Bright Lights, Red Lights

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
For the first time in far too long, I ventured from the woods on Saturday to visit the bright lights, big city of Duluth. Compared to London, or even Minneapolis, Duluth’s a baby of a city, but any place that hosts establishments that can only be categorized as “martini bars” qualifies as a cosmopolitan hub in my book. I had a lovely visit, mainly catching up with some college friends and meeting all of their respective “manfriends” while sipping fizzing and foaming vodka creations out of martini glasses.

Besides the socializing, I had a chance to get run a few “big city” errands including a badly needed haircut. Currently, Duluth is riddled with road construction and the maze of not always clearly marked detours complicated things. It’s not that you can’t get where you want to go, it’s just that you’re better off taking the backdoor way and even that isn’t without some construction hiccups. On top of that, Target’s been rearranged since I was last there (shocking really, since I used to know the store like the back of my hand) and it took many trips around the store, as I’m sure was the intent of the new organization, to find most of what was on my list.

Not that things are so much simpler in the woods. Turns out there’s talk of putting stoplight up at another intersection in the county, at least if the rumors at work can be believed. And if there’s one thing deeply rooted in rural life, it’s the pride the local population takes in relatively mundane things like having only one stoplight in the entire county. While I spent most of Saturday wishing for better marked intersections in Duluth, I spent a good portion of Monday morning grousing with coworkers about how ridiculous another stoplight in the county would be because “it’s not like it’s even a blind intersection” and “the only reason accidents happen there is because people aren’t paying attention” and “maybe they could salt that curve on the hill better.”

Local residents have a chance to give a bright lights idea the red lights next week. Next Tuesday, we’ll vote whether or not to adopt a 1% tax increase that will generate funds for a few infrastructure-improving projects including a new swimming pool, a biomass energy producing plant and, perhaps the biggest to-do, broadband internet for the county. While we’ve managed to stay on the edge of the 21st century with satellite wireless internet and, gasp, dial-up we still lack the means for truly high-speed internet. To gain high-speed means replacing every telephone line in the county and has a projected cost of $50 some million. While the tax increase seems to have broad support among the county residents – trust me, as a writer flirting with freelance, broadband would be amazing – we’ll see where that stubborn rural pride falls on this particular technology.

What makes a big city and what makes a rural community? Martini bars? Stoplights? Broadband internet? It’s a little strange to think that it’s been our choice all along.

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