May 20, 2005

On My Way

After five months of planning, it’s finally time to go. Aside from brief trips to the outside world, I will be in canoe country until September.

We’ll see you then.

May 17, 2005

Madcap Recap

Dane, Laura and Pat, making really weird faces at Palisade Head in Northern Minnesota

I’ve been to Duluth and back. It was a spendid trip, wrought with enough activity to make my head spin. I caught up with tons of my professors and old friends, and made some new friends as well. The entire time we were up to absolutely no good, from sneaking lit cigars through the Fitger’s complex, to pilfering free kegs from the Lake Superior Brewing Company, to shouting profanities in front of foreign tourists at Palisade Head, to… well… to hear the rest you’ll just have to ask when you see me in person, now, won’t you?

If I had to sum up Duluth in one word, that word would be idiosyncratic. The town is like that weird uncle that everyone talks about, you know, the quirky one who fills the heads of his nieces and nephews with filthy lies about the world writ large. “That’s right, lad! Apples are in the meat food group because they grow on the backs of these large animals called apple beasts. I know this because I actually lived on an apple beast farm when I was about your age. If you ask your mother she’ll deny all of it, though, cuz she doesn’t think you’re old enough to know this stuff.”

As I was driving to Duluth I got to thinking what it was about that town that I liked so much. I thought of things like 8th Street Video (which is actually located on 9th Street) and the House of Donuts (which is open until the wee hours of the morning, serves tacos, and is the single place on Earth where I’ve nearly gotten in a fight with someone), which are great, but far from enough to justify the love I hold for Duluth. I mean, it’s quirky, and it’s rather pretty at times, but what was it that makes Duluth a cool city?

I pondered this as I dropped over the hill and saw Duluth and Superior unfold before me. Another feature, however, commanded my attention. Nestled between the two towns happened to be Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The day was windy and she was wildly angry, and even from miles away I could see huge whitecaps and crashing waves.

Somehow I had forgotten the Lake. Instantly I fell in love with her again, her grace and power and off-kilter mood swings. The Lake looked different every day that I spent in Duluth, rough or glassy, in shades of blue, green and steel… it was incredible.

The Lake sets the tone, sets the mood for the town of Duluth. As the Lake changes, Duluth changes as well. In all honestly, the weather during my trip was absolutely horrid, cold and rainy every day. I saw the sun a total of three times during the four days I spent in Duluth, and yet the mood throughout remained cheery. Perhaps it was graduation and the school year coming to an end or the elation of being in the company of old friends, or perhaps it was the free sixteen gallon keg of microbrew, but something was definitely buoying everyone in spite of the grey skies.

Come to think of it, it very well may have been the beer. I think we drank for eight hours straight on Saturday.

“I’m up for it.”

May 11, 2005


Tomorrow I’m heading to Duluth for the weekend, and the forecast is calling for highs in the 30s and snow. I have gone completely mad, as I couldn’t be more excited. Not for the weather, mind you. That sorry old git can kiss it as far as I’m concerned. Nay, I’m really excited to visit my stomping grounds and catch up with a great number of old friends.

The Trampled By Turtles concert is being held at the Norshor, which is one of my favorite music venues ever. I’ve seen and played numerous concerts at the Norshor, I’ve been to and worked for Geek Prom at the Norshor, and I’ve almost killed myself poking around in the attic of the Norshor. There are also unsubstantiated reports that I’ve run naked through the Norshor, but those are, well, unsubstantiated.

However, the most special thing about the Norshor is how it manages to twine all the frayed threads of your social life into one massive ball. A lot of Duluth feels like that, which is why I have so much of my soul tied up in that town. A lot of it is the environment, the favorite haunts, the old brick buildings, the parks, the Lake… but most of this would be utterly meaningless without the sheer mass of wonderful people who bind the whole thing together.

In all honesty, Duluth could be one of the most beautiful towns in the country (which, nine months out of the year, it appears to be clearly out of the running), but I would have no reason to go back there if it wasn’t for all the old friends that give the town a heart. Duluth is kooky, there’s no doubt about that, and it definitely takes some kooky people to live in it, let alone love it. I feel that I have been fortunate enough to know many of these folk, and they’re the reason I found the town to be not only bearable during its nine-month winters, but absolutely enjoyable.

That being said, tomorrow I trudge north into freezing temperatures and snowstorms. It’s May, and yet I welcome it in some sadistic way. Yes, I believe I have lost my mind. No, I’m not so sure I miss it.

May 8, 2005


No matter how you try to slice it, 36 hours of driving is a heck of a lot of driving. I made really good time on the drive home, putting in two 14-hour days of driving to cut down on the amount of time I’d need to drive on the last day, when I knew I’d be completely burned out.

After formulating some serious strategery in a Pizza Hut dining room, I spent the first night at a campground just outside of Helena, Montana. I had driven through some heavy rainstorms from Idaho to Missoula, and I was pretty sure those storms would catch up to me that night and give my tent a good soaking. My tent is about seven years old now, and the nylon soaks up water like cotton socks. It’s rather lovely, as my friend Hank can attest to from our backpacking trip to Oregon back in March 2003.

Anyways, at Helena I decided to gamble against the weather and spend the night camping out. All in all it rained for a total of ten minutes, though in the morning my tent was covered in frozen drops of condensation.

I was massively pissed off for most of the Dakotas. The road was under construction for half the time, and the other half it should have been under construction. The cracks and frost heaves were rough and horrible, and every so often the frequency of the bumps in the road would match the frequency of my car and trailer, maximizing each other into a kidney-rattling gauntlet of misery. I would shout and yell and complain but no one could hear me, as it would be an hour before I would see another car.

Man, there’s a lot of country in this country.

I spent the second night at a campground just outside of Aberdeen, South Dakota. I snuck into the campground just after 10:00 and left just after 5:30 the next morning, to avoid confrontation with anyone who thought I should need to pay for the night. Aside from me and a really freaky-sounding animal that growled next to my campsite the entire night, the place was completely deserted.

I had to stop in Darwin, Minnesota on the way home, just to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. It was truly a thing of beauty, a landmark to the infinite capabilities of mankind, and I called all my friends back in Oregon just to let them know what they were missing. Also in Darwin, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw a sign for the Darwin Rod and Gun Club. There’s gotta be some material for a Darwin Award in there, somewhere.

I reached my hometown shortly thereafter, and I am proud to say that I am now living about 1,500 miles closer to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine than I was a week ago. It’s still a two-hour drive from here, however. I’m totally jealous of one of my friends from high school, who now teaches in a school mere minutes from the Twine Ball.

So what next? I scrubbed all the bugs off the Subaru this morning, gave her a nice wax job, dropped off the trailer, and I’ve been busy stashing my gear into every little nook and cranny I can find. I’ve got two weeks before I start my certification courses for camp, which gives me more than enough time to dig through all these boxes and pick out the junk I’m going to need for the summer.

This is finals week at UMD, so I’ll be truckin’ up there late this week to party with friends and get down with my bad self at a Trampled by Turtles concert. Also, yesterday I scouted out launch spots for kiteboarding at Lake Waconia, so as soon as we get a good day for wind I’m gonna have to jam out there and get a taste, midwest style.

One last thing. Updates will be haphazard and infrequent for the next couple weeks, and will all but cease to happen when summer rolls around. I mean geez, I’m gonna be living in the woods, people, and the last time I checked most of those jack pines aren’t broadcasting 802.11g. As for the here and now, I just don’t like this room. It’s my old Nintendo room, and aside from high-speed internet it hasn’t changed much in twelve years.

Not only does this room kinda creep me out, it’s cold, in the basement and lit with fluorescent lights. Plus, this monitor only runs at 60Hz, which gives me an awful headache, and this keyboard has a spacebar that’s been split in half and partially converted into backspace button. It’s one of the most annoying and useless features I’ve ever seen, right up there with car stereo remotes.

Speaking of annoying and useless, I’ve all but had it with Windows. If I’m still using a computer come September, I’m switching over to a Mac. Seriously. I’m sick and tired of dealing with a dead operating system, that since 1995 hasn’t seen any advancement and innovation beyond security holes and bug fixes. Windows XP has been dead so long it stinks up the entire house, and I feel like I need to bathe after using it. The scope of Longhorn has been scaled back so many times, that at this point it can’t possibly be much more than a skin upgrade for XP. From what I’ve seen so far, all they’ve done is flay XP, turn it inside out, and stitch it back together with dental floss.

No. As far as I’m concerned, Apple has trounced the competition as far as attractive, secure and usable operating systems go. I’m switching over. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Their computers are damn expensive, however, and I’ll need to reinvest in a bunch of software, so if this is indeed a mistake, at least it will be an extremely expensive mistake.

As I always say, if you think you’re gonna screw something up, you might as well make every effort to screw it up beyond all recognition. Never forget that life is all about calculated risks, long drives and red-hot lovin’.

we’re goin’ yngwie to the malmsteen!

Well, we’ve got this circus all but packed up. Today was my last day at the shop, and tomorrow will be devoted to loading the trailer.

Assuming I can get a trailer. I’m a bit cheesed off at U-Haul right now, because they were supposed to call me today to set up a time and location for picking up my trailer tomorrow. They promised to call by 5pm, so as that hour came and passed I paid them a call… only to have a recording tell me that their normal working hours end at 5pm, and that everyone had since vacated the regional office and was attending a rave in an abandoned Portland warehouse. Lucky.

Also assuming the wind doesn’t blow. We’ve been promised wind for the last three days in a row, but haven’t seen anything since last Wednesday. They’re predicting wind tomorrow (the same as they predicted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and if it blows I’ll probably be out on the water. I have all my kiteboarding gear in my car, locked, stocked and ready to rock at a moment’s notice.

I’m sure I’ll have time to do both. I’ve already packed that trailer a million times in my head, and I’ve fit those boxes together eleven ways from Sunday, striving for the absolute most efficient use of space. In the past I swear I’ve packed more stuff into a Ford Tempo than I need to pack into this 4′ x 8′ trailer, so this project is going to be total cake.

Total cake, assuming I don’t do something stupid and leave the trailer to roll down the hill and careen into the woods. I was looking out the window today and realized for the first time how steep 9th Street really is. I was examining the angle using the window frame as a perpendicular to horizonal, and geez, that street has a pretty darn good pitch. I’ve been parking my car on 9th for four months now, and only today do I appreciate how dependable my parking break really is.

Tomorrow night we’re partying at 6th Street Bistro, 8pm if it’s windy, 7pm if not. I know when I’m leaving this town but I don’t know when I’m coming back, so we best make this a good one. I need a rockin’ send-off if I am to make my long and magical journey back to The ‘Soter. I’m taking the scenic route, so the radio will be playing nothing but static for the next few days. Wish me luck, and busy yourselves until my return!