Background to the letter below: Some years ago, I very stupidly wrote a column making fun of North Dakota. The residents of Grand Forks, North Dakota, got their revenge by inviting me up there in January and dedicating a sewage-lifting station in my honor. It's still there, though I still don't know why they lift the sewage. But I am certainly not going to make any more fun of them.
Dear Dave --
I am a new rabbi, and as part of our training, we get sent to middle-of-nowhere towns to act as student rabbis for small congregations that can't afford a full-time rabbi. So, believe it or not, once every three weeks for all of last year, I would fly to Grand Forks, North Dakota to serve the huge Jewish population of the Grand Cities. I think I am still recovering from the thirty-minute graveside funeral service I did in January (in which I did my shortest-ever service because I was worried my mouth would permanently freeze shut).
Now, as someone who has been a fan of your writing for almost 15 years, when I realized that the Dave Barry Lift Station No. 16 was located at my student pulpit, I had to take some photos of me in my rabbinic garb in front of the sewage station in February. So I've attached them for you. The first photo is after three minutes outside in North Dakota. The second is after four minutes, and the third is after five minutes. After that, I believe I stayed inside my hotel for the next twenty-four hours until I flew home, keeping the thermostat at a comfortable 130 degrees...
So thank you for giving me an even better reason to visit Grand Forks than I would have otherwise, and while I'm happy I have a picture in front of the Dave Barry Lift Station No. 16, I'm glad I didn't take the tour!
Kol tuv, all good things,
Rabbi Geoff Mitelman