Showing posts from March, 2022

The Long Way Home March 25, 2022

I guess I’ve always been skeptical. As a kid, I was sent to Sunday School, Daily Vacation Bible School, and three years of Confirmation classes. I learned the Lutheran truths, as much as a suburban kid could in Minnesota. Then, I started to think about religion and its powers in a new way. There are so many of them after all. I knew that not all of them could be right, and I am pretty sure they could all be wrong. Thus began my skepticism of power. When talking about politicians and others with power with my dad (he was a bit more trusting of bosses than I, but not much) he used to say, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.” After high school, I decided to crush my mother’s dream that I’d enter the seminary and I began a career following in my dad’s footsteps in the freight business. After some schooling in transportation regulations and a handful of entry-level jobs, the owner of the company that I worked for in 1980 named me its president at the ripe old age of

First column for Northshore Journal

My corporate overlord here at the Northshore Journal, Christine, has consented to publish a weekly column from me, The Long Way Home.  I sold the idea to her this way. “ I'm thinking of using a column to put out some smaller stories from here (Cook County). Maybe a cranky rant or two about the weather, or fishing, or spouses, or local politics, or?” “Bring it on,” she said. So here we go. In the fall of 2016, the first year we could collect Social Security, my wife Becky (referred to often as the Bohunk) and I came back to Cook County for our retirement. Earlier that year, while living in a suburb of St. Louis, she made what seemed an off-hand comment that she would like to return to the North Shore for our “golden years.” I asked her where I was going to go. “Well, you can come with me, I guess.” As often happens when an intention is expressed, things fell into place almost right away to bring us back to Grand Marais. We found a house in the Hovland suburb of Colvill that met the

Taking a position for Two Harbors

Early in my mid-life career change to newspaper publishing, I was visited by a wise man--a former publisher of the same newspaper. Commenting on my editorials and columns, he bluntly told me to, "Take a stand, dammit." He said that people wanted to know what I believed, not what I thought that others believe. Until then, I tended to present all sides of an issue--on the one hand, and then on the other hand. Indecision wasn’t my problem, I just didn’t want to alienate anyone. Some call it Minnesota Nice I guess. Wanting everyone to like me. After some soul searching, I took the old man's advice and began writing what I believed to be true--often fearfully, but always definitely. An amazing thing happened. Yes, I pissed off some people--sometimes many people. But I saw more activity in our business. Subscriptions and renewals went up. Ad revenue went up--although occasionally an advertiser dropped us like a bad habit because of a stand I took. Most returned eventually, but

DNA 3.11.22

  The Long Way Home 3.11.22 Back in 2018, I struggled with a painful medical condition that seemed beyond the diagnostic ability of local doctors and specialists in Duluth. Frustrated and exhausted with the constant pain, I finally asked my local doctor to either help me get it diagnosed or get me a DIY euthanasia kit. Yep, that serious. She grabbed the bull by the horns and got my specialist in Duluth off his keester. He finally got part of it diagnosed and operated on me for that part. Since my remaining condition was beyond his capability he referred me to a specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He was without much optimism they could help, if I’m honest. At Mayo, after a day of invasive tests, a surgeon young enough to be my son told me exactly what was wrong. And then he told me how he and a team that included orthopedic, plastic, and general surgery would try to fix me up. He said, “I’ve done five or six of these procedures and I think I can give you your quality of life ba

The Long Way Home 3.4.2

By Steve Fernlund Saturday, August 7, 2021, started off as just another shift at the Home Center. As usual, I was the first one to arrive, unlocked the gate and doors, turned on the lights, and did the routine maintenance of the paint machine. Being summer season, I had two co-workers with me that day and you’ll read more about them in a minute. Around mid-morning I was out in the insulation trailer in the yard, helping one of our regular customers find the right stuff. He wore me out, what with watching him climbing over bales of insulation to find what he needed. Finally, we finished picking his insulation and went into the store to “ring him up.”  The Home Center uses a pricing gun for scanning bar codes to the Point of Sale (POS) system (cash register in my day.) This gun is tethered to the POS by six feet of wire and was notorious for wrapping up around my clumsy feet. On this transaction, I scanned the insulation bales and other items, totaled the purchase, and accepted the credi

Housing the Long Way Home 2.25.22

On Super Bowl weekend we made a trek to Duluth (I hadn’t been west of Lutsen since October of 2020, so this was a big deal). Our daughter Jess and her kids were traveling from Las Vegas for several days in The Zenith City to do a campus tour and try to find a house. We wanted to spend a little time visiting them. Last summer, Jess and the kids visited us for the first time since we’d moved back to the shore. It had been more than 20 years since she’d lived here, and the kids were here but once for a two-week visit several years ago. After a week-long stay, while driving back to MSP for the flight to Las Vegas, the three of them decided that they could live up here. Not in Cook County, but Duluth for sure. Husband Matt, who has never been up here, was easily convinced to move.  Grandson Connor and his girlfriend are beginning college at UMD in the fall. Jess is interviewing for jobs (in health care.) Granddaughter Chloe has decided on the Duluth high school she wants to attend for

Moderation 2/18/22

“You just don’t do moderation,” the Bohunk said with sharp, but loving concern. “Do you?” I’d been verbalizing about my long-time smoking habit as I lamented ending my third week of no tobacco. And she was, after almost 50 years of marriage, spot-on in her analysis of my failings. I grew up around tobacco and tobacco users. As a kid, I was sent to the local market on more than one occasion with a couple of bucks and a note from Mom authorizing me to buy a pack or two of Benson and Hedges. For a while, the parents were into menthol so a pack or two of Salems was on the note then. So tobacco use/enjoyment is in my DNA. I never was much for moderation with alcohol either, as the Bohunk can attest. My philosophy on alcohol was that when we are born, God (my Lutheran version at least) decides how much alcohol we can consume in a lifetime. I drank my limit before I was 40. Compared to alcohol, the tobacco habit has been much harder to break. I have done it so many times, it should be easier.

Medieval Sleeping Habits 2/11/22

The other day I stumbled onto an online article that got my attention (see, Mr. Jackola, I’m still paying attention) in The Atlantic titled “Can Medieval Sleeping Habits Fix America’s Insomnia?” The writer, Derek Thompson, starts the piece with this, “At 3 a.m. I’m jolted awake. The room is dark and still. I grab my phone and scan sports scores and Twitter. Still awake. A faceless physician whispers in my mind: To overcome middle-of-the-night insomnia, experts say you ought to get out of bed …” Of course, nothing works, and he stays awake for hours. This very form of insomnia has been hitting me hard for a long time now. I have little trouble falling asleep, especially after a grueling day of moving snow and firewood around. Reading a book on my Kindle, usually, has me going out in 10 or 15 minutes after I go to bed. But somewhere around 1 or 2 in the morning, I’m flat out awake. My mind is absorbed with one thing or another and what the meditation crowd calls my Monkey Brain is off an