Remembering Black Sunday in Duluth

DSC04059

As waves threatened to overtop the pier walls and wind whipped the words from people’s mouths, an intimate ceremony was held earlier this week in Duluth’s Canal Park. The gathering marked 50 years since three brothers and a Coast Guardsman who was trying to find them were swept off the pier during a late April blow. (For more details, please read my earlier post.)

DSC04052

Ron Prei (left) and Tom Mackay.

Tom Mackay, a friend of the Coast Guardsman, organized the Black Sunday event. It was simple – no microphones, no chairs – just a bunch of people who wanted to remember. We stood on the North Pier near the shore and the Marine Museum, where the plaque for Guardsman Culbertson rests. It’s not far from the gates put up after the drownings to discourage people from walking the piers during bad weather.

Mackay talked about why he feels it’s important to remember the events of that night long ago. He talked about his friend who died. He talked about the power of the lake. He painted a picture of young lives cut short.

Mackay laid four flowers next to the plaque as he does every year on April 30 – one for each death, and then invited Ron Prei, another Coast Guardsman who was part of the rescue attempt, to talk. The soft-spoken Prei’s words were lost to the wind, but in a TV news interview, he described the harrowing conditions of that night and how he’ll never forget.

DSC04055The Halvorson brothers were my cousins – first cousins once removed, or something like that. I was too young when the tragedy happened to remember them, but I remember the effect it had on my family, and the Halvorson family. Later, when we would visit the Halvorson home for dinner, there was the sense of the missing brothers – a blackness that hung in the background and was not overtly acknowledged – at least not when I was around. A certain liveliness was missing. Those feelings were quickly overshadowed by the exuberance of the family’s four other children and the warmth of conversation.

It was good to be part of this public recognition for the boys, the man, and the force that is the lake.

Afterwards, the crowd dispersed, hunched against the cold wind. And we remembered.

DSC04058

The Lake, it is Said, Never Gives up her Dead

Black Sunday

The original newspaper article about “Black Sunday’ as it is known locally. Darn paper got the twin’s names mixed up.

Fifty years ago on this day, I remember by mother and sister crying. I was seated at the dining room table and they were in the living room across the way sobbing their hearts out. I was so young, I didn’t understand what was happening. I only knew this wasn’t usual behavior for them. It scared me.

Eventually they came over and tried to explain. They said three of our cousins had drowned in Lake Superior – 17-year-old Eric, and 16-year-old twins Art and Nate. A Coast Guardsman who was trying to save them also drowned. A wind storm had whipped up the waves on the lake and the boys had driven down to the pier in the evening after a church youth group gathering to watch the power of the lake.

Whose idea was it to try and make it to the lighthouse at the end of the pier? As my family tells it, a common game among teenagers at the time was to run on the pier wall, racing the waves from light post to light post until making it to the end. Then you had to make it back. It was a local rite of passage.

According to witnesses, two of the brothers made it to the lighthouse. The third brother, close behind, lost his footing and was swept off the pier. The other two turned back to save him, but soon they were lost from sight in the frigid water.

I guess it doesn’t matter whose idea it was to race the waves. The brothers can’t tell us, and their bodies were never found.

In response to a call for volunteers to search for the boys that night, three Coast Guardsmen tethered themselves together with rope and made their way to the end of the pier. Finding nothing but wind and furious waves, they were making their way back when one of them, Edgar Culbertson, was washed over the side by a wave. The other two could not save him. I assume he was still attached to the rope and by the time they got to shore, Culbertson was drowned.

In commemoration of my cousins and the men who tried to rescue them, a ceremony was held today at the pier. Since I am the only member of my family left in town, I attended to represent. I’ll write more about that in my next post.

You Know it’s Bad When the Scientists are Marching

20170422_101727

Marchers for Science in Duluth, Minn.

Last weekend I marched with about 1,200 other people along the shores of Lake Superior in support of science. This was a cause I could easily get behind since I work for a water science research organization (Please refer to my previous post, “Why Sea Grant is a Kick-Ass Program (And Not Just Because I Work There)”).

I walked with a few other Sea Granters and recognized many of the researchers our organization funds among the crowd. It was encouraging seeing so many people upholding the value that science brings to our society and supporting full federal funding for scientific programs.

20170422_082249The sign I made for the march said, “Without Science, Life Itself Would be Impossible!” Does that ring a bell with anyone? I wanted something unique, but maybe it was a bit too unique.

I meant it as a play on a terribly blatant propaganda campaign that Monsanto ran in the 1970s in support of the idea of manmade chemicals. Their slogan was, “Without Chemicals, Life Itself Would be Impossible.” It featured a cute Aryan-haired little boy and his doggie. Surely, Monsanto-produced chemicals are just as harmless as this adorable duo. (NOT!)

Monsanto chemicals adI figured only people alive in the 1970s might “get” my sign. I tested a few of my age-appropriate friends as we made our way to the march, but nobody spontaneously recalled the Monsanto campaign. After explaining it, a few remembered, but they did not immediately start applauding my brilliance. I suspect they just thought my sign was saying that medical science is important to human life. That’s okay. My friend had a sign that was as obvious as mine was obtuse. Hers said “Marching for Science.”

You know these events are all about the signs. If you have a boring sign or one that people can’t understand, you might as well stay home.

While sitting on a bench waiting for the march to start, I was mulling over the lameness of my sign when I noticed a TV news crew filming it from afar as it rested on the ground propped up against the bench legs. Maybe it was my sign’s pretty colors or maybe it was the pithy message – anyway, it lured the reporter and cameraman over to our small group. The reporter asked if she could interview us for a story. My friend, her mother, and I readily agreed.

Little did the news crew know, but they had stumbled into a nest of trained media relations professionals. We were able to espouse our key messages and put in a plug for Sea Grant. We ended up being the only ones interviewed for their story. (Which turned out pretty well, given that it was Fox News.)

What didn’t get into the story was my friend Sharon’s explanation about her year-long climate change art project, “Penguins with a Purpose.” She’s a ceramic artist and after the presidential election, decided to put her skills and frustration to use by making large clay penguins to draw attention to one of the issues the president is trying to silence, namely, climate change.

Her goal is to make 100 penguins by the end of the year, which she will sell and donate part of the proceeds to climate science and policy. Each penguin is unique and has a purpose.

She carried one of her heavy penguins for the whole march. We saw dozens of people we knew and had many side conversations along the way. Even though the march took energy, I completed it feeling energized by the crowd.

For now, hopeful noises are coming out of Washington D.C. that my Sea Grant colleagues and I will still have our jobs after next week. It’s sounding like Congress will pass a continuing resolution on the budget for the rest of the year instead of going with President Trump’s plan to fund his wall on the Mexican border with the entire Sea Grant budget (and those of other agencies).

This may just delay the wall-funding issue until the next budget cycle at the end of the year, but it’s comforting to think we’ll have our jobs for a few more months. Thank you to everyone who’s written their Congressperson. Every little bit helps.

20170422_100312

Standing strong for science in Duluth.

Scallop (or Shrimp) Linguine

 

20170326_174441

This recipe is modified from one I got off the interweb from the Rachael Ray Food Network. This version is wheat- and corn-free. Although if you really want wheat, you can just use regular linguine noodles.

½ pound linguine noodles (brown rice spaghetti noodles work well)
1 pound scallops or 12 oz shrimp
Sea salt and black pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 T butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 t thyme
3/4 cup white cooking wine
3/4 cup clam juice or seafood stock
25 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
1-2 T parsley
1 T lemon juice

Boil pasta in large pot. If needed, thaw shrimp or scallops under cool running water for 3-4 minutes (but fresh is better!) Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 T olive oil and 2 T of the butter.

For scallops: When butter is melted, add scallops. Brown scallops 2 minutes on each side, then remove from pan and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

For either: Add the garlic, green onion, thyme, salt and pepper to skillet. Reduce heat a little and saute 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine to the pan. Reduce it by cooking (boil) for one minute. Add the clam juice, basil, parsley, lemon juice and the remaining 1 T butter. Stir until the butter has melted.

For shrimp: Add the shrimp now. If raw shrimp, cook in sauce until done. If pre-cooked shrimp, cook less time until warm.

Add the linguine and cook for about a minute to combine and let the pasta soak up the sauce. Divide the pasta between two serving plates and if using scallops, top with the reserved scallops. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Superb!!!!

It’s Christmas on Easter!

20170416_155329

A book project I’ve been working on for about a year-and-a-half is complete! Copies of the book arrived this weekend, so I feel like it’s Christmas even though it’s really Easter.

The book is called “Going Coastal.” It’s an anthology of Lake Superior-inspired short stories written by nine local (northeastern MN and northern WI) authors, including myself. My story, “Water Witch,” is the first short story I’ve ever written, so I feel honored that it’s included.

All of the writers are members of Lake Superior Writers, a local nonprofit group that “supports the artistic development of writers and fosters a vibrant literary arts community.” Proceeds from book sales support this group.

The idea for the anthology started with a conversation I had with the manager of a bookstore in Duluth.  She asked me what I was working on and I told her “short stories.” She said, “You know what customers come in and ask me for? Short stories about Lake Superior. I have to tell them I don’t have any.”

**Bing** Lake Superior Writers has an annual contest. What if we made the contest theme this year about Lake Superior? And what if we were able to find a publisher for the stories? And what if the book could be sold in this bookstore? (And others, of course.)

I’m a board member of the group and brought the idea up at a meeting where we were discussing the contest. The other board members thought it was a great idea, too. And a project was born. After the contest was over and the judges had chosen the winning stories, I started contacting publishers about the project. Several were interested, but I ended up going with North Star Press, the publisher of my novels.

The name of the writing contest was “Going Coastal,” and the board thought that was also a good name for the anthology, and so did the publisher, so it stuck. Then came the need for a cover image. I’m on Facebook probably way more than is healthy for me, and I recalled seeing an image there by a local photographer who often gets into Lake Superior to take his photos. His stunning photo showed the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse seemingly swamped by a large Lake Superior wave. Perfect!

I worked with the authors to edit their stories, and then needed to decide how to organize them in the anthology. I offered the other board members the opportunity to help with this task (which was new to me) but they said I could have the “honor.”

Shoot – how was I ever going to decide? Well, a couple of the stories had Native American themes in them. Some were more mystical than others. A couple focused on ships. A couple others were about rocks. One was about a lighthouse. Another was about a family drama and had a super strong ending. Some stories were short, others were long.

I finally decided to organize them along themes, but I also kept story length in mind and tried to switch that up for variety. Figuring out the story order was as much an art as writing one of the stories itself, and was a fun exercise. I hope it worked.

If you like lighthouses, ships, beaches, ghosts, road trips, history, storms, agates, islands, family drama, and the mystical power of Lake Superior, you’ll enjoy this book.  It costs $12.95 and is available from North Star Press, but also Barnes and Noble and Amazon, which have it as an e-book, too. Take a read!

Anthology authors are Theresa Allison-Price of Superior; James Brakken of Cable; Evan Sasman of Ashland, Johnna Suihkonen of Lakeville; and Judy Budreau, Eric Chandler, Phil Fitzpatrick, Maxwell Reagan and me of Duluth.

We’re having a book launch sponsored by The Bookstore at Fitger’s on Sat., April 29 from 4-6 p.m. in the August Fitger Room on the third floor of Fitger’s Mall (600 E. Superior St., Duluth). There will be free appetizers from The Boat Club Restaurant and a cash bar. Each author (except for one who can’t make it) will read from their story.

Come on out and keep that Christmas spirit going through April!

Aruban Dreams (Part 5) – Island of Sensual Delights

DSC03971

Elida and Corinne of Happy Buddha Yoga in Aruba.

In this last posting about our trip, I will give you a glimpse into the pampering that’s possible in Aruba, plus describe another experience that just would not happen at home.

I’ve never practiced yoga in a foreign country before, and my friend was game to try it. We signed up for a class at Happy Buddha Yoga near the high-rise resort district.  Despite the directions on the website, the studio was a bit hard to find because it’s in a residential area, and well . . . Aurba is sort of disorganized. But that’s part of its charm.

Through my friend’s stellar phone navigational skills, we eventually found it, and were met by owner Corinne Voermans, a gracious transplanted Netherlander. The spacious studio is attached to her home. She gave us mats and we took our places in the studio for class.

We signed up for the 75-minute Pure Yoga class, which is based on vinyasa flow. The class was great and I recognized many of the moves, but there were a few new ones, too. Our instructor, Elida, was flexible beyond any sense of practicality. If I wasn’t trying so hard to do the moves myself, it would have been fun just to watch her work.

Back in Minnesota, I take hot yoga classes. This Happy Buddha class felt like Minnesota hot yoga, even though there were no heaters, because the studio is not air conditioned. But that was all right with me! Just come prepared to sweat.

The next day, my friend and I signed up for a hot stone massage at Indulgence by the Sea Spa. Used to deep tissue massages, the experience was new for both of us. After mimosas and foot baths, we were ushered into our rooms. My masseur’s name was Victor, or as I like to think of him, Victor of the Magic Hands. OMG! I think I’m a little in love.

He started out with a neck/head massage. Then there was a blindfold. And then the rest gets a little hazy because it’s been a month since I had the experience. But what I do remember is extreme bliss and relaxation. At one point, Victor was working on my back and I thought he was using some kind of oil with cayenne pepper in it because it was so hot.

Silly me, that wasn’t the oil, it was the STONES. From advertising pictures of hot stone massages, you’d think the stones are just placed evenly down your back, but no, they are oiled up and rubbed ALL OVER YOUR BODY.

I rolled out of there feeling punch drunk. My friend also enjoyed her massage. We both vowed never to opt for a deep tissue massage again if a hot stone massage is available. Now, if I could just get Victor to move to Minnesota, I’d be set.

Yvonne and George

George and Yvonne

The last experience – one that wouldn’t happen at home – was a brush with fame. One night we were feeling adventurous, so my friend and I partook of karaoke night at the resort. As you know, I am introverted, but get more than two glasses of wine into me, and you never know what will happen.

Well, karaoke happened. I sang a terrible rendition of “Big Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” My friend also signed up, but missed her chance because she was too far down the list for the amount of time left. Normally, she would be the one with the mic in hand, not me.

Anyway, the karaoke is not the point here. The point is that a lady noticed my awful singing and came over to our table afterwards and introduced herself. Her name was Yvonne Bergsma. She was from the Netherlands and was married to a popular singer from the 1970s – George McCrae – who had the hit “Rock Your Baby.” George wasn’t with her because he was on the road promoting a new CD. But it was fun to meet Yvonne and talk about our lives. She did not offer me a recording contract, however. 🙂

Thus, the sun set on our Aruba adventure. I wouldn’t mind going back some day. There is still more to see!

DSC03965