Whiskey, Wyoming, and Native American Libs

 

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Bozeman is a small college town of about 50,000 in Southwest Montana. We found it to be welcoming and a happy, brief retreat from the past week-plus of camping. A bottle of whiskey had somehow broken one of Jade’s ukulele strings two weeks before, and after stopping in a music store for a new set, we took a stroll down the quarter-mile main stretch in the center of town. Two minutes in, a sign on a bagel shop reminded us that ‘brunch without mimosas’ was ‘just a sad breakfast’, and we continued our stroll with open containers. Antique shops border trendy coffee shops and places where they sell flannels for $200, and, repelled by the boutiques, we dined at a Korean restaurant where Jade spilled chili sauce all over her overalls, to her dismay and my amusement. Chewed up and spit out by the main drag, we toured a sex shop and called it a day.

The next morning, we found public showers for $1 (good looking out, Bozeman) and headed south, chasing hot springs and a whiskey distillery described to us by Talia and Hondo. Our route took us through Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, home to three separate biomes full of beautiful flora and fauna, the continent’s largest overdue megavolcano, and the country’s largest fester of insufferable tourists. While presumably normal, relatively harmless middle-class people within 100 miles of their home zip code, a certain horrible metamorphosis transforms a percentage of travelers into tourists, creatures compelled by some inner demon to stop five minutes in the middle of the road for every single bison, white-tailed deer, duck, and swallow to take blurry picture after blurry picture on their cell phones. The worst-affected of these actually climb out of their SUV’s to get up-close and personal with the buffalo, all while stopped in traffic, and a drive that should have taken us an hour dragged on over two and a half.

Luckily, after they have caused massive traffic jams, screamed at their children in public for the fourth time, and littered their pork rind packages on National Forest highways, most tourists prefer several-hundred-dollar-per-night cabins and hotel rooms, or at least campgrounds with running water, to sleep in before ruining everyone else’s next day. After driving past full RV parks and travel lodges, we were still able at 8:30 to secure a campsite on the river about an hour East of the park exit. We drove through a smattering of ruined mining towns the next morning and into Central Wyoming. A collapsing ranching town there, Kirby, is home to the distillery of Talia’s lore, where we sipped free samples and watched antelope graze on the tour area lawn. As adept at marketing as they were at making bourbon, Wyoming Whiskey bills itself as “Wyoming’s first legal distillery”, and we walked away with fresh booze and memorabilia, including a hat that Jade now refuses to take off.

Half an hour South of Kirby is Thermopolis, home to a large natural spring that reeks of sulfur, but, because of a century-old treaty with the Shoshone, was contractually obligated to be free to the public. We took a long soak and the surroundings: though Wyoming did maintain a small pool, true to their word, no less than three private waterparks and pools had been developed within a few hundred metres, ruining any natural beauty the area once had and blemishing again, this time as farce, not tragedy, the US Government’s relationship with the people whose land they stole. On our route through a reservation on the Wind River, we researched the history of the local tribes. Unsurprisingly but still unsettlingly, the Shoshone and Blackfeet that had once roamed the area had been systematically murdered, tortured, and geographically erased by the US Army and militias of wealthy settlers. It was an old story: a treaty was struck, the government unilaterally cancelled it, and declared all those who refused to relocate to restricted areas devoid of utility were hunted down and murdered, often without quarter for women and children. Native Americans stuck a few minor retaliatory blows, and were hunted down even more fiercely and with greater force than before. The US Government reenacted this narrative countless times, almost without alteration, from the signing of the Constitution until the early 20th century.

The only interesting variation in the story of the Shoshone who now lived in the area was the internal political rifts in mid-century native tribal structure. There were two groups with opposing views on how to interact with the genocidal, deceitful invasion of white settlers: a minority who I call the liberals, who favored accommodation and placation, and the majority who I call radicals, who refused to sign new treaties and related to the government with varying intensities of warfare. The liberals regularly signed treaties on behalf of the whole Shoshone nation, and the radicals refused to recognize them and continued to fight the government, which now enacted massacres on the pretext of enforcing a treaty none of them had signed. Eventually, both groups were entirely wiped out or forcibly relocated to reservations, the only treaty still recognized one regarding public use of one hot springs. Even in mid-19th century Colorado-Wyoming Native American tribes, the liberal impulse to appease and indulge imperialist reaction led them to sell out the radical flank and destroy the whole cause. We stopped at a rural Walmart and bought some bagels and bear mace. Any mob of wealthy racists or forest predators that threatened us would get a face full of capsaicin.

From the Walmart parking lot, we steamed West, through Grand Teton National Park and over 10% grades at 25 mph. As we passed a town of strip malls and truck stops named Blackfeet, Jade read the final portions of Almighty, about the latest (failed) efforts to institute reductions in international nuclear weapon stockpiles. Truck stops turned into arching fields of potatoes and then into unspoiled semi-arid grassland, never plowed but fenced in with barbed wire. Small yellow rectangles were planted in the ground every 100 meters: “Department of Energy. No Trespassing”. We were approaching Atomic City.

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There are dinosaurs outside of Thermopolis’ hot springs.

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Foreboding messages outside Atomic City.

From Banff to Babb (MT): Borderlands 2

Our last night in Canada was spent recuperating from the day’s long drive and making progress on the bottle of rubbing alcohol/Canadian ‘Rye’ we bought the day prior. Mountain air and the Christmas-tree smell of pine and spruce turned into the aseptic reek of herbicide and healthy, nostalgia-inducing whiffs of livestock manure as we coasted down the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and into the South suburbs of Calgary. Having discovered an Asian grocery, we stopped long enough on the outskirts of the city for Jade to acquire ‘Teenager’s Party Time’, the Korean version of Bugles, a fact she insisted I include on this post. After we consumed the whole bag in 15 minutes, Jade slept and I drove through the windswept Southwest corner of Alberta, through American Indian reservations every bit as run-down and underfunded as their counterparts in the US – the newest buildings looked as though they had been built in the Vietnam era – and into a sleepy, low-traffic US Border Patrol Station.

We again convinced the federal agents there that we were not returning in order to foster the overthrow of the American government, and even managed to slip in our whole library of communist propaganda and bulk shipment of illegal drugs and exotic animals. We reunited with Talia and Hondo, fed them our best pasta and sauce, and woke the next morning to careen along unmaintained mountain roads and into Glacier National Park. Though the attendant at a tourist trap along the way had assured Talia that Glacier couldn’t match Banff in natural splendor, we were again taken aback by the incredible views of mountains that grew at the shores of half-mile high lakes and rivulets with water so crisp and clear that you could drink from them (and we did). We spent the first day lying in hammocks, and fighting mosquitoes and overzealous National Park volunteers who were afraid we had never camped in bear country before, but woke early the next day for a long hike to a set of backwoods falls and a secluded lake. Though we reached the falls with time to lay about and enjoy the cool, wet breeze, our trek to the lake was blocked by a pond on the trail created by the still-melting snow. A cold drizzle fell as we hiked back, and turned into soaking sheets of rain halfway to camp. The mountain peaks reached a gorgeous hue in the downpour, but we were soaked to the skin and shivering by the time we reached the camper.

The four of us stole showers from a hostel in East Glacier, a town with all of the scenic appeal of Banff but none of the Reebok stores and Gap discount malls, where an AmTrak station overlooked a slightly overpriced grocery store whose manager cursed me for buying just one bag of ice (“barely worth my damn time”). We judged the place to be an acceptable recuperation point, and dined on french fries while waiting for our clothes to wash. Talia, Hondo, Jade and I celebrated the summer solstice with a raging fire and several-too-many cheap beers and quaffs of sake, and said goodbye again the next morning over a breakfast just light enough to ease Hondo and my hangover. Jade and I drove, slowly, as always, South, along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and through collapsed mining towns populated only by decrepit trailers and the strange accumulations of old vehicles that rural properties inevitably accumulate. Jade read to me from Almighty, a book gifted us by Michael Walli, the Catholic Worker from Duluth whose company we had enjoyed in a farm near Lake Superior. The book described both the extremely entertaining trial of Michael and two comrades who had broken into and vandalized a nuclear processing facility in Kentucky in the name of the God of Peace and the scattering of nuclear missile sites around the nation, including in Western Montana. We were in silo country, where the government maintains enough warheads to destroy the world thirty times over with the push of a button. Bozeman, a college town Jade remembered from a family reunion years before, was over the next hill. We pulled into the first Walmart that Google Maps recognized, near a gun store and a natural grocery. It was good to be home.

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“Teenager’s Party Time”: Korean Bugles.

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Twin Falls.

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Talia and Hondo tempting fate.

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Patrick is not enjoying the falls as much as everyone else.

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Jade with falls.

Who’s Land? Our Land!

DSC_0351The scenery began to recuperate from the Midwest-esque fields of agriculture and sad cows to the stupendous Canadian Rocky Mountains which signified that Banff was near! However, the beauty was quickly spoiled. We took a turn around a large mountain, and instead of being greeted by the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees, a large oil and/or gas refinery emerged adjacent to a large lake, as the fruits of the land were being visibly exploited by business interests to the detriment of the land itself. This was just the first of many tragic encounters we experienced regarding the toxic relationship of Banff and capitalism.

For those who are unaware, Banff National Park is composed of 6641 square kilometers of the most beautiful mountain/river/lake/avalanche/ice scenery I’ve witnessed in a good while. However, before entering the campground area, we were forced to drive through the town of Banff to grab a map, where my disgust with capitalism levels skyrocketed to unsurmountable peaks. As touristy as a tourist trap can get, the town of Banff is located within the national park and is home to just about every corporate sporting goods, clothing, and food entity cloaked in identical cabin-appearing structures with only the finest interior facilities and clearly exorbitant property values. Wealthy travelers from across the globe infested the streets, and we rapidly escaped the site, out of the consumerism and into the woods, vowing never to return.

The majesty of the mountains quickly allowed us to block the images of corporate domination from our minds, and upon pulling into the Castle Mountain campground, we quickly reunited with long lost comrades, Talia and Hondo. I could not have been happier. It has been exactly one year since Talia and I coincidentally moved to Austin, Texas on the same day and met at the Jacobin reading group a few days following, where we quickly established a friendship based in radical left politics, hammock hang outs, tacos, and cheap whiskey, all of which were experienced in the last two days. Further, we quickly discovered that Hondo was just as rad upon his recognition of episode six of the GI Joe PSA parodies as we walked past an icy mountain. Thus, Camping with Friends Volume 2 ensues.

The majority of June 16 was spent hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Trail with said friends. Our hike began on the stunning Lake Louise, encircled by towering snow-covered peaks, its water a blue/green color which I had previously believed was only visible under the influence of psychedelics. However, our sober, but also extremely fun, adventures were not to go uninterrupted by another clearly evident example of the state’s capitalization of naturally protected land. Directly adjacent to Lake Louise stood a hideous resort style hotel, approximately as large as all the buildings in the town of Banff combined, constructed with the ugliest stucco walls, and littered with mobs of tourists and their screechy children posing about the shores of the lake. After venturing onto the hiking trail, currently rated at “poor condition,” the tourist congestion cleared up, but as we hiked farther and higher, we were soon able to view the lake from afar, a sight which would have been of true majesty had it not been staind by the image of the grotesque hotel. Luckily, our appreciation of the beauty of the hike far outweighed our disgust of the hotel, as we trudged across snow-covered mountains, stopped multiple times (as Hondo was overwhelmed by the majesty), watched a child nearly fall of the mountain, and almost slipped and died a few times ourselves. Ultimately, we reconciled that if we were to meet our end, at least we would be spending our last moments in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth (i.e. not the town of Banff). After approximately two hours, we finally made it to the tea house at the top of the mountain to again be ridden with the plight of not being rich capitalist tourists, as they charged $24 for lunch despite their anti-materialist décor of prayer flags and Buddha statues. Luckily, we came prepared with illegal outside snacks and were able to enjoy some tea/coffee, iso peanuts, hard boiled eggs, and oreos at the snowy peak before descending back into the tourist trap.

After all the distressing encounters, we decided to take on some everyday acts of resistance by stealing showers from the rich people’s campground and liberating some ingredients for a hella good vegan chili which we enjoyed by the warmth of the campfire. Our time at Banff concluded with a hammock party and a boiling pot of hot toddies with the comrades as they convinced us that we should probably just move to Austin.

While I find myself overall impressed, astounded, and taken by the majesty of Banff National Park, it saddens me to find that even in the so-called “socialist” haven of Canadian national parks, the rule of capitalism remains vibrant. The state has once again managed to turn its natural land into a center for commercial tourism, where most of the money flowing through the overpriced products and tourist trinkets goes straight to business interests rather than the workers on the shop floors or the people of Canada whose taxes fund the operation of the parks. What’s just as irritating is the way in which capitalism is able to make just about anything work in its favor, even the natural beauty that it, ironically enough, destroys. If the state were truly run by everyday citizens, state owned land such as national parks should be always available and working to their benefit. Instead, only the wealthy are able to enjoy the tourist traps, and the park itself is advertised in the experience economy as a commodity for people to consume. We happened to luck out on the fact that it is Canada’s 150th year, so entrance into Canadian national parks is free for everyone, but this is only a temporary measure. Upon entering the park, one is expected to pay absurd prices for access to some of the park’s best features, including hot springs, gondola rides, and (essentially) class segregated campgrounds, not to mention the five star resort at Lake Louise. And so the class war rages on, no matter the geographic topography.

After digesting this sad truth, we are currently taking a quick internet catch-up break in Jasper after the breathtaking views of highway 93 and look forward to re-reuniting with our friends back in the States tomorrow!

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Lake hike.

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Castle Mountain, overlooking our Banff campground.

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There are a lot of trees in Banff.

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And mountains.

 

Borderlands, Pt. 1

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Slowly creeping over washed out gravel and watching untouched lakes pass in the window, we were afraid that the road would never end. Thanks to my insistence that we take a ‘scenic route’ through Northern Minnesota on our way to the border, our route had transformed from a 4-lane highway into an unmaintained county road and now to a gravel-lined service road in the middle of the Superior National Forest. Having groggily said our goodbyes to Angela and Peter in the morning, we elected to realize the dream of many a Hillary-haloing liberal and find respite from Donald Trump’s America in the land of Justin Trudeau and maple syrup. The service road in Lake Superior’s Forest eventually brought us back to pavement, and after convincing Canadian Border Patrol that we were tourists and not dangerous subversives (though I was briefly questioned in the back room about past arrests, including for civil disobedience), we made camp (and Ramen stir-fry) in a hidden-away providential park two hours North of the border.

We tried to drive off early the next morning without paying for our site, but were apprehended by a teenager in the registration booth. A few hours of driving later, we merged into mid-afternoon traffic in Winnipeg. At just under one million inhabitants, we hoped that Winnipeg would give us an urban fix enough to last us until we reached the West Coast, and we were not disappointed. Along with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (somehow, inexplicably, located on Israel Street), Winnipeg boasts a class division geographically realized on the Red River, which separates bustling downtown and $1,000/month studios from the more modest French Quarter. Hoping to score some frybread and Pocky, Jade and I walked to ‘Chinatown’, expecting the sidewalk markets promised by our brochure for the city, but found it eerily deserted, the streets empty. Circling back to the truck, we discovered the reason: hip ‘underground’ music venues, natural food stores and luxury furnished apartments were creeping into the district, pricing out residents and leaving us frybreadless. Gentrification occurs in all places, it seems, and leaves them culturally flat and culinarily bland – the bourgeoisie, as Marx says somewhere, have no country. We got the hell out of Winnipeg.

Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan combine the appeal of driving through Nebraska with the breadth and desolation of the Dakotas and Wyoming. The drive from Winnipeg to the Rockies was one of the most boring I’ve ever endured, and lasted three days (we drive at 50 mph to save gas). Endless fields of soybeans and potatoes give way to places where nothing grows and nobody lives, populated only by cattle and oil derricks. For some reason, we passed a truck with Canadian plates and a Confederate flag grill decoration. Middle Canada is not a friendly place. Walmart, though, even in Canada, allows overnight camping in their parking lots, and, unwilling to pay for camping any longer, we spent the next two nights at ‘Supercentres’ in Brandon and Swift Current.

Walmart parking lot life has its perks: cheap ingredients and free restrooms were just a few stalls away, and we ate only the freshest, cheapest food vertical integration could afford us. We had many neighbors, some affluent retirees with $100,000 RV’s catching some sleep, along with far more modest campervans and even a few traveling hippies in tents. Though we had no confirmation, it’s safe to assume that we were vacationing just a few meters from the homes of some of the store’s employees, sleeping in their cars and waiting for the start of their next shift. Walmart’s liberal parking policies, while convenient for Jade and I on this trip, foreshadow a becoming-real neoliberal dystopia, one in which hyper-exploited workers live in Chevrolet shantytowns at the periphery of their employer’s’ property, shopping in their employer’s store and washing in their bathrooms. While blue-blooded journalists lament that millennials are buying too much avacado toast to afford house payments (note, Mom and Dad, that Jade and I own outright our own home on the back of our own truck), both America and Canada are bleeding decent jobs into the floodlighted parking lots of Walmarts all over.

We left our fellow workers and fellow travelers in the parking lot and continued West. On the highway bypass around Calgary, we drove through foothills of the Canadian Rockies that had been covered by some overcompensating developer into miles of condominiums and McMansions, the most depressing real estate either of us had witnessed. Lived in by management and the Calgarian upper crust too individualistic to stoop to penthouse apartment life, we were carried forward only by the promise of what was before us: Banff National Park, where a number of elderly Canadians at rest stops (and also a few of my new in-laws several weeks prior) informed us we would be blown away by natural splendor. Out of the suburbs and into the steppes, our ears began to pop. It was Banff time.

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Jade in wolf country.

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Jade in emo country (CA).

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Jade in gentrified Winnipeg Chinatown.

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This is a lake.

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Note that the vegan breakfast is a happy breakfast.

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Suburbs are bad, kids.

Interlude: Truck Camper Recipes 1

Because of poor internet connection, all of the gorgeous pictures we’ve taken since leaving Duluth can’t be posted. In order to keep the photos and narrative consistent, we’re going to wait until we have a better internet connection to update you on our travels.

In the meantime, though, you can chew on this recipe, the first in a series that we’ll let you in on.

The Truck Camper life isn’t always ideal, but as Catholic Workers, we do know how to cook. Here’s one of our vegan recipes that can can be cooked in half an hour and on a two-burner range. Enjoy.

Pad-Thai Ramen Stir Fry

Ingredients:

Pad Thai Ramen

  • 1 package Ramen/person (seasoning removed, broken into four cubes)
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter/person
  • 2 Teaspoons Soy sauce/person
  • 2 Tablespoons Sriracha/person

Stir-Fry

  • 1 Onion, cut in half and then laterally
  • 1 Pepper, cut into thin slices
  • 1 can ‘baby corn’
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Hoisin sauce to taste
  • Sriracha to taste
  • Oil (duh)

Put water on to boil for the ramen. Begin frying over medium-high heat vegetables, in this order (with about 2 minutes between ingredients): onions, peppers, mushrooms, baby corn. Stir constantly. Once all vegetables are added, stir in sriracha, hoisin, and soy sauce to taste. Reduce to low heat. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until soft (about 1 min). Strain partially, leaving water to cover the bottom of the pan. Immediately add peanut butter and stir until evenly mixed. Stir in soy sauce and sriracha, and add to vegetables and serve.cropped-19021516_10155236111210535_1727824681_n.jpg

Two Friends, Two Harbors, Two Falls, 2Chainz

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We decided to sneak out of Duluth under the blanket of fog that fell Friday morning – best not to raise the ire of the large, round tourists and hardy dockworkers that populate the place, we thought. After leaving Michael Walli with a pound of gourmet coffee and a short goodbye, we crept along Highway 61, through the mist now rolling off of the lake, and made our way through Twin Harbors to Goosebury Falls, and then to Tettegouche State Park. Along the way, we stopped along a rocky lake shore, and Jade let me hold the camera again, resulting in a number of poor-quality photos. Sometime mid-afternoon, we arrived a few minutes before the incredible Peter Schlecht and intrepid Angela Ufheil, two fellow survivors of Drake with whom we had made previous arrangements. After the obligatory hellos, the four of us retired for a night of s’more eating and PBR drinking (except for Jade, who is still sober and Angela who would die upon PBR consumption), and awoke the next day to a warm, humid breeze.

Our quartet hiked a ‘moderately difficult’ trail to High Falls and returned for a hearty lunch of hash browns, black beans, and fried vegetables, eaten half-dressed and sweaty under the now-hot sun. Evening plans were set, and after donning dry garments, Angela and I drove to the nearest liquor store in a small industrial town while Peter and Jade stretched (Peter managed to get a sliver in his foot, while on concrete, in the process). Silver Bay, home to the only liquor store near the park, is quiet town hidden about half a mile off of the highway, behind a massive iron ore loading dock and processing facility. Nestled in a high-traffic vacation area, the town was a small enclave of poverty, populated by trailer parks and low-income apartments where those who couldn’t get a job at the iron processing center worked at gas stations and tourist traps.

For liberal pundits, this was Trump Country, where dispossessed blue-collar workers take out their economic woes on the rest of us in the ballot box. Silver Bay, like most of Minnesota not covered by Duluth or Twin Cities area codes, is ‘red’, and usually sends Republicans to the statehouse and Washington. There appears to be nothing particularly political about the town though: no Trump signs or ‘Blue Lives Matter’ stickers, so common in the wealthy suburbs of Des Moines, can be seen, and it is likely that the region’s Republican delegation is elected more by the non-voting poor, who see no salvation in neoliberal Democrats, than a reactionary instinct. A signpost in Goosebury Falls Park recorded that the poor were not always so demobilized by the Democratic Party: the Civilian Conservation Corps, created under Roosevelt’s New Deal (itself pressured into law by large and active labor unions), had once employed thousands here, building bridges and nature trails, improving roads and developing the electric infrastructure. Perhaps, I mused as I selected Four Roses Whiskey at the liquor store (the best middle-shelf bourbon you can buy for a bottom-shelf price), there was a collective memory in the region of what social democracy tastes like. I bet Bernie won the caucus here.

The whiskey and cider flowed freely around the campfire, and Angela and Peter ate rice and beans out of flattened beer cans, having forgotten to bring spoons. I got tipsy and started lecturing everyone about Antonio Gramsci, and Jade and I crashed early, before 10 o’clock. We got up the next morning and went about the now-routine cleaning and packing. We stopped in the park’s visitor center for some device-charging and WiFi. Theresa May and the Tories had lost their majority in UK parliament. It was time to move.DSC_0230

Lake Shore. The one good photo Patrick took.

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Patrick  nearly died at Goosebury Falls.

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Jade was watching with glee.

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Goosebury Falls and splits.

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Angela Ufheil and Peter Schlecht. Note Peter’s resemblance to Antonio Gramsci (below)

Gramsci

(Antonio Gramsci, Marxist thinker and leader of Italian Communist Party until his arrest by the Fascists in 1926)

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Jade at High Falls.

Catholic Workers of the Midwest Unite!

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Barn Photo

June 7th brought about a great experience at the Dorothy Day House and other associated Catholic Worker Houses in Duluth. Upon arriving, we stumbled into the Bike Cave, where Catholic Workers and their guests alike were assembling and polishing up old bikes in exchange for receiving a bike of their own. We were quickly put to work organizing the bike shed before delving into more of the specifics of the Duluth Catholic Worker organization.

The Dorothy Day House, open and serving every day, is an available space for men to stay while working through issues such as unemployment or sobriety. There is an accompanying house for women and another house devoted to foster children. We spent a good deal of time conversing with the men at the Dorothy Day House, all of whom were very open, friendly, and eager to converse. The prophet of life and relationship advice, Big Q, was quick to share his life story and ideology of positivity, nonjudgement, and treatment of all people as kings and queens, though I must say that what most inspired me was his current career as a chef at Perkins.

Then, in the midst of wondering where the hell the food provider was (apparently a regular occurrence at all Midwest Catholic Workers), fellow Catholic Worker Jason stumbled onto the scene to give us a tour of the other CW houses in the neighborhood. Hospitable as Catholic Workers come, Jason led us to a dinner of fried sweet potatoes, pizza, and corn at the Olive Branch House (devoted to foster care), as he informed us of a political campaign against homelessness that the CW has been taking on over the past four years. They have written a homeless Bill of Rights, which they have been pushing at City Council and Human Rights Committee meetings and are currently planning a more direct action of occupying parking spaces with pop-up homes during Grandma’s Race, one of the biggest events in Duluth. To no surprise, their legislative efforts have been rather difficult, but I am left with both gratitude and inspiration in the persistence of their efforts.

We spent the remainder of their worker shift cleaning out a bedroom at the Dorothy Day House with Jason so that a new guest could move in the following day. Looking back at the experience, it is illuminating to compare and contrast the atmosphere and experiences of the Duluth Catholic Workers to the Worker in Des Moines. In Duluth, the “guests” in their communities are able to actively partake in carrying out the hospitality in ways that help to dissolve the worker/guest boundary that is more clearly drawn in Des Moines. The downside to Duluth’s model is that they are only able to serve about fifteen guests per day in comparison to the 40-90 guests served daily in Des Moines. However, it can be assumed that the guests living in Duluth are also receiving a much more spiritually and socially enriching experience considering that they are also live-in community members, opposed to Des Moines’ drop-in hospitality. This may provide an easier outlet to educate and politicize working class and impoverished people around progressive social ideology, though once again, this will prove to be a slower process from a more societal perspective, as it requires working with one individual at a time. The beauty of the CW Movement is that each location is allowed to organize itself as it so desires and focus on different marginalized populations and issues. We look forward to visiting other Catholic Worker Houses across the continent to conduct further comparisons.

When we returned to the farm, we discovered that Michael found us an OG hand sickle! What a rad dude. We are now accepting donations for a hammer to go with the sickle so that camper décor can be complete. While we were sad to depart, we have found the Duluth Catholic Worker scene to be ripe with amazingly generous folks whom we would love to come back and visit, but the journey must continue for now…

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A lighthouse on Lake Superior
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Jesus
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Suspenders (Red)

Sobriety is a Soupy Mess

In the words of “God’s Words for Girls” (a book found at WalMart): The best things are worth waiting for (i.e. wait for marriage).

Sobriety is a soupy mess.

Stranded on the side of State Highway 71 adjacent to a vehicle with a smoking engine and a lack of cell phone service, I realized my life was facing a futile trajectory. The measures we had taken to sneak alcohol into a state park for the Farenik wedding reception had toppled over in an unfortunate turn of events. We were conversing with state troopers in a friendly manner while sporting white collars and formal attire that all too closely resembled the bland business casual fashion advice we were indoctrinated with at Drake University. This was not the post-grad life I had envisioned.

After eventually making it back into Itasca state park, downing a thermos of whiskey infused coffee, driving back and forth from the Maple Loop Campsite (not the Oak, not the Spruce) to the Visitor Center to the cabins approximately fifty thousand times, and removing a wood tick from my right hip, I confirmed that this was not the life I wanted to live. It was time for a change. It was time for sobriety. And lo and behold, things started to look brighter as soon as I made this decision.

Has it been hard? Yes. Did I shed a tear when we drove past the liquor store (and later stopped in) advertising (and later purchased) $12.99 for a 24 pack of PBR? No. In fact, I rejoiced at the fact that I would be consuming about 450 fewer calories a day, or at least replacing these calories from beer with calories from hash browns (though it should be noted that getting fat is not on the summer agenda).

More importantly, what has driven me through these past three days of sobriety are the fascinating sights and peculiar people I have encountered on the journey thus far. Upon entering the beautiful lakeside city of Duluth, Minnesota, we were quick to pull into Menards and not purchase anything. Then we pulled into a seagull-filled recreational area off the shore of Lake Superior and cook up an enormous bowl of ramen in Sin, the camper. Patrick: “Best meal ever. Fucking awesome. The official food of white guy/Asian girl couples.” Things white people like, ya know?

Anyway, thanks to the all-around awesomeness of Duluth Catholic Workers, Michelle and Greg, we have been livin’ on the farm about twenty minutes southwest of Duluth with fellow Catholic Worker Michael, a man of no conversational transitions and stories aplenty. Upon meeting, Michael quickly shoved a book into our hands entitled Almighty, which gives a detailed description and analysis of a direct action in which three anti-war protesters broke into, splattered blood across, and occupied a nuclear weapon facility, only to find out the next day that he and Greg were two of the protesters. While it’s hard to get a word in edgewise while Michael tells stories of his past travels and current ideology, he has made it clear over morning coffee and broadcasts of Democracy Now that he holds a strong distaste for militant capitalism. Today he stands as a veteran for peace and promoter of Jesus’ peace offering.

Yesterday, after managing to crank out some relatively clean clothes from the Laundry Alternative, Michael took us on a tour of the farm, owned by a man named Don, an expert on Finnish heritage in the area and stickler to the old ways of draft horse farming. Unfortunately, Don is currently working through some health issues and is unable to carry on with the physical farm work, which is where Michael is helping out. And so our hike ensued. Despite a large assault of more wood ticks, we eventually ended up with a scenic view of the Midway River, where Michael informed us that the only Finnish word that has made it into the common English lexicon is “sauna,” as Don once aspired to have three saunas on his farm. The afternoon resulted in Michael generously buying us lunch in Cloquet by retrieving large sums of money from a tied up sock in the middle of a fancy restaurant.

Other activities we have pursued to ease my mind off of sobriety were sifting through old farm tools for a hammer and sickle to nail to the front of the camper, looking at elephant watering cans in Ace Hardware, watching Patrick fail to skip stones, learning about capitalists trying to privatize the lake walk from Michelle, grabbing Patrick’s new red suspenders, eating Fruit Loops, and wondering who controls the people who created the game in West World. We also just ate a lot of bagels and are looking forward to meeting up with other Catholic Workers at the Dorothy Day House later today.

In reality, I will only be sober for nine days on account of taking antibiotics to calm down the levels of bacteria that live in my body. After all, this road trip would not be happening had it not been for day drinking episodes that occurred sometime back a year or so ago. However, sober life carries on for now. While things have been good, things are also a bit soupy, especially as I watch Patrick drink all the PBR in front of me. But I remind myself that I must wait to join him in this sin, just as God wants me to wait for marriage. DSC_0215

Living in Sin, Pt. 1

    After surviving the crushing debt, schoolwork loads, bureaucratic entanglements, and liberal identity politics of Drake University, two Catholic Workers escaped the confines of Des Moines and their pedestrian jobs, bid a painful adieu to their comrades at Des Moines’ Catholic Worker and Democratic Socialist of America, and set forth in a red truck with a gold-white camper to tour the West and all the liberal religious and secular socialist societies therein. After buying the local groceries out of ramen, sriracha, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and assembling the proper playlists, they began their journey North and Westward, accompanied by their trusty blue sloth Wrinkles, prepared for all measures of adventure itinerant work, and ready to cross every boundary but a picket line.

This is their story.

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