It’s a curious thing to me, in the midst of global pandemic that’s keeping people cloistered in their homes, that online streaming services are reporting a surge in the number of people …
It’s a curious thing to me, in the midst of global pandemic that’s keeping people cloistered in their homes, that online streaming services are reporting a surge in the number of people watching, you guessed it, disaster movies.
Perhaps it’s the old “misery loves company” routine. We’ve got it rough, but we don’t yet have it meteor-destroying-the-earth, dinosaurs-crushing-my-friends, zombie-apocalypse bad.
Then again, maybe some of them are more popular because they give people hope that calamitous disasters are survivable. Hint: If that’s your motivation, stay away from “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” It’s one of Steve Carell’s best movies, but even the star of “The Office” can’t escape that blinding white meteor. Sorry, Steve.
I’d have thought people would go more for a good romantic comedy like Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in “50 First Dates”. What better time than now to connect with a character who each and every day can’t remember yesterday?
However, of all the disastrous cinematic possibilities that run through my mind, I keep coming back to that comedic classic from 1980, “Airplane!” It’s a hilarious, gag-filled, and these days frequently politically incorrect, take on the serious airplane disaster movies of the 1970s, and yes, everyone on the flight who ate fish for dinner and got violently ill survived. It has a happy ending.
The lines that keep coming back to me weren’t uttered on the airplane, however. They were spoken by a stressed-out Lloyd Bridges in the control room, bemoaning the fact that he “picked the wrong week” to give up his vices of smoking, sniffing glue, and popping amphetamines. Remember that I warned you about political incorrectness.
I think those lines resonate now because so many of my old friends elsewhere and new acquaintances here have wondered if this Kansas native picked the wrong month, February, to move to the coldest place in the lower 48 states. Some have been gentle – “How are you doing with all the cold and snow?” they ask. Others have been more direct – “Are you out of your freaking MIND?!?!” Surely, they believed it, or I, was a disaster waiting to happen. While that may be the case if I’m around power tools, it’s a different story with Minnesota and me.
Sure, it was way colder and the snow way deeper than anything I’d ever experienced when I rolled into town in my truck to come to work at the Timberjay. It seemed almost as foreign as my trip last year to India and Sri Lanka.
But after a quick trip to Ely to pick up a Wintergreen coat and snow pants and a pair of Steger mukluks, cold and snow weren’t a problem at all. Well, that’s not quite accurate. I learned the hard way on my first weekend covering an outdoor event why snowshoes are advisable when walking on seemingly firm, crusty snow. It was somewhat akin to the time I sank in quicksand on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Fortunately, in both cases I hit a solid bottom before being swallowed whole. And the Boy Scouts I was covering in Cook were kind not to laugh at the old man foundering in the snow, at least to my face, anyway.
Today, with schools and so many businesses closed, with churches taking services online, hospitals and nursing homes barring visitors, and people hunkered down at home, I believe February was a perfect month to move to Minnesota and make my home in the Lake Vermilion area. Unlike our current state of affairs, February was normal.
I experienced the area at its wintery vibrant best, from North Woods Grizzlies basketball to a Nett Lake pow wow to snowmobiling. I met people everywhere I went and experienced a welcome unlike any I’ve had in my many moves. And I found myself in one of the best work environments ever, doing what I love – telling stories. February was the month I felt more at home than anyplace I’ve lived in the past 20 years.
It’s also the month I got an inkling that in a time of crisis such as this, I couldn’t have picked a better place to move, and as March rolled into April that’s become crystal clear.
We’re living in precarious days. Everyone has wondered at some point if they’re going to be the next to catch the virus, even those who believe the coronavirus pandemic is much ado about nothing. Business owners anxiously wonder if they’ll be able to survive the hit they’re taking, and unemployed workers wonder if there will be any jobs to find when this is all over. They’re all wondering how to pay mortgages or rent, how to put food on the table, and simply how to survive this health and economic crisis. They’re frustrated that new government assistance programs meant to help are in many cases running about as smoothly as a pig on stilts.
No one knows the true meaning of the word “neighbor” better than those who live in small-town and rural America, and that truth is revealing itself right here, right now. Neighbors are getting take-out meals from restaurants to help keep them afloat, and in turn restaurants have been finding ways to give back to their communities. Neighbors are checking in on neighbors and volunteering to run errands for those who can’t get out. Neighbors are making masks for health care providers. And on and on and on. Here, everyone’s our neighbor, and that’s going to be the biggest difference-maker in the weeks and months ahead.
This isn’t going to have a “happily ever after” ending for everyone. There is already pain, loss, and sorrow, and there will be more that even good neighbors can’t prevent. But the mark of truly good neighbors is that they will find a way to band together to prevail.
February was indeed the right month to move here. I got to see some of the best this corner of the world has to offer. And that gives me a certain hope that we’ll come out on the other side of this better. Battered, bruised, yes – but better.
We get enough of the dire news from national outlets, and it’s our job to report on the local angles of that as well. It’s something we take seriously. But we also want to give you stories of good news, and since we don’t get to see much of you face-to-face right now, I’d like to invite you to touch base with us with ideas. I’m on Facebook under the name David Colburn Timberjay -- feel free to send me a friend request or drop a note to me there. We also have the Timberjay Facebook page, and we’re always happy to get your calls and emails at the office.
I won’t promise we’ll do a story on every suggestion we get. We can’t. Some things make good little anecdotes to share among friends but don’t lend themselves to a full story in the paper. Sometime people throw up the “modesty wall,” as I like to call it: I ask for an interview, and they reply with, “Oh, no, I don’t want to make a big deal of myself, goodbye.” So many great stories left untold that way.
But I can promise this: I’ll listen to what you have to share. It’s one neighborly thing I can do for my new neighbors.