Maybe you’ve read Joseph Campbell’s literary work. Or maybe you have seen Star Wars, which is pretty much the same thing but with explosions and Ewoks. I’m not saying I recommend the latter, but I’m not not saying it, okay? Either way, Campbell writes about the fabric that humanity has shared since the beginning of humanity—an intricate and beautiful and complex pattern of storytelling we keep hashing and rehashing because it’s still good after all these years. It is the monomyth.
But Joseph Campbell got some stuff wrong. Way wrong. First, the Hero’s Journey is fine and everything but it’s not what unites us across all cultures, across all epochs, across all parallel and imagined and Bizarro worlds. We are united by the way we trip—the one true monomyth.
We are a clumsy people, perpetually on the move. It’s summertime, and this time of year we tend to like to move perpetually on sidewalks. This could be, like, the most boring way to travel of all time, but luckily for us Minnesota’s extreme weather is on our side and helps make our paved efforts buckle and crack all over the place. It’s impossible to walk very far without clipping a raised lip or edge, and it’s super possible to take a major spill. Taking a major spill is, judging by our reactions, likely to be humanity’s most deep-seated fear. I don’t think in all my years in Minnesota, or on the planet, I have ever seen someone begin to trip and then gracefully and graciously shoot the object a loving glance of forgiveness. No. We glare, and seem to ask using only a furrowed brow and gaping mouth: how dare you. How dare you almost make me look a fool in front of my friends, in front of Duluth, in front of humanity?
How dare they? Don’t they know who we are?
We are Duluth. We have evolved walking legs and parking skills specifically to deal with hills. If they think we are about to be sent sprawling because they caught us not watching where we were going, they have another, very serious think coming. It happens in cars, too. I mean, who hasn’t been cruising at safe (safe-ish) speeds down Lake Ave to turn onto Superior Street when you hear the heartbreaking sound of your undercarriage sparking against Duluth’s roads? It’s not a good sound. It’s not a good sound at all, and it triggers our shared instinct to turn around briefly and curse, using language in creative ways we had not believed ourselves capable of, directed at a hole that could not care less.
This all gets worse in the winter, of course, when even the most artfully level surface becomes a skating rink booby-trap. The split second when foot meets ice and suddenly there is air time is the window to the soul. It reduces us to our truest selves, which is to say we all look pretty much like toddlers. And then: the glare. That toddler glare, that monomyth. How dare you, ice? How dare you strip me of all pretenses of adulthood and control?
How dare they? We are Duluth, and we are proud. You can tell by the way we walk.
Written by Andy Browers for Duluth.com. Andy Browers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Aqueous, The Talking Stick, Cleaver, and Drawn From Marvel: Poems From The Comic Books. He writes regularly for the website Book Riot and also acts, directs theatre, and is generally ridiculous. Andy grew up in Cloquet, tripped all over Duluth, earned his BFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Bemidji State University, and currently lives in Minneapolis. He would probably love to write something for you.