Episode 201 - Wedding
We last left Gary, Joan, Shelly, and Fran in Salt Lake City basking in the glory of Olympic medals. Gary wasn't a competitor, but he was basking in the reflected glory of Joan, and in the memory of the kiss she'd sent his way as she marched in the opening ceremony. Both pairs in this group had, at least in their own minds, become engaged, and they were impatient to get on with their lives and marriages. They'd become good friends in Salt Lake City, and decided that a double wedding would be fun. It would also work well for the Gang, as all would want to attend, and this way they'd only have one wedding to attend, and in the case of the Michiganders only one wedding to travel to.
Even though they were quite eager to get on with it, they decided not to push too quickly; the month of June was decided upon; the Fred was selected as the venue; Tim was invited to preside; Franklin was asked to do the legal thing and sign the marriage license as an "ordained" minister; and they flipped a coin as to who'd get the master bedroom in The Hideout and who'd get "the other place." Gary had assured them of the existence of another location that would be perfect for a honeymoon overnight, but explained that he couldn't really provide details until the other three had joined the Gang–which he vowed to make happen as quickly as possible.
To keep that vow, Gary hustled himself off to see Tim and me. Tim and I had been talking about the increased size of the Gang, and the implications of that. Clearly, a key issue was the simple fact that we didn't all know each other as well and we'd like. I think Tim and I knew everybody in the Gang, but the Gang tended to encompass people that had joined because they were part of a particular group or knew particular people, so the Gang naturally had different groupings. There were, of course, people like Max who made it their business to know (double meaning there) everyone, but others didn't really get to know the entire group. So Tim's response to Gary was a little different than had been given in the past. Tim told Gary, "We want to make an effort to have new Gang members get to know the Gang. So I suggest that we connect each new member with an old member, and ask the old member to make an effort to introduce the new member around the Gang. They won't necessarily meet everyone, but they should meet a good number. Just so you know what I have in mind, it isn't sex. That can wait until after membership, and then proceed at the pace the new member is comfortable with."
Gary said, "I like that idea. So, who do we pair with whom?"
I said, "Well, let's see. The last new member was Grant Harwood, number 124. So your new members will be numbers 125, 126, 127."
Tim asked, "In what order should they join?"
Gary said, "They all arrived at the Fred at about the same time. They all went to the Olympics together. I don't know who should be first."
Tim said, "Alphabetical order by first names: Fran 125, Joan 126, and Shelly 127. Then we go back 100 numbers and ask Hazel, Hal's mother who was number 25, to mentor Fran; Herb, Hal's coach who was number 26, to mentor Joan, and Phyllis, Herb's wife who was number 27, to mentor Shelly. I'm sure they'd all be willing."
Gary was enthusiastic about Tim's idea. He proposed to gather the three prospective Gang members with Tim's suggested mentors for a dinner at The Hideout. However, when Phyllis heard of his plan, she insisted on Herb and her hosting the dinner. They all gathered, and Gary laid out Tim's idea to the group. Gary added that he didn't think that the process should be a group process, but that it should be done in pairs. All agreed, and Hazel immediately invited Fran for lunch the next day, followed by an afternoon of some kind of "meet the Gang" adventure. Herb extended a similar invitation to Joan, except that he proposed dinner at Dakota House followed by some kind of evening adventure. Phyllis said to Shelly, "Well, they have lunch and dinner sewn up, I guess that leaves breakfast for us. I'll pick you up at six tomorrow morning, we'll grab Egg McMuffins to go at McDonalds, and then head to either the pool or the gym to watch Tim practice–I'll call him now to find out where he'll be in the morning. He'll be done by eight, and by then I'll have figured out what's next for us."
Shelly asked, "Are you sure that Tim'll be practicing tomorrow morning?"
"Is the sun going to come up tomorrow? If he's in town he'll be practicing, and he's in town."
The next day or so were quite interesting for the prospective Gang members. After the dinner broke up, Hazel stayed behind and the three mentors plotted strategy. They decided to visit a long list of Gang members at their homes or offices, as well as The Roundhouse, The Lighthouse and the Playhouse. The Marauders were away on racing tour so there was no one home to visit at The Wheelhouse. It was agreed that there'd be no duplicate visits, because they wanted to encourage the three to talk about the Gang members they'd met and visited. They also agreed with Gary's thought that sex should be avoided at this stage, though conversations about how sex fit into the Gang were encouraged.
At the end of the project, which extended off and on for over a week, it was agreed that the most spectacular visits were to Bernie and Beverly, Max at The Playhouse, and Hal as he returned from his midmorning relaxation–a marathon run just ten minutes off of a Boston pace by a runner in his mid-fifties! Carl had shown spectacular architectural plans just coming into focus; Billy had talked about diving with Tim and his current crop of college divers; Marty had introduced them to the Cave; Shel introduced them to his favorite real estate agent and told them that it was time to start househunting; Norman and Betsy took credit for creating the Gang by creating an environment in which Tim could flourish and Charlie was welcome; and on and on. They all ended up at a late fall cookout at Dakota House, at which only Tim was outside with the grill. Tim and I told them they were welcome in the Gang, but that we'd delay their joining until the day before their wedding, so that the entire Gang could be present without the out-of-towners having to make two trips. Gary didn't object, but noted that if they were to have access to a certain venue for the honeymoon night, then the sessions with Sid would have to be well ahead of the wedding.
Tim said, "Right you are. Are they ready for Sid?" The implication of that wasn't lost on Gary, but it went right by Shelly, Joan, and Fran.
Gary replied, "If they aren't, Sid'll get them ready."
Tim said, "Gary, I don't think you should be along on that visit. You call Sid, give him the background, set the date, but let the three of them go on their own. Maybe we ought to have Auggie there!"
Gary and I laughed. We knew that Auggie would handle the situation perfectly, but contemplating just how was certainly a lot of fun. Joan, Fran, and Shelly would eventually understand what was behind our laughter.
A little over a week later they were accepting Sid's invitation to dinner with himself, Cathy, Auggie, and Lynn. Auggie met them at the door, greeted them effusively, and took them in to greet Sid and the others. They'd gotten to know Auggie and Lynn through Shel and, of course, at the Olympics. They'd also met Sid and Cathy at the Olympics, but hadn't really gotten to know them. Auggie offered them soft drinks, noting enigmatically that alcohol and sex didn't mix, and invited them to sit down in the living room. He said, "The key agenda item for the evening will be addressed after dinner. Let's use the time between now and then to get to know each other better. My father's story is incredible, but it embarrasses him to have to tell it. I'm proud of it, and of him, so I'll tell the story. Dad, I promise to stick to the short version."
He did, but it still took up all the time before dinner. Fran responded to the story for all of them by saying, "I'm overwhelmed. And yet, I understand that the Gang is filled with stories almost as incredible."
Sid said, "Your bronze medal in Salt Lake is another of those incredible stories. I think too much is made of my story."
Sarcastically Lynn said, "No, the story of the little ghetto kid in Anacostia conquering first the Smithsonian, then the Guggenheim, and then the national art world is right on a par with the Dick and Jane readers."
Sid said, "I didn't say that, Lynn. But keep it in perspective."
Lynn replied, "The perspective of this daughter-in-law is that she has the most spectacular dad-in-law in the world."
Sid said, "Shelly, tell us a little of your life history."
"Not much to tell. Grew up in Bowman, a little town in southwest North Dakota; learned to skate there, but had to come here to get the coaching and ice time that I needed to become any good."
Fran interrupted, "He is, of course, selling himself short. There's a little silver Olympic medal in his story."
Cathy said, "I know, I watched him in that race. The short 500 meter race is so confusing. Anybody can shoot ahead and win. Shelly was way behind until almost the end when he shot around the outside and passed everyone. Just as I thought he'd it won, Marc Gagnon, the super Canadian skater, slipped by on the inside and claimed the gold. Shelly, I think you were as surprised as I was; it looked like you'd won."
Shelly said, "I'm amazed; you remember the race almost as well as I do, perhaps better. Yeah, I thought I'd passed everybody and had won. But Marc kept right behind me after I passed him in fourth place. I passed the leader on the outside, and didn't realize that he was passing on the inside and kept going right past me. He earned the medal. I was pleased as punch to get the silver."
The others briefly shared their stories, but nothing else was shared that would be new to readers of these episodes. As dessert was finished all had told at least some of their life history except Auggie. Lynn said, "Auggie's going to tell you that he sails and takes pictures of boats. He's as modest as his father. We don't have time to do justice to any part of Auggie's story, so I'll just tell one little piece. It was the summer before my senior year at the University of Wisconsin. I liked to sit on a bench by the lake and watch the sailboats. One day a boy asked if I minded if he sat on the bench. I looked at him and two thoughts went through my mind. 'He's a little kid, certainly harmless,' and, 'This is one sexy little kid.' With the first thought in mind I replied, 'It's a public bench.' My smile derived from the second thought and suggested a much warmer invitation than my words did.
"He ended up taking me for a fabulous dinner, and in the next days took me sailing. He turned out to be the best sailor in Madison, and I soon learned the best lover as well. He was fourteen, and we couldn't get married until he was sixteen, but once the magic birthday was reached, we moved quickly. Auggie's never been an Olympic athlete, but Tim and Charlie will tell you that he's fully responsible for their sailing medal in Sydney. Enough said about Auggie, now he's going to talk about you all."
"We have a tradition in the Gang, new members have their portraits painted by Sid. The catch is that the portraits are always nudes. You'll see where they hang once you join the Gang. Tonight's activity is for Sid to get enough sketches of you three for his portrait. We're running out of gallery space, so you three will be in a single portrait.
"Now I've been talking to Shel, so I know that you have no reason to be embarrassed about being naked. But just to keep things even, we're all going to strip, and I'll start."
He was naked in an instant; it'd be fun to see him and Tim in a speed contest. Lynn followed, as did Sid and Cathy. Everyone had moved so fast that Shelly, Joan, and Fran hadn't had a chance to keep up. Now Fran took the lead, stood up and slipped off her blouse and bra. Shelly and Joan followed, and soon all three were stripped down to undershorts or panties. As is common, those proved a little difficult, but the others just waited quietly, and eventually the panties and shorts came off.
Sid had already taken out his sketch pad, and had caught them in a number of different aspects as they stripped.
Then Auggie dropped his bomb. "Gary tells me that his last words to you, Fran, the night before your medal performance were, 'Give Joan a good fuck tonight.' Have I got that right?"
"My God, are there no secrets in this world?"
"Not in the Gang. I take it that I have my facts straight."
"Yes, you do."
"OK, it isn't really clear what it means for one woman to give another woman a good fuck, but I'm sure that you two figured something out. Our project this evening is to get you two to recreate that scene, letting Shelly watch, while Sid sketches, and the rest of us stand on the sidelines making sure nobody has a camera. Think you're up to that?"
"Do we have a choice?"
"Oh, indeed you do. I can't say that this situation doesn't put you under some pressure, but believe me a, 'No,' would be accepted. Sid has enough sketches for his purposes. But we think you three are tough cookies and won't be put off by this somewhat bizarre request. We know you've had some interesting sexual exploits."
"We'll need a bed."
Auggie said, "Let's head to my bedroom. It has a queen; I'm sure that that'll hold you. In fact, I'll bet that the original was performed in a single bed."
As they walked to Auggie's bedroom, Shelly whispered to Auggie, "I don't believe you're asking the girls to do this."
Auggie replied, "Are you worried that it's going to be tough on the girls or tough on you?"
"The girls'll survive; both Gary and Shel have assured me of that. As for you, don't worry, you'll make it."
"How can you be so certain?"
"Oh, I'm not. But I know when to call a halt before anybody gets pushed too far. Are you a candidate?"
"No. But I'm not sure I'm ready to watch my future wife have lesbian sex."
"You've had some gay sex, haven't you?"
"Yes, but not with Joan watching."
"Ah, so it's OK behind her back, but not in front of her?"
"I don't mean that."
"But I think it's what you implied. In the Gang there are no secrets. I'm not sure that that's actually rule one, but it's right up near the top. Tonight the girls, and you, aren't just posing for a picture, you're learning an important lesson. If what you're doing has to be hidden, don't do it. I don't mean that you ought to have sex on the front lawn, but you shouldn't be hiding what you do from your intimate friends and lovers."
"OK, maybe you aren't as nutty as you seem, Auggie. I'll think about it and talk to you again."
The girls didn't seem to have much of a problem. Fran announced to the group, "I was supposed to give Joan a good fuck. We discussed just how I'd do that, and Joan told me, 'Well, you don't have a dick to shove into my cunt, so that leaves a finger or a tongue, perhaps a toe but let's rule that out right away.'"
Joan said, "I told her that I'd had fingers inside me, it was time for a tongue."
Fran said, "I wasn't sure I was ready for that, but I got brave. We got naked, I kissed her all over, and ended with my tongue in her vagina."
Auggie said, "We get the picture, but we're here for a demonstration."
They got it, so Auggie reports. Fran fucked Joan in the manner described, and then Joan fucked Fran the same way. Then Auggie turned to Shelly and asked, "If you need some relief, I'll be glad to provide it, or you can wait till you're alone with Joan."
He replied, "I'm OK. I think I'll wait, thank you," but the size of his hard-on suggested he might not be telling the whole truth. However, he wasn't challenged, and they all made their way back to the dining room to recover their clothes and put them on.
Fran said, "That was quite an experience. If you'd asked me this afternoon if I was ready for that, I would've said a firm, 'No,' but I would've been wrong. Joan and I were ready for that, and I think we're now really ready to be part of the Gang. Thank you, Auggie." Joan was nodding her head affirmatively.
Shelly said, "Auggie, I had my doubts, but the girls have spoken. I think I owe you a thank you as well."
Lynn said, "Auggie you're either the smartest or the luckiest son-of-a-bitch that I know. You were really pushing your luck."
Auggie just smiled and said, "I'll settle for smartest."
The entire Gang was in town, even Frank who'd flown in from Hawaii for the wedding and would fly back to New Zealand a week later to rejoin his around the world cruise. Ronnie was delighted to have a chance to see his father, whom he now only saw on his brief stays between cruises. Ronnie didn't really understand his father's fascination with cruising around the world, but reported that his father seemed very happy and contented with his life, and Ronnie saw no reason to discourage him. Tim and I were delighted that Frank thought that this event in the life of the Gang was important enough for him to return to Grand Forks, as it had appeared that he was drifting away from the Gang. He assured us that wasn't true; the Gang remained very important in his life, but that he seemed to find contentment on his cruise ships.
The big day arrived. The out-of-towners weren't staying in The Hideout which was where they often stayed, but were spread around the various homes of the Gang. The Hideout was empty so that it could be one of two honeymoon venues following the wedding. But that meant that they had to have joined the Gang before the wedding so that the other venue, Gangland, could be used. It was Tim's and my job to arrange that.
We decided that the venue for the joining ceremony should be different from the wedding venue–the Fred. So we decided to use the velodrome at NTAC. We all assembled at ten in the morning. There really wasn't much to the ceremony. We gathered in a big circle with Fran, Joan, and Shelly in the center, accompanied by Gary. He told them to take off their clothes and then go around the circle and give everyone a big hug and a kiss. Then they came to the center again, and he had them bend over while he put the numbers 125, 126, and 127 on their buns in wide permanent marker. Then it was a Coke toast, during which hand to gonad contact was frequent but gentle. By eleven a.m. the three were clothed again, and we all were heading to a variety of locations for an early lunch. We insisted that the three new members separate and join with a group that each of their mentors had assembled. We hosted Fran, her mentor Hazel, Hal, and a number of other Gang members of different generations, for lunch at Dakota House. We knew that they'd be well fed at the wedding reception, so we had salad and small steak sandwiches, grilled outside on our grill by Tim, comfortable in the cool weather of June. There was nothing special about the lunch, and at one o'clock Fran had to leave to get ready for the four o'clock wedding. As we sat around after lunch we all agreed that Fran was certainly going to make a good wife for Shelly and a wonderful member of the Gang. There was never any doubt about that.
People started moving to the Fred at about three p.m. It would be a big crowd. All of the Gang would be there, plus the families of Fran, Joan, and Shelly. Most of the skaters at the Fred had been invited, as well was other friends of the four at the university. Thief River Falls is close to Grand Forks, so Fran had a fairly large contingent of family and friends coming from there. Alpena, Michigan, and Bowman, North Dakota, homes of Joan and Shelly, are farther away, and fewer of their friends were able to come. All told, more than 300 guests were in attendance at the figure skating venue of the Fred.
It was a wedding on ice! A dais had been set at one end of the ice, and guests were seated on the side bleachers, but in front of the dais so all could see. Flowers marked two parallel aisles down the middle, so that the setting was just about correct for a traditional wedding.
And, to the extent that a wedding on ice, with two brides and two grooms–all four on ice skates, can be traditional, it was. Tim and Franklin began by skating from the back up to the dais and stepping up on it. It was covered with carpet so that it wouldn't damage skates. The Fred didn't have an organ, and Toppy really wanted to avoid electronic music. So he assembled a brass quintet which now skated in and sat on high stools to the right of the dais. They started playing, and Shelly's best man and three groomsmen skated in from the rear, coming around the left side of the ice and taking positions on the right side of the dais. Then Gary's party skated in in just the opposite manner. Then one bridesmaid for each bride skated in, each in her own aisle, taking their places opposite the men. Then the next two bridesmaids, and the last two. These were followed by the two maids of honor.
Across the front of the dais, which was almost as wide as the rink, we now had eighteen people: Joan's attendants and Gary's attendants, facing each other, Tim and Franklin in the center, and then Fran's attendants and Shelly's attendants facing each other. Tim then walked over between Joan's maid of honor and Gary's best man, signally Toppy to begin Joan's Wedding March–Wagner's "Bridal Chorus", which we think of as "Here Comes the Bride." Joan skated in and sailed all the way around the outside of the rink before she headed, very slowly, up the left of the aisles marked by flowers on the ice. She wore a traditional wedding dress, but short enough that she could skate without entangling the dress in her skates. As she got to the head of the aisle, Gary skated in and escorted her to stand in front of Tim.
Then Franklin walked over between Fran and Shelly's attendants and signaled Toppy for a second time. This time the music was Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" and Fran and Shelly entered the same way that Joan and Gary had, ending up in front of Franklin. Tim then led Joan and Gary through preliminary questions of love and commitment, and then went over and asked the same questions of Fran and Shelly.
Then Tim walked to the middle of the dais and delivered his sermon, philosophical statement, lecture, wedding thoughts, or whatever you'd like to call it. It was short, but very sweet. It was his old mantra, love and support, but applied in a new venue: Marriage. In Tim's view that was it: If you gave love and support, without reservation to your spouse, and you accepted love and support equally without reservation, the marriage would be successful. But he put an unusual emphasis on the acceptance of love and support. He said, "Some people try so hard to give that they're unable to receive. But that makes it impossible for the spouse to give the love and support which is essential to the marriage. Knowing when to give, and being willing to receive are both keys to a successful marriage."
Then Tim invited me front and for the second time in public–the first being at his inauguration–we sang "True Love" from High Society. I still think it's one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, and Joan and Fran agreed. When Tim suggested that he and I might sing it at their wedding, the offer was immediately accepted, even before I knew the offer had been made. Toppy's quintet played softly in the background, and, if I do say so, we sang it beautifully. After we sang it Fran came over and kissed Tim, and Joan came over and kissed me.
Franklin then asked each couple to recite their wedding vows, and in the name of the State of North Dakota he pronounced them, "Married in the eyes of North Dakota." He added, "We believe that Fran and Shelly, Joan and Gary, Tim and Charlie, as well and Phil and I, and all the other committed couples in this room and this world, are married in the eyes of God."
Tim came forward, calmed the crowd who were applauding Franklin's statement, and said, "Allow me to introduce Fran and Shelly Morton and Joan and Gary Oldfield," thereby signally that the wedding was over, the music should begin, and, not accidently, that the two women would be taking the surnames of their new husbands. Both women knew it was sexist, but they both believed that having an entire family share one surname was more important than fighting that battle at that time. And neither was ready for Tim's and my solution!
Toppy's quintet blasted out the Grand March from Aida and both couples skated down the aisles, followed by their attendants, Tim and Franklin, and then the quintet which continued to play until they'd left the rink. Dinner, arranged by Fred, of course, was served on the large public skating rink, which had been covered over with boards so that people and tables could be accommodated.
For the reception Toppy had put together a small orchestra, and they provided music for dancing throughout the rest of the day and evening. The brides and grooms were of the "rock" generation, and that dominated the music and dancing. However, Toppy knew his audience and insured that there were enough waltzes, fox trots, and tangos to make the rest of us happy. Melanie and I had a chance to show off our skill at both the waltz and the tango; in fact, Toppy didn't give us a choice: We were called onto the dance floor and told to "show off a little." We did. I'll admit it; it was fun. It's a lesson Tim and I both learned early: It's very satisfying to be acknowledged as the best in anything. And there was no doubt that Melanie and I were the best dancers in Grand Forks.
In the days before the wedding there was some debate about what, if anything, we were going to throw at the brides and grooms as they departed. The first argument was whether we were going to throw anything, or let them go in peace. That idea was quickly discarded, and we moved on to what we would throw. It was correctly argued that grains of rice were dangerous for birds, and the environmentalists won that bout with little challenge. Releasing doves or balloons was discarded, first because it didn't really replace tossing rice AT the couples. Secondly, balloons became an environment hazzard regardless of where they came down, and doves raised in captivity rarely had a chance to live in the wild. We ended up with an agreement to toss bird seed, but only the seeds of plants that we wanted to grow in the fields of North Dakota and Minnesota. As we stood on the steps of the Fred, waiting our turn to toss bird seed, Tim said to me, "I don't know whether to laugh at all of the silly conversation that we've had about this bird seed, or to be proud of the Gang for being so serious about it."
I turned to him and said, "Choose pride." With that I dropped a handful of seed in his hair. He could've retaliated, but I think he realized that it would've started a ruckus that would've detracted from the brides and grooms, who were now headed our way. They passed; Tim tossed his seed, I pretended to toss mine, but it was all in Tim's hair; and they got into Shel's car which would whisk them off to Gangland. Sid and Carl had departed early so that they could be there when the newlyweds arrived, and they were greeted at the door. After a lesson on how to get in, they were ushered in and shown first their portrait, and then all the rest.
Sid had outdone himself with their portrait. There was Fran, giving Joan the good fuck–that Shelly had suggested–by driving her tongue into Joan's vagina, while Shelly looked on. Sid had gotten the angle just right so that Shelly was shown from the front, the odd look on his face, along with the hard-on, clearly showed his dual reaction: shock and lust. Both girls' eyes could be seen, and they danced with delight. Five of the six nipples were showing (Fran's left nipple was hidden), and all were seriously erect. None of the men could look at it without getting hard! The girls caught on to that quickly and Fran moved behind Carl and Joan moved behind Sid; they reached around their waists and encouraged more blood rush to the penis by gentle rubbing. Shelly moved behind Shel, who was there simply because he had driven them over and showed them where the door to Gangland was. Shelly, following the girls' lead, said, "We don't want you to feel left out, Shel."
The three newcomers to the Gang took a few moments to look over the rest of the portraits and the furnishings of Gangland. Shel said, "I suggest that we all take a shower together and let you four newlyweds give Sid, Carl, and me some excitement, that is, orgasmic excitement, and then we'll take whichever of you two couples is going to spend the night at The Hideout to The Hideout."
Shel had his clothes off before he finished speaking, and he headed for the shower. The others soon followed. It was a pretty raunchy shower, and first Carl, then Sid, and finally Shel were sucked to climax by one of the others. As they were drying off, Fran said, "I know that Shelly and I won the coin toss so that Gary and Joan are expected to head to The Hideout. But I don't like that idea. We've been doing this whole thing together, and I vote that that continue tonight, right here in Gangland."
The other three looked at each other, and very quickly broad smiles broke out on their faces. It was clear that they agreed with Fran. Shel said, "It's time for us to leave, guys." He, Carl, and Sid got dressed quickly and headed for the door.
There've been no reports of the events of the rest of the evening, except that when Carl brought them a McDonald's breakfast about ten the next morning, they were all lying naked on the bed, paired as husband and wife. Gary looked up rather sleepily and said, "Oh, gee, Carl, that's wonderful. And you can report to those that're interested that there are no virgins in Gangland this morning."
By three in the afternoon they came to Dakota House to report that they'd changed their honeymoon plans, which had been for separate automobile trips beginning in Grand Forks. They wanted to borrow IT, so that they could honeymoon together. We gave them a quick driving lesson in IT and sent them on their way. They were last seen getting on the Interstate and heading north toward Canada. They didn't turn around until they reached Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.
The summer was pretty uneventful for Tim, me, and the rest of the Gang. We had two weeks alone at the Michigan cabin, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Tim was beginning to realize that he had to slow down from time to time and actually seemed to enjoy a relaxing two weeks. Of course, that didn't stop him from taking on several rather major maintenance tasks, and taking one day for a trip to Iron River to use "Willie's diving platform" at the high school. We also found time to visit Camp White Elk and say, "Hello," to Jeff and Dick. We were delighted to find that both they and the camp were doing well. They'd done some considerable analysis of the effect of their public gay relationship on camper attendance. They had to admit that they had lost some campers at first, and they were aware of several that had chosen not to come because they didn't want to be associated with a "gay camp." On the other hand, they could identify a larger number of campers, both gay and straight who came precisely because of the gay-friendly atmosphere. One parent of a straight teenager specifically told Jeff, "We're sending Teddy here because he simply doesn't know any gay contemporaries. There have to be some in his school, but they're all closeted. If he gets to know gay kids here, he'll be ready to accept them when they do come out at home."
Our cabin was home to Kyle, Sharon, and Sue for the two weeks that Ronnie spent sitting under the tree at Camp White Elk and Hal spent running through their woods. Kyle's comment when he got home was, "It's kind of fun to be in a group with two girls and one boy, instead of two boys and one girl."
The fall brought an amusing incident. I was sitting in my chancellor's office one Tuesday morning, reading that day's issue of the Dakota Student, which was delivered regularly to both of my offices. All of a sudden I burst out laughing and headed to Tim's office on the run. "Have you seen this?" I asked.
"The 'Man in the Street' column. Here, read it."
Man in the Street
MITS: Who is the sexiest person on campus?
John H: Mary Kingston, co-captain of the cheerleaders. I really get it up for her, every time she bounces. [Tim's comment at this point was, "We certainly couldn't have gotten that in the paper when we were students, Charlie."]
Mary K: John Zimmer [basketball star]. Would I love to have a date with him!
Sue P: President Tim. He is just so sexy, and when you see him at the pool diving, that little Speedo let's it all show. What a body! I can build all kinds of fantasies around that hunk of manflesh.
MITS: You want to describe one of those fantasies?
Sue P: No, not really. Let's just say that a big bed with silk sheets figures large in most of them, and a Speedo does not.
[The column continued with a number of other answers, all unremarkable. The column also contained pictures of the various respondents.]
Tim stared at the paper for a long while. I can usually predict his reaction to something, but I really had no idea how he was going to react to this. All of a sudden he burst out laughing. "You know, Charlie, I could be really upset about this. But I have nothing more to complain about than Mary Kingston, the cheerleader, does. And if she came in here to complain, I'd tell her to laugh it off, or tell Mr. John H. to keep his fly zipped. We live in a very sexual society, and these comments are consistent with what we allow in books, public commentary, and even TV, which is the most censored of our media."
"You know, somebody's going to ask you to comment on that."
"I think I'll preempt that somebody." He called to his secretary, "Irene."
She came in, holding the newspaper in which I'd pointed out the column as I entered, and giggling. "Yes, sir, Mr. Sexy."
"Find out who this Sue P. is. They haven't printed her last name, but with her picture printed there she's hardly anonymous."
"What're you going to do about her?"
"No discipline, certainly. I think the proper response to being called 'The sexiest person on campus' is to ask the young lady out for a date. I think I'll invite her to the football game on Saturday, and we'll sit down in front right behind Jumper, so the whole campus can see who her escort is."
Irene and I really got a laugh out of that, but we quickly realized that he was serious. Tim continued, "This is a good opportunity to let the campus know that their President isn't a stuffed shirt. I think I have a very good relationship with the student body, and this column should be seen as an opportunity not a problem."
That afternoon the advisor to the Dakota Student came by Tim's office. "I suppose you've seen the 'Man in the Street' column in today's paper."
"Charlie brought it by my office this morning."
"What did you think of it?"
"No, the question is, 'What did you think of it?'"
"I thought it was funny, and I let it go. On reflection, I am worried that I should've talked with you about it."
"That's an interesting question. I wondered myself. But, first, that assumes that this is something that we might want to censor. It's going to have to get a lot more obscene that this before I'd want to be a censor. So if there was no question of censorship, there was no need to talk to me in advance. You did have to weigh the pros and cons of having me prepared for it, as opposed to it being a lot funnier if I read it in the paper. I think I'll go with it was a good joke and telling me in advance would've spoiled the joke."
"You're a pretty good sport."
"A thick skin is a prerequisite for this job. Now, I have a request. Irene's tracking down this Sue P. I intend to ask her if she'd like to attend Saturday's football game with me. We'll do dinner afterwards somewhere, probably the Dakota Steak House. Could you make sure that this gets well reported in the paper? With pictures."
"That's certainly not the response I expected."
"Nor most of the campus. That's why it's worthy of a newspaper story, and it's the kind of publicity that a college president needs if he's going to stay popular."
The phone call to Sue P., who turned out to be Sue Pfiefer, a sophomore English/journalism major from Fargo, was interesting. Tim called her on her cell phone:
"This is the sexiest person on campus."
"It shouldn't be difficult. You're quoted in the paper as thinking I was the sexiest person on campus."
"That referred to President Tim. Oh, my God, is this President Tim?"
"Am I in trouble?"
"Silk sheets can get anybody in trouble, but not fantasy silk sheets."
"If I'm not in trouble, why are you calling?"
"To ask if you'd accompany me to the football game on Saturday, with dinner afterwards."
"That sounds like a date."
"Well, remember, I'm taken. Charlie has a prior claim. But I think a football game on Saturday with a sexy coed and a sexy university president sounds like fun. We'll have to steer clear of the silk sheets, however."
"My God. I didn't know that university president's had that much humor in them."
"Some do; some don't. Will you join me Saturday?"
"I'll pick you up at your dorm after lunch, say at one?"
"Beware, I think the Dakota Student will be lurking, almost certainly with a camera. I'm going to wear more than a Speedo. Wear something you'd like to see in a picture in the paper. Let me rephrase that. Wear something that you'd like a future employer to see you wearing in a picture in the paper which he found using a Google search."
"You could just have said, 'Wear something nice'."
"In today's world, with today's undergraduates, nice doesn't necessarily mean anything. But we are going to a football game, with dinner afterward, not to a dress ball."
"I get the picture. See you at one on Saturday."
She did get the picture. She had on very attractive slacks with a casual, but color-coordinated blouse. She was a very beautiful girl, which Tim knew because her picture had been in the paper with the original "Man in the Street" interview. She and a young man were talking just inside her dormitory door as Tim arrived. The young man had a camera, and introduced himself as Jon Dwyer of the Dakota Student. He was full of questions about how this "date" came about. Tim kept the answers short, but they all boiled down to "Wouldn't you like to meet a girl who thinks you're the sexiest person on campus–even if that is wishful thinking?" Jon took several pictures, and asked where they'd be sitting at the game. Tim said, "Right behind Jumper."
Jon replied, "I have a field pass so I can take pictures, I'll stop by."
Tim and Sue walked the few blocks to the stadium, arriving about fifteen minutes before game time. Tim was about to show his field pass at the gate, when the student usher recognized him and said, "I don't need to see a pass, Mr. President, come right in."
Tim responded by saying, "Tell you what. I won't call you Charlie Brown if you won't call me Mr. President."
"But my name isn't Charlie Brown."
"What is your name?"
"Brad Fisher, sir."
"OK, I'll call you Brad if you'll call me Tim. And Brad, I'd like you to meet Sue, who is joining me for the game. We'll be sitting right behind Jumper. After your duties are finished at half-time, why don't you come down and join us. The view from there is much better."
Brad and Sue shook hands, and Brad said, "Are you serious, sir, er, Tim?"
"Sure, come on down; there's always an extra seat on the second bench."
As they walked through the stadium to their seats Sue asked, "How often do you issue invitations like that?"
"I try to respond positively to anyone who is courteous and recognizes me. Very rarely to I get called, 'Mr. President.' I think I could get used to that. But, seriously, I like to be called Tim–by everyone."
"Tim, you need to understand that many–I would hope most–of the students here were taught by their parents to call older adults by their last name. They simply don't know how to handle your not having a last name."
"I certainly do have a last name. It's Tim. And some people call me Mr. Tim. You may be right about what parents teach their kids, but that's changing. The use of first names is becoming widespread. But, you know, it's funny: I encourage the use of Tim, but I called all of my teachers by their last name. And I know a number of athletic coaches that either prefer, or insist upon, the use of their last name–usually with Coach rather that Mr., Mrs. or Miss."
"You call me Sue, and I'll call you Tim."
"Good. Now, are we going to see a good game today?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. I don't really follow football."
"Well, we're playing the Cougars. They're the team that broke Jumper's long streak. I know he has great respect for them, but I'm sure that he'd like to win today."
Jumper had just walked in and heard Tim's comment. He said, "Of course I want to win. But so does their coach. I really think that the way to think of it is that you want the best team to win. And, of course, you think yours is the best team. But I see weaker teams beat good teams all the time. Heck, Tim, I remember a game against the University of Michigan. The best team didn't win that day. That game proved the value of stealth and cunning. You can't win a season that way, but the Wolverines are still trying to figure out what hit them."
Sue said, "I didn't know that we'd ever played Michigan in football."
Jumper answered, "One time. I was a very cocky coach back then; I had a good team; a great quarterback; and an unusual opportunity to play Michigan because they had an unexpected opening in their schedule. If I'd been in my right mind, I would never have done it."
Tim said, "Thank goodness you've always been a little nutty, Jumper. And don't change. Now, win this game."
Jumper did, though it was hard to credit him with the victory. He sat on the bench and said almost nothing to anybody on the team. His quarterback ran the offense, and his safety ran the defense. Jumper's leadership was expressed during practices, and private lunches, but during the game, leadership came from fellow students.
A number of Sue's friends saw her sitting on the second bench with Tim. At half-time a few of them came to the barrier that kept spectators from getting in to the field and called to her. She and Tim walked up to the barrier and she introduced Tim to all of them. Some knew of her "date" with Tim, but most didn't; they were certainly startled to see where she was sitting and with whom. When they asked how it'd come about she replied, "Did you see Tuesday's 'Man in the Street' column? It seems that Tim likes to be called the sexiest man on campus."
"Sue, you got your silk sheets ready?"
Tim interjected, "Sadly, the silk sheets are, as she indicated in her answer, a fantasy. However, it did stir a little interest in Charlie and me, but I think we'll stick with cotton."
As expected that got both laughs and smirks. Tim had seen Jon on the fringe of the group, and knew that his words would be quoted in the newspaper. He told me later, "I almost scripted it. That crack will get quoted and it makes us seem human."
"And married," I pointed out, "which we legally aren't. Thank goodness cohabitation is no longer illegal in North Dakota, nor is it a sin to most North Dakotans."
The second half of the game was a little boring, because a Fighting Sioux victory was never in doubt. Tim and Sue chatted briefly with Jumper after the game, but he had to move on with his team. Tim took Sue by his office, because she'd indicated an interest in seeing the famous desk. She looked at the desk, rubbed her hand over the row of medals and said, "Where will you put the next one? It'll make your row off-center."
Tim just laughed and said, "I think it's time to see about dinner. Are you a steak afficionado, or would you prefer something else?"
"I know steak is supposed to be the best, but honestly I prefer seafood."
"Well, there goes the Dakota Steak House; they aren't that good at anything else. Are you familiar with Jerry's?"
"Never heard of it."
"Students miss some of the great parts of Grand Forks. Let's head to Jerry's. It's a little walk, are you up for it?"
"I can outwalk almost all of my dates. I doubt that's true of you, but I can certainly make it to anywhere in Grand Forks."
"Great. We're off. So, you're going to be a journalist?"
"I hope so."
"Print, or this modern media stuff?"
"Ideally print, but we both know print jobs are getting harder and harder to find. Actually, I'd like to get an advanced degree and teach journalism, after I get a little experience."
"How do you like our journalism program here?"
"It's OK, but it suffers from being hooked onto the English department."
"English department faculty teach most of the courses, which means less actual journalists in the program, and, honestly, inferior classes."
"Interesting. You say you're interested in getting an advanced degree? From where?"
"One of the Columbias."
"Let me guess; the Columbias would be the University of Missouri at Columbia, MO [pronounced /mow/], and Columbia University in New York City."
"Right. But I think I should head off to the big, bad Eastern city and get a taste of a real urban environment."
"While I like public universities, in this case I think you're right."
The arrived at Jerry's; got the VIP treatment that only Jerry can provide; and enjoyed Mississippi River catfish, fried à la Jerry. At dinner Sue proved herself to be a mature conversationalist, getting Tim to talk at length about the problems of a public university, the thrill of the Olympics, why he'd continued to stay fit at the highest levels in two sports, life as a gay man, and what on earth had inspired him to head for the Olympics as a sailor. Her reactions to his answers demonstrated a real feel for the subjects and a breath of knowledge rare in anyone, especially a college sophomore.
In Tim's opinion, she could become an outstanding reporter. He told me later, "I think it might be a shame to waste that talent in a teaching position, instead of actually going out and being a reporter. But I decided if that was the direction she wanted to go, I wasn't going to miss an opportunity."
As they walked back from Jerry's, Tim told Sue, "OK, here's the deal. When you finish at Columbia, and if you do as well there as you have here, then the first person you're to call when you go job hunting is President Tim at the University of North Dakota. I think you might be just the person to start a separate journalism department here."
"You're kidding me."
"If you ask Charlie, or others that know me well, you'll learn that while I often am a kidder, this isn't a subject about which I kid. I'm dead serious. I want to be the first person you call."
They reached her dorm. It was, as were most on campus, a coed dorm, and Tim could easily have gone up to her room with her, greeted her roommate, and said goodbye privately. But Tim's no fool. He'd made sure that the day was very public, and no private visit to a dorm room would be included. So he said good night in the lobby of her dorm, noting that Jon was in the background, with a camera.
Tim was well aware that for most students a goodnight kiss was the normal way of ending an evening, even if the two partners weren't lovers. However, the last thing that Tim wanted in the Tuesday issue of the Dakota Student was a picture of him kissing Sue, the girl that thought he was so sexy. Tim handled the matter very smoothly. He said goodnight to her, then took her hand, made an exaggeratedly low bow, and kissed the back of her hand. She quickly understood his motivation, smiled, and waved goodbye with the hand that had been kissed. That kiss did make it into the newspaper, and Tim was delighted.
Tim and Sue saw each other on campus fairly regularly, and often stopped to chat. There were no further dates, and Sue didn't try to trade on her friendship with Tim. Not long before graduation he invited her to his office and inquired about her future plans. She'd maintained her planned course and was heading to New York where she'd secured a beginning level reporter position with the New York Times–a job coup on the order of my getting a job as a clerk for a judge of the first judicial circuit.
Tim asked her about plans to go to graduate school. She told him that Columba considered their Master's program to be for established journalists, and that she'd have to have at least three years work experience before she was admitted to that program. He wished her good luck, and told her to keep in touch.
They didn't keep in touch, but Tim kept track of her through her contacts with the Alumni Office. She was admitted to the Columbia master's program after two years' experience (a significant exception), and continued into their Ph.D. program the following year, 2007. That fall she called Tim, as he'd hoped she would. She was completely nonplussed when he immediately recognized her voice and said, "Hello, silk sheets. How's the Ph.D. at Columbia going?"
"How... How do you know...."
"Ole Tim knows everything. Are you beginning to think about what you might do with a Ph.D. in a little less than two years?"
"Well, you get the Ph.D. and I'll arrange the job. I'll start moving right now to establish a separate journalism department, and we'll be searching for a department chair a year from now. Be sure to apply."
To make a long story short, and skipping several interim steps, the University North Dakota School of Journalism installed its first Dean, Susan W. Pfiefer, on September 7, 2011.
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