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Art Lee: A cautionary story out of the past?

Even now, many years later, there’s someone you remember, and with that person still comes a degree of wonder along with the hope of what-might-have-been. The topic reminds one of a “should-da—would-da-could-da” situation — at which time nothing would be done. It’s tale that ends with “if only”, and if all this seems pointless today, well, that “yesterday” does not go away because the issue remains too real today.

Ahhh, the joys of being a college senior! Notably that halcyon time when you will soon be graduating and going off to. . . you have no idea what or where, but whatever and wherever, it’ll be good.

Or so you believe at the time.

By then you know only one thing for sure — but don’t admit it-- that you’re not very smart — but do know enough to muddle through, to just get by, so it’s OK.

And the future looks good. So enjoy! Live today! ’cause tomorrow brings. . . exams

But by your senior year you’ve figured out how to muddle through college, blessedly content to know you won’t graduate cum laude, just cum thanks. That’s good enough.

As long as you can slog through those last assignments — the voluminous reading, that senior-paper, those class presentations — there’s still time at the end of the day, rather the end of the night, to head out and gather with your buddies for a beer. Or two.

The late-hour timing was in part chosen just before the bar’s “closing time” because the bartender’s proclamation meant only that the bar itself would stay open for another 10 minutes; just no more drinks could be sold.

It also meant that this was the time for “Tweet” to do his thing.

His name was Soren Tveiten but he soon got the nickname of simply “Tweet.”  A slightly built but good looking young man from southern Minnesota, Tweet had built himself the strange reputation for an inordinate activity when the bar closed for the night; indeed, so much so as  to be a ritual.

So much so that some folks came to the bar just to watch him do it.

And what he did was to wait for all the folks seated at the bar to get up and leave  — and to leave their glasses standing there — and Tweet would at that point walk up to one end of the bar and proceed to amble methodically down the line and pick up any glass with any liquid in it and chug-a-lug it! Glass after glass after glass. Made no difference what or how much was in the glass  —beer, wine, whiskey — down it would go, and at the last glass at the end of the bar, he would hold it up to the now-cheering crowd, smile from ear-to-ear and yell “SKOL!”  

That was it; that was all; that was the signal because the show was over and now everyone in the “audience” could get up and go home.

For most onlookers, it was amusing. Fun. Funny — at least to his cheering college compatriots.

However, the shenanigans were easily dismissed by some older folks there as just another dumb college kid pulling a goofy stunt.

Whatever, it was over for another night so forget about it; forget about Tweet; he’s o.k., he’s just. . . well, ahh, different.

Tweet was different but not dumb; he always made the academic honor roll; he was not only in the top college choir but a top bass soloist.

Moreover, he was “pre-sem,” the simple phrase used for those planning to enroll in the church seminary in St. Paul to become a Pastor. So nothing to worry about.

Everyone on campus knew Tweet; on this small campus everyone knew everyone. Everyone liked Tweet. But did he have a drinking problem?  

Even his corps of close buddies never mentioned it in any serious discussions; all they did was joke about it: Does Tweet have a drinking problem?

 “Yeah, his problem is not getting enough to drink. Ha-ha-ha.”  

Even if or when they were serious, the excessive imbibing was never mentioned to Tweet himself.

Any talk by anyone of a referral for counseling?  Nah. Just move along; let life move along. Just put Tweet in that big box of later special memories of by-gone college days. Put it behind you. It’s over. Hey, it’s soon graduation!  Time for the mighty seniors to flounder forward towards. . . well, to do-who-knows- what?

Epilogue. Tweet (name changed, of course) did enroll in the seminary; did graduate from the seminary and would then be ordained to serve a congregation.

He also got married and they would have two children.

It all seemed so good, but then the unraveling began, one personal tragedy after another.

He had begun drinking heavily again.

Before long his wife divorced him and she and the children moved away.

He would be dismissed from his first congregation and later ousted from his second parish.

At this point he was defrocked by church officials.

He was done in more ways than one.

He soon died at age 35 from cirrhosis of the liver, the disease caused by acute alcoholism. (If only. . .)