Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rural vacationland

There's something almost iconic about this picture. In the very same tiny, just-off-Main, downtown building, two absurdly different businesses try to make a go of it--a barber shop complete with miniature barber poll, and someone's "Transformative Therapies" business, a place that'll do massages by appointment. In one, I'd expect to find Floyd the Barber holding forth, Andy or Opey in the chair; in the other, someone disrobed beneath a sheet, a Gucci bag at her side.

Iconic because northern Minnesota is, for thousands of well-heeled citizens, vacationland, a place for play. At the same time, hundreds--even a few thousand--are actual year-round residents, people who work here and have for generations. Some of the vacationers are the state's most posh; any real estate listing includes lakefront homes worth millions. Yet, right next door is rural poverty. The old houses and farms and acreages sometimes look Depression-era. Two cultures exist side-by-side.

John Updike's famous story, "A & P," features a kid who finds himself hormonally drawn toward a trio of bikini girls who march into the store for kipper snacks or something exotic. The girls are what we used to call "lake people" in my hometown on the shores of Lake Michigan, vacationers who view the local A & P as if it were a trading post for the natives. Their origins and bearing is definitely upper-class, and Scotty, the local yokel, can't stop himself from falling into the dangerous chasm that always divides rich from poor.

There are two widely different cultures in Minnesota vacationland, two distinctly different energies, and I wonder if I could live here, actually live here. I can definitely vacation here, but could I live here?--someplace between the barber shop and place hawking transformative therapies--whatever they are, not a wall away.

Don't know. But then we're all slightly schizophrenic. Minnesota sends both Michele Bachmann and Al Franken off to Washington, right?--political polar opposites--and then throws in Keith Ellison, Congress's sole Muslim, for spice. Go figure.

You've got to live with diversity these days, I guess, no matter where you go. Yesterday, a day so warm I swear that leaves are about to bud on the trees all around, two old bucks my age motored past our dock, topless. I'm not kidding. Two old guys, my age, bare-chested in a modest fishing boat. Looked kind of ridiculous, in fact, and not at all pretty. The fact is, I don't know if they were rich or poor. Not a clue.

Neither needed a haircut.

I'm not sure about transformative therapy.

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