The Big E Posts



Once upon a time I would not have guessed that I’d ever witness somebody stealing rhubarb, but yeah, that’s what this guy did behind our neighbors’ garage this afternoon.

“… the second time as farce.”

Contra Karl Marx, history repeats itself, but both times as farce.

Apparently Duluth, Georgia is missing a giant plastic chicken.  So the city named in homage to Proctor Knott’s big joke is stealing a page from Two Harbors.

Screenshot 2015-05-13 23.34.52

The Duke of Duluth, Redux

"Finds Duke to be Insane," Duluth Weekly Heard, 15 January 1908

“Finds ‘Duke’ to be Insane,” Duluth Weekly Herald, 15 January 1908

In the interest of furthering the ongoing fascination with the “Duke of Duluth” on PDD [1][2] and in the broader Duluth community, I submit this 15 January 1908 clipping from the Duluth Weekly Herald. Given the description of the unfortunate Arthur J. Baird–“claimed to have acquired his nickname by reason of his hirsute adornment, his education and general demeanor“–it seems possible that he might in fact be the same man in the photograph Nemadji posted in 2010.

It would appear that some members of the local community, inspired by Nat M. Wills’ 1905 musical “The Duke of Duluth,” bestowed the mocking title on Baird, but that’s the limit of what I’ve (accidentally) found.  Stay tuned for more fascinating updates if/when they appear.

Ye Olde Duluth: Roller Skating Edition

Duluth's Frank Bryant (right) and Raymond 'King' Kelly after skating 348 miles to set a world distance record for a 24-hour two-man relay, 21-22 January 1915.

I ran across this on the Library of Congress’s Flickr Commons photostream today and got curious. Although the original caption suggests that Bryant and King’s record was set “on ice,” the wheels on the skates the men are wearing make me skeptical–as does the background material on the Frank Bryant collection at the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.

So, here goes: From 1913-1916, Duluthian Frank Bryant was a dominant competitive roller skater, holding a world championship in speed skating. The photo here depicts the 25 year-old Michigan native with St. Paulite Kelly, with whom he set a world record distance of 348 miles for a 24-hour two-man relay event–the Minnesotan pair’s performance eclipsed the previous 203-mile mark set just two weeks earlier in New York. A knee injury in 1916 apparently ended his high-level skating career, but he continued skating competitively into the late 1920s. Bryant worked for Duluth’s Union Towing and Wrecking Company for 32 years, retiring in 1955; he died in 1961.

Adding insult to injury.

Maybe you don’t live in Lakeside and missed this on Saturday. Well: there it is.

Scenic Ice Station Zebra, MN

It's a long story, and not that funny. But here it is, anyhow.

Stadium plans

Dear Governor Dayton:

I say a) let the Vikings drop dead; or b) build the stadium in Duluth on the US Steel site and make it a stop on the Northern Lights bullet train.

Oh, wait–this was due yesterday, wasn’t it? Whoops. Still, you have to admit either of my ideas are way better than anyone else’s.

Yours truly,
The Big E

Opportunity knocks.

“Greek Police Smash Violent Doughnut Ring”
THESSALONIKI – It took an undercover operation, but Greek police have blown a hole in a ring of alleged crooks who had cornered the doughnut market in a beach resort.

I hereby call upon Mayor Ness to offer asylum in Duluth to these industrious, probably misunderstood people, with an eye toward improving our own disastrous local donut market–their violent tendencies would presumably remain latent due to the absence of any competition to intimidate.

Our man in Washington

I note that the first piece of legislation that Raymond Cravaack saw fit to propose involved defunding the U.S. Institute of Peace, a $46.5 million budgetary rounding error responsible for useless projects like the Iraq Study Group.

[The USIP is currently raising money to complete a relatively fancy headquarters on the Mall, but has for years been located on the second floor of the National Restaurant Association’s palatial headquarters in DC.]

This concludes today’s object lesson in the fact that Elections Matter.

Not-so-high-speed rail advice

Next week, my daughters and I are going to be heading out on a week-long trip via Amtrak out of St. Paul. Having spoken to someone at the station who suggested that the parking lot there might be full so close to Christmas, I’m wondering if anyone has recommendations for long-term parking options in the general vicinity of the station. No one we know in the Cities is going to be available to ferry us, and both timing and cost considerations militate against the bus or shuttle. Has anybody done this successfully?

[State Library of Queensland, Australia, on Flickr]

Duluth Street Scene, 1909

Street scene, Lake & Superior Streets 21 July 1909 (Minnesota Reflections)

I ran across this photo last year on Minnesota Reflections.

It was the people who caught my interest though. Looking into the faces of people caught in a random freezeframe of Superior Street traffic from 101 years ago grabbed me for whatever reason. I guess the fact that they’re gawking at a ruined street gives it a timeless quality.

Gravel time

A friend pointed me to an article in the Wall Street Journal on communities that are replacing paved roads with gravel in order to save money. Which led me to think… Duluth really ought to de-pave Hawk Ridge and Seven Bridges Roads as soon as possible.

I think it was only in the last ten years or so that the city splashed a half-assed layer of asphalt on those roads–within a year or two, they had deteriorated to the point where the “pavement” was bumpier than the gravel it was supposed to cover. By now, those roads are a barely navigable moonscape. Judging by the condition of various residential streets and important thoroughfares, I anticipate the city will probably have sufficient funds to properly re-pave Hawk Ridge and Seven Bridges about ten minutes before hell freezes over–so why not admit defeat on this one? Would it be all that expensive to run a grader up and down there every week or two in the summer? Is there some other compelling reason to stick with the mess that’s up there now?

Lakewalk extension

Anybody who lives in Lakeside has presumably figured this out by now, but others may be interested to learn that construction on the latest phase of the Lakewalk extension–from 47th to the highway– appears to be rolling along.  It looks like the section nearest to 47th may take a little more preparation than the rest due to the slope, but the part farther east might be pretty close to ready for pavement. Based on the work the past couple summers, it doesn’t seem too farfetched to think they’ll be done before fall.

Beating a very dead horse

Confederate grave, Holly Springs, Mississippi, June 2007.

The News-Tribune had a nice editorial Sunday encouraging people to take time out to remember that Memorial Day was intended to include an element of solemnity, paying homage to those who have died in the service of the United States. I’m no jingo, but I generally embrace those sentiments. The editorial board erred in citing the nonprofit’s characterization of the origins of the tradition, however: “That inaugural Decoration Day, on May 30, 1868, drew some 5,000 Americans who helped place flowers and flags on the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery,” the group claims, imagining a scene of national reconciliation.

From the Get a Life Department, Winter Olympics update

It’s a drag that Duluthian John Shuster, chieftain of the United States curling squadron, has been having a tough Olympics. What’s really sad, however, is that this is totally ruining some fine American’s rich and fulfilling life.