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Kyle Eller: Time to get out and live life

A few weeks ago, I wandered downtown on a weekend for a cup of decaf. This is fairly common for me, weekends and weekdays -- a reward for being diligent in pursuing one of my life's major goals, which happens to require a fair bit of discipline.

A few weeks ago, I wandered downtown on a weekend for a cup of decaf. This is fairly common for me, weekends and weekdays -- a reward for being diligent in pursuing one of my life's major goals, which happens to require a fair bit of discipline.
It's a bribe, if you will. A pat on the head for being a good boy.
Though it was late August, this day had a particular fall tinge to it, the chill on the wind, the slight whiff of fall in the air. But it was gorgeous and bright and pleasant, so I opted to take my coffee to go and went to nearby Lake Place park for a sit.
Toward the back of the park, I could only see a couple of people. Until I got up to leave, I never ventured near the railing to notice that it was yet another busy tourist weekend in Duluth, never noticed I was part of a crowd. For the most part it was just me and my thoughts.
So I sat, sort of lazily working on a poem between stopping just to enjoy the day and to reminisce.
Spurred by the day, a flashback of childhood autumns came to mind, particular Sundays where my family would walk back from church in time to see the Vikings' game start. By halftime, my brother and I would be so antsy we would head outside with a football ourselves and play in a little strip of yard between the front yard's hedge and the dead-end street we lived on.
This little section seemed big to us then, even though it was only a few feet wide. We weren't even in school yet.
Those were some of the best moments of my childhood, at least until our neighbor, Mr. Dockstedder, put up yellow poles with metal flags on top at the end of his driveway, so he could see where he was going with his plow in the winter. Seeing this as an invasion of my special place, I took it upon myself to rip the poles down with my bare hands. Though this did not please Mr. Dockstedder, he still managed to chip in during the Read-a-Thon every year.
But I digress.
Flash forward to last weekend. In the midst of last week's sadness and chaos around the Budgeteer offices, life went on. As planned earlier, 13 of my closest in-laws (14 counting our dog's sister, Sadie) were on their way up to Duluth from South Dakota to visit.
Now, I'm lucky. Despite jokes about the "outlaws," I get along really well with these folks, and as a proud Duluthian, I seldom mind showing off the place. The weather had other plans -- nothing like what the Chamber of Commerce had in mind -- but the whole crew arrived safe by Friday night.
Friday was blustery and drizzly, but making the best of the situation, I took a group down to the lake to dodge those fabulous waves and soak in the spray. This, thankfully, was a hit with kids and adults.
We got similar opportunities over the ensuing days. We watched ore boats come in. We toured the Irvin. We hit the Omnimax and enjoyed a nice brunch. Some got to Glensheen and Jay Cooke State Park. A couple of us hit a driving range; others sat at a local coffee shop. Some went shopping for clothes and touristy stuff.
And we got another chance to catch waves and spray along Park Point.
We had planned on the aquarium, but the lines looked long so we held off for another trip. We missed some other sites due to time constraints, but there is only so much time, and groups of 15 move only so quickly.
And then the weekend was over, and we had our little apartment to ourselves again. It's fun to play tourist, and I don't mind playing tour guide. And we basked in the notion that all those folks thought enough to voyage up here. But let's put it this way -- the quiet of an almost empty apartment, which suddenly seemed big again, was even more peaceful after all the fun we had.
And as best I can tell, they had fun, too. At least a few of them, just a day or so later, were plotting their next trip to Duluth.
When I add up the events of the weekend, I'm struck by something. What was the most fun for me were the moments that were not packaged -- the ones that were free, that were barely planned. Standing down on Park Point, we played in the waves and watched absolute lunatics -- who I have the utmost respect for -- swim in the 50-degree weather and seven-foot surf.
I could have stayed all day.
In Jay Cooke, my brother-in-law and I climbed rock faces between stops to just enjoy the river. Then we climbed some more. I haven't climbed those rocks in probably 15 years, and I had an absolute blast.
I won't wait another 15 years.
It's not that I have anything against the tours and the stuff that runs on 15-minute schedules. That all has its place, and Duluth does a pretty fine job of it.
I just wonder if we don't abstract things too much. There is a difference between "getting the Duluth experience" and "experiencing Duluth."
Anyone think I could have found a more abstract way of putting that?
Here's another try: you can watch football on television or you can get your rear end off the couch and toss the ball around for a while.
My vote is that we get out and live life. We spend far too much time collecting experiences for the scrapbook or the video camera and far too little chasing waves and breathing spray.
Our time for living is finite.
Kyle Eller is a Budgeteer reporter and columnist. Reach him at 723-1207 or at kyle.eller@duluth.com .

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