Continuity Issues

Over the past seven months, I’ve released six posts in a fictional series, which have followed two boys from high school and now past college graduation. Chronologically, the next piece in this series was, in fact, the first one I wrote. I posted it on this blog back in 2016, before I had any designs of putting additional stories involving its characters on this blog. As I think this story is best read in chronological order, I’ll direct anyone who’s following along back to that post, which you can find here. It has undergone some mild revisions to make it consistent with the six that precede it within the arc of Evan and Mark’s stories. At least four more will follow.

This post is so short it feels like cheating.


Four More Years

Hey, I’ve managed to keep this blog thing alive for four years. I had no idea where this was going to go when I started barfing thoughts on here four years ago, but whether due to continued spurts of inspiration or sheer stubborn inertia, I’ve kept plugging along with this ever-so-natural blend of Duluth affairs, philosophizing, and high school hockey. Thanks to those of you who put up with the stuff you don’t like or even take some time to learn about it, and congratulations to the handful of you who come for it all on your excellent taste.

It’s been a grand experiment in self-discipline, staying fresh, and seeing how the things I write resonate with different people. (I don’t do this for views, but it can be fascinating to see what does get read and what doesn’t. Long story short: the hockey stuff gets at least ten times the views of everything else, especially these days since this isn’t the Duluth politics destination, such as it was, a couple years back.) I’ll continue to plug away, and may also think outside the box a little going forward. I also won’t pretend that I don’t aspire to a certain level of influence—talking to empty rooms is never fun—though certain fundamentals won’t change. This blog does aspire to a certain ethos, a blend of some fairly scattered threads of life that have gone into creating me as I am today, all channeled through a voice that aims to be creative, easily readable, and makes it clear I’m having fun with all of this. Above all, this has to stay fun, or it won’t be worth it.

This blog is also only the tip of the iceberg of everything I write. I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve produced over the past nine years or so. The majority has actually been fiction, though there’s also a fair amount of non-fiction and autobiography lurking in the shadows. There is still a layer to my writing that is very much for my eyes only. Funnily enough, the blog—the only real stuff I’ve written that’s made it into the public—began at the exact time I decided I wasn’t going to go down the road of trying to make a living off of writing. That was one of the wisest choices I ever made, both for my sanity and my bank account. But I’m also a perpetual wanderer who needs somewhere to come home at the end of the day, and that’s what this blog is for: to organize thoughts, frame them in a way that other people can follow, and to provide an avenue to bring a little bit of that submerged ice out into daylight.

I’ve been a lot of different places over these four years: recent college grad, returnee to Duluth, struggling writer, aspiring intern, harried grad student, unemployed and driving the American West, and now, gainfully employed in both a field and a place that I don’t see myself leaving. The world beyond this little corner of the internet has changed plenty over the past four years, too. Through it all, though, I don’t think my outlook on life has changed all that much. Things have crystallized, and with my house now largely in order, who knows, maybe some of that other stuff I’ve written will make its way out into the world someday. I’ve never felt better about the direction of my writing, both for the humbling amount of respect my hockey stuff gets and the increasing certainty in the direction of my more political stuff.

And so I look forward to four more years of adventures in investigative journalism, from Emily Larson’s coalition construction to Mike Randolph’s line construction, from travel journals and thinkpiece reactions to my quest to discover where the hell Duluth keeps its single, cute, well-read, civically engaged, genuinely open-minded, ambitious, and yet well-grounded mid-to-late 20-something women. (Who, me? Picky? Never!)

Enough about me, though. Whatever brings you here, thanks for coming along for the ride, and I hope you stick around for the next four years, too. It’s been a delight.

A Patient Pause

Just a quick update on my apparent lack of posting: my laptop´s power cord has met an untimely demise, and while the replacement is on the way, it may be a little while. And while I am a patient person, tapping out posts on my phone keyboard just sounds a bit too trying. (To be honest, it was actually pretty timely. Better to have this happen when I no longer need it for frequent grad school duties, when I am busy settling in to a new job and car and living situation, and not during hockey season.)

Rest assured that I took pen to paper today as some thoughts about the election percolated, and am weighing my path of re-entry into commentary on Duluth area affairs. I also have the annual post on Duluth East alums playing hockey past high school nearly ready to go. Posting will resume shortly.

Before I sign off, though, I will pause for one little reflection, here on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. I was a sixth-grader when I got that news, and I’m not sure I have much to say that hasn’t already been said already: it’s a moment to honor the dead, to applaud the heroism that emerged that day, and to lament the ensuing geopolitical slog that has led us far from that initial unity of purpose and certainty of redemption. It’s hard to discount the impact of that day on the consciousness of my generation. It’s still there, lingering, even though it was over half a life ago.

On a run this morning, on a perfect September day–literally every day has been near-perfect weather-wise since I returned to Duluth–I stopped to cycle through some of those old memories, which culminate in a trip to the Pentagon Memorial the day after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden’s death seemed to close a chapter, and for my Georgetown classmates who ran to the White House to celebrate the night he was killed, it was a rare, liberating moment of victory in an often murky war. I didn’t join them, though. My thoughts, instead, were with the people who lost someone that day, for whom a retributive strike might provide some grim sense of justice, but could do nothing to turn back the clock on what had happened. Some wounds never heal.

Farewell, Minneapolis

I’m settling back into life in Duluth right now, temporarily back in my childhood bedroom as I find my own place and make some other purchases to prepare me for working life. Before I completely turn the page, though, I’ll say a fond farewell to Minneapolis, my home for the past two years. I only ever expected it to be a short stay; a stint that would simply prepare me for an eventual return to Duluth. I didn’t invest myself too deeply in its politics or inner workings, and kept my attention fixed to the north. One can only handle so many political sagas at a time, though I was there for long enough that I certainly know the lay of the land now. Things went according to plan, so this post won’t approximate my “Farewell Duluth” saga from August 2014. But I did fall for much of Minneapolis in my time here, and I will miss parts of it.

For starters, my apartment and neighborhood were ideal for my situation. I lived in a spacious apartment in an old red brick building with hardwood floors, though the building’s greatest feature was Frances, the elderly, vivacious building manager who kept us all in line. My friend in the apartment’s other bedroom, a fellow Georgetown grad, provided a necessary sounding board, as two people who had their critiques of the Minneapolis mystique could vent freely while pursuing our goals, divergent as they were, with typical Hoya ambition. Lowry Hill East, despite its hopelessly dysfunctional neighborhood board and historic renovation slush fund, gave excellent access to the whole city. It was right between Uptown and Downtown, both a short ride or a long walk away, and express buses to the U took me there in less than ten minutes. A short run was all I needed to reach many of my favorite parts of the city: the lakes, the sculpture garden (RIP), and my favorite refuge here, Theodore Wirth Park. And, next door, Liquor Lyle’s, that magical den where you can find a little something of everything.

I saw nearly every corner of the city in my time here. Downtown, where I worked for a year, threading the skyway hive and watching as the beast of a new Vikings stadium arose day by day. The North Loop, its warehouses all freshly renovated, home to happy hours and Twins games. Northeast, with its ever-expanding network of breweries and dive bars that put Lyle’s to shame. St. Paul, which I frequented on bike rides up Summit Avenue to a winnable trivia, and of course that southwest corner of downtown, which I’ll continue to visit every March. Lowry Hill, Linden Hills, Bryn Mawr, and the Chain of Lakes, where I sized up grand old houses and dreamed of the future. North, site of many a run, and subsequent reflection on race and poverty in this otherwise gleaming city. Quirky, crunchy Seward; the looming towers of Cedar-Riverside. The riverfront, always a convenient escape, whether down along the southern bluffs or from a bar on St. Anthony Main with that incomparable view. All those hockey rinks out in the suburbs that became frequent haunts in the winter months. I could trail on.

The University of Minnesota campus isn’t an aesthetic masterpiece; that’s especially true on the droll modernist West Bank, where I spent most of my days. I enjoyed being part of a power conference school (albeit one that doesn’t win much in the big sports), with all the attendant atmosphere and that infectious buzz of spirit. Comparing it to Georgetown naturally dooms it: they serve different purposes, and of course a large, sprawling research school is going to spawn a few more weak instructors and a bureaucracy that often left me in disgust. Thankfully, they were outshone by handful of committed leaders, and their numbers seemed to grow in my time as a Gopher.

What the U may have lacked in institutional efficiency, however, it made up for in the community it built in my graduate program. My fellow students of cities will stay friends for a very long time, and saying goodbye wasn’t easy. Our social calendar was nearly nonstop, and I’m sure I’ll be watching it forlornly from a distance for a while. I spent so much of my time in this city on the couch in the MURP Lab, where I rarely ever got anything done, but rarely regretted the detour. It was the prefect venue for coming into one’s own.

This is, of course, a brief goodbye. There will be many return visits for nights with old friends, for trips to suburban ice rinks and Orchestra Hall and Target Field. I’m excited to show off my hometown and my new life to many of them, and am ready to open up a mini boarding house for any Minneapolitans in need of an escape northward. Wherever I end up living, there will be plenty of space for guests. (After miserable DC and inflating Minneapolis, Duluth real estate is dreamy.) Thanks for serving me well, Minneapolis, and I expect you’ll always be a pleasant home away from home.

A few housekeeping notes: blogging may be a bit sparse as I settle in to a new job and home. Since I try to maintain a pretty strict work-blog separation—in over three years at this, you’ll never find more than a passing mention of any of my jobs—I also might not resume my Duluth politics coverage on the same level I was at a couple of years ago. Now that I have a job that can have some effect on these affairs, I’ll aim to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest. But I certainly won’t cut myself off entirely, either, and I expect to have some openings for comment now when I’m back in the thick of this cozy political world, where there’s little space to hide. On the hockey side of the ledger, I’m naturally excited to be back in my alma mater’s backyard, and also look forward to touring a number of northern Minnesota rinks this winter. Rest assured that I’ll make a few well-timed weekend visits to the metro, and the podcast should be able to go on with me as a call-in correspondent. If anything, our network is just expanding, and the future looks bright on many fronts. Stay tuned.

A Cycle Renewed

I’ve been slacking in my writing of late, which will happen when one is fairly busy and also coming off a rush of hockey-related activity that reached new heights this past month. I’m backlogged beyond belief on interesting articles that I’ve read and would like to comment on, though I’ll knock two out of the way in this post. I also have yet to opine on Donald Trump, which I’m told any self-respecting blogger must do or forever forfeit his credentials, as if everything there is to say has not been said already. (Worry not, I’ll let myself get sucked in at some point.)

Now that hockey is over this should conceivably be easier, though I’m afraid this alleged “spring break” I am now on will offer few such opportunities. With one last graduation looming, I have a lot on my mind, and a lot people with whom I want to spend time before venturing out into the world again. And in some of my rare free moments, I may opt for sloth instead of patient cycling, as was the case yesterday, when a 70-degree March afternoon found me beached on a towel in Loring Park. It was a dreamy escape. This freedom is only momentary, though, and it had my mind wandering back to a Roger Cohen article from a couple months ago on “ways to be free.”

In the article, Cohen describes the “ferocious ambivalence” that drives people in pursuit of freedom, with references to his own road trip through central Asia in his youth and the sublime surfing writing of William Finnegan. (I’ve never surfed in my life, but an excerpt in the New Yorker last year left me transfixed.) Cohen’s son seems skeptical that such freedom is possible in this day in age, but Cohen disagrees, and I think he’s right: for all our attempts to impose control on the world, vast swaths of it remain unconquered from the well-ordered Western mind. It will forever be this way, and we owe our sanity to it: the moments when we tap into that freedom beyond are some of the most formative moments imaginable.

Careful climber that I am, these moments aren’t always easy to find; as much as I may yearn for them and seek them out at times, they tend to be fleeting. My semester in Mexico certainly had some stretches that approximated it, but my self-discovery journey, such as it was, proved a far more inward affair that dug deep instead of roaming broadly. And, now that I am on the brink of a move to the 9-to-5 life, that hunger for adventure roars up again. It wants me on the road, or at the very least to wander through a few more Minnesota state parks to drink in the little details. For all my cynicism about journeys of self-discovery and the self-centered direction that inward turns can (though do not always) take, their power is genuine. We always seem to value things most when we’re about to lose them.

Perhaps, then, it’s helpful to read about a different sort of journey. Take the case of a Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham, who used some Department of Agriculture data to rank all of the counties in the U.S., and declared that Red Lake County, Minnesota, was the country’s worst. The other states with counties near the bottom of the list ignored it, but Minnesotans, being Minnesotans, lashed out in polite but scathing anger. Ingraham visited, came away absolutely charmed, and now, several months later, is packing up his family and moving to Red Lake County. These moments are effective because they are so spontaneous or serendipitous, and they are life-altering in large part because they are so unplanned.

Ingraham’s story will no doubt cue its share of Minnesota smugness. Still, it’s a refreshing tale for someone who’s been dwelling on questions of status lately, and who’s trying to remember what’s worth valuing as he starts a career. It does run the risk of lapsing into complacency, a contented niceness that will forever leave me a bit restless in this state. We still need outlets for that roaring daimonic desire that every now and then surges up and reminds us what it means to be free. But in the meantime, a Minnesota spring is on its way, and it’s to renew belief in what we hold closest, no matter how small or mundane those things may seem. For that, northern Minnesota remains the perfect reminder.

A Patient Cycle’s Greatest Hits

Over the past week, I’ve been revisiting some of my old posts on this blog. At the risk of seeming narcissistic or simply out of ideas, I’ve decided to collect the ones I find most memorable in one easy-to-find post. I’ll link to this page in the “About” section at the top, and add to it as I write things that I think are worthy of addition. The “Why on Earth Am I Doing This?” post, also linked to in the “About” section, is also a highlight, for obvious reasons.

I left out most of my philosophical ramblings, with the exception of Part I of the ‘Farewell Duluth’ series, since they tend to lack broader context. I like some of them a lot, but putting in a few leads to a slippery slope that would be hard to stop. The better ones tend to have embedded links in the posts here, anyway, and they’re all buried somewhere in this blog’s musty corners if you’re really that interested. I’ve left out film and book reviews, as much as I like some of those posts; perhaps I’ll get around to categorizing them someday when my inner planner comes out. No coverage of Duluth politics made the cut, either. Here’s the list:

On the schools I’ve attended:

Duluth East | Georgetown

Formative Cities:

Duluth (4-part farewell series from August 2014)

Washington DC | Minneapolis


Driving Across Wisconsin | Driving Across Mexico | Zapatistas | Phoenix | Christmas | Utopia (2 parts) | Driftless Area (2 parts)

Formative thinkers:

The Greeks (6-Part Series) | Octavio Paz | Hannah Arendt | Gabriel García Márquez


Duluth East Hockey History: 1950-2013 (8-Part Series) | 2014 | 2015

Mike Randolph: Critique | Appreciation

A History of Twin Cities Urbanism, as Told by High School Hockey

My post-State Tournament pieces haven’t been on this blog, but I like them too much not to link to them: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Cycling Southward

People who know me already know this, but I suppose an announcement for the broader blog following is in order, so here it is: one month from now, I’ll be headed south to Minneapolis, where I’ll spend the next two years in graduate school.

In an ideal world, I’d be back in Duluth in two years and settling into a career. Sadly, I don’t live in an ideal world and you don’t either, so who knows what will come of that plan. The number of things that can change in that time is impossible to imagine. But, no matter what, this is certainly not a definitive good-bye.

So, to business: how does this all affect my blogging?

The hockey coverage can obviously go on as usual from Minneapolis; I’ll try to avoid letting the dreaded Metro Bias leach into my writing. Duluth East heads south often enough that I should be able to see the Hounds with some regularity, and of course there are school breaks and such. After doing my undergraduate studies 1,000 miles away, Minneapolis practically seems next door. Duluth will never be more than a quick bus ride away. My thoughts are already starting to form about the coming season, so stay tuned.

The rambling on culture and philosophy will likely take a hit, but I doubt it will go away, either. I’m in this for the long haul, and I keep my word. I never stop thinking about that stuff, and it can prove a pleasant break from obsessing about other stuff, so long as I don’t get too caught up in that, either. This blog has proven a great outlet on this front, and it will go on.

Coverage of Duluth political meetings will likely drop off, at least in its present format. I’ll definitely be watching from afar, may pay a visit or two when back in town, and could even make use of web broadcasts as time allows. There will definitely still be Duluth coverage; I just can’t commit to the consistency I’ve had over the past year and a half.

I will keep going right up until the end. That means one more meeting of both the city council and school board (both the week of August 18), and my departure will give me a good chance to reflect more broadly on what I’ve witnessed in all those meetings over the past year and a half. There will also be another post on our favorite new voting method, instant runoff (ranked-choice) voting, in the not-so-distant future, as I’ve had a crash course in it over the past few weeks.

This last month also offers an opportunity for lots of sappy Duluth posts and other such considerations of what this city means to me and where it’s going. This is my wheelhouse, so I’ll try to have some fun with it. These past two years back home certainly were not part of the plan when I left here for college six years ago, and while I came around and was happy to come back, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were some moments of wavering faith. It is time to head back out, too: I’m a Duluth boy at heart, but I’ve always had both the blessing and the curse of being a bit more than that. As always, it’s a cycle, in and out, there and back again. I have a lot to say here, some general, some personal, some inextricably tangled up between the two. But, I’ll save that all for later—no need to ramble here. I’m on Park Point, it’s a beautiful night, I’ve got a wine bottle, and the beach is calling.

Housekeeping Notes: Election Wrap-Up and Dropping the Puck

First off, this site had a nice little spike in interest around Duluth’s recent municipal elections. Between that and the already strong interest generated by some of my hockey stuff, I’ve decided it was worthwhile to fork over the $18 to WordPress and buy the domain name. This blog is now, though if you still have the old web address cached in your browser, it should still link here. Thanks for the support!

Also, a note on my post-election analysis: I’m sure there are plenty of other conclusions or interpretations of the trends I found, or of other trends I didn’t comment upon there. It’s meant to be the start of a conversation, not the end. The goal here is dialogue. I don’t have all the answers. No one does. It takes a group effort to find some.

To that end, I’m interested in hearing some responses, and I’m also happy to post any sort of reply I get—questions, comments, criticisms, scathing rebuttals—and anonymously, if you’re more comfortable with that. I invite you to email me at or get in touch with me in any other way you know how. My coverage of local politics will continue as time allows, and I do want to write more broad posts like that analysis one, too. I heard a few good points at a post-election wrap-up forum over the weekend, and I might try to expand on them, among other things.

Shifting gears: Minnesota high schools begin hockey practice this week, which means there will be more hockey coverage on this blog over the next few months. My preseason Class AA rankings, which have become something of a fixture over on the USHSHO forums, will debut over there on Wednesday, and will appear every Sunday of the regular season starting December 1.

You can find my hockey stuff in other places, too. MN Hockey Hub appears to still be selling copies of its annual preview book: it isn’t cheap, but it is incredibly thorough, and yours truly has an article in it. They had me do a feature on Duluth East, which included a much more succinct version of the history series that appeared on this blog over the summer, a preview of the upcoming season, and bits from a very long interview I did with Mike Randolph back in August. (I might try to get more of that online at some point—whatever you think of the man, it’s fascinating.) The rankings will probably be appearing on once again also, and I’ve had other people talk to me about possible writing opportunities. No matter what, I will continue to put some stuff on this blog—most likely more Duluth East-related stuff, and perhaps essay-length responses to some of the more compelling topics that come up on our forum. (I already have a post on the work behind my preseason rankings queued up.) Stay tuned for details on that front.

To help keep people track of these things, and to be more actively engaged, I’ve also succumbed and decided to launch a Twitter account. You can find it here:

Since I know many of the hockey fans here have little interest in the political and cultural stuff I post on this eclectic blog (and vice versa), I’m going to limit that Twitter feed to hockey. I don’t have any immediate plans to create a separate handle for everything else, but if you think I should, let me know.

As always, thanks for reading.  

Loads of Links

I’ve set up a bunch of links on the side panel to the sites I visit most frequently. The hockey sites are fairly self-explanatory—they’re just the best sources of information out there, and I contribute to two of them—but I wanted to say a bit more about the news links, which will likely provide the basis for a lot of my posts on here.

There are a variety of sites there, some of them quite well-known, others less so. I want a diversity of views in my news, and I have little patience for partisan cheerleading, though I would not necessarily say my offerings are “balanced” or “moderate.” Two of the sites—the News-Tribune and Vox Populi—simply cover places I am attached to, and while neither is going to win a Pulitzer, they keep me up-to-date on places I care about.

When it comes traditional news, it’s true that the New York Times and National Public Radio have something of a liberal bias. A few exceptions in the Murdoch empire aside, this is mostly unavoidable in quality national journalism these days, and I may write a later post on why this is. For now, I’ll merely acknowledge it and move on; when it comes to depth and quality of reporting, these are some of the best. For international coverage, the NYT and the BBC seem to be the most thorough English-language sources, though if I really want coverage about an event in another country, I will look for a news source from that country, if there is a good one to be found.

Still, most of my media consumption doesn’t involve “objective” news, but political and cultural commentary from an array of pundits. I spend a lot of time reading the Times’s opinion page. Again, it has a liberal bent; I don’t put any of its liberals in a ‘must-read’ category, but they do put out some quality pieces from time to time. I do always read the semi-conservative David Brooks; yes, at times he is a mile wide and an inch deep, and pines for moderation in a very abstract way, but I appreciate his willingness to tackle big ideas, some of which cut against the grain. I also enjoy Ross Douthat, even when I disagree with him; as a social conservative, he is something of a voice in the wilderness at the Times, but he also comes across as the most subtle and complex of their columnists—which I suppose he has to be, to survive in an environment where his views are not the norm. (I’ll have more on Douthat later this week.)

For quality, longer-form journalism, it’s hard to beat the New Yorker, though its editorial bias is even more uniformly liberal than that of the Times. As a counterweight to the groupthink that sometimes appears in these two New York-based publications, I’ve become a regular reader of The American Conservative. If you think conservative media is limited to what you see on Fox, read in the Wall Street Journal, or hear from Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, you owe it to yourself to try out TAC. Their collection of writers is eclectic, and a surprising array of figures appear on their main page. Of their regular bloggers, social conservative Rod Dreher is the most prolific; he can be hit-or-miss, but the hits are well worth reading, and even the misses can be instructive. Daniel Larison is the voice of the anti-war right, while Noah Millman and Dan McCarthy are relative moderates and intellectual heavyweights.

Finally, the left-right axis is not the only one for major political and cultural debates, even if it’s the only one that gets much coverage. The dominant mindset in places like New York and Washington, even among conservatives, tends toward an international focus that accepts orthodox views on economics and politics. The Economist captures this worldview as well as anyone; it comes across as very balanced and reasonable, and their straightforward coverage of world affairs is an asset. But it also rests on a set of subtle assumptions that are rarely questioned. For an attack on basically all of those assumptions, I recommend Front Porch Republic. Like TAC, there’s a bit of everything there, and it can be hit-or-miss, but its writers—mostly college professors—share an emphasis on localism, a dislike of both big government and big business, and worry about the consequences of a world that rejects limits. Many of them are social conservatives, but there are some left-communitarians mixed in as well.

There are plenty of other quality news sources out there, if one knows where to look, and even the less compelling ones put out some gems from time to time. I regret that I’m not able to read all of them, but there are only so many hours I can devote to the consumption of news in a day, so this is where I tend to draw the line.

For the time being, this should be it for housekeeping posts; I’ll move on to content tomorrow. I’m aiming for a post a day, at least at the start, and then assess from there. Obviously, happenings in my life could affect the schedule, and some posts will be far more involved than others. We’ll see how it goes.