Sunday, August 7, 2022

Bob Dylan's Visit to the James Dean Gallery in Indiana

Larry Kegan. Photo: courtesy 
Marc Percansky
This is an excerpt from a 2015 blog post.

In late 2014 a friend send me a portion of the late Larry Kegan's unpublished 1999 memoir Some Get the Chair. For those well-acquainted with Bob Dylan's life story, Larry Kegan was a close friend from his teen years whom he met at a summer camp in Wisconsin. Tragically, as a result of a neck injury Kegan was wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. The title of his unpublished book shows his wit and humor about this situation: Some Get The Chair.

Over the course of many years Bob invited Larry to go on tours with him. (See: Remembering Larry Kegan.) In the memoir he writes about many events that show the importance of place. One story is about events that occurred after a Friday night concert at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds on a hot summer night in mid-July 1988. The next stop was to be Detroit, but Dylan gave instructions for the tour bus to take a middle of the night detour through the small rural town of Fairmount, Indiana. Kegan wrote:

"No Money Down." Larry Kegan, vocals. Bob Dylan, sax.
Indianapolis, 1988. Photo courtesy Marc Percansky.
Bob had already gotten out of his bus and was heading down the main drag. Dave, the bus driver, came over to the van and I asked him what we were doing here. "This is James Dean's town, where he grew up and where he's buried." "Where's Bob going," I asked? "He's going to check out the High School where he attended," he said. We hung out for a while around my van and Bob's bus.

Next thing you know a couple girls come over -- it's 1:30 in the morning -- and they learn that there's a James Dean Museum in town. (Actual name: The James Dean Gallery.) One thing led to another so that two Fairmount police escorted Bob to the museum which was opened for him and his friends. The place was handicapped accessible so Larry also had the privilege of getting the tour.

James Dean.
The place was a real trip into the Fifties. James Dean stuff everywhere. Posters from all three of his movies, EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, and GIANT. Clothes he wore in the movie and around town, They even had his basketball trunks he actually used in high school.

I'm sharing this to set up a longer post I'm working on about James Dean and the ever-recurring "What if...?" question. What if he hadn't died young? What if Jimi Hendrix had continued his career? What would have become of Jim Morrison? Marilyn Monroe? Janis Joplin? What is John Lennon hadn't been shot.

Sometime soon I will attempt to suggest an answer regarding James Dean. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Front Runner: Three Weeks Inside the Gary Hart Campaign Fiasco

This past week I watched The Front Runner. The movie stars Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart, the Colorado senator whose bid for the presidency unravelled as reality collided with his personal convictions about how things ought to be. Though but a news blip for many of us at the time, I was interested in how Hollywood would treat this implosion of the Gary Hart campaign. Over a period of three weeks the Democratic front runner became an also ran.

Nearly anyone who half followed presidential politics in the 80s remembers the story. Gary Hart was involved with a woman name Donna Rice and the press pressed him on this. He challenged the press and even invited them to follow him around. Well, some took him up on that, and he didn't like the fact that they actually dare to invade his privacy like that. 

If you're unfamiliar with the time frame, this was 1987. Though Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis were front runners, there were other candidates on the edge of throwing their hats in the ring and a few who did begin laying the groundwork for a serious run. This was Joe Biden's first attempt to be president. The catalyst for Biden's stumble was not infidelity but plagiarism, using a speech almost verbatim from a British Labor Party leader. 

Hart's stumble is what this film was about. 

A lot of people who were critical of the film focused on its effort to be an argument on Hart's behalf, suggesting he was a great man who was unfairly hounded by a press that ought to respect peoples' privacy. In the film Senator Hart, at one point, cites the manner in which the press concealed JFK's and LBJ's infidelities. "Why is it suddenly different now?"

Well, this is precisely what Jane Leavy's The Last Boy was all about. A sports journalist, Leavy wrote how at a certain point in time the rules changed with regard to journalism. The boy at the center of Leavy's book is Mickey Mantle. Up till Mantle, the innocence of our heroes was preserved because of the unwritten rule that journalists protect the privacy of person's of importance. Hence, the foibles of many sports heroes were concealed, much like the media concealed FDR's reliance on a wheelchair.

The major takeaway in Leavy's book is this. At a certain point in time a shift occurred. Up until then, if you revealed what you knew about a ball player, you were bad. You were slapped on the wrist and sent to your room without supper. Post-Mantle, in the new era of sports journalism, if you failed to reveal something you knew, you were punished. Writers were no longer permitted to conceal. It was now their job to reveal.  

This is why the Hart incident is so tragic. These "new rules" were no longer new. This new ethic had been in play for at least a dozen years. Hart should not have been surprised that journalists wanted to know what was happening, in his private life and on his private yacht, which he had named Monkey Business.

* * * 

Response to the film at is less than enthusiastic. One reviewer felt it was an attempt to make Gary Hart historically more significant than he really was. Another simply didn't like the music score. I myself felt like there were some takeaways. The film does raise questions about how far the media should be permitted to strip away our privacy.  

Here's a review by someone called martimusross that I identified with:

The movie tried to establish that the public perception of morality towards its public figures changed sometime in the 80's and that accountability for their behavior in their private lives became news worthy. The movie implies this is a bad thing if this aspect of personal privacy deters decent candidates from applying for high office. I find this a totally morally ambiguous stance and leaves a nasty taste in the viewers mouth.

Here's another review of note by someone called ajkbiotech:

I was a high up guy in the Dukakis Campaign. Pretty obviously Hart's self-destruction was what turned the Duke into the front-runner. Having said that, Hugh Jackman's portrayal is spot-on. I've met Gary Hart, and there's no there there. He has a vacuous look, even though he's good looking with clear blue eyes. The person who impressed me in Colorado was Pat Scroeder, who was ten times smarter than Hart and far more charismatic. A good film.

I myself felt that it does bring certain issues to the foreground that are worth talking about. It's one thing for journalists and TV newspeople to hound public figures, but when protesters--some of them making threats--gather around the homes of of these same public figures, one wonders how safe this new level of privacy incursion is. Are we beginning to see a new "wild west" form of justice with kangaroo courts? Let's hope lynchings remain a thing of the past.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Throwback Thursday: To See or Not To See, That Is the Question

This was my third blog post, June 19, 2007. In the beginning I frequently lifted an idea, quote or insight from my decades of journaling and then elaborated on it. 

* * * * * 
To understand the world we live in, we must first see it as it is. Not as "trained" or manipulated to see it. Where do our ideas come from? Our ideas about God, about right and wrong, about how we should live... are they chosen, or... what?
--Journal note, Aug. 25, 1985

A long lost friend sent me this verse the other day, with the follow up explanation.

I looked to see
What I thought I saw,
But what I saw
I did not see.

"How many times do you think you see something, then turn to look and what you thought you saw wasn't what you were really looking at; in the real sense of it. On a more philosophical angle, every day we see past what's real to what we want to see, but only when we make efforts to truly see things for what they are do we realize it's not what we wanted to see. Our minds and hearts trick us every day into believing what isn't real." ~ S.P.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

National Night Out In Solway

Horst, the man who manages our recycle center, raises alpaca.
His wife knits products with their wool. They brought three
for the kids to see and enjoy.
Did you participate in Tuesday's National Night Out? I decided to see what was shakin' here in our neighborhood. Community leaders organized a Solway Township event at the Munger Town Hall, which is located on the corner of Highway 2 and Munger Shaw Road across the street from the Munger Tavern.

There was live music, free food (hot dogs, chips, cookies, ice cream), a few classic cars, some animals and rides for kids. The volunteer fire department had its trucks and equipment on display. And even a representative from the county's sheriff department was on hand for a bit.

Here's an interesting comparison/contrast. The Solway Township is nearly a square six miles long by six miles wide, just under 36 sq. miles. As of 2018 it had a population of less than 2,000. By way of contrast, San Francisco has a land area just under seven by seven square miles. Its population is 874,000. 

This is the invitation we received.
For even more mind-bending numbers compare Solway to Manhattan. Manhattan is only 22 miles square but they house almost twice as many people as SF. When you compare these three communities it's mind boggling. Solway has zero crime. (Or it seems that way.) No homeless people die on our rural streets. There's never been a riot here. It's pretty quiet here. 

So National Night Out was a big event. Here are some photos. If you're weary of being afraid of vandalism or carjackings in your big city and want to move here, I believe we still have room for you. 

The kiddies had fun on this "train ride." 
Fire hall and recycle center in background.

Why are fire engines red?

First responder vehicle.
Young firefighters learn how to hold and aim a hose.

I should have taken photos of the crowd because it was a nice turnout. I got into a couple discussions about our biggest community issue right now: mail delivery has been spotty lately. 

Did you celebrate with your neighbors last night? Did you learn anything new? 

Let the sunshine in.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Oldenburg House Getting Jazzed for the Honey Bee Festival and More

Here we go... With the worst behind us, events have been opening up all around the Northland, and all around the country if our region is any kind of indicator. Two noteworthy items to pass on... The Honey Bee Festival is back at the Oldenburg House, celebrating the pollinators as well as the local habitat. It's an annual two-day fest with music, dance, vendors, food and more.

3:00 - 10:00 PM

11:30 AM - 10:00 PM

One Day Passes are $20 and a Two Day Pass is $30.

The lineup of performing musicians is fabulous as always. Many fan favorites will be on hand. And then there's Cookin' at the O' kicking off another season of intimate top-drawer jazz with a whole clutch of Petersons present to lift you to higher realms.

On Saturday there will be a Swarm Bike Ride, with three swarms gathering and starting from three locations, Carlton Bike Rental in Moose Lake, Wussow's in West Duluth, and TJs Country Corner in Mahtowa. If you don't have a bike but can get a ride to Moose Lake, you can rent one from Carlton Bike Rental there and return it in Carlton. (Just sayin')  

Participants receive admission to Saturday festival, SWARM t-shirt, free beverage ticket and support on the trail. Details HERE

* * * 
Here are the lineups for Friday and Saturday
Randy Lee Ensemble
Andy Peterson Quartet
* * * 
The Return - Cookin' at the O
Glenn Swanson
Billy Peterson
Ricky Peterson
Jason Peterson DeLaire

Terrence Smith/Hive Jive
Boss Mama
Steve's "Overpopulated" One Man Band
Anam Cara — barn dance
Briand Morrison & Roxanne Berglund
The Langerstons
The Fish Heads
Ingeborg von Agassiz
Rich Mattson and the Northstars
Andrew Walesch

Bee Fest will have booths with artisans and craftspersons.

And yes, there will be a mermaid in the pool again this year.

For sure there will be bees.

The place will be a stream of creative energy. 
In addition to two days of music you will find:
Plein Air Painters
• Outdoor Painters of Minnesota
Terrence Smith
• Hive Jive
Splash the Mermaid
• at the pool
Honey-infused food and drink
Bee-inspired arts & crafts
Info & advocacy to support pollinators
Room at the Table
Dogs N' Kabobs


* * * 
This event is an outgrowth of the Oldenburg Arts & Cultural Community (OACC). Learn more at OACC.US  

And in the event you are too far away to enjoy this celebration, the Oldenburg House is also a Bed & Breakfast adjacent to Jay Cook State Park and some fabulous natural beauty. To learn more, visit

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Literacy and Crime

I think a lot about literacy. In part, perhaps, because I am a writer and would like it if there were still readers around to read what writers write. 

I also think about it because of what I remember about how being able to read opens people's minds, enables them to engage ideas that ennoble them. 

About a half century ago I heard a man speak about Literacy Evangelism. His organization would go to villages and teach people how to read. The stories he shared about how much their self-worth increased never left me. "I am not just a beast or animal. I can read." The impact was profound.

These thoughts were re-awakened in me by Neil Gaiman's Art Matters and Other Insights for Writers. Early in the book he shares the importance of reading and how it makes us better people. He warns against trying to force books on our kids. If they are reading, that is good. If they develop a love of reading, that is great.

At one point Gaiman shared that politicians calculated how many prisons to build based on how many illiterate young people there were. Even if that is a myth, it's apparent that there is a direct correlation between literacy and living a successful life. (I could share a Michener anecdote here, but will save it until you ask.)

All this to say that our education has been failing our children and literacy rates have been dropping. How have we lost our way? How can we get it back? 

What follows are some stats about the relationship between incarceration and low literacy from

  • 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally low-literate
  • Juvenile incarceration reduces the probability of high school completion and increases the probability of incarceration later in life.
  • High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely that high school grads to be arrested in their lifetime.
  • High school dropouts are 63% more likely to be incarcerated than their peers with four-year college degrees.
  • Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate in the nation. The average adult inmate reads on a sixth-grade level when admitted. Half of the state's inmates never finished high school.
  • The same article cites this disconcerting stat by Donald Hernandez in his book Double Jeopardy: "children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers."

    Libraries are great. If you don't have the money to buy books, you can always borrow them. There are few things more wonderful than libraries.

    Thanks for reading.

    P.S. When my grandfather got married he was illiterate. Grandma, who had been a schoolteacher, taught him how to read and write so he could fill out a job application. I always remember him sitting in "his chair" in the living room with a newspaper in his hands, the television up loud.

    If reading is a struggle, don't give up. It's never too late to begin. Start where you are at and keep practicing. Find library books at your reading level and don't give up.

    Friday, July 29, 2022

    Recipe for Nervous Breakdown Soufflé

    While rummaging through old folders (am on another cleaning binge) I came across this recipe I'd forgotten about. If you try it, let me know what you think.

    * * * 

    Nervous Breakdown Soufflé


    One case of Neurotic Pride

    2 cups Basic Anxiety

    1 fistful Self-Reproach 

    1/2 teaspoon Self-Doubt Extract 

    A dash of Legitimate Shortcomings 

    One ounce Self-Hate 

    One can Deep Depression 

    A pinch of Sharp Criticism

    * * * 


    Peel and dice Neurotic Pride. Mash pulp with fork. Strain and set aside.

    In large container, combine Basic Anxiety, Guilt, and Self-Reproach. Blend in Self-Doubt Extract and Shortcomings. Agitate.

    Add Self-Hate and Neurotic Pride. Stir until completely mixed up.

    Simmer for one year in an atmosphere of intimidation and fault finding.

    Slowly stir in Deep Depression. Bring mixture to a rapid boil.

    Ignite with a pinch of Sharp Criticism. 

    Serve with spilt milk, burnt toast, or sour grapes. 

    * * * 

    If you liked this, then check out my Recipe for a Disaster

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