Tag Archives: Norbert Blei

High Point Inn Celebrates the poetry of Norbert Blei


Sponsored by the High Point Inn Poetry Contest

Norb Blei has enriched the lives of his readers with truth-telling poetry and prose. He is a journalist, a teacher, a publisher and editor, a novelist and writer of non-fiction, a painter and a poet. His writing brings to life the characters and landscapes that have surrounded him, both urban and rural. From the Czechoslovakian neighborhood where he grew up in Chicago to the rural villages and towns he now observes from his chicken coop/studio in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Blei’s character studies never disappoint as he transports readers from the taverns of Door County to the coffee counter at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, capturing the banter of everyday life that provides nourishment to the residents of a small community.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Blei’s essay ‘Shut the Damn Door’ written in 1992 implored residents and county officials to be wary of over-development on our tiny peninsula. ‘Take any dirt road and get lost,’ Blei concludes. ‘You may discover the real value of this place. You may discover yourself.’

And just when you think you have defined the man and his life’s work, comes Blei’s role as a teacher, most recently his very popular writing classes offered at The Clearing in Ellison Bay. Rounding off the activities of this Door County Renaissance man is his role of mentor, publisher and editor featuring the writings of other authors at Cross+Roads Press. Check out the titles and purchase something, it feels good to support the art of writing!

Today, thanks to the Internet, Norb Blei’s writings are reaching “the global village” with sites originating in Russia and France as well as the U.S. Visit Norb Blei’s many websites and check out the creative output of one of Door County’s human treasurs: NorbBlei.com, Basho’s Road.com, and PoetryDispatchandOtherNotesfromtheUnderground.com.

Scroll down and listen to Blei reading his poem 29th Going for Milk accompanied by classical guitarist Jim Spector
Listen in as Norb Blei interviews his longtime friend Al Johnson at DoorPodShow.com

And don’t forget to enter the High Point Inn acrostic poetry contest. Click here for details.

Also check out John Nelson’s excellent Wikipedia.org page on Norb.

In memory of Door County icon Al Johnson

This weekend Al Johnson, the Door County entrepreneur who put goats on his roof and in doing so helped bring tourists to Door County passed away. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant was almost always on visitors “must go” list since he opened his doors in 1949. In honor of this iconic man who did so much to promote Door County as a tourist destination, we are providing a few links that will only scratch the surface of what he meant to Sister Bay and the Door peninsula:

From Myles Dannhausen, Jr. at the Peninsula Pulse:

His restaurant was one of northern Door County’s largest employers. Countless area kids paid for their college educations with paychecks earned beneath Al’s famous grass roof. When former workers fell on hard times, he found a place for them, even if they had once left on bad terms.

His staff benefitted from the kind of security and perks rarely seen in the restaurant or tourism industries, helping employees make a life and raise a family in Northern Door. The tips earned by his waitresses have long been the envy of colleagues at other establishments. Those workers have spread their income around the village and the county, filling bars with dirndls (to the delight of many a visitor), and spending on groceries, clothing, and homes.

Photos and notes from the 60th anniversary celebration that took place in Sister Bay last summer.

And finally, an audio podcast interview with his great friend Norb Blei that took place in February of 2007. For anyone under the impression that Al Johnson was a reserved, stoic person, listen to this interview for some stories about a life that was lived with gusto, grace and more than a bit of mischief.

Our thoughts go out to Al’s family and his many dear friends.