Monday, June 24, 2024
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The Long Way Home

Sad to say, we are often misunderstood. As a writer of sorts I try my darndest to write so my meaning is understood, and sometimes I succeed. After 50 years of wedded bliss, being misunderstood is a fact of my life.

Our daughter Angie, who lives and works in Lutsen, made a Facebook post last week of a pine beetle clinging to a window screen. It’s pine beetle season on the North Shore. If you’ve never seen a pine beetle, think of a cockroach with long antennae. Not very pretty. They rarely bite, but when they do you’ll know it.

With the picture, Angie wrote, “These bitch­es stress me out. I still will take them over win­ter, darkness, cold and viruses galore. But they are the devil.”

Many of her Facebook friends jumped in to share their own visceral hatred of the pests. Crushing the exoskeleton of the nasty things makes a satisfying crunching noise which some commenters find too much to bear.

I noticed that a mutual friend had written a comment to her post that was flagged by the Facebook gestapo because it was potentially offensive. I was able to bypass the warning and open his post and realized that whatever algorithm reviews these things misunderstood what our friend was writing.

What it said was, “I kill everyone I see.” The algorithm assumed our friend was referring to more than pine beetles. And so did I when I read it. And oh how I laughed. Apparently the phrase “kill everyone” is a red flag.

This guy is a well-loved pillar in our com-munity. He makes his living in the hospitality industry and he’s a card carrying member of the county tourist bureau. He works damned hard and is a fine person who would literally give you the shirt off his back, if you needed a shirt or not.

Still, Facebook concluded he might be, or might be contemplating becoming a mass murderer.

I’m pretty sure he’s been upset a time or two by one of the bureaucrats he has to deal with. And anyone who’s dealt with tourists long enough may get angry enough with one or two of them to contemplate homicide as a satisfying resolution to a dispute. But he’d never con-sider actually “killing everyone.”

In fact, the only thing he’s probably ever killed is a skillet size Walleye, the best eating fish on the planet. Not to mention every pine beetle he sees on the Gunflint Trail. I thought about reporting his threatening post to local law enforcement.

Just for a laugh. But after he heard about my intention, he amended his comment. If you go to his anti-pine beetle post now you would read, “I kill every one ‘of those bugs’ I see.” And now Angie, with the Summer Solstice behind us, winter, darkness, cold and viruses galore will be here soon enough.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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