You know what bacon is.  In case you aren’t familiar with black pudding, it has nothing to do with dessert.  I find pudding to be one of the most confusing words in the British Isles. Black pudding is a sausage made of congealed pig’s blood.  Mealies aren’t worms; they are some kind of sausage.

Lynn placed her order and bought some steaks and chops and hamburgers for the three of us for a BBQ whenever the weather cooperated.  “Not sure what I ordered—I couldn’t understand a word he said!” she exclaimed.

“How are the charity shops here?” I asked as we drove past a couple on our way out of town.  This was Minnesota-speak for, “Let’s stop and shop!”  But Lynn is good at not getting my Minnesota hints.  It had been a long day, there would be another time.

As I write about my idyll in the UK, Oxfam is being slaughtered. Unless you live under a self-imposed news blackout (I wouldn’t blame you), you will have heard that Oxfam, Britain’s 4th-largest charity and one of the biggest international development organizations, has been under fire for employee sexual misconduct in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  220,000 people died in that quake.  People were desperate, homeless, hungry.  It was the perfect set up for relatively wealthy aid workers to buy sex.  Disgusting. From what I understand, Oxfam investigated and allowed the ringleader to resign in exchange for testifying against his peers. It’s unclear to me, but it seems they issued an internal report but not an external one.  The creep went on to work for a French charity and behaved badly there, too.

Depending on the newspaper, this was a cover up or a standard way of addressing a problem that occurs in many, if not all, workplaces that employ men. Sorry, men, but this is on you.

A detail I have not seen reported widely is from a Guardian interview with Oxfam’s chief exec in which he explained, “Had the [French] charity been familiar with British employment law, it would have understood that, when Oxfam would only confirm the employee had worked for them, this wasn’t a reference but an alarm bell.”

Yes.  That’s how it works.  I can only imagine the excruciating tradeoffs Oxfam had to make at that time. Fire the lead perpetrator?  Then we won’t get testimony and be able to root out all of them.  Let him resign, which makes it look like he was unhappy with us—but in exchange we get names and dates and details?

Oxfam has lost access to British government funding and 7,000 sustaining donors cancelled their direct debits in one week.  Friends who work there are stunned and angry.

The only good that could come of this is if all charities “drain the swamp”—if not for ethical reasons then at least to avoid bad publicity.

Cock o’ the North

Huntly Castle is just a few blocks from the town square. I got some more cash out of the ATM just in case there was a gift shop.  The fivver was a new one to me, and the woman turned out to be Nan Shepherd, a “Scottish Modernist writer and poet.”  Don’t ask me what a Scottish Modernist is.  Or any kind of modernist, for that matter.

I walked down the appropriately-named Castle Street and through Gordon’s School, which is the local private (meaning public) high school.  Got that?

This is the lane leading to the castle, which is picturesque enough in its own right to warrant a wander.

The castle was built near the confluence of the rivers Deveron and Bogie, and there’s a lovely bridge before you turn toward the castle.

There was a small trailer at the entrance staffed by a young ranger or whatever they are called in Scotland.  It felt sort of like a state park in Minnesota, only with a 900-year-old castle.  The trailer included a wee gift shop.  While I checked out the tartan coin purses, Highland Cattle-themed wall calendars, and bagpipe CDs, the ranger chattered away with me.  Or at me.  It was a slow day and she was lonely, like park rangers everywhere.

I handed over a Nan Shepherd for the entrance fee and was on my way.  I recalled looking at the ouside of the castle with Lynn and Richard but why had I never gone inside?  The following week, Lynn and I took a long drive to an event, and we passed half a dozen castles and other mammoth buildings.  “There’s a manor over there,” Lynn waved nonchalantly.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, impressed by the house near the road that was a little smaller than Dunrovin.

“No … that’s the gatehouse,” Lynn corrected me.  “The manor is through the trees there.”

It was the height of summer so it was hard to see but I got the impression it was a Downton Abbey-sized house. “Wow,” I said again, humbled.  “Someone lives there?”

“Yes, some lord or other.”

To a native, thousand-year-old castles and manors and lords are a dime a dozen.  But for me, being from the land of shopping malls and Kim Kardashian, they still impress.

Back at Huntly Castle, I made sure to watch my step.

And then I was standing at the entrance, entranced.  There has been a castle here since the 12th Century. The original builder was Duncan, Earl of Fife.  The front section, which is the most intact, is French-inspired.  Did I mention it is a ruin?

The most famous occupant was George, Duke of Gordon, a well-known show off referred to as “The Cock o’ the North.”  To ensure you saw his name across the top of the castle, he added a pointing hand (to the left of the “G.”)

It was a beautiful day and the rose and ochre-colored stone was set off by the blue sky and emerald grass to marvelous effect.

The Gordons were Catholics in a Protestant country. During the English civil war the “popish” symbols were chiseled off the castle by Protestants.

Inside, this fireplace had whatever was Catholic removed from the top.

There were more fireplaces that appeared suspended in air because the wood floors were gone.

This was once a cozy sitting room at the top of a turret.

Mary queen of scots ate here, and when the Earl pulled out all the stops to impress her, she turned around and imposed higher taxes on him.  This described an early version of the crock pot.

The 5th Earl of Huntly collapsed and died while playing football.  Probably had coronary heart disease from all the rich food.

My flash wouldn’t work, or you would be gazing upon “the oldest wooden toilet seat in Scotland.”  Quite a claim to fame.

There was this old section of—it was claimed—an original door.  Fabulous.

I climbed to the top then to the bottom, where my heart was chilled by this sight.

My son’s prison experience was bad enough; I can’t imagine being shut up in a mud floored, windowless dungeon with no heat.  (And no, those aren’t real prisoners; they’re dummies.)

Pets and their People

What good is a grand house if you don’t share it?  Lynn and Richard welcome a flow of house guests and host fetes such as their annual garden party.

But first, the permanent residents.  Lynn and Richard come from working class London. Richard’s father, a butcher, died suddenly when Richard was 15.  To help support his mother and sister, he lied about his age and joined the army.  Then he worked his way up in HR at British Telecom and retired early.  He is so well read and experienced in business and life that he would make a great philosophy or history or political science professor.

Lynn’s mother died when she was 16 and after being at loose ends for a few years, she landed in a training program at BT and also worked her way up in HR, which is where she and Richard met.  She moved to Nokia, where she supported some kind of internal new business incubator. I recall being dazzled when I met her because she talked about routinely flying from her flat in Cambridgeshire to Helsinki, where she also had a flat, to Sydney or Hong Kong and back in the span of a few days.  After leaving Nokia she’s worked off and on as a consultant for Oxfam, which is how I met her.  She is the only person I know who has ever been to Red Sea State, or had her Landcruiser pulled out of mud by an elephant in Indonesia, or been the only woman at a funeral in the Sudanese desert complete with whirling dervishes.

In America, we admire people who are “self-made.” Lynn and Richard would quibble with this term, pointing out that they were born at the right time—after the war and happened to join a company that was set to grow.  Lynn would say she was lucky to be born Anglo Indian in Britain instead of black in Zimbabwe.

It is kind of sickening that people admire Prince Harry, who was born on third base, and not people like Richard and Lynn.  I think Richard would say he is a republican, which in Britain means throw the “blood suckers” out—meaning the royals and the lords—let’s have real democracy.

On to the other residents of Dunrovin.  You’ve met Lord Parker.  He’s second in line to the Top Dog, Cosmo.  Cosmo was named for the young son of the Gordon’s who was a Royal Air Force pilot shot down in World War I.  The other son married an Irish actress and was disinherited.  As I wrote before, their sisters never married because so many men of their class had died in the wars and this caused the family to die out.

Poor Cosmo (the dog).  I had always liked Cosmo, a black lab, because he was a dignified dog.  Now he was elderly and hobbling around, his eyes had the blue aura of cataracts, and the other dogs were bothering him as though they knew their opportunity to take first place was at hand.  Poor Lynn and Richard struggled all month with the decision of what to do, when.

“As long as he gets up in the morning and enjoys his food, and goes out into the garden and enjoys the fresh air, that makes a dog’s life worthwhile,” Lynn ruled.  Hard to argue with that—I wish my life was as simple and carefree as eating and sitting in the garden.

The second black lab, Finn, is sort of like a middle child.  He’s quiet and low-key and no one notices him until he’s grabbed a lamb chop off your plate.

Then there are the spaniels, Merry and Pippin.  Sigh. I was there a few years ago when they arrived as puppies.  I think the word “flibbertigibbet” could have been coined for them.  Hyper, destructive, everywhere at once—normal puppies.  There are some who think Merry may be a Special Needs dog.  The spaniels had mellowed a little bit, but the phrase, “Nooo!!!  Merry, you idiot!” was still to be heard several times a day.  This is a rare moment of peace in the garden.

In the background lurked the two cats, Dash and Dot, seen here outside my window.

Dunrovin House

Dunrovin House.  There’s so much to say.  So much history.  Mysteries like, “When was it built?” and “How many additions have there been? and “Why is there that faint line on the wall—was that where the original house stopped?”

Was it originally a fortified outpost? It’s set down in a depression; below is a view from the ground-floor kitchen.  Four or 500 years ago, was the ground close to the house even lower, and filled with water?  Lynn and Richard think the original structure was built in the 16th Century, so there’s really no way of knowing these things without spending a lot of time in musty archives.

One day Lynn, Richard, Lord Parker, and I visited a nearby ruin, Glenbuchat Castle, that Richard had heard had similar features to Dunrovin.  Had it been built at the same time, for the same purposes, by the same people?  We didn’t learn anything because it was closed for renovation.

Contrasted with Glenbuchat, which sits cold and empty at the top of a windy hill, Dunrovin is full of life and color. These are a few shots of some of the 24 rooms.

On five levels, there are all the usual rooms you expect to find in a house: bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining room.

Then there are: a sitting room, music room, library, great hall, butler’s pantry, parlor, conservatory, and a gun room.  The gun room is required to be locked at all times and only Richard, the registered gun owner, may have a key.  So I’ve only glimpsed inside it.

Many of the rooms had original functions that don’t make sense anymore, like the school room, so they are now used for other purposes.

These call bells in the kitchen provide a list of the rooms in the late 19th / early 20th Century.  There was a Morning Room—whatever that was—maybe where they caught the morning sun and working on correspondence?

The bells were disabled by a family who lived here in the 80s who had four boys.  I’m sure it was funny the first time one of them rang a bell to summon their mother to bring cookies to them in their attic bedroom, but like her, I would have grabbed the wire cutters pretty quickly.

Lynn and Richard have filled the place with antiques and art and artifacts.  They’ve managed to be true to the historic character of the house without making it stuffy, which is always a danger with old houses.

Dunrovin has the things that, in my mind, make a house Scottish—lots of heads on the walls, a fireplace in every room, and a tartan door.

The door, covered with the cloth of the Gordon family tartan, separates the front of the house from the back.  In the Gordon family heyday, the family would entertain in the front-side rooms, which have 20 foot ceilings and views of the hills.  Behind the tartan door, the help would be running up and down from the kitchen or using the dumbwaiter (below) to move food and libations up to the first floor butler’s pantry to be staged for serving.

There is this defunct system for communicating throughout the house.  Now everyone just yells, or bangs a gong in the hallway to announce that supper is ready.

I love this wallpaper in what is now the entertainment room.  Richard, who is the main decorator (“Ricky’s Decoratin’ at yer service” he deadpans), has found such scraps of William Morris wallpaper behind fuse boxes.

See how deep the windows are.  Thick walls are meant to keep out the cold.

The fireplaces are ornate wrought iron or tile and burn wood or peat.  I spent many evenings on the floor in front of this one, with a great fire, a lap cat, and a glass of wine to warm me while we watched Dickensian.

This may sound odd, but for me the one item that says “country house” is an Aga.

More about stoves in the next post, but an Aga is like a fireplace but it’s always on.  Everyone hangs out in the kitchen anyway, and on cold days we are all drawn to lean our back against the Aga.


Lynn and Richard’s home is remote.  You fly into Aberdeen, population 212,000.  From there you head into the highlands and know you are getting close when you pass the town of Huntly, with around 4,500 people.  The closest town to the house is Gartly, a “hamlet” of 144 people.  A bend in the road.

Lynn and Richard’s house has a name, as do many houses in the UK.  I will call it Dunrovin because this is where Richard wanted to move when he retired and was done with big city life and international travels.

Actually, he wanted to move to a “wee bothy” (a hut).  I’m not sure which of these variations he had in mind but Lynn put the kibosh on the idea of a bothy.

Dunrovin had been owned by generations of the Gordon family until all the sons were killed or disbursed in the wars and there were no men of their class for the sisters to marry, so the family died out.

The idea of a stately home was difficult for me to comprehend, as an American.  It’s one of those things I think British people grow up knowing about, so it’s obvious to them.  There is a wealthy family—not royalty or aristocrats but landed gentry—living in the main house which has a name.  Everything surrounding it is referred to with that name and would have been part of the estate.  In the case of Dunrovin, there is the gamekeeper’s cottage up the hill, the laundry cottages over the road, and the farm house.  All were sold off, along with the silver, as the Gordon family contracted financially.

I will share some photos of the house and land, starting with the great outdoors.  My photos have been taken at various times of year over 12 years, so if some look like they’re set in winter, they are.

As you come up the drive, there are fields on either side with grazing sheep.

This is the back garden and beyond from inside Dunrovin.  In the middle distance is one of the satellite cottages that used to be part of the estate.

This is a view in the opposite direction, from the back of the garden near the gate that leads down to the river. Meet Parker.  He’s a very aloof dog; people call him Lord Parker.  But he always appeared and hovered near me whenever I left my room.  Parker is not much for people and I am tone deaf to dogs, so we got along great.

This is a similar view, only taken in summer this year so you can see that the sun really does come out in Scotland.  When there’s the slightest bit of sun and warmth, people like Lynn and me go out and sit on benches and turn our faces up to the sun and go “Mmmmmm,” while Richard complains that it’s too hot.

This is the back garden from the attic, where I spent a lot of time.  No, they didn’t put me up there, although that wouldn’t have been so bad because it’s a nice space with skylight views of the 15 chimneys.  No, it was because I requested to be given a project, and Richard assigned me to clear out and paint the attic.

Here is Parker again, your tour guide, showing you the net house full of lettuce and broad beans and peas.  The netting keeps the birds (and dogs) away.  Across from it is the glass house, where Richard grows hothouse veggies like tomatoes and peppers.

In addition to growing his own produce, Richard shoots deer and other game so in theory they could be almost self-sufficient if they wanted or needed to be.

Exiting out the back gate and leaving behind a disappointed Parker, I would often walk down to the river, passing these trees with old graffiti from soldiers billeted nearby after the war (I think).

Richard had moved a café table down to the river, where I enjoyed a cuppa.

I have asked and been told several times the name of the river, but I can’t remember.  I prefer to think of it as just The River.  This was where I would spend a month.

High Rolling

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Yawn.  I don’t care about sports but I’ll watch the game because it’s in Minneapolis and I want to see how Minnesota is portrayed in the media.

The game has temporarily escalated prices for everything, and people are scrambling to take advantage.  My landlord rented out the duplex above me to two Canadian brothers in town for the game.  I’m sure she’s getting a packet o’ money.  If they want to borrow a cup of sugar, it’s gonna cost ‘em $500.  Just kidding!  We Minnesotans are as nice as our neighbors to the north.

My mind has been casting back to Super Bowl 1992, which was the last time Minneapolis hosted.  I had ended a long-term abusive relationship with a rich man by getting a restraining order against him.  I lived in St. Paul and he lived in another state but he still managed to stalk and harass and beat me.  I fully acknowledge my participation in this; I got on planes and flew out to see him.  I allowed him to stay in my apartment and Vince was exposed to things he never should have been.

I can’t believe it was me.  It’s like it happened to another person.  I was a zombie.

The last time the police had taken photos of my bruises they had urged me to get an order for protection.

“We can’t touch him because he lives in [another state],” the cop said.  “If he was a loser, an order might escalate the situation but with rich guys who’ve got a lot to lose, it shuts them down good.”

And it did.  I knew the moment the order was delivered because the phone rang and after a long silence, click, then nothing but peace.  Release.  I started my life over.  To be on the safe side, literally, I bought my little first house and made sure the address was unlisted.

A few months later, on Super Bowl Sunday, I opened my front door and there he was on my door step.  Not in person, but in a front-page full-color edge-to-edge photo in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The image is emblazoned in my mind.  He was posing with one foot on the bumper of a limousine, raising a glass of champagne toward the camera as if to say, “Ha ha, Anne!  Look at the lifestyle you spurned!”

The article was nauseating.  He really had terrible taste.  Me—I may not have a lot of money—but I have good taste.  There are certain things you can’t buy: good taste, depth of character, a clean conscience, wisdom, kindness, pride, joy, and love.

People like him don’t have the bracing travel experiences I’ve had because they never stay in hostels, or take the bus, or meet normal locals.

I’ve told a few people this story lately because the Super Bowl is all anyone is talking about.  I began to wonder if I imagined the whole thing, but I didn’t.  The archive where I just had to pay to download the article didn’t include the photo and that’s probably a good thing.

Published: January 26, 1992
Section: NEWS
Page#: 01A

The weekend belongs to a wave of high rollers

By Randy Furst; Staff Writer

Meet Dr. Dale Helman, Monterey, Calif., self-described high roller.

The 32-year-old neurologist was tooling around the Twin Cities Saturday afternoon in a blue-and-gold chauffeur-driven 1962 Rolls that rents for $1,200 a day.

He’s here for the Super Bowl and because he needed someplace to spend some money.

He says he made the trip to the Super Bowl because he needed a $10,000 tax writeoff: “On Dec. 30, my tax accountant said I have 36 hours to get an entertainment deduction.” In a New Year’s Eve rush, Helman bought four tickets to the game over the phone from Ticket Exchange, a ticket broker in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I offered him the 40-yard line, but he said it wasn’t good enough,” said John Langbein, owner of Ticket Exchange. “I offered him the 50-yard line, three rows up, but he said that was too low. I offered him the 50-yard line, 30 rows up; he said that was too high. I finally got him the 50-yard line, 20 rows up.” The price: $1,550 a ticket.

Helman wanted only the best seats. He said he’ll write the trip off because he’s taking three neurologist friends to the game and plans to discuss neurology with them “in the limo. . . . Maybe at halftime we’ll talk about the neurology of football injuries.” He also went to Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center yesterday afternoon in his limo to interview a neurologist for a position on his staff.

“It is rare that I get a weekend off, but when I get a weekend off I play hard,” said Helman, who flew first class from San Francisco on Friday night. He and his buddies went to a Champps sports bar, where they met some Buffalo Bills cheerleaders.

He calls his visit “clean fun.”

He was headed last night to the Taste of the NFL, a $75-a-plate dinner.

High rollers in cabs Some high rollers don’t like to walk or find the temperatures a bit too bracing for a stroll. Many hail cabs for one- or two-block trips. Cabbies complain that many of the visiting bigshots are playing it cheap, too, with tips in the $1 to $2 range.

Rollers on the rocks

As many as 900 of the highest of high rollers ventured onto Curt Carlson’s frozen private lake yesterday for an exclusive party outside Carlson Companies headquarters. A 130-seat TGI Fridays was erected on the lake so partygoers could eat and drink. Outside, they rode snowmobiles, a hot-air balloon, horse-drawn sleighs and an eight-dog sled. Former Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill gave skating lessons, and polar explorer Will Steger narrated a slide show about his Antarctic expedition.

Some praised the advantages of the cold weather. “The germs are all gone,” declared Norah Farris of Dallas. But not everyone was dressed for the occasion. Nina Pellegrini of San Francisco tried her hand at ice sailing in a full-length white fox fur coat. The party was sponsored by Carlson Companies, CBS and Coca-Cola. The plutocracy was out in force: CBS President Howard Stringer, Curt Carlson, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, Northwest Airlines Cochairman Al Checchi, financier Irwin Jacobs and First Bank Chairman John Grundhofer.

Rollers come first, uh huh!

At the Winter Carnival ice slide near the State Capitol, there was nearly a revolt yesterday when Pepsi officials reserved time on the slide at 10 a.m. for Pepsi executives. Pepsi contributed $1 million for the ice castle. But by 10:30, more than 100 average citizens had lined up at the slide and weren’t being allowed to take their turns. Some angry people started shouting, “Coke! Coke!” After about 15 minutes of failing the good-taste test, Pepsi execs decided to let common folks ride, too.

A fitting feast

A 600-glass pyramid of cascading champagne opened the Taste of the NFL yesterday at the International Centre in Minneapolis. The program raised $100,000 for the poor, but the participants didn’t do too poorly, either. About 1,500 people dined on alligator, duck pastrami and assorted delicacies. Admission was $75. Organizers overcame several last-minute crises, including a case of the missing scallops, needed for 1,100 entrees prepared by a chef from Cafe Annie in Houston. It was miraculously delivered 10 minutes before the 6 p.m. opening.

Ice jam Traffic congestion became a nightmare in St. Paul yesterday thanks to the Winter Carnival Grande Day Parade. Shuttle bus service was backed up much of the day, requiring waits of up to 90 minutes. And bus service from the ice palace to downtown Rice Park was stopped for several hours during the parade. 

Your taxes at work

Super Bowl fans will be treated to some high-flying antics, including a possible coin toss in the weightlessness of space, by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Discovery, according to the Associated Press. The astronauts plan to make a brief television appearance during the pregame show.

CBS Sports commentators Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw will chat with the shuttle crew in a TV hookup arranged by NASA.


On Jan. 15, 1982, shortly before the Dome opened, an article appeared on Page 1 of the sports section in the now-defunct Minneapolis Star. It began: “If you think the Jan. 24 Super Bowl in chilly Pontiac, Mich., means that Minneapolis might someday be host for the football ritual, don’t bet on it. According to officials of the National Football League, the city’s nearly completed Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is just too small to hold a Super Bowl crowd.” The author of the article was Randy Furst. Oh well.

Staff Writers Jean Hopfensperger, Joe Kimball, Dave Phelps and Ellen Foley contributed to this article.