Friday, March 21, 2014


I’m dreading a snowy white Easter,
Unlike the ones I used to know,
When treetops still glisten,
And children hasten,
To see bunny tracks in the snow.

I’m dreading an arctic Easter,
With each fresh snowfall, even light,
No lilies or bonnets,
Or parades and sonnets,
Or spring fever, in sight.

Still, may your Easter be joyous and bright,
But, please, may no more Easters
Be this white.

-- Jim Heffernan

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Duluth-Superior Magazine end is a loss to the community

I’m sorry to see Duluth~Superior Magazine cease publication. I’ve had an enjoyable ride writing a monthly column for the publication. It’s a shame to lose the lifestyle magazine just as the Duluth-Superior area seems to be springing to life in the wake of the Great Recession.

It was unfortunate for publisher Marti Buscaglia that the recession hit just as she was starting up the magazine in 2008, yet she persevered and made it a success in so many ways. But as she noted in her comments announcing the closing, it’s difficult to run a business from afar. (Read Buscaglia's comments in today’s Duluth News Tribune story by Jana Hollingsworth HERE).

For the past two years she has been in Anchorage, Alaska, as an executive at the newspaper there. I suspect newspapers are her first love. I always appreciated her leadership when we were both at the Duluth News Tribune, she as publisher, and I was especially appreciative when she invited me to write a monthly column in Duluth~Superior Magazine when she began that publication after we both had left the News Tribune.

Finally, editor Wendy Webb has been a joy to work with. A fine writer with three successful novels published in the past few years, she is a talented and patient editor who knows how to encourage good writing.

Best of luck to all at DSM in finding new endeavors.Jim Heffernan

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Memory...

When money was scarce and whisky was plenty
 By Jim Heffernan
My father, a lifelong Duluthian, was half Irish, a side of his ethnic heritage he favored over the other 50 percent: German. He felt the Germans were starting too many world wars in his lifetime, the first one of which involving him, but he loved his mother. She was the German.

But it seemed that the Irishness of the Heffernan family in his formative years dominated the German, and George, his name, always honored St. Patrick’s Day in some way, even a big way.

On other occasions, the Irish background could come up, too. Somehow – possibly from his 100 percent Irish father James Hugh Heffernan? – George had learned to dance the Irish jig. The Irish jig is a quick-stepping tap dance performed with a lilting and lively Irish tune.

My mother was Swedish. One hundred percent. But she could play anything on the piano (and pipe organ) from Bach to any random melody in her head. She could play an Irish ditty I know as “The Irish Washerwoman” as though she herself had come from Tipperary or Cork or OIney Cliath “in the sunny land” (where my father believed his ancestors had come from).

At times when the extended family gathered – aunts, uncles, cousins – there would be a moment when George would be inveigled to dance the Irish jig, my mother of course accompanying him on the piano playing “The Irish Washerwoman.” Always that.

A narrow strip of maple floor in our home separated the living room Oriental rug from the piano room carpet – just wide enough for George to set his feet a-tapping on a hard floor. My mother, Ruth, would sit down at the nearby piano and out would come “The Irish Washerwoman,” in very spirited fashion, as George valiantly tapped his way through the traditional Irish jig in his black dress shoes.

At some point, the words to “The Irish Washerwoman” would be sung to, or even possibly by, the mostly Swedish relatives in the room. Here are the words:

Ooooooo, I wish I was back in my Irishman’s shanty,
Where money was scarce and whisky was plenty,
A three-legged stool and a table to match,
And a door in the middle without any latch.

Three-legged stools and tables were difficult for me to picture in my young mind, all stools and tables in my experience having four legs. Must be an Irish thing, I always thought.

This weekend as St. Patrick’s day approaches, the New York Times opinion section included a column referring to the great Irish famine of the 1840s (which I assume brought my great-grandparents to Canada), and to illustrate it they ran an ancient wood engraving of a dejected Irish girl guarding her last few possessions after eviction from a thatched roof cottage for nonpayment of rent. And there, at her feet, is a toppled three-legged stool.

 But no table to match, and you can’t tell of the door in the middle of the cottage has any latch. That three-legged stool, though, brought me back to warm places in my memory I seldom visit, but value so much.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

There's no place like home...

Heading back form the mailbox to get my morning newspapers
Hi everyone,
Bet you've wondered what's happened to me this past month.

As you know, we spent a month or so down in Orange Beach, Alabama enjoying a nice getaway from the tough winter in Duluth. We enjoyed our digs down there and the fantastic Gulf beach we faced ... but had very poor internet service almost the whole time. It was hard to send anything off for the blog... so just did the writing with deadlines and let the blog go. As it happened, a new internet provider fixed the issue right before we left.

While we had no problem driving down to our winter vacation spot, we sure had a harrowing drive back home. I'll have to write about that later... some once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me!

Yes, we brought the nice weather back home and the temps have been warmer so that the white stuff is melting fast. But, as the photo attached demonstrates, we have a very long way to go up here at our home before our snow goes away for good.

Despite all the snow, it's nice to be home. It's pretty out there; I'll give it that.

Stay tuned...