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Trouble

Growing up in Alaska, the wild space around me was something invisible. I had no awareness that the world was something other than myself. My friends and I perambulated the wilderness with the careless disregard of youth, clambering to the peaks of 100-foot-high pine trees and swinging from the soft tops on dares.

There was a tree fort out in the woods that was 25 feet in the air — not even halfway up the tree. The way up was almost entirely crumbling chunks of boards nailed erratically into the trunk to form rungs. At the top, one had to stretch out and grab the floor of the fort and sort of clamber up over the lip of the platform. Conveniently, the platform was disintegrating, so the edge was rougher and shallower than it once had been, making it less a switchback climbing maneuver to swing to the platform than a lean of faith. I wonder if the kids who live in those houses now even know it’s there — some aeriform retreat hovering above the houses like a mossy cloud.

Ripped on Sunday in 2000

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. Twenty years ago our anti-hero took a Sunday-night tour of drinking establishments in Proctor and nearby townships.]

“Oh yeah, now, Flip’s Bar, I’d stay away from that place,” this inebriated wastoid in a Motorhead T-shirt told me about three months back. “No, Flip’s is the roughest place in Proctor. It’s a real dive. You don’t wanna go there.” Naturally, after hearing this, I did want to go there. So when Sunday boredom started to get the best of me, I decided to stir things up and head to Flip’s.

There were two cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and one of them was for sale. I walked in the door to find no one there except an old guy behind the bar, who I presumed was Flip himself. I didn’t hang around to find out. Before the old dude even knew I had opened the door, I was back in my El Camino, swearing to milk this night for whatever I could get.

Monthly Grovel: October 2020

(Enter the amount of your choice.)

Whether or not 2020 has already been scary enough, October is here and Halloween will soon be upon us. The PDD Calendar is already sorting out the Halloween events, so everyone will know whether their plans should involve one mask or two.

Each month we reach out with one beggarly blog post to remind everyone that human beings and not machines are at work editing and publishing calendar events on Perfect Duluth Day. So if you appreciate it, drop a few bucks in the PayPal account.

Witherspoon brothers plan revival of soul food restaurant

Solomon, left, and Stephan Witherspoon plan to open a new soul food restaurant in Duluth next year. The brothers will use their father’s time-tested recipes. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

Inspired by their father’s long-gone West Duluth restaurant, two brothers have announced plans to open a new eatery that will feature time-tested fried chicken recipes taken directly from the family cookbook.

Stephan and Solomon Witherspoon said last week they are actively searching for a location to house a new restaurant to be named Doc Witherspoon’s Soul Food Kitchen. The Witherspoons will launch a series of fundraisers this week and plan to open their new establishment and catering business in 2021.

New podcast about “Uncovering the Truth in Minnesota”

I just found an investigative podcast based out of Duluth called “Uncovering the Truth in Minnesota.”

“Unconstrained, unbiased, and driven for the truth, follow us as we use journalism to tell the untold stories of Minnesota,” reads the description on Apple Podcasts. “Join your Co-hosts, Sarah Knieff and Izabel Johnson, for weekly episodes released on Tuesdays!”

Melted

The light changes. A cover has opened, slit of sun beaming into the darkness, a ha-ha neiner-neiner taunt transmitted from the world of wind and spit. In the quick second between dandelion shaft blinking back to onyx, a gentle violence occurs, crinkling followed by thump.

A book has been returned.

***

With that thump, the movable floor inside the Returns bin lowers almost imperceptibly; a single book isn’t that heavy, after all. But then the flap clinks, signaling another, another, another, dark to light, light to dark, typeset words in freefall. Absorbing the weight of pages and ideas, springs stretch, and the catching floor gradually sinks.

It’s designed to protect the books, this bin is. When it’s empty, the floor rests near the top, quick purchase for incoming books slithering through the slot. As Returns accumulate, the floor gradually descends, earlier Returns nesting and bolstering newcomers so no volume sustains damage from a traumatic plummet.

Postcard from Enger Memorial Tower in 1950

This postcard was mailed 70 years ago. The date on the postmark is not clear, but it looks like July 8, 1950. The signature of the sender is also not entirely clear, but it appears to be Helen Lold. The recipient is Henry Maursey of Midland, Mich.

A Day in Duluth Can be a Lifetime

My wife and I were eager to spend the afternoon alone together as we ambled through the Leif Erickson Rose Garden. Four pre-teen girls stood across the way giggling together as we concentrated on the bushes and trees aflush with blooms in the mid-July sunshine. The scent of flowers was already adrift as we approached one tree, and we drew closer. We love the smell of flowers. Often, we pick up a bouquet at the grocers on the way to the milk, bread, and eggs. On this day, we inhaled the soft scents before they were cut.

Back on the sidewalk, we turned toward the Lake and, from this higher vantage point, we saw the Aerial Life Bridge in the distance. The Lake is calm, for the most part — there are no white caps to indicate a brewing storm. An easy breeze cools our skin and clothing, even from an eighth of a mile away. A footbridge crosses well above the interstate highway. For about 45 seconds as we walk across, we hear the thrum of rubber tires against the tarmac below. Three-fourths the way across, we hear a group of teens with their two chaperones palavering behind us. Excited about an adventure on the Lakewalk, they quickly approached from behind us to the ramp in front of us that slanted from the footbridge to the lakefront. We hastened to move to one side of the bridge so the teens could run at their pace, and we could stroll at ours.

Monthly Grovel: September 2020 Edition

(Enter the amount of your choice.)

It’s been nearly six months since the day the world got canceled. At this moment in time, some events are still being canceled, but more aren’t even being planned in the first place. Still, there are hundreds of events each month that are happening as safely as possible, whether they are “virtual” events online or part of the physically distanced masquerade ball the world has turned into. For better or worse, the PDD Calendar continues to report what’s happening today, tomorrow and on into infinity … or at least into 2021.

Once a month we reach out with a beggarly blog post to remind everyone that human beings and not machines are at work editing and publishing calendar events on Perfect Duluth Day. So if you appreciate it, drop a few bucks in the PayPal account.

Duluth Navy Meme

Sharkgate: The Lake Superior Bull Shark Conspiracy

I confess to creating and posting the “Lake Superior Bull Shark Encounter” video which has rocked this community, even though, as is widely known, I have no credibility. This essay offers a full accounting of the affair, which caused a four-day firestorm as the video propagated online, through the media, and into the hallowed halls of academia.  I will debunk my own video to demonstrate it is, in fact, a poorly-made fake. In addition, I will carefully document my utter and total lack of credibility. Hopefully this will be enough to assuage an alleged army of enraged Redditors devoted to my destruction, the undead army I accidentally raised when I strapped on a toy shark fin.

My confession begins with my purchase of the toy. On Aug. 8, I posted a picture of myself wearing it on my personal public Facebook page and my public “Lake Superior Aquaman” Instagram account. The text of those posts reads, “It’s unclear where these rumors of sharks in Lake Superior originate. But I will be swimming up and down the beaches until I get to the bottom of it.” It was an open joke, a lark, an entrant to a well-established Duluth tradition of joking about sharks. You see variants on local bumper stickers such as “Shark-Free” on a map of Lake Superior. Keeping Lake Superior shark-free has even become a running joke among the mayoralty.

Evidence

Found: six to eight inches beneath soil, this children’s cap gun
Size: 2 by 1.5 inches by 1/2 inch
Location: Upper East Central HillChester
History: unknown
 

Time in Duluth still calls me back every year

After spending almost 18 years living in Duluth, it still calls me back every year. I’ve lived a lot of places in my life and no one place is quite the same. Some places just feel more like home than any other; Duluth is the one for me. So many memories, so many still very good friends. Hope to move back someday, but for now I’m experiencing the rest of life. I’m currently living in Denver, Colo., but there just isn’t the same feeling, the same vibe and the same immersion I felt when I lived in Duluth.

Smellscape/Hellscape: The Life of the Nose in Urban Close Quarters During a Pandemic

“The concept of smellscapes suggests that, like visual impressions, smells may be spatially ordered or place-related. It is clear, however, that any conceptualization of smellscape must recognize that the perceived smellscape will be non-continuous, fragmentary in space and episodic in time, and limited by the height of our noses from the ground, where smells tend to linger.”
—Douglas Porteous, “Smellscape,”
The Smell Culture Reader, edited by Jim Drobnick

 

My neighbor’s yard is a source of olfactory joy for a short time each summer, and a source of olfactory misery for most of the rest of the year.

In early summer, when lilacs explode in this Lake Superior latitude, for a few weeks the bush just across the property boundary serves as the star of the local smellscape. I sit on the small patio I built and bathe in the glory of the perfumery. Then, all too soon, the flowers give way to small, hard green seeds, and the smell goes where all smells go, into memory.

Average Duluth Sewer Bill

Hello several Duluthians who will read this,

How much is your average sewer bill from Comfort Systems? Specifically, on your bill, under “Charge Code,” then under “SEWER,” what is your average monthly charge for your average-sized house with four people?

Why do I ask? Because ours seems high, and I’m having issues accessing old bills.

With appreciation,

Vicarious

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