Saturday, June 23, 2012

Area floods national item....

It's not a good way for a city and the surrounding area to get publicity... but we're really making headlines nationally. Click HERE to see today's NY Times with the most recent national coverage of our devastating floods, now estimated at damage of around $100 million. Our community, like so many who have faced similar devastation, will be resilient in the rebuilding process... but not without a lot of support. Amazingly, Duluth is back to normal today, with most streets usable and tourists still flocking here. For those willing and able to volunteer to help, you can sign up with the United Way of Duluth, partnering with the City of Duluth, HERE.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More about the area flooding...

Check out the Duluth News Tribune web site HERE for more aerial views of area flooding, including recently evacuated Moose Lake, Jay Cooke Park and others. Also check out earlier photos of various neighborhoods to get a feel for the wide spread devastation.

Duluth floods of 2012...

In case some of you living outside of the area have not yet heard, Duluth and surrounding areas were hit hard by devastating floods yesterday.

The home we previously lived in was surrounded by the overflowing waters of nearby Tischer Creek. The entire town and surrounding area are beset by issues of flooding waters, flooding basements, ripped away roads and sinkholes appearing suddenly on the roads.

The photo on the left of our old home was taken by a family friend. That Hunter's Park neighborhood was hit hard.

Linked HERE is NBC's Nightly News summarizing the devastation and again showing an air view of our previous home (red tiled roof). Governor Mark Dayton is in Duluth today (see the Duluth News Tribune link HERE) to witness the trail of devastation first hand.

Our sympathy is extended to everyone personally impacted by the aftermath of the flood and especially to the City of Duluth, now needing to face major rebuilding.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Old Europe: Still there after all these years...

By Jim Heffernan

I am only now – fully a week after returning – beginning to digest my recent whirlwind trip through central Europe in the midst of the European debt crisis.

We made it unscathed. In fact, we didn’t notice the European debt crisis at all. Perhaps that is because we spent so much money the crisis eased. Too bad we didn’t go to Greece and Spain.

Our journey took us to Paris by air, and then on across Luxembourg into Germany and finally Prague in the Czech Republic. Most of the trip was by boat on the network of rivers that course their way across Europe, the most famous being Germany’s Rhine.

We spent three days in Paris before embarking on the rest of the trip, a welcome period that gave us the chance to explore a bit – places like the Louvre museum complex (Mona Lisa is still there, along with Venus de Milo).

In Paris we floated down the Seine River (or maybe it was up; you never know when you’re in unfamiliar territory), posed for pictures before the Eiffel Tower (but didn’t attempt to go to the top), and invaded Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe – all of the touristy stuff, including dining at sidewalk cafes on the Champs Elysees. But you’ve got to do it as long as you’re there. And you want to.

Would any self-respecting tourist come to Duluth without taking a gander at the Aerial Lift Bridge? Well, that’s our Eiffel Tower, except at Christmas when the Bayfront Park tree goes up.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, we river cruised from city to city, town to town, passing through numerous locks, frequently taking shore leave from our touring vessel. It is striking how old these places are. They talk about how they were founded by Romans in 300 A.D. or by monks or nobles in medieval times and the Renaissance. I knew all that in the abstract but it is really brought home when you’re standing there in some centuries-old castle’s great hall, wondering where they went to the bathroom.

It seems like just about everybody you talk to here at home has been to Europe at one time or another, so there is very little – if anything – to report that would be new or interesting. Visitors can’t help but notice all of the nude statues everywhere, often with no fig leaves like in the United States. And European toilets flush funny.

Elaborate cathedrals and castles are around every bend in the rivers, some in towns you’ve never even heard of. I could name names if I had a map in front of me, but most readers of this wouldn’t recognize many of the places either.

There’s an American cemetery in Luxembourg filled with hundreds of graves of United States soldiers killed, mostly, in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, fought not far away in 1944. White crosses, and the occasional Star of David, in row after row, signifying sacrifices of the mostly young men who have been called “The Greatest Generation.” Being there is a moving experience.
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
And in a grave facing the ordinary solders’ plots is a cross slightly larger than the others inscribed with the name George S. Patton, General. He died shortly after the war ended of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. 
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial: Grave site of General George S. Patton
As a one-time peacetime private soldier in the U.S. Army, standing six feet from the volatile Patten made me a little nervous, even now, almost 70 years after his death. Old “Blood and Guts,” immortalized by actor George C. Scott in a wonderful movie.

I was reminded, and remarked to a few fellow tourists, of Scott’s response to a fan who exuded that Scott “looked just like Patton” in the movie. Not so, Scott reportedly responded, saying Patton had the face of a patrician and “I’ve got a peasant face.” 

Don’t miss Prague if you do continental Europe. I did last time and have spent the past dozen years since that trip trying to explain to people who ask why we missed Prague the last time. Now I can say we’ve been there, and visited the most imposing cathedral of them all – including Notre Dame. Ironically, 67 percent of Czechs are atheist or agnostic, according to a guide at the site.

From Prague, it was back home to Minnesota. Amazing, driving to Duluth from Minneapolis where ourplane had landed, how much the terrain looked like that which we had passed through in Germany. Except for the vineyards on every hillside. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Northland girl loses queen contest by a hair...

Hey, we’re back from our big European tour, journeying by bus and riverboat – mainly riverboat – from Paris to Prague via Germany. Wonderful trip, enhanced by great weather over Europe during the two weeks we were there. Saw lots of castles and cathedrals, along with art museums, interesting cities with ancient town squares, and great vistas. Now it’s back to abnormal. -- JH

Northland girl loses queen contest by a hair
 By Jim Heffernan

A guest on Scott Simon’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” on NPR decried the question asked by personnel interviewers of job seekers: “What is your greatest weakness?”

The guest – I can’t recall who it was – said it is unfair to ask people to denigrate themselves, and I agree. One respondent to the question had said, “Ask my wife.” Another reportedly said, “I don’t suffer fools well,” implying the questioner was a fool to ask. Nice shot.

Anyway, the discussion reminded me of an experience I had many years ago when I was asked to be among judges of a queen competition in a Northland small town. The winner would reign over a festive Independence Day celebration, and, with her attendants (the losing candidates) ride in a gala parade in a shiny convertible, waving at spectators.

We judges were provided a list of questions to ask as we interviewed the several candidates one by one, teenage girls from the town whom, for the most part, restored my faith in youth once again, which you can lose from time to time when you grow older. Fine young women.

One of the prescribed questions was just the opposite of the one discussed on NPR on Saturday. We were to ask each girl what her best, or finest, quality might be.

Each one responded with answers reflecting her idealism, such as: “I want to help people,” or “I want to serve Jesus,” or “I want to help preserve the environment.” All very admirable.

Just one girl among the eight or ten contestants was totally honest. When asked to describe her best quality, she simply said, “I believe it is my hair,” as her hand patted her perm.

She didn’t win, but she made an attractive princess.