Archive for February, 2013

Rurrr Jurrr


My unfortunate stint with the Minnesota judicial system sometimes makes me think of 30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney, who was in a movie that sounded like rurr jurrr, and nobody really knew what it was until they saw “Rural Juror” in print.

Unfortunate name, sort of like my recent unfortunate stint with the Minnesota judicial system.

And while I’m not very rurrr, I was indeed a jurrr, at least for 2 glorious days.

For the latter part of my adult life (meaning the past 50 years, give or take) my friends or relatives would be called for jury duty, and they’d sort of whine and complain about the inconvenience of it all. “Let me at it,” I would think. “I’ll show them how to jury!”

But I was never called. Why why why?, I would wonder, when I was perfectly capable of performing this function. (Niggling worry: Did they think I wasn’t?) I had achieved some credibility in my life: I am a tax paying citizen, somewhat educated, a home owner, a holder of a valid driver’s license, I watched “Judge Judy” every single day (both episodes) and I knew the law as seen on TV. Best of all, I really wanted to be there. I wanted it!

So imagine my thrill at receiving a summons late in January, informing me that it was MY turn in the jury box, and to show up at 8 AM on a cold February morning. And so I did. So, so eagerly. I probably got there early.

I was the only one who didn't look like this.

Alas, so did 23 other homeowners/taxpayers/drivers, most of them not very willing to be there. They had families, they had jobs, they had things to do. We sat in a large jury room waiting for something to happen. They fussed and fumed. They looked at their watches and they played with their cell phones. But not me! I had a cup of hot coffee and made sure my mind was clear enough to do a fabulous job of my civic duty. At last!

About 90 minutes later, the 24 of us were escorted into an actual courtroom with a judge, two attorneys, a court reporter, a clerk, and a weepy elderly woman who was obviously GUILTY the defendant.

12 of us were called into the jury box and asked a lot of questions by each attorney. Five of us were dismissed.

And then there were seven.

And I was one of ’em!

I was gonna be a juror.


Our judge didn't have to wear the wig. And he was way more handsome.

Lunch was called, and we had an hour to entertain ourselves as we saw fit. While many people walked downtown for lunch, I decided to use the court house vending room and read the book I’d brought along. (J. D. Salinger’s “Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters,” which I’d read in high school but probably missed the exquisite humor of it at the time.) I spent $3.25 on some chemically-treated “coffee” and a small bag of Ritz Crackers which may have been there since the Manson trial.

The courthouse vending room is in the basement, I think, or should be. It was dank and dark and narrow, and the trash cans were painted the precise purple color of the walls, and by the time you figured out where they were, you were greeted with a sign that read “No Trash Please.” What the hell?

Best part of the vending machine room? Nobody else was there. I did hear the elevator door open while I was awaiting my coffee to be “brewed,” and when I turned around, there stood the defendant. It was the closest I’d ever come to making that Homer Simpson noise. We said not a word.

After lunch we met with a bailiff (“our bailiff,” I fondly thought of him) and we heard the case, which was criminal in nature. (No speeders, druggies, petty thieves or other witless fops for us: we were in the Big Time.) We heard the defendant’s side of the case. We heard the plaintiff’s side of the case. We were sent home for the day.

The next day I was so ready. We were seated in the jury box, hearing cross-examinations and watching body language, and then we were ready to go back to the jury room to be sequestered to deliberate. I learned all the words! I couldn’t wait to sequester or deliberate. I was so ready.

Our story takes a turn.

And then came those fateful words. “As you can see, we have seven jurors today, and we really only need six for this trial. We always keep an alternate juror in case someone gets sick or is unable to make it to court.”

Oh, HELL no! Don't pick me. Don't pick me!

My heart sunk.

“At this time, MISS JACKSON, you are excused from further duty on this jury. You may leave the courtroom.”

Oh, the bitter disappointment of the alternate juror. I wanted to weep. As it was, I had to stand up in the middle of this drama, gather my wretched dignity as I stumbled past six of my peers, the chosen ones, and prepared to be thrown out. “Goodbye,” people stage whispered. “Nice to know ya.”


I probably should get a copy of this.

Adding insult to injury, “our” bailiff gave me the bum’s rush to the door.

So that was that. The extent of my civic duty. I would no longer be a part of the system.

I asked the bailiff if I would ever know the outcome of the trial, and he advised that I could call the clerk of courts the following week to inquire.

The wind had gone out of my sails. I never did make that call.

* * *

Here are the words to the 30 Rock‘s Rural Juror song. Let’s everybody sing!

The Irma Luhrman-Merman murder

Turned the bird’s word lurid

The whir and the purr of a twirler girl
She would the world were demurer
The insurer’s allure
For valor were pure Kari Wuhrer
One fervid whirl over her turgid error
Rural juror
Rural juror
I will never forget you
Rural juror
I’ll always be glad I met you
Rural juror

I will never forget you
Rural juror
I’ll always be glad I met you
Rural juror (x2)
These were the best days of my flerm.

* * *

My usual PS:

Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s raffle for a small box of leftover auction treasures. (A gal can’t keep everything, can she?) Although each piece is from auction purchases, I also try to tailor the winnings to the recipient. What have you got to lose? There may be valuable things you can keep, or pass along to others, or fling out your car window as your cruise Highway 61 at 100 MPH. Like someone I know recently did.

Just send me an Email ( or leave a note here, and you’re in like Flynn. You can win more than once, too. Take a chance. I did!

My Amazing Friends.


Duluth, My (lovely and amazing) Home Town

As someone who started out in life as a shy dimwit, I somehow got incredibly lucky in later years and developed marvelous friendships with amazing people. How did it happen? I do not know. But everyone should be so lucky.

Two of my best friends (Jean and Dave Kirwan) happen to be married to each other, which saves me a lot of time and energy, another plus. Try to get married or living-together friends. It cuts down on phone calls and holiday presents.

I like to call them the Kirwinians

But I digress.

"Where are the largest indoor ports and the greatest outdoor sports?"

Talented, creative, humorous and modest (so they’ll be embarrassed that I wrote this) the Kirwans recently created a wonderful video about Duluth, which won first place in a short film contest the other night. Brilliant! I want you to see this immediately. Whether you live in Duluth or visited Duluth or just need a good laugh, check this out! The video and song are both called “Duluth, My Home Town,” and you can find it on You Tube, or right here:

The song is an old radio tune from 1961, when I was a hapless teenager, and I remember it well. Though I probably haven’t heard the words since 1961, I somehow remembered each one, which is amazing when you consider I can’t remember what I wore yesterday.

Among their other talents, Jean and Dave have raised three talented and gorgeous kids, have an abiding love for movies and film, good books and good food. They’re funny and affable and they’ll eat anything. And though she says she hates to cook, Jean is one of the best cooks I know. Dave makes margaritas that will knock you on your ass. In a good way, though. One will do it.

Pre-margarita, I think.

So go look. The more I see it, the more I catch on to the jokes. And while the guy in jail (“…for a lifetime, or just a day…”) is my favorite, though each viewing reveals more amazing things.


* * *

Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s raffle for a small box of leftover auction treasures. (A gal can’t keep everything, can she?) Although each piece is from auction purchases, I also try to tailor the winnings to the recipient. What have you got to lose? There may be valuable things you can keep, or pass along to others, or fling out your car window as your cruise Highway 61 at 100 MPH. Like someone I know recently did.

Just send me an Email ( or leave a note here, and you’re in like Flynn. You can win more than once, too. Take a chance. I did!

* * *

PS: I didn’t know that link was going to show up as the old postcard of Duluth from the video. How amazing! The less you understand about technology, the more incredible it appears. You may now roll your eyes.

They’re Little. They’re Free. They’re Libraries!


Behold the Little Free Library, proof that some of the best things in life are indeed free. They’re springing up around Duluth (in fact, all over the world) and if you haven’t gotten to one, please do it soon!

If you love books (and what kind of nitwit doesn’t like a good book from time to time?) you will love the convenience of the Little Free Libraries, as well as the surprises therein. Leave a book, take a book. It works just like that!

Little Free Library at 17th and Jefferson Street

I’m not sure when the Little Free Library movement began, but I first heard about it on public radio about a year ago. I wanted one immediately. (Writer in search of handyman who can build one and plant it in my front yard.)

Since I spend so much time online looking up all the important things I need to know (like how to fold crab rangoon before deep frying them) I admit that I spend less and less time at our beautiful large public library. Along with the internet, I buy stacks of books at yard sales and thrift stores all year long, so driving to the library, finding a parking place and hoping I’m not in there so long that I get a ticket… it’s just not something I do on a regular basis anymore. I imagine others experienced the same.

But the Little Free Libraries are all over town, and you never know what you’re going to find. I always carry extra books in my car, and when I discover a LFL, I hop out, leave a few, and browse the selection that others have left.

What exquisite joy!

Little Free Library at 43rd & Luverne

One of my favorites is handily located just around the corner from my house, on 43rd and Luverne Street. I recently found Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, Sue Monk Kidd’s Traveling with Pomegranates, and Caron McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding. All in nearly new condition, all free, no “return by” date, no strings, no nothing’. Just good books, there for the taking. (And don’t forget to leave a few of your own.) You’ll find adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as books for little kids and teenagers.

Along with the delight of finding good books (free!) just half a block away, I got an unexpected surprise at the Luverne Street location. Someone had left a stack of beautifully sketched bookmarks, designed on heavy white paper, and I had to have one. When I inspected it further, I realized it was a sketch of the south side of Luverne Street, intricately detailed and brilliant. I emailed artist Byron Johnson, whose name and website were listed on the back, and he wrote back to say that he enjoys creating these slips and hopes to do many more. “I love an unexpected moment of joy in my day so it is fun to pass that on to others,” Bryon wrote, and added that he’d created another block scene for the Jefferson Street Little Free Library. Frankly, I find the bookmarks so endearing that I don’t like to use them for their intended purpose, but would rather save them as pieces of art, which they are. I hope to collect them all, and someday hope we can work out a plan for my street, too.

Byron added, “It is fun to see how people respond positively to these images.  People have been so taken with them that I’ve sold a couple to people who have never even seen the street I drew.  My plan is to get all the Little Free Library streets drawn and distribute the corresponding bookmarks in each library.  I just finished drawing the north side of the 300 block of East 9th street.  Today I will start working on the south side.”

Wow. It’s so interesting to me how a simple idea can be a catalyst for so many other things. Some people decorated their libraries for Christmas. Some added news articles, note cards and pens so you can leave a message. Each visit is personal, private but communal, and leaves me feeling hopeful about the world in general.

Little Free Library at 40th and Dodge Street, Lakeside

The mission statement of the Little Free Library system is simple:

• To promote literacy and the love of reading

• To build a sense of community

• To build ore than 2,510 libraries around the world — even more than Andrew Carnegie managed!

In Duluth, I’ve found Little Free Libraries at these locations:

• 43rd and Luverne Street in Lakeside

• 3892 Allendale Street in Woodland

• 1612 East Skyline Parkway near Kenwood

• 316 East 9th Street in the Central Hillside Area

• 997 84th Avenue West, near Morgan Park (I haven’t actually been to this one yet, but heard about it)

Go find one in your neighborhood today. Or build one of your own, or buy a kit from the organization. What better way to tie a neighborhood together, to get kids to read, get rid of no longer needed books, or to find exciting reads for these cold winter nights.

You can learn more about the Little Free Library movement at

Find out more about artist Byron Johnson and his work at

Of course I must close with a picture of Winston, my literary cat. He enjoys a good book as much as the next guy. The wider the better!

And The Winner Is …


Congratulations, Loretta D! You’re this month’s winner of a box of special auction treasures that you’re sure to enjoy. And even if you’re not, you’ll probably never tell me about it, so I’m gonna go with the positive spin here. (Ha!)

Loretta and I lived in Kenwood on the very same obscure little street when we were teenagers. I was a teenager about 10 years before Loretta was, but still. The fact remains. We never knew each other until about a year ago. We are now walking buddies, though we’ve done precious little of that in the past few months.

We were walking the Lakewalk one spring day when Loretta told me she grew up on a street nobody’d ever heard of. “Fern Avenue,” she said. I thought she was joking. When I tell people I lived on Fern Avenue, the usual response is “Where’s that?”

Loretta, I expect to see you on Tuesday, but if we don’t connect, I can deliver your box of treasure or you can pick it up at any time. Congratulations! And thanks for reading.

* * *

I should have posted The Winner yesterday, but I braved the cold to go to an auction in Wisconsin, where I had a blast talking to other hardy souls who can’t resist a bargain. I bought some fun stuff, including a spice rack to solve my spice jar space dilemma, some kitchen utensils which will be donated to the CHUM Center in Duluth, a huge block of candle wax so I can revive my old hobby, some miscellaneous dishes, and some “end of the table” stuff. I bought a lovely green Rubbermaid watering can for $1.oo, and then bought the remnants of that particular table for 50 cents, which included another Rubbermaid watering can, on which someone had drawn a big skull and crossbones. Probably won’t be using that one on the window boxes next spring. (Sadly too large to fit in a raffle box. You’ll have to create your own.) I also got a large red plastic funnel and a bucket of bolts, which every home should have. (Bolts. Too heavy to mail.)

* * *

This beautifully colored bowl, with all its cracks and crazing, is one of my favorites. It was created by Duluth artist Beth Travis-Betts, who died a few years ago, and who many of my readers will remember. I think she said it was a “raku” style bowl, but whatever style it was, I had to have it. It is a thing of beauty. We miss you, Beth.