Another great piece of coronavirus signage:
Another great piece of coronavirus signage:
I was surprised to see art on the walls of the small exhibit space in the art building! Turns out, it’s last year’s junior art students’ show – work they couldn’t exhibit last spring because the world melted down. Beyond its excellent name, the show includes lots of great drawings, among other wonderful stuff. If this is any indication of this cohort’s skill, their senior show in the spring should be great!
This love seat in the art building is only for those who love themselves:
This week’s New Yorker cover by Chris Ware nails the autumn’s neighborhood mood, right down to the tangled flag:
I’d never read anything by Jim Harrison until he died a few years ago and my Yooper news alert drew my attention to this amazing essay in the New York Times on his love of the U.P. Till I read that piece – which describes some of Harrison’s favorite places in da Yoop, including my beloved Copper Country – I don’t think I’d ever read much serious, non-historical writing (however brief) about the Upper Peninsula, and I remember being impressed and touched that a real writer like Jim Harrison – who wrote the novella Legends of the Fall and then the screenplay for the movie starring Brad Pitt! – had loved the place.
That Times essay was occasioned by the release of a compilation of five novellas by Harrison about an Everyman named Brown Dog, who’s a sort of woodsman with few needs, fewer goals, and a habit, if not quite a penchant, for adventure. He’s a very U.P. character. Though I didn’t know any one person exactly like B.D., I knew a lot of people who were a lot like him: satisfied being underemployed but happy to cut pulp and fix cars, lovers of fishing and hunting and the outdoors, given to a little more drinking than might be healthy, not too interested in leaving the region…
Even more than Brown Dog himself, I loved Harrison’s evocation of the U.P. as a place. Early in the collection, Brown Dog says that 49º is the perfect temperature (and that 49 mph is the perfect speed). I agree! 49º means spring or fall, means wearing the same clothes indoors and out with no need to put on or take off a jacket, means new life arriving or old life leaving, means proximity to snow if not quite snow itself.
B.D. also loves the second-growth forests and the little creeks that run inevitably to the big lakes, and especially the swamps. The U.P. – like northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, two places I love, and apparently like Finland, a place I love even though I’ve never visited – is a land of swamps.
If anything, too little of the Brown Dog novellas are set in the snowy winters that sets da Yoop apart from even the northern end of the Lower Peninsula, or the western tip of Lake Superior. The seasons deeply affect Brown Dog’s life (he can’t wait for the trout opener), for sure, but he never really lives through a
bad good winter. Maybe that’s because Harrison and Brown Dog knew the eastern and south-central parts of the U.P. better than the northwestern parts. But Harrison and Brown Dog did appreciate, with a good healthy sense of U.P. humor, what snow means up dere:
I happened to finish the novellas – which ramble picaresquely over a decade of Brown Dog’s life – just as the Copper Country suffered massive flooding that laid waste to roads, hillsides, businesses, houses. The disaster was probably the biggest in the Copper Country’s history, with $100 million in damage (but thankfully just one death). I like to imagine Brown Dog would have driven his shitty car over from Escanaba to Houghton to help out with the cleanup, maybe asking for no more payment than a couple six packs.
The road was really
A trail for logging machines
Dad picks his way through
Mud, water, rocks, windfall trees
Deeper into the forest
The Route Out
The rough camp road starts
Just before Aunt Mayme’s house
After the curve where
Grandpa had his wreck, after
Selma’s farm, the bar, the church
First, load the Scout
With hot dogs and buns, pancake
Mix, milk, and bacon
Did we ever bring any
Fresh fruit or vegetables?
The Hunting Camp
Is our hunting camp
Still standing in the real woods?
Head toward the Big Lake
Then bump east down the fireroad
To the clearing on Mud Creek
Squashed, the gray squirrel
Reaches toward the fresh acorns
That drew him down to
The wide, ugly street, and then
Under some dumb, ruthless car
A walk in the woods
Then beers, a game, and pizza
At the brewery
With the girls: a pretty good
Summer afternoon outing
Next summer, I won’t
Get a new bike right before
I break a finger
And have to waste perfect days
Of sun and heat and blue skies
How can a tiny
Bone in a tiny finger
Need such a big cast?
Or make me so damn sleepy?
A month in this dumb getup.
Reduction of the
Proximal phalange on the
Left hand’s fifth finger
What’s your name and date of birth?
Is a riveting album
In my head I hear
The music’s many strange sounds
Almost more than the lyrics