Youth along with fools on occasion will venture where angels fear to tread.
Or so was my case in early 1973.
I remember the day well, as my future wife Joan and I set off for a trip to Ragstock on the fringes of downtown Minneapolis.
To get there, we had a choice of following the city street, or the faster more direct route of crossing the vast ditch of recently started freeway construction of one of the big spaghetti bowls of interstate construction that would eventually be the I-94, I-35W and at our starting point the Hiawatha exit.
Looking across the expanse of barren brown dirt, it was impossible to imagine how the eventual roadway would emerge. It was beginning to take shape, but so much was indefinite much like the future of my own life looked at that time.
Some of the threads were beginning to take shape, but whether or how the final roadway would take form was unclear, much like my life at that point. The inkles were there, I had already amassed some interesting anomalies in my life that made me a tad bit different than most of my age, gender, and circumstance. Enough to make me a bit uppity.
Our destination, Ragstock was a popular second-hand clothing outlet famous among the counter culture for the distressed and exotic clothes that were the rage in the Hippy era. I bought into that culture, and at the time had more than fulfilled my personal commitment to not cutting my hair for at least a year after I was honorably released from the Navy in July of 1971.
Both of our budgets were limited as poor University of Minnesota students out to score some good clothes cheap. She was in Elementary Education and I was a returning student having interrupted my Junior year previously, and now pursuing a Sociology degree courtesy of the GI Bill.
Once we got there I found a heavy dark blue cape that I fancied and bought. This was the real deal as capes went, not a superman variety but more of a London fog type of cape that didn’t sport the brand name. It gave rise to images of night and misty weather, intrigue, and mystery. I don’t believe I ever actually wore it, except perhaps once as a Halloween prop.
While I remember the cape, and the walk, and spaghetti bowl, the import of that walk was in the conversation I shared with Joan while crossing the sandbox or yet to be built expressways.
I shared with her my interest in running for 6th Ward Alderman on the Minneapolis City Council.
I confided in her that I thought I might have a 2% chance of success. Admittedly daunting odds, but that if I could somehow manage to secure the DFL party endorsement, I would be treated as a serious candidate, and just might prevail.
She didn’t laugh.
And that acquiescence was all the permission I needed. Upon returning home with the new cape, and whatever Joan bought, if anything, I took two blank 3X5 note cards and wrote the words “Do” and “It” on one another. I then posted both note cards on the wall above the phone and in my mind beat Nike to the trademark.
To my way of thinking, that decision in and of itself enhanced my chances from 2 percent to five. There is power in decision.
To this day my favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln is, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
Just as the spaghetti bowl interchange had real existing roads leading up to it, I had a few promising assets in my background. I had already become quite active in local community organizations as part of another commitment I had made when in the Navy. I had vowed to get involved in grassroots politics to prevent wars. That lead to my participation in the Minneapolis Model City program. That, in turn, acquainted me with people and issues current in the community.
I had also been involved as paid staff in the futile George McGovern campaign, first as being in charge of the fifth congressional district voter registration effort and once the registration deadline passed, as a shock troop of one sent to Brainerd Minnesota to help rally the locals there.
Ultimately, the timing was the key to my eventual victory, once I managed to win the party endorsement. I had Hubert Humphrey on my side in a post-Watergate election, in the first year of party designation for Minneapolis City Council races in a heavily democratic ward represented by an entrenched incumbent Republican. Also new was election day registration. We did our best to root out votes on election day from the otherwise seldom voting student population on election day. Enough so, to garner a 134 vote margin landslide.
It took some effort to go from that 2 to 5% to actually win the endorsement. But what I remember most was the initial decision to take action and do it. In my case, it worked out well. It took a decision and then the effort to succeed that followed. But again the key was deciding to Do It!