Friday, July 19, 2013

Star Fire Pale

Duluth is quiet, cool, unassuming. Lake Superior stretches out in the distance, the color of iron. The woman at the airport rental kiosk tells me to choose whatever car I'd like from the lot, the keys are in the ignition. "Just bring it back with a full tank, honey. You enjoy yourself."

I love Duluth.

Traveling alone- I have it down to an art now. That night I go to Fitzger's brewery and work my way through a beer sampler, from the Oatmeal Stout to the Star Fire Pale Ale. The woman to my left is the brewer's wife and she talks my ears off, a pleasant escape from my own thoughts. Then she leaves and I'm alone again, banging my heals against the bar stool, taking in the surroundings.
I order dessert, why not, and it arrives in front of me a cool-whipped monstrosity, the size of a dinner plate. I turn my head sideways to see it from all angles. Dessert in the midwest is serious business. I have four bites and I'm done, defeated.

"My god," says a girl from down the bar. She's busty with died black hair, about my age, and she's staring transfixed at my plate. "That looks amazing."

"Well, have it," I say, giving the plate a push so that is slides in front of her. She looks up at me, mouth agape.

"Are you serious?"

"I'm serious. Please don't make me finish that thing."

She extends her hand, introduces herself and her boyfriend, and then they pick up their forks and finish the whole thing. Everyone is very pleased.

Casey and Cat are from Milwaukee  They are the only people I've ever met from Milwaukee in my life. I like them immediately, their honesty, their complete lack of pretention, the peculiar way they speak- heavy, solid. There's something very trustworthy about their accent, like a good dependable car. I feel safe around it.

An hour later I'm drinking another Star Fire and I've told them everything, the last year, the tremendous oscillations and how I can barely keep myself steady, how thoughts of Asheville are as insidious as they are nonsensical.

"Then you gotta do it, " Cat is saying, shaking her head. "You just really gotta follow your gut in times like these." And Casey and I are nodding knowingly, in total agreement, and it's all making a lot of sense.

I've made my first friends.
Work is easy in Duluth. In the evenings I'm free to do as I please, to take the freeway out of town and drive around the Food Lot strip and the empty fields, letting the cool air pour in the windows. It's such a relief after Florida, after LA. I blast the radio and tip my head back and feel totally free, totally happy, like a small town teenager running out the clock on her last summer at home.

One night I pay five dollars and visit the rickety carnival which is set up on a patch of pavement. It's completely empty. The carnies holler and shout at me. They want their photos taken. They want me to talk to them, play their games. I wonder what on earth I'd do with a stuffed panda bear nearly as tall as myself. I grin, ignore them, ride the ferris wheel which goes around about two hundred times.
I leave Minnesota on a Friday night. Weird weather is circling the Southeast and all the flights in Minneapolis are delayed. We entertain ourselves at the bar. I finally make it home to Seattle, the plane circling lower and lower towards the glinting city. With my face pressed to the window I can recognize every neighborhood, ever body of water, every street. Relief floods through me like warm water. 

To my knowledge, it will be the last time I fly into Seattle and call it home. 


Susan said...

The timing of this post is crazy! I was researching jobs for my husband, who is a hospital controller, and there was one if Duluth. I randomly said to him last week, on our way to the Avett Bros concert, What if we moved to Duluth? to which he responded with.."WTH? Where did you
pull Duluth from?" You cited several reasons:) On a side note..What do you do for a living?

Liz said...

wish i'd known you were in minney!
love your blog and writing!
would've come and kept you company!
(not in a weird creepy way.)
beautiful post about a cool city.
thanks for sharing!!!

Sarah said...

Last time you know that you'll be calling Seattle home?? What are you leaving out woman?

PS - Love your'd be so fun to meet you on he road someday!

SJJ said...

I really despise that last sentence.......ache, ;(

Daniegirl said...

That last line is suspenseful! Love reading about your life. :)

Emily Jacobsma said...

Gah! I'm in St. Paul and driving up to Duluth with friends tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

you know what i love...when you're on your game, you write like music. It's the rests, the hanging empty space between the notes that make the rhythm and words so powerful. -c

SmithShack71 said...

Yep, follow your gut. If you end up hating it, then go somewhere else. It's a sweet world out there.

ps Really kinda love the carnie pic.

A Girl Without A Name said...

I live about an hour east of Asheville and it's probably one of my favorite places in my little old state of North Carolina. Also if your ever looking for some new mountains to explore, check out Boone, it's a little less than two hours away. Love reading your travels and sincerely hope you take up Asheville as your new home. :)

Amy said...

You're moving for SURE??

Amanda Buck said...

I'm so glad you enjoy the place I call home, and you picked the perfect time of year to visit:) And Fitgers, it's our fave!

Amanda Buck said...

I'm so glad you enjoy the place I call home, and you picked the perfect time of year to visit:) And Fitgers, it's our fave!

Britta said...

I would move back to Milwaukee in a heart beat. My people. Or Lake Superior. I ache for it in my bones.

You go find your place! Grab it and go! Such excitement in the air. Go!

marinj said...

I just love your photos! I know I sound like a broken record but I always love to see when you update. You're so intriguing to me. And I don't mean that in a stalkerish way. :)

Catherine said...

Woo-hoo! So Ashville it will be?? Exciting! So glad for you! The sun and warmer weather will do you good! The dampness and greyness of Seattle is hard... Can't wait to hear more!

Lindsay said...

I'm from southern Minnesota and Duluth (or Up North as we call it) is my favorite place on earth. Even honeymooned there. Loved the description from a non-native.

jody said...

even after years of living away, i'm still madly in love with my hometown. i'm glad you had such a good time. that lake is something special, eh?