Twin Cities Recap

Oh hey – I completely forgot to post about my time back in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. No earthshaking events but a couple of lovely, quiet days catching up with old friends and new on their home turf.

PGC students, with beer and fried cheese curdsFirst day back from Appleton I spend at the Polar Geospatial Center with Paul Morin and his students. I’ve written about them before – awesome folks. Get a review of all the amazing stuff they’ve done since we first connected, and a preview of the really amazing things they’ve got coming up. You want to feel inadequate? Hang out with a half-dozen of twenty-something grad students to whom the world has given the responsibility for mapping an entire continent.

Next day, I finally get to Minneapolis proper. Folks in Saint Paul are very polite when you refer to the greater metropolitan area as just “Minneapolis”. But it is clear that you’re doing the local equivalent of referring to Scotland as “the north part of England”. Fortunately, the locals are seem less likely to take a swing at you for the error than a Scot might. Instead, imagine long-time St. Paul resident Garrison Keillor looking at you with a sense of vague disappointment. You’d almost prefer he take a swing.

Downtown Minneapolis artAround here, they say that St. Paul is the country’s western-most eastern city, while Minneapolis is its eastern-most western one. At 9th and Marquette on the Minneapolis side, downstairs in Hell’s Kitchen, I think I can believe it. I’m here to meet Diana, another friend from my Dartmouth years. We somehow both found ourselves out in Seattle some years later, where I babysat her son Keegan once – my final, traumatic brush with kids until I had some of my own (which turns out to be even more traumatizing). Keegan survived the encounter unscathed and is now something like – yikes – 22 years old.

So Hell’s Kitchen serves a mean breakfast, and I’m following my tradition of just going with waitress recommendations. Haven’t been disappointed so far – yesterday’s fried cheese curd snack and dinner of pulled pork on a sweet corn waffle were winners, and this morning’s walleye hash is crunchy, tasty and satisfying. I’ve skipped the sausage bread toast, and am having my maple bacon chutney on ordinary sourdough, but a whole dangerous new world of comfort foods is opening up for me.

After breakfast, Diana gives me a tour of the famous Minneapolis Skywalk, a Habitrail of second-story passages connecting pretty much all of downtown. There are enormous glass atriums* with ceiling-to-floor fountains/waterfalls, bright neon artwork and buildings that look like they’ve got giant aluminum wings. You get the idea that these folks spend a lot of time indoors when it’s a subzero December/January/February/March/… day, and have put a lot of thought into making their surroundings hospitable.

*(Yeah, I know ‘atria’ is technically the right word, but it just feels a little too Mr.-Language-Police here)

Mill Ruins ParkAnyhow, it’s a workday, and Diana has to get to the office, so she points me north toward the Heritage Trail and cuts me loose. The trail is a lovely wooded loop that crosses the Mississippi twice, encircling the remains of an enormous waterworks that powered the city’s mills back in the late 1800’s. The stone causeways, spillways and bridges remain, but the  once-industrial river banks have been reclaimed for walking paths and quiet coves.

KiellAt noon, I head south, downstream, to meet Kiell for lunch near Minnehaha Falls. We chat about Life after The Ice, about leaps of faith and finding our callings. Her blog has gone a bit quiet lately, but she’s a wonderfully evocative young writer of things polar and beyond.

Then – letsee – to the fabled sculpture garden with its famous giant bent spoon and the most creative miniature golf course on the planet. I don’t feel the need to play – it’s enough to find a shady spot and watch kids spin the foosball-garden-gnome obstacles and try to negotiate the put-your-left-foot-here dance step hole.

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Finally, even further north, to finally, finally meet Corwin. Over the years, I feel like I’ve met, sang and played with every one of Sharla’s crowd of Minneapolitan musicians, except for the until-now-hypothetical Corwin. It had gotten to the point where people assumed I’d met him, and knew him well, because statistically, there was no other way.

A blur of motionSo, good news: Corwin exists! And he and Dee have an amazing and high-spirited brood of twist-you-around-their-little-finger kids. Between the Lego demonstrations, requests to be flung about by their feet and hat-stealing antics, they did let us work in a few songs after dinner, but I do not know how  their two parents survive. I tuckered out before 9:30 and fell asleep on the couch.

Next morning, up way too early, catching a dawn flight out for a day of meetings in Los Angeles. Just enough time to walk three blocks to the water and wet my toes, then an evening flight home. Whew.

Venice Beach

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