Showing posts from October, 2022

The Long Way Home 10.28.22

MEA weekend went out with summer-like temperatures and thunderstorms Sunday night. You could say it, and the 2022 summer tourist season, went out with a bang. Business owners that cater to the tourism crowd are breathing a sigh of relief--I think. The pressures of a steady onslaught of customers while coping with staffing shortages seem immense. As much as they profess to love it, the ones I’ve seen over the last week or two seem a bit weary. I talked to a visitor here in Grand Marais on the Saturday of Moose Madness. He marveled at the crowds, and the lines extending out the door and down the block from various food and retail establishments. Evidently, he had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit as he said, “What I see is an opportunity for new businesses.”  I didn’t suggest he visit again in a month. Why spoil the vibe? I had a brief conversation with another visitor, the same day. She was lamenting the staffing shortages at businesses along the shore. (It’s a nationwide problem, but

The Long Way Home 10.21.22

There are three online journalists that I read all the time. Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of history at Boston College. She writes Letters from an American. Six days a week she produces an email that considers the day's events and puts them in the context of history--recent and past. It is a dose of sanity that reminds me that the notion we, as a people, were once living in political harmony, and we all were achieving the American Dream, is a myth.  Aaron “Minnesota” Brown is an Iron Ranger, journalist, author, and community college instructor. He’s a brilliant writer and his weekly blog often gives a historical perspective on the life and politics of northeastern Minnesota. Plus he inspires me to be a better writer and person. Ben Sprague is a community banker and local government official in Maine. His weekly email that arrives each Sunday tackles everything from inflation and mortgage rates to major financial trends, global and domestic. His recent ne

The Long Way Home 10.14.2022

We are coming to the end of the Silly Season. Not tourism, which seems eternal this time of year. I’m writing about the biannual election cycle--the Silly Season. I’m a firm believer in public service and citizen-driven government. I think everyone should step up and run for public office--win or lose. You’ll learn a bunch. From school boards to the legislature we need to have committed, common-sense people stand for election and serve a term or two--more if they actually get it.  To win, a candidate seeking a public office needs two things. Name recognition and party support (except for the non-partisan offices, of course, although there is a fair amount of party influence there, undeclared though it may be.) In 1992 I stood for election to serve the Minnesota legislature from West Bloomington with the DFL endorsement. I’d seen how the government worked and met enough elected officials to know I was qualified. But I had little name recognition, and party support was, let’s say low-key

Allowing People to Make Their Own End-of-Life Care Decisions

Steve and Stacy Stearns of Detroit Lakes, MN had recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary. They’ve been described as a loving, happy, and affectionate couple that spent most of their time together. On September 27th the two were found dead in their home. Stacy was a victim of homicide and Steve’s death was ruled a suicide. Steve was diagnosed earlier this year with terminal lung cancer. As his health deteriorated this fall the couple decided on a murder/suicide pact.  Minnesota is not one of the eight states that currently have “Death with Dignity” laws that create an environment for what is often called Assisted Suicide. Under these laws, terminally ill patients can make an informed decision to end their life medically when death is certain within the next six months. Usually, two physicians--not the patient’s own--confirm that death is imminent. Then the patient is reviewed by a mental health specialist for cognitive ability and understanding of the profound decision they w

Cook County Voters Asked to Renew School District Operating Levy

Cook County Independent School District 166 has put a levy renewal request on the 2022 general election ballot. In 2016, county voters approved an operating levy of $800 per pupil to support smaller class sizes, elective opportunities, and some extracurricular activities. That levy is set to expire on December 31st this year. According to a letter sent to voters from Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Cook County Schools, if that levy expires it would reduce the annual revenue of the district by $350,000 to $400,000 a year. That loss, according to Lindholm’s letter, would force the district to reduce some teaching positions and program offerings for the kids. The ballot question asks voters to approve a ten-year extension of the 2016, $800 per pupil levy. A vote to approve the levy request will not result in an increase in current property taxes however allowing the levy to expire may reduce property taxes. ISD 166 has scheduled informational meetings to meet with voters. A virtual mee

CARE Kicks Off “Year of Learning” on October 8 in Grand Portage

The Committee Addressing Racial Equity (CARE) kicks off “Opening Doors: A Year of Learning” Saturday, October 8 at Grand Portage National Monument from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities include Lacrosse, the “Gift Game,” drumming and singing and learning about the people, places, and history of Grand Portage. Starting at noon, the Grand Portage Community Center will provide free fry bread tacos. The entire community is invited and there is no charge to participate in the activities. The event is sponsored by CARE, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Cook County Higher Education, and the Grand Portage National Monument. CARE formed in early 2020 as the Community Leadership Group for Cook County, also known as Joint Powers. It began by focusing on two issues--housing and racial equity. With the establishment of the Cook County Housing and Redevelopment Authority this year, CARE made racial equity issues its priority. The CARE group is made up of community members, representative

The Long Way Home 10.7.22

My parents grew up in the Depression years of the 1930s. That gave them a strong sense of the value of things and they tried to instill thrift in those of us born after WWII. Mom often talked about how grandpa rationed toilet paper. Supposedly he maintained rectal hygiene with two or three sheets, expecting the same from his kids. Fortunately, she didn’t try to pass that particular thriftiness on to us. But she was frugal. She had an early version of a nylon spatula when we were kids. Even though the handle eventually broke off, she kept that spatula and used it until she died, just six years ago. I used it as a prop to explain who she was when I spoke at her funeral. Her peers that day told me how they’d do the same thing. So one day, when I was a strapping young executive, I stopped by my folk's house to fix a leaky kitchen faucet for them. The subsequent plumbing disaster is another story. But when I opened the cabinet to clear out access to the faucet I saw there were about a d

Sauna on the East Bay of Grand Marais Open to Public

Katie and Sam Usem have created a sauna that is open to the public on the shore of the East Bay in Grand Marais. The Usems were both employed in careers that allowed them to work remotely, so they were spending time in their Hovland cabin when they decided to buy a house and move to Cook County full-time. In May of 2021, they purchased the long-time home of John Henry Eliasen in Grand Marais, adjacent to the Best Western Hotel, and became full-time residents. Katie was seeking a place to start a business as well as a residence and this property was the place. “Seeing this place made it all possible,” Katie says. “We loved the property and the house and I could see the potential for Sisu and Loyly.” Finnish words, Sisu is interpreted as grit and perseverance. Loyly refers to the steam rising from the sauna rocks and the rising of the spirit. “I love that the grit and fortitude of Sisu are paired with the lightness of steam and spirit,” Katie says. The saunas are built in an old fishing

How Long Does it Take?

The other day, a gentleman of my acquaintance here in Cook County, after telling me that he enjoys reading The Long Way Home columns, asked me how long it takes me to put them together I thought for a minute, calculating the writing and editing time, and said it takes a couple of hours. I confess that my reply to his inquiry was inaccurate. Each of these weekly misadventures has taken 68 years to write. I am rarely at a loss for a topic. In fact, I usually have too many rumbling around in my head. Paying attention to community, family, and friends offers a treasure trove of trivial and not-so-trivial ranting opportunities. During the week leading up to the deadline, I begin to flesh them out while walking the dogs, driving to town, or laboring on outside maintenance. In fact, some of my best writing is done at these times. Sadly, lacking the ability and foresight to record this writing and my feeble recall abilities, my best writing is lost to posterity. Any suggestions for me? At the