M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, November 20, 2004  

To Duluth

People from different parts of the country have certain preconceived notions about what it’s like to live in Minneapolis. “Isn’t it friggin’ cold up there?” “Isn’t it culturally impoverished?” “Why did you elect Hulk Hogan governor?” “Isn’t it nighttime from, like, Halloween to Easter?” “Don’t you get tired of Prince showing up at your door with copies of The Watchtower?” and “Isn’t it friggin’ cold up there?”

The truth is that there’s a lot more to Minneapolis than that. And the fact is that it’s not that bad. And, most of all, there’s always Duluth.

Duluth is a very important city, you see. Not just as the world’s most inland ocean port, or as the ultimate terminus of the St. Lawrence Seaway. More importantly, Duluth is to Minneapolis what Minneapolis is to the rest of the country. It’s smaller, it’s further north, and it doesn’t have as extensive a skyway system. But it does have culture and art, and after driving through rural Minnesota for two hours yesterday, the preponderance of Kerry/Edwards signs and stickers was a welcome sight. And yet, Minneapolitans who secretly dream of punching people who ask us, “Isn’t it friggin’ cold up there?” will politely converse with citizens of any other city in the nation, except people from Duluth, of whom they will ask, “Isn’t it friggin’ cold up there?”

And so on, and so on. Duluth has Thunder Bay, and Thunder Bay has…I don’t know, arctic research stations or something. You get the idea.

Yesterday was my first trip to Duluth in about four years. If you ever drive into Duluth, there’s something you should know. When you come over the hill outside of town and start descending into the Lake Superior Basin, there is one nasty-ass smell in the air. It comes from the harbor or some kind of industry, but it’s always there, and woe to the motorist who forgets to set his car’s air conditioner to “recycle.” Trash and I always accuse each other of having just farted. But since she wasn’t with me yesterday, I had to call home and do it over the phone. Voice mail, even. It wasn’t the same.

I was in town an hour and a half ahead of schedule, so I took the scenic route. Literally. Duluth has a road called Skyline Boulevard, which is a road that runs along the natural ridgeline left when the glaciers carved the Great Lakes. From just about any point on it, the view of Duluth and the lake below is spectacular.

Here’s a little-known fact. You know that song “Seven Bridges Road,” recorded by the Eagles, among many others? You may not know this, but the Seven Bridges Road is in Duluth. Or above it, technically, since it’s part of Skyline Boulevard. You wouldn’t expect a song that has not one but two variants of the word “south” in its very first line to be about Duluth (unless it’s Duluth, Georgia), but there you are. I drove on all seven of them yesterday. It took less than five minutes.

So anyway, I was driving in for the gig, winding along Skyline Boulevard, looking at the city of Duluth and its busy harbors and bridges laid out six hundred feet below me, and the vast expanse of Lake Superior stretching out to the horizon, and I was inspired. I pulled the car over at a scenic overlook, got out of the car, took out my bass, and started playing.

It didn’t last long, though. A) Without an amp, I couldn’t hear myself over even the sparse traffic going by. B) It took less than a minute for me to start feeling like an utter dork. C) It’s friggin’ cold up there.

Today’s best search phrase: “What happen if you threw trash on the ground.” Hey! Show a little respect, would you? Jeez.

posted by M. Giant 3:58 PM 10 comments


Thunder Bay has Atikokan. It's definitely really friggin' cold there.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 20, 2004 at 5:22 PM  

My dad grew up in Duluth, and that smell you encounter when you get into town is from the paper-making factory that's just down the hill. Or at least that's what my dad used to tell us kids every time we drove by it. I think Duluth is pretty awesome otherwise, but it is friggin' cold up there, and they have more snow than I've seen in a lifetime. And I've lived in Minnesota my whole life. I don't know how they do it!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 21, 2004 at 8:42 AM  

My mom and dad (Duluth natives both) always used to refer to it as "the poop plant." Which led me to believe that the source of the smell was a sewage treatment plant. This news that the poop plant is really a paper mill is yet another shattering blow to my childhood illusions.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 21, 2004 at 11:03 AM  

Now see, I lived in exotic Buffalo, NY for 20 years. Go ahead. Mention Buffalo to ANYONE and they will nod knowingly. It's common knowledge that there are two seasons there: winter and the Fourth of July. -Sayer

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 21, 2004 at 1:02 PM  

Ohhh, it's a paper mill? Damn. They had paper mills near where I went to law school in Portland. I thought it smelled like rotten broccoli.

By Blogger Linda, at November 21, 2004 at 7:46 PM  

Heh. Buffalo's cold.
I live in Traverse City, Michigan (the tip of your index finger in the mitten - land of 6-1/2 month winters and IceSnow), and we (along with the rest of lower Michigan) have the Upper Penninsula. Like, seriously, people LIVE up there.

By Blogger Erika, at November 22, 2004 at 5:57 AM  

Thunder Bay's got native son Paul Shaffer... and my ex-boyfriend.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 22, 2004 at 10:22 AM  

I just want to apologize right now because I live in San Diego...and I have shorts on. I'm sorry. If it makes any difference my parents immigrated from Fargo 45 years ago to escape the "jeez it's frigging cold". I’m praying for you all so you won’t freeze to death.

By Blogger DASJEWD, at November 22, 2004 at 12:24 PM  

Hello from Duluth, GA, where it is 61 degrees, light rain. And which will soon be utterly and completely deserted because everyone and their brother is headed to the Atlanta airport to fly to friggin' cold places.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 23, 2004 at 5:53 AM  

The song "Seven Bridges Road" was written by country singer/songwriter Steve Young and refers to a road in Alabama which was locally known as Seven Bridges Road.

Information about the history of Duluth's Seven Bridges Road (with a link to the history of Skyline Parkway) can be found at: www.amitycreek.com/sevenbridges.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 6, 2004 at 9:22 PM  

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