Challenge: Describe other things like Rolling Stone describes Duluth

The way Ana Marie Cox describes Duluth in her article “A Night Among the Trump Believers Way Up North” really needs its own genre. Here’s a quote from the original piece to give you a sense of it:

Lake Superior’s merciless beauty crashes up against a town whose shoreside skyline is dominated by stolid, brutalist mid-century relics and precarious-seeming industrial shipping contraptions, rusty and mostly silent. Downtown, every surface is covered with a thin layer of grime. It is, in other words, Trump Country.

Genius, right? In the comments, leave your ideas for how Ana Marie Cox would describe other things in Duluth!

Here are mine:

The first smile of a Duluth baby

“The shriveled demi-human jerked toward me, then stretched out a claw-like hand in a hideous parody of friendship. A twisted rictus contorted its face. It was a smile but also not, straight from the pit of hell.”

A springtime picnic in Duluth

“The brilliant orange sunset was a stark contrast to the environmental devastation and human misery of this failed mining region. Dew hung heavily from every blade of grass like so much urine. The children at the picnic skipped somberly forward, as heedless as sheep being led to a slaughterhouse.”

Leave yours below!


Paul Lundgren

about 6 years ago

For the opening shot, not an attempt to write like Ana Marie Cox, but Duluth Mayor Emily Larson's response to the article.

An Open Letter to Ana Marie Cox and Rolling Stone: Those of us here on our “lonely island of electoral blue” wish to respond to your Rolling Stone article on your recent Duluth visit covering the president’s political rally. Reading your experience in our hillside city, we can only say this: We see things differently. And it’s not just our rose-colored sunglasses needed for the brilliantly glittering sun off Lake Superior. You see, it’s not necessarily what you wrote that’s at issue here. Some of the points you raised are actually spot-on. Like many communities around the country, we have serious issues as it relates to opioid abuse and domestic violence. And it’s true we are not the economic hub for the steel industry we once were. What may be lacking, however, is context. In Duluth, we own our problems - and we do something about them. There’s no doubt that we are an imperfect community, but allow me to shed some light on who we are and what it is we’re about. Because it seems to have gotten lost in the article. You saw our downtown as a place where “…every surface is covered with a thin layer of grime…” What you call grime, we call reconstruction dust and progress. Just blocks from the Arena where you spent your time, we are embarking on a bright future for our main street, replacing 100-year-old pipes, improving our infrastructure to advance our city’s energy system and building towards a more efficient Duluth. There’s a reason we call it Superior Street. The focus on red and blue politics overshadowed all of our green. In our city of 86,000, we boast 7,000 acres of parkland, over 225 miles of trails and a 7-mile sandy beach for sailing, surfing and just soaking in the wondrous good that blows in off our great unsalted sea. Which happens to hold 10% of the world’s fresh water. And while you saw all that beautiful freshwater crashing “…against a town whose shoreside skyline is dominated by stolid, brutalist mid-century relics and precarious-seeming industrial shipping contraptions, rusty and mostly silent,” we see vital industry. Our international port is the conduit for moving 35-million tons of cargo annually — that’s heartland grains that cross oceans to feed the world, taconite pellets which becomes America’s steel, and colossal wind turbine blades that create green energy to run our country. We aren’t buying the label of Trump Country. We are more than one person. We are teachers, health care workers, and police officers. Bus drivers, engineers, and planners. We’re also musicians. Isn’t your magazine named after a song by some guy? Yeah. He was born here. We are magazine buyers, too. Here in Duluth, we aren’t anyone’s country. Simply put, we are America — where changing industry meets innovation. Where mental health and drug addiction hit home. Where cities roll up their sleeves to take care of the many problems the federal inefficiency leaves on our lap. Of course, like all cities we have problems. But unlike some places, we are boldly facing them with political will and getting real results. We’re putting our attention where our issues are — like investing in sexual assault victims advocacy and our opioid crisis. In the 1980s, Duluth pioneered a new response to domestic violence, which is now the most practiced model of domestic violence intervention in the country. The. Most. And while we have no shelter “in the shadow of the Amsoil Arena,” our shelters take domestic violence victims from all over the country, as an innovative leader in the field. It was because of this status that Duluth was the first anywhere to use a Direct-to-DNA technology to start clearing a shameful backlog of sexual assault test kits. I’m proud to say on behalf of our victim-survivors, we will be caught up by fall. Now, let’s talk opioid crisis for a minute. Yep — you’re right; it’s bad here. So, we’re applying our successes in domestic violence prevention to our nation’s fevered use of opioids and heroin. Our commitment has been to work with our county, the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, courts, local hospitals and other partners to create an Opioid Withdrawal Unit: a safe place for those who overdose and want help to medically withdraw and be connected seamlessly to other support and resources. This is the first such program in the state. This safe place and support system is the first step in disrupting the cycle of addiction. Just to be clear, you’re not the first national media we’ve received. Duluth has been voted “Best Outdoor City” by Outside Magazine, and just last month was featured in The Atlantic for our “unfolding saga of start-up businesses as the crucial creators of new jobs ... like craft breweries (along with tech incubators, arts companies, manufacturing 'maker spaces,' and others) in bringing life to fringe areas of recovering cities." James Fallows wrote that - and I was able to thank him in person after he also chose to feature us on CBS Sunday Morning. Come to think of it, I’d like to thank you, too, Ms. Cox. Nothing brings a community together more than being dismissed by others. We are proud of who we are. We’d like you to see and experience why. So come on back for another visit. We’ll leave the Enger Tower light on for you. Who knows? You might find that you like it here in Duluth. We sure do. Sincerely Yours, Emily Larson, Mayor, City of Duluth


about 6 years ago

Each spring, the roses at a park on Duluth’s crumbling east side wearily open their petals, as if wondering why they should even bother, since they’ll just be dead in a few months anyway. Standing over them on a brutal cube of concrete, a grotesque bronze statue of long-dead Leif Erikson shades blind eyes as he stares to the west, plotting new routes of pillage and destruction. A few tourists listlessly stroll the paths, overwhelmed by the chilling breeze off Superior, an old and outdated lake. What’s the point of this? they wonder. Why did we come?

Paul Lundgren

about 6 years ago

As soon as this post went up I thought to myself, "John Ramos will be good at this."


about 6 years ago

Why did she even move to Duluth? The relentlessly omnipresent, depressingly huge cold lake, the annoyingly polite, Minnesota nice people. The boring lack of traffic jams, long commutes, and rude drivers. The sky so blindingly blue no sunglasses could shield her eyes. The bleak, mournful, never-ending sounds of boats, bridge, foghorn. Perky diverse and confusing greenery everywhere, rudely vying for attention with sneaky, snaking creeks and huge intimidating, foreboding rocky outcrops. Bears and wolves roaming the city, unchecked and uncontrolled. Why indeed did she move here?

Jeremy m

about 6 years ago

Maybe when she returns, as promised, she'll go full James Joyce on us.  *swoon*

I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will

David Beard

about 6 years ago

The pages are smaller in height and width than they used to be: it shrank from 10×12 to 8×11, a decade ago. And it's thinner, too. As Jim Dees said, "The menu at your local IHOP is thicker." The magazine used to have heft. No longer.  

Blogging didn't kill print because people refused to pay for print. Blogging killed print because the quality of writing in print declined to the quality of blogging.

As a source for investigation, insight, the magazine used to have heft. No longer.


about 6 years ago

The predictably brief Summer confuses most of the tourists who wander aimlessly in the Canal wondering why they came in the first place. Perhaps the Lakewalk should just be dismantled to allow the string of scrap yards to return. Old Chevys and Fords should be desperately trying to rust in the oxidation-depriving cold -- a slow-motion cage match between the shore and lake, calling the iron back home. Come Winter, the locals erect small shacks out on the hard water of Superior. They sit, shivering in darkness, staring into a hole, contemplating their sin...

Dave P

about 6 years ago

"He didn’t need to actually read the magazine. A cursory glance was enough to cement his opinions—however hastily summoned or perfunctory they might be. The cover was a timeworn cliché, a nod to better days, when multidimensional talent and true artistry had been celebrated within, instead of the cookie cutter icons of low culture that now infected the pages. Not surprisingly, the physical weight of it was also unsubstantial, flimsy… again, an anemic and diminished vestige of former glory, tangible confirmation of the rot infecting publishing and society. He considered that if America is the new Rome, this is what supplants journalism after the great libraries are forsaken, then burned in the sacking of culture and craft. Perfunctorily skimming the opening sentences of two or three mildewed essays, the hackneyed and lackluster prose told him everything he needed to know, and confirmed a pitiful irony: like a stagnant puddle trapped between moldering roots, this rag gathered moss."

Dave Sorensen

about 6 years ago

The hunching castoffs of industrial society line the narrow tube of glass and metal leading to an arena, which rises forebodingly like the Morlocks’ mountain lair in the Time Machine. They wait in 100 degree heat. Their minds have been cleansed of reason and history, their hearts are free of obsolete compassion. Phantoms on their glowing screens have told them to come here to sit at the feet of their Orange Messiah, and revel in his message of hatred and fear. The crowd chants on cue for another scripted soundbite to be broadcast across the righteous affiliate stations of the One True Fox News: “Space Force! Space Force! Space Force!”

Luke Sharman

about 6 years ago

She hunches toward the bay, a mere child of exiles, mocking the idea of her larger formsake. It is as if this sleepy hamlet's s all-white denizens erected her as a swift kick to the heart to anyone foreign, brown or good-looking who the cruel tides of fate saw fit to abandon upon its filmy shores. Elsewhere, no monument to the Wonkette is even attempted.


about 6 years ago

I wrote a nearly 3,000-word screed against Rolling Stone on my own blog, but alas, I can't email it to Rolling Stone, as their inbox is full.

Well done, Duluth. Well done.


about 6 years ago

In what passes for summer in Duluth, residents gather in the shadow of a stolid, blocky church to honor one of the few plants that will grow this far north: rhubarb. The celebration of this bitter vegetable with its toxic leaves is a desperate fundraiser for one of the seventeen transitional housing shelters in the shadow of the Amsoil arena. Each year attendees wander listlessly along the cracked street among tents displaying their dismal products. One must have something to celebrate, and Duluthians will cling to whatever comes their way. An empty-eyed mascot made of frayed pool noodles staggers through the crowd, and children stuff themselves with food containing the vast amounts of sugar necessary to make rhubarb palatable. In other words: Trump country.


about 6 years ago

I’ve been laying on the longest freshwater sand dune all day drinking white wine and sunbathing so I’m not in any form to contribute to this yet... but can I just say how giddy I am to be reading this post and comments?! ❤️


about 6 years ago

A hike on Park Point.

As I stroll past what seems to be Duluth's version of an airport I see a couple approaching with a pair of unleashed and possibly rabid golden retrievers with fur like that of Trump's famous quaff. I cower in fear near the fly infested sand dunes at the thought of the rust-colored canines prancing over to greet me with their ignorant joy. Thankfully they pass me untouched. I near the desolate-looking forest and gawk unwittingly at the plethora of what appears to be Norwegian Pines left to grow untouched like the Buckhorn Plantain weeds of deep south Alabama. Immediately I retreat back to the rental car and curse the local hipster who had suggested I attempt such a horrific activity. I won't be tricked into hiking into Trump country.

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