Tofte Lake Living Newspaper Retreat

The Living Newspaper was invited to spend a week up at Tofte Lake Center at Norm’s Fish Camp recently.  I’ll post a detailed recap of my week there, but for now, enjoy some photos
We also filmed this:

I landed in Minneapolis/St Paul and met the rest of the gang – Anthony, Sarah, and Joanna.  Josh flew in a bit later.   The airport is not user friendly at all in my opinion.  We had a hell of a time finding the rental car agency.   There are these different colored ramps, you see.  And we were nowhere near the ramp we needed to be and we didn’t know how to get to it.  We later found out the trick is not to exit the airport when looking for the rental car agency.  You need to stay in the airport and go to the very bottom floor, which puts you in deep subterranean territory.   And I mean deep.  Like secret military base deep.  Once we figured this out, we managed to find the rental car agency.  Which rental car agency you ask?  There’s a reason why I didn’t mention which one (#foreshadowing).  The only problem was we still didn’t have Josh with us.  He had just landed, and I thought, dear lord, if the group had this much trouble finding this place, how the hell is Josh going to find it?  So, as the rest of the gang loaded up into the van, I went looking for Josh.  I walked about twenty feet, looked over a railing, and at the same time, Josh came strolling in, looked up at me and we both cracked up.  It was hilarious and serendipitous.

After managing to get lost twice during our 4 hour trek up to the lake, we stopped at Arby’s for lunch.  Remember Arby’s?  It’s that place you used to go to in high school for lunch where you paid $5 and got 5 little roast beef sandwiches.  I was the last to order, and as I turned around with my food, I saw everyone standing around the condiments/napkin station eating.  I was like, “guys, we can sit down ya know.”  So we did.

Sarah, Joanna, and Josh enjoy Arbys
Sarah, Joanna, and Josh enjoy Arbys
We met Liz Engelman at Sir G’s, an Italian restaurant in Ely.  It was tasty.   After dinner, Liz took us to the Lake, and by that time, it was dusk.  The moment we got out of the van, all these shoo flies started buzzing around us.  Damn annoying.  But that was only the beginning.  Then the mosquitos came.   More like attacked.  They attacked us.  There was carnage.
That night would be the longest night of our city slicking lives.  It was hot, humid, and we were covered with bites.  And we still had six more days!  Josh actually slept with his bug spray.  No joke.

Okay, Lewis and Clark didn’t have kayaks.  But Sarah and I were eager to go exploring the lake the next day, so that’s what we did.  We felt like kids playing hooky from school as we ran gleefully to land’s end.  We met Liz down by kayak launch zone alpha (read: a clearing down by the lake) and she offered to take me and Sarah out exploring. The lake water was cool and still.   It was Sarah’s first time in a kayak and I could feel her excitement.  Liz led us to a secret part of the lake called Lily Pad Alley.  Only about a hundred people have ventured into that part of the lake.  And only two have lived to tell the tale.  I’m kidding.  The first thing I noticed about Lily Pad Alley was the obvious.  It was filled with lily pads.  I was surprised at  how much life a lily pad supports.  Bugs and frogs jumping from one lily pad to the next.  Paddling through the lily pads was a little tough.  At one point Liz offered to snap a pic of me and Sarah.  I leaned over and handed my iPhone to Liz.  Then my sunglasses started to slip off of my life vest.  I tried to catch it and it bounced off my hand and started to slowly sink in the water.  I leaned in the water and grabbed my sunglasses just in the nick of time, but by then, I was so far over that I began to capsize.  And capsize I did.

Me and Sarah, after the "event"
Me and Sarah, after the “event”
Liz and Sarah said it was the slowest capsizing they had ever seen.  Sarah was laughing but later revealed she was laughing because she was in shock and really worried for me.  I think that moment pretty much bonded us for the rest of the trip.
One day I went kayaking by myself early in the morning.  I went to the other side of the lake. There were a few fishing boats out.  There was also a family of loons swimming around and singing.  The singing echoed all through the still lake.  I went to the very end of the lake, and it noticeably got shallower.  I looked into the water and saw schools of fish swimming underneath me.  And crawfish swimming as well.  Lot’s of life in the lake.   I could kayak all day if could.  Now I know how Huckleberry Finn felt rafting down the Mississippi.
The Osprey room. It sits high above the grounds like a tree house. One day, Josh, Sarah and I went looking for this room, armed with laptops and other supplies. Josh and Sarah walked with water filled mugs. It was going to be a good day for writing. We could smell it in the air. Then I heard Josh scream “Don! Don! Get them off me! They’re everywhere!” Then Sarah’s arms began flailing and that could only mean one thing. MOSQUITO ATTACK. It was the largest mosquito attack in Minnesota history. Thousands upon thousands of flying succubis swarmed us. We ran. Sarah screamed. Water flew out of mugs. Blood was lost. We ended up going in a circle and gave up on Osprey that day. Eventually we found the room. It’s a cool place.
We ended up meeting our goal of 40 pages, which we shared with everyone.  I think we were all surprised and pleased with how well we did and how cohesive our pieces sounded.  We had Liz over for dinner and drinks almost every night.  And we would end the night with a fierce game of Dramaturgy, invented by Liz, which is really Celebrity, but with theatre terms like Jacobean and  George Spelvin.
On our last day, in the morning, Josh made us one-eyed willies.  Actually they’re called one-eyed jacks, but we prefer the overtly sexual term instead.  Regardless, they were delicious.  Then he took the scrap bread that was cut out of the center of the pieces of toast, and fried it up with some left over ham.  Yum!!!!
Some other fond memories:
Fun trip to Pamida:
Me, Sarah, and Josh wearing the official Living Newspaper Uniform
Me, Sarah, and Josh wearing the official Living Newspaper Uniform
Speaking of one-eyed willies, this was also the summer that Josh introduced me to Dickel.  (Beat)
Are you done laughing?  Okay, this is Dickel:
A writer's elixir
A writer’s elixir
– Had lunch at Dairy Queen!  Sarah was very excited about this.
– Visited the International Wolf Center
– Ping Pong matches in the Internet Room
– Making S’mores
– Building campfires
Our final destination before winging back to NYC was to visit the epitomy of American capitalism and gluttony.  I’m talking about Mall of America of course.  Or as Sarah likes to say “MOA.”  I’m not really that impressed with it.  It’s just a giant mall with an amusement park in the middle.  So what?   Josh took one look at this store called “Old Time Photo” and he so wanted to snap a picture.  I’ve never sensed a stronger desire in him than that moment at OTP.  Alas, we didn’t have enough time to do it.
We did find a man-sized chicken costume at the magic shop.  So of course, we had to pose in front of it.
Josh poses with the Chicken
Josh poses with the Chicken
We said our goodbyes in the parking lot.  It was sad to say goodbye to everyone even though we would all be seeing each other again back in NYC.
Since Josh and I were on the same flight, we both headed back to the airport together in the van I rented. Of course, we had given all our paperwork to Liz, so Josh and I had no idea what rental agency to return it to (Remember when I foreshadowed this?).    We pulled into one and had to go to the next. Unfortunately the airport is designed in a way that you had to exit the terminal and circle back around again. We then went to the wrong agency again, and had to circle around.  Third time’s a charm.  The third time we were in the wrong place again!  Luckily the guy was able to check us in anyway.  Sheesh.
Our flight was pretty non-eventul.  Josh had to head back into city to announce the Sam French winners. I headed back to my apt, reflecting back on our time at the lake, and looking forward to going to Ojai!  It’s been quite a summer so far.

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