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This will be my 67th year in Bemidji, and I wish I could tell you all the things I’ve seen,
but honey, there just isn’t enough room on the internet.
I’m the Bemidji Jaycees’ Entertainment Tent.
Let’s make sure you have that right, my name is Entertainment Tent, OK? Some sloppy
people will hastily call me a “Beer Tent.”
I hate that.
Our Jaycees’ put me up every year not so they can sling beer. There’s so much more
going on in and around my canopy going on that to call me a “beer tent” is a slap in the
This weekend, for example, I will be up for the annual Fishing Has No Boundaries event.
What great memories we’ve seen. If you get the chance, you really should help out.
You’d definitely put a smile on someone’s face and shine a light in their heart forever.
So, don’t call me that. But you don’t have to call me by such a long drawn out name
like “Entertainment Tent,” either. Call me E.T. for short, cuz I am otherworldly I tell ya.
Then of course, there’s the big show a few days later — the Water Carnival. This year
will be the Jaycees’ 67th. Through such things as a multitude of family and children
events (and yes, the beer sales) our Bemidji Jaycees pump tens of thousands of dollars
back into our community to such organizations as the Fire Department and Citizen’s
My size (very long by pretty wide and awful tall) may have you thinking I could double
as a circus tent. If you ever have been associated with the Jaycees, you know that the
days, weeks and months leading up to my erection are nothing less than circuslike,
but make no mistake, when the show starts those guys work together like a well oiled
That’s why every year the Water Carnival seems to get bigger and parts get better and
better. The Fourth of July fireworks that the Jaycees fund (in part through a corporate
fundraising campaign) are the biggest Independence Day show for at least 100 miles in
And THAT is what really blows wind up my skirt: the people (like the Jaycees, for
example) who come together, work with one another to make this town, my town,
Bemidji, not just a town, but a community, working for the betterment of all.
I hope I can help doing that for another 67 years.
Until this morning I was not familiar with Shelby Bjerke. She is a 5th Grade student at Lincoln Elementary School here in Bemidji, MN. As I listened to the brave students who stood up to share a few words with their fellow classmates and their families (I mean public speaking is hard, but in 5th grade! wow!) Shelby’s speech stood out. Read and see what I mean:
by Shelby Bjerke
Lincoln Elementary School
Photo by Julie Saari
Lincoln School, to some people it’s just a name, a school, with no emotion towards it’s real virtue. But to the students who go here and to the adults who work along side them it’s a place filled to the brim with love, friendship, happiness, laughter, and kindness shining through like sunlight from Lincoln’s many windows.
To the children who will come here next year Lincoln’s an exciting school filled with kids to befriend, to the kindergartners it’s classrooms filled so full with toys, crayons, and new friendships they don’t know where to step!
For the first graders it’s learning to read and write and add and subtract, it’s having their name put on a special piece of paper when they lose a tooth.
To the second graders it’s having their name on a wall [for reading progress], a ride in a limousine and a dilly bar, it’s AVE classes, and A.R. Ceremonies [Accelerated Reading].
For Third graders it’s MCA Tests, and funny teachers, it’s being in another class from your best friend which drives you CRAZY, it’s building rockets, and planting trees.
To the Fourth Graders it’s Chorus, and fun trips, it’s track and field, and teachers with wit, it’s fear of the next year, and what’s to come, and relief that it’s not quite there yet.
For the Fifth Graders it’s letting go inch by inch, of the school that took us and changed us bit by bit, and became such a part of our lives that we can’t begin to imagine life without Lincoln School.
But, there is also the knowledge that today when we walk out those doors and can no longer truthfully call ourselves Lincoln students, we can march right back in and say, “I am a Lincoln Laker and always will be” with all the truth in the world, because:
Lincoln isn’t just a school; it’s a lifestyle.
Lincoln isn’t just a school; it’s a community.
Lincoln isn’t just a school; it’s a home.
The school makes the student
The student makes the teacher
The teacher makes the school
Downtown Bemidji is full of four way stops. Not just one or two, rather many many. With this being said, it has always surprised me that people do not seem to know the rules for approaching a four way stop. Drivers hesitate or give up the right of way, while others charge ahead out of turn without care for the rules or safety. When you add pedestrians into the mix, you may as well forget about the rules, and just insert confusion instead.
When my husband and I moved here in the Summer of 1997, the four way stops were one of the first things I noticed. Have I mentioned that there’s many many of them? After seeing how many I would be dealing with on a daily basis, I quickly opted to review the four way stop rules. Since I seem to be in the minority here, I will take the time to post the four way stop rules here (summary version)
Writing note: I was going to post this last week. I started reviewing the rules and was looking for a summary to post through the DMV site etc. One of the first things I came across was this comedic version. I have not been able to get that version out of my head, nor can I personally write anything quite as good. So I have decided to post Jim Loy ‘s version and then link the DMV / MN driving rules. Keep reading-it’s so funny because it is so true.
The four-way stop is a drivers’ IQ test, that many drivers fail. It would seem to be a maneuver of approximately Blue-Angel caliber. But, it is really very simple, if you follow these few rules.
Case I – one car
You are the only one at the intersection. This is the simplest case. First you stop [complete stop (in or out of the cross-walk), rolling stop, 25 mph stop, etc.], then you have only five options:
2. Hesitate, then go.
3. Wait for 3 more cars to come along.
4. Wait for 2 more cars.
5. Wait for 1 more car.
A true Driver (with a capital “D”, master of four-way stops) would choose option #3. After all, they do call this a four-way stop. Most drivers modify option #3 by adding a time limit, like 30 seconds: “Wait for 3 cars or 30 seconds, whichever comes first.” This 30-second wait has degenerated into option #2, “Hesitate, then go.”
Case II – 2 cars
There are a few permutations here:
1. You got there first. See below, “Complication #3, who got there first?” In this situation, just go, unless you are a disgustingly polite driver (Complication #1).
2. He or she is on your right and you’re turning right. Go.
3. He or she is on your right and you’re not turning right. Wait.
4. He or she is straight ahead; and he or she is going straight or turning right; and you’re going straight or turning right. Go.
5. He or she is straight ahead and he or she is turning left or you’re turning left. Wait.
6. He or she is on your left and he or she is turning right. Go.
7. He or she is on your left and he or she is not turning right. Wait.
Case III – 3 cars
If it’s your turn, go. If not, try to imagine what can go wrong if you do go, and then go if you didn’t just imagine your own death. Actually, this case is a simplification of case IV – 4 cars.
Case IV – 4 cars
There are hundreds of permutations here. But, actually, it’s pretty simple. Go it it’s your turn, or if you’re turning right and nobody else is headed for that lane.
Complication #1 – the disgustingly polite driver
A disgustingly polite driver will wait for you even though you both know that it is his or her turn to go. I can imagine him or her stopping for a child, and waving the child into the path of a speeding semi. Such politeness confuses any driving situation. It can hopelessly muddle a four-way stop situation, unless you follow this advice: Flip him or her the appropriate salute, and go.
Complication #2 – which way will they turn?
Cases II through IV depend upon which way the other drivers are turning. Their turn signals may offer a clue:
1. Some people do not signaling
2. Some people will turn the same way that they are signaling
3. Some people will not turn the same way that they are signaling
There are six principles which will help you sort these out:
1. You can legally assume that people will turn the same way that they are signaling, or that they are not turning when they are not signaling.
2. You can legally ram them if they are lying.
3. No witness will stick around to back up your story about whether or not anybody signaled.
4. Drivers (capital “D”) do not signal.
5. drivers (small “d”) do not signal.
6. All other drivers signal.
Complication #3 – who got there first?
“Who” got there first, “what” got there second, “I don’t know” got there third. Sorry, that was merely an allusion. In theory, a four-way stop is simple. The cars stopped in a certain order, and they go in the same order. In reality:
1. Some people don’t exactly stop. So, when did they arrive at the four-way stop?
2. Some people stop one or two car-lengths behind the stop sign. When did they arrive at the four-way stop?
3. Sometimes two cars really do stop simultaneously.
4. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first, and driver B thinks that driver A got there first. This is a simplification of the next situation.
5. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first. Driver B thinks that driver C got there first. And driver C thinks that driver A got there first. From experience, I would say that this, along with various 4-car permutations, is a very common situation.
6. At least one driver has no clue. This has probably happened before he reached the four-way stop.
So, when there’s doubt about who got there first, who should go first? Here’s a handy rule: “I go first, you go second, everyone else hesitates.” My car is the one with the dents in each door.
Complication #4 – pedestrians
Any of the above situations can be further complicated by the intrusion of any number of pedestrians. You won’t see them lining up and going one at a time. They just keep walking right on through the intersection, dodging cars. While pedestrians slow down the normal clockwork of the four-way stop, they also introduce a logical puzzle to the situation. If you are about to go, and a pedestrian walks in front of you, how does that affect the order of who goes when? Do you get to go first once the pedestrian is out of your way? Should all the other cars wait for you? Or, have you lost your place and must wait for 3 more cars to go. This guideline should help: “If you have to wait for a pedestrian, you are now a time-bomb waiting to go off. To minimize the loss of life, you should be allowed to go first.”
Complication #5 – the four-way stop starburst maneuver
This is when all four cars go at once. All four cars stop, nearly touching, nose to fender. And, nobody can go forward. The driver who backs up loses all respect from his or her family. Besides, the next four cars have gone forward by now. So no one can back up, if he or she wanted to. The four-way stop has now achieved critical mass. The only solution is for one car to be removed, sideways, by a fork-lift. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never seen this done. I understand this is very popular in Europe, at all kinds of intersections.
Four-way stop theory
Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity says, among other things, that two observers, travelling at different speeds, cannot agree on when something happened. In fact observer A may say that event X occurred before event Y, while observer B may say that event Y happened first. And both observers are right. This leads to the “four-way stop paradox.”
A theory that seems to have even more to say about four-way stops is Natural Selection.
Dear Bemidji drivers, it is time to figure this out. You deal with these signs daily if you are downtown. Denial is only getting people frustrated at you. I know the reason you sit and wait for the other person to go (even though you clearly are in the right of way) it is because you don’t know the rules! Well I have cleared that up for you now. Proceed (now that you know how).
Right of Way and Yielding: Right-of-way and yielding laws help traffic flow smoothly and safely.
They are based on courtesy and common sense. Violation of these
laws is a leading cause of traffic crashes.
• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, and
there is no traffic light or signal, the driver of the vehicle on the
left must yield to the vehicle on the right.
• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time,
and all-way stop signs or flashing red traffic lights control
the intersection, the driver on the left must yield right of way
to the driver on the right.
• A driver who wishes to make a left turn must yield to vehicles
approaching from the opposite direction when these vehicles are
in the intersection or are near enough to pose the risk of a crash.
• When a green arrow signal indicates that a vehicle may enter an
intersection to make a left turn, the driver must yield to other
vehicles or pedestrians already within the intersection. After
yielding, the driver may continue in the direction of the arrow.
• When two vehicles approach an uncontrolled “T” intersection, the
driver of the vehicle that is turning must yield to all cross traffic.
• When approaching a public road from a private road or driveway,
you must stop and yield to pedestrians and traffic.
• Drivers in the right lane of traffic must yield right of way to transit
and metro mobility buses attempting to merge from a bus stop
• When a funeral procession identifies itself through use of headlights
or hazard warning lights, you must yield to the entire procession.
Bemidji Regional Event Center opened their doors November 17, 2010 with their first show Larry the Cable Guy, followed by Sesame Street Live and then onto Hockey and other events. Here are some photos of a few events I personally attended at the center. The next promoted event is Styx live in concert on May 28, 2011.
Blake Shelton Concert
January 29, 2011
Bud Light Bull Riding Challenge April 1&2 2011
April 4, 2011
Bemidji Jaycees Home Sport and Travel Show
The Weekend of April 8,9,10 2011
More Information on the Sanford Center Can Be Found Here
A great video on the rules of flat track roller derby can be found HERE
Derby skaters wait on the bench for their turn to skate
Babe City Rollers announcers “Dead Air” and “Don Kill-hote”
keep the crown enthralled
Jammer “Kickin’ Boo Dee” lines up to race,
waiting for the jammer whistle to signal her start
The “pack” waits eagerly for the starting whistle
Babe City Rollers’ audience was energetic and supportive;
they even did the wave!
Babe City Rollers rest on the bench in-between jams
A skater gets a break
Babes’ team captain Olive Mayhem
advises Rock-Em Sock-Em Ria on strategy
Babe City Rollers pack skaters wait during a time-out
Best sporting uniforms in town
In the star helmet, Babes’ jammer cruises through the pack while her teammate behind her blocks an opposing player
Rock-em Sock-em Ria races around the track as jammer
Rock-em Sock-em Ria tries to escape the pack as jammer, while her teammates try to hold back the opposing players
Referee Mad Cowgirl
NorthStar Roller Girls’ announcer
Wilhelm Scream entertains the crowd
Roxy Solid rests on the bench between jams
A friend from LA asked me this via email this summer. He went on to explain he saw a story “about a beaver”.
I asked, “Was there a picture?”
He then described the picture. MY picture of Gaea is what he was looking at in an LA newspaper. The story of Deborah’s “beaver” and my picture also made it to places like the New York Times and other major circulations. Our small town was suddenly (if only momentarily) famous…… for our “beaver”. However, there is more to this story. There is an artist that painted the beaver, a real life person.
Misquoted world wide, Deborah Davis speaks for herself today on This is my town: Bemidji. Please do not think this was easy for her. I have been asking, no, begging her to write her side of the story since early summer. I am honored that she took the time and stepped out of her comfort level to write her side of things. Please take the time to read the real story, not the hyped up, joked about “beaver story” that spread across the nation and some parts of the world.
Please embrace Deborah Davis:
Photo by Julie Saari
Deborah Ann Davis
Why yet again?
I’ve never gotten to tell the real story. I’m not sure entirely why. I think mostly people don’t like hearing these things. We get uncomfortable. And we should. But if we don’t hear them, maybe nothing will ever change. I’m supposed to tell you why I painted Gaea, why I think she impacted women and the community the way she did; I’m supposed to tell you the real story since near everyone who has covered it so far has in some way mucked it up: added something untrue, taken out a too truth. I think the only way to tell you is to tell you that every piece of art takes a lifetime to make. I think Gaea started when I was really young.
Abuse is nothing new, and we’re all sick of victim stories, so I’m going to tell a few more. Bear with me; there’s a reason. When I was 8 my cousin and brother babysat while my folks were out. My cousin kept telling me I was beautiful. Now, any girl will know how that makes you feel: 16 year old cousins make you swoon anyway, and Jim was a surfer. He told me I looked like Ann Margaret. Later that night he snuck up to my room and tried to show me how beautiful he thought I was. This sort of thing changes you. You feel marked. You shut up. That’s what I did. I spent the next several years of my life stuffing everything I could inside, just so I wouldn’t spill my guts.
There Was a Bar and a Church
I ran away from home at 15, lived with my sister’s family in a small North Dakota town until I turned 18 where I graduated with honours. Then I got my own apartment. I was as afraid and naive as I was at 8, but for some reason, a single girl with her own apartment starts rumors. One night a stranger jumped me as I came home from work. He was drunk and I fought him off, but small towns are funny. A deterred rape is the same as opening a whore house I guess and I was labeled loose, immoral and shameless: funny since I’d not said yes to sex yet, but that was how it was. It’s easier to label a woman than to understand this mercurial ferocity some men aim at them. During and after college I went through a few relationships. I floundered some. Then, my dad called and told me he was dying, to come home and help take care of mom, who was never able to take care of herself. I did the right thing. I moved to Tenstrike. There was a bar and a church, so I became a Christian. I married a man from the church; I had my daughter; I was safe.
Except, I wasn’t. The abuse began right away, except, nobody admitted it was abuse: not me, not him, and certainly not the church. I was told that if I submitted enough, prayed enough, served enough, I could change him. “If I could be Beauty, he could be a changed Beast.” “Accept Deborah,” everyone kept telling me, “Accept.” Except… I couldn’t. There was something missing in this “scheme of things” we were all buying into, this “male pride and ego,” this “boys will be boys,” this “man is the boss” thing. What was it? And, I realized…it is the woman, and the woman’s point of view. Thus I began a 20 year research project into Women and Spirituality, particularly Christianity.
It was survival first, then I found a few surprising things. One is, oddly enough, a key name for God in the Old Testament is the precise key name God calls Woman in Genesis, the one men have used for centuries to shut them up.
Something was dirty in Damascus!
I found more: Deaconesses translated as Helpers, authorship of books of the Bible hidden, and most earth shaking of all, the missing piece of the Triune Godhead was very, very feminine.
Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like a Man!
Women’s emotion, intuition, care, and tenderness is not only God given to humans, but a third of God. I won’t give you a theology or history lesson here. Suffice it to say I realized that all this viciousness, this silencing, this grave and urgent need to keep woman in her place and ashamed of herself came from her being one of the most glorious, splendid, freeing aspects of all Christianity, and as earlier and later research showed me, this is true in all spiritual and religious history across all belief systems. But alas, not a soul wanted to hear it.
“Is there anywhere a man who won’t punish us for our beauty?”
-Poet Diane Wakoski
About the time I began incorporating this research into my life choices, had saved enough to finally leave my husband as my daughter started her freshman year in college, everything fell apart again. She was raped, a victim of the “Freshman Hit List” on campus. When the interrogations began, the police wanted to know what she’d been doing, saying, and wearing. They recorded, in inches, how high her skort was above her knee. She was wearing fairy wings; apparently this immediately made her suspect of being a seductress. Out of all the women I talked to about the rape, only one didn’t have a rape story herself, usually they had several. Rape is a devastating thing. It was no different for us. BSU then had, and may still have, a policy they call Student Conflict Resolution. It involves rapist and victim meeting in a room to discuss how they can work out their conflict. We had to have a judge make an injunction against that happening. I felt like I was back in that little town in North Dakota. How far we HAVEN’T come!
I am great in any crisis, but in between the crisis moments in the aftermath of a horror of a marriage and my daughter’s rape, I began to shut down. My husband, for once, reacted in a typical male fashion. Even 14 years of counseling couldn’t stop his fury. Every night he raged, threw furniture, plates, me… whatever he could get his hands on. I’d left him often, always undercover of shame. It was my dirty little secret. I always came back. I returned to save farm animals and dogs from death and to rescue mom and things. People helped me. I’d sleep in their galleries, businesses, campers and on their couches and spare beds. I left. I told no one except those with who I stayed. I returned in time to make a Sunday meal or pretend with visitors or my daughter.
Be a Lady. Good Girl.
As a girl I was well schooled that when people hurt me it was my fault. At the church I’d learned that it was always the woman’s fault. We all have learned it, even if we don’t believe it. And I wanted, all my life, for us to unlearn it. I wanted some peace and freedom. But this time, I was told by my husband’s counselor I had to put on a united front for our daughter and come home. Again, my ladylike goodness would somehow save us all, except me. The thing is, it didn’t save her either. This strange system of silence, yes perpetrated by women too, was not saving us.
Paying Through the Nose/and Every Other Body Part
For some reason women are paying a debt we don’t owe. We are being abused for our beauty and spirituality, and I realized I had to speak. I’d tried at church; I’d tried at home; I’d tried in the legal system. I tried with Art. The first show was about female genital mutilation. I’d listened to stories about it from women who came to Concordia Language Village when I lived there. It was an eye opener for many who didn’t know how brutal and how lasting the emotional and sexual effects were. Then I did the Skin show. And then I painted nude women with no hands, no faces, no feet. It was how both my daughter and I felt after the rape.
You Got Your Ears On Good Buddy?
Then the beaver project came up. I wasn’t going to do it. By then, I’d left my husband. He’d taken everything of value, my childhood treasures and my daughter’s, my savings and my soul. While I was at the battered women’s shelter and sneaking naps on the couches of friends, he’d filled my home with bags of garbage ceiling high. Every time I called the police I was told the same thing. His name was on the deed too. “It’s a man’s world,” I was told by one of the workers at the shelter.
All I had strength and time for was to work to clear out and survive. He had made sure I had no well for water, no furnace for heat, and he’d not paid taxes for 8 years. I had other things to do besides art. But one by one, local artists who knew…. Who KNEW… began to call, email… frankly, to harass me into doing this beaver project. So, on the last hour of the last day, I threw some things together and applied.
I never once said part of the beaver sculpture Gaea wasn’t vagina, though I was often quoted as saying it after the first ringmaster of the 3 ring media circus said it. What I did say, when asked, was that Gaea was about the wholeness of women, their strength and beauty, sexuality and spirituality. I said as much and as little as I could. I work for the city. It was an uncomfortable position for awhile let me tell you, the city being the one ultimately put on the spot for a piece of art I made! I was told by one above me that I should choose: not making anymore art or to be on the schedule.
I’m Just a Soul Who’s Intentions Are Good.
Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.
I did not set out to offend, only to educate; not to make ashamed but to expand. I think Art should make us see, and question, bring us closer to who we are, and even who we should be. I understand everyone’s part in the play that became Gaea Summer. We all want to make nice, cover scary things. Sometimes we need to see, rather than cover though. I thought it was time to see.
Sticks and Stones
In the end I don’t own Gaea. I always knew that and signed a contract agreeing to it. I don’t own any woman’s story, but I think they should be told, and they should be heard. Both parts are hard to do, and I think we’re doing a terrible job of it. We women have learned to silence ourselves if someone else doesn’t do it for us. We’ve learned how to behave. We pass the feminine off with names like girly, beaver, chick, lady, helpmeet, whore, wife, mom, victim, feminist… And women are so much more. We all are. That’s the magnificent thing!
I’m Just an Artist Who Painted a Beaver
Gaea doesn’t come from a place of hurt. She comes from my past, yes, but more she comes from my faith, and what I know about all faiths. She comes from a place of healing, and this is what I hear again and again from women when they see her. She touches them. Women tell me she gives them wings, makes their heart soar, frees their soul. Men tell me that she makes them think differently, and many say she’s beautiful. I’m so glad! I am just an artist who painted a beaver, that’s all; and I’m a woman with a story, like us all. Let’s keep talking, and listening. No new good comes from the old silences. Keep talking. Keep listening. Love.
Occasionally I get an email or a late submission. I am never sure what to do with them. I have kept them in a collection until I had enough for a complete post (and I was out of other things to post). Please enjoy insight and talent from your town folks, or former towns people.
From: Cyndi LaMoure
Upon reading the post on Facebook on favorite places I began to discover that many people are unaware of what is truly a locally owned business. The comment on restaurants regarding the Green Mill is of course what most caught my attention. So comes the idea to write you. I have wanted to suggest a local couple for someone to feature but really would be unsure of them wanted to write up anything. Did you know the owners of Green Mill in Bemidji are Rich and Joyce Siegert. Rich came to Bemidji in 1962 to attend BSU where both he and Joyce are graduates from. The own The Hampton Inn, Green Mill, Erbert & Gerbert’s, 1500 place, and Lakewood Office plaza. They met while attending BSU and married. They have owned and operated many business’ in town. Joyce is the libraian at Lincoln School, Rich sits on the BSU foundation board. These business’ although they are a franchise name does not make them any less locally owned. Seeing I am not as amazing with words I would love to see some stories on these wonderful business owners and other business owners that own franchises in town that are very locally owned.
Photo by Robert Batchelder:
Photo by Chris Serbus
Photo by Jeremy Anway:
Photo by Brandon Bjerknes:
A letter via e-mail
My name is Jessica Theroux, and I am from the Bemidji area. I was born August 1982 at the Bemidji Hospital. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis after my parents relocated in 1986.
I moved back to Bemidji in 2001, five years after my mother and my siblings moved back to Bemidji. I wanted to complete high school in the place where I’d been making friends since childhood.
One month ago, I accepted a teaching position on the South-West edge of Alaska, in a small village called Kipnuk in the Yukon-Delta region of the state.
Since departing, I have of course become very homesick.
Some of the things I miss terribly are the sounds of the loons at night, the crickets, the lakes, the TREES! There aren’t any trees out here on the tundra.
I attended and received both of my degrees from Bemidji State University. I worked for nearly eight years in various group homes around the area, caring for developmentally disabled and mentally ill adults. I loved my work, although my passions are definitely in teaching and in writing.
I am an avid amateur photographer, and I have many photos detailing my life in and around the Bemidji area.
Last summer, I was unemployed, and lucky enough to be able to spend three consecutive weeks camping on the shores of North Twin Lake in Turtle River.
I consider some of the photos I captured there to be the best in my collection, and I frequently view them to alleviate my homesickness.
I would love to share some of these with you and the blog or Facebook page. ………………
I appreciate the opportunity to share this work with others who might also benefit.
Jessica J. Theroux
Did you witness this Flash Mob put on by KAXE this summer?
Tower Road- East of Bemidji
As I attempted to take pictures of Mr. Jeremiah T.S. Liend, I was laughing so hard I could not hold the camera straight. If you also consider the freezing temperatures, it is surprising I was able to hold onto the camera at all. I have had a hard time meeting up with Jeremiah, as he has been busy with (but not limited to): announcing for the Babe City Roller Derby Team, play rehearsals at the High School, a sword show, various dramatic performances, as well as a history film project, and, ohhhh…..acting like a zombie. A man about town, a man’s man, a ladies man(?), but for sure, a gentleman…
It is my pleasure to introduce Jeremiah:
In the afternoon of June 21st 1980 I entered the world as a resident of The Bemidji Clinic. My mother is and will forever be Donna Stenerson. Then Jeremiah Tavis Stenerson, now Jeremiah Tavis Liend, I was raised till the age of 5 in Bemidji, before moving to my grandparent’s in Bagley. There I attended first kindergarten and first grade. My mother and I moved to Peace LN when I entered second grade at Northern Elementary. I moved on to Bemidji Middle School and then Bemidji High School and graduated from BHS in ’98. I quasi-attended one semester at BSU then transferred to AMDA in NYC. I returned to Bemidji to work the summer of 2000 and in the Fall retained an apartment with friends in Washington Heights. I returned to Bemidji in 2001 immediately following the attacks of 9/11 with the intention of joining the military. I pursued a career in the military between the years of 2001 and 2003, ending my enlistment by escaping from Staten Island on chill night. I returned to Bemidji in 2003 after my grandmother suffered a debilitating heart attack. I lived at home, and then Pine Ridge for 4 years 3 ½ of which were spent employed a block away at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Store 3233. In 2007 I traveled west to Port Townsend and then Thailand with The Chiang Mai Project. I returned to Bemidji and in 2008 negotiated tuition with BSU and attended classes while campaigning for mayor the second time. I have been sober since September 9th 2008 when I lost my bid for mayor a second time and since have lived with my Grandma Beulah at the end of her life and have only this month moved in with my Grandma Mary.
I have always been raised by my family and they, more than any other reason, are the reason I remain in Bemidji rather than anyplace else on the Earth. My family is vast. Many of my friends are my family, and it is getting to the point of a real community. I love my family. They are the reason I survive to tell you these, and other amazing things. I have been saved by Jesus only once, and saved by my family a hundred times over. I live on borrowed time every day of my life. Miraculous are the brushes with death that I have walked away from unharmed. I live a relatively hermetic existence due to crippling social phobia excepting the occasion I make the rounds and try to hear everything all of you have to tell me about everything. And mostly things are good and getting better. The digital revolution is impending and we are winning the battle against disease. I wish I wasn’t a pauper sometimes. Sometimes I spend the dollar on the lottery ticket and dicker the Gods over any number of great works I would and could achieve with the barest of interest and minimum of risk. But everyone is also very poor. It’s some serious Grapes of Wrath nonsense. I have only myself to blame.
If you get elected Governor you probably have to move to the cities. And I have never moved to the cities out of what I believe to be a grand curse punishing me for evils confirmed and imagined in this, and what I believe to be many past lives. I explain this curse to people, but they typically do not believe me, and/or make the case for my lunacy. I believe Bemidji is the last stand for everything. The different between Bemidji and NYC is that our trees aren’t fake. I don’t know why I can’t call myself a Native American at this point? I was born in Bemidji. I didn’t have anymore choice in that than my Anishanabe brothers who perpetually struggle against crime and injustice. We all just landed here. Through space and time we were sent to perform great deeds in the name of our forbearers.
I have collected my greatest ideas and presented them to some who mostly laughed. I want to scream; “THEY LAUGHED AT ME!” but I knew it would happen all along. I’m a pretty funny guy, if you get to know me, and we talk for a little bit, and I’m not suffering from crippling anxiety. I don’t know what it takes to get something done though. I’ve attempted a number of things with varying success. I think that we should be investing more of our efforts on first listening to, and then educating our youth. They are growing up in an age of technology that our ability to communicate with one another will change vastly in another decade. And this can be used to do things. Amazing things. Like destroy the language barrier. Tear it down and start over with everyone. Because I want to know what the Polynesians think, but I can’t talk to them.
We need to start tearing things down an starting over. I don’t like to talk about it, and I try not to write about it too much, but 9/11 changed me. I have guilt over that day. Guilt that may be layered in delusion or psychosis, but guilt, nevertheless. We are, so far, losing that battle. We’ve spent thousands of lives avenging thousands of lives and tens of thousands more have been killed in the process. A true world leader would have fixed that. Made it a mission not to play their game. And I was almost a part of it. Joe gave me the phone that morning and later he would fight for the 82nd where I would have been if not for eczema. For what? To capture Bin Laden? I can do that. Any person can do that. But why can’t we save everyone at home first? Can’t we fix America before we try fixing everyone else?
Because I’m doing my damndest to make Bemidji the Town on the Hill. If you can take one city, and make it everything you desire, then why move? And why would I want to? Move to LA and no longer experience seasons? What would Fall be without leaves? What would Christmas be without snow? Soon enough climate change will rob us of both, but for now I will live in Bemidji, and try to rebuild from here. Because everywhere artists and merchants labor for the honest dollar, and the lake only smells a week out of the year. If ever a 1,000 swordsman army existed, it would be in Bemidji. And let me explain that a swordsman can be man or woman, but the sword comes first. And I’m out there arming you. One at a time. Waiting for the phone message from Bill Gates.
My town harbors my family who harbor my heart within my home. A 10 minute walk in any direction waits a sofa I might crash on. Bemidji tap is intolerable, but plentiful. Lady Justice on the courthouse stares blindly to the East where the sun rises over Lake Bemidji. The Carnegie, a gift from the man of the same name, still stands. They tore down my High School, and will always hold a silent vendetta against those who let her die. But I think that’s where the New Globe Theater can go. Preferably before they turn it into a parking lot. The Giant Paul Bunyan will rise! McDonalds would be fools not to rent the upmost floor. One day someone will give me the green light, and we will all find ourselves living in the center of the galaxy.
If I didn’t believe that a city could represent all that is good and spectacular in humanity I would not bother living. I must rise in the dark hoping for the light. I would rather craft the world into which I was born than travel to inferior cities with hopes for fame and fortune. Once the world realizes that it is as easy as listening to one another and then working hard to rebuild. We are not Republicans and Democrats, we are Americans. Hate can only devour, and we live in a city of love. Or at least tolerance. If you have a gun and an order you are not obligated to protect anything, and you have no free will. We are a Warrior Nation that has been retired to consumerist pastures. The children we raise will die younger than us if we do not begin the defense of our very lives.
We must stand as a line of defense against those who would harm our homes and families, but defense is not enough to pioneer. We must cast aside the shackles from our minds and reclaim our senses and bearings. We must Unite Our States before our house divided falls. We are in an age of the Digital Pioneer now. The Information Age is upon us, and what we choose to do with this information is at our disposal. We can we eliminate the need for paper and invest the lumber into homes for the homeless. We can provide energy and health care to everyone for forever. We can live healthier, action-packed lives before we endanger our posterity with our rest.
As I type this we throttle through space as the most advanced species in our most advanced age. As I type you to this the Space Shuttle is about to retire without a plan to replace it. As I type this I remember through history the great scientists and artists and laborers building everything we have from the dirt below their feet and simple tools. I remember through history the terrible atrocities we have rendered unto one another in the pursuit of wealth and power. I remember through history the names of those who came in the name of God to raise Faiths. I continue to strive through depression and discouragement every day by believing and remembering and praying to all the Gods that my message and my hopes arrive to the ears and hearts of like-minded folk, and equally desperate and disparaged we can at least dream of Solar Dirigibles until someone finally builds one.
If you gaze at the stars long enough, you will begin to sense that you are flying, and this is very real, and very exciting. I have felt the world spin without the benefit of mind-alteration. Spin with me now. When the cosmos ends we will all of us be together with all the energies we have dispensed over our ages. We shall exist as infinity together and perhaps find out if there is anyone in charge. Someone tending the light at the end of our universe. Spin with me now.
Bemidji Regional Event Center
An entrepreneur, a businessman, and a whiz in sales and marketing, Ryan Thomas represents “The Best of Bemidji”. Founder of The Best of Bemidji quarterly mail circular, he is a man about town. You can find him networking, stopping in on sales calls and checking out business opportunities around town. Or possibly stopping in for a cup of coffee which just might be his fuel. Confident, friendly, and outgoing are the first three words that come to mind when I think of Ryan.
Let’s see what you think of him:
I have a funny feeling that my “Bemidji story” is not unlike that of others.
I came through sheer apathy, but I stayed for the everything — the people, the nature and the culture. Oh, and definitely the hockey.
A very good friend, who graduated from high school one year earlier than me, came to Bemidji State and that was all I needed to apply there, too. Whether through a clerical error, or not, I was somehow admitted.
I also was admitted at my more “hometown” North Dakota State, but never bothered to apply for housing there until I heard they had no dorm space left. This despite the fact that my girlfriend was hellbent on attending NDSU, too. Oops.
So, I moved 100 miles from home to Bemidji, biding my time until I could transfer to NDSU. I kept saying this to myself up through my second junior year. After that, I’d lose too many credits to graduate college in a timely fashion.
After another year and a half of BSU, I left town to pursue a full time career in Brainerd. From there the plan was to put in a couple years, move up the career ladder to the Twin Cities, then conquer the world.
It was that simple.
Just shy of two years in Brainerd, I was wearing my welcome thin and there was an opportunity for career advancement back in Bemidji, so I veered a bit from the plan and came back.
I can honestly say Bemidji State hockey, which had just jumped up to Division I, was what sold me on returning.
I quickly burned bridges at the new job and was unemployed in short order. In my defense, though, telling one of your bosses to perform an impossible sex act on himself was not covered in the employee handbook.
A hasty job search unveiled (Trumpet fanfare, please) a job in the Cities. The night I left behind my beautiful wife, puppy and new home for this notch on the résumé, I cried like a baby the whole time.
That was my “A Ha!” moment. Bemidji was home. Not the flat, treeless Red River Valley. Not soulless Maple Grove North (Brainerd). But the place I’d spent my adult life trying to escape.
Sometimes you need to get kicked in the face to really open your eyes to all that you have.
My weekly commutes over the next few months showed me something: there’s no bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic into the cities on Sunday nights and Monday mornings, but it’s a bloodbath getting out every Friday.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but yeah I found another job back home — Bemidji, in case you haven’t been paying attention — not at all in my field, but one I enjoy that let’s me commiserate with the best of Bemidji’s wide array of personalities.
Bemidji, thank you for everything.
PS That girlfriend of mine who went to NDSU? She moved up here for college and wisely married me. But that’s another story unto itself.
Julie Michelle lives in San Francisco and started the I live here: SF website. She is my motivation for This is my town: Bemidji. I asked her on this holiday week if I could post her favorite story (as of late) she sent me to meet Jonathon. Would you like to reach across the U.S. with me and shake his hand?
On Turk Street
Tonight my town is on fire. I have passed another of our notorious summer days, the fog rolling down the hill and sending that familiar wet chill down my spine. The wind may flair up in my ear like an angry voice, and I may hold fast to a friend as we weave through the streets and the smell may be sickly sweet, like sawdust and piss and chrysanthemum in the new rain. To another, the hookers on Ellis are foreboding: all scrunchy plastic skin-tights and colors neon bright; bouncers at a nightclub below their pay-grade. To me they are like guardian angels of the streets, and through these gates I walk tonight. I can’t even begin to have you comprehend the ways in which I love this place. It was in the smoky upper room of the Edinburgh Castle Pub that I learned to dance, at Club 1964 surrounded by the impeccably dressed: the boys all in starched whites and the girls in floral cocktail dresses with teased hair and a piece of my heart. Huddled in the corner of the Geary Club in a city that seemed so large with my only friends at the time, filling the jukebox with Sam Cooke until the gravel of Harriet’s alto told us it was time to go home; I learned that it wasn’t hard to make a big place small. However it wasn’t until recently, as I watched from my window the swarm of traffic on a Friday night flooding Geary street, when I woke in the middle of the night and just walked misty eyed through the pulsing and sleepless chambers of the neighborhood, when I watched Turk & Taylor explode with the frenzy of the hustle from the window of the 21 Club in the hours before last call that I knew, without the slightest reservation, that here in the Tenderloin, in the grand city of San Francisco, I had found home.
There is more to it than that. There is the velocity of the neighborhood yes; the intensity: sometimes it feels like I’ve stepped inside a pressure cooker, and the rumbling heat from all sides nearly burns me alive; but when we dismiss the madness and destitution of a place like the TL we are overlooking one fundamental tenet of life: regardless of appearance we are all experiencing madness and destitution. Whether it be in a five star rooftop bar sipping Tanqueray & Tonics, or drinking iced Bud-Light at some post-apocalyptic dive deep in Wineland; whether at the end of the line at Glide Memorial waiting on a semblance of a warm meal, or surrounded by the comforts of wealth and success: we are all going to the same place. Poverty tends to bring this fact home a little better than wealth. If the Buddha were to be walking the streets in our time he would say the same thing I’m sure of it: in our ignorance we forget where we’re going. I don’t ever want to forget. If this view strikes you as morbid, humor me with a moment of your time and allow me to illustrate my point in a different way.
I come from a family of gypsy truth-seekers. My mother, a beautiful brown-eyed dreamer, upended her suburban Midwest 1950’s upbringing at a tender 22 years old and bought a ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal to open an Acupuncture clinic where she charged a single rupee for her treatments. Nine years later she returned to San Francisco, and waiting in line at the Moscone Center to meet a charismatic young Guru with a round head of bushy curly hair who claimed to have become enlightened while snowboarding in the Himalayas, she met my father. My father came barreling out of the unknown into the arms of Communist occupied Budapest. He waited in line with his mother all day for rations of oranges. He ate salami sandwiches with bodies piled ten feet high on the corners when he was a little boy. He stole away at 15 to escape the violence and desolation of his homeland and finally ended up in America. Neither of them felt at home in the world they were offered. When my mother looked behind her in line and saw my dad in an all white suit with white penny loafers she said: “You’re either a pimp or a limousine driver, but either way I like it”. So two lonely denizens of the interpreted world recreate life in each other’s arms, and created me in the process. I will not lie to you and say that their life has not been one long case study in loss: loss of home, loss of family, loss of career, loss of their unbridled religious fervor, loss of each other. These things are all true, but remarkably the message they provided me was simple: sooner or later it all goes in the fire. When I was ten years old our house burned to the ground and we sat in our car, the flashing reds and blues and yellows of ambulances, fire trucks, squad cars; they were outside the muggy space where we all huddled close, waiting to fill out police reports, catching our breath. Moments earlier I’d been in the comfort of my room listening to the Giants game on a portable radio I kept next to my pillow. The faint smell of smoke, then I was hurriedly ushered out of the house. I looked back and saw wires spilling out like guts from inside the walls of the hallway and igniting our family’s history with flames. We sat silent in the car, all three of us, for what seemed an eternity. Then, out of the blue, one of us began laughing. Soon enough, we all were laughing. There we were, our entire lives burning, uproarious and uninhibited in our laughter. I remember realizing in that moment that the worst of things could happen in my life and if I endured with passion and love then all would happen exactly as it should.
This has been my first summer living the Tenderloin. One night I hopped on my bike, hung a left on Jones, and cruised down the hill, past the fancy dressed smokers in front of Bourbon & Branch, past the congregation of parka wearing hustlers on Ellis, past the eerily quiet and dark corner on Turk, and out of the Tenderloin. Though I can’t remember what I was thinking at the time, I can only imagine it was the same things I’m always thinking about: who said what, what happened when, what’s going to happen. Then out of nowhere, an SUV traveling 30/mph slammed into me and sent me flying up on to the windshield of the car. It’s a wonder that I’m still alive, still walking, still relaying this message to you now. I spent months relearning how to walk, how to move my arms, how to block out the persistent pain on my left side. There was a moment in between impact and lying there in the intersection, my leg was snapped in half and unable to move. I will never forget this moment. It felt like eternity, and there was nothing: no confusion, no fear, no sense of self really.. . I was for a moment, just alive. When I came to I re-assembled from the ground up. Can I feel my legs? Yes. Can I move them? Yes. Is there any damage inside me? Somehow I know there is not. Is my mind intact? Yes. Yes, Yes, Yes.
We walk around with a sense of propriety about our lives, that somehow we own something on this earth, some singular thing that we get to keep. We put our heads down, and bury ourselves in work. We accumulate all these things, they are on loan to us but we negotiate their false purchase: a car, a house, a family. So many of us are surprised when they are taken away, but we shouldn’t be. This is easier said than done. Since my brush with impermanence I look at people differently than I used to. We’ve got it good folks, we’re alive. So next time you walking through the Tenderloin with your head down, ignoring the panhandlers and hustlers, look up instead. Watch the way the struggle has injected them with a certain composure you’ll never have. Imagine where you’re going and put one of them there. Then you’ll know where I’m coming from. Let’s talk about it sometime. You know where to find me.