So you read a thoughtful CNN opinion piece and decided to move to Duluth.
I’d say “welcome,” but you haven’t moved here yet. You’re busy Zillowing what your $1.4 million worth of California equity can buy you here on the north shore of Lake Superior, which you picture in your mind as kind of a largish swimming beach (why else would “Lake” be capitalized?), and discovering that your kids don’t know the difference between Minnesota and Michigan.
Here are some things to consider.
Duluth is nothing like San Francisco. It’s built on a steep hill and is situated on a large body of water. And we mostly vote blue. By that logic, a water park full of Democrats is also a “climate-proof” destination you might want to check out.
It’s true you are unlikely to die or be forced to evacuate your home due to a wildfire, or tornado, or hurricane. Yes, it’s cold here, and we have blizzards and snowstorms each winter (or April, and that one time in October) that shut everything down for a few hours or days. But you are also unlikely to die from those, as there is always ample warning and time to prepare. We do, however, have floods. Our last “100-year flood” did $53 million in damage, and those climate scientists who want you to move here have also predicted that 100-year floods will probably now happen every 10 years or so. So there’s that. We also have crazy lightning storms that can leave people without electricity for days and cause large trees to fall onto buildings and vehicles. And there are the manatee attacks. And the ticks. And the army worm invasions.
Remember when you were making this decision, and you said to yourself, “I could never live anywhere that’s COLD and has SNOW”? and then you changed your mind, and all your friends and family said the same thing? Your punishment is laid out for you. People are going to say that to you for the rest of your life, and you will stop being jolly about it after exactly one week. You live in Duluth, Michigan? Oh, sorry, Minnesota? OH YOU LIVE IN THE SNOW, AND IT IS COLD. Every time. Every person. Even during the summer when it is neither snowing nor cold. Hell, even people from the Twin Cities, which is 150 miles away and has an average winter temperature that is 5 degrees warmer than Duluth, will explain to you that they could never live in Duluth, “because of the cold.” Well, joke’s on them, because the winter is the only time you’re really safe from the manatee attacks.
Minnesota Nice isn’t what you think it is. It reliably means that white people will help other white people shovel their driveways or change a flat tire on I-35. Duluth and Minneapolis-St. Paul are blue dots floating in a sea of red. Outside the city limits of these places (and a few little liberal artsy enclaves), you might as well be in Oklahoma.
Duluth is populated largely by extroverted introverts, suspicious loners who crave human contact but eschew human beings as a species. Duluthians would rather spend $300 on a weighted blanket than call a friend on the telephone and make a lunch date.
Besides IT IS COLD THERE and HOW CAN YOU STAND THE SNOW I COULD NEVER LIVE THERE, people will often say “Dylan!” and that’s cool. He lived here until he was 6 years old, and he was called Robert Zimmerman. Bob Dylan once saw Buddy Holly perform at an old building in Duluth. Based on this incident, there is a decades-long grassroots effort to develop the old building into a museum/shopping center. This will not happen.
There is nothing Duluthians love more than a grassroots effort to develop an old building.
It is becoming apparent that South Carolina, Wyoming, and Mississippi will likely legalize recreational cannabis before Minnesota does. Wisconsin and Iowa will probably never do it. Plan accordingly. If, on the other hand, you enjoy drinking vats of alcohol created by unshaven 30-something dudes wearing flannel shirts and knit watchcaps, welcome to Duluth. If opiates are more your style, any minor surgical procedure will provide you with enough Lortab or Vicodin for the entire neighborhood.
Within one year of living in Duluth, you will be required to obtain a Lake Superior-themed tattoo somewhere on your body.
It is acceptable to attend the symphony or the ballet while wearing the entire contents of the REI catalog. If you are a heterosexual male, you will be issued a pair of Duluth Trading Company “Firehose Pants” when you obtain your new vehicle plates at the DMV, along with a coupon for 30% off your next pair.
We really do talk that way. And so will you. Four months after you move here, the folks back home will say you “sound Canadian.”
One time I purchased a pair of leggings in San Francisco. They have a whimsical print of cats in outer space, and I ALWAYS get compliments on them. I bought them in a shop in “Haight-Ashbury,” and I was more than a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see any peace signs, hippies, bell-bottom pants, or any of the other things that San Francisco (“The Duluth of the South of the West Coast”) is most famous for. I hope next time they put those things where I can see them!
There are fewer than 10 really good restaurants here. Fortunately, an endless array of cuisines awaits you in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is a five-hour round trip on the most boring stretch of freeway in North America.
The nearest real airport is also a five-hour round trip.
Our hatred for being compared to San Francisco is directly proportional to our enthusiasm for being compared to Portland.
The difference between Minnesota and Michigan is that, when our governor issued executive orders on masks and shutdowns during the worst of the pandemic, a group of citizens did not attempt to kidnap and murder our governor. That is because Gov. Tim Walz is not a woman.
I was kidding about the manatee attacks. It’s the snow snakes you have to watch out for.
Did I hear you complaining about your public transit system? Bless your heart.
Jean Sramek of Duluth is a writer, satirist, and theater artist who says she creates things that are weird and hard to explain. She also says she enjoys all the weather conditions Duluth has to offer.