Young, Dumb and Excited09 Sep 2002
Our young heroes had met in high school, ages 16 and 17, both wearing the same American Field Service sweatshirt at a church function. He'd just come back from a summer in Brazil, she was from Germany and currently an exchange student in a neighboring town. They became sweethearts, went to prom, graduated, she returned to Germany, they promised to 'stay in touch', he went to college. Six months later they resolved to remain sweethearts. She still had 3 years to finish her Abitur, her parents had no telephone, Al Gore hadn't yet invented the Internet, so they wrote 3 letters a week. The first summer he visited her, the second summer she visited him, and the third summer she came to stay.
The plan was that she would transfer her Abitur credits to the University of Minnesota, study geography or something, maybe play volleyball, and the two would live together without money as a happy student couple for the foreseeable future.
Ah yes, without money. That was the hangup. To enter the country on a student visa, you have to have the financing of your education arranged ahead of time. In Germany, financing an education is a foreign concept (as is having to pay for an education). Parental support was out, as her parents 1) didn't have the money, and 2) weren't supportive of the move. The couple wasn't aware of any 'Study in America to be with your sweetheart' scholarship programs, so the student visa was out.
However, a fiancée visa was more in their price range. Thirty-five dollars up front, piles of forms, but no proof of financial status required. He was working part-time at the county law library (I forget whether at this time he was determined to become a lawyer, or whether he had been at the law library long enough to have determined not to become a lawyer). He could find out about the piles of forms. She could go the consulate, prove she was a non-Communist without communicable disease, get her ticket and go.
Never mind that in the time they had had a serious relationship, they had been together for just 6 weeks (physically, as together in the same room or continent, as opposed to emotionally or spiritually, as in cloud cuckoo land). Or that, despite being married to a Minnesota resident, she would have to pay non-resident tuition for 3 years. As I said, our heroes were young, dumb and excited.
So she arrived in July, with a backpack on her back and nothing in her pocket. He welcomed her into their new apartment, a small rathole near Loring Park (by the next summer they would move to a larger rathole near the College of Art and Design and the Black Forest Inn). She looked for work, but the job market didn't have a whole lot of positions available for fresh Abitur graduates with a native knowledge of German. Except in the fast-food industry, which she entered in mid-August.
Meanwhile, there was the matter of that fiancée visa, and the small stipulation that "the marriage must take place within 90 days of admission into the United States". This was not a step they were particularly looking forward to. But take it they must. From work, he knew of a particularly sympathetic female judge, and made an appointment with her clerk for the morning of the day after Labor Day. He figured the government center would not be very busy then.
So, on the morning of September 6th, 1983, the apprehensive couple headed off on the bus to downtown Minneapolis. At the government center, they were met by four witnesses and guests, one of whom had brought a blender. She figured they needed at least one trapping of a traditional wedding. They took the elevator to the 19th floor, and Judge Sedgwick put it all to rest. There are very few photos still in existence that document this event. Later, they noticed that they had never paid the judge the 25 dollars for her efforts.
Leaving their guests and witnesses behind, their next step was breakfast at her new employer. Her boss was somewhat befuddled that her new employee would come in for breakfast on her wedding day, and gave them breakfast for free. The boss is still friends with the couple to this day. She had a somewhat more opulent wedding last year, far better documented with pictures.
They then boarded a bus for the long journey to St. Paul, home of the regional office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the St. Paul Post Office. There they filed the paperwork proving that they had complied with the stipulations of the fiancée visa (the clerk noticed that the ink was still wet on the license) and to apply for her permanent residency (an adventure in which she would be sent four Green Cards with typographical errors before finally receiving a card with everything spelled correctly).
Next stop was an Irish pub for lunch. He had a lot of mail to prepare. He was involved in the hobby of Play-By-Mail Diplomacy, and published a fanzine with various games and articles. His readers had been following the fate of the apprehensive couple very closely, and he wanted to provide them with a special issue of the zine postmarked with the wedding date and the location of the consumation of the wedding at the INS. So with a pint of Guinness they stuffed envelopes and licked stamps.
From here the details are more fuzzy. It is a fact that the evening was spent at Foxy's, a lesbian nightclub where a friend was DJ on Tuesday nights. Since neither of the two particularly enjoys to dance, they probably had way too much beer and caught one of the last buses back to Minneapolis.
There, they had to transfer and wait 20 minutes at Uptown. The woozy couple laughed and thought it would be funny if she ended up dropping her studies and running the fast-food location directly behind the bus stop. Little did they know at the time that is exactly what would happen.
(We heard the phrase 'young, dumb and excited' used by Minnesota Viking punter Greg Coleman to describe rookie quarterback Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears. The phrase has stuck in our memories.)