Slowing Down

Friday night, I celebrated my friend Scott’s birthday. When I asked him how old he was, he only said that he was 39 again. I know that feeling.

We had dinner at the Zeitgeist to celebrate, then drinks across the street at the lobby of the Sheraton. I hesitate, often, to drink in hotel lobbies. Every drink I have ever spent $10 on has been in a hotel lobby, and I have regretted it every time. But the 301 lobby is more affordable than that, and it has a charming fireplace.

More charming was the company — a pair of schoolteachers, also from Duluth, sitting close enough that they could hear our storytelling, eventually becoming part of our conversation. Fun to open up to new people that way.

While I was there, my friends Amy Waugh and Ken Marunowski were at Beaners, and Emily Jayne was at the Vagina Monologues at UWS. There is always so much to do, but I am tired, and a quiet evening with three people I value and two I just met seemed about my speed.

The day before, I was in St. Paul. I took some time off work with Ken Bloom of the Tweed Museum to attend Arts Advocacy Day at the Capitol. We were joined by my colleagues from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council and from the Lyric Theater on the Iron Range to advocate for arts funding.

Sitting in the office of a state representative like this is a moment to recall that Duluth really is part of an arts ecology that includes the range and the shore. Have you visited the arts, even as far away as Two Harbors?

I also did some work, in the afternoon, for the university. One of the issues we discussed was whether it would be an important ceremonial recognition to note that public events at the university are held on land that was formerly occupied by First Nations peoples. I have mixed feelings about that, and I would love some thoughts.


Afterwards, again, home, quiet. I thought about joining some friends at Sir Ben‘s, celebrating an academic victory. But what if my omnipresence is a bad thing, for me or for other people?

Tuesday was PÄ…czki Day for me. I thank SuperOne for making the donuts I love once a year. And I am grateful I was sober when I bought them. I talked to someone online who not only knew what they were, she knew the preferred filling (rose hips), and she knew where the special character marks went when typing the words. Had I been drunk, I am sure I would have sworn undying love at that moment.

Every other year, I co-facilitate a workshop on internationalizing the curriculum. The workshop starts by asking you to express the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of your background. These donuts were a treat I will never forget, a taste from my background that defines me. SuperOne, next year, Rose Hips, Prunes — go crazy with the traditional fillings, and I will buy a dozen or two to share at UMD.

Monday night, I ate at Hanabi with friends from Wildwoods. So tasty, so tasty. So good to catch up. I resigned from the Board of Directors at Wildwoods effective January 1. I am tired sometimes, but I miss my friends who do that work. I am grateful to Peg and to Trudy for their time with me.

Instead of non-profit labor that changes the world or arts events that exhaust me, a little, I an trying to build in more simple things, acts of cultivating the self, quirkily. So Monday and Tuesday, I took the bus downtown and walked from bank to bank. (Monday, only Wells Fargo and US Bank were open, and to be honest, I was surprised they were! That is why I came back Tuesday.) You can hit five banks in four blocks on Superior Street. And I ask the tellers in each one: Do you have any half-dollars?

I try to make clear: I’m not a silver hunter. I just like paying for things in coins. I carry less and less cash and more and more coins, lately. (Why not? In the UK and Canada, the coins stretch up to the $2 mark, right?)

I buy $1.50 in half-dollars from one teller, $2 from another teller. I put them in my pouch. It’s a quiet activity, it gets me walking downtown, and it gives me stories to tell later. At a McDonald’s in Chicago, when I paid for a coffee with a Sacagawea dollar and a fifty cent piece, the cashier called for a manager: “Do we accept these?” I left two presidential dollars and a fifty cent piece as a tip at a restaurant, then stepped away to the restroom. When I came back, the server had called over a friend to see the cool coins left as a tip. So I left two Susan B. Anthony’s and another fifty cent piece for the friend.

It’s like when I was a kid, and for some crazy reason, I almost liked the uncle who stuck a $2 bill in a birthday card as much as I liked the uncle who stuck a fiver in there. A little something to charge the day in a funny way.

Little charges are becoming important to me.

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