Paul From Minneapolis

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Last Fifteen Days in Paul's Life

I’ve been ideologically confused.

I have also been out of town twice and sick, not at the same time, fortunately. Out of town, out of town again, and then sick.

For example, I was in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, for work. I had never been to Fergus Falls. It’s in the northwest, 60 or so miles short of Fargo. So it’s in that part of the state where you can kind of see that you’re beginning to merge into what might be called the west, the prairie west. You might see a sign for Wall Drug.

Yet, weirdly, there are lakes. It’s a strange part of the state for one accustomed to lakes and trees, like in northeastern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Here you have lakes and farms, resorts and supper clubs contiguous with regular workaday massive agriculture. So it’s less wilderness-y, a new thing for me. To tell you the truth I wasn’t that taken with it. Though as long as there were no too-obvious hog manure lagoons, I could be happy on a lake here in summertime, I’m sure.

(That's what they're called, "lagoons," and I apologize to the word lagoon for that.)

Fergus Falls itself is irreplaceable. I explored it for an hour around midnight after enjoying a late supper in the company of some community college-based drinkers making the scene at Appleby's. There’s a fine lake, Lake Alice, in the middle of the town, with a ring road upon which sit nice homes, county seat category. There's a long street called Union Street, and more nice homes. A 10-foot concrete otter in a park signaled to me as I concentrated on obeying the speed limit (I wouldn't say I was drunk, but still, I was the only mobile car in town on a cold Tuesday night in February) that this must be Otter Tail County.

There’s also the corporate home of Otter Tail Power, and a large hospital and this, the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.

It’s reportedly a fine example of the architecture and approach for treating the insane (sic) as devised by Dr. Tomas Kirkbride in the 19th Century, and the only one remaining in Minnesota. Doesn’t the Kirkbride approach sound nice: “From 1891 to 1969, the Fergus Falls State Hospital was a self contained community. It consisted of a 637 acre farm which included orchards, pasture, dairy and horse barns, 35 acres of gardens and 650 tillable acres.”

You're insane? We'll send you to a holistic retreat center. Is there a lesson for those of us drawn still to holistic retreat centers? Discuss.

It’s closed now after withering for decades, and re-use studies are underway. Still, the legacy remains. “Of course we do have a lot of mentally ill in the area,” remarked a woman the next day when I asked her about the economy. Interesting. Interesting I mean in that it was the first thing that came to her.

But anyway, then out of town again and then sick and then, as I say, ideological confusion. Regarding which more soon.