January tourist blogs his way through DuluthAdam Carr looks like he is from Duluth. He’s got the signature beard, black-framed glasses and favors layers: a sweater over a shirt over another shirt. Hand him a pint and sit him in a booth at Carmody Irish Pub and he would look straight out of northern Minnesota.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Adam Carr looks like he is from Duluth. He’s got the signature beard, black-framed glasses and favors layers: a sweater over a shirt over another shirt. Hand him a pint and sit him in a booth at Carmody Irish Pub and he would look straight out of northern Minnesota.
In reality, he is an outsider seeking an insider’s look at the city.
Carr is here from Milwaukee engaged in a personal experiment he calls “January in Duluth.” The Milwaukee native is interested in immersing himself in the city, having conversations and visiting its locals-only draws. He has been reporting his findings on his website, using recordings, photographs, maps, graphics and first-person accounts.
Carr picked Duluth for a handful of reasons, but one of the biggest was a testimonial from his college friend, Jamie Blodgett, who graduated from Duluth Central in 2003.
“He always presented Duluth in an interesting way,” Carr said. “Quirky weirdos. I loved the way he talked about Duluth.”
Secondary reasons include becoming a fan of the band Low when he was a student at Carleton College in Northfield and the comedy of former Duluthian Maria Bamford. Carr said he was drawn by the size of the city, which he finds more manageable than a metro area but where he can find something to do every day.
Carr has also been able to find people willing to help him understand the city by showing him sites and scenes, including Lucie Amundson, a writer who moved to Duluth about five years ago from Minneapolis.
“This is such a great city,” Amundson said. “When people take an interest in it, I’m happy to show them what is interesting to me.”
Carr has been using the community website Perfect Duluth Day, Craigslist and the project’s Facebook page to ask locals specific questions about the city. Things like:
“What’s your favorite 5-mile run in Duluth?”
“I’m in West Duluth — What should I do when I’m here now and in the future?”
“What do you think is the most fun arcade game in the city?”
“Running failing, how about sledding?”
Carr worked in radio for 2½ years in Milwaukee, creating short pieces on different aspects of the city for 88.9 FM, a community radio station.
“It was a wonderful, beautiful experience,” he said of the full-immersion, 100-hour workweeks. “That was the opportunity for me to fill in the outlines of Milwaukee, the sketch I’d drawn growing up in the city. This was getting to know the city, like an adult getting to know their parents as friends.”
He is bringing this background to his time spent in Duluth — but little else. He wants to be able to go with the flow and follow leads that interest him. He’s not sure what the result of his month will be.
Carr came to town on the night of Jan. 1 and went straight to First United Methodist Church, aka the Coppertop Church, to capture a view of the city before setting up in a friend’s one-bedroom apartment in the Central Hillside. Jack Gibbons, whose interests lean toward geology, agreed to share space for a month and took Carr to Ely’s Peak.
Carr has met people involved with music and photography. He has a walk planned with the city’s poet laureate, Sheila Packa. He has been in touch with the Duluth Art Institute and had plans to see Charlie Parr perform on Friday night at Sacred Heart Music Center. He has stopped strangers in the skywalk and wonders if it comes across as creepy to engage people in conversations on the bus.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” Blodgett said of having his hometown dissected by his friend. “I think it’s a unique place and he’ll have an interesting take. I think he’s doing a good job, and I’ve seen the content he’s put up (on his blog). I don’t know if he had any idea of what the end product would be other than a slice of life here. I think it will continue to develop as he works on different collaborations and experiences.”
Carr wandered through Forest Hill Cemetery, shot photographs and is working on a piece about an old railroad man with a gravesite that caught Carr’s eye. He has photographed the moon over Lake Superior and mastered the Duluth Transit Authority’s bus schedules and the downtown skywalk system.
Amundson invited the visitor to spend part of Sunday with her. The event: Chester Bowl ski races, in which children race down the hill, the PA guy provides good color and where a hundred spectators will show up, some ringing cowbells.
“This completely makes me teary,” Amundson said. “There is this real nurturing aspect to it. I always say Chester Bowl is like skiing into the 1950s and people should see that. If you come to Duluth from the Twin Cities, you’re going to see the Lift Bridge. You need an insider to see the Chester Bowl ski races.”
Carr is hoping other people will open up to him, tell them why they are here and show them what they love so he can make stories about it.
“I’d like to be the tour guide through the wilderness of someone else’s narrative,” he said.