Classic: Fun For the Frozen

This post appeared on Fermented Fur nine years ago today. Since it’s currently approaching 80 sunny degrees here in eastern North Carolina, I’m enjoying the contrast of what February used to be when we lived in the Frozen North.

When you both have the day off, and you’ve been in sort of a rut, it would seem to be a good thing to say, “Hey! Let’s go out today and do something fun!” There are three reasons why this is not true.

  1. This is Minnesota
  2. It is February
  3. I am neither a polar bear nor a Siberian husky

When going anywhere involves donning a coat that is essentially an Everest-rated sleeping bag with sleeves, just so you don’t freeze and start dropping appendages in various parking lots, your options are somewhat limited.

Yes, many Minnesotans thrive on winter activities, such as ice-fishing (two problems, ice and fishing), snowmobiling (don’t have one, don’t want one), cross country skiing (talk about excessive physical exertion), or skijoring. This involves dogs pulling you on skis, like a sled dog race without the sled or the diptheria. However, my dogs would take off chasing a squirrel or something and drag me into a river.


They look like they know what they’re doing. I’d be face-down being dragged through the underbrush.

Bowling. This is technically a physical activity, and I avoid those whenever possible. However, it does take place indoors, and there is the possibility of snacks and adult beverages, so I’m occasionally willing to consider it.

Still, there are a couple of problems. Bowling alleys have started to get all militant, at least around here. It’s hard to find a place where you can still eat and drink at your lane. They want you to go back behind the rail to the area designated for eating and alcohol consumption. This adds way too much inconvenience (walking), and when combined with the physical exertion inherent to the activity, drops bowling way down my list of desirable “fun day” activities.


The bowling alley closest to us isn’t there anymore. (Try not to choke on the irony…) A few winters ago it got so much snow on the roof that it collapsed. Winter in Minnesota. Sigh.

If you choose the bowling option, it will burn maybe four hours of your day before your bowling arm is limp with painful exhaustion and you can’t drink any more and still get home without a DUI.

The Mall. I am not a recreational shopper. I haven’t even set foot in a mall in several years. When I need something, I go to the nearest retail establishment that has it, make the purchase, and come home. Walking around a local mall might kill a few hours, but even if you don’t buy anything it will still cost some money, since lunch is a requirement. Otherwise I could have just stayed home and not bought stuff on eBay.

As you are probably aware, Minnesota is the home of the Mall of America. I’ve lived here for 13 years, and I have been there several times. But no more than necessary, believe me. It’s an easy way to kill the better part of the day, if you are so inclined, but there’s a lot of walking. Like, Appalachian Trail amounts of walking. And since I don’t shop for fun, it would be a lot of totally unrewarded walking.

Factor in lunch, and little to no alcohol since the Mall is 45 minutes away, and I’m seeing an outlay of cash that is not providing sufficient amounts of fun.


Oh, and there are people there. Lots of people. Many of them children. Another valid reason to avoid MOA.

Going Out To Lunch: Simple concept, right? But we have the time/money ratio dilemma again. A nice lunch (because I ain’t going to Denny’s), with drinks, is going to cost at least $50, maybe as much as $75, depending on whether we have appetizers and the number of beverages consumed. If there are significant drinks (which in my book determines the quality of any lunch date), we have to be close to home. I mean like close enough that we could walk if necessary, which leaves all of maybe 2 options, and “going out” somewhere that you could still see your house from the parking lot is kind of pathetic.


Rockwoods…close to home and super delicious

Even the nicest yummy, drink-filled lunch close to home is going to kill perhaps two hours of a long, dull day.

The Casino. On the surface, this would look like a stupid idea. When you don’t have a lot of money, why would you want to go out of your way to give it all to a bunch of happy, smiling Ojibwe? Allow me to explain our reasoning.

When Tom asks if I want to go to the casino, I never want to.

Tom: Wanna go to the c–?

Me (cutting him off): No.

He likes to throw this randomly into any conversation or period of silence, just to see if I’m paying attention.

I am.

It’s about an hour and twenty minutes to the casino, and the drive is boring as hell. The drive home is even more boring, because it’s usually dark and I can’t read without the map light, and that’s just annoying. But after I run the other “day of fun” options through my head, I sometimes give in.

We never take money we can’t afford to spend, so it’s usually around $100. A typical day goes something like this. One of us does well in the morning, cashing out machines for more than we put in. The other one can’t hit anything to save their life. We consume many free Diet Pepsis, then we break for the buffet lunch, for which we have a coupon for a free or discounted meal thanks to the players’ card.

After lunch, our fortunes usually change. The person whose luck was good in the morning is suddenly swearing at machines or wandering around muttering, looking for a machine that seems like it would like to give us a bunch of money. The other one is now on a roll, making up the deficit. At some point, we go, “Oh, hell, the dogs have got to be starving by now.” Then we cash out and go home with almost the same amount of money we had when we got there.

True, sometimes we end up spending everything we brought, but not usually. It tends to be a break-even day, and we’ve killed 8-10 hours, and had lunch. No drinks, though, because the casino is on Ojibwe land and is dry. Unless you’re staying the night and keep a bottle in your room. Which we’ve done. But not recently.


It’s like a teeny-tiny, alcohol-free Vegas. Sort of.

Since we have such a long drive home, though, day-trips to the casino can’t be a drink-fest, so the whole “dry” thing is fine. I can always drink when I get home.

I don’t care what you say. You never, ever leave the mall with more than you had with you when you got there, unless you have a gun and a ski mask and a competent get-away driver.

Since I have none of those, and the whole “running away” part is too much physical activity, I’ll stick with the casino.


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