Archives for posts with tag: Duluth MN

004Duluth at dawn a few weeks ago.  An urbanized frame for early morning over Lake Superior.



Tonight, catching up with Perfect Duluth Day, a link takes me to The Way North series from the New York Times.  Damien Cave and Todd Heisler travel I-35 from Laredo TX to Duluth MN.

Day 37 of their travels brings them to my hometown.  Mayor Don Ness describes “A Missing Piece” –

… he often hears that one of the city’s drawbacks is its homogeneity. Those with experience in other parts of the country have come to expect a mix of ethnicities and cultures, he said over dinner and beers at a neighborhood restaurant where the only sign of international flair was the hummus on the menu. In his view, and especially of those Duluthians who moved elsewhere for college or work, diversity and the conflicts and benefits that immigrants bring with them are an expected norm — an integral part of what defines the contemporary American city.

“A lot of them, they’ll come back and say that’s a missing piece,” Mr. Ness said.

I agree.  On return trips, after decades of living in Chicago, Detroit and now St Louis, Duluth seems really white.  And I feel out of place.  It is a strange feeling to return to one’s home and not fit in.  I don’t.

Am I a missing piece?

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My alma mater. What a great looking high school.

Commissioner Bill Roberts serves as USA National Commander for The Salvation Army.  This morning many of us received an email informing us of an op-ed letter by Commissioner Roberts which you can read in yesterday’s Washington Times.

The Commissioner has written a well-measured response to criticism the Army has received regarding its relationship with the LGBT community.

One particular thread in Commissioner Roberts’ article resonated with me.

“The people who work for and volunteer with The Salvation Army aim to serve others in need, to work with people and not against anyone” and that the Army “has demonstrated a consistent ability to work with and alongside individuals and organizations that may not always be in agreement with our theology.  They support us with time and financial resources because of a common cause and commitment to serve people in need.”missioners 9

Those of us who are Salvation Army people often wonder at the mystery of where and from who our support appears.

One of my first assignments was to visit taverns on Friday night.  In my Salvation Army uniform, with printed religious material (War Cry magazines), collecting donations.  Often listening to less than sober men and women, frequently praying with them, my uniform soaking up cigarette smoke and an occasional sloe gin.  But on Friday night there would be several speaking quietly, looking for encouragment, sharing fears and hopes.  Questions.  I felt I had more listening capacity than dispensable wisdom.

A prayer, a meeting of eyes, ‘next Friday’.  They would place a quarter or a dollar in my red collecting box.

Walking along First Street in Duluth MN to the next bar gave moments to reflect on what had happened in the last one.tavern collecting

They have seen and heard, and often received the good we do in the name of Jesus.  Collection has been taken.  The offertory provided by juke box and brawling.  No choir robes, holy incense, baptism only by beer.  Amen.

This is how the Army does the gospel, surprising the world in the places we show up, the people we are with.  Amen.

When I mention I’m from Duluth, Minnesota people often involuntarily shiver.  Lake Superior, long winters.  The last January I lived in Duluth the temperature never rose above zero THE ENTIRE MONTH.  I am telling the truth.

According to a panel of national experts, I am not making this up, my hometown is positioned to be the next great urban hot spot reports the Duluth News-Tribune.  “there’s such a wonderful historic fabric here. You feel like you’re in a real place.”  yup.

Traveling about American cities and suburbs I see a lot of faux.  Trying to have a downtown such as where we currently live, Arlington Heights.  meh.

Friends in Kansas City’s northern suburbs showed us Zona Rosa.  It looks like there’s some fun there.  But look real?  nah.

Duluth does feel real and it does have a wonderful historic fabric.  You can’t fake something built in 1893 like the grand Romanesque Central High School on 3rd Street.

Historic fabric?  Shedon Aubut alludes to 19th century hopes of Duluth being the next great city, “to surpass Chicago in size”.

So, it may come to pass.  Duluth, the next great urban hot spot.  But if not it wouldn’t be the first time the Christmas City of the North was disappointed.

That morning we had left a half hour later than planned.  The sky was overcast.  The forecast was thunderstorms, perhaps severe.  But we encountered no troubles on our trip home.

The next day Sharon Skrudland stopped me in the hallway at THQ to ask if I had heard about the trouble in Duluth MN.  Our previous day’s point of departure.  A deluge resulting in widescale flooding.  That evening after watching Duluth News Tribune videos of the day’s destruction to streets, sidewalks, homes, I phoned my sister and mother.  They were okay.  But the city certainly looked a mess.

Cities are vulnerable.  To gravity.  Some months ago I posted Claire Berlinski’s Chicago Tribune article on bad urban policy regarding earthquakes.  Duluth?  earthquakes?  Perhaps not.  Duluth is a city built on a hill.  A 700 foot steep hill of solid rock. 

But the rock is coated with urban asphalt and concrete.  This week much of the rock’s man-made coating was washed away.   During the rains not a few Duluthians may have felt that their city was being washed off into Lake Superior.

Mortals said “Come, let us build ourselves a city… a tower with its top in the heavens… let us make a name for ourselves”.  And they were scattered “abroad over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11).  The nature of cities from their beginning has been to go up.  God and gravity often have other ideas.  Languages and rains can knock us back.

We often choose to build our cities over fault lines, steep slopes or into the heavens of Manhattan.  When we do, sooner or later, and repeatedly, we will contend with gravity.


Aaron Rupar’s blog has a set of dramatic “jaw-dropping social media images” from Duluth’s flooding.

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