It’s Emily’s birthday!

It’s hard to remember life before Emily. As anyone who has children knows, everything changes when you have your first kid. I’ll never forget the feeling of complete joy and exuberance when we found out we were going to have a baby. As the due date of May 19 approached, the weather began to get hot — we didn’t have AC — and Mom was not enjoying the fact that Emily hadn’t arrived yet. After a week and a half of waiting, Emily still couldn’t decide what to do, so the doctor gave her a little prompting. After the quick procedure, the doc said, “Well, you’re going to have a baby sometime today”. And so Emily sort of reluctantly entered the world.

A happy Mom and a beautiful (but probably drooling) daughter

For the first few years, Emily had the nickname, “Billie” because of the bilirubin tests she had to have for her slightly yellow tint during the first couple of weeks.

Emily was a wonderful child — absolutely a joy. Looking back, it’s funny how some of the personality traits that she has now were evident even when she was very young. She was always smart, inquisitive, talkative, funny and generally very happy — but also inwardly a little fearful and worried about things.

I think this was her first reading of a Stephen King book.

She knew how to read by age 4, and didn’t stick with the little kid books for long, becoming interested it adult-level books in elementary school. The amount of reading she did as a kid made her very smart, very with-it, and a great student in high school. Achieving the International Baccalaureate diploma is an amazing feat. I’m so proud of her (as well as sister Lauren) for doing that.

A rare photo with Grandma Fran

Emily was always athletic. She started playing soccer when she was 6 and also did a lot of gymnastics in elementary school, then later on, softball, track and cross-country skiing. She loved being physically active and I loved watching her play. She has a great understanding of strategy — she was always the most aware player on the soccer field and the best passer. She continues to be an all-around athlete, able to pick up and be good at anything she’s interested in. I was so proud of her when she ran a marathon last month, but not shocked that she could do it. When she sets her sights on something, she goes after it with determination.

At the house on Dupont Ave.

She found out that she was accepted from the wait list at the University of Virginia on her last day of high school. It was one of those life-changing moments that you only see the significance of in retrospect. She would have gotten a great education at UW Madison, but life took her to other places. It was hard having her so far away in college, but I was so proud of her for getting into UVA and for going off to such a great place. You hope your kids grow up to have their own lives and follow their own paths, so the being so far away part was a very small negative compared to all the good things she was doing.

Plus, she wouldn’t have met Kyle otherwise.

The sun came out on the day after the muddy mess of graduation day. What a proud day for all of us.

She didn’t set out to be a teacher, but decided to give it a shot a couple of years after college. In typical Emily fashion, she stuck with it through some very hard times and has done it for 5 years. I know it’s been difficult and frustrating — and it might be hard for her to believe this right now — but it’s been worthwhile. I know she’s good at it and I know she’s affected a lot of lives. Emily has given me many, many proud moments over the years, but I’ll never forget when I got to visit her classroom of 4th graders a few years ago. To see her all grown up, making it on her own in New York, and doing such a great job with those kids was really a big thrill for me.

It was a big day for me when I got to see Emily teaching (October 2006)

So here’s to you Emily! Now you’re entering the next phase of life. You got married last fall to Kyle, who is a fantastic guy and you seem perfect for each other. You’re moving back to Minnesota, but it’s unknown territory in many ways again. You’re buying a house. You don’t know what life will bring in the next few years. But as usual, you’re up for the adventure. Just think about how much different things will be by your next birthday.

You’ve made a great life for yourself. The years have flown by and it’s been a joy to watch you grow up. I hope that some day you will have the experience of being a parent. I can’t express how much I’ve enjoyed having you as my daughter. You were a wonderful kid and now you’re an amazing woman. No Dad has anything more than I do.

Happy birthday, Emily. You’re the best. Enjoy the next chapter.

Love, Dad

High Line is a highlight of recent visit to New York

The High Line is a beautiful elevated public park. (photo by Steve Date)

I got a chance to walk the first section of the High Line in New York on Sunday morning. I’ve been reading about it since it’s opening almost a year ago. The elevated train track was built in the 1930s as part of the West Side Improvement Project. The 30-foot high track got dangerous trains up off the streets of a busy industrial area of Manhattan.

Here's what the High Line looked like during its days of being used by trains.

The High Line was used until 1980. It sat abandoned and weed-filled for almost 20 years and then was scheduled for demolition. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group was formed in 1999 to figure out a way to save this historic structure and re-use it as a public park. Their efforts paid off. Construction on phase one of the 1.45 mile walkway began in 2006 and the first half-mile or so opened in June of last year.

Here's what it looked like before the renovation began. (photo from

I’ve been anxious to see it and it doesn’t disappoint. Amid all the glitz, schlock and busy-ness of Manhattan, it’s a wonderful quiet place to walk among beautiful and interesting plants and enjoy some great views of the city.

Careful planting of interesting grasses and flowers frame great views. (photo by Steve Date)

Gotta have a shot of the Empire State Building.(photo by Steve Date)

The High Line is a great example of what a wonderful thing historic preservation can be. Saving a significant structure from demolition and figuring out a way to transform it into something so beautiful that can be use by everyone is an act of care and kindness that is inspiring to me. I can’t wait to go back next year and see phase two. Thank you to Friends of the High Line and the people of New York for this gift to all of us.

End of phase one -- looking forward to the next section in 2011. (photo by Steve Date)

Happy birthday, Les Bolstad

When I was in high school in the late ’60s, my golf team would occasionally get to play the University of Minnesota Golf Course. We all considered it a treat. It seemed like a step above the other courses we played. Plus, it was part of “The U” — big time stuff.

The University of Minnesota Golf Course was named after Les Bolstad in 1983.

In those days, the practice range was right behind the clubhouse. I remember thinking it was so cool to watch the Gopher golf team hit balls. All the players had the same, odd-looking short backswing. Always nearby was a slightly hunched, quiet man wearing a classic flat golf cap and a sweater. Coach Les Bolstad seemed like an old man to me at the time, but if I do the math, he was only a couple of years older than I am now — clearly not old at all!

Les Bolstad (photo from the 2009 PGA Tournament program)

By all accounts, Bolstad was a great teacher. He mentored the legendary Minneapolis golfer Patty Berg throughout her career. Minnesota business tycoon and author Harvey Mackay took lessons from Bolstad while still in high school and then played on the U of M golf team. He attributes much of his success to what he learned from Bolstad.

Robert Hustrulid, in his book, “Golfing the Les Bolstad Way”, quotes Mackay talking about Les Bolstad. “Like all great coaches and teachers, Les did not teach golf. He taught life. If you learned a little golf on the side, well so much the better. Like going fishing. If you catch a fish, it’s a bonus. You’re there to savor the experience.”

In 1926, at age 18, Bolstad won the National Public Links Championship. The next year, he won the Big Ten Championship. For the next few years, he was one of the top Minnesota golfers. But he chose to devote his golf skills to teaching, coaching the Gophers from 1947 to 1976.

A framed photo hangs in the clubhouse, along with his red glove.

When the U of M golfers were out on the course, he would walk through the trees between fairways, standing — almost lurking — to watch his players. Later, on the practice tee, he could be seen quietly offering a bit of advice or encouragement.

I never actually spoke with him, but I remember once when we passed each other near the clubhouse and he nodded and smiled, flashing the impish grin that shows up in every photo of him. I’ll always remember that.

Coach Les Bolstad would have been 102 years old today. When I was in the clubhouse on Saturday photographing the framed picture below and the one above with the red glove, one of the young people working there didn’t really know much about who he was. That’s sad. It’s also too bad that a Google search of his name mostly turns up stuff about the golf course and photos of cross-country meets held there. I left the clubhouse and pictured Les standing on the old practice tee. I hope we can keep his memory alive for a while longer.

I’ll end with another photo that hangs in “his” clubhouse. Robert Hustrulid tracked down the photographer. His name is Richard Hamilton Smith. It’s an amazing sunset shot of Les Bolstad in his later years, walking a fairway, hunched forward, carrying his clubs, as he always did.

Some of us haven’t forgotten you, Coach.

(post script to this post . . . . I got a note from photographer Richard Hamilton Smith. He says he doesn’t think the sunset photo of Les Bolstad is his. I guess he would know, right? So who DID take that shot? Let me know if you have any info)

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center: Three days with cold, wet, 5th graders

About 130 fifth grade students, plus staff and a few sixth graders got back last night from 3 cold, mostly rainy days in the north woods of Minnesota. We had a great time, even though the weather was less than ideal for being outdoors.

My 5th graders getting ready to canoe on a cold, windy evening.

Wolf Ridge is a great place to take school groups. It’s in a beautiful setting, near Lake Superior, and the activities are excellent. I had been there once before, with a group of teachers, but never with kids. It was fun to see our Andersen students, most of whom have never been in these kind of surroundings, have such a great time, learn so much, and treat each other so well.

Many activities, such as this Ojibwe Heritage class, begin with an indoor session . . . .

. . . . and then continue outdoors. Here, students are making fire.

Teachers and students alike are invited to push themselves out of their comfort zone from time to time, but no one is forced to do anything they don’t want to do. I was so proud of my kids. They braved some brutal weather with hardly a complaint. They took on challenges that would scare most adults.

I know the impact this kind of a trip can have on young people. My daughters Emily and Lauren went up to Wolf Ridge a few times when they attended Field School in the ’90s and both still sings its praises. They each have lasting memories of those visits.

The photo below shows a couple of my girls on the climbing wall. Evelyn (near the top, in blue) was particularly impressive. She scaled the wall all the way to the top in each of the six areas — no one else came close to accomplishing this.

Neither of these girls had ever tried this before. It was quite an experience to watch them overcome their fears.

I wish every kid could go to a place like Wolf Ridge. Most of our students never get to get out of the city. Most of them have never been in any kind of wilderness area, let alone being taught about all the plants, animals and geology around them. Many of them had never been away from home overnight before. This trip was so good for so many reasons. I hope we can do it again next year. We’ll need a lot of financial help to pull it off, but we’re already working on that.

The 5th grade team of teachers, Special Ed. assistants and other staff all did an amazing job of putting this together. I also want to thank the wonderful teachers at Wolf Ridge. They are top notch and did a great job with our kids.

I loved getting to know my kids even better in this very personal way. I hope we gave them some great memories to carry with them. It was also wonderful to spend time with the other adults. We had a blast. I’ll never forget these kids, my fellow teachers, and this very special place.

Lake Harriet: In beauty may I run

I’ve always thought of the month of May as sort of the Friday night of the year. Everything seems possible. Eventually the reality of the Sunday evening of winter sets in, but right now I’m enjoying the hope and possibility that May brings.

Since I’ve signed up to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October with my daughters Emily and Lauren, I’ve decided that I should probably do a little more running than my “when-I-get-a-chance” 3 or 4 miles pattern that I’ve fallen into over the past few years. So I’m back to my “track” — Minnehaha Parkway and Lake Harriet. I was thinking as I ran around the lake for the thousand-and-something time today that there’s no excuse — none — for not getting my butt out there most days and doing it. It’s such a beautiful route that I’m still awed by it when I take the time to notice.

After my run today, I went back and did it again on my bike and took my camera along. Here are a few photos I shot.

After about 1.5 miles on Minnehaha Parkway, here's the first view of Lake Harriet.

Yes, we still have rollerbladers here -- lots of 'em.

On a cool day, ice cream cones can last half-way around the lake.

OK, so this is fifty yards off the running path, but I just like this guy. He really enjoys his work.

Back on the Parkway, heading home.


Thank you, Emily and Lauren for motivating me to get back to doing one of the things I love — and appreciating being able to do it. Hope to see you at Lake Harriet (and many other places along the marathon route) on October 3rd! I’ll be the happy-looking older man running — for as long as I can keep up — with two amazing young women.

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty


¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Lauren de Mayo!

Lauren Date was born on this day 25 years ago. It was one of the two happiest days of my life (it’s a tie, Emily). It’s one of those crazy things that the human brain does with time that an event can seem like it was both another lifetime ago and 10 minutes ago simultaneously.

BabyDate and Mom - I find this picture sad and hilarious at the same time. It was the last skirt Lauren wore for about 20 years.

You have to admit, she was pretty darn cute.

Lauren was always a wonderful kid — probably the easiest kid to raise that anyone has ever had. We always worried that she was a little TOO conscientious, a little TOO quiet, a little TOO nice, a little TOO hard-working, sometimes a little too worried about everything. These are generally useful qualities to have as an adult. Lauren was just ahead of her time. The ironic thing is that she used to be a ham in front of a camera. She had (and still has) a wicked dry wit and a sneaky sense of humor. Her golden years of silly photos were during the early ’90s — elementary school days. She’d pose anywhere, any time — but, of course, only if we asked her to. Here are a few of the ones I like. Don’t worry — I’ve got plenty more for next year’s birthday blog.

We never spared any expense when it came to toys for Lauren. This was the X-Box of the late '80s.

OK, so I guess this one isn't funny. It was actually a very close call.

I think she might have peaked comedically during the Christmas of '92.

Now she's rollin'. You've got to take my word about the shy part.

By 5th Grade she had developed a more subtle, mature style.

Lauren has always been a beautiful person if every sense of the word. She amazes me with her thoughtful nature and her kindness toward others. She is shy, but pushes herself to be outgoing. She told me once something along the lines of, “nobody finds a really shy person interesting or attractive”. She’s always had a great interest in both music and the visual arts, and is learning how to express herself in that way. When she went off to college in Madison, Wisconsin in 2003, one of the first things this introvert did was get herself a radio show on the Campus station.

Lauren in Madrid (2005)

As a child, Lauren was kind of a homebody. She didn’t like leaving home — even to go on vacation. She tended toward the routine, predictable, and comfortable. Then she went away to college, and decided to spend her junior year in Spain. Immediately after graduation, she told us she want to move to Chicago — didn’t know anybody there, didn’t have a job — but off she went, and we’ve hardly seen her since. Now, she’s making her way in the big city. She has worked hard, made a ton of friends, and developed into the caring, smart, thoughtful, conscientious — and funny — adult that I hoped she would.

Lauren bowling last Christmas

I’m so lucky to be the dad of Lauren Date. To have a kid (yes, Emily, TWO kids) who grow up to become better people than you are is the ultimate wish of a parent. I smile whenever I think about it.

Watching little “BabyDate” develop into the adult she’s become has been an amazing experience for the past 25 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 25 bring.

I love you, Lauren. Happy Birthday.


My News (half) Hour with Jim Lehrer

I’d been kind of nervous all last week in anticipation of my opportunity to interview Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour. Thanks to Paul Nagel and Rich Cornell (see my April 18 entry), I had a chance to meet him at his hotel in downtown Minneapolis. He was in town as part of his current cross-country tour.

Jim Lehrer (photo by Steve Date)

Rich is making a documentary about Paul Nagel and Lehrer is Paul’s friend. Rich wanted to get him into the film, but he was going to be in Europe this weekend when Mr. Lehrer would be in town. Rich asked me if I would interview him for the film and I jumped at the chance. I told MinnPost about what I was doing and they said they’d love to get something, too.

So I was feeling some pressure. Me with my limited experience, marginal camera and mic, no lighting — not to mention my generally bumbling ways — interviewing a broadcast news icon. The man has moderated 11 presidential debates for God sake!

I met Paul at his apartment and we walked the 5 or 6 blocks down the Nicollet Mall together to meet Lehrer at his hotel. I had a 30 minute, 3:00 appointment — they squeezed me in between a radio interview and a speech at the University of Minnesota Friends of the Library meeting at Coffman Union. Mr. Lehrer arrived in the lobby at about 2:50. He gave me a big smile as we shook hands and said to me, “I know who you are, but who’s this guy?” (pointing to Paul). He then asked if he could have a couple of minutes to run up to his room because he had spilled something on his shirt. I immediately liked him.

Paul Nagel and Jim Lehrer share a laugh at a reception for the University of Minnesota Friends of the Libraries dinner at Coffman Memorial Union. (photo by Steve Date)

The manager of the Marquette Hotel was kind enough to let us use an area of the bar to tape the interview. Being the newsman and orator he is, Mr. Lehrer did wonderful, effortless monologues about Paul Nagel, the news business, moderating presidential debates and his upcoming visit (today) to the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, Minnesota. He was just as honest, eloquent, and gracious as the the man we’ve seen on PBS since the ’70s. We managed to chit chat a little about our common interest in the state of West Virginia and I (presumptuously) gave him a copy of my movie, “Welcome to Coalwood”. He told me that I was way ahead of most first-time writers and filmmakers because I had actually finished something.

I then went over to the reception at the University of Minnesota to get a few still photos and shoot a little video of both of them in action with the crowd. All in all, it was an exhilarating and exhausting day. What a thrill! I’ll never forget it.

Jim Lehrer talks with some of the patrons at the Friends of the Libraries reception. (photo by Steve Date)

Paul Nagel and Jim Lehrer (photo by Steve Date)

Here’s my two-part interview with Jim Lehrer for MinnPost.