Day 66: Ice Cream on White Bear Lake

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I joined my friend Jeremy (the same Jeremy from the post The White Rabbit) on a pilgrimage to Minneapolis, Minnesota to drive ice cream trucks. Actually, they were vans, but the term “ice cream van” makes everyone shudder. Jeremy had rented a studio apartment only slightly bigger than a room at a Red Roof Inn. We dumped two single mattresses on opposite sides of the room and separated them with a 3 foot wide moat of dirty clothes. It was awesome, and I say that without a trickle of sarcasm.

We had to interview to get these jobs. I thought you just showed up and they gave you keys. The idea that you needed to pass any sort of test or be required to show the least bit of responsibility was comical. The boss, and self proclaimed King of Twin Cities ice cream, asked us, “So, are you here to work or to play?” We were college kids, so we knew the correct answer was “Work.” We got the jobs without anyone checking to see we were licensed drivers and were assigned our routes. Jeremy got the trailer park, and I got a suburb 18 miles away.

By day two it was clear I had received the short straw. Jeremy was making a killing in a trailer park filled with unemployed people without air conditioning whose only relief from their bleak existence came by sucking on a bomb pop. I, on the other hand, was driving around a sleepy suburb just hoping a nanny might come out for a chat. It was 3 days before I sold my first choco taco, and that was to a grown ass man. Meanwhile, Jeremy had put an old sofa in the back of his van and turned it into a rolling white trash party palace filled with extras from Friday Night Lights.

At night we would go to Nye’s Polonaise room on Hennepin Ave. It was a polka bar/steakhouse frequented by middle aged divorcees. We were 19 and it was the only place that never carded us. That was probably because they couldn’t imagine why we would want to be there, but the women were always DRUNK and clearly enjoyed younger men. If you’d like to replicate the scene, you’ll need an accordion, 7 women named Lucille, 2 named Connie, a bartender with facial scars, and a wheelbarrow full of regrets. I’ve since learned that Nye’s has turned into a big hipster hangout and is therefore ruined forever.

We would return to our spacious cell, collapse on our beds drunk, and flick coins at each other until we fell asleep or someone took one in the eye and got mad. Back at the day job, kids started coming up to my van asking me if I was “the clown” and run away. This would be the part of the movie where I go to the local library and search the microfiche for articles about “the clown.” Unfortunately for Hollywood, no one has every done that. In the morning at the depot when all the drivers bought their ice cream for the day, I started asking questions about the clown. The responses were unanimously, “Oh SHIT, you’re drivin’ White Bear Lake route?” Followed by hearty laughter and back-slapping.

Apparently, I was the first person to drive that route since the clown. I learned he was a lovely young psychopath who dressed up as a clown and molested children in the back of his ice cream van. It would have been nice of them to tell me that before I started, no? I quit shortly thereafter and went back to Ohio and spent the rest of the summer telling that story.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

2 comments On Day 66: Ice Cream on White Bear Lake

  • yup. I live in Minneapolis and all of this is true.

    Good story!

  • "If you’d like to replicate the scene, you’ll need an accordion, 7 women named Lucille, 2 named Connie, a bartender with facial scars, and a wheelbarrow full of regrets."

    Such a marvelous way to make the scene come alive. I hope I get to see your stand-up live one day! Let me know if your travels bring you to Western Canada.

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