Rather, I should say these are my impressions of the small portion of Saint Paul I’ve inhabited for the past couple of weeks. I suspect it may not be representative of the whole. Either that, or the “Minnesota nice” thing is lies. LIES.
When I was a sophomore in high school, we performed Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man for our spring musical. Yes, I was in the chorus. I had a solo at one point, but I’ve worked hard for many years to obliterate the memory with self-hypnosis and drug therapy.
Anywho, there’s a song in the show talking about how frigid and unfriendly Iowans are. It makes me think Meredith Wilson never went to Minnesota Highland Park. It seems to be heavily populated by the type of people who, no matter how unremarkable or ineffectual they are, believe everyone else is beneath them (the immediate neighbors excluded, thankfully). After stewing about it for a couple of days (however weird Chicago could get, people were usually pleasant as Mayberry), I realized that this neighborhood is pretty nice in that it’s safe, walkable, and has high property values. Lincoln Square, the neighborhood a couple of blocks north of my own in Chi, was very similar and had similar demographics. Thinking back, I realize that people in Lincoln Square also seemed to be the dickiest in that area; the sidewalk was often flooded with self-entitled upper-middle class couples wearing $140 jogging shorts and pushing double-wide strollers right down the center of the walk, looking hurried and humorless. What’s especially telling about this is that these neighborhoods are essentially the portrait of the American Dream (in the classic sense, not in the modern we’re-proud-to-be-rednecks-and-we-have-a-reality-show sense – and, yes, I am talking about the show with the fat, disgusting, southern pageant family, which I won’t dignify by looking up the name). It’s a common theme dating from the beat era – the spoiling of the American Dream, which rots from the inside to the out. The American Dream kills the American Spirit.
Son of a bitch, I miss Hunter S. Thompson.
I know Minnesota’s a great place, though. I’ve heard too many good things about it – they can’t all be fabricated. And there have been some nice surprises. For example, I turned on MPR Classical the other day in time for the tail-end of a song, after which the announcer proclaimed, “Finally, it’s over.” He and his co-host then talked about how the composer must have been drunk at the time and how he reasonably quit his conservatory shortly after writing the piece. I was doing housework and not paying much attention, so I never got the name of the composer or the critical DJs (are you allowed to call them DJs if they “spin” symphonic arrangements on public radio?), but my heart swells with warmth and pride of my species when I think of it.
Other things I love about Minneapolis-St. Paul: Open Book Literary Center (which now includes The Loft), the theater community, the park system and greenspaces, Supatra, Tatters, Garrison Keillor’s relative proximity and his bookstore, the weather, the adjacency to Canada, Nye’s Polonaise Room, 89.3 the Current, Neopolitan Punch pizza, Ax-Man Surplus, the lakes, Dinkytown, and the light rail. I haven’t been to the library yet. I’m kind of afraid to because I called the local branch to ask if they had printing services (as most libraries do these days) and the librarian didn’t know what I was talking about. First, she asked if I meant a xerox, then, when she was finally able to comprehend my description of a printer, she said uncertainly, “Well, we have a printer connected to the internet machine…” Her obvious uncertainty foretold an afternoon of speaking loudly and using expansive gestures that I just didn’t have the energy for. Since the document I needed was only three pages, so I just called my brother-in-law and asked him to print it off at his office. He did so because he’s awesome.
If anyone has any suggestions regarding places I should visit, pretty please leave them in the comments. I’m especially eager to find a good dive bar that hosts shows. Loud shows. Loud music with cheap beer, where I can’t make it through a whole night without ripping my stockings to shreds.