Meeting the mayor of Duluth

Duluth Mayor Don Ness has just published a memoir called "Hillsider." (donnessbook.com)
Duluth Mayor Don Ness has just published a memoir called “Hillsider.”
(donnessbook.com)

Our neighbor Eddy introduced Jen and me to the mayor of Duluth last week.

We met the mayor at place downtown called the Red Herring Lounge.

Jen and I were at the Red Herring Lounge because Eddy had organized a variety show two days before Thanksgiving called “Cornucopia 2015.” The first-of-its-kind event featured a rock band, a blues duo, live painters, book readings and a tap dancer. Eddy said he organized the event to celebrate the wealth of talent in the Duluth arts scene.

Cornucopia 2015 drew hundreds of people.

I guess you could say Eddy and the mayor are members of the Duluth arts scene. Both recently self-published books.

Eddy wrote a memoir called “The Emancipation of a Buried Man.” The book is about growing up as a child of a hoarder and discovering a new life in adulthood. The mayor also wrote a memoir. It’s called “Hillsider: Snapshots of a Curious Political Journey.” The book is about how a self-described “nerd” went on to become mayor of Minnesota’s 5th largest city.

Mayor Don Ness, 41, has been getting a lot of attention from the state media lately. Not because of his book. Ness has become a curiosity because after serving two, highly successful four-year terms he decided not to seek reelection. He has announced no future plans.

It seems Minnesota politicos want to know what Don Ness is going to do next. Governor? Lobbyist? Vista Fleet ship captain?

Anyway, when Jen and I arrived at the event Ness was standing on the stage at the end of the bar. He’s tall. It looked like if he jumped a little his head would hit the ceiling. The mayor-elect, Emily Larson, who takes office in January, was also on the stage. Larson and Ness gave short speeches, then they hugged and Larson left the stage. Ness produced his book.

The mayor said he was going to read a passage describing a punk blues concert he attended several years ago at a place called the Red Lion.

“The roar by the shore,” said the mayor. Everyone laughed.

The piece described the band, a wildly dancing crowd, the smoke, the beer and the noise. It was obvious the mayor has seen plenty of hip rock n’ roll concerts.

“My naaaaaaaaaaame,” shouted the mayor, mimicking the local singer. “Is ChickenBoneGeorge!”

The crowd cheered at just the right time. It was maybe the coolest book reading I ever saw.

Afterward, Jen and I asked Eddy to introduce us to the mayor. This was strange because we really only met Eddy an hour earlier. But Eddy didn’t seem to mind. They were both selling books at a table near the front door.

The mayor gave us a friendly smile and hearty handshake. He wore a casual collared shirt, jeans and big leather shoes with squared toes. He chatted with Jen and we quickly learned one of her colleagues was featured in “Hillsider.”

“That’s John Hatcher,” said the mayor, as he pointed to a full-page color picture of a man in a wet suit flying off a surf board. The image appeared in a chapter highlighting Duluth outdoor recreation opportunities. People surf in Lake Superior.

The picture must be Photoshopped, I said. How could that happen? It looked like Hatcher was falling off a building instead of riding the waves. The mayor insisted the photo was real. The graphic designer even included arrows to help the reader understand the spill, he said.

Wow. It was one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen in a book.

We talked about Maine and its crazy governor for a bit and then someone else stopped by to greet the mayor.

I thought about buying “Hillsider.” It looked really cool.

But I didn’t.

I bought Eddy’s book instead.

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