UPDATE: Good news for all you Duluth aficionados! The I’ve Been To Duluth t-shirt is now available for purchase. Also, If you’re curious about the gritty details, you can read our semi-official press release about the event.
I like to wear shirts that don’t make any sense. While I was down in Baja I wore my “I’ve Been to Duluth” shirt, whose meaning is lost on most and misinterpreted by many. We first saw this shirt in the John Candy movie The Great Outdoors, worn by the fellow who runs the lodge. It made a brief appearance, only for a few seconds in a single scene, but that was enough to inspire our Duluth-based outdoor club to model one of our yearly shirts in the same style.
When I wear this shirt, people familiar with the movie will tell me that it’s the wrong color. The shirt in the movie was off-white, but we went with a sage green because we were rugged and it wouldn’t show dirt as readily, and also because we wanted a 50/50 cotton/poly blended fabric that would dry more quickly.
People who don’t know the movie (but know the town of Duluth) will typically say, “Hey, I’ve been to Duluth.” What typically follows is a conversation regarding our personal impressions of the town of Duluth. It’s a funny thing, though, that even when I’m down in Baja, surrounded by Canadians and Alaskans and Hood Riveridians who have never even heard of Duluth, they will typically respond to the shirt by saying, “I’ve been to Duluth.”
The first few times this happened I was taken aback, and would reply with questions demanding the when, why and how of their trip to Duluth. I quickly learned, however, that these people had never actually been to Duluth, had never heard of Duluth, had no interest in visiting Duluth, and were simply reading the shirt out loud. Nevertheless, it’s a great conversation starter. Especially when you tell them that the last time you were there it was 25 below.
Another favorite is my Eden Prairie little league shirt. Whenever I wore this shirt around Bend I kept running into the same creepy fellow who was from the Twin Cities Metro area. Up here in Hood River, no one knows what Eden Prairie is. With a name like Eden Prairie they think it’s a sort of joke. I assure them it is indeed a joke, but the punchline is far different than you might expect.
Eden Prairie is neither Eden or a prairie. It is a town of no consequence, a generic ritzy suburb on the southwest side of Minneapolis. It is so insubstantial that the city government floats all sorts of crazy laws and ordinances in an attempt to differentiate itself from the thousands of other suburbs in the nation. They have these city beautification rules, see, that set careful guidelines on what the city allows you to do with the exterior of your house.
For instance, if you wish to paint your house you must choose from a city-approved palette of colors. I have no idea what the penalty is if you choose to paint your house a forbidden color, or what happens if a bird flies over your house and dumps a gallon of orange paint on the roof, but I’m certain that the punishment is ruthless and painful.
Perhaps the only newsworthy item to ever come out of Eden Prairie occured a few years ago, when a new Mexican Restaraunt called the Picked Parrot opened up shop. In keeping with their Mexican tropical theme, they planted some palm trees around the building for the summer. The palm trees were destined to perish in the crushing grip of winter, this being Minnesota and all, but the owners of the Pickled Parrot found them to be a worthy investment; likened them to expensive landscaping features that must be replaced annually.
Well, I say let them have at it. I have seen people do far more foolish things with their money, things like buying ice sculptures or paying property taxes. Or paying property taxes so a city-wide bureaucratic regime can throw a fancy party with ice sculptures.
Needless to say, the city of Eden Prairie would have nothing to do with it. According to an obscure landscaping ordinance floated in the interest of preserving the widespread banality of the city, the Pickled Parrot was forbidden to landscape with palm trees. The city demanded that they be dug up and shipped to the dump. Or New Hope.
Now, I don’t recall the exact details of the story. It may have been that twenty years ago during a week-long coke bender, the city council wrote an ordinance that explicitly banned palm trees from private property. Perhaps the tall trees violated height restrictions, unlike the huge Telecom building across the street, which was a glorious five-story wonder of brick and mortar and property taxes.
I would guess that the palm trees violated some sort of minimum depression rule, that requires all private property within city limits to make a minimum contribution to the blandness of the community. Some funky palm trees certainly wouldn’t fit this mold. It’d be like planting a blue spruce in Mexico, and you know how up-in-arms those Mexicans would get over that. Cats and dogs running around naked!
So anyways, in a few days my “The floor is made of lava!!!” shirt should arrive in the mail. I hope the llama comes with it, because I don’t have my own llama yet. I think everyone, at some point in their lives, should have their own personal llama. And a couple of palm trees. And about sixty bottles of IBC rootbeer.