Jim Hall played a Halloween party at the Duluth Owls Club last month. On Saturday, he’s playing at Sacred Heart Music Center, a celebration of his 50 years on stage in the region.
Those familiar with the music of Jim Hall over the years would be right to do a double take when they hear one of his sets these days. The already basso troubadour has kicked his voice into even lower gear, and with a growl. That’s how Hall has been fighting an alarming and mysterious change in his vocal chords earlier this year. Even his talking voice changed.
The “old” cemetery off Reservation Road northwest of Cloquet.
This book sparked a search into a Cloquet mystery from 87 years ago.
I’m not sure how I acquired the book, but there it sat, on the passenger seat of my car as I drove up Reservation Road northwest of Cloquet. There are some things you wish you could unsee — because a history buff like me wants all the facts. Alas, those facts can be elusive, especially so many years from an event. This was the case with a strange little entry in Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota.
I’m not into the morbid route to history that this little guide offers. That was my mother. She had dozens of books along the lines of “Wisconsin Death Trip,” “Hollywood Book of the Dead” or “Myths and Mysteries: Strange Stories of the Dead” on her shelves. Morbidly, she died earlier this year and perhaps that is how this book floated into my stacks. She redeemed herself in recent years by ditching the stories of others and digging into her own family history, a genealogy I greatly appreciate today.
There are squirrels near downtown Duluth sitting cross-legged on alleyway tree limbs, picking their teeth with plastic shards carved out of trash bins.
There are squirrels in my neighborhood, Chester Park, who sit atop my garage roof and blithely stare below. Then they climb to the peak and play patty-cake.
I am seeing distinct packs of squirrels in the city as I walk from pocket to pocket. Those downtown squirrels are nothing to mess with. I imagine them waiting to pounce on any passive east side brethren that get lost and wind up sniffing around trash bins clearly marked for toughs. Each one has a squirrel-sized hole gnawed out of it. You don’t see that in the less dense, leafier neighborhoods.
And it’s not just the squirrels in alleyways from Fourth on down to Superior Street. Crows dive-bomb. Chipmunks clatter with menace. Skunk smells waft. Pigeons cluck disapprovingly. Even the flies are stickier.
A pre-dawn thunderstorm. What a treat. Don’t get them much in Duluth. There’s a cat fight going on outside. When I arrived home late last night, the lightning bugs were dancing. The air was thick and I could smell my childhood.
Which is all very bemusing because I hold little nostalgia these days. I used to sit on bushels of it when I was younger. An example is — and I think I may have relayed this to you in passing or maybe in some strange post-apocalyptic note — the events of June 17. It passed this year and I once again failed to think of you.
We had a date for that night in 1983. June 17 is also the anniversary of the break-in at Watergate, which never registered with me until recently. I was so obsessed with my own Waterloo.
You had gone to Florida and promised we would see each other upon your return and before the early pea pack. Our farm country hometown, like Paris, is such a romantic place.
The days after Springing Ahead are always strange. But things were even stranger back in the 1960s when Duluth led a charge to match Wisconsin on the dates to change clocks. Mass confusion in Minnesota ensued, and even St. Paul and Minneapolis were at one time an hour apart in official times.
If you fling a certain line at Air Force veteran Eric Chandler, expect a pleasant smile masking irritation. He might nod in recognition. And if that’s all you got, the conversation is over.
“Thank you for your service.”
“Who are you thanking?” he asked earlier this year when talking about the growing gap of understanding of the U.S. military experience with that of civilians.
“We’re all complicit,” Chandler says with a serious tone. He could go on for hours on this topic, he says. There’s a deal made in a constitutional republic: Citizens ask for protection with a standing army and some answer the call by enlisting. But it’s not a service contract, Chandler says. “It’s not like the cable guy.”
“It should feel more invested” all around, Chandler says. “Thank you for your service” rings as hollow as any other jingoistic notion of the military’s role in American society. When people don’t know what it is you do or have done, platitudes mean nothing, he says. People are less interested in “who is in the military” over just passing along jingoistic notions of it, he says.
This handsome photo of the 1913 curling club off London Road comes from the Duluth Commercial Club annual report from 1918.
Yeah, we didn’t get our paper this morning either. What to read? (I like to pretend the internet doesn’t exist on snow days.) So as we bask in curling gold from South Korea, enjoy a little history of one of Duluth’s most ancient organized sports.
The Loaves & Fishes volunteer community in Duluth has formed a nonprofit branch to deal with upkeep on its houses and other properties that provide food and shelter for the homeless and other at-risk people.
Corey was standing a few feet from the sled run when she spoke; one hand on her hip, her other mittened hand trying to wisp away the strands of hair run renegade from under her cap.
Corey was 8. She often cut to the heart of matters with me, her nattering uncle — curt queries snapping her into adult demeanor, leaving me bemused and suddenly self-conscious.
“I’m just trying to make this more exciting, like we did when I was a kid.”
Corey only half-listened and then belly-flopped onto her plastic glider, tucking the tow rope under her purple parka. “Push me far this time,” she gasped. One-two-three and she zoomed off.
Her cousin was trouncing up the hill, excited for another run.
“Did I get the world record? Is that the farthest anybody got ever?”
“Ever. Now get snug to the front. Josh, you’ll never beat Corey with your rope hanging out like that. You gotta be smart. It’s the intangibles that get you to the top.”
He only winced. Another three-count and Josh grinned as he slid away. Corey was still at the bottom of the hill, eating snow while flat on her back, feet kicking in the air. I was happy to see her once again acting her age.