I’ve always thought the old Central School downtown would be an awesome indoor market. Similar to the World Market in Minneapolis, people could have small stands showcasing food/crafts/services. It’d be a great spot for diverse emerging entrepreneurs. Think of it like a year-round farmers market in a city that experiences eight months of winter. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. Let me know what you think. Viva la Duluth
I’ve been trying to write this fucking essay for three weeks, but my brain won’t stay allegiant to my body. I feel like the inside of my head is a giant scribble, like Charles Schultz’ confusion thought bubbles or Rowling’s Obscuris.
I keep rolling the word around in my head, like that will somehow make it dissolve: pandemic. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. We’re having a pandemic.
The problem, I think, is that I have no frame of reference. It’s like trying to imagine a new color. And sitting down to write, the world is so loud that it’s hard to hear my own thoughts. I feel this ball of energy gathering — this terrible welling of grief and fear, tragedy and panic. I know this is crazy, or fantastically pessimistic, but it feels like we’ve been careening toward this for years. Maybe it’s an artifact of all of the government preparation for the inevitable disaster we received. As a Generation X kid, I spent so much time preparing myself for Soviet invasion or nuclear war that it’s bound to have permeated my subconscious in some insidious way.
A tan, 120-pound mastiff growled through the crack in the door, barely held back by a 12-year old boy. I was knocking at the door of this rural home to let the residents know I’d be working in the stream nearby. Even if the stream bed is technically public, nobody likes being surprised by a stranger in their backyard. As a 27-year-old female graduate student, I didn’t feel very intimidating, but the13-year-old boy was creeped out by me knocking. I told him I’d be taking some measurements in the stream and handed him a flyer about my research to give his parents. He said OK and slunked behind the door, but not before first letting his huge growling dog squeeze outside. As I turned to go, the mastiff immediately lunged and chomped down on the flesh of my ass. I yelped in pain and I looked back at the silent closed front door for help. But the boy was gone, and the dog seemed satisfied with his bite and also retreated, still growling. I walked quickly back to the car on the road where my field assistant was waiting, my heart pounding wildly.
By that time in my life, I was a full-fledged dog lover with two dogs of my own, Rooster and Arlo. I had adopted Rooster from a shelter, and he was the absolute best dog ever. Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but listen, this is the real thing.
Typically Perfect Duluth Day’s monthly pitch for donations brags about how many events we publish on the PDD Calendar and notes all the labor required to do it. In the past three weeks, however, most of that work has shifted to marking events “cancelled” or “postponed.” We are still publishing new events, but most of them are either “virtual” events happening online, or concerts and neighborhood celebrations planned several months into the future. So our mission continues, but it’s a much lamer mission, at least for the short term.
Why do we need your help now more than ever? Because when life gets cancelled the advertising revenue that keeps Perfect Duluth Day in business slowly disappears. Nearly every enterprise in town is struggling in these challenging times.
When did I come to consciousness? Its bars and venues the wombs I gestated in, the booths and stages framed my embryogenesis. Birthing me to myself, I walk between trees. Light and water conspire mysteriously. My shadow stretches to the lake and covers it in the setting sun. Praise it!
I am bridges staring down into darkness and depth. I am mirrored streams carving the hillside like molten silver from a furnace pour, the lake a great ingot. More than anything, I am the lake. Gleaming as if the sun has transferred its powers to Lake Superior in guardianship, Lucifer abandoning hell to an angel of water. The lake is a tectonic plate of fire subducting at the shoreline, trapping the light in water like amber, a bowl of liquid light. Golden honeyed light, silver light like photographic emulsion, sepia light. Ore boats sailing the surface of white stars, red giants, blue neutron stars. Ore boats sailing out of faded, flaking photographs. The lake like Io, blinding bright, sea planet of perpetual ice cover, Jupiter blots out the sky rising over Superior. The lake a reflecting mirror like a planetary laser defense system, peering into every south-facing window on the hillside, light pouring into every home as the lake searches them with its blazing eye. Praise it!
As we’re facing social distancing for the next little while, it’s looking more and more like social media will be important to many of us for remaining socially connected. As a technology ethicist focusing on social technology and interpersonal relationships, this falls under my area of research. What follows isn’t everything that could be said about relationships and social media, of course, but might be of use as we strive to maintain connection in spite of physical distance. And in case you’re interested in following this up with some of your own research, I’ve included plenty of links to further work on this subject.
First, while it might not be everyone’s first choice as a way to connect with others, reject the narrative that interactions mediated by social technologies aren’t “real.” You can really talk and share and tell jokes and play games together remotely as well as in person. Yes, some things about these interactions will be different, but context is going to color any of your interactions. And don’t think of this as just substituting for “real” interaction: comparing, say, Skype to having lunch with a friend might be frustrating, but there are things you can do in computer-mediated communication that have no in-person equivalent: playing with filters and goofy overlays, daily “roll call” with a bunch of friends all sharing pictures of their pets, Your imagination is the limit. These can be enjoyed on their own merits.
[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 he visited the Kom-on-Inn in West Duluth and published this report for the April 5, 2000 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
Granted, it does not take much to amaze me, but when I entered the Kom-on-Inn my spine just about shot out of the top of my head. I had always been under the impression that the Kom-on-Inn was a boring bar that was empty most of the time. But nothing could be further from the truth. It was … I don’t even know where to begin, so let me just walk you through the place.
First of all, it is important to know that everyone—every last person in the bar—was smoking a cigarette. I am not exaggerating when I say it was difficult to see across the room. At the very back of the bar, where I came in, a bunch of Tommy Boys talked on cellular telephones and shot pool with heavily hair-sprayed and lip-linered girls drinking bottles of Mountain Dew. Apparently they were stationed there to give newcomers like me the wrong impression of the place, for just past them, everything became drastically different.
In the past year — from March 2019 through February 2020 — the PDD Calendar published 8,064 Duluth-area events. Each one was edited by a human being before the “publish” button was pushed.
It’s a tremendous amount of work to keep up with all the submissions from the more than 1,000 organizations that have sent us info about their concerts, plays, improv classes and lutefisk dinners. That’s why once a month we set our dignity aside and remind readers how much we appreciate their financial support.
I’m driving north on Interstate 35 after a day spent in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. The sun is gone. Winter clouds have parted, exposing a well-missed speckled dome. White lights from vehicles traveling south dart passed on my left. Amber tail lights and yellow blinkers dot the lanes in front of me. The rear-view mirror reflects what is behind. From above the treeline north of the Finlayson/Askov exit, radio antenna towers flash red warning lights while others remain constant. My direction is a meandering north-by-northeast heading, but my aim is home, my aim is to return the woods.
I look to the sky, and poised stoically in the Northern hemisphere is the Big Dipper. The constellation is tipped so perfectly I can’t help but send a smile back. A small smile with a slight nod that says, “Yes, I agree.” I lean forward in the seat, wrap my arms around the top of the steering wheel, and lay one hand over the other, the common driving pose one assumes for meditative and ponderous thought. My eyes trace the stars that make up the handle of the constellation, and maybe I’m projecting, or want a physical message from the grand galaxy, but the handle, low and clear arched toward the earth, points directly at home.