welcome to the hotel minnesota: part ii

When you last saw me and my brother Nils, we were tooling around the friendly wilds of Minnesosta in search of Duluth. If you missed that first chapter in our saga or want to relive it, especially all those exciting bits where we got lost and yelled Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit! and maniacally herky-jerked our arms around a moving car while waving people down to ask directions through the windshield, you can be brave and click right here.

mooseAlso: this has nothing to do with anything, other than A) Minnesota,  B) super-sized woodland mammals and C) my fondness for non sequiturs, but here I would like to insert a picture of a moose that I saw up by the boundary waters. It was large and moose-like. It did not look lost. This is my expert analysis.

Otherwise, I’ll just pick up where I left off: with the nice Minnesota couple who pulled over to help us in response to our lost and maniacal herky-jerking. They rolled down the window and peered out at us, the twitching visitors, with curiosity and concern.

We said: Excuse us, but which direction is Duluth?
And then the man at the wheel blinked and said: Duluth?
And we said: Duluth.
And the man said: Duluth. I think it’s that way (pointing in one direction)
And the woman said: Noooo, Duluth is that way (pointing in the other direction).
And Nils said: That way?
And I said: ???

And then the woman referred to a map — which was already spread on her lap, as though she she, too, were lost — and confirmed that Duluth was indeed That way. Yes, go That way, she told us. And then take a left on Route Such-and-Such, she added. And then just go go go.

They were so nice about it.

So we went went went. We ha ha ha’d and blah blah blahed. But after too many miles and still no signs for Route Such-and-Such, we started to feel lost again. SURELY we should have come upon the left turn by now? Yes? Shouldn’t we? Ha ha? Blah blah? Ha ha?

Nils said: Still no Google Maps?
And I said: Nope.
And Nils said: Shit.
And I said: Shit.
And Nils said: When’s your plane?
And I said: Plane? WHAT PLANE? I DON’T HAVE ANY PLANE. (Getting a grip.) I’m not going to panic. Nope! Not panicking! Ha! Ha! Ha!
And Nils said: Nope! No panicking! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Just then, sensing our desperation, or hearing our cackling, or possibly even wanting nothing to do with us, a truck with a man in it materialized at an intersection that Nils and I had somehow failed to recognized as an intersection until the truck with the man in it materialized there. In fact, we were so busy Not Panicking, we almost blew right past it.

We asked the man in the truck: Is this the way to Duluth?
And the man in the truck blinked and said: Duluth?
And we said: Duluth.
And the man in the truck said: Duluth. That way. Yes.

He was so nice about it.

But Nils and I were beginning to think that no one in Minnesota ever went to Duluth. This seemed strange to me, because I had been in Duluth some 30 years ago, and there were people there, then. Actual Minnesotans! Lots of them! Nice ones, too. But maybe the very same nice people I saw in Duluth three decades ago STILL LIVED IN DULUTH. Maybe they NEVER LEFT, and no one new ever ever ever arrived!

Or maybe there WAS no Duluth. Maybe Duluth was a fiction. Maybe I had made up my visit there, ha ha ha! Maybe Nils and I were hallucinating! Maybe all of Minnesota was a fantasy, some outsiders’ projected chimeric figment of moose and Midwesten niceness!

Still, Nils and I trundled along Route Such-and-Such. We went went went. The clock ticked ticked ticked. The plane loomed loomed loomed. We had no no no idea how far we were from Duluth Duluth Duluth.

Nils said: Still no Google Maps?
And I said: Nope.
And Nils said: Shiiiiiiit.
And I said: Shiiiiiit.

Then, coming up on a pair of road workers with their nice orange vests and their nice orange cones, we resolved again to seek sagacious cartographic guidance from the mouths of locals. Nils pulled to a stop.

I rolled down my window and said: How far is it to Duluth?
And the orange men blinked and said: Duluth?
And I said: Duluth.

And the orange men stared at me as though no one had ever asked this question before; as though no one ever would again; as though this word “Duluth” were strange and foreign to their ears (WHAT’S THIS THING YOU SAY, “DULUTH”?); as though I were speaking Lithuanian; as though I had just rolled down my window and asked them to perform some kind of surgery on me right there on the shoulder, something surreal and incomprehensible and more than a little scary (HELLO THERE, WOULD YOU TWO KIND GENTLEMEN PLEASE AMPUTATE MY FEET?).

The first orange man said: Ahhhhhhm.
And second orange man said: Errrrrmmm.
And I said: How far a drive is it to Duluth? What, 40 minutes, maybe?
And the second orange man said: Oh, at least.
And the first orange man said: Oh, at least.
And we said: Thank you.

And they were so nice about it.

So Nils and I went went went. We ha ha ha’d and blah blah blahed. Every now and then we passed a sign that said DULUTH, but the sign was never near anything like an intersection, and it was never accompanied by mileage. Just, you know, DULUTH. As in, THIS ROAD YOU’RE ON? EVENTUALLY IT WILL BRING YOU LOST LITTLE NUDNIKS TO DULUTH. HOW LONG THAT WILL TAKE, WE CANNOT SAY. BUT THANK YOU FOR GETTING LOST, AND HAVE A NICE DAY.

Eventually we hit a pocket of cell phone service, and I found a rash of messages from our dad demanding to know what the hell had happened to us. I told him we got lost.

And I said: We don’t know. We just did.
And he said: That’s impossible. It’s one road for miles and miles. HOW THE F— DID YOU GET LOST?
And I said: I just told you we don’t know. We just did. It just happened.

But we found Duluth! Yes! We even got to the airport with an hour to spare. Which was perfect! Because of course by the time we got there, my flight was canceled. But it didn’t matter, because I switched to another flight five hours later. And Nils and I were so relieved to have arrived, and so giddy from all that blabbing and laughing and all those lonely Minnesota byways and all that serial Minnesota niceness, that one more bump in the road barely mattered.

He said: Hey! You want to have lunch in Duluth?
And I said: Hey! Yes!

We had lunch in Duluth. We did not get lost. And everyone was nice.

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