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Like a Rolling Stone

11 March 2018

Next week, when the UMD men’s hockey team heads to St. Paul for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, I’ll be going with them…

…and I won’t be coming back.

After four and a half years living in Duluth, I’m leaving. Starting on Tuesday, I’ll be a resident of St. Paul. Ultimately, it is a good thing (I have a great new job opportunity, but it required relocation), but leaving here is going to be so hard. It’s only two days away, but still doesn’t feel real.

When people find out I live in Duluth, their response is almost always “Oh, I love Duluth!” This is the same response I had before I moved here, and while I still love Duluth, it’s not a starry-eyed, naive type of love anymore. My love for this city is much more complex than it was before I was a resident.

It is considerably more fun to be a Bulldogs fan in Duluth. I loved sleeping in my own bed every night after hockey games, instead of going back to a hotel, or a friend’s spare room, or even worse, hopping in the car and driving two and a half hours back to the Twin Cities after the game. It was fun to see Riley Tufte at the movies, or Blake Young at Perkins, or Bill Watson in the elevator at work. It was neat when I was going to tUMD and would see Meghan Huertas or Sammy Squirrel Spurrell in the corridors; I even had a class with Catherine Daoust. It was nice to drop in at UMD Stores on campus for the balloon sale, or attend a special weeknight season ticket holder event.

It was fun to be able to attend high school games and other collegiate games. A high school friend of mine ended up returning to teach at UWS, and she and I attended several UWS women’s games. I went to high school section games, and saw my friend Hunter score his first high school hockey goal this past winter. It was also nice to be able to watch some away games on My9, even though I’ll be moving away just as they finally get the channel in high def. It was incredibly cool to see the Curling Club on TV during the men’s curling finals, and to hear the community buzzing about Maddie Rooney and Sidney Morin.

The ugly truth that many in Duluth don’t like to admit is that we don’t like hockey that much, collectively. There are dozens of outdoor rinks, and lots of kids that play hockey, but the men aren’t filling the arena every night, and the women seem to draw the same number of people no matter what (actually, they are likely drawing fewer people, since they play Friday-Saturday instead of Saturday-Sunday). It seems I’ve been proven right once and for all: Shannon Miller wasn’t the reason people stayed away.

The silver lining to this dirty little secret is that it doesn’t really matter if this city isn’t hockey obsessed. There’s actually more to life than hockey. I know it’s hard to believe! Especially for someone like me who appears to have structured her entire life around hockey. To the point where I deliberately scheduled my move for the week between the quarterfinals and the NCHC tournament. But obsessive fandom is only sustainable for so long. While I used to be almost painfully early to games, now I’m quite fashionably late to almost every game, much to the chagrin of The Aaaahj. I sometimes even miss games to do stuff like buy a house or run 31 miles.

Beyond hockey, there’s a lot to love about this city. The lake, whether it’s a full moon reflecting off it when it’s still, or whether it’s crashing against the shore during a storm. The Superior Hiking Trail, threading its way through town, providing wilderness in the middle of the city. Miles and miles of bike trails. Beautiful old houses. Walking along the red bricks of Superior Street downtown during the first snow, feeling like I’ve gone back in time 100 years. Mild summers where all we need is the lake for air conditioning.

But then, there’s also the Marches. And Aprils and Mays, when it’s warm everywhere else but here. In a way, May is the best month in Duluth: the college students have gone, but the tourists haven’t arrived in full force yet. Although with the number of youth hockey tournaments held here, it seems like tourist season never ends. It doesn’t take long to adopt a townie mentality, I am here to tell you. One Grandma’s Marathon weekend or move-in day and it’s all over.

Most people look at Duluth as some kind of hippie liberal paradise, and I suppose if you never leave downtown/Canal Park, it might look that way. But you don’t have to stray too far from the tourist attractions to see the other reality of Duluth; poverty, drug abuse, homelessness. A city split literally down the middle into the haves and have-nots. The “plausible deniability” brand of racism that is typical of the Midwest, locals decrying the “people from Chicago” who are bringing drugs and crime to the city. Environmentalists and union members at odds over two of the main industries in the region: energy transport and mining. Congressional campaigns waged over who likes guns more.

We came to Duluth in September of 2013, intending to stay for a few years while I attended tUMD (after becoming a Gopher reject myself, I guess karma for calling them my safety school back in 2000), and then moving back to the Twin Cities or wherever I could find a job. By the time I graduated, it looked like we were going to stay indefinitely. My time as a student at tUMD was amazing: even as a non-traditional student, I felt like I fit in; I got an amazing education in the same halls as my parents, my uncle, and my aunt; and I found a fantastic internship that turned into my full-time job. My grandparents moved back here permanently, my dad moved to Pike Lake, my uncle is looking to return as well. Often times I can’t believe I’m leaving. The movers are coming to start packing tomorrow morning, and yet it still doesn’t seem real.

If this all seems maudlin and melodramatic, it is. It’s not like I’ll never be back – I’ll be back in May, if not earlier. I haven’t slain Tybalt. It’s just hard to imagine that Wednesday morning I’ll wake up in a new house, in a new city, with a new body of water mere blocks from my house. Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. vizoroo permalink
    11 March 2018 10:05 pm

    As long as you don’t become a gopher fan, the move sounds great–new house, good job, and the future unfolds.

    • 11 March 2018 10:06 pm

      No worries there! I’ve spent most of my life in Gopher country without wavering!


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