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These days, except for people living on or near the east end of London Road, the Twin Ports doesn’t feel the brunt of holiday migrations moving up the North Shore. These days, too, there is by far more of that than the past before driving-distance urban areas became so wondrously dynamic. Freeways allowing mass transit people movement put the North Shore within range of escape seekers. What was formerly a quiet time along the shore is now almost busy as summer days when we’ve become accustomed to seeing a gallon’s worth of visitors flood a one quart town.
Frankly I understand the desire for escape. With more festivals and other events bringing an increasing number of days when we’re busy as Hennepin Ave I feel the urge to escape as well. But where? Maybe if I knew where all these people came from I could go there and find it less crowded than here. Easter week and weekend is a good example of “where do they all come from?” This season, however, the escape seekers found things a little chillier than usual. The wind off Superior was sharp, and it’s difficult to search agates and driftwood on beaches half littered in ice chunks. Then there’s the timeless appeal of following a well-marked wilderness trail to be the first to leave the most recent hiking boot track in the thawing black muck. The good news is the ticks aren’t out of hibernation yet and the mosquitoes are weeks away from completing their migration from steamy wetlands far to the south. Easter is a challenging time up here for escape seekers, but at least they miss getting delayed in the religious processions no longer or rarely seen these days. The mere possibility is enough to set the escape minded into flight northward where we await their cash influx like a nest of baby birds with mouths agape for a piece of juicy worm.
Fact is lousy weather is our economic ally. There’s no money to be made if the escape seekers get a free ride on a public agate beach or DNR trail. We thrive best when they have to hunker down out of the wind and chill inside a cozy cash generating operation. You simply can’t get an authentic north-woods pancake in Richfield. You can’t get one here, either, and you’d be hard pressed to find a place that does a Swede or Finn crepe. A Fur Trapper Belgian Waffle has the name if not the pedigree. I side with our escapee visitors trying to decide if the herring or trout skim latte takes the cup, and now that the Siberian Grape thrives in the north there are new vintage wines to enjoy alongside a locally caught elk burger with a kale and cranberry petunia salad. On a blustery day escapees are glad for anything that avoids the cold wind and has a sense of cosmopolitan civility in a smaller more confined dose than found in the metro where you can no longer be sure you’re in a correct social scene. Up here there’s only a scene or two, so no worry. But fear not we’ll get that fixed because though most everyone wants an escape from what we’ve created and keeps spreading like kudzu and milfoil.
For the tourist and escape catering industry the need for people to get away is lifeblood indeed, though it is a shame there’s ever more need to escape. The desire for more is a tricky thing because more brings increases in crowding, crime, and distrust as the full pot roils with success. The places people escape to gradually take on the image of the places they’re escaping from. It’s an irony and possibly one indicating a self-destructive end. But neither the visitor seeking relief or the business community catering to them questions the route that levels everything into versions of the things we already have too much of. I know; progress cannot be stopped. But is it a fair point to make saying not all change is progress? If the past was so backward why didn’t we have regular school shootings in 1960? And if a diverse and progressive future is to be desired why is it that so many grab at a chance for some escape and can’t wait to retire someplace where that future ain’t? The happiness and peace that sticks with an individual is made of small and very personal elements not found in global trends or political postures. Giving a sincere smile to a person you see in passing is inexpressibly more constructive than wearing a face and costume stating “I am separate; approach on my terms.”
More than once (and for a long time) I’ve been asked why my tone is often sarcastic and I make odd jumps. What can I say other than at age fourteen I fell mad in love with irony and at about the same time a teacher was shaking his head at the way I so often tried linking disparate items. OK, I like irony and wild leaps. Not everyone is equally conventional or non. When the applause track says to boo or cheer I usually won’t or will hold somewhat in reserve. Instance, I easily get the portrayal of student upset at school shootings. Many are scared and angry; can’t blame them. We expect schools to be places of learning free of violence. When that’s violated there is a huge breach of trust. The causes, I fear, run much deeper than guns alone and I sincerely doubt anger leads the way to effective policy. There’s no JK Rawlings magic wand to fix this or any social problem. A ban or illegality won’t do it any more than (as a great many students know directly) illegal drugs are banished. Free societies experience the benefits and problems that come of our individual freedoms. When I hear a “bad” idea like arming teachers I think why not do anything that might put doubt and uncertainty in a shooter’s head? The thought that mean Mrs. or Mr. J who gave a D- might be armed could save lives. We have the freedom to think things through in detail. Enforced conformity is likely more damaging than free inquiry.