Legacy. A place in the hereafter. History. (Insecurity.)
On a few occasions, Heidi referred to the permanent inhabitants of Forest Hill Cemetery as ‘friends.’ She laughed about it, but it wasn’t really a ridiculous idea. Friendship can come from affinity or affection, circumstance or responsibility. Familiarity. I only spent an hour or so with them, but they seemed like friends to me.
In fact, a few times during the tour I asked her questions like she was in some way responsible for them. Case in point — since her Duluth-strialists oftentimes seemed to be as successful as fallible, I asked Heidi what she sees in them:
Heidi used the term “hustler” at one point in our conversations, and it made me wonder exactly what she meant. This led to some speculation and an angle on Duluth’s early narrative I hadn’t considered:
Regardless of their intentions, many of these guys ended up in Duluth with their names written in stone around the city, including Forest Hill. History is all about change and continuity, which leaves me wondering — how have those immense characters, so instrumental in shaping the built-environment, percolated through Duluth’s culture? Where are they still found in contemporary Duluth’s personality? Who knows. Those ghosts have given me plenty to think about, and probably even more questions.
(Final aside: Heidi’s use of the word ‘hustle’ caused an unlikely and highly speculative connection in my mind, and I wrote a few words on it. Bear with me:
The self-mythologizing of the Duluth-strialists, as partially evidenced by their grave markers, reminded me of a particular and common strain of contemporary hip hop artist. A rapper’s first lyric may be about his wealth or how he’s “the best in the world,” which may seem paradoxical. However, the strut only intensifies from there. Some are able to package braggadocio into singles/albums/tours/brands, spinning their self-myth to an audience. If it resonates well enough, perhaps even more paradoxically, the self-myth then self-actualizes. See where I’m going with this? It’s a certain kind of empire building.
There are far too many examples/parallels to list here, comparing the past handful of posts and this idea, but a few easy ones come to mind — Lil’ Wayne’s as “Young Money Millionaire,” Rick Ross’ fictionalized hustler persona (a Slate essay on this idea), Jay-Z’s entire career (5 things to learn from Jay-Z’s career from CNN), BET’s Hustler of the Year Award, Common as a gentleman farmer/rapper, the ubiquity of “swagger” these days.)