Perfect Duluth Day’s “Saturday Essay” series has reached the end of its third season. As has become tradition, we now take a look back at some of the favorites of the past year. This week is part one, highlighting the essays that were read the most times according to Google Analytics. Because statistics should always be used to organize creativity, right?
We are migrants, one and all, on el Camino del Tiempo, where even the housebound and hunkered-down awaken each morning somewhere they were not yesterday. We’ve emerged from the mists of history and the dreamtime of an infant’s amnesia, and set forth by wildly disparate means of conveyance toward the receding horizon. Signs signal a tomorrow around the bend, but tomorrow is a ghost-town appearing only on the maps, and you can’t get there from here.
So here we are, and there we go, by bullet train or afoot across the trackless wastes, but always on el Camino. Always schlepping our blood on its way down the generations. Always the short skirts and tight pants of the baby-making dance, and the will to carry on.
I marvel at the elaborate ruses concocted to transport one’s genes down el Camino. Marvel at the termite tenacity of these roadside encampments we call cities. Marvel at the hive-life of our super-organism, striving for a meal and a place to sleep and a place to dance the baby-making dance. I shudder at the nighttime photos from space of our settlements glowing golden. Earth burning like the oil lamp it’s become. And between the cities lies the darkened land, yet to trade stars for streetlights.
In the late 1990s, before it reorganized in bankruptcy, Sun Country Airlines flew out of the Humphrey Terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul. It ran specials on undersold planes, and I received an email alert, I think, about round-trip tickets to Alaska for $300. It seemed so far away for so little money. I was a graduate student in the College of Agriculture on the Twin Cities campus; I was making $12,000 a year. This was cheap, it was an extravagance, an adventure, a story to tell.
I boarded the plane in Bloomington and disembarked in Anchorage. (It was the first time I had been to an airport with signage instructing passengers how to check and reclaim your gun.) The bus took me downtown, and I looked for a hotel. In the years before travel websites and mobile phones, this was hard — I had to walk toward hotel signs and hope for vacancies. There were few; the flight was cheap, but the hotels were booked; I spent twice what I spent on my ticket on my hotel, at what felt like a dive for the price.
I was young and weighed less than half what I weigh now, so I started walking. I walked to Cook’s Inlet, which was muddy. “Captain Cook” was not a real person to me, and so his inlet meant little. So, too, did Mt. McKinley mean little to me — Mt. McKinley, also called Dinale or Denali or Bolshaya Gora/Большая Гора, Densmore’s Mountain. The history of its naming means more to me than the mountain. I was more interested in a business dedicated solely to pull tabs.
[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. Before OMC Smokehouse took over the building at 1909 W. Superior St., it was home to the Blue Crab Bar, which closed due to foreclosure in 2009. But in 2008 the ol’ Sultan of Sot visited the Blue Crab and published this report for Duluth’s weekly Transistor.]
There are two ways to get on my list of favorite bars: 1) Cater to a bunch of weirdo regulars who are constantly shitfaced and causing a scene, or 2) Sell 34-ounce beers for $3.50 or less. You’d think the latter would automatically produce the former, but for some reason the freak vibe has failed to catch on at the Blue Crab Bar, in spite of the cheap swill. Still, it’s one of my favorite places, and there are rare moments of crazy if you are patient enough to wait for them.
Tonight, as usual, about eight people are spread out in the room. They are mostly keeping to themselves, either staring at the TV or engaging in soft chatter. The bartender disappears on a smoke break for about 10 minutes of every hour.
There’s much to love about our enchanting city — the breathtaking views, the closeness we feel as community members, the intimate connection we have with Lake Superior and its surrounding environment. Those reasons are exactly why, back in 2013, my then-fiancé and I chose to move to Duluth from Fargo, N.D. We wanted to live somewhere with an entirely different aesthetic from the Red River Valley yet be close enough to visit family and friends on weekends. The North Shore of Lake Superior was, and still is, a perfect fit.
As a newcomer, it took me an unexpectedly long time to feel bound to our community — more so than other cities I’ve lived in. Most of my initial connections were with coworkers and members of the Rotary Club of Duluth, which I joined through work. These individuals took my husband and I under their wings, providing advice and recommendations for what neighborhood to live in, what doctors to see and what companies to call for air conditioning repairs or garbage service. I trusted these men and women, and to this day, they haven’t let me down.
As we move into the holidays it seems appropriate to share our gratitude for the hundreds of Duluthians who have added their name in support of the Bag it Duluth Campaign. In so doing they are showing they care deeply about our community by working to shift a cultural mindset away from a disposal planet and disposable people toward a livable economy that works for all and future generations. And, in this time of unconscionable inequality and climate change we acknowledge that many others feel frozen, unable to act, as what feels sacred seems lost. To those, we extend our hearts.
The Red Kettles are out, and the adorable man next to the adorable eagle is my friend.
The teddy bear on the left is Tim Broman; “Earnie” the eagle on the right is Cara Ellis. As you might guess from the fairly cheesy pun in “Earnie,” Cara is a mortgage specialist at Northern Communities Credit Union, where Tim is a customer service representative.
I didn’t realize that local businesses partnered with the Salvation Army in this way. I appreciate the generosity of NCCU, I shame my friend Tim for making the lady wear the costume (a gentleman would have worn the scratchy sweaty suit) and I wonder whether any other businesses and organizations partner in this way in the holidays. Post below if you will be ringing this season, please?
In 2016 the city of Duluth purchased a remote-controlled glider designed to humanely chase away geese. “The Goosinator” was acquired from an eponymous company in Denver, Colo. at a cost of about $3,000 plus shipping and handling. The city made this purchase with the express goal of ridding Bayfront Festival Park of an increasing abundance of goose feces, a consequence of the recovering Canada goose population. In large amounts, goose feces diminish the park’s appeal and utility, and can cause illness in people and pollute the lake.
Two years on, the Goosinator agreed to meet with me for an exclusive, first-ever interview.
No one in the newly-opened Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace recognizes the Duluth park maintenance worker hustling in from the cold for an interview, but he draws notice all the same. The Goosinator stands about 20 inches tall and, at almost four feet long, has to sit sideways as I help him into a chair at a table made of reclaimed birdseye maple. He wears an outsize, toothy permagrin. He’s bright orange. And he seems perfectly at ease with the sideways glances, thanking me with a wry smirk as I pass him the Cascara Tea I took the liberty of ordering him. After all, he’s used to being the focus of attention, as it’s a prerequisite for his unusual line of work.
I’m done. In a little more than a month I’m going to stop hanging out with men who mistreat women. Kind of.
Let me try to speak more precisely: after the next few weeks are up I will still be spending a lot of online and IRL time — pretty much every day — among boys and men who, most often without realizing it, expect girls’ and women’s deference, use whatever level of force is necessary to ensure it, and punish girls and women who defy those normative expectations. When I say “normative expectations” I mean that the dominant social and cultural expectation for girls and women to please boys and men is so normal that it seldom gets questioned because it rarely really even gets noticed. It just is. It’s always there, whether we’re conscious of it or not, like oxygen. It permeates. It’s definitive. It defines our culture to such an inherent degree that folks who dare to name it look crazy to everyone but each other. Folks who publicly question or defy it on the regular court repercussions along a continuum more broad and real than you might realize.
None of that stuff is going to change in a few weeks.
At first it’s impossible to understand — this thing happening to you. Imagine yourself at 12, or maybe 13 — or God help you, 19 — whenever puberty finally gored you with its long-awaited tusk. Maybe you’re the girl waiting for her breasts, standing with her shoulders back behind Tammy, the girl who got her boobs in fourth grade, praying it’s somehow contagious, and your proximity will tit you up before your Cup Noodles even fully soften. Maybe you’re the girl who thinks she’s pissed herself on the playground, only to look down and see her crotch a deep, angry red: you’ll have to be done with four-square now, because you’ll need to change into your gym clothes, or call your mom to come get you. Maybe you’re the girl who imagines the lips of other girls, who stands as close to Laurel as possible in lunch line, to smell her delicious hair, and you’re waiting to develop what all the movies and all the people say is inevitable: an exclusive taste for boys.
Maybe you held hands with Ben one time on the way home from swimming, and you were too young, and it made you feel dirty to do it, like you stole the money out of the collection bin at church, or got caught touching your privates in the unlocked bathroom by your father. You are on one side of this thing, but also on the other. You are neither and both.
Time to go back one year and look through your pictures on your phone. We want to see your creepy, comical, kooky Halloween photos, we’ll add them to the banner rotation – those long skinny photos at the top of the page. Keep in mind, the proportions are extremely horizontal, so not every photo works when cropped. Click here for complete submission guidelines, but the basics are: 1135 pixels wide by 197 pixels high, e-mail them to [email protected]
If you’re not able to crop and size them, send the full image and we’ll do our best to crop it into a banner. Happy Halloween, we’ll start rotating the Halloween Banners this weekend.