To be someone, do something

Everybody wants to be somebody. That’s the premise behind shows like “American Idol” and most campaigns for the state legislature. This quest for “being” is a tough road, though. Once you are something, you realize you want to be something else. Then you get older and you used to be something. Eventually, you “were.” And… Read More →

Rural housing prices rise with changing times

Memorial Day weekend approaches, a time when residents of northern Minnesota welcome the residents of southern Minnesota for the long weekend. Perhaps before you log off to enjoy the next few days you might read my latest for the Minnesota Reformer, “The northland has its own housing crisis.” Summer custom dictates that visitors from the… Read More →

Eighteen years

Young parents know the phrases. “Don’t blink.” “It’ll be gone before you know it.” “Cherish these times.” Old people talk like this when they see your child screaming after two hours of sleep on a work night as you wash excrement off a teddy bear. Typically, the words fall flat. It’s baffling to imagine time… Read More →

The hard lessons behind those leases

The only proper response to a mistake is to learn from it. Last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommended that Cleveland Cliffs receive state mineral leases once held by Mesabi Metallics, a group loosely connected to the investors behind Essar Steel. The iron ore in question lies outside Nashwauk near the former site… Read More →

Curtain opens on new era of Iron Range performances

You may have seen my column from last weekend, “Final Goodman show marks new era on Iron Range.” I marked the end of an era with the closure of the Goodman Auditorium and the dedication of the new Rock Ridge school. On Tuesday, I appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Minnesota Now” with Cathy Wurzer to… Read More →

Final Goodman show marks new era on the Iron Range

This year, the Goodman Auditorium in Virginia, Minnesota, will become a memory. A new era arises. The merger of the Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert districts produced Rock Ridge High School and its modern state-of-the-art auditorium. The new school replaces a lot of storied architecture in these towns, including one of the classic high school theaters built… Read More →

Love birds, hate deer, fear bears

When I take on new interests, I dive in headfirst with minimal forethought. That’s how giant sunflowers took over my garden last year and why I found myself howling like a wolf out my living room window this spring, appearances be damned. To explain, when I began to feel affection for wild birds a few… Read More →

All we have

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard some big wheel from the Iron Range tell a reporter that “mining is all we have in northeastern Minnesota.” It’s like when I hit my head on the corner of the freezer door while digging in the fridge: a sharp and familiar pain that occurs often enough… Read More →

Minnesota can lead and prosper in e-recycling

The sprawling pits on the edge of Iron Range towns inspire many emotions. Some feel pride in the miners and steel that built a growing nation. Others see environmental damage or the pain of loss. But the facts are inarguable: these are holes where ore was removed forever. Our economy centers on consumption. We find… Read More →

Greed and privilege fuel anti-democracy trend

My latest piece for the Minnesota Reformer is out today, “Democracy checks power; that’s why it’s in danger.” I realize it’s fashionable to comment on declining democratic norms in modern American politics, but I’m not sure everyone realizes how widespread this phenomenon actually is. Every large democracy in the world now wrestles with a proxy… Read More →