Archive for November, 2007

Dropping off the grid

Just as an FYI to my groupies and stalkers, I’m going to be without internet access starting the morning of November 30th, through (at least) the evening of December 9th while I’m traveling to and then bobbing around on a smallish (45.7 m / 150 ft long) ‘adventure cruise’ ship off Chile’s Patagonia coast.

The ship has a helipad, jet boats, a Zodiac, a spa and three gourmet meals a day, but no internet. Must’ve been built in Italy.

I haven’t gone this long without internet since before there was internet. I’m a little freaked.

So, there will be no answering of emails offering ridiculously high paying work and travel TV show hosting invitations. However, having accidentally discovered the delayed posting thingie on WordPress, there will be a post (or two), so don’t despair. Your unscheduled at-work productivity interruptions will continue as always.

Now, does anyone know anything about fly fishing? They’re gonna make me do that. Can I catch a salmon? I could dig on some salmon right now.

Uncategorizable | 29.11.2007 8:00 | 4 Comments

Living in downtown Minneapolis – two month progress report

[While this post is full of interesting, super important information, you may also want to read the 2012 carfree, downtown Minneapolis living update.]

Well, I’ve been a resident of downtown Minneapolis for two full months now and I’m happier than a wino at a Bartles and Jaymes tanker accident. I could write 2,000 words about why downtown is so great, but I’ve come to realize that you can’t fully appreciate how awesome downtown is unless you live here.

Right up until I moved into the TIWILM Command Center, I considered going downtown for any reason to be a spirit-sapping pain in the ass. I’d drive 15 miles in the opposite direction to avoid crawling the three miles into downtown, driving in circles for 30 minutes looking for parking, paying $3 in quarters for about 45 seconds at a meter, then having to sprint four blocks, pick up my face cream and dash back to my car before one of those meter maids with bionic meter-expiring hearing could appear out of nowhere and print out a ticket.

Though the advent of Light Rail has made journeying downtown more attractive, particularly for drinks and merriment (no parking woes, no tenuous sobriety self-tests at the end of the night), I still rarely traipsed down here, especially when neighborhood shops/restaurants were serving my purposes nicely.

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Car-free lifestyle, Downtown | 28.11.2007 14:25 | 3 Comments

This is why I love Balls Cabaret

lesly1.gif• A comedian
• Two story tellers
• Two singer/songwriters
• A mime
• A music/comedy duo
• A barber shop quartette
• A video-shoot of the performers, crew and audience singing John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”
• An interpretive dance number accompanying an operatically-delivered song about penis worship.

You never know what’s going happen at Balls Cabaret. In addition to the above spectacles that were witnessed on Saturday November 17th, you also stand a chance of seeing magicians, musicians, jugglers(!), unicyclists, dancers, poets, nude poets, nude dancers and nude jugglers (if only). And some sort of ode to penises is virtually guaranteed – as it should be.

I attended Balls last Saturday for the first time in over five years. Nothing had changed. The indomitably cheerful Leslie Ball served as box office clerk, stage manager, talent scout, host and chocolate pusher. An enthusiastic audience ranging from teenaged girls to grandpas arrived promptly. The night’s performers, some grizzled stage veterans, others jittery first-time-playing-to-live-humans newbies, milled around the seats and backstage. At exactly midnight, 90 minutes of sometimes great, sometimes less-than-great entertainment ensued. Read the rest of this entry »

Live theater | 19.11.2007 15:53 | 2 Comments

This is why I love the new Guthrie Theater

guthrieatnight.jpgWhen I make changes, I make big changes. None of these, fractional, baby-step changes for me – that stuff is for wimps and the gumment.

Before my current incarnation as a lovable, grammar-starved, “slightly caustic” travel writer, I was a Federal Reserve Bank stooge. My specialty was electronic payments. I could explain every step of the process from the moment you hand your check card to the cashier at Rainbow to your account getting hit to the payment “settling” in Rainbow’s account. I knew enough about the system to initiate a “Fight Club” style nationwide financial crisis (with the help of a handful of likeminded, well-placed techies around the country, assuming they all wanted to become international fugitives, submit to facial reconstructive surgery and spend the remainder of their days in a lean-to hut in the jungles of New Guinea – so worth it).

Before my tenure at the Fed, I was a theatre geek. An ac-tor, to be precise. In fact my degree, for what it’s worth, is in Theatre Arts. Right about that time (1993), I was cast in the Guthrie’s production of “Othello”, starring Paul Winfield as Othello, Robert Foxworth as Iago and me as Cypriot Goon Number 7 (and yet, I don’t have a Wikipedia page – there is no God).

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Live theater | 16.11.2007 17:23 | Comments Off on This is why I love the new Guthrie Theater

This is why I love Spoonriver

I will seldom devote precious space on this solemn blog to high-end restaurants. There’s usually no need to trumpet how much I love them, because as far as I’m concerned anyone charging more than $20 for an entrée had better damn well be serving exceptional cuisine and for me to drone on about how great they are would be overkill.

Spoonriver is an exception. My mission was to find a pre-Guthrie show eatery with food (allegedly) more consistent and service less (reportedly) dire than the Guthrie’s own Cue. Anyone who’s been to the new Guthrie already knows that Spoonriver was not only the obvious lateral price-range choice, but that it’s within mid-winter, no-jacket sprinting distance of the G’s front door.

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Eating | 14.11.2007 10:09 | 2 Comments

This is why I love the Skyway

skyway.jpgDo I come to your town, wander around for 36 hours, buy booze and lap dances on the city’s expense account, take a hit of X at 6am then scribble some sweeping, inane urban planning proposals during the cab ride back to the airport? Huh? Do I?

The Strib ran a story last week detailing proposed “improvements” to Nicollet Mall. Among some of the more befuddling observations made by people who clearly don’t live, work or shop downtown was that the Skyway was somehow responsible for spookily empty sidewalks and street-level retail failure, noting that Borders Books and Polo were the latest casualties. Sure blame the hapless Skyway. It probably has nothing to do with the internet (cheaper and more convenient than Borders) or style and name brand popularity fluctuations (Oh Polo, I hardly shopped at thee).

Equally absurd is the notion that we re-introduce cars onto Nicollet Mall. Why not? How about some nice oil drum fires while we’re at it? The quote by Macy’s North CEO Frank Guzzetta (hometown not Minneapolis) is hilarious: “Look at Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It’s just as cold, and it’s windier. But the traffic moving up and down that street begets traffic. People beget people. It makes things happen.”

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Downtown | 12.11.2007 15:47 | Comments Off on This is why I love the Skyway

This is why I (mostly) liked Solera

One time, when I lived over on 18th and Park, my girlfriend at the time put her hands over a small, cheap painting on the wall and asked me to describe it. She was trying to make a point about how unobservant I am in regards to things like décor, fashion and similarly boring crap. The painting was there when I moved in two years earlier. I’d walked past this painting about 184,936 times in the interim and sure enough I had no bloody idea what was in the painting. But I don’t accept defeat so easily, especially in the face of such smug-fueled delight, so I decided to take a high-probability guess:

“Flowers?”

I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I lived in that apartment for another year after that episode and I still don’t know what was in that painting. I wanna say some sort of landscape? This is why I hate art.

But she was right. Unless I’m somewhere like the Duomo in Florence, where I’m specifically tasked to observe, absorb and later describe the features and adornments, these details usually escape me. I have other things on my mind, like who in my immediate vicinity is braless.

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Happy Hour | 11.11.2007 15:19 | Comments Off on This is why I (mostly) liked Solera

This is why I love Pizza Nea

I spent eight out of the past 12 months in Italy. During that time, I learned a little something about Neapolitan pizza. When I say ‘a little something’, I really mean a little something. OK, I learned like two things:

One, pizza should be thin.

Two, it shouldn’t have 15 toppings.

True Neapolitan pizza only has three or four toppings (five if you wanna risk a raid by government pizza regulators). It took a while for me to adapt to this concept. I’m an American after all. I want an insane, ear-smoking, flavor detonation on every bite of food that I put in my mouth. In this country, since our ingredients are often not fresh or of high quality, the only way for us to get that zap of genital-tingling zest is to deluge each dish with so many ingredients that your tongue short-circuits and sends lively, if confused, endorphins up your spine, rewarding you with a tiny brainstem orgasm. But I digress…

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Eating | 9.11.2007 15:35 | 2 Comments

What is it about airports and the devolution of reasonable interpersonal skills?

interrogation.jpgThe story of how immigration agents at MSP harassed, threatened and defaced the passports of some noteworthy Finnish visitors in September for absolutely no reason is still harshing my mellow.

Here’s the Strib’s account and the coverage over at The Perrin Post Travel Blog.

I’m mortified on behalf of both my city and country. The conduct of these f*ckwits smacks of the amateurish, rent-a-cop antics you’d expect from nightclub bouncers in West Los Angeles. No manners, no reasonable communication, just straight to apeshit hysterics and unnecessary cruelty. I don’t care if Pablo Escobar staggers off the plane with a 30 gallon trash bag of cocaine, a loaded bazooka and a lead for an illegal job vacuuming offices in downtown St. Paul, there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.

And, as with most gross misconduct complaints like this, you know for every one famous visiting musician that gets a little press over their incident, there’s 20 hapless dupes arriving from Uruguay or Thailand who get detained and bullied for five hours and then tossed out onto the street without so much as cursory explanation or, Buddha forbid, an apology.

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What is wrong with people anyway? | 7.11.2007 13:00 | Comments Off on What is it about airports and the devolution of reasonable interpersonal skills?

This is why I love Light Rail

busstop.jpgThere was this time in February 1995 when I swore I’d never take Minneapolis public transportation again. I remember it like I remember all personal injustices: with brutal clarity.

I lived on 18th street and Park Ave, “The ‘Hood” as we affectionately called it as we reinforced our windows with 10,000 volt chicken wire. I caught the bus to work right on the corner, just outside the Green Zone, where witnessing a 7:15AM gang-related beatdown up the street wasn’t out of the ordinary.

That is, I tried to catch the bus right on the corner. This being the coldest month of an especially cold winter, standing on the street corner for more than the bare minimum of time was no joking matter. People were losing digits out there. And I’ll lay odds that deficient bus punctuality was indirectly responsible for dozens of cases of frost bite and even deaths that year. The bus routinely came rumbling up over 10 minutes late, usually about the point when I was debating seeking medical attention. Worse, sometimes it came seven minutes early. Or not at all. In either case you didn’t know this until you’d stood out on the effing corner until your testicles (or what have you) were petrified and various unmentionable symptoms of Reverse Puberty had set in.

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Car-free lifestyle | 5.11.2007 12:52 | 2 Comments