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A Centerfold without a Bunny

A terrible thing has happened to kids. They have lost their sense of adventure. Maybe I am being a curmudgeon. Their adventure isn�t my adventure. It�s not your daddy�s Oldsmobile. Okay. I will admit it. Trying X for the first time doesn�t count as adventure. Staying up for 24 hours playing the latest video game isn�t adventure. Shoot-up a school, worshipping the Devil, listening to Marilyn Manson, dealing drugs, or surfing chat rooms isn�t MY style of adventure.

Where are the Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns? Aside from the kids in the movie Coke ad who traveled around making a �film�, there is something missing.

Of course, now I will share a story from My Life. A story that will show you that I was the paragon of �adventure�, a regular 50�s Holden Caulfield. (Is that right? Who cares.)

For some reason when I was 13 and 14, my parents carted me off to a summer camp. Would young Buff be content with the Boy Scout camp at Lake Miller? I ended up at some ranch-like camp in New Mexico. I think I chose it because it was an excuse for a summer train trip and regular readers may remember, I kinda like trains. I extended my New Mexico trips with one between my Sophomore and Junior years with a train trip to Albuquerque when a Latin/Greek student convention was held at the University of New Mexico. I went.

This story, however, is about my first trip to the Land of Enchantment. I�ll skip the camp part. Not much to tell. After 3 weeks, it was time to return home. The Santa Fe Super Chief arrived in Albuquerque in early afternoon. Ten minutes later the all coach version, a train called El Capitan arrived and I climbed aboard on my way to Kansas City. In Kansas City I would transfer to the Rock Island line going north to St. Paul. In St. Paul I took the Great Northern to Duluth. Fortune changed those plans when I sat next to a woman traveling to Chicago. You see, after leaving Kansas City, the train continued its trip from Los Angeles to Chicago. Suddenly, I didn�t want to get off the train in KC. I wanted to go to Chicago.

No body said anything when we left Kansas City and I was still on the train. I was 13 years old and I was on an adventure. I didn�t really know what I was going to do when I got there, but I knew that I was going to do something different.

The first problem I would have was lodging. I planned to stay at a hotel but I didn�t know any hotels. Paging through a magazine on the train solved that problem and when I piled into a taxi at Union Station in Chicago, I confidently told the cabbie, "Sherman House". Now I had to check in.

I was an old hand at checking into hotels. I had figured out the check-in scam at age 11 and used it several times in the past two years. I checked into the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis and the Curtis Hotel right across the street. Once I stayed at a hotel on Hennepin Avenue called the Anthony. Now I was in the big-time.

I boldly walked to the front desk and told the clerk, "Reservations for Buff Setterquist?" This being before computers, the clerk immediately went to his reservations card file. After a moment he frowned, looked some more, and finally said he didn�t have any reservation. This was my cue to get a frantic look on my face, stick out my quivering lower lip, maybe even tear up a bit and say, "But there must me. My parents said they would make one. Oh�."

It worked every time. No problem, I was told. Next thing I knew a registration card was in front of me with a pen and I was in. I knew enough to tip the bell-hop 50 cents and as the door closed I flopped onto the bed, safely hotel-ed in Chicago.

Later, while walking through the lobby, I noticed a sandwich-board sign advertising the Don McNeill Breakfast Club. This radio show, broadcast on the ABC radio network, I believe, was the 50�s version of Katie and Matt. The chatted, did some light news, had singers and a live band and the highlight was the every-morning march around the breakfast table. When I listened to it at home with my parents, I frequently actually DID march around the breakfast table. The show had a studio audience and originated from the very hotel where I was a guest. The restaurant was called the College Inn Porterhouse. I don�t know the history of the restaurant or the name but it was in the basement of the hotel and looked a lot like the tiered banquet-booth arrangement you see in old movies. All the tables and booths over-looked the bandstand and dance floor. With a boldness, I lost in future years, I found out where you got tickets, got some (they were free) and the next morning was a member of the live studio audience for Don McNeil�s Breakfast Club. I resisted the urge to join the crew marching around the breakfast table. I was bold but sometimes inexplicably, shy.

A good thing came out of that visit. I had discovered a �fancy� restaurant. A Playboy sort of nightclub. Like the movies. I wanted to eat there. That afternoon I used the phone in my room to make an in-house call to the College Inn. I made reservations for one. Reservations for 6:30pm. In my suitcase I had a corduroy suit. I put it on. I managed to tie my tie remembering the instructions in a purloined copy of Playboy magazine. On the way, I even stopped to buy a pack of cigarettes. Kents. My mother smoked Kents. The clerk didn�t seem too surprised when I said "A pack of Kents", but to forestall any problem I added, "..for my Mom."

The head waiter greeted me and after a quick look at his reservation list, led me to a large table (seating for eight) and presented me with a menu. Someone filled my water glass and a waiter arrived. I wasn�t bold enough to order a real drink, but I did order a ginger ale because it looked like a Seven & Seven and they put a cherry in it.

I still remember my meal. Chicken Kiev, fresh popovers, asparagus with Hollandaise and peach pie. Between courses, I smoke Kents, sipped from my �drink� and imagined I looked every bit the bunny-loving Playboy epitomized by the magazine. You can imagine what I really looked like. A 13 year old kid sitting alone at a huge table smoking cigarettes and drinking pop.

When they began moving tables off the floor and the band began playing for dancing, I beat a retreat. My tab was 11 dollars and I left a dollar tip. I was quite the Bon Vivant. That night I wandered to a huge park where Buckingham Fountain was and happened on a summer concert featuring the opera singer, Rise Stevens. It was pretty heady stuff. The next morning I called my parents and apologized for being among the missing for a day. Surprisingly, they hadn�t panicked. They just figured out that, information to the contrary, their weird son, Buff, was on an adventure. When I called them, collect, they ordered me home, arranged for a ticket, and my adventure was almost over.

The next afternoon I took the Chicago & Northwestern overnight train to Duluth. I had an upper berth that had tiny windows. I watched the lights of towns whiz by, ate Mounds Bars and reveled in every memory of those three days as a Playboy on an adventure.

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