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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.

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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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Honey, I Can Tell Something’s Bugging You



In college, I had a friend who was gifted nostrilly. I mean, he had some seriously large nostrils. Some nights, to wow The Crowd at dinner, he would take a quarter and stick it up one of his nostrils.

At this juncture, some of you are probably thinking, “Yea, big deal. I stick quarters up my nose everyday, in a very particular and private kind of consumeristic self gratification.” But read on, Mugsy; I mean he’d stick a quarter up his nose, not sideways, but straight on—with good old George Washington and his fake teeth facing directly down to the floor. Then he could just leave the quarter hanging in there, a little booger shelf. In short, his nostril was pretty much the same circumference as a quarter…hence my assertion that he was uniquely gifted in the nostril department. Personally, I’d be hard pressed to get an almond up my nose, much less make it serviceable.

Don’t start assuming this type of stuff is on my mind all the time. I do sometimes have thoughts about books (don’t get me started on Horton and how he heard a Who that one time!), and occasionally I take a look at a newspaper and think, “Anne Coulter. Wow, you crazy beyotch. Keep saying mean things about that John Edwards; donations to his campaign skyrocket every time you call him a faggot.” So, see, I’m a deep thinker about many, many subjects.

But today I will admit I am musing, in focused fashion, on the awesome capabilities of orifices. Go ahead: insert your bawdy joke here. I’ve made about ten and deleted them all while typing this for I am, you see, very, very couth, in addition to being a deep thinker.

Now let’s move on. I’m thinking about orifices because our latest travel adventure required that my Groomeo have a gaping hole in his head, and not just his yammering maw. Rather, this adventure required that he have a really accessible and welcoming ear canal—that he be aurally gifted. I’d never noticed it before The Ear Event, but he really does have a good-sized cave up there, above his ear lobe.

To backpedal a bit: after a luscious week in Colorado, where we saw lots of folks, biked, avoided the Spirulina WheatGrass Soy Protein Shakes, had terrific trail runs (heat and prickly pear notwithstanding)…


…and got the kids out in a canoe…


…we quit the state and headed for Wyoming, where we garumphed around for the last couple of days. The change in terrain brought the camera out, even at 75 mphs…


…and after camping under a very fertile cottonwood tree one night outside of Casper (where the most curious little monkey roamed our campground)…


…we struck camp the next morning, during which The Event took place. Get this: a bug flew into Groom’s ear–and tunneled in for the duration.

Throughout the day, his hearing was plagued by loud fluttering sounds and burblings (which I posited was the noise a bug makes as it lays eggs, which, after gestation, would turn into a winged migration that would exit through his nose and mouth). First, he tried flushing it out with copious amounts of water poured into his ear canal. No luck. So then I broke out the tweezers, testing our love as I maneuvered past clumps of ear wax to extract any living thing. Sadly, our efforts were a bust. So we carried on with the day…


…toodling, amidst our mountain of car-crap, over to Thermopolis, where we visited the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Our 4-year-old Niblet melted in the heat during the tour, to the point that he proclaimed “That was vewy boring for me” minutes after having seen Stegosaurus vertebrae (uh, the plastic model isn’t to scale, btw)…

…but Girl was able to appreciate an Allosaurus footprint when she saw one.


During all this, with scary-alien-brainsucker-bug still alive in his skull, Groom went for a sweaty run, ate a hamburger, and hung in there gamely for 8.5 hours before announcing, “I think we need to go find a doctor.”

Turns out, the Thermopolis hospital, in a town of about 3,000 souls, has bug-in-ear experienced docs who greeted my beau with a reassuring, “Oh, we see this all the time.” (I suppose if you’re a rancher who lassos little dogies while riding horseback in the chapparal for sixty years, the bugs do have ample opportunity to score the hole in one of your ear canal.)

So the White Coats stuck a water pick in Groom’s ear and started flushing. Hmmm, said they. More flushing. Bigger HMMMMs. Then a very long, narrow tweezers came into play, and, as the gathered staff looked on, gasping and murmuring, THIS bit of horror…


…was eventually extracted from my true love’s ear, very much alive and aflutter. The docs gave him his trophy in a container, where it continues to flap its wings, even now, two days later.

To get rid of remnant moth dust in his ear, the professionals flushed the canal a few more times and left him with this homespun prescription: “Tonight or tomorrow morning, put a few drops of cooking oil into your ear, and that’ll clean you out real good, son.”

Since it’s been very hot (still 95 degrees at 8 p.m.), and since we were heading into Yellowstone Park the next day, where restaurants were scarce, I saw a way to make my groom’s huge and inviting ear hole into something functional at last. We needed to carbo-load before taking on Old Faithful, so I let the vegetable oil heat up in his ear…

…and then fried up some mini-donuts in the oil and ear wax.

Tasty.

Boy howdy, but Krispy Kreme ain’t got nothin’ on us.

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