Duluth, Minnesota, Versus Manhattan, The Island

Groom and I have been feeling lately that we have too much time and money and not nearly enough stress. It’s all “wake up late, stare at the lake, water the seedlings, play some Doodle Dice, go for a trail run, grill a pork roast, read in Jeffrey Toobin’s THE NINE about the appalling politicization of the Supreme Court, sit on the curb and chat with the neighbors, and hunker down to await the next hawk migration.” Frankly, with the low blood pressure that accompanies such an easy pace, we fear we may live to 95.

And if we’re alive at 95, there’s a very strong chance that the next Bush generation will have had time to ascend to power. Clearly, we’d go to any lengths to avoid witnessing the reign of facism carried out by “Governor Jenna of Ohio.” Indeed, rather than face this prospect, it might be time to undertake some lifespan-shortening.

So we’re thinking of moving to Manhattan. There, we could feel the pain of wallet-strapping restaurants, chest-clutching rents, X-ray-thin socialites, and gasps of toxic air–tradeoffs that could kill us younger but still leave behind grinning corpses.

Because His Groomishness and I like to make well-informed decisions, I’ve been compiling a list of comparisons between Duluth and Manhattan. When the list has reached its final, exhaustive stage, I fully plan to let it slide off the kitchen table and fall behind the radiator, where it will live for three months until the next sweeping up. After the compilation is completed and lost, I’ll head outside to lay on a blanket and play Skip-Bo under the apple tree.

1. Hell, the first big difference would be the quality of footwear. In Manhattan, we’d be under constant pressure to have well-shod hooves, no matter the cost or teetering involved. On the other hand, the only pressure in Duluth is to wear water-ready shoes that proudly proclaim, “We ain’t afeard of the uglies.”

2. Transportation in Manhattan is all yellow, dirty, and jammed. In Duluth, we’re more about not slamming into the forest beasts while mentally figuring out which color of wax to apply to our cross-country skis once we get to the trailhead.

3. New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is an old richie fogart who serves as trustee at the Museum of Modern Art, while Duluth’s mayor, Don Ness, is an avid skateboarder who recently learned to finger paint.

4. In Manhattan, $325,000 will get you a solid chunk of urban grit, while the same, in Duluth, will net a house that serves as a realistic backdrop for games of “I’m Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mistress, and he does so like it when I sport my feather boa atop a saucy smile.”

5. Schools are competitive in Manhattan. If your kid is lucky enough to score an education, it will be spotted with French lessons and staid craft projects like this:

In Duluth, however, we get real with the craft projects. Our preschooler classes work cooperatively and messily to create near-life-sized dinosaurs which are subsequently, upon completion, raffled off and sent home with the “lucky” kid whose name is drawn from a basket woven out of our region’s ubiquitous icicles.

Guess what? In our case, the slip of paper with the words Niblet Paco Dinko fairly leapt out of that icicle basket during the drawing, and before we could shout, “Holy Monty Hall, we didn’t actually want you to reach in that basket and pull out our kid’s name because, fer Christ, even in our relatively-spacious Duluth home, where the pajeebus are we going to put a huge dinosaur?” the thing was loaded into the back of a pick-up truck and driven to our address, where the aforementioned Paco Dinko of Niblet Fame stood jumping and clapping on the front sidewalk as the thing was unloaded, hardly able to believe, at age five, that this life he was living was really so very magical and wondrous.

In true “we don’t squawk here in the Midwest but just remain stoic in the face of whatever comes, again and again and again, whether it’s the latest Bush generation to seize power or an unexpected preschooler project come home to roost,” the Groom and I looked at each other, shrugged, and squeezed the carnivore onto the front porch next to the scooters and trikes.

Try toting this thing home on the Subway, Manhattanites!

Her name is Lily Sparkly Sparkly, and if you err and mistakenly call her Lily Sparkle Sparkle, you will be soundly reproved by an indignant five-year-old who hugs the old paper mache gel quite protectively as he scolds you.


Clearly, then, all the list-making and pro-ing and con-ing was for naught. We’d never manage to fit Lily onto an airplane seat, even in First Class, to make the flight to Manhattan.

Plus, she has a rather sordid history with Michael Bloomburg; should she turn up in his city and sell her tales of pomegranite martinis and ripped camisoles to the tabloids, he’d have to resign.

And damn it if the young Barbara Bush wasn’t overheard last week in the Oval Office, yawling, “Daaaady, I shore would like me a mayorship in some big city somewheres, you know, where I could live in a mansion and shop at Barney’s and gather ’round me a circle of Wall Street beaux. Any ideas, Daaaaaaady?”

To avoid that troubling possibility, we’ve decided to stay put in Duluth, where we’ll continue to wear our ugly Keen shoes; teach our mayor to use scissors; knock about our cheap and crowded house; dodge moose on the roadways–and keep a muzzle on the sparkly dinosaur.





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31 responses to “Duluth, Minnesota, Versus Manhattan, The Island”

  1. August Avatar

    That’s the biggest piñata I’ve ever seen. What a case of the giggles I’ve got here over Lily Sparkly Sparkly.

    You ask me, Lily belongs outdoors on your front lawn. She’s living like a Manhattanite there on your front porch.


  2. SQT Avatar

    I love that your mayor skateboards. Have I ever told you that my hubby skateboards still? I’m trying to convince him to put a ramp in the backyard. I think it would be great!

  3. Anette Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this! It totally made my day! Lily Sparkly Sparkly is beautiful, big, a bit scary and will probably stay a looong time with you, protected by her 5 year old guardian. You are obviously lucky people, but you’ve used your winner luck for a while so don’t bother betting!

    And for the moving plan, I think it’s a good decision to stay where you are!

  4. lime Avatar

    ok, after my latest BP spiking incident (which you commented on) in NE PA, which is rapidly becoming NYC west, you have sold me. can you give me the name of a good real estate agent in duluth?

    i have truly had my fill of arrogant, hostile city people moving out to my formerly peaceful rural corner of the world and bringing their nastiness with them.

  5. Sunshine Avatar

    You’ve just convinced me to stay put in the good life here in the Midwest. I had no idea how good I had it! Although I don’t know if our mayor fingerpaints, I will have to look into that.

  6. Claire Avatar

    Good plan. NYC= fun to visit, wouldn’t wanna live there. ever.

  7. Hammer Avatar

    Don’t be surprised if you notice planes shooting at your pinata and japanese people running around screaming as soon as you hang it outside 🙂

  8. cathy Avatar

    So, that’s settled then. I’ll come and keep you company, you will hardly notice the kids and I take up much less space than a dinosaur though I probably eat more.LOL.

  9. Calamity Jane Avatar
    Calamity Jane

    My mother always told me that the comfort level of your shoes has a direct relationship with the expression on your face. Comfy = happy, Pinchy = mean. I’m inclined to agree (and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it)

  10. Claudia Avatar

    “I’m Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mistress, and he does so like it when I sport my feather boa atop a saucy smile.”

    * snort * So THAT’S what the boas for.

  11. chelle Avatar

    You amaze me that your train of thought went from a life size dinosaur to moving to new york with it …. You rock!

  12. Tai Avatar

    Maybe you could get Ms Lily to eat Manhatten?

  13. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    Except for the cold, I’m titally with you about the advantages o Minnesota over New York. In fact, the shoes are enough to decide it for me.

  14. urban-urchin Avatar

    Lily Sparkly Sparkly is bigger than most apartments here in NYC! Excellent name- I see why Nibblet would chide you for mucking it up.

  15. geewits Avatar

    That dinosaur is crazy! Why do I keep picturing it in my cat room?

    Oh and don’t miss it! Laura Bush is giving a tour of the Crawford Ranch Tuesday morning on one of the morning shows. Which morning show? Who cares?

  16. Jazz Avatar

    I can’t help having visions of Lily Sparkly Sparkly rampaging through Manhattan like Godzilla in Tokyo…

  17. Amy Avatar

    uI suspect it was someone’s day to watch you recently and that, in their neglect, they let you climb onto the top of the refrigerator and that you fell promptly and squarely onto your brain and suffered a serious brainular hemorrhage wherein you lost your mind completely.

    Thankfully, the visceral shock therapy that is New York returned you, more or less, to your inherent basal level of resting state insanity.

  18. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    Wow. One day, I would like to be able to afford things. This “Midwest” sounds interesting.

  19. david mcmahon Avatar
    david mcmahon

    G’day from Oz,

    I came here via House of Lime, a favourite stop. Love your line about the “I’m Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mistress” quality of a house/ mansion.

    And footwear can never be a `shoddy’ argument!

  20. liv Avatar

    “We ain’t afeard of the uglies.”

    you shore you ain’t livin’ in close proximity to me and mah kin? or is ye skeered?

    tell yer mommandems i axed how dey durrin!

  21. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Well Thank God you decided to stay. Because Minnesota would just be a little more depressing without you.

    And that mayor doesn’t look any older than my freaking niece.

  22. jenijen Avatar

    i will never complain about the art projects my kids come home with again, forever and ever, amen.

    holy carp.

  23. Glamourpuss Avatar

    I have a cat named Mitzi Sparkle so I understand Lily’s distinction – names matter, as do shoes. I’m sorry to be so shallow, but I don’t think even a pink and purple dinosaur could reconcile my feets to those shoes…


  24. Diana Avatar

    Niblet’s teacher hates you, doesn’t she? His was the only name in the icicle basket because she hates you (or all the other parents were smart enough to bribe her with chocolate and offers to mow her yard and wax her skis).

    Never mind, though. I can’t imagine a happier place for Lilly Sparkly Sparkly to be adopted.

    (You know she’s going to live with you forevah, right?)

  25. Minnesota Matron Avatar
    Minnesota Matron

    Oh my God. Is that indeed the Mayor? Is he allowed to drive? Okay — that Lily is hysterical. Now you are stuck with her until perhaps Jenna or Barbara become Mayor of Duluth. . .. thanks for prodding me here! I”ve been so busy I haven’t had time to visit all my friends!

  26. Jeni Avatar

    Although I know Duluth isn’t “that” rural and where I live is rural but not quite to this extent, the theme song for “Green Acres” has been running through my brain as I read your post. Hopefully -or thankfully -not sure which might apply here -I don’t think I need to worry about the next generation of ensconced “DUBYA” family members taking over. (One small blessing there to being in my 60s, one could say.)
    But seriously, it made me appreciate just that much more the little village where I live in central Pennsylvania -back in the woods a bit but not too far -just right, ya know. Home Sweet Home!

  27. Theresa Avatar

    That had me rolling on the floor, and just when I stopped laughing I saw the picture of Lily Sparkly Sparkly, and down I went again. Glad you’re not moving to New York, after all what would a kid named Niblet Paco Dinko do over there? Besides, I’m sure they’d have a special dinosaur tax or something.

  28. Gwen Avatar

    Well color me shocked! I totally thought Manhattan was going to win there for a second.

    That dinosaur is a thing of beauty; you really are the lucky ones, living the high life.

    (My mom spent a large portion of her early childhood in Duluth. Therefore we are soul sisters, you and I. Yup. Although you are probably better with those tricky usage issues–“you and I” or “you and me” asks the former English teacher.)

  29. Say It Avatar
    Say It

    I’m SURE you made the right choice. I can only see living in Manhattan when you are young and single, or married without kids. NYC is more fun to visit with the kids.

  30. Steve Avatar

    In 1989 my bride an I spent a spring break in NYC and swore never to return. You may have changed my mind here.

  31. New2TheBigD Avatar

    I am a life-long, "absolutely never gonna live in NYC" born & bred midwesterner.

    But after 2 months in Duluth, if I were offered a bite of the Big Apple it would be a tough call. And I haven't even been through a winter yet…

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