Digging up Bob Dylan’s Minnesota roots exposes an icy truth
Travel: On the Road in Minnesota
If you want to understand the story of a man named Zimmerman, visiting the northern town of Hibbing, Minnesota offers stone cold insights into the emotional desolation and snowy emptiness that shaped the Nobelaureate's inner space and artistic obsessions.
By Rod Mickleburgh
On a bleak, wintry weekend in November of 2014, my brother and I made a pilgrimage to “the north country fair, where the winds hit heavy on the borderline” in search of the roots of Bob Dylan. It was an unforgettable trip that richly increased my understanding of the mysterious forces that shaped a relatively ordinary teenager in the Minnesota town of Hibbing and helped turn him into the Shakespeare of our age.
We set out Friday morning from my brother’s home in Thunder Bay. Once across that “borderline,” we travelled south along Highway 61 (Revisited). There was no sign of a promoter putting some bleachers out in the sun. We were soon in Duluth, where Dylan was ...
Sometimes you have to dig a hole to stay alive
Remembering Orme Payne, Part Two of Two
From the Great Depression and prairie drought, to mano-a-mano combat with the Germans in the waning days of war, Orme Payne's life wove a tapestry of the Twentieth Century.
By Rod Mickleburgh
My friend Orme went through a lot in his final years. But when you’ve been through a Depression and a World War, you learn to take things as they come. During our many conversations, he never complained, never felt he was hard done by, even when he experienced the long months of isolation imposed by COVID-19. “I’m confined to barracks” was his matter-of-fact assessment. Over the phone, he was always cheerful. His yarns and colourful expressions never dried up, aided by a memory that remained intact until the end. And damn, he was funny….
Orme died this past September, his body finally giving up the ghost, after 98 years and five months of a very good life. I miss him terribly.
On Remembrance Day, the first Orme has missed in 75 years, ...
Touring small town journalism and finding the Koots
Journalism: The Decline of Local Newspapers
Big city papers are nowhere to be found in B.C.'s Kootenays, but you can still find a local weekly with birthday announcements, the lost and found, and reader mail damning CBC Radio for just about anything.
By Rod Mickleburgh
The first of two parts. (Be be still your beating heart.)
I spent two rewarding weeks last month travelling the highways and communities of BC’s historic West Kootenays. As I always do when on the road, I looked for local newspapers to give me a sense of what was happening in the places where my squeaky sneakers touched down. At the same time, I still wanted to keep up with events in the rest of the province. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure I should have been surprised, I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan. No Sun, no Province, no National Post (yay! oops….), no Globe and Mail.
I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan. No Sun, no Province, no National ...
Tell the Ones You Love, now more than ever
Column: The Balm of Poetry Part 6 - Dennis Lee’s Tell the Ones You Love
Tell the Ones You Love - A short, sweet poem about love. As we struggle to cope with the terrible sweep of this unforgiving virus, Rod Mickleburgh says he finds it particularly apt.
Giller winner conjures ghost of Fitz St. John
History: The Saga of Fitz St. John
Behind Esi Edugyan's Giller Prize-winning novel about the astounding exploits of Barbados-born Washington Black lies the very true story of William Fitzclarence “Fitz” St. John: A Vancouver longshoreman, unionist, and pioneer who -- alongside his Indigenous co-workers -- blazed a trail for equality and fair wages on the docks.
Frozen memories of Finland warm a chilled soul
Travel: Finding A Sense of Faith in Finland
So far, so bad... The New Year's promise of a fresh start turns sour, forcing an old scribe to seek spiritual sustenance from the past via memories of a visit to Scandinavia.
By Rod Mickleburgh
Well, here we are in yet another decade, And, like much of the previous 10 years, with a few exceptions, so far so bad. As the outside world turns increasingly partisan and dark, I found myself seeking some spiritual sustenance from the past. I fastened on a similar passing of time 30 years ago: the last days of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, a decade which proved pivotal in my life and career in a way I never thought possible. My reflections were likely heightened by the fact that it all took place in the country where my mother was born, Finland.
I was lucky enough to be living in Paris that year, so it had seemed only natural to spend Christmas and New Year’s revisiting my ancestral roots. It was wonderful. Sparkling snow ...
Another Citizen amputates daily editions to survive
Journalism: The Slow Death of Newspapers
The Prince George Citizen goes weekly, prompting a former staffer to remember the days of a $1.49 steak at Mr. Jake’s, the big story of a hotel fire that left him burnt, and the long-gone giddiness of daily newspapering.
Uncle Ed Nelson’s harmonica and the Zeffirelli-sphere
Movies/Tribute: Franco Zeffirelli and Ed Nelson
The late Italian director Franco Zeffirelli did more than inspire a generation of high school students to see their own truth in Shakespeare, he gave a veteran English teacher a good reason to blow his musical Hoehner -- and, in turn, blow your mind.