It’s A Sm… (Never Mind!)

Aug 15, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

If you’ve ever been to either of Disney’s Magic Kingdom parks in the U.S., you’ve more than likely gone on one particular ride aimed at kids, whether you had any children with you or not. It’s an indoor ride, in a boat, in a dark building filled with barely-animatronic singing children from a variety of countries, and the same simple song plays the entire time you’re there. You’ve got it now, right? It has to do with the size of our planet. And, no, it’s not Pirates of the Caribbean.

I almost typed the whole title in the headline, but by stopping short I think I have absolved myself from any blame when you are still hearing the song in your head eight hours from now. It’s not my fault. I didn’t write it, produce it, or play it at the park for you to listen to as you floated along slowly in that boat. But we all know it!

So here’s the deal. Last Friday we went to a party. A birthday party. A surprise birthday party! The truly surprised honoree was our dear friend Joe Gillis, who turned 60. The devilish plot was hatched by his wife Mary Beth, another dear friend from the old neighborhood here in Woodbury. The whole Marsh Creek gang was there, and in an interesting plot twist Mary Beth “crossed the beams” by also inviting a similar sized crowd of friends from their days at 3M.

It was fun and, bucking all the odds, it was successful on the surprise side of things. Of all the surprise parties I’ve been to, or which have been planned for me, I don’t think 24.5% of them were truly completely successful. This one was, and all the credit for that goes to Mary Beth. She nailed it, and a lot of us got there early to help out. Terry Blake, Barbara, and I assisted in the parking category, because having a whole bunch of familiar cars parked around their house would’ve easily tipped Joe off. And, to make it more of a challenge, the entire Marsh Creek neighborhood is currently having the street totally torn out and rebuilt, so there wasn’t really any parking in the neighborhood anyway.

There’s a small city park just outside the neighborhood, with parking for about 15 cars. There’s a paved trail that also winds through the woods from the parking area, and it connects, eventually, to their backyard (if you know where you’re going.) The three of us formed a relay team to help people get parked, and then we’d show them the way on the trail, handing them off as we went. Worked like a charm. And then it was finally time for Joe to arrive, coming back to Woodbury from Green Bay. Mary Beth had a double-secret planted assistant in that regard, too. Along on the trip was a friend of Joe’s who kept Mary Beth up to date, by text, as they got closer.

Surprise! Worked like a charm!!! (Click on any image to enlarge)

When Joe walked in the door from the garage, this photo illustrates how stunned he was by the fact their entire kitchen was full of friends shouting “SURPRISE!” Truly speechless. It was awesome!

So after all that fun, the party settled in and we mostly sat out in Joe and Mary Beth’s gorgeous backyard, socializing, laughing, enjoying the food and drinks, and just having a great time. We also got to meet a number of their former 3M friends, and that was great too.

And here’s where the real theme for this blog comes in… You know the song.

Barbara and I were sitting with a group of 3M people (3M’ers, as they’re known around here) and were getting to know them. I was sitting next to a really nice guy, whose name was Warren, and we hit it off immediately. The back and forth about what we used to do, what we do now, and other background stuff just rolled along as it normally would at a party.

We talked quite a bit about my book “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” and my upbringing, which of course is instrumental to the subject matter in the book.

Eventually, Warren asked me if I was a Minnesota native, and when I said, “No, actually. I was born and raised in the St. Louis area. Barbara and I have both lived literally all around the country, but after we got married we lived in Chapel Hill for a while, and then Austin for four years. We moved to Woodbury in 2002 and consider it home now.”

Warren’s eyes got a little bigger, and he said, “I used to live in the St. Louis suburbs, for quite a while. From childhood into adulthood.”

“Which suburb?” I asked.

“Warson Woods, originally” he replied.

Warson Woods and Kirkwood, where I grew up, are right next to each other. At that point, the questions were flying.

“Where’d you go to grade school?”

He went to Ste. Genevieve du Bois and I went to Mary Queen of Peace. Ste. Genevieve is all of about a mile and a half from the house I grew up in. I played a ton of grade school ballgames on the fields there.

Then we got to the question any two St. Louisans will ask each other, to immediately establish that one degree of separation.

“Where’d you go to high school?”

I went to St. Louis U. High. He went to De Smet Jesuit High, which was built out in the more affluent westside suburbs just before it was time for me to decide where I was going. My brothers had gone to SLUH, and I liked the history of the old campus down in the city, across the highway from Forest Park. He was in the third or fourth (I can’t remember now) freshman class at De Smet.

So that really got us going. Warren told me how he moved a couple of times, each time a little further west in the suburbs. I was completely familiar with each area and the street names that go with them. It was like a trip back in time.

I said, “So, from where you lived in Warson Woods, if you went south on Woodlawn you’d cross Manchester Road. Then, about a half mile later you’d come to a blinking yellow light where Quan Road ends at Woodlawn. Just a few yards further, Woodleaf Court would be on your left. I grew up on Woodleaf Court.”

Again, his eyes got bigger and he said, “I know it well. I had a friend who lived on Woodleaf!”

You’re kidding me, right?

We lived in the second house on the left, in the little Woodleaf cul-de-sac that featured only 10 homes, all of the same basic mid-century modern split-level design. He knew a guy named John BaDour, who lived two houses down from us. It was my turn to be speechless.

The BaDours were a wonderful family, and I used to play catch or throw a football around with their young son Tim, who was Timmy to all of us. When John would get home from work, he’d race up the street in his suit and loafers to join us. Truly great people, and I remember how sad I was when John broke the news that they were moving to Wisconsin.

So, Warren had been in John’s house. That’s just crazy.

What’s even more crazy is the total random nature of how this all happened. Two complete strangers go to a party. They could each sit anywhere or interact with people they already knew. Instead, we sat next to each other and began to talk. It took a long time for the conversation to finally get around to St. Louis and Kirkwood and Warson Woods and schools. And the streets we lived on.

What a small world

So this is Warren Wasescha and me, at the party. It’s a small world after all, isn’t it?  I couldn’t help it.

In other news, Barbara and I had a brief but fun “staycation” the last couple of days. She had a business dinner in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday night, and then had a business conference, also in downtown Minneapolis, that started early on Wednesday morning. It seemed silly for her to drive all the way home after the dinner and then get up early to drive right back to within a couple of blocks where the dinner had been, for the conference.

So we got a room at Hotel Ivy, a wonderful boutique property near both her dinner and conference. We got there just in time for her dinner, so I hung out at the hotel and waited for her to get back. I had a room service cheeseburger that was awesome. Yes, I did. And, yes it was.

When she returned, we decided to check out the bar tucked into the basement of the hotel. It’s call Constantine and after you walk down the steps from the super-modern and bright lobby, the entrance is to your left. You actually walk through black curtains to enter. It was dark in there, and kind of medieval too, with actual burning candles providing much of the light. Almost like something from a castle during the middle ages, but a super cool place. We sipped a couple of drinks and ordered some tater tots (don’t ask, it’s Minnesota thing) that were terrific, and then headed up to our room on the 17th floor.

Barbara headed out early for her conference the next morning, and I had much of the day to relax, walk around downtown, and answer a bunch of emails. When she got back to the hotel, around 1:45, we had some time. She’s as “super elite” as you can get with Marriott (she’s actually a “Titanium Level” member, which I never knew existed) and Hotel Ivy is a Marriott property, so they gave us a 4:00 check-out. The trick was, Barbara had a 5:30 flight to Dallas. So we found some lunch, took our time, and then finally checked out. I took her to the airport, and off she went. She’ll be home from Dallas tonight. She posted on Facebook, early this morning, that it was already like an oven there. Ugh. It’s gorgeous here.

And this weekend we’ll be heading up to Brainerd to see as many people as we can at the NHRA Nationals, on Saturday. After a full day of that, we’ll head down to Grand Casino Mille Lacs, just about 30 miles from the track, to spend the night there. We’ll likely spend some money, too. I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of smiling friendly faces, and so is Barbara.

So that’s it for today. As always, if you liked this blog installment please click on the “Like” button at the top. I wonder if I can make Titanium status in the “Likes” department?

See you next week, with tales and photos from Brainerd.

Bob Wilber, at your service and still singing “It’s a small world, after all…”




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