Sauna stories & Jeno Paulucci

Yesterday upon returning from the MSBA conference I was alone as my wife had driven to the Twin Cities for her Seminary classes. Having put on my game face for the coming year of trauma I decided I needed to get back in shape. I used to swim four or five days a week before the Red Plan Crisis and starting up Let Duluth Vote. Soon, I had too little time to swim laps and gave it up. After Let Duluth Vote lost its attorney on technical grounds I hung up my gloves but didn’t return to the pool. By this time I was managing my Mother’s affairs and still didn’t have time to swim laps. Times have changed again.

I hopped in the pool and surprised my out-of-shape self by swimming a straight 500 yards before breaking the rest of the laps into smaller pieces. I ended up at an even thousand. That’s a little over half a mile. I began cramping up towards the end and had to let my feet hang limp to finish. If I keep this up my heart may survive what is sure to be a very stressful year. As for the cramps, swim training lore says that the potassium in bananas will keep cramps at bay. I bought one on the my return with Art Johnston from the MSBA convention but it obviously wasn’t enough. I’m sure my banana budget will skyrocket this year.

I was still by my lonesome this morning so after polishing up the first of three posts on my MSBA adventures I headed over to the pool again and got another thousand yards in. I finished both swims with a stop in the sauna where interesting conversation often breaks out among friends and strangers.

In both Sauna visits I was quite voluble when the saunians recognized me as a school board member. I was as loquacious in the heat as I am here in my blog. I’m proud of my work on the school board even if I’m ashamed of the Board itself. I enjoy making jokes at the Board’s expense. We deserve it.

I told one fellow I was unrepentant after my censure. I campaigned, after all, on the promise to be honest and I just got censured for telling the truth. I find that more than a little ironic.

After I shut up I heard a delicious story about Jeno Paulucci that is too good not to pass on.

Jeno is the biggest name in Duluth in my lifetime and I never once laid eyes on him. I’m sure that almost every politician in the area approached him for campaign money since everybody seemed to hope he would finance their dreams. I didn’t want to go hat in hand to see him in part because he had such an imposing reputation. Five or ten times in the years I’ve lived here Jeno put full page ads in the Tribune to take some politician to task. I figured a couple hundred bucks wasn’t worth crawling on my knees to Lourdes.

But Jeno was a God. He started life as a Depression kid dodging the bulls that patrolled the train tracks while he picked up fallen chunks of coal to heat his family’s home. He was a Horatio Alger original.

When my fellow Saunian was ten he and a buddy were swimming in Pike Lake near the Paulucci’s home. When they got into the water they saw a pair of jet ski’s floating off in the distance some way from shore. They swam over to pull them back to the docks. As they stood around trying to figure out who they belonged to the Paulucci’s butler hauled them out of the water and marched them to Jeno’s house. “What are your names?” he demanded as the boys tripped over their tongues trying to explain what had happened.

“Jeno” my sauna mate told the butler. That went over like a lead balloon and in no time they found themselves in the real Jeno’s lair.

Paulucci walked in and asked what the kids were up to. After a full report from the butler including the cheeky insult from jet ski thief calling himself Jeno, the real Jeno told the boys to give him their phone numbers. He dialed up the cheeky kid’s house first and his Mother answered the phone.

Jeno told her that he had her son in his house. “Jeno?” she said surprised. That reply surprised Jeno.

Jeno took the boys back to the lake and examined the rinky dink rope that had secured the jet ski’s to his dock. They were frayed and had snapped. Satisfied that no larceny had taken place he asked the ten-year old Jeno how he came by his name.

“My real name is Jean,” the boy replied. “But when she’s mad at me my Mom used to say ‘Jean ******** ********* NO!’ Which got shortened to “Jean NO!” and then shortened again to Jeno.”

“Your a couple of honest kids, Jeno told the boys. He had his butler retrieve the keys to the jet skis, fill them up with gas and told the honest boys to have fun with them for the rest of the day.

There is a great coda to this story and, according to my sauna mate, there were fifty witnesses. However, I’m a little reluctant to tell it. Once again however, it also shows Jeno as the fellow who remembered picking up coal as a kid to keep his family warm.

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