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Alone in a Crowd

June 8, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I'd decided, last minute, to go along with Mr. Sundberg on one of his motivational speaking expeditions so Friday night my mother drove up from Owatonna to get the kids for the weekend and they were glad to go. They've been a little nuts lately with only a few days of school left so I sent along the pogo stick and the slingshots their Uncle Jack made when he was under house arrest. Oh, and the case of Silly String we bid on at the fire department auction a few months ago.

Mr. Sundberg was scheduled to speak Saturday evening on the topic of stress management in the modern world. I was a bit mystified by the whole thing but he seemed prepared with his notes and all so I reclined in my plane seat and watched Minnesota disappear under the clouds and imagined what I would do if a tall green creature appeared on the plane wing and came running toward me. I wouldn't scream, for sure; I think I would laugh, or kind of mumble something like, Oh my gosh.

Once we got to the hotel, Mr. Sundberg was off and running and I wandered along Michigan Avenue and tried on black pumps and wide-brimmed hats I can't afford. I had dinner alone at the hotel restaurant and ate chicken with lots of garlic and sketched tropical flowers on my paper place mat. The waiter's name was Louis and he called me "Sweetie," "Honey," "Sweetheart," and "Dear," and said he hoped to see me at brunch in the morning as the French toast was to die for.

A few hours later I lay on the king-sized bed and listened to the show broadcast from New Hampshire whose state motto is LIVE FREE OR DIE and I smiled and thought about how really very good it feels to be alone in a crowd in a windy city filled with lights and people who not only want to tell you their stories but want to hear yours. I thought about Uncle Jack and his slingshots and how happy he is since he was acquitted, and whether my mother relented and let the Silly String fly. And as I dozed off, Mr. Keillor led the audience in "America the Beautiful" and I wished I'd had that ice cream sundae after all. You know, the old fashioned kind with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped topping, crushed peanuts and a cherry. The kind you share with someone who has a story to tell.

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