I enjoyed a great meal at The Nortons' this weekend, bringing to mind both comforting past connections and the idea of reinvention. The comforting past connections arise from the chef and proprietor, Greg Norton. Mr. Norton spent the 1980s as the bassist for Husker Du, a band of eviscerating power and tender beauty. As the overwrought prose of the last sentence suggests, I did a little time as a college rock critic. Still, I consciously avoided reviewing anything Du-related for fear of fawning all over them (though here's the sort of piece I would like to have written). And, truth be told, their lyrics still hang by my family pictures at work. The Minneapolis trio had a nasty split in 1987, when Nirvana picked up the (flannel) mantle in Aberdeen, Washington.
Regarding the past: I wanted to send a link to my dining companions about the band, so I did a little googling. Turns out that Mr. Norton and I both attended Henry Sibley High School in West St. Paul. He was about 5 years older than me, so I doubt our paths crossed much. Then I read that he (and drummer Grant Hart) both worked at Melody Lane records, where I misspent much of my youth as a budding music geek. Now I'm starting to feel some connection. If I squint hard enough, I can see a deep-voiced young dude at the counter talking 13-year-old Chris out of selling his New York Dolls and Black Sabbath albums, just as punk started to break in the late 70s. I took his advice, I think, and still own enough vinyl to side a house.
Regarding reinvention: As Mr. Norton made his way to each of the tables in his chef's whites, I was struck by how rarely people reinvent themselves as adults. Kids do it all the time -- switching from Black Sabbath to Black Flag, for example. Tor starts high school this fall and he's adding "football player" to the "bass player" identity kit of middle school. Hope starts middle school at the same time and she senses that all the old hierarchies of elementary school will be reshuffled. Today, Greg Norton seems as comfortable and confident in his restaurant as he did on stage twenty years ago. For the record, I can strongly recommend New Day Rising (or Flip Your Wig) from the former period and the elk ribeye with cherries from the latter.