I seem to have fallen out of the habit of frequent posts, as I did while on the road in Canada and, then, throughout June; so, in lieu of many frequent posts, here is a longer-than-usual post. I seem to also be following a law of motion – things in motion, tend to stay in motion. Two months ago, I was driving across the Great Plains to Montana and then north into Canada. This weekend, I am flying to Portland, OR, to attend to OSCON 2013. But the following is a bit on my travels from the weekend of July 13, 2013. Enjoy.
I headed north on highway 35, from the southeastern edge of Saint Paul through Saint Paul, into and out of Little Canada and Vadnais Heights – making it through into the exurbs and beyond into stretches of the state where the edges of a city do not touch the edges of another city. I was heading to Hibbing.
Shortly after 2:00 PM on Friday (July 12, 2013), I bugged out of the office. Melissa had an appointment, and I had yet to clean out the Dodge – it contained the remnants of at least three recent projects: bags of topsoil, several eight feet long 4″x4″ posts, random receipts from Menards, The Home Depot & Linder’s Flower Marts and a single bag of dry fence post concrete – which I suspect is now a solid bag of concrete given the recent high humidity.
Melissa had a dog show in Duluth over the weekend, and by chance, she would be catching a ride with a friend and not needing the Dodge. With a nearly empty van – a crate in the very back for Henry – I rolled out.
Through the turn off to Mora, past Hinckley, a quick stop in Sandstone for iced tea, and then back on the road. Listening to MPR, I learned that Moose Lake was having its annual Agate Stampede this weekend. I laughed to myself thinking that this is the annual event where agate ranchers drive their herds of long horn agates into town for auction; the ranchers would line dance and drink bad beer.
Just past the Fon Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s Black Bear Casino Resort I could see the steam stacks of the paper mill in Cloquet. Traffic had been heavy coming out of the metro area, but much like workers pouring out of a bee hive to work over the neighborhood, the farther a bee is from the hive, the greater the distance between the next nearest bee; the farther north I drove, the number of vehicles within my general vicinity decreased.
I made a stop in Duluth at the Duluth Grill to visit and have dinner with my friend, Peter and his girlfriend, Maria. We exchanged pleasantries, discussed in greater detail some of the topics we had been emailing each other about previously in the week, and ate dinner. Every time I am back in Duluth, I realize just how much I miss the area.
Pulling out of the park spot, I was careful to avoid the man picking up garbage and blowing his nose in each piece he picked up; It’s Duluth, Baby! I turned out of the lot, and headed up 27th St to 3rd Ave.
It was not until I was through Cotton and nearing the highway exit for Minnesota State Highway 37, when a thought hit and an expletive jumped from my mouth, “*&%@, I bet this is the weekend of the annual street dance…” As it turned out, it was the weekend of the annual Jubilee parade and street dance. Think less dancing and more public drinking; for a select cohort of the population, their collective blood alcohol content asymptotically approaches the stellar proof of malt liquor as the clock approaches the wee hours of the morning.
Last year’s festivities, I understand, included a stabbing, a possible counter-stabbing, and all with a hint of racially charged undertones. There were 16 arrests last year. This year proved to be more peaceful – it may have been the greater police presence; at dusk, while walking Henry around the highway grounds, I spotted several squads from the city of Virginia patrolling the side streets.
I am not sure what the cultural significance of the street dance is, but it is now deeply woven into the fabric of Hibbing and that region of the Mesabi Range. If memory serves me correct, it was some in the early 1990s when – around the time Hibbing was turning 100 years old – that street dance entered into the vernacular of Hibbing. (If you, the reader happen to have documentation on when the first jubilee-related street dance was, please add it to a comment).
Aaron Brown, writer, political organizer, random acquaintance of mine, and instructor at the community college in Hibbing, had a book published, Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range, in 2008, highlighting the rapid changes in Range culture. Aaron tends to be impossibly upbeat on the general trajectory of the Range and its people. As down as I am sometimes on the Range, it is there and I truly love the region. Part of me is saddened that I left the Range, and part of me is jealous of Aaron, who has been able to carve out a spot in academia while maintaining a foothold in the community he grew up in. In other aspects, I am quite happy with life’s direction at the moment.
Saturday afternoon rolled around; my dad wanted to check out the parade. The main drag of the city is about a block north of my parent’s house. We headed out on foot – chatting along the way. Conversations with my father tend to not be profound or deep; usually town-chatter or recent outings he has had with friends – he also has the tendency of knowing many of the people in town, but only when their age is greater than or equal to about that of my age. With the exception of his stint in the army in the early 1970s and a brief time in the Twin Cities metro after the army, he has called Hibbing home for the majority of his life.
We made our way up Howard Street, stopping along the way to chat with people my dad recognized. My dad would introduce me to people he knew. There was always the chance that I had met some of them in a former incarnation – I was likely shorter with larger glasses, and they were likely not to have been sporting gray hair. Maybe I had met them when I was in grade school, or, there was also the possibility that my sister or even myself had gone through high school with their children.
Turning onto First Avenue, we walked south. We paused for a bit to watch the Hibbing High School marching band proceed by; as long as I can remember back, the marching band has performed in the parades of the Range. When my sister was in the marching band, they even performed in Hawaii.
My dad and I kept walking down the avenue. I recognized a middle-school friend along the way. We both recognized one another and said hello and then, simultaneously, we remembered the last time we had run into each: it was in Bloomfield, Colorado, at a hotel, during the summer of 2010. He had been there to attend a wedding, and I was in the area to attend a funeral.
Again, my dad and I moved on. As the end of the parade came into view, we were nearing the neighborhood my dad had grown up in. He made a couple of quips about the old times; I suggested we walked back to the house. As we retraced our steps down First Avenue and on to Howard Street, I marveled at how few people I actually knew in the town I had grown up in. I opted to stay in for the night, and not attend the street dance.