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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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