Road Trip: Days 9 & 10

Posted: August 5, 2016 by timjollymore in Uncategorized

The Duluth Supplement

While I am not traveling the road these two days, I am time-traveling the road from Duluth. Remember Observation Hill, a novel of class and murder is very much set in 1967 Duluth. I’ve investigated some of the changes wrought since the sixties and even since the writing of the book in 2015. Leave nostalgia out of this; things change. Sometime for the better and sometimes not, but always the new differences incorporate what came before.

My wheels went to the dealer for repairs. I went to DTA for a ride, much as Paul’s Cindy had ridden the bus from Oliver, Wisconsin to downtown Duluth, in 1967 OH. What’s new?

8 o

The buses, which are now exactly the same make and model as Bay Area transit. I ride in comfort without a care.

I disembarked at the top of Mesaba Avenue (the site of Carlos’s drug bust in OH) and walked five blocks downhill, as my shinsplints the next day will attest, to the remnants of a 1960s haunt which did not make the book: Cascade Park. Once a circular park centered around a stone mirador capped with a bell-shaped cermaic roof (circa 1890). The park and its ambulatory paths were bisected by a widened and modernized Mesaba Avenue by the 1960s.

Since, concrete sound walls and raising of the roadbed have sunk the park below the the visual horizon of passing motorists. The bellish roof is gone, the supports now reinforced concrete rather than redstone, but as the park limped into the 21st century, less grand, less civilized, less sumptuous, less wonderful, it still presented one of the best views in the city, framed as it is between the columns  of the mirador. Some of the stone work remains and the park has now a local, neighborhood feeling, like a place children from the surrounding brick apartment buildings come to play after school. I should also say, the hippies no longer frequent the place although they seem to have left an abundance of flowers behind.

I had heard that some one had purchased St. Peter’s Catholic Church building up West Third Street (800 block) on Observation Hill. The Italian stonemasons who built walls all over town including some terracing old Mesaba Avenue, and who laid bluestone foundations on the hillsides of Duluth, out of duty to the church donated labor to build this church which  less than 100 years later the diocese wanted to raze to avoid maintenance costs. I went to investigate to find that yes, it was truly in private, caring hands. Why would I care?

My Observation Hill‘s Saint Erasmo and Father Lucci occupied, in my mind just such a church on the hill above the Point of Rocks.  And what Mr. Larson will do with the church is a magnificent exploit: In September he will launch a school after the Renaissance atelier model, an art study under a master teacher, producing the highest precision and excellence in representational art. Immediately on seeing the nave, stripped of its pews (some refashioned into huge easels) I visualized ten students along each side, lined below the clerestory windows which streamed natural light into the nave turned ecole.

Father Lucci’s chuch was saved.

The final breath of Observation Hill sighed with Ingstrom’s ghosts at the boathouse of Glensheen Mansion (Brookside in my OH where Ingy witnessed Alpha Centari and the omen of the owl before following a light into the mansion) along the shores of Lake Superior. This time though the

University and City of Duluth sponsored a community music event on the stone pier of Elisabeth Congdon’s (Ms. Crosley’s) estate. Somewhere in the crowds of hundreds, the “illusive Ingstrom” swayed with the rock music and folky guitar soloist. Maybe he bobbed in a kayak just out from the pier or cavorted with a swim-suited Marly in an unusually warm Lake Superior.  Perhaps the shade of P. S. Tuomi lurked near the periphery there waiting to haul Ingstrom before his police detective son, Paul. My friend, Kent, and I entered from the cemetery just as Ingy had. We did not pause to honor grandpa Ingstrom as his progeny had. After all that grave site was fiction.


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