MINNEAPOLIS -- It's great having President Gorbachev visit. President Bush will never come. Minnesota is too identified with the "L" word. And we grow broccoli.
But Minnesota is not as remote as you think. Nor is the weather as bad as you hear. Gorbachev will be here for about seven hours today and we're hoping summer falls on this day. He does not have to worry about the crunch of the crowds. After the Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987 we screamed and hollered at record decibels -- but we stayed in our seats.
Oh yes. Much to the surprise of visitors, not all Minnesotans are Scandinavians. More residents trace their ancestry to Germany than to any other country. And there's a wonderful mix of races and nationalities. But the Scandinavians were here early on, and their influence on customs and language persists. So Mikhail should be ready for terms like "Yah sure you betcha" and "Uff-da." (Uff-da is a kind of Midwestern "Oy vay.") The Scandinavians are very reserved. We heard from a Swede who said, "I love my wife, Lena, so much ... I almost told her, once." Actually, we're trying to phase out the Nordic influence. So what happens? Our contributions to superstardom are Loni Anderson and Louie Anderson.
We think it's important that Gorbachev come to Minnesota to talk with a few Democrats. Since he came to power, the only folks he's dealt with are Ronald Reagan, George Bush, George Shultz and James Baker. Here we've got plenty of Democrats. This is the only state that voted Democratic in 1984. We believed Fritz Mondale when he said, "Read my lips: taxes."
Gorbachev should visit one of our world-famous health centers -- the Mayo Clinic, perhaps, or the University of Minnesota Hospitals. Medical men and women have made Minnesota one of the best states to get sick in.
Gorbachev must spend a few minutes trying our food. Typical Minnesota cuisine can best be found at a church basement supper. Mikhail can brag about his borscht or caviar, but wait until he tries roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy with an assortment of casseroles -- all made with cream of mushroom soup. And, of course, our regional delicacy: lime Jell-O.
No doubt he'll want to visit one of the many Fortune 500 companies headquartered here. He might even get his picture on a Wheaties box. And speaking of fortune, we have an uncommon number of millionaires, and that's okay. You're allowed to be a millionaire but you should feel guilty about it and give heavily to charity.
And let's not forget hockey. This is the state that furnished half the hockey team that beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. It's rumored that Minnesota kids are born with skates on. We love hockey. For real excitement, Gorbachev must see a youth hockey game. And if he thinks those demonstrations at Red Square are hard to handle, wait'll he sees hockey parents.
Gorbachev should know that Gov. Rudy Perpich is a "no-frills" governor. He drives his own car, so there will be no limousines. In fact, Perpich may ask him to take the wheel for a while. But it's easy to drive here. Just go as slow as you like in the left lane. You don't have to worry about turn signals. And if you see a yellow light, step on the gas.
A man familiar with Siberia would appreciate a look at a Minnesota ice-fishing house. As soon as winter arrives, the houses are pulled out onto frozen lakes, holes are drilled in the ice and anglers watch the Vikings on TV. Some of these houses have become so splendiferous they'd put Donald Trump's Taj Mahal to shame.
We're all happy that Gorbachev will make a stop in America's heartland. We expect to turn out in record numbers. But in case we don't, he shouldn't feel slighted: The fish must be biting.
Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson have hosted the popular Boone & Erickson morning radio show on WCCO in Minneapolis for more than 25 years.