Showing posts from May, 2024

The Long Way Home 5.24.24

Telling stories about the old days is almost as much fun and more educational than talking about the aches, pains, and exotic diseases our bodies bless us.  Last fall, a small group of folks gathered at The Hub, Grand Marais's senior center, to see if there was enough interest in forming "Leave a Trace," a group that would meet monthly to encourage each other to write and share some of our stories. My friend Larry asked me to participate because I'd written a column last summer about the benefits of putting our stories on paper—not for publication or notoriety but to help our descendants get a feel for our experiences.  We agreed this would be something other than a traditional writers' group. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month, and a handful of us show up (1:30 p.m. at the Hub if you'd like to join us). We don't make a big deal about grammar or sentence structure, but we do discuss shared experiences. After hearing what one of us has written, ot

The Long Way Home 5.17.24

I’m a bit late to the game commenting on this, and some of my cohorts may tell me it’s all old news—just forget about it.  I can’t. On April 9, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, after reviewing a proposal from an out-of-town design firm for a new courthouse and improved cop shop, voted three to two to proceed with the planning process for the $32 million project.  At a meeting of the Board on April 23, the county administrator suggested the commissioners “pause” the design process, and the five elected officials agreed. Finding outside funding to proceed with the project was problematic. All the brouhaha over the proposal left me thinking about the proper role of local governments and how we are a trusting population.  The proposal for the so-called Justice Center results from the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process. The CIP addresses deteriorating county-owned properties and cramped working conditions at the historic Cook County Courthouse headquarters, a building co

The Long Way Home 5.10.24

Here’s a question I ponder, probably more than I should. Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? This leads me to the biggest question: am I just irrelevant? With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about the current state of the United States Postal Service (USPS).  Complaints of USPS service failures from its consumers, especially those in smaller communities and rural areas, have US Senators and Congressmen loudly demanding hearings and other forms of accountability. The timely movement of mail and parcels has been a core service of government that predates even the blessed founding of our current republic. The first United States Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin, served the same role for more than 29 years when we were just a bunch of colonies owned by the crown.  Political patronage is mainly responsible for selecting who serves as postmaster general. They are chosen and appointed by a Board of Governors comprising 11 members. Of the 11, nine are presidentially appoint

The Long Way Home 5.3.24

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a scoundrel as a disreputable person. I’ve encountered these unsavory characters more times than I care to admit.  The worst are the ones with a reputable facade; if the current situation is reality, they are everywhere. Today, let’s look at the biggest of them. The Bohunk took over our finances more than a decade ago. She’s much better at getting bills paid on time than I ever was. Plus, her eagle eyes, which always find my faults, are exceptional at finding the “errors” made by hospitals, clinics, and credit card companies. In recent years, credit card companies like Capital One, Discover, and Care Credit have tried unsuccessfully to scam us for extra dollars with interest errors and weird fees.  If the so-called errors they’ve made and corrected after Becky called them out happened once in a blue moon, they could be excused. But errors with fair regularity lead me to conclude the scoundrels in charge recognize that they could boost income and profi

The Long Way Home 4.26.24

Last year, I learned of The International Brick Collectors Association. The members of this group collected old, branded bricks, and they were coming to Grand Marais in the summer for their semi-annual swap meet. According to my friend Jeff Bartheld, a collector of many things, bricks included, the swap meet was a success and brought in collectors and their bricks from all over the country. When I first watched the show American Pickers, I became aware that there are collectors of all kinds of things. Mike and Frank traveled the country looking to buy rare artifacts and treasures from a sometimes motley assortment of collectors. It often prompted me to ask the question, “Who the heck would collect that?” You won’t believe what kind of collectors I found this week. A faithful reader of my rambling columns, Geri, emailed to ask me to consider writing about outhouses.  Curiosity had led her to investigate the subject online, initially to try to understand the purpose of a “two-holer” like