Married less than a year, my parents took a delayed honeymoon that reached Duluth/Superior and then the North Shore which became their first and best loved place of retreat or asylum from urban Chicago. They got here ten months after their union. It took that long for dad to prepare their used car for so long a trip. It took as long to restore it afterward, too. Cars in the 30’s were not very robust. Mom and dad got up the shore to Hovland where their energy to continue ran low. It was a dollar (maybe two) per person per night for room and board at Werner’s cabin. Boat plus guide service was another dollar. They paid it and had a week of bliss.

It would be a grand twist if I could say I was made on that belated Honeymoon. I wasn’t. My appearance was years off. Dad wanted a son he could play ball with. (Just why is problematic because dad wasn’t even much of a bowler.) Mother wanted a girl to teach cooking. (OK, the lady knew how to cook. A girl would have been damn lucky.) Seven years into the game they got me, so neither got their wish. I increasingly resisted mother’s fussing and trying to make me “pretty.” When a boy repeatedly took off his “cute” red sandals and threw them outdoors or out a car window (kids roamed the back seat like wild creatures those days) even a resolute woman finally saw the wisdom of putting ordinary Buster Brown’s on her son’s feet. Dad abandoned baseball practice because a boy who closed his eyes and hunkered down to catch a pitch was never going to catch the ball and never did, even by accident. My autographed mitt remained like new until the day it went into a box and was gladly forgotten. The genuine White Sox bat, however, was a prize possession. Neighbor boys who angered me knew what I could do with that bat.

I’m proof the vagaries of birth can be matched by those of even the most careful adoption. I say that because after seven years of striking out my parents hit a home run with adoption coached by one of Chicagoland’s major players. Clarence Wagner did his work well and after five weeks of life I went from anonymous Baby Boy to the name I have today. Poor mom and dad, they got not what they bargained for. Mother could not make a girl of me and dad couldn’t get me to be a boy. After a second sprint along busy Damen Avenue in my birthday suit I was physically persuaded to forego that kind of free-spiritedness. My rambunction killed, mom and dad settled for and were happy with minor things, a son who got good grades in Religion, English, and Art (these offset poor grades in math).

Life in Chicago was routine but interesting because neighborhoods tended to be largely ethnic. A thriving area such as Ashland Avenue had a mix enabling a shopper to go from a music store with a Lithuanian name to a Polish meat market, an Italian grocer, a Kosher butcher, a Mexican shop, a Hungarian Gypsy Fortune Teller (I was forbidden to go there), an English store handling tea and whole bean coffee (they’d grind it if begged repeatedly), Goldblatz Department Store, a Woolworths (yeah for toys), and another music (instrument) store with half black and half white workers specializing in different areas. A growing child could not help but be interested and stimulated by so much diversity in a setting of cooperation. Rich as all that (and much more) was it seemed the few weeks spent in Minnesota each summer outweighed all the rest but Christmas. For me as well, possibly only riding on my parents’ vibration, the North Shore was an asylum from personal and city stress. That fundament, I think, remains the same.

A different application of asylum might be considered when mom (successful Stanley seller often doing 5+ shows a week) and dad (a tool and die maker with managerial abilities) decided to depart Chicago for Hovland where we made a colorful old gal wonderfully happy by paying far too much for her cottage with mouse multitude. The mouse situation was not apparent until the owner and her cats were gone. We hit full mouse occupancy within weeks.

I loved it my new life, but had no role other than as observer and the utility suited to an eleven year old; “take out the garbage.” By Thanksgiving, out of funds, we left the house to the mice to begin months of hunt that led to the thriving new Hoyt Lakes on the Iron Range where a tool and die maker and his savvy wife stood far better chances than in a community of fifty.

This may sound like useless ancient or “personal” history of no general value, but I suggest otherwise. People come into the North Country and up the Shore seeking the same sense of retreat and asylum my family needed and loved. Not, and I do mean NOT, surprisingly a good many of the afflicted carry in their blood and nerves the same desires that drove a tool and die maker with Stanley Demonstrator wife to cast aside reason for a real life gamble on the roulette wheel of fate. Asylum worthy insanity it may appear, but how many other gambles can you name with as much commitment to LIFE?

But since it’s me who’s commenting I’m constitutionally required to note that the current crop drawn to the weekend asylum cut a different figure than of old. They are rather better fed than we were, a lot more colorful, and are thoroughly committed to the absence of class called casual (I’ve come to it call casuality - casualties of the casual). Casuality causes streets to look like someone emptied a hamper filled with people questionably attired for the privacy of their own bathrooms, much less public view. The new inmates of the asylum are not entirely like the old.