(Note: The idea for this week's subject hit a last-minute snag so what you see is a column that was written after a short visit to New York City in 1995. It's a snapshot of a couple days in the city they say never sleeps. The column was written 25 years ago on a day in late February just a few hours after returning to Princeton.)
It was about midnight last Saturday on New York City's east side. Although New Yorkers don't bother with such things as wind chill, the wind was howling down a side street about 25 mph and it was unseasonably cold in the Big Apple.
Paper and other assorted items that had been discarded that day by residents and tourists alike were sent hurtling through the dark night as everyone bundled up against the wind and cold in a city that always seems a little more threatening at night.
A van pulled up to an intersection near one of the huge churches that dot the New York City landscape and a line quickly formed behind it of old and young men, most of them with unkempt beards and rumpled clothing. The door swung open and someone inside began dispensing cups of hot soup, along with blankets. The men, some with vacant stares, shuffled slowly away, the cups of soup to their lips and blankets clutched tightly in their hands, some of which were covered by mittens or gloves, some of which weren't.
We had a few more blocks to go to get to our car and, with that safely retrieved, began our trip across Manhattan to get to our lodging for the night across the Hudson River in New Jersey. As we passed by the intersection where the soup line had formed, those men, having finished their soup, were climbing back behind the cardboard barricade they had erected against the huge doors of the nearby church. The blankets, and probably the warmth of the others wedged in behind that cardboard, would help them make it through another night.
About a half hour later our route to the west side of the island took us past the Copacabana, a well-known night club where the great and near-great assembled in years past. There were limousines double-parked and a long line of people braving the cold while they waited to get inside at that time of night. The Copa had seen its glory years come and go but the attraction was still there.
Those two sights — the soup line and the Copa — gave us a look at life in New York City. It's an enchanting city that seems so alive, a city that truly never sleeps. And yet, it's a sinister city with a dark side so disheartening to see.
Where else on a Saturday night can you spend 90 minutes browsing through books in the famous three-story Barnes & Noble bookstore, with a jazz trio playing for your enjoyment only a few feet away from a counter where we fell victim to ordering a slice of cheesecake? Now, that's a bookstore! We all bought a book or two, something that's impossible not to do when confronted by tens of thousands of books.
Not much later we were back at the overwhelmingly huge and beautiful Grand Central Station, preparing to take the subway to a spot a few miles away where we hoped we would find our car. A night ride on the subway in New York City, no matter how short, also brings with it a dose of reality on occasion.
The famous Central Park, a park 42 blocks long that is plopped into the heart of that huge city, is beautiful, yet dark and foreboding by night as you glance quickly backward every few steps.
The headlines scream at you every day in the city's many newspapers. On Monday the New York Post began a five-day series that promised to reveal "New York's10 Worst Judges."
It was in Newsday on Monday that I found a piece that says it all about New York City. In a spot in the paper called New York Forum on the editorial page, a man who had just been released from the infamous jail on Rikers Island wrote at length about a vow to straighten out his life. With alcohol a contributing factor, he had been convicted of felony assault and had served for eight months.
He was in a group of 35 prisoners taken by bus to an elevated subway station to begin life on the outside. As they stampeded to get off the bus, they were met by a huge man asking, "How many you want?", referring to crack cocaine. "How much can I get with four dollars?" a man answered.
"The bus door slams behind me," the writer said.. "We were delivered to the pit of hell and the weak fell right in." He told of the ex-prisoners scrambling to get to a Twin Donuts shop because it will cash emergency welfare checks (received while in prison), subtracting $30 or $40 for the service."With cash in hand, some dudes scramble back to the crack dealer," he wrote."I think, 'Damn, they didn't have a chance.' "
When you hail from Mille Lacs County you can get caught up in Greenwich Village, the restaurants, the Yankees and the Mets, the Broadway shows and everything else that is New York City. Or you can shun the city, saying you never want to go there. I like being there, if for no other reason than that the city slaps you on the side of the head once in awhile.
Our second trip over the George Washington Bridge, at $4 per trip, and the other prices (up to $10 an hour for parking in prime spots) make you cringe a little. But there are so many good things.
As my plane burrowed its way through the pea soup that passed for a thickening fog above the Newark, N.J., airport Monday afternoon, the zero visibility wasn't a very comforting thought. But it was nothing like that soup line and those cardboard shelters I had seen two days earlier.
A couple hours later, the familiar landscape of the Minnesota countryside was a welcome sight from the air. And the trip toward home that began on I-494 near the end of rush hour seemed like a casual drive on a country road when compared to the bustling traffic of New York City that I had put up with for a couple days.
It was good to be home.
If you're a fan of high school basketball you might want to circle the dates of Feb.14 and 17, the two days that Princeton and Cambridge will meet in boys basketball. At this writing they are both undefeated in the Mississippi 8 Conference.The game at Cambridge next Friday, Feb. 14, was on the original schedule. The Feb. 17 game at Princeton is the makeup date for a game postponed by snow in January. Cambridge plays Eden Prairie, the team ranked No. 1 in the state, on Feb. 8. That will be an interesting game simply because Eden Prairie is undefeated and so highly thought of. Cambridge is 16-1 with a 15-game winning streak and Princeton is 16-3 with a 9-game winning streak. Both lost to St. Cloud Apollo, Princeton by 101-93 and Cambridge by 99-82. Cambridge beat Hibbing 90-80, Princeton lost 73-65 to Hibbing. Last week Cambridge beat Edina (10-10) 73-70. Edina lost to Eden Prairie by 15 points this season. . . The regular seasons of the boys hockey team and girls basketball team are drawing to a close. The boys hockey team has only four games left, all in eight days beginning today (Friday, Feb. 7) with a home game against St. Francis that has some importance. The Saints are four-tenths of a point ahead of Princeton (10-10-1) in section standings and a win would move the Tigers into sixth in the section. Then section-leading Monticello (15-6-1) is here next Tuesday night. The Magic are 12-0 in the section and first in the Mississippi 8 with a 9-0 record (North Branch is second at 8-2, Princeton third at 7-3). Princeton, after a 2-7-1 start, has won 8 of the last 11 games and, for the season, has scored 95 goals to 76 for the opponents, with a 36-5 edge in the four wins over Becker/Big Lake and Cambridge . . . The girls basketball team is 12-10, 5-5 in the M8 with four conference games left. The team is 1-3 vs. the four remaining opponents, the win coming over a North Branch team that Princeton plays tonight (Feb. 7). The Tigers are second in section standings at this point, with Grand Rapids and Hibbing close behind. Princeton beat Grand Rapids but lost to Hibbing. . . .Someone wondered how U of M grad Jordan Murphy was doing in the NBA's G League. He's playing 21 minutes a game for the Iowa Wolves, averaging 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, and shooting 51 percent from the field in 30 games . . . Speaking of Murphy, it was Murphy who was tripped on purpose by Wisconsin's Brad Davison (of Maple Grove) in a game last season. It wasn't a surprise to me that Davison was suspended last week by the Big Ten for an unsportsmanlike play in a game with Iowa. He returned to play against the Gophers Wednesday night but had only four points in 24 minutes, with no field goals . . . Amelia Smith recently got her third hat trick of the season for the PHS girls hockey team. Senior Kallie Abrahamson leads the team with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists). . . Jack Southard had a hat trick earlier this week for the boys against Becker/Big Lake, that coming on the heels of a hat trick against Chisago Lakes last week. Southard, who missed two games this season because of an injury, is second on the team in scoring with 49 points and leads in goals with 26. Dylan Cook leads with 59 points, assists with 39, and penalty minutes with 48. Also in double figures in goals are Cade Pazdernik (13) and Tyler Danielson (11). Last week in an 11-4 win over Cambridge, Cook had 10 points (4 goals), Southard had 8 points (2 goals) and Pazdernik had 6 points (3 goals). . . . A proposal by girls tennis coaches in Minnesota to add a third class was turned down by the Minnesota State High School League board on Tuesday, a move that would affect Princeton if it eventually happens. Princeton is in the bottom part of Class AA (large schools) enrollment-wise and would move to the middle class if there were three classes. Directors of the MSHSL didn't even make a motion to discuss the proposal, despite in-person appearances by three coaches. The threshold for having three classes is said to be 192 schools (64 in each class if there were three classes, 8 sections of 8 teams apiece, I suppose) and it's at 191 now, with Waconia expected to start next fall. That's kind of a weak argument. For example, in girls Class A hockey there are three sections with only 7 teams, two with 6 and one with 5. In girls Class AAA basketball (Princeton's class) there are two sections with 7. Couldn't there be just one section in one of three tennis classes that had only 7 teams? There are a number of football sections where a top team or two gets a first-round bye. For instance, there are only 5 schools in Princeton's AAAA section. In Class AAA football there are three sections with 6 teams, the other four with 8 . . .I hope the trade by the Minnesota Twins still goes through. I've watched Kenta Maeda a lot the last two years and he is good. He has a good change-up but his best pitch is a late-breaking slider that confounds right-handed hitters. Yes, Brustar Graterol was a pitcher of promise but you've got to give up something to get something. And the Twins need starting pitchers . . . When the Timberwolves came to town in 1989 I had season tickets the first two years with three other guys. It was fun because the NBA was back in town after 29 years. The first year in the Metrodome was even fun. But what a disaster this year has been. Maybe the housecleaning is needed.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Feb. 11. 1965 - Steve Meixell won by a pin in 30 seconds as part of a 43-3 win over Lindstrom-Center City . . . Princeton lost 58-48 to Milaca as Gordy Meyer and Dave Duncan had 16 points apiece.
Feb. 11, 1970 - Joel Minks (138) and Ron Winkelman (165) placed second in District 16 wrestling and advanced to the region meet . . . Jim Rogde led in points (14) and rebounds (11) in a 46-44 loss to Foley. Mike Barg had 12 points and Mark Jacobs 10.
Feb. 13, 1975 - Princeton won eight matches, one on a pin, but still lost 28-25 to Milaca because of four forfeits . . . Keith Julson had 13 points in a 43-41 loss to Sauk Rapids.
Feb. 14, 1980 - Jason Boser scored five goals in a 10-1 win over Crosby-Ironton . . . Princeton lost 33-20 to Foley in wrestling after leading 14-13 . . . Steve Kapsner had 14 points in a 56-41 win over St. Francis.
Feb. 14, 1985 - Robbie Skuza had two goals as Princeton (10-1 in the Rum River) beat Cambridge 5-2 to clinch an RRC title tie . . . The Princeton girls beat St. Francis 54-42 to get in position for a conference title. Brenda Blomberg (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Karry Schimming (13 and 12) led the way. Both were in double figures, along with Ann Minks, in a 65-38 win over Albany.
Feb. 15, 1990 - The boys basketball team moved into first place in the RRC with a 70-41 win over Foley as senior Paul Sather had 27 points and 20 rebounds. Jason Dierks had 11, Matt Ruble 10 . . . The girls lost 54-41 to Foley as sophomore Tanya Dorr (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Rachel Brown (9 points) led.
Feb. 16, 1995 - The boys swim team won its fifth straight Rum River championship as Mark Knapp broke his school backstroke record and was in on three Rum River records . . . Mandee Young and Sandy Thompson each scored 16 points in a 62-47 win over Milaca.
Feb. 10, 2000 - .Sophomore John Stockler (42 points) was leading the boys hockey team in scoring and Ian McVey (15.5 points) was leading the boys basketball team in scoring . . . Bud Usher, 61, rolled a 300 game at Princeton Lanes and had a 783 series.
Feb. 10, 2005 - PHS grad (1998) Brian Julson was hired as the PHS football coach, replacing veteran coach Doug Patnode who had resigned . . . PHS grad Tim Sanborn (1999) accepted a job as head professional at the GreyStone Golf Club in Sauk Centre.
Feb 11, 2010 - The boys hockey team beat Cambridge in the Rusty Skates game, 4-3, on the last of Trevor Forland's three goals with 2:06 remaining . . . The boys basketball team was 12 for 27 on three-pointers but lost 69-60 to Cambridge as Kevin Kleinmeyer (6 threes) led with 18 points.
Feb. 12, 2015 - The boys basketball team beat Big Lake 84-73 as Brady Peterson had 32 points, Ben Jungroth 16 and Tanner Kinney 10. Peterson had 21, Reed Mitchell 11 and Shane Fleury 11 in a 75-63 loss to Buffalo . . .The girls basketball team (6-3 in the M8) beat Buffalo 64-61 as Taylor Laabs had 24 points and Julia Bjurman 11.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 53 years.