Thursday, July 13, 2017

billow of memories

-------------- [excerpt, Bob Dylan's Chronicles] --------- In the summer of '59 after leaving home early spring, I was in Minneapolis, having come down from Northern Minnesota -- from the Mesabi Range, the iron mining country, steel capital of America.  I'd grown up there in Hibbing but had been born in Duluth, about seventy-five miles away to the east on the edge of Lake Superior, the big lake that the Indians call Gitche Gumee. 

Though we lived in Hibbing, my father from time to time would load us into an old Buick Roadmaster and we'd ride to Duluth for the weekend.  My father was from Duluth, born and raised there.  That's where his friends still were.  One of five brothers, he'd worked all his life even as a kid. 

When he was sixteen, he'd seen a car smash into a telephone pole and burst into flames.  He jumped off his bicycle, reached in and pulled the driver out, ...risking his life to save someone he didn't even know. 

Eventually, he took accounting classes in night school and was working for Standard Oil of Indiana when I was born.  Polio, which left him with a pronounced limp, had forced him out of Duluth -- he lost his job and that's how we got to the Iron Range, where my mother's family was from.  Near Duluth,

I also had cousins across the suspension aerial bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, the notorious red-light, gambling town and I stayed with them sometimes.

----------- What I recall mostly about Duluth are the slate gray skies and the mysterious foghorns, violent storms that always seemed to be coming straight at you and merciless howling winds off the big black mysterious lake with treacherous ten-foot waves.  People said that having to go out onto the deep water was like a death sentence. 

Most of Duluth was on a slant.  Nothing is level there.  The town is built on the side of a steep hill, and you're always either hiking up or down.

One time my parents took me to see Harry Truman speak at a political rally in Duluth's Leif Erickson Park.

Leif Erickson was a Viking who was supposed to have come to this part of the country way before the Pilgrims had ever landed in Plymouth Rock.  I must have been seven or eight at the time, but it's amazing how I can still feel it. 

I can remember the excitement of being there in the crowd. 

I was on top of one of my uncles' shoulders in my little white cowboy boots and cowboy hat.  It was an exhilarating thing, being there -- the cheers, the jubilation, the attentiveness to every word that Truman spoke . . .

Truman was gray hatted, a slight figure, spoke in the same kind of nasal twang and tone like a country singer.  I was mesmerized by his slow drawl and sense of seriousness and how people hung on every word he was saying....

The upper Midwest was an extremely volatile, politically active area....  They were hard crowds to please....


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