Summary of Make Canal Park Pop! and 2001: A Space Odyssey

I spent part of Friday at Make Canal Park Pop! and Saturday at 2001: A Space Odyssey. The events felt oddly similar, and my experience of both was disjointed if not entirely cynical.

So, the first impact of the changes to Canal Park seems to be making Canal Park Drive — the road on which the bulk of hotels reside — a cul-de-sac. I’m not sure for whom this is a benefit; perhaps visitors to the hotels? Locals headed to Park Point or to the restaurants must now take Railroad to Lake, which I guess works, if your primary goal is to funnel local traffic to one road and tourist traffic to another one? In my case, it also served to push my local traffic onto the alley behind the Caribou/Plaza, all the way through to Dewitt-Seitz, the first few times I realized that I missed the turn onto Railroad Street.

The signage looks nice, although the large ones look like they won’t survive the Gales of November. The events in the Lighthouse parking lot are, well, events in a parking lot. I would have enjoyed them more if they had been on the grass. It was hard getting friends to visit the events with me, because eliminating parking in Canal Park in September decreases its attractiveness even more.

If I could have created a musical score for this event, I would have chosen “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” echoing with a new vocal: “Why, why, why?” over the three notes at the start.

This is perhaps fitting because I spent Saturday night watching 2001: A Space Odyssey at Zinema 2, in honor of the movie’s 50th anniversary.

Fifty years is a long time. Long enough that, instead of computer-generated imagery, rubber masks and fur suits were acceptable as apes — as this movie and as Planet of the Apes would show.

It is fascinating to place myself in the headspace where this can feel real — where the multimillion dollar movie functions, really, like theater. In theater, a red kerchief becomes blood and a rubber mask becomes flesh. So, too, for apes in the 1960s.

That said, the movie irks me because of the way it offers an anthropology antithetical to my own values. The monolith sparks human development at the “Dawn” of history. The monolith sparks human exploration of the solar system. The monolith pushes us again at the film’s end.

In some ways, it’s reflective of the “Chariots of the Gods” thesis. I’m not the first one to see this; see for example this blog post. What we are is not intrinsic to us, but a result of the engineering of alien beings, alien gods.

I’m not there. What is magical about us is not how we are touched by aliens or gods, but by each other.

That said: The last twenty minutes are right up there with Jefferson Airplane videos for pointless psychedelia. See:

… as opposed to …

… for the snarky part of my feelings. Psychedelia. Not for me.

The showing was sold out, and I was happy to be in so much good company for what were really three movies:

  • a decent movie about a killer space ship
  • an engaging short film if read as a prequel to Planet of the Apes
  • a 20-minute psychedelic credit sequence I could have missed entirely without sadness

It is doubly disappointing when you think about what could have been. After all, the Stargate sequence was generated with the same technology that generated the greatest TV show opening of all time, a TV show that depicts aliens as they should be: manifesting the “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism!”

Aware of my own cynicism, I’m going to go watch some Doctor Who to cleanse the palette.


Shy Nimitta

about 5 years ago

Thanks for commenting on the whole Canal Park situation. We are a Canal Park merchant and our business is down about 30% for September so far since the traffic changes and closing of Buchanan street, which is about what we are hearing from other merchants. It's been challenging! I think the restaurants and hotels are doing fine, but it's been difficult for the stores.

David Beard

about 5 years ago

I can see why. My visits to Canal Park are more common than many Duluthians who seem spooked by the parking until after the meters are free. And yet, and yet -- my old habits have shifted.  

I drive down Canal Park Drive to the Caribou, because that is a fave hangout. Do I hit the toy store? No, because if I want to, I have to move my car further into the cul de sac when I can just turn left to exit Canal Park altogether instead. Do I get lunch at Dewitt Seitz? The first time, yes, because I could just scoot down the alley. But the second time, I realized I wasn't alone in using the alley, and it's not a two-way street, and that's stressful, and again, why bother when I can go left and exit the Canal altogether.

The egg saute is my favorite dish in all of Duluth, but if I have to take Railroad or the alley to get there from Caribou, well, the Indian buffet has parking atop the Starbucks on Superior. Maybe my coffee and my lunch just moved.

Bob L

about 5 years ago

Imagine Canal Park in an Ideal World 

In an ideal world the pros of change should outweigh the cons. With the new plan, you would think traffic flow should improve and emergency vehicles may have an easier time getting to Park Point to save lives. That is a pro. Or is it? If the lanes in Lake Avenue South are blocked due to an emergency in Canal Park, there would be no alternate route to Park Point now that Buchanan Street is closed. People have two routes to the end of Canal Park Drive. They can take Canal Park Drive or turn from Lake Avenue South onto Morse Street. After the closing of Buchanan Street, Lake Avenue South is the only route to Park Point. Think about it, two separate routes to a dead end blocks long and one route to a full community including miles of homes, three hotels, two nursing homes, air port, Coast Guard, RV camping, marinas, boat launch, beach access, vacation rentals and several other businesses. It doesn’t make sense. 

Most everything else ends up on the con side of our scale. Blocks of metered parking for accessibility to local businesses have been lost. This we believe would decrease the number of locals who would venture to Canal Park. It would cause the less mobile segment of the population more hardship than others. We have known many people who have scheduled their Canal Park outings during less busy times to help ensure availability of street parking steps away from the doors of their destinations. They can no longer do that. The loss of street parking significantly decreases the potential number of handicapped parking spaces.
As previously mentioned Canal Park Drive is now a dead end. Unless drivers have a full understanding of this, more cars are going to end up where they don’t want to be. Tourists and locals alike should have a way to correct a missed or wrong turn. Buchanan Street provided that opportunity and it has been our observation on an almost daily basis that the tables and chairs placed there have been glaringly vacant. Seating for pedestrians is a good idea but having benches on the sidewalks along Buchanan Street and Canal Park Drive seems a better idea for those pedestrians needing a rest. An additional thought regarding traffic flow would be to keep horse carriages on the Lake Walk and off of Canal Park Drive.

Another con is that heavy pedestrian traffic is inches away from car traffic moving at 30 miles an hour. People have been observed stepping out into the street to capture a photo of the bridge. Now it would be stepping directly into traffic instead of the parking lane. People have also been known to cross the street at any given location. Crossing three lanes in Lake Avenue South instead of two increases the level of concern for the safety of individuals and whole families who attempt this. We have also observed this third lane of traffic being used as a passing lane by impatient drivers. Another safety concern regarding Lake Avenue South would be the sections of sidewalk that are significantly slanted downward toward the traffic.

Canal Park includes some of the biggest tourist attractions in our state. We need to provide adequate parking for those who come to see the Aerial Bridge, Marine Museum and ships from all over the world. Should we take the Lighthouse Parking Lot away when it is adjacent to these well known attractions to create new “attractions” such as buying vegetables and playing outdoor games on astro turf? It seems a more logical venue for these new attractions would be Bayfront Park with its own abundant parking and real grass. Using parking spaces to make ma-made sandboxes when there is a real beach on the other side of the Aerial Bridge also seems a questionable use of valuable real estate.
We ask that any permanent change to Canal Park is done for good reason after a great deal of thought has been given to all the possible ramifications. We hope that any change would be respectful of all businesses, residents and visitors and that additions are not made at the expense of destroying Canal Park’s foundation.

David Beard

about 5 years ago

While some of what you say I'm not sure I agree with [e.g. an emergency vehicle could, I think, go the wrong way on Morse if it needed to, so that problem is probably not as significant as it might seem], I agree with the general thrust.

To be honest, a friend with a disability sticker on their car was hesitant to join me at the Lighthouse because of the loss of parking -- I had to promise that there were still five spots by the Maritime Musem, so that she would not have to walk/roll two blocks.

The foundation that funded this usually gets a report, right? I wonder what the report will say. The winter activities were genius, I thought. This, less so.

Shy Nimitta

about 5 years ago

Lots of thoughtful comments here. I hope the city sees them! Yesterday we stopped at Taste of Saigon, which is in our building, and they mentioned that they are also down 30% for September because they have lost so much of their take-out business with the closing of Buchanan and the street confusion.

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