Posted: November 30th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Bemidji Regional Event Center, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
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.
written by Ryan Thomas
Pics by Julie Saari
Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Originally posted: October 6, 2010
By: Julie Michelle
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.
You can see a slideshow of Jonathan’s photoshoot here.
You can read one of Jonathan’s poems about the Tenderloin here.
Posted: November 11th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: East of Bemidji | 6 Comments »
photography by Julie Saari
A wooded trail
East of Bemidji
Strong and determined, caring and compassionate, educated yet grounded, these are terms that come to mind when I think of Sanya. I have known Sanya since what seems like forever. She came to my daughter’s early childhood class (6-7yrs ago) to speak on juvenile chiropractic treatments. Since then my life has made a transformation toward health and wellness and it has been steered by “Dr. Sanya”. A lady with a strong will and common sense mixed with a lot of letters following her name combine to make one of my favorite ladies in town.
It is time you met Sanya S. :
My relationship with Bemidji began when I was a young girl, summering near Itasca State Park. On occasion we would come to “town” for groceries or laundry duty and there would be a stop at the lakefront for ice cream and a souvenir. As a teen, I met the camp bus here for the rest of the journey to Lake of the Woods. Then as an adult while shopping downtown I fell in love with the 100 year old Victorian building on the corner of 4th and America. I knew at that moment that Bemidji would be my home and the beautiful building would house my business- a health and wellness center. A unique place where alternative health choices are offered, healthy living practices are promoted and health information, resources and education are provided.
My professional training is as a Doctor of Chiropractic. My vision was to develop a practice where people would feel comfortable and cared for, one where members of the community could come and get the help they need. Six years later I believe that dream is well on it’s way.
I knew I wanted to serve my community and I had much to offer it, but what I didn’t realize was how much my community would give me in return. Bemidji has become my home, a place where I can walk into many, but not all, local establishments and be greeted by name. I can bike to work, walk to anyplace I need downtown and even when driving I will never get caught in a traffic jam – well, maybe over the 4th of July! I can take in the sheer beauty and power of the Mississippi that pulses in, through and around Bemidji. On any given weekend I can enjoy world-class cuisine in the morning, hike, bike, paddle or ski in the afternoon and still fit in an art show, a symphony concert, the theatre, a sporting event, or a good old-fashioned jam session at the local pub. When I lived in the twin cities any one of those things would have taken up much of the day or my finances, here all of these things are available and affordable.
My community not only serves me but it serves my children, they are in a tremendous school, they have opportunities and freedoms that were not available before we moved here. The lifestyle here allows for a more balanced life, the emphasis is on authenticity not materialism. My neighbors and friends support my family and me. I truly believe I am cared for here.
I have found my place in Bemidji and the wonderful people who make up this community. I could have never dreamed as a girl on summer visits, a young adult passing through or as a 30 something looking for a change that it would be this good.
Thank you Bemidji for being “my town”.
Written by Sanya Swanson
pics by Julie Saari