Welcome to Ripple in Stillwater, coming to you from Stillwater Township in the St. Croix River Valley of Minnesota, about a half-dozen miles north of the 45th parallel in the Northern Hemisphere.
Just what the world needs—another blog, right? Maybe, maybe not. But when you can’t seem to get your work published anywhere else, and you still think you have something worth saying, that’s what you do. You can be the judge of that—comments are always open.
I won’t bother trying to define what this blog is or isn’t. Suffice to say you’ll get a healthy dose of political observations, opinions and snark, some original investigative reporting that you can’t find elsewhere, musical recommendations and reviews, an occasional photographic essay, and whatever else comes about when the muse strikes. If you’re looking for something new and fresh every day, you may be disappointed. But check in now and then, and you may be surprised at what you find.
Now, please allow me to introduce myself.
I’ve spent most of my life in the St. Croix Valley. I graduated from Stillwater High School in 1971, lived on the St. Croix River for 13 years through one house fire and three floods until moving to higher ground between Stillwater and Marine-on-St. Croix in 2001, where I now live with my wife, Chris, our fifth Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Roux, and part Maine Coon cat, Snaker.
Between all that, I’ve worked in a variety of journalism, writing and editing jobs, as well as a few other endeavors. Drafted into the Army in 1972, I served for two years and a day as a correctional officer with the 532nd Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. The G.I. Bill put me through four years at Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota. I spent the last year at BSU as editor of the college newspaper, the Northern Student, where I won my first writing award—a review of Tom Waits at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
After Bemidji, I worked at newspapers in Anaconda, Montana, muckraking in a copper-company-owned town east of Butte; Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, where I won a First Place Investigative Journalism Award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association for a series of articles on a lowlife shopping-center developer that cost me my job a week after they ran; and New York Mills, Minnesota.
I left community newspaper work in 1980 for a job as editor of Statewatch newspaper, the publication of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. There, I wrote many groundbreaking investigative stories and featured a wide range of writers ranging from then-Congressman Vin Weber to Ralph Nader, who called Statewatch “the best public-interest newspaper in America.” I also began freelance writing for Sweet Potato (predecessor to City Pages), the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader, and the Progressive Magazine, where I scored the first interview with the late Paul Wellstone after his upset victory over Rudy Boschwitz for the U.S. Senate in 1990.
A five-year stint as associate editor for a national aviation business magazine followed, and then a decade of freelance writing that produced one book on the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a slew of articles for virtually every aviation business magazine in the country, a contributing writer slot with Minneapolis-St. Paul CityBusiness, and a number of other national magazine pieces on travel and music.
I also founded St. Croix Beer Company in 1995, which produced two innovative and nationally-acclaimed beers brewed at the August Schell Brewery in New Ulm from my recipes—St. Croix Maple Ale and Serrano Pepper Ale. We were about a decade ahead of our time, however, and a bad business decision led to the sale of the company in 2003.
In 1999, I jumped into partisan political writing with the Minnesota House of Representatives DFL Media Office until a certain power-hungry Democratic politician decided to clean house and install his own hand-picked employees to further his career.
Today, I work as editor/photographer for a corporate marketing department and have continued to do some freelance writing online, chiefly for the fine folks at the DumpBachmann blog. With the advent of Ripple in Stillwater, however, my freelance work will now appear here instead, and I’ll eventually begin archiving some of my past work on these pages as well. You can find some of my photo archives here, here, here and here. As for my other interests, you’ll probably come to hear about those as time goes on.
A couple of final notes. The image at the top of the blog is of the famous Stillwater Lift Bridge. Built in 1931 as a link between Stillwater, Minnesota, and Houlton, Wisconsin, the bridge is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And if you’re wondering where the title for this blog comes from, you can thank Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead.
Karl Bremer, October 3, 2010