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A Very Belated RIP to the U’s Bus-Driving ‘Jazz Man’

Plus changes for legacy weed growers, anime helps a Viking, and one big/lost lizard in today's Flyover news roundup.

KARE 11 via YouTube|

Mr. Thompson driving his bus and scatting to jazz in 2009.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Remembering the Jazz Man

Over the weekend a Viraluae reader passed along this 2019 obituary for Robert Leon Thompson, a school counselor, beautician, barber, and, famously, beloved cultural figure at the University of Minnesota campus for over a decade. Thompson, who died four years ago tomorrow, was known to thousands of Gophers as the "Jazz Man"—a jazz-blasting Campus Connector bus driver who began rolling around the U around 1999.

“I look forward to hollerin’ at them and they look forward to hollerin’ at me,” the Jazz Man told the Minnesota Daily in 2004. "We gotta open up and share; sometimes through music we can open up doors.” An avid jazz aficionado, Thompson would bring a rotating mix of 30 CDs aboard his bus—Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, "some really strong stuff"—and play ‘em loudly through a boombox to the delight of students and faculty. “I know that he’ll be waiting because he waits for everyone,” freshman Amber Hanson told the Daily. “He greets me and makes me feel like his friend.” 

Things took an unfortunate turn for the Jazz Man around 2011. A passenger complained after Thompson gave her his phone number and extended an invitation to “talk jazz,” the Daily reports, resulting in his suspension, relocation, and strict orders to no longer play music. "I passed out my phone number to a lady on the bus just to give her some information on places you could go to get good jazz in the Twin Cities," he told KARE 11 at the time. It wasn’t Thompson’s first clash with bus operator First Transit; when the company attempted to ban his jazz-playing ways in 2007, over 1,000 students rallied to his defense with a petition. By '11, there were at least four Facebook fan pages dedicated to the Jazz Man, though it’s unclear if he ever returned to campus. "We will get you back, Rob!” wrote one supporter. “There are 40,000 students that want you back."

Thompson was survived by four children, plus lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren. (We’ve reached out to his son, hoping to write a more conclusive remembrance.) "I have the easiest gig in town," the celeb bus driver once told KARE 11's Boyd Huppert during the 10,000 Stories feature posted below. "That's all I do, ride my friends around and we listen to jazz all day." Concludes his obit: “Farewell and Long Live the Jazzman.” 

'Legacy' Growers Face Uncertain Future

In what is almost certainly the first time someone who goes by the mononym "Tacoleaf" has appeared on their pages, MinnPost's Mohamed Ibrahim has a story today about what happens to the so-called “legacy market” of cannabis providers now that legal weed is here. Tacoleaf is one of a number of longtime weed growers and sellers who are faced with a tough decision: Do they stick to the black market? Try to go legit? Leave the cannabiz entirely? As Ibrahim notes, the cost associated with going the legal route can be steep, with up to $10,000 in licensing application fees for growers and testing facilities alone. And that's not all, of course—Tacoleaf wants to expand his current grow op into a warehouse facility, which he estimates would run him between $3 and $4 million.

Injured Viking Renews Anime Fandom

It’s easy to love the unrestrained geekiness with which PiPress reporter Dane Mizutani begins this sweet little puff-piece on Vikings safety Lewis Cine. “Like most kids growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Lewis Cine found himself drawn to Dragon Ball Z,” he writes. “He would spend hours upon hours watching the anime television series that chronicled the adult life of Goku, the main protagonist, and his constant battles against rivals like Vegeta.” As Cine journeyed toward becoming a first-round 2022 NFL draft pick, he lost interest in anime. The University of Georgia product spent a week-plus inside a London hospital following a nasty leg fracture last season; his leg effectively “snapped in half" with "bones protruding from his skin." The recovery process took Cine to dark places, especially when he was forced to watch Vikings road games alone from his home. Then, one day, he popped open Netflix and started watching Naruto… followed by Baki, Demon Slayer, and One Punch Man.

The injured Vike’s passion for anime was reborn. “That really helped my mental,” Cine tells Mizutani. “I started watching anime, and it was an escape. It brought out the child in me. I think I needed that.” The second-year defensive back says he’d even embody the fearlessness of specific characters while rehabbing his leg. But the biggest lesson he learned, one that transcends football? “There’s a lot of characters in anime that die. They just get waxed out of nowhere,” Cine says. “It’s about cherishing moments for them because they never know when they’re time is coming.” Amen. Remarkably, the young pro athlete/anime junkie is set to play this Thursday when the Vikings head to Seattle for their first exhibition game. May the powers of Goku be with him.

Porkchop the Giant Lizard is on the Loose in Rochester

How do you lose a four-foot Argentine tegu? Pet-owner Cody Whitehead isn’t sure, but he does know that his buddy has been missing from his backyard enclosure since late last week. “If we have gloomy weather he might just go hide underneath someone’s porch and sleep there until a warmer day like today,” he tells the Rochester Post Bulletin. Whitehead says the giant black-and-white lizard likes to bask in the sun, greet guests who stop by, and curl up with his other pets, which include a dog and cat. Whitehead adopted the creature around nine years ago, after animal control found the "severely overweight" beast roaming the desert. “We looked at him and we’re like, ‘You’re just a little porkchop,' and the name stuck,” he says. “It’s a friendly name, he’s a friendly guy.” Whitehead is offering $300 for the return of his tegu housemate. If you find him, you may be able to befriend him with bananas, his favorite food. 

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