Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Tag
Ore Docks Two Harbors MN, June 2016
For a dozen years now, my husband and I have talked about where we’re going to live upon retirement. Duluth has figured prominently in the discussion. We went as far as buying a five-acre parcel of land in Two Harbors, 22 miles up the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth. It was a decision based on keeping our options open. That land is ours, and we can build on it if we choose. If we don’t choose to do that, we can hang onto it or sell it.
Over the last year or two, I’ve become quite vocal about not wanting to live in Two Harbors. It’s a town of about 3,700 people. There are some shops and a few restaurants, a grocery store, a hardware store of the “general store” variety. There is a very small hospital. It’s within a half-hour’s drive of Duluth, which was my firm requirement when considering a healthcare emergency involving two people of retirement age. Two major medical centers are in downtown Duluth. However, I can see the writing on the wall that I would be spending a fair amount of time in Duluth: shopping, participating in activities with the Unitarian Universalist congregation, volunteering with wildlife rescue and humane societies, taking advantage of the many festivals and other entertainment opportunities. I don’t want to spend my time driving back and forth from Two Harbors to Duluth. I want to be there.
We’ve begun to explore that option now. I’ve found an area of Duluth that I really like, the Woodland neighborhood, which is near to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of Saint Scholastica. If one gets out on the edge of that neighborhood, he’s in a less developed, rural-like setting but still only a few miles from the hub of the activity. It’s got a good feel to it, combining the natural setting I love, the peace and quiet, and the close association with wildlife while still being very convenient to all the small city amenities. (Duluth is a city of 86,000. That’s the same as the population of the largest Twin Cities’ suburb of Bloomington where the Mall of America is located. The total population of the Twin Cities metro area is approaching four million people.)
Change is hard for me, though. Moving in particular is very hard. We don’t do it very often! We spent sixteen-and-a-half years in our home in South Minneapolis. We now have been in our current first-ring suburban home for twenty-one years. The move from South Minneapolis to Maplewood was very difficult on me emotionally and I struggled with depression. I’m not looking forward to going through that again.
My husband recently turned the reins of this proposed move over to me with my emotional well-being in mind. He said, “You’re driving this decision. I want you to be happy.” I’m grateful for this. Truth of the matter is that there is part of me that doesn’t want to leave the metro area. This has been my home for 40 years now, and a fine home it’s been.
We ARE moving from this home only six miles from downtown St. Paul, even though my husband said that staying here is certainly an option on the table. I’m good with the option of moving. We’re going to let some other family live in this bedroom community of people who work for 3M, Ecolab, the State of Minnesota, Wells Fargo, and other corporations nearby. We’d also like to build a home, our dream home. It would be a single-level home built with ADA-assessible doorways and bathrooms so that we can stay there as long as possible into our geriatric years. If we stayed in the Twin Cities area, though, where do we go from here?
Several of my biggest losses if we moved are my healthcare team (my primary care doc and
Downtown St. Paul MN on the Mississippi River
my behavioral health provider), my cat-specialty veterinary clinic with vets and staff I really like, and my professional cat sitter who is top notch. We’ve got a couple of close friends here that I’d hate to move away from. With those factors in mind, I’ve been exploring the east side of the Mississippi River around Cottage Grove, Newport, Saint Paul Park, Afton, outlying areas of Woodbury. Of course, if we get too far out to avoid being in the middle of a current or proposed surburban development, then we’re talking driving a half-hour to get anywhere! We’ve lost the convenience of having things close by and easily assessible.
This past week, I’ve been back to liking the sound of Duluth. It’s a calmer, quieter environment. The suburbs aren’t encroaching on the available land at the edges of the city. If we buy a secluded property, it’s going to stay a secluded location. Everything we need is there on a smaller scale, and the reality is, who needs a hundred choices when five is more than adequate? It keeps life simple. Simple is good. It’s sounding better all the time. As much as I hate to leave Dr. Stiffman’s care, I could find an adequate primary care physician in Duluth. I could even keep my behavioral health team here in the Twin Cities because I’m low maintenance most of the time and could schedule some trips here periodically to check in. I would need to replace my vet clinic and my cat sitter, but there has got to be some suitable options there, although no one can really replace Parkview Cat Clinic, the notorious “Dr. Grant” Gugisberg, and “Auntie Lisa,” the cat nanny. Replacing friends? No, that can’t be done, but we can visit. Our one close friend in particular was born and raised in northern Minnesota (as my husband was), lived in Duluth years ago, and loves it there. There would be some driving back and forth, but we could all manage it.
This decision is nudging towards the forefront now, no longer something that may occur five or ten years from now. My husband retired after thirty years of service with his company. He’s enjoyed the retired life for four months now. I’m still working for the State of Minnesota but not for much longer. He seemed to be enjoying retirement so much that upon his encouragement, I told my supervisor two months ago that my last day would be October 4. Three months from now I’ll join the ranks of the retired folk. Next month, around the time of my 61st birthday, I’ll collect all my documents and get my application for retirement benefits turned in to Human Resources. After forty years in the workforce, that phase of my life is coming to an end. It feel strange. (I’ll get used to it!)
I’m restless and impatient right now. I’d like to know where I’m ultimately going to land with this decision. It’s going to need to simmer for now, though. Rushing it is not a good plan.
First world decisions. So many people don’t have these choices. How fortunate I am!
My husband’s 40th high school class reunion was this past Saturday, and much to my surprise, he committed to going a couple of months ago and submitted his registration fee for the two of us to attend. I was quite curious as to how this was going to go. Of course, he was, too. He has not kept in touch with any classmates from his graduating class of 1968. The last classmate we saw was probably Tommy Wilcox, the guy he considered to be his best friend during his senior year in high school and throughout their first couple of years of college. We saw Tommy during the summer of 1972 when he was a student at Mankato State, and I think that was the last time.
The class reunion festivities began at a “club” on Howard St., Hibbing’s main drag, at 2:00 Saturday afternoon. The club had been reserved for the 1968 class to congregate and watch the Jubilee parade that was scheduled that afternoon. We walked into a small crowd of maybe a dozen or so people just before 2:00, having only arrived in Hibbing 20 minutes earlier. No one was wearing any name tags, and everyone looked like a stranger. A couple of introductions were made, but I could tell that names weren’t ringing a lot of familiar bells to anyone.
We helped ourselves to some food that was set out: a large crockpot full of porketta pieces for making sandwiches, some buns, potato chips and tortilla chips, brownies, some blue-and-white frosted cookies, some blue-and-white M&Ms. (Blue and white were the school colors, in case this isn’t obvious.) Wine, mixed drinks, and pop were free for the taking. Beer was $2.00 a bottle/can. Dale grabbed a Heineken beer and I started off with a bottle of water to rehydrate after the long, boring car ride from the Twin Cities.
We sat there for awhile, watching people wander in. Dale wasn’t making any move to talk to anyone. I had some moments of wondering if this was what the whole reunion was going to be like: those folks who probably had some contact with each other as long-time Hibbing residents hanging out together and others just sitting around with the date they had brought to the event and not interacting too much with anyone else. Jeez, that was a long car ride and a hefty $45 a person to sit around on a Saturday and do that!
I don’t know if it was the beer and wine that was flowing freely (i.e. “liquid courage”) or if the initial scoping-out period had just run its course, but Dale finally got up and started talking to people. “Hi, I’m Dale Scheiskopf,” he would announce. “And who are you?” Some tentative conversations started.
One of Dale’s classmates had brought The Hematite, the high school’s yearbook (we had, too, but had left it in the car), and this became an attraction — comparing faces of the folks in the bar with the old senior-class photos in the book. Few people were recognizable from those 40-year-old photos in the book!
Dale and I had sat around with a bottle of wine the evening before and had gone through his yearbook, studying the photos. I repeatedly kept going back to the same photo of one female classmate. “Wow! What a babe!” I said more than once.
Yeah, yeah, she was,” my husband agreed. (I found out upon leafing through some saved programs in his yearbook later that she was in his Junior Achievement “company” of kids, so he must have been quite aware of this at one time!)
Well, the “babe” walked into the bar during the course of the afternoon, and my illusions were shattered. She didn’t look bad necessarily, but my impression was that she had seen some rough years. She looked tired. Her eyes were baggy. She looked her 58 years. The lines on her face and her lackluster expression had a story to tell. I never found out what it was.
But then this man walked in, and I have to say that he caught my eye. I found him attractive. He was fairly trim, well-groomed, salt-and-pepper manicured beard. He wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous — I mean, NOT like George Clooney! — but he was the kind of man I find appealing. I went over to Charlie who was manning the yearbook. “Who is that guy who just walked in?” I asked.
Charlie peered. “That’s Tom Chambers,” he said. We flipped to Tom’s photo in the yearbook. I saw an awkward-looking unsmiling 17-year-old with large black-framed glasses, the kind that all the boys wore then. His glasses weren’t sitting straight on his nose. He looked like he couldn’t wait to get out of that suit and tie he was wearing.
I looked at the handsome man who had just come in, and once he was settled with a drink, I walked right over to him, able to look him right in the eyes because somewhere along the way he had either gotten contacts or Lasix. “You don’t know me, ” I informed him, at least a glass of wine under my belt by then. “I’m married to one of your former classmates, but I just had to come over and tell you how much more attractive you are now than you were in that yearbook photo. You’re fifty times better now than you were then!”
He was fairly speechless then, but as the party was breaking up so that people could get ready for the evening’s festivities, he stopped me on the way out. He said, “I have to give you a kiss for what you said to me earlier. That was really great.” And yes, he gave me a kiss. I kissed him back. I probably made that man’s day!
At 6:00 that evening, we all reconvened at the old Androy Hotel for a heavy buffet line of appetizers (I’ll do anything to get out of trying to spell hors d’oeurves), desserts, more drinking, more socializing, and dancing to the oldies from the ’60s. It was 11:30 when we decided to leave.
We both had a very good time, and I’m really glad we went. Dale commented, “I wish we had all gotten along like that back when we were in high school together.”
He said this in his own words in a journal entry he wrote yesterday afternoon, but I’ll say it, too. High school and that age of adolescence is a rough time for most young folks. It’s a time of building a self-identity which at that age is shaky at best. There are a lot of insecurities. Everything seems like a major, insurmountable deal. Adolescence is a time when life is inwardly focused. Teens are trying to figure out how they personally fit into the world, and the “big picture” isn’t seen until much later.
My husband was not a “popular” kid in high school. By his own description, he was “a geek, a nerd.” He was not athletic; he was “a brain.” He wore geeky glasses and a plastic pocket protector. He often carried a slide rule. He was a lab assistant, a frequent winner of the Science Fair, a Junior Achievement member, and an inductee into the National Honor Society. He didn’t date. During his senior year, he linked up with the theatre group because “they were misfits” like he was. He felt comfortable around the theatre people and found a home there, working the technical aspects of that year’s productions.
At the reunion Saturday evening, his classmates said, “Yes! I remember you! You were smart!” And I heard the admiration in their voices when they would voice this recollection. When they would ask what he was now doing and he would reply that he was a project engineering manager for a major manufacturing company and builds plants for them all over the world, they knew he’d be successful at something like that because Dale Scheiskopf always had a lot going for him that would see him well-placed in a professional career someday. They respected him for that. And I smiled to myself Saturday night because his intelligence was one of the big-ticket items that attracted me to him.
But 40 years ago? No, the “Brains” weren’t necessarily respected except by members of the faculty and a few like-minded peers. Brains didn’t gain you popularity. In fact, “Brains” in general were intimidating people to the student body at large.
So, no, Dale didn’t have many friends except for a couple of other brainiac type people and his theatre group during his senior year. However, Saturday night he came to realize that the cliques, the groups, the “in-crowd” and the “weirdos” were a thing of the past. Age and experience has a way of equalizing the playing field. After 40 years, all of those former classmates have experienced some combination of life’s joys and trials: marriage/relationships, divorce/breakups, parenthood, job promotions and losses, deaths of loved ones, travels, war, finding a niche in life in ways never before dreamed. Over those 40 years, the “misfits” have had an opportunity to discover that being different is a good thing; it brings creativity and fresh perspective to an otherwise dull world!
Ross Halper, one of my husband’s classmates, was a classic example of a “misfit” at Hibbing High School in 1968: extremely intelligent, exceptionally creative, talented in music and drama. I commented that he seemed to have starred in every theatrical production that the school produced during that senior year, including playing The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. (Dale was a “techie” on that show, and his best friend, Tom Wilcox, was the voice of the Wizard.)
Saturday afternoon, when Ross Halper walked into that bar on Howard St., people surrounded him like he was a celebrity. And, indeed, he is! Take a look at this resume, if you will. Ross Halper from Hibbing, Minnesota, has gone on to do great and wonderful things with his life, bringing joy to many. He couldn’t have done this if he wasn’t a bit different, if he wasn’t able to view the world with a different perspective than the mainstream, if he wasn’t a bit of a “misfit.”
He brought tears to many former classmates’ eyes Saturday night as he took the floor and sang:
When you’ve grown up dears
And are as old as I,
You’ll often ponder on the years
That roll on swiftly by
My dears, that roll so swiftly by
And of the many lands
You will have journeyed through
You’ll oft recall
The best of all
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.
Little girl and boyland,
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy then
Mystic merry Toyland!
Once you pass its borders
you can ne’er return again.
When you’ve grown up dears
There comes a dreary day
When ‘mid the locks of black appears
The first pale gleam of gray
My dears, the first pale gleam of gray,
Then of the past you’ll dream
As grey haired grown ups do
And seek once more
It’s phantom shore
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.
Little girl and boyland,
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy then
Mystic merry Toyland!
Once you pass its borders
you can ne’er return again.
Words by Glen MacDonough, 1870-1924
Music by Victor August Herbert 1859-1924
(from “Babes in Toyland”)
My husband was quite moved by the experience of attending his 40th high school class reunion, and he wrote this when we got home from Hibbing on Sunday. I am reprinting it here with his permission.
Oh, What a Night!
Saturday night, June 29th, marked the occasion of the 40th reunion of my high school class. Bonnie and I actually had more fun there than either of us had anticipated.
The day started out at the Algonquin Club (a small bar) on Howard Street, Hibbing’s main drag. The Reunion Committee had rented out the place for the afternoon so that classmates would have a place to gather to renew acquaintances while watching the big “Jubilee Parade” celebrating 150 years of Minnesota statehood and Hibbing’s 115th anniversary of being founded as a town. Some food was available, as were beverages of various sorts. Beer from the bar’s cooler could be had for two bucks a bottle, but wine and soft drinks provided by the Committee were free. That served to get the activities off to a fluid start. All that was missing were name tags of some sort…
The Class of 1968 was a fairly large one, well over 400 kids, the exact count an ongoing topic of debate throughout the day. About a fourth of them, plus spouses, etc. showed up for the event. This was a turnout much better than anyone had hoped for. Quite a few of the gang showed up at the Algonquin Club for the kick-off. However, without the name tags, nobody was able to recognize anybody. Fortunately, Charlie Curtis had brought his 1968 Hematite (our yearbook) along. That provided a good cross reference and also the means for people to identify themselves. “Here, find your class picture for me in the yearbook.” With all of that going on, the big parade outside of our front door was largely ignored. As we gradually started to re-establish identities, and struggled to remember each other – our memories ain’t what they used to be! – a degree of class cohesiveness began to develop. By the end of a few hours, in spite of the quantity of adult beverages consumed, we were actually starting to recognize and remember each other. By then the parade was over and it was time for us to move on to the main event – a more structured gathering at the old Androy Hotel.
The Androy was Hibbing’s grand hotel, dating back to the turn of the century when the entire town was uprooted and moved a few miles south to relocate it off of a particularly rich deposit of iron ore – but that’s another story. The hotel was built to anchor the new downtown area and to serve as a symbol of Hibbing’s prosperity. This was a very wealthy boom town in its day. My dad was a cook in the hotel’s kitchen in his younger days, providing a further connection to the Androy. Anyway, our event took place in the grand space that was once the hotel’s lobby. The building has since been converted into apartments, but the main floor level has been restored for hosting special events such as ours. And this was a special event. Rather than a “sit down” dinner, where folks would feel confined to one seat at one table, we had a bar (always a necessity at these affairs) and a buffet line of “heavy hors d’oeuvers” that were enough to make a meal of. This arrangement was much more amenable to mingling. The mingling aspect was also very much enhanced by providing name badges that included a small copy of our Senior Class pictures.
High school is not an easy time for most of us. It is even more of a challenge if you are lost in a class as large as mine. Populations of that size tend to subdivide themselves into smaller, more personal, groups, cliques and circles. If you found yourself on the outside of these sub-groups, as I did, you were out – far out, man.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Class Reunion was how much everyone had changed – or not changed – over the past forty years. That’s where the little photos on the name badges really came in handy. A few folks were instantly recognizable after the passage of four decades, but not most. A few of us (myself included) actually look better now than we did then. For example, my class photo features a dorky crewcut hairstyle, geek glasses, a plastic pocket protector (not visible in the photo) and bad teeth. I still have the bad teeth – but, hey, three out of four isn’t too bad. It was reaffirming, in a way, to match up names that I associated with sleek, powerful athletes, only to find dumpy, balding guys who are in no better physical condition than I am. The girls who were once so intimidating because of their good looks, intelligence and talent now seem a whole lot more approachable. It was as if forty years had eroded away all of the clique boundaries and other barriers and left us with: just us – the people we really are.
When we were 18 and just beginning to experience life, those events were all new to us and seemed very profound; we were sure to be the first to have ever felt such a thing. That made us very special – so we thought – and it seemed that life truly was all about us. However, after the passage of forty years, we find that we have all experienced the same things to a slightly greater or slightly smaller degree: jobs, careers, births, deaths, weddings, divorces, losses, gains – in short, all of the elements that make up living. In the end, we find that we are much more alike than we are different, after following our individual paths to this point in the cosmos. That was reassuring.
Unfortunately, far too many never made it that far. To date, forty-six of our classmates have passed away. A memorial was set up to remember them. Some left early. They went away to Viet Nam right after graduation and came home in a box. Others lasted longer, but not long enough to join us last Saturday night. It’s a pity. We would have enjoyed seeing them all again.
After a moment of silence and the reading of the names of the departed, we had the pleasure of listening to Ross Halper, a talented classmate, sing a special song for us. Ross now writes, directs and performs in light operas on the West Coast. Then the young DJ fired up his gear and we had some music. It certainly was a disconcerting sign of the times for us aging Baby Boomers that no actual media was used in the creation of this music… no vinyl, no 8-track tapes, no cassettes, not even a CD. All of the music was digitized inside of a black box and the DJ (if you could call him that) picked out the songs with a click of his mouse. It seemed like something tangible was missing from this process.
However, the electronic play list was pretty decent and before long we were able to ignore the fact that the tunes were coming out of a computer. Of course, such things can lead to dancing. At least that was the intent. The dance floor remained empty for a while as we listened to the music and kind of eyed each other to see who would be brave enough to venture out into the void. After a few songs, a few courageous souls wandered out to break the ice. We actually had two couples who were very accomplished dancers, making it fun to watch them. Little by little, the dance floor filled as the evening progressed. This old guy even ventured out there to shuffle around during a couple of slow dances. My arthritic knees weren’t up to the stresses of anything more energetic than that. Bonnie, however, managed to find some willing classmates and was able to dance all that she cared to. As the night wore on, brains and aging limbs became more highly lubricated, thanks to the bar. By 11:00 many of my classmates had rediscovered their lost youth – and each other – and were out on the dance floor jiving like a bunch of teenagers. No doubt a few were feeling the effects of that in more ways than one the following morning.
The one small downside of the event was the acoustics. Classic hotel lobbies were designed to be peaceful, quiet places – not venues for rock concerts. The ornate terrazzo floor, dark wooden paneling and ornate plaster ceiling all looked wonderful, but these are very hard surfaces. Just the din of normal conversation filled the space with a low level white noise that sometimes made conversation difficult. Add in a batch of 60’s rock and roll music and you have a very loud environment indeed. By 11:30, Bonnie and I were both thoroughly saturated with stimulation from the evening. We quietly slipped out the back exit into the cool, rainy night to head back to our hotel.
It was a coward’s escape and I admit it. We Minnesotans are known for our protracted good bye rituals and I was not feeling up to that. Here were people that I had just reconnected with after forty years – or maybe connected with for the first time after forty years – and we were leaving each other after just a few hours. Who knows when, or if, we will ever see each other again. I wasn’t feeling emotionally up to that.
We did manage to pass out a few (too few) calling cards listing our contact information. We also put our email address on a list to be published. So maybe, just maybe, some connections will be maintained. This reunion went so well that maybe we will have another one in ten years. If so, sign me up now!
On March 31 here in the Twin Cities, it started to snow. Heavy, wet snow. Quite a lot of it! Some parts of the metro probably ended up with six or eight inches of the stuff, weighing down and snapping tree branches, making a mess out of commutes, dashing hopes of ever seeing spring in this neck of the woods. (The photo was taken in our backyard the morning of April 1.)
This isn’t the first time that Mother Nature has played this kind of April Fools joke on us. I remember one other time quite distinctly. March 31/April 1, 1985. We must have gotten about a foot of this same type of very heavy, wet snow during that storm. Dale was bound for a conference in Texas that weekend and the storm delayed and otherwise screwed up flights. He arrived in time for his conference but his luggage didn’t. The luggage showed up two days later!
I, on the other hand, had my first day of Spring Quarter at the University of Minnesota that Monday. It was my last term of school prior to graduating with my nursing degree. Who ever would have thought that I’d be late for my first day of class that term because I was stuck in the snow? We lived in the city of Minneapolis then and parked the cars on the street in front of the house. The plow had come through and buried the wheels of my car under feet of this massively heavy snow. I couldn’t get out, and Dale wasn’t home to help me! A neighbor finally saw me struggling and came out to help. With his assistance, I finally made it to class that morning! I’ll never forget that storm!
This one wasn’t as bad. Just an annoyance, really. We’re very sick of winter here and didn’t need an additional reminder that it may not be quite over yet! Most of it has melted now, thankfully.
I’m going to let the husband publish one more of his stories from our as-yet unpublished newsletter and then I’ll return to the keyboard this evening. I think I’m still up to working a full-day at the lab, cleaning a bathroom, and writing a post all in the same day!
A year ago, we had the unique experience of being visited by a flock of wild turkeys. While they are becoming increasingly common around Minnesota, we had never seen them in our neck of the woods before. The group consisted of about ten hens and a couple of juvenile males all led by a mature old tom, obviously the master of the flock. They stayed around for a few days enjoying our hospitality and then just wandered off over the hill. Two days later, one of the young guys returned, probably remembering where all of that corn and bird seed could be found. Bonnie named him “Buzz” (short for buzzard… don’t ask me why). We figure that the wily old tom was casting off his wayward sons, reducing the competition for his ladies. Buzz settled right in and made himself at home. He began hanging out with our local deer herd, following them around and joining them for breakfast every morning. I guess he was a little lonely after having been booted out of the family flock. Over the summer and early fall, Buzz grew and matured into a handsome dude (as far as turkeys go), as can be seen in the photo of him and one of his pals. Toward the end of November, Buzz went missing from the breakfast role call for several days in a row. We were getting concerned. With “Turkey Day” just around the corner, we feared that he may have become the “Guest of Honor” for somebody’s holiday feast. We were quite relieved when he showed up the day after Thanksgiving – and he was not alone! Apparently he had been out courting and brought home a girlfriend. She has been named Frida. Perhaps next year we’ll be reporting on turkey chicks. The two of them seem to have a fascination with glass doors and windows. Perhaps they like seeing their reflections. Or, maybe they are just nosey. Anyway, the oval windows on our front doors are particularly attractive. We’ll find turkeys peeking in from time to time. Consequently, the front porch has now been reclassified as the “poop deck.” So, if you come to visit, be sure to watch where you step.