Apr 26, 2018

Postscript: 2018

We haven't been back to Little Canada, to our old neighborhood since we moved in 2015. Last Monday, after spending a day with friends and family, we decided to take a "tour" of the place we lived for 18 years; the longest period of calling a place home in our lives. A lot had changed, a lot stayed the same, and some of it was unrecognizable. Passing by our lake, via 35E at rush hour was startling. Traffic is almost exponentially greater, noisier, and dirtier. Clearly, either the increased lane-count has attracted commuters who once took a different route or development north of St. Paul is really ramping up. I have no idea when Google took the photo [below], but I can guarantee it was not on a Monday at 3PM.

The biggest reason we bought our home on Lake Shore Avenue was the lake; Savage Lake. We liked the yard and the privacy. I loved the giant garage. Elvy loved the weird layout of the house and the potential of the basement for workspace for her art. We both loved the idea of having a home with a lake in the backyard. I realize that Minnesotans discount bodies of water like Savage Lake as if they are just holes in which to dump sewage, but the rest of the country (especially west) has a different perspective on precious water resources. Not different enough to stop pissing, shitting, and wasting their water, but at least slightly more cognizant than Minnesota where we have so much water we delude ourselves into thinking it is endless. If you look at the past entries in this blog, you'll see that we spent almost as much time in our backyard enjoying our "lake" as we did inside hiding from winter. Before we moved to Little Canada, I had never thrown a party in my life. Because of Savage Lake, we had a wedding reception, annual Little Canada Days fireworks parties, sledding parties, a college graduation bash, and dozens of get-togethers in our backyard that always included some aspect of being on the lake in boats, skis, snowshoes, sleds, or just sandals or winter boots. We hiked the lake in the winter, boated it in the summer, and enjoyed it every day we lived in Little Canada. In the end, it was the thing we both knew we would miss the most about our old home. It still is.

When we lived in the Cities, we regularly compared our industrial noise neighborhood to friends' homes and our daughter's home in Dinkytown. Other essays in this blog talk about the unhealthy expansion of noise in our old backyard and I won't beat that horse more more in this essay, but if you are fooling yourself into believing that you can live with 85dBA-and-above-noise on a constant basis you already need medical assistance.  Today, there are four lanes (two in each direction) on 35E that didn't exist when we left the Cities. If traffic expands to fill the available space, as it usually does, that probably means the noise level in my old backyard has risen by 3-8dBASPL.

NOTE: You may not be familiar with the usual verbiage used in discussing noise levels. "dBASPL" means deci (1/10) Bells (a measure of acoustic loudness) A (A-weighted to approximate the sensitivity of human hearing to sound at various loudness levels) and SPL (sound pressure level, a necessary addition because decibels are used for a variety of energy measurements from electrical to light to touch and so on). Forgetting the weighting aspect for a moment, the threshold of human hearing is 0dBSPL and the generally accepted threshold of pain is around 120dBSPL. The aspect of this specification I want to point out here is the A-weighting. Our hearing mechanism is fairly insensitive to low and high frequency sounds at low volume. A-weighting is intended to compensate for human hearing nonlinearity for sounds below 55dB (unweighted). So, anytime you see a specification like "90dBA" you should understand the "A" is being abused for some reason. The reason, in the case of sound barriers, is that low frequencies pass through most of the barriers constructed today as if that barrier is insignificant. So, using A-weighting allows the person doing the testing to discount the irritation factor of loud low frequency sounds artificially. Also, most of the loudest vehicle noises are low frequency sounds. The appropriate weighting system to use at the noise levels presented in the Savage Lake neighborhood would be C-weighting, but that would expose the ineffectiveness of the noise barrier and the health hazard residents are exposed to. 

There are lots of technical articles written about noise barriers, but "Building the Wall" probably does as good a job as any at explaining how poorly those structures work for the majority of the neighborhoods they are supposed to help. This classic and simplified description of where that 3dB of noise reduction comes from should be startlingly and discouragingly illustrative of how useless those expensive walls are at any practical distance. Flexible barriers do absorb a little noise energy, but not enough to produce much noise reduction in practical terms. The 6dB justification MNDOT and lobbyists use to justify these installations is purely political and economic. The real argument is "would you rather look at traffic or a wall?" It's not my backyard now, so I can't answer that question. I do know that at least one of our neighbors moved away a year after we left, partially because the noise became intolerable for them.

When we lived in the Cities, we would often visit friends homes or our daughter's home in Minneapolis and enjoy the relative quiet of other parts of the urban environment. Today, even the quietest of those places seems almost intolerably noise to us and, I imagine, our old backyard would be deafening; and I'm not exaggerating. Exposure to noise levels of 85dBSPL and above is a known health hazard. So, while we miss the lake we loved and the neighborhood that was our home, losing almost 30dBCSPL of noise from our backyard was a necessary sacrifice. The reason I decided to add this comment to the long-neglected and nearly-abandoned Savage Lake Blog is that the only reason this human abuse happens is that people believe there is nothing they can do about it. That is not true, but humans/citizens will have to become involved in their local, state, and federal government to fix it. Trump and the Trumpanzees imagine they can turn back the clock to the 1950's and everything will revert to the "good old days." Good luck with that, dummies. Change and the future will happen, regardless of how often Fox News tells you it won't. The country can change for the better or worse, but it will never go back to what we imagined it was 60 years ago.

Oct 24, 2016

Two Years Gone

It's hard to believe that it has been two years since we moved into our Red Wing home. I don't think a day goes by when Elvy and I don't have some kind of conversation about our old home. We were there for 18 years, twice as long as either of us lived in any other place. We loved that home and, especially, we loved Savage Lake. Still do, even though we haven't seen the lake in 2 years we still think about it often. Our grandson grew up in that backyard and canoeing on that lake. It will always be a part of us.
I ended up writing about that today because my Window's screen saver glitched and started cycling through my "yard" folder from the want ads I'd created for selling our home in 2014. You wouldn't believe all of the memories that flooded into my consciousness!
I wish someone in the neighborhood would take over this blog because I'd like to keep up on the status of Savage Lake. I know Minnesotans think our little lake "isn't a real lake," but I wish I could prove that you are wrong. That lake has been there longer than Europeans have been on this continent and it is a treasure, no matter how miserably the City of Little Canada, MNDOT, the Watershed District, and the DNR treat it. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Savage Lake is restored to its past beauty long after humans have vanished from the planet.

Dec 4, 2015

Heiruspecs: On the Ground Official Video

More of a place marker than anything, but part of this Heiruspecs' music video was recorded in our Little Canada house. If you were ever in our old (1885 foundation) home, you might recognize Elvy's basement studio, the basement family room, our living room, and the kitchen.

The family room, where the drums were filmed for this video, was also a drum booth when I recorded a couple of bands in the house about ten years ago. There was, at one time, a 12-in, 3-out tieline run from the attic studio to the basement for that purpose. I also had an 8-in, 3-out tieline into the living room (where some of the vocals and the bass was filmed). Two separate several-day long recording sessions (one for Jack Smith and the Persuaders' CD and one for "The Las Vegas Wedding Blues" soundtrack --a never completed film score for a movie that died stillborn) were all it took to convince me I'm too old and cranky to put up with musicians in my home. I pulled the tie lines and restricted the rest of my recording activity in the house to solo instruments and voice-over work (all of the MMSC motorcycle safety PSAs from 2002 until 2012, for example) in the attic isolation booth. The "studio" area in the attic contained my control area and CDs for the Roseville String Ensemble, CDs and audio-for-video for dozens of live Bethel College orchestra performances, the A-V production of Motorcycling Minnesota television programs, and a collection of live pop band recording mixes came out of that attic studio.
As part of my marketing for the house, I compiled a collection of pictures taken over the past decade and posted it on YouTube (see below). The soundtrack, by David Santistevan, was mixed and mastered in my studio. If you are patient, you can see some half-decent pictures of the studio being built and how it was used. There is at least one really great professional shot of the studio area after it had been emptied out, when the place was up for sale, and after we were moved out.

Mar 21, 2015

Wrapping It Up

We should be closing on the house next Tuesday. Google will keep this site open for a long time, so I have no reason to delete it. If any Savage Lake property owner wants to take it over, just contact me and I'll transfer ownership. Otherwise, it will stay just like it is for . . . years if not decades.

Dec 9, 2014

Saying Goodbye

2014-12-06 (1) 18 years ago, when we moved from Colorado to Minnesota, we had a pipedream that we’d find our “cabin in the north” with a lake, a big yard, privacy, and great neighbors. 17 years ago, we lucked into being the first buyers to visit our house on Lake Shore Avenue and we made an offer on the spot. We have worked on turning our little house into a more functional place for work, art, and living space for 17 years. We turned a minor disaster of a yard into what our friends call “a private park.” More than anything, Savage Lake has been a cornerstone of our life in Little Canada.

Every once in a while, I get an anonymous visitor (always anonymous) who takes me to task for imagining that our little ‘'watershed’' is a real lake. My last such visitor said, “The attention your blog is bringing to this nasty little ditch is drawing away funds and efforts from real lakes like Gervais and Round Lakes and our city parks. We'll be glad to see you gone and I hope no one takes over your pathetic blog. Savage is nothing more than a catch basin for freeway runoff as it should be.”

Wow! This is the third or fourth time I’ve had a response like this to the blog and my claim that this is a lake that should be valued and appreciated. Regardless, we’ve loved the wildlife on and around the lake. My wife regenerated her love of bird watching on Savage Lake’s banks. We’ve taken hundreds of canoe rides around the lake and the island. Our grandson grew up playing on the dock we built together and practicing catch-and-release with the frogs, turtles, and toads he found on our beach.

We’ve had a wedding, a college graduation party, several winter solstice parties, infamous sledding parties, a retirement party and celebrated Little Canada days with dozens of friends and family with the lake as the beautiful backdrop. We’ve barbequed steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, smores, and all sorts of hillbilly-gourmet meals on our lake shore firepit and spent hundreds of hours talking into the night, enjoying the fire and the view.

My ex-neighbor and friend, John Bibeau, and I canoed the lake with a few hundred gallons of diluted herbicide to fight off the total invasion of the lake with water lilies and it worked. We were canoeing this year all the way into August with enough clear water to make the ride interesting. There are even some signs that some small fish are making a comeback after the school’s pollution runoff killed off the lake several years ago.

Rocky Waite is petitioning MNDOT and the mostly-useless DNR to dredge the silt MNDOT’s idiot freeway entrance drainage siphoned into the northeast corner of the lake. He’ll need backup from lakeshore owners or the city council will be as absent from this argument as they have been on every Savage Lake issue for the last 17 years, except the highly-profitable and unsupportable goose roundup.

Our new Red Wing neighborhood is quiet and after 17 years of fighting the noise pollution from I35E, that is an amazing benefit to having left the Cities. Nights are dark, since we’re far enough from the city and Cities to have left the light pollution. The I35E noise barrier will will help, a little, when it is finally installed in 2015, but MNDOT demonstrated its usual incompetence by cutting down all of the lakeshore trees that would have provided noise absorption was disappointing. Not surprising, but disappointing. The neighborhood support for the noise barriers was one of the high points, for us, in our Little Canada civic life. MNDOT and the DNR expected about five people to show up and I think there were at least fifty people in the room at one time at that meeting.
Gardens (84)
I can’t walk down to our beach with being flooded with memories of days and nights spent on Savage Lake. Now that we are all but moved into our new home in Red Wing, coming back to Little Canada is bittersweet. My grandson went from being a toddler to a teenager in our backyard. From the dock to the landscaping to the stairs and handrails and the gardens, we can point to all of the things we built and planted together (most of which he doesn’t remember) and enjoyed as a family for years afterwards. When I loaded up the kayak and canoe for Red Wing, it was a sad moment to realize we would never make a lap around Savage Lake and the island to put a fine ending on a beautiful spring, summer, or fall day. I’ve had those two boats for almost 30 years, but they saw more use in Savage Lake than any other place we’ve lived.
05-04 Wolf launching 2

We’ve lived in Little Canada longer than any place in our lives and no matter who owns our house here, in the future, it will always seem like “home.” Our Little Canada neighbors have been the most generous, most tolerant, most friendly, most helpful friends imaginable. We won’t miss the freeway noise or the Harley’s blasting around our corner on Lake Shore Ave, but we will miss this community no matter how much Red Wing or the future has to offer.

Nov 4, 2014

Two Pre-Election Lake Issues

After talking with City Council candidate and best-neighbor-in-history, Rocky Waite, yesterday, I learned there are two issues up for grabs concerning our abused lake. First is an issue Rocky has been working on for a couple of years; renaming the lake to something less racially abusive. Rocky has collected enough city and lake shore owner names to petition the state to rename the lake, but the petition has stalled in the state bureaucracy. The proposed name for our lake would be "M├ętis Lake," obviously substantially less racist than the current name. According to a brief conversation my wife and I had with our state representative, Jason Isaacson, there are a couple of missing hoops needed for the renaming proposal to be properly presented to whoever the Powers That Be might be for this to happen. According to Rocky, the petition is all the state needs to get moving on this issue. There is, apparently, some resistance to making this harmless, historically accurate, and politically simple change and it's probably up to lake shore owners to get it done. Rocky can't do this one by himself.

The second issue is more of the usual lame crap from the perfectly useless and massively bureaucratic inept and inert bozos from the DNR. MNDOT has, apparently, agreed to dredge up "some" of the freeway silt deposited by their poorly designed southbound freeway entrance drainage (the "island" created on the northeast corner of the west lake). The DNR refuses to grant MNDOT permission to do that work more than a few feet into the lake. As usual, the DNR is claiming authority to prevent action while doing its best to ignore any responsibility for doing nothing to protect our natural resources. This has to be the perfect situation for a bureaucrat, but is once again proves that the DNR would be the easiest place for the state to save billions of taxpayer dollars. If the whole department were eliminated, it might be decades before any of us noticed. Even a DNR simpleton should recognize that ALL of the silt dumped into the lake by the freeway drain should be removed at this opportunity. Once the noise barrier is constructed, the lake will be inaccessible to the kind of equipment required to dredge the lake. Not only should the northeast side of the lake be dredged, but the southeast side has also been improperly used as a catch-basin for the freeway and should be dredged, too.

Whoever we elect today for city council ought to be on board with getting the damage to our lake undone. For the hundreds of residents affected by Savage Lake, there are few issues more pressing.

Oct 31, 2014

What A Concept

We’ve all received a trash barrel full of political crap this season. The Koch brothers are buying as many votes as Faux News will allow and even our local state representative race is being financed by those pure evil corporate welfare queens. I’m at the point where I go straight from my mailbox to the recycling can and bring practically nothing into the house. I’m really looking forward to November 3.

Today, there was an exception. Christian Torkelson’s Little Canada To-Do list in his “Things I’ve Heard from Residents” was a breath of fresh air. I haven’t seen anything that optimistic or ambitious regarding the city of Little Canada since Matt Anderson was on the council. I suspect we won’t be city residents long enough to see any of this great stuff proposed in the council, but I really hope a good bit of it happens. This is a terrific town and it deserves to be as well represented and regarded as Mr. Torkelson’s list indicates. No matter who wins, Christian has put his finger on the exact right list of critical items to be dealt with: