I’ll be re-commencing posting fresh content this weekend or early next week, after I have a chance to regroup a little — as I’ve said before, some of my favorite conversations/pieces are still to come.
In the meantime, if you need a January in Duluth fix, or have some free time this evening (tonight!) and are interested in hearing why/how this project came to be (and how it went), there’s a public event at 2104 from 8-10pm (full details in the Facebook invite). Really, what is my deal? In addition to my chattering song and dance (the metaphorical kind), there will be music from The Monday Night Player’s Club (a Jazz Quartet).
Also, this would be a great chance to tell me about all the things I missed and all conclusions I mis-made. Hope to see you there!
(Rich and Emily, the proprietors/residents of 2104, have been remarkably giving to me during my time here and this is a final flourish of generosity. Thank you so much guys.)
This project started just 31 short days ago. Arriving, driving towards Duluth from Wisconsin, the first sign of the city were those dilute, distant lights, high in the sky. However, as we got closer, the radio towers peaked out over the trees — I didn’t know too much about the Towers, aside from their hugeness and my smallness. These towers served as my unofficial welcoming committee, the city’s old broadcasters, flashing red over the city.
For the last official day of the project, as a very last activity of the month, I made a trip into the hills, near Enger Tower, to check out a radio tower up close, looking back on the city they announce.
More stories/posts are coming very soon, but for now, a good night. Also, this Dove Chocolate wrapper, whose contents I just ate, knows exactly what’s up:
The responses that struck me, for whatever reason, were built around love. The place I’ve lived that’d make falling in love easiest is Budapest, which I think says a fair amount about the city. Since romantic love’s only been a peripheral character in this project thus far, why not jump in on the last day? Fortunately, I had a phenomenal Duluth-devotee to help me think about the idea.
On this final day of January in Duluth, I sat down with Duluth poet-extraordinaire and insight-proliferator Barton Sutter (more on that soon). Since the absurdly huge topic of being in love and Duluth hasn’t snuck into the project yet, I figured Barton might be a perfect answerer — I asked him about “being in love” and “Duluth”:
(I know he’s had practice, but Barton really does have a great radio voice.)
Ever spent 31 days trying to articulate something just so and then you hear what you’ve been toiling after, nearly exactly, in just under 31 seconds?
I spent the morning with So You Think Duluth Is Pretty Special, a course taught by Jerry Kimbal as part of UMD’s University for Seniors. Not only is Jerry endlessly knowledgeable himself, his students are a wellspring of interesting/interested folks who constantly cogitate on Duluth — it was a perfect place to look for some last second acuity and tie together some loose ends.
A few of these Duluth-students spent a couple dozen minutes sharing wisdom with me, and then this happened — Gary Gordon’s response to “What makes Duluth special?”:
Curious (and curious). Self-reliant. Thoughtful. Non-pretentious. Park within a city. Straight, no chaser. If I’d heard that short statement on my first day, I would have thought it was interesting but wouldn’t have understood just how spot on those ideas are. I’m sure it was by accident, but his statement took exactly 30 seconds to articulate.
A thought on birthing and storytelling with their relationship to oxytocin implied.
Jana Studelska is a midwife in Duluth and weekend we had a long, layered conversation about what that means. An audio piece and portrait from Kip Praslowicz will come soon, but for this morning, a slice of that conversation seems appropriate to share.
‘Grinding pirouette.’ Jana described birth in ways chemical, cellular, and psychological, but at the very end of our conversation she described (and demonstrated) the physical process. Conceptually birth has always seemed difficult to me (big baby, small birthing canal), but never had that fact been more evident to me than the few minutes Jana held a plaster pelvis and perpetual-newborn.
She described the baby’s path as a ‘grinding pirouette.’ How do they know how to do that? It’s ridiculous and improbable but beautiful and necessary. Common yet unfathomably non-intuitive. Or maybe the beginnings of intuition? Who knows.
As Jana described the process and her role in facilitating it, I thought of how uncomfortable folks get with a microphone held up to their face. The demand of thoughtfulness and insight, their intuition sheered and strained. It’s definitely many degrees of intensity paler, but this whole interviewing and storytelling can be its own kind of grinding pirouette. [All those adjectives from the previous paragraph, again.]
That being said, Duluth has been remarkably generous and patient and kind with me throughout the month. This project could be a little odd/demanding/inconsiderate for other people at times, but so many people have been sincerely giving, and that has been one of the best parts of this month.
I have around a dozen stories to left produce and about two hours of writing time planned for the day. Yike. That being said, after the end of the month, the project will continue for a few weeks as I make my way through the backlog interviews/experiences. So, don’t go anywhere for too long.
For this morning, just a preview of yesterday morning:
I went to Casket Quarry in West Duluth with Paul Lundgren and Barrett Chase.
We talked imaginary castles, throwing stuff off cliffs, keggers, and growing up in West Duluth. I’ll put together an audio piece from the conversation soon.
Barrett and I also did some urban exploration in West Duluth, including historic bar murals, a beautiful copper ceiling in an Italian restaurant, fascinating junk, and dice:
‘Know that place? Yeah, that one. What’s their deal anyways? And how would we even get in?? Hooooooo knows? Hooooooo?’
A public Facebook question on January in Duluth, 1/15: “what’s something, anything, anyone, that i should check out before i leave?” Comment from Ben Marsen on 1/16: “Owls Club. 118 e. 2nd St. – 1:30 Tuesday afternoon. I’ll buy you an Old Style.”
Didn’t know Ben yet, but I’d walked by the Owl Club a few times — the offer was too intriguing to pass up. We met on the stairs in front and he seemed slightly surprised I turned up. He brought me inside — it was like a VFW, clubhouse, and owl collection. In one!
I immediately loved it in a way I wasn’t expecting to.
In addition to the vice presidency of the club, Ben was tending bar that afternoon, two crucially important positions. That being said, he’d been on the outside looking in not too long ago — Ben first ran across the club looking for a spot to rent for a birthday and ended up a member.
The following is an audio slideshow made from an interview with Ben, getting into the Owl Club’s history, culture, and current state, paired with pictures from the experience: