Archive for October, 2004

breakfast of champions

I’ve been going out to eat far too much lately, but that lets me talk about some of the various breakfast places in town with a little more authority. A very enjoyable endeavour it’s been, although not as friendly to the pocketbook. None of the places I’ve been going to has been very expensive, but of course they all add up.

This morning, I went to the Uptown Bar, on Hennepin Avenue across from Calhoun Square. The food is always excellent, but the wait does a lot of people in. My friend and I got there at about 11, and we had a forty-five minute wait, but it was worth it. And we even got non-smoking, of which there are about six tables. They’re about the only place in town where I actually enjoy the hash browns, but then, I’m not really a fan of hash browns anyway, so I think that’s a big plus for their fare. The portions are huge, so you definitely get your money’s worth. I’ve never been in the evening, for any of the bands. It’s pretty smoky in the morning, and I can’t imagine how smoky it is at night. Of course all that’s going to change in April of next year. Who knows whether it’ll be for the better or worse for the attendees. Will the music scene in the TC suffer for the health of our lungs?

What’s Happened To Us?

The other night, I was at a dinner party with a bunch of people I was meeting for the first time. I hadn’t been there twenty minutes when one of the men at my table launched into an unprovoked diatribe against the Star Tribune, referring to it as the “Star & Sickle” and implying that, if not for the liberal drumbeat of the state’s largest newspaper, the whole state would instantly awaken from its leftist brainwashing and embrace a beautiful new conservative reality. Now, I try not to be argumentative with people I don’t know, and there’s no question that the Strib’s editorial slant is decidedly to the DFL side of things, so I just sat back and marveled at the guy’s pique.

Ten minutes later, a discussion began across the table about the Deep South. I’ve lived there, so I cheerfully waded into the conversation. One of the men announced that his daughter lives in Memphis, and I allowed as how I’ve been there, and it seemed a nice enough place. A cloud crossed the man’s face, and he leaned into me across the gravy boat. Barely even bothering to lower his voice, he adopted an ominous tone, and said, “Well, it’s all right, I guess. But did you know that Memphis is 80% colored? ” Huh? Colored? Did it suddenly become 1953 when I wasn’t looking? I’m sure the shock showed on my face, but the guy went on anyway: “I mean, they aren’t racists or anything, but their kids are gettin’ to be school age, and they don’t want ’em exposed to all that, so they’re movin’ to San Francisco.”

San Francisco? Really? To avoid exposing their children to people whose existence falls outside the white, Midwestern norm? Um, okay, then. Good luck with that. I shrunk back into my chair and began scouting for the nearest exit, while the guy and his friends continued to ramble on about how the Strib and the black folks were conspiring to ruin pro sports for “normal” Minnesotans.

Honestly, what’s happened to this state? I don’t mean to imply that we’re suddenly overrun with bigots and conspiracy theorists – obviously, I ran into a bad apple, and I assume that most of the other dinner guests were as horrified as I – but lately, it seems like the Minnesota I know and love has been getting buried beneath an avalanche of angry extremists and self-interested capitalists bent on turning us into Alabama North. From the no-new-taxes-ever-no-matter-what-and-to-hell-with-your-damn-bleeding-heart-social-programs dogma that now rules our state government, to the growing epidemic of people who go ballistic the minute they spot a line in a newspaper that is insufficiently praiseful of the presidential candidate they support, we seem to be rapidly losing the ability to rationally discuss issues and come to logical conclusions. And that ability is, as far as I can tell, the only thing that has kept this a better place to live than a lot of other states over the last 30 years.

I’ve lived in Alabama South, and it’s a nice place, it is, but there’s a reason I came up here the minute I got the chance. Minnesota really is a distinctive place, and for all the right reasons. For decades now, we have achieved a balance of government oversight and personal freedom that has allowed the majority of our citizenry to pursue their own version of the American Dream, while insuring that we didn’t let anyone get so far behind that the dream would elude them forever. And all of a sudden, a large chunk of our populace seems to have become ashamed of that fact, simply because a few crackpots are standing up in the corner and screaming about socialism and the gospel of the free market. And that’s never a good sign…

Happy Minneapolis Halloween!

Greetings to my fellow bloggers and anyone else might actually be reading this. I’m truly honored and downright thrilled to be joining the world of Metroblogging on this electric day before Halloween (I always get a bit tingly for Halloween).

I love my Powderhorn neighborhood in Fall. It’s more beautiful, more alive than any other time of the year. I don’t know much about trees, but the maples on my block seem to be some unique, magical breed. They stay in full autumn color and hang onto most of their leaves (dropping just enough to cover the sidewalks and streets with a festive carpet) far longer than any maples I’ve seen out there in the rest of the world.

Tomorrow night, bands of nomadic children in mostly half-assed costumes will take over, plowing trenches through that festive carpet on their single-minded quest for excessive amounts of free candy. The irony of the booming trick-or-treat trade in this Minneapolis neighborhood is that the “out-staters” and suburbanites that I know (and I know many, having lived in both Eden Prairie and a rural town in Stearns County) can’t even imagine these children running about (after dark none-the-less) in a “crime infested” inner city neighborhood. Meanwhile, my Stearns County hometown and others all around it are sponsoring community Halloween parties to take the place of that all too dangerous trick-or-treating tradition. And my sister in her hermetically sealed, Eden Prairie townhome complex has never seen a single costumed child in all the years she’s lived there.

I have some damned fine memories of trick-or-treating. Truth be told, I’m jealous of those kids on my block. I know the rules; adults are not eligible trick-or-treaters and yes, I abide by those rules. In place of trick-or-treating, I host a hell of a Halloween party which brings a great deal of joy to those ineligible adults. But it’s not the same no matter how much you drink. Those kids own the streets on Halloween and they know it. They feel safer and are safer in their little costumed platoons than they are at any other time or place all year long. We should all have one place, one night of the year that we feel so invincible. I don’t think that can happen indoors where there’s really nothing to fear in the first place.

Happy Halloween!

boutique coffee

I’ve had my first cold of the season, so haven’t felt much like writing lately, which is going to be awkward if it continues, as I’ve decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo. I promise not to neglect my other writing, although the poems may dwindle a bit.

The NaNoWriMo kickoff party was last night at Nina’s Cafe at Selby and Western. Years ago, I knew a friend who lived at Selby and Dale, and I remember the neighbourhood being one where you wouldn’t really walk around after dark. It’s come a long way, though, and now it’s all these boutique style shops, including Nina’s. Very trendy in one of those urban neighbourhood sort of ways. How do I describe that? It’s a bunch of old brownstones and places that are so nice to be around, but seem to be lacking something in a way, too. I mean, they’re all locally owned places, so I approve of that. No Starbucks, etc, but there’s something about it, too. Maybe it’s like a Disneyland version of reality? But perhaps I doth protest too much. Nina’s is a nice place, the neighbourhood is a nice place. And it’s just a few blocks away from the Mississippi Market, one of the better organic co-ops in the TC. I’ll have to go back and check out more of it when I’m not feeling under the weather and see if my opinions change.

What will happen to Flameburger?

I have a very important question for all of you late night diners in the Metro Area. What is going to happen to the Flameburger restaurants once Minneapolis and St Paul go smoke-free? It seems that the entire patronage of Flameburger are smokers. Shoot, I think 90% of the employees are smokers. Last time I went to the one on Central, my “chef” threw our burgers on, walked around the counter, and lit up. And that is what people LOVE about Flameburger. It’s old school dining at its best. Nothing takes away the worries of the world quite like Flameburger. It is a haven where political correctness and health codes don’t really matter. It also offers up one of the tastiest burgers in town.

Personally, Flameburger takes me back to my childhood family gatherings. The house is full of smoke, good natured bs is being flung by some, angry scowls by others, all while we feast on greasy comfort food. Now, once the Flameburgers go smoke-free, they will loose their main demographics: the people who can’t go ten minutes without a cigarette, their children, and the people who love the atmosphere. I’m truly afraid that Flameburgers aren’t going to make it. That would be a damn shame.

Life in the Habitrail

I guided a co-worker through the Minneapolis Skyway system today. It always surprises me how confusing this maze of elevated glass walkways can be, even to people who have lived or worked downtown for years. I guess I consider myself something of an expert on the Skyway system, although I’m constantly finding new surprises above ground level, as well. And even I’m surprised by the number of Subways there are in the system. That’s not even counting the one on Hennepin that you can’t get to through the Skyway. I’m not sure if Minneapolis holds the record for buildings connected through a single skyway system, but we’ve got to be right in there. If you lived in one of the new condos downtown and worked downtown, you could conceivably not go outside for quite an extended period of time, and still have an active social life. There are clinics, groceries (if you’re not overly picky), tons of shopping and entertainment, all interconnected. No skyway to connect Saint Paul, but that would be an awful long walk, wouldn’t it?

Giant Puppets! You Love Giant Puppets!

This week, my orchestra is presenting a children’s concert with a Hallowe’en theme. I bring this up not to self-promote (I believe we’re sold out, anyway), but because our collaborators in this program are the brilliant folks behind one of the Twin Cities’ most underappreciated theater troupes, and I wanted to remind everyone that they exist, and that they are worth your time and money.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre is not your average presenter of puppet shows, and the performances they put on down on East Lake Street are not just for kids. For instance, their current production, Company of Angels, is billed as “the heart-rending story of a young German Jewish artist, Charlotte Salomon, who died in Auschwitz — but not before she had completed… a dazzlingly brilliant collection of nearly 1300 autobiographical paintings.” The story is harrowing enough, but when you add Heart of the Beast’s hauntingly beautiful staging and life-sized puppet actors, it takes on a whole new level of emotion.

Oh, and in case you have kids, and are looking for something a bit more traditional — Heart of the Beast considers itself a part of the neighborhood it inhabits, and presents free kid-friendly puppet shows for residents of South Minneapolis every Saturday morning. (Everyone else can get in for $2.) Hard to beat that…

Saw and Duluth…

I got my passes to see Saw next Wednesday. I got them from a clothing store called Everyday People. I was only in there for a brief moment, but the clothes were actually pretty cool. They had a neat retro vibe going for them. I have no idea what kind of pricing they have on them, but I would still recommend checking it out.
Last night, my ComedySportz job required me to take a road trip to Duluth. The trees were very beautiful, of course. Now, I know this has nothing to do with the Twin Cities, but here is a great place to eat when in Duluth….wait for it…PERKINS!!! I’m not kidding at all. I had a pot roast scrambler. This is Perkin’s version of Ember’s skillets. It was quite possibly one of the juiciest pot roasts I have had in awhile. The eggs were fluffy and the potatoes were just perfect. As a matter of fact, every one of our meals was absolutely scrumptious. Really not at all wat you would expect from a Perkins. So…HEY PERKINS IN THE TWIN CITIES!! GO TO DULUTH AND LEARN HOW IT’S REALLY DONE!! There…now I feel like I tied it into Minneapolis…

Teddy Bear Picnic

It’s the 4th Friday of the month, so I’ll be at Trikkx in St. Paul tonight for the monthly Bear Night, hosted by the North Country Bears. Trikkx is actually a pretty cool bar, lacking the attitude of the Minneapolis bar scene. It’s mostly just a nice hangout type of place. They have a decent-sized dance floor, although the music is typically not all that great. The drinks are affordable and pretty good, and the bartenders are friendly. Parking is generally easy to find within a block or two, although it seems that that hours for the meters changes nearly daily in the TC any more.

Trikkx isn’t too crowded except on event nights like tonight, where it does get pretty packed. It’ll be a genial crowd tonight, generally friendly, but there are the inevitable cliques that you find at any sort of gathering. I’ve been fighting the bear label for awhile now, but I guess I do enjoy going to these bear events for the most part. At least I enjoy seeing all my friends at them.

Danger! Thin Ice. (And even thinner logic…)

It should be hockey season. It really should. And to be honest, though I know that the game doesn’t exactly get the press coverage (or public interest) of any of the other three major sports (or golf, or NASCAR, or friggin’ poker, for God’s sake) in this country, I expected a bit more of a public outcry against the NHL lockout here in Minny. As of today, the work stoppage is 35 days old, and has resulted in the cancellation of 234 games.

Of course, part of the reason that no one’s talking about the lockout is that nothing’s actually happened for weeks. In fact, the players and owners haven’t even met since September 9, which is a great way to be sure that your sound bites do not get aired on SportsCenter. Basically, the owners won’t budge on their demand for a salary cap, and the players are laying low, terrified that if they show even the slightest willingness to compromise on what the owners call “cost certainty”, they’ll immediately be body-slammed to the ice by whatever it was that ripped the heart out of the NBA Players’ Association back in ’98.

The problem here is that the NHL owners don’t seem to realize how little the U.S. cares about their sport, or whether it ever takes the ice again. This wouldn’t be as big a deal if the NHL were still the league it was designed to be – a cross-border collection of teams spread across Canada and the northern climes of the U.S., limited by necessity to cities capable of generating frozen surfaces a few times a year. But it isn’t that league anymore, and the owners have no one to blame but themselves. Three separate rounds of expansion to America’s Deep South, combined with the relocation of teams from natural hockey markets like Hartford and Winnipeg to incomprehensible wastelands like Raleigh and Phoenix have crippled the NHL’s ability to draw fans. And it’s those of us in true hockey towns who wind up suffering from the totally predictable failure of an ice-based sport in near-tropical cities.

I’ve lived in the southern half of the country, and it’s a nice enough place, but anyone down there could have told you that Atlanta, Nashville, Miami, Tampa, Raleigh, Dallas, Phoenix,and Anaheim were doing just fine, sports-wise, without hockey, and furthermore, that there’s nothing Southerners hate more than a bunch of Yankee twits telling them what sports they should enjoy. But Gary Bettman and the owners just couldn’t resist the temptation to have a go at all that big media money down south, and now that the money’s dried up and the fans are indifferent and their league has become a joke to sports fans around the country, they’re pulling a big ol’ George W., denying that they made any mistakes and using classic misdirection to insist that it’s player salaries that are killing the league.

They’re saying that this lockout could not only kill the whole ’04-’05 season, but most of the next one as well. And by that time, it won’t matter anymore, because even most of us in the State of Hockey will have forgotten that there ever was an NHL, as we happily root for the Gophers, the Lady Gophers, and whatever high school team we’re rooting on this year. (Go Orono High!)

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