Trolley Cars in Minneapolis

The latest news popped up after Norm was just looking at the weather forecast on the PC screen.

More rain and the videos of flooding on the Mississippi with a few garages with water up to the entrances where a car should be. Laughing owners in the shot, what else could they broadcast? A man retiring from a shoe repair shop after spending his whole life there. A good man and a well equipped shop. A necessary business but no one interested in taking it over. Norm has his favorite shoe shop in ‘the falls’ town and cannot imagine the town without it.

Minneapolis is more inclined to older buildings on main streets that sell tobacco, payday loans and lottery tickets. The old stuff has to go. Much akin to decades ago when the city decided to tear out the trolley cars and leave transportation to buses or personal transportation. Even bicycle lanes for some but certainly not most people. Rail transport is European and practical.

When Norm grew up in the North-side, he used his bicycle to deliver news papers and could not even consider riding it to south Minneapolis to the dentist! Alone. Of course, bikes then were heavier with one speed. Forward. There was no need to even consider bicycling around the city, there were trolley cars everywhere that even would carry Norm to the dentist in the South-side of town. The local was easy to catch. A number 16 that went from Thomas Avenue all the way downtown. Norm would get a transfer ticket and walk down Washington avenue to catch the trolley car to the dentist. It was easy and safe and at that time, no muggers, kidnappers and youth with pistols eager to shoot someone, anyone that looked at them. Norm was on the wrestling team but did not have concealed carry. After all, he was ten and it was the late sixties. The only people that made the news was Al Capone and his gang being shot by the police. Front page news of scandalous behavior and shocking news of a wheel gun shooting. Colt automatics were WWII stuff. Heavy and not handy for the cops.

The news today was about new trolley cars being put in and whole neighborhoods were outraged that the city would do that. We liked them fifty years ago. Covenient and cheap and practical. Now the store owners and residents are outraged at these things. Norm thinks it’s a great idea. The new thugs do too. Mayhem and robbery and just beating people up for fun. Times have indeed changed. The city is scary and filled with angry imbeciles. That’s a Dostoyefski qruote.

It’s not very good, but it could be very good with faith in Jesus. Jack Gator

Jesus on the West Bank of Minneapolis

There it was, there it still is. A two story mural depicting Jesus with his hands open to all who would come to Him At the intersection called Seven Corners, visible plainly from Washington Avenue.

Norm and Julie have just seen the movie about Jesus. It was held over at the Falls theater in St. Croix Falls.

That mural was painted there some time ago, it was there when Norm was working at the New Riverside Cafe back in the very early 70’s. Several columns in Gator’s Grace Notes have been printed in various newspapers about those times. ’40 Acres of Musicians’ is one of them. (It’s at if you are drawn to the writing of the Gator.)

Seven corners refers to a major intersection that signals the end of Washington Ave and Cedar Ave and an on ramp to the freeway, Highway 35. Perfect spot really. “And there shall be a highway and a Road and it shall be called the Highway of holiness”

Norm was a hippy at this time and he was happy, sort of. Living in an apartment on Cedar Avenue a few blocks away, 605 ½ Cedar. It was a hotspot of the musicians in the city as was the New Riverside Cafe’, referred by the in crowd that worked there as simply “ The Cafe” Pronounced as ‘the Keffe’ by these in the know and we who staffed it. Ground zero for Norm, fresh out of the Navy and growing his beard and hair as fast as he could. Lots of bean sprouts and other veggies as the Keffe’ was vegetarian. Cheaper and better for you and the neighborhood. The favorite menus item was soup and grilled cheese sandwich. We fed the neighborhood, most of it pretty poor folks and even a couple of them that spent all their money across the intersection of Riverside and Cedar, the 400 bar. For quite a time there were no prices for food there and a pretty hefty price for the world class music in the big room, overlooking Riverside Avenue. The entire neighborhood is now Somali and the business’ there all have NE African names, and the people are pretty friendly. The buildings are still the same but none of them have old hippies staffing them.

We worked a miracle in urban development then. Stopping the development of Heller and Segal’s dream of “A new town in town’ A rent strike and political rally’s and the help of the local Anglican Diocese was the protest plan. A lot of publicity in the Tribune and it worked, sort of. At least most of the west bank that was left stayed undeveloped into high rises. Since the West Bank was so close to the Mississippi, it housed a lot of northern European immigrants and became known as ‘Snus boulevard’

The movement of America’s Revival, the Jesus movement was in full swing and their headquarters was right at the building where the huge mural was painted. Everyone who worked at the Cafe’ was not interested in Jesus, except for Father Teska, the Episcopal priest that helped fund our food ‘ministry’. It worked. That diocese was very helpful for Norm. They helped with the legal issues he was in with the military after discharge. Norm’s GI loan came through to buy his small farm in 1976. Thirty acres, buildings and house for $26,500. It has increased a bit after paying off the loan. Paradise in it’s own rolling hills valley with a private beaver lake and a prayer cabin overlooking it. Beautiful wife, two boys and indeed, blessings that just came. It’s pretty good. Jack

New and Old friends with Ephesians 2

A friend. A man that Jack went to school with back in the sixties in Minneapolis, his name is Ken. He calls Jack now and then and they meet once in a while. The distance between their homes is a lot and it isn’t easy to meet in person. They met again recently at a restaurant in Minnesota, one of the those bar-restaurants with good rail scotch and passable food. Ken got there first and pretended to be passed out at the reserved table. First sign of humor. Those things really appeal to Jack. Humor is mostly laughing at ourselves, with good reason.

It was with surprise that they met as each one of them had so much in common and yet, did not recognize one another. The voices and the eyes were seen by one another as to their identity. There was no question of how old they were and there was evidence easily seen of the decades they share. Wise and wrinkled as badges of honor The two of them knew one another decades ago in a passing way and knew mutual classmates but did not have any memory of anything like a friendship. This was nice and different, world wise they are now. A shared faith and now a bond of strength between them. The fellowship of the cross.

Many of us have this possibility laid before us. It takes the determination of one person to begin the sharing and it’s through faith, the very gift of God. Many of us can be blessed and bless in this way, but it takes courage and determination to do so. Jack and Ken know this now, and and you, reader, can know this too.

Ken is a hidden writer in ways, and his written questions stunned Jack with his friends vision and ability to share it .These words are of great value and Jack wrote them down quickly, fumbling for a pad and pen while still on the phone. Hold on Ken, I gotta write this down! Those 21 words are:

What can I do? What should I do? What is God telling me to do? What am I willing to do?”

He told Jack of a motorcycle club he belongs to, ‘Bond slaves‘ and they have colors and go to the rally of bikers in Sturgis. They are respected there and with Jack’s old biker experiences, it seems right and good. Jack rode out to his adventures in 69 on an Indian-Enfield with his ponytail streaming and a guitar, bunji corded to the sissy bar. Jack likes to think of now riding a BMW R69 with a sidecar {with full leathers and a good helmet). Ken, said he rides an old Harley. A duo glide or a pan head. An older model that Jack does not remember. Older bikes are pretty swell. Jack rode a flathead 74, chopped, in those shared high school years. It was loud of course.

This is how true friendships begin. Not so much with initial similarities or even histories but with good and surprising things and faith that neither of them knew of each another in the past.They didn’t know those things then either. A delightful surprise for us all it is certain. You can tell if someone is a Christian by the words they choose and a confidence in them. Jack likes to tell people that he sees they are Christian. It’s enjoybable

The other conversations with classmates at the restaurant were dissapointing. As worldly, we are driven to show how our lives are now. With photos and children and exotic trips and possessions that bespeak of good taste and wealth. Jack doesn’t have many photos and he had no concept of bringing any of the ones he does have. His photos are next to the staircase with memories of beauty to see the savior that created all of it. Sometimes Jack feels like George Bailey in Bedford Falls. He was Mr. Potter for a while. But, ‘He made me alive when I was dead and raised me up and seated me with Christ. And It’s by His grace that I am saved, and it’s through Faith, the very gift of God.’A. The fellowship that goes back a few thousand years for us all. It’s history. Read all about it. We did, not looking back. Jesus is solid as a rock for us all. Just ask for that beauty, Jesus knows you and loves you right now. He made you and you are worthy to behold Him It’s pretty good, Jack Gator A. Justin Rizzo

‘The gift of God’

The History of Jack Gator’s Name

In the beginning (Jack’s favorite three words) Jack was enthralled with fiddle contests, playing in country swing bands and always admired excellent fiddlers. After all, in his middle twenties he lived in the neighborhood of ’40 acres of musicians’ He wrote a column on those times. It is available at the web site. Http://www It was publisheda few years ago in the Intercounty Leader.

There was such a panoply of musicians that Jack had the privilege to hang out and play with. Peter Ostrushko. Brian Wicklund, Craig Ruble, Pop Wagner, Mary Dushane to name a few! Mary wound up on the Prairie Home Companion. She played at Jack’s wedding along with Bill Hinkley, Kevin Mcmullin and Jack. We surrounded Julie in her gorgeous wedding gown and played Helsa Dem Hardemma, a Swedish waltz. What a heritage of being surrounded with music for years.

When Jack was living up north in Wisconsin, he began competing and judging in fiddle contests. When asked by the newspaper to come up with a photo, the only thing Jack could find was a drawing of a young alligator playing a fiddle. He was leaning back on his tail in the cartoon. The nickname of Mr. Gator stuck. Jack even had license plates proclaiming ‘MR GATOR’ Such fun silliness.

Much later a fellow writer (Jesse Selin) drew the Gator picture and then we had to come up with a first name. A masculine one with punch. Jack’s favorite author, C.S.Lewis was nicknamed Jack, and it fit.

Jack’s real name is Norman Eric Peterson. Sort of Scandinavian. Images of sandbakkels, fattigman, lefese an of course, barrels of lye filled with lutefisk come to mind. The cookies are hard to spell and hardly anyone knows about them. Local church basement cooks, however, know these things. These images are first to come to mind and don’t seem masculine (except for the lutefisk ocean crossing ordeal) Not that Norm is ashamed of Norway and Sweden’s images, there just isn’t that instant familiar image of Norm in most of us. Friendly and as a child, a bit rough and tumble. So, the name stuck and you, dear reader, are too. It also helps for the third person writing and as Jack says; “The names are changed to protect the guilty.”

So there you have it. Jack did indeed have a rough and tumble life with prison escapes, FBI encounters, Top Secret rank, Luftwaffe pilots, Russian surface missiles and facing down danger with it all. The name fits. (He does not own a battle axe.) He is Just a slightly dense Norwegian that is ready to sail to the new land. And risk his life to do so. Adventure seems to be a trait of Norwegians and Swedes. They like to work hard too.

Words and history combined with a lot of trauma. Jack likes to write to entertain, intrigue and show those narrow escapes. All of it happened due to shape a man able to witness the saving grace of Jesus. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus

A Roman citizen who exemplified rule for the greater good, Civic Modesty, Virtue and Humility. Several times he controlled the Roman Empire and led it to a succesful fulfillment of long term vision and intelligent use of resources and strength. He lived around500 BC. After ruling the empire several times and putting back on track of civilization (Ending the reliance upon the state) he retired and went back to his small farm.

Very much akin to our own George Washington who made certain that our nation stood by the constitution, after this was accomplished he also went back to his farm (voluntarily retirement) in Mount Vernon.

The obvious problem then, and now, is the outlook of time. Quick satisfaction of desire or long term growth and security. We are faced with this decision now in our nation. Is it growth in essential ways? Or do we wish for the things and ways that seem to satisfy our now?

Quick fix and keeping the populace settled (somewhat) and the offering of government supply and direction. Also a lot of ‘fake news’ to stir the pot of desire. We have all seen the anxiety in our neighbors for things that are not long term goals but in perceived wealth and safety (perceived). Jack will not pontificate of these things. They are simple things and easily seen, if we desire honesty and use the intelligence we have been given.

Stimulus cash that is dolled out to make us believe in a benign economy, entertaining conflict on the airwaves or through fibre optic high speed computers. Jack’s desktop is pages long every morning of answers to satisfying images. A new electric powered car (with a power grid able to keep them charged?) Lowering the price of gasoline by a dime by releasing two days worth of national emergency oil.

How about getting another and another shot of security which is akin to the finger in the dike by a small vision that promises and cannot deliver. Backed up of course by fear mongering. ‘Bring out your dead’ It will probably be you. Keep those shields up Scotty! Isolate and tremble. Your saviors in the capitol will let you know when it is safe. Life is not safe, never was. Again, as C.S. Lewis penned it so brilliantly about our Lord: “Is He safe? Of course not, He’s a lion..but He’s good”

It would seem quite a few people are getting aware that it isn’t safe out there. After all, we rely on lines of paint to keep us from deadly forces of impact. Does that seem safe? If I wear a paper mask that does not allow me to breath or see, I will be safe against people. “Buy this one! It fits perfectly!” (unless it isn’t needed) We are in a hurry to pick up that deal, that stimulus check. Survival food and enough ammunition to fight off ‘those people’

Gold and silver bars and coins to trade for your miserable, isolated and fear filled life. Cincinnatus and George Washington knew a lot of these things and with their virtue and honesty, helped us out of our situation.

We need that sort of attitude today. Modesty and the greater good visions. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator


The morning ritual, perhaps a few of us look forward to it. It ends with the half cup and half caff and a screen at eye level. Jack often wonders at the medical frame straighteners that are taxed with the continual efforts to adjust us to these times. You know the posture. Head tipped forward, about 25 to 30 degrees, left hand upraised and the digits of the right tapping on the small rectangle of plastic.

“Hi Eddie, what’s going on this morning?” “Ed?” Oh hi Jack, I was just checking my account.

The isolation of the postures of those around us. Walking, sitting on a bench perhaps or strap hanging on the metro. It has become a reservoir of escape and capture even on Jack’s email in the morning ritual. An interesting article on a Sunday lecture series is delayed a little bit by advertising that pops up.

We all know how it works and sometimes there is a short escape with a click down in the lower right of the screen that says; ‘Skip ads’ Or perhaps an X off the the right that deletes the ad. Jack has noticed sometimes the ad pops back up. Golly, Jack just wanted to read that article in the New York Bad Times about the collapse of civilization and an opinion of an expert on technical issues with the pending doom.

Old news articles, pulled off with a simple copy and paste. Here’s the news and it isn’t pretty. The immediate thought about that lecture or sermon diminishes to fear. Images of young thugs staring at your car as it is stopped at the red light. Red means danger close. Images of that property that is not selling as fast as it should because the market is skewed. Fear of an empty shelf at the destination locked into the GPS. Why was it always toilet paper that is the first thing missing, even at the two dollar store? “It’s those truckers! It’s the inflation causing something I don’t understand!

The good reporter/bad reporter sets us up for the ads hooked into the online reading. “Invest! Diversify! There is a way to guarantee the future for you and your family!” Another go-round on the roundabout of collapsing faith. Looking at failure and perhaps death by ingestion of food that does not contribute to nutrition. Fake food. Fake news.

As it was said thousands of years ago, there is nothing new under the sun. Same old game we play when we loose faith in the life given to us by the solid reliable source of all knowledge. Where is our Lord and Master? You know, I am doubting things and I am going to make sure every base is covered!

Diversify. There are other ways to make certain of my survival! ‘This offer is solid gold! It will get you through the hard times you have even been promised by that leader who seems to have disappeared ”Bullion. Shiny and eternally so. Secure as the bank. Diversify and survive. Nothing new under the sun.

Is it pretty good or is it just fear and lack of trust? Jack Gator