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Only Three and a Half

I felt homesick. Lonesome for Ms. LaCount and the soft comforts of our home. Gloomy in my stomach and behind my eyes because of some absence or presence I couldn’t discern. I’d expected all that. I also felt like I might barf every time I looked at or just thought about food. That was unexpected.

It was Wednesday, August 14 of this year. On Sunday the 11th I’d paddled away from Crane Lake, MN, headed east toward Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness entry point #12 on Little Vermilion Lake. I planned to reach Lake Superior by way of the Grand Portage on Saturday the 17th or maybe the day after that.

The anticipated homesickness had come on full-force during the second day. I didn’t enjoy the sensation, but I knew I could deal with it, and I did, by reminding myself of how lucky I was to be in that place doing what I was doing and just continuing to move forward. The unanticipated pukiness had imposed itself midway through the first day. It got worse any time I tried to choke down a mouthful or two of sustenance and it was, partially because of the mental state a relative lack of food helped create, a tougher problem to solve.

Ingeborg von Agassiz – “Rebel Robin” featuring Betty Boop

New video by Duluth artist Ingeborg von Agassiz for a song from her debut album O Giver of Dreams.

Words and Phrases That I Hate

What follows is an incomplete list of words and phrases I dislike. There is no real rhyme or reason to them; some are things I’ve encountered in my school or work circles, while others are just things I’ve stumbled across here or there. I list them in rough order of hatred, beginning with the most repulsive and concluding with the merely annoying.

Resiliency. This is an awful word devised by someone who deserves to be expelled from the urban planning field. The perfectly good “resilience” says the exact same thing in one less syllable. Even that is overused to the point of emptiness, but at least it doesn’t sound like an invented piece of jargon designed to make one sound intelligent. Which is exactly what it is.

Any scandal ending in “-gate.” This construction stopped being amusing circa 1974. Now it just shows a lack of creativity.

Outstate. This is a Minnesota word invented by Twin Cities people to refer to people who are not like them. It implies that people not in the Twin Cities are somehow out of the state, and plays into the conceit that Duluth, Worthington, Moorhead, Grand Marais, and Little Falls all share something other than the misfortune of not being the cool big city. Attempting to use it innocently with a resident of Greater Minnesota (an acceptable alternative) is a good way to lose any credibility you might have aspired to.

Jim Richardson is Dead: Long Live Lake Superior Aquaman

Just kidding, I’m not really dead. But it has been a summer without an Aquaman. Some might call me Lake Superior Absentman. I’m sorry I went dark for a while. After several years of spending nearly every summer day at the water’s edge, this summer I barely touched it. There are many reasons why and the PDD community is the place to unpack them.

1,186 Days

It’s been three years since I drank alcohol. More, actually: in fact, for the past three years, two months, 29 days (counting today — I’m feeling optimistic) I have abstained from alcohol. For 1,186 days, I have not had a single drink. Not a single beer, shot of tequila — not one lone glass of wine.

Which is sort of amazing, because during the 20 years before that I drank my face off.

Typically, I drank between three and five beers a night. By the last year I was drinking, most weekend nights, I drank five. I’m not the Incredible Hulk over here, either. I’ve always been a tallish, thinnish lady, and I never had miraculous, superhuman tolerance, like Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Marion in that bar in Nepal. Five beers made me drunk. Which was the whole idea. I was a heavy drinker.

In spite of my volume of alcohol consumption, I’m not an alcoholic. Some of you might be thinking, “So, you just quit drinking for nothingAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH???” And I get that. I’ll give you a moment to shriek into the throw pillows of nearby Barcaloungers for a moment while you assimilate that terrible and inexplicable chunk of information.

Ripped at Little Angie’s in 2008

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve pulled out another relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. In this adventure, Slim gets ripped at Little Angie’s Cantina & Grill for an article that was originally published in the July 28, 2008 issue of the Transistor.]

Walking through Canal Park, I feel totally out of my element. There are teenagers everywhere. A few of them are skateboarding aimlessly, weaving in and out of groups of other teenagers who are standing around together talking on their cell phones. Apparently, they are making calls to find out where else in town teenagers are standing around doing nothing. The whole thing is way too wholesome and family-oriented for me. The only way I like to spend time around people under 21 is when I’m ordering from a pregnant bartender in South Range.

As I approach Little Angie’s Cantina & Grill, however, all I can see and hear is an old, fat woman on the deck who is colossally inebriated. “I feel like I’m drunk,” she says to a group of young women who appear to be her daughters. “We’re leaving without paying.”

Now this, dear readers, is my element.

Human Fabric, continued

This week’s Human Fabric story gives me the feels.

Heat and Humidity, Fences and Dogs

Shilo is lethargic in this Duluth heat. Curiosity that once jetted her off the ground at the potential of capturing what made the random noise in the brush has quelled. She has become a passive witness. Her eyes dart in interest, maybe a quick turn of the head, but nothing is important enough to coax her legs into a sprint. Not on August days when temperatures are 80 to 90 degrees and she can only expire heat while sweating through paw pads or panting.

I brush her almost daily. Removing at least a little of her hair layer may help some trapped heat escape. She has taken to lying on the cement slab in the garage, two large doors remain open letting what exists of the midday breeze wave in, a welcomed visitor.

The other loyal companion, Bear, aka Mr. Bearington, a newfoundland mixed with lab, is still on constant guard. Heat does not deter him from his mission. He remains focused on what happens on the other side of the fence. He must protect us from intruders that might sneak through the boundary. Most of the time it’s another dog, sometimes it’s a skater, a horse, a biker, or the most ferocious intruder this summer, a snapping turtle so small it could fit in the palm of my hand. Still, a snapper is a snapper. Once I realized we were being invaded by such a fearsome beast, I scooped it into a bucket and escorted it to the pond on the back 15.

Teamwork

Five late-40s white guys, all former University of Minnesota Duluth athletes, walk into a bar:

1. War: a Sheridan, Wyoming, EMT, gunsmith, vegetable gardener, log-home builder, cancer survivor, and mead-maker who deadlifts more than 500 pounds, has a powerfully agile and bibliographic brain, and could probably still start at D-II defensive tackle;

2. E: a northern-Twin Cities-suburbs cop who moonlights for the Metro Transit Police because his adolescent boys’ college won’t pay for itself, who once worked as a guard at Minnesota Correctional Facility Stillwater, who thinks deep thoughts but keeps everyone else from getting too serious about anything, and who knows things most people will never want or have to know;

3. Big Daddy: a northern-suburbs dad, high-school ceramics teacher, and coach — football (defensive line), hockey, track and field (shot and disc throwers) — who’s also a bicycle geek, music nerd, fishing addict, and, as nearly anyone who’s met him will tell you, a supreme raconteur;

4. Tom: a southern-burbs dentist and dad who’s done the Superior Trail 100, the Death Race, and a bunch of other insane endurance events, who’s unfailingly steady and kind (unless he drinks a quick handful of beers, in which case he gets pleasantly lippy), and whose family includes a pug elder, a middle-kid bulldog, and a brand new Jack Russell terrier;

5. G: an anxious Duluth college writing teacher (a lifer toward the bottom of the academic hierarchy) who’s got no idea how to leverage his newish Ed.D. in teaching and learning, spends unwise time trying to figure out what’s wrong with him and why, finds solace in music and bicycles and physical labor, and sometimes thinks he wishes he’d had the foresight to become a full-time firefighter who travels and reads as much as possible instead of whatever he feels like and is.

First guy walks up to the bar. Looks at the bartender and says …

Duluth Patch Collection

Just for the Duluth of it, here’s a collection of embroidered patches. If you’re rockin’ a cloth badge or simply have it stored for safe keeping, add it in the comments and grow the collection.

“Seen or Heard Sasquatch? Report Discreetly.”

This ad appeared in the Sunday Duluth News Tribune and other Forum Communications publications. I bet there’s a story here.

SEEN OR HEARD SASQUATCH? REPORT DISCREETLY.
If you’ve heard or seen something similar to what is described below, we want to know. You are one of many people in this area who have had a possible encounter. You’re not crazy. This is real, and I want to hear from you. If you’ve experienced High Pitched Sustained Screams, Long Howls, much deeper then that of a Wolf or Coyote, Loud Penetrating Roars, Grunts, Growls, Wood Knocks, Yelps, Whoops, Barks, Stacked Rock Displays, Stick Shelters, Organized Tree Structures made with Uprooted Uncut Sticks, or even if you’ve seen Heard Indistinguishable Talking, found Footprints or witnessed the Animal itself, please contact me. Your name will not be used without express permission from you. As a side note, it can be quite liberating to speak to someone who knows the truth. I want nothing from you except your story. Call, Text or email me. Jeff 651-302-3800, jjs5perctr @ gmail.com

Postcard from the College of St. Scholastica

This postcard was mailed 70 years ago today — Aug. 4, 1948.

Lake Superior Wants to Kill You

Pardon the alarmist headline. Lake Superior doesn’t really want to kill you, but you should know all bodies of water are oblivious to your tiny existence and will absolutely steal you away any time you make the slightest error in judgement. So I’m not apprehensive about issuing stern warnings as if I’m your mom.

I know how seductive that big lake can be. And I know how much fun it is to dive off various bridges, rocks, swinging ropes or whatever it is you can propel yourself from into whichever refreshing river or stream awaits. I’ve done it, and I’ve lived through it. I’ve also seen it go wrong over and over and over again.

I’ll be the first to say when it goes right it’s a thing of beauty. You can’t let danger keep you off the water; we all know water absolutely gives so much more life than it takes. Just sitting on the shore looking at it, whether it’s perfectly calm or violently raging, is the easiest way to put yourself into your place on this planet. But it’s natural to want more than that. You have to at least put your toes in. And that sets you on the path to all manner of thrill seeking. Your ability to pick which point along the way to show some self control will determine whether you have the maximum good time or utterly wreck yourself.

My People

If I walk west there are mansions along my way, with lawns most green and lovely. As I cross a certain avenue things start to get shaggy, and if on a corner lot there’s a for-sale sign on a cairn of truck tires my diaphragm expands with the deep breath of belonging, and I think to myself — my people!

America, so it’s said, is the land of meritocracy, social mobility, and a playing field both level and just. Here any child can grow up to inherit a hundred million dollars, pump it through Manhattan real-estate, fluff it in the casinos of Atlantic City and Wall Street, and end up leveraged to the balls with the Russian mob.

But the most accurate predictor of where you’ll wind up socio-economically — in America more so than any other wealthy country — is where your parents wound up. Social mobility exists, and was expanded by the GI Bill after WW ll, and cheap (even free) college through the ’70s, but the ladders have been withdrawn over starter-castle walls, and rising stars belie the rule.

Urban Cabin

My spouse and I were sitting on the back porch of our big house on a small lot in south Minneapolis dreaming of buying a getaway out of the city. We are not, however, cabin people we decided. The thought of doing nothing for an entire weekend, while appealing to our parents, is depressing to us. It was then that we came up with the idea, what about an urban cabin? We have always loved Duluth, and what better lake to get a weekend place at than the largest fresh water lake in the world? So, a year ago we bought a place in Central Hillside and became part-time Duluth residents. Our companies agreed to let us work remotely on Fridays so we are able to spend half of each week in Duluth.