Archive for the 'Events' Category

This is why I love all the Leifs

Hey non-native Minnesotans, what were some of your most profound “Whoa, I’m really in Minnesota” moments after you arrived? Let me guess:

•    When you bought a parka
•    When someone offered you lutefisk
•    When you were gravely advised on which shovel to buy
•    When you very quickly realized that vaguely attentive driving habits were the norm
•    When you met someone named ‘Leif’

These things simply don’t happen anywhere else – except occasionally in Norway – and are in fact all part of Minnesota’s rich cultural identity.

For decades I thought there were only a couple Leifs in Minnesota. And to make matters worse, those other Leifs all sacrilegiously pronounced their names like the word ‘leaf’. (Indisputable fact: it’s pronounced like the word ‘life’.) I felt as if I was almost singlehandedly carrying the burden of one of Minnesota’s dying cultural traditions.

But then, thanks to Facebook, oh magical Facebook, an idle search one day revealed that there are TONS of Leifs in Minnesota! Walking around, oozing state heritage, smelling of stoic manliness and pine trees…

And many of these Leifs are much younger than I, meaning, that’s right, a Leif Renaissance!! Our path to Leif extinction has been narrowly averted. But for how long? Will other brave parents name their children ‘Leif’, continuing the state’s solemn tradition and dooming their sons to at least 16 years of cruel and unimaginative taunts by their mouth-breathing, zero-contributing peers? We can only hope so.

As part of the effort to preserve our state’s prized heritage, I would like to formally propose that Governor Dayton declare December 16th “Leif Day” in Minnesota. Government offices will shut down, parking meters won’t be enforced, a parade, naturally, will be held – say, on Hennepin Avenue, between 12th Street and Washington.

Furthermore, unofficially, December 16th, will also be declared “International Hug a Leif Day,” just in case I’m out of town.

Please show your support for “Leif Day” and “International Hug a Leif Day” by signing in the comments area below. I will present the signatures to Governor Dayton and Buddha and we should be good to go for at least an informal 2011 celebration at Grumpy’s on Washington this Friday.

Thank you for generously supporting our cherished state heritage and well-deserved recognition of our hard working, heroic Leifs.

Culture, Events | 13.12.2011 14:22 | 10 Comments

Chocolate at the Minnesota History Center

I’m afraid that my participation in the arts and cultural activities has taken a rather profound dive in the past decade. Live theatre, music, museums… I just don’t seem to get out and do these things as often since the variety of on-demand and online entertainment readily available here in my home fiftupled (a word I invented that means “increased by a factor of fifty”). I’m not really ashamed by this turn of events, I’ve simply started expanding my mind in different ways, while in my ideal state – sitting in my underwear. Everyone wins.

However, I enthusiastically struggled into my jeans and put on a clean shirt when the Minnesota History Center invited me to tour their temporary exhibit, Chocolate. Honestly, there are few other exhibits that would get me into a museum faster these days. Perhaps a Natalie Portman retrospective, but that’s all I can think of.

Now if, like me, you took the time years ago to educate yourself about chocolate, then I’m afraid that this exhibit won’t add much to your knowledge base. It’s pretty high level, though in fairness any more depth would likely bore most visitors senseless. However, if the magical world of chocolate remains a mystery to you, or you have children, then it’s a worthwhile experience. The only way they could make it better, in fact, is if they gave away chocolate. It would have been really cool if they had little samples of chocolate to taste during various phases of production so people could appreciate the rather monumental task of producing chocolate. But I’m sure that chocolate, at some stages of refinement, is not particularly appetizing. Or safe to consume. So, we’ll let that missed opportunity slide.

One unlikely realization gleaned during our visit is that maybe, just maybe, chocolate can singlehandedly stop the decimation of rainforests. The cacao trees (pronounced kah-KAW! – the exclamation point and, ideally, a karate chop are required) need the protection of a forest canopy in order to thrive. No canopy, no chocolate – and, in my case, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Write your congressperson, because I am no fun at all when I’m crabby.

Another thing I learned is that wealthy Europeans used have a small sip of chocolate first thing in the morning in place of coffee, which was meant for the working class. According to the informative display, women often performed this daily ritual with at least one boob exposed. Ah, Europe.

The tragic absence of free samples is somewhat alleviated by the excellent chocolate for sale in the History Center’s basement gift shop. A variety of B.T. McElrath chocolate is on hand, but I strongly recommend you walk past that and approach the incredibly lucky person manning the fresh chocolate display case and make your purchases there.

Chocolate runs through January 2nd, 2011.

The Minnesota History Center
Tickets (allowing access to both Chocolate and the permanent exhibits)
$10 adults
$8 seniors (65+)
$8 college students (valid ID)
$5 children ages 6-17

Hours:
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday;
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday;
12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday;
Closed Monday (open Monday holidays year round)

Events | 21.10.2010 11:22 | 3 Comments

Meet Plan Go!

Some of you may have seen the vita.mn article I wrote earlier this year, Choose Your Own Adventure, about the feasibility of long term travel, career break round-the-world trips, living abroad and the like. Well, if you been thinking/plotting/dreaming about such an odyssey, I have good, enabling news for you.

Minneapolis, among many cities nationwide, is holding a Meet Plan Go! event on Tuesday September 14th at Honey Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis. This is an opportunity for seasoned escape artists and first-time travelers alike to get together and talk about the logistics, money, employment ramifications and all the other minutia involved with career-break long-term travel.

Your host, multi-career-breaker Kirk Horsted, will be joined by both me and financial planner Ross Levin as we share our experiences and answer questions about career-breaking and long term travel.

The event is free. You can avail yourself of the drink specials ($3 tap beer; $5 wine), order food and there’ll be a few eye-popping giveaways like free trips to Peru, Cambodia (dibs) and France.

Read more about the Meet Plan Go event here or, if I’ve already sold you on the idea, reserve your spot here.

Events, Travel | 6.09.2010 17:29 | Comments Off on Meet Plan Go!

Go Green Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend

gogreenexpo

As I soldier bravely forward into my third year of car-free living in Minneapolis, I’m marking the occasion with two earth-shattering pieces of information:

1)    The Go Green Expo, an eco-focused, interactive, and educational showcase, is going on this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

solio.jpg2)    I’m giving away a slightly used Solio hybrid solar charger (a $49.95 value). Just leave a comment below for a chance to win.

First things first, this weekend’s Go Green Expo is for “Everyone interested in learning about environmentally friendly goods & services for use in modern everyday living.” Friday is the business-to-business stuff, but Saturday gets decidedly more interesting for normal folk wanting to learn more about green living and business. You can peruse the entire schedule here, but some of the more notable attractions include the latest in energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly products, a rock climbing wall and Segway tours. (What? You’ve never been on a Segway? Well, I rode one all over Paris, no big deal.)

There’ll also be interactive seminars featuring leaders in the green industry, local politics, and community organizations. The Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders are reportedly leading some sort of cheer for the Vikings Planet Purple initiative for sustainable business practices and renewable energy, then hanging out to sign autographs and pose for photos. Also, Ms Minnesota will be singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green”, with backing vocals by RT Rybak, Woody Harrelson and Lady Gaga. No really, Ms Minnesota will be there.

You can bring your old cell phones and chargers for recycling, and take part in educational sessions on green jobs, sustainable and fair trade design, green building, clean air and greening your business.

go-greener-passYou can even bus your green selves to the event on Sunday for free with the Go Greener Pass (valid only on Sunday, November 8, 2009 from 9:00am – 6:00pm only).

Oh and full disclosure about that Solio hybrid solar charger, if you click the link, you’ll see that it was given to me for a product review with no return packaging or instructions for how/where to send it. That was two years ago. So, I’m giving it away!!! Just leave a comment below before 5pm CT on Friday November 6th and I’ll choose the winner in a random drawing. You must live in the Minneapolis/St Paul area or be willing to spring for shipping.

The Go Green Expo

WHEN:
Friday, November 6th • 10am – 5pm
Business-to-Business Expo

Saturday, November 7th • 10am – 6pm & Sunday, November 8th • 10am – 5pm
Business-to-Business & Business-to-Consumer Expo

WHERE:
Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 Second Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
(612) 335-6000
www.minneapolisconventioncenter.com

TICKETS:
The full weekend pass is $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors (with proper ID). Children 12 and under get in free. Tickets provide access to the entire exhibitor floor, all panel & speakers discussions and can be purchased in advance at www.gogreenexpo.com or the day of at the ticket counter.

Events | 3.11.2009 7:00 | 8 Comments

The 20th Annual MONDO Jugglefest – February 20-22, 2009

It’s MONDO Jugglefest time again! Can you believe it’s been 20 years already? Remember the first MONDO? The catchphrase “The biggest juggling festival in the upper Midwest between Groundhog’s Day and Valentine’s Day” lured a whopping 80 people on short notice for the one-day event. Buddha, 1990 was a great year. I could finally juggle five clubs, I thought I’d be listening to The Art of Noise until my death and I had that bitchin’ ponytail. Good times.

Well, apart from my hair style, MONDO has aged gracefully. About 600 people showed up to the three day event last year and the Saturday night public show, the MONDO Spectacular, routinely sells out. As always, the festival is being held at Concordia College’s monstrous Gangelhoff Center, just off Hamlin Avenue in St Paul. This massive field house, with the bouncy rubber floor that weaponizes virtually every dropped club, is where all the workshops, demonstrations, prop vending and games will occur. There are few things in life that can stun the brainstem like walking into a room where several hundred people are deftly throwing and catching (and dropping and bending overing and picking upping) thousands of objects simultaneously. When you factor in the army of unicyclists wizzing around and the yoyoing and poi spinning you’d be crazy to miss out on this singular event. That’s right, crazy! You don’t want to be crazy, do you? Crazy is so 2000-2008.

If you don’t juggle (or unicycle or yo-yo), this is the place to learn. Formal and informal coaching persists throughout the festival. I can teach anyone between the ages of six and 75 to juggle in less than 30 minutes. That’s right, in thirty minutes you can be just a little bit more like me and who doesn’t want that?

And ladies, juggling is perennially a lonely guy affair. Typically, the guy to girl ratio at a juggling festival is like 25 to one. If you’ve ever wanted to be in a safe, fun environment, where you can develop your dexterity and have your pick of literally hundreds of guys vying for your attention, this is the place.

For the most part juggling is wholesome, safe and non-hurty. That said, here’s a little sample of the edgier stuff, where smashed fingers and body blows are verily guaranteed, both for the jugglers and the people standing within 20 feet of the jugglers. [Those using blog readers will have to watch the video here.]

The deets:
20th Annual MONDO Jugglefest
Gym passes, good for all three days, are $7 at the door. All attendees will be required to sign a waiver before admittance to the festival.
Tickets for the Spectacular (7pm, Saturday February 21st) are $12 for adults, $10 for children under 12.

Festival Hours:
Friday Feb. 20th: 5:00pm – Midnight
Saturday Feb 21st: 9:00am to 2:00am
(Note: the Gym will be closed during the Spectacular show, roughly from 5pm until the end of the show around 10pm)
Sunday Feb 22nd: 10:00am to 5:00pm

Events, Juggling | 10.02.2009 15:58 | 3 Comments

Get out the vote!

Last Thursday I joined about 4,000 people at the Minneapolis Convention Center to see the “Five Days to Change Rally” with Bill Clinton, featuring Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Now I’m passionate about this election. So passionate that it’s been keeping me up at night, cursing loud enough for my neighbors to hear, while listening to an all-star cast of professional weasels and failed lobotomy patients exalting the likes of John “McRage” McCain, Sarah Palin, Norm Coleman and Michelle Bachman. Under normal circumstances, if it would guarantee an election sweep for Elwyn Tinklenberg, Keith Ellison, Al Franken and Barack Obama, I’d give my life savings. I’d cut off a minor appendage. I’d stop drinking Strongbow. That’s how much I care about this election. But, quite frankly, by the end of the rally on Thursday, I’d have given the same things just for a chair, 800 milligrams of Ibuprofen, and my mommy.

What a marathon, ill-conceived, demoralizing clusterf*ck that rally was. Counting standing in line, most people had been there for well over four hours by the time we limped out of there.

What took so long? Well, it turned out to be a little more than three exciting speakers. Most of that time was taken up by listening to the exact same speech paraphrased eight times, imploring, badgering and brainwashing us to spend the final five days before the election door knocking and calling people to get them to vote. It was, to put it kindly, f*cking absurd.

First we were talked at four times, starting with two teenagers, then a parade of officials including Mayor R.T Rybak and Congressman Keith Ellison. Then there was a 15 minute break. People in the crowd were already getting antsy. Looking at their watches, shifting their weight to relive the discomfort of standing on concrete. Some sat on the floor.

Then it was time for the main event. Whoops not yet. Actually, we heard the same volunteer sermon four more times, including from former VP Walter Mondale and, finally, Amy Klobuchar.

When Amy left the stage, there was a hopeful hush. Was it time for the Al and Bill Show? No, it was not. Instead, they played a babbling, 20-some minute video-taped speech by Al Gore, given almost a month ago when he swung through town.

Then there was a 20 minute break. Who the hell were all these breaks for? The audience was suffering from fatigue, boredom and in my case debilitating lower back pain. We didn’t need breaks, we needed dinner. Indeed, people were throwing in the towel and leaving. Many others were sitting or full-on sprawled out on the floor. This picture, taken during the second break, fails to capture the sea of people that had collapsed to the floor, because when I took it, I was too weak to stand myself. When volunteers and organizers mingled through the crowd trying to get people fired up chanting and clapping, most of us only had the strength to look up and scowl. They were losing the crowd, a crowd of rabid supporters, very fast.

Finally, Al and Bill came out together and, between the two of them, managed to breathe a little life back into the audience. They gave great speeches, but the momentum was hopelessly gone. The two were still on the stage waving their goodbyes as people lamely hobbled for the exits, elbowing past and avoiding eye contact with organizers with clipboards wanting to sign up volunteers.

My back was sore for two days. I might have volunteered if I hadn’t already felt that I’d done all I could physically do for the campaign by simply standing there until the bitter end.

So, since I did not door knock or call anyone, I’m posting this reminder for everyone to get out and vote tomorrow. We can’t get this ass-stomping done without everyone’s vote.

Also, I’m posting this to remind future rally organizers that their audience is not a bunch of indestructible robots. Next time, cut the goddamn running time in half, if you want anyone to leave the joint with anything on their minds other than food and convalescence.

Events, Making the world a better place, Rants | 3.11.2008 15:21 | 3 Comments

Walker on the Green Artist-Designed Mini Golf

Having recently turned 38 that is, 38 in chronological years, whereas I’m around 75 in cynical years – my already dwindling concern with what people think about me has all but evaporated. It’s one of the things that I revel in with regards to getting older: the confidence, comfort and wisdom to not give two shits about people’s perceptions of what I do, say or wear. Seriously, screw you guys.

What was formerly a huge source of anxiety is just plain gone and it sure is great to have that extra mental processing power to devote to more important things (like boobies). I’ll say pretty much anything in my blogs now, I don’t care who gets offended:

“Fart-bomb, Titicaca, fuckwit, 69.”

“Obnoxiously Loud, Attention-Starved, Little Dick Motorcycle Club.”

Armpit bang.”

Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

But I suffer the occasional self-conscious relapse. For example, if the words ‘Walker’ and ‘Artist-Designed’ weren’t attached to it, I’m not entirely sure I’d have the nerve to announce that I was going to play mini golf without some kind of elaborate cover-story, preferably between the ages of five and 12, to validate the outing.

As it was, my companion and I weren’t the only ones unaccompanied by children, paying good money to play mini golf at the Walker on the Green Artist-Designed Mini Golf. Indeed, there was a full-on mob of self-proclaimed grownups enthusiastically taking part, though unsurprisingly the place was also crawling with nasty, dirty, unsupervised little people who were not only being seen and heard, but also getting in my way, but I digress

We passed on the opportunity to play all 13 holes on account of me coming down with a sudden case of Starving to Death, which anyone who’s spent any time around me knows must be attended to immediately. As it was, resolving to do only one of the two courses brought up an early conundrum: which course to play? The bubbly girl selling tickets, familiar with this timeless deliberation, broke down the difference between the two courses with practiced ease

“Do you want to play the competitive one or the fun one?”

“The fun one,” my companion and I blurted in eerie unison. I don’t know what her motives were, but I wanted to avoid getting into any kind of heated competition with this usually good-natured woman, as she’d just successfully auditioned for the Rollergirls earlier in the week and it’d had an instant impact on her aggression quotient. Those chicks are like Wookies, they like to pound and yank off important extremities when things don’t go their way. Also, I just loathe competition in general, which is why I never invite single men to my parties.

The holes on the ‘blue’, aka ‘fun’, aka ‘interactive’ course ranged from curious, to perplexing to impossible. There were a few holes that might have completely thwarted us if we hadn’t had the benefit of observing the bumbling efforts of the people in front of us and learning from their mistakes, who in turn did the same with the people in front of them I’d hate to be in the first group of players each day. I bet when they get a load of that bicycle/pinball contraption, everything comes to a screeching halt and the delays ripple all the way back to the ticket line.

\

Fortunately there were plenty of people ahead of us to learn from, so our mistakes didn’t look nearly as mirthful, like on that hand-crank, ball-lifting, step thingie that, if you put too much muscle into it, your ball jumped off the track, forcing you to start over if you wanted to stick to the ancient Mini Golf Code of Mesopotamia, which we did.

The only exception to learning from other’s mistakes was the utterly impossible hole where it looked as if a giant, busty woman had flopped down face-first on the course, leaving an upper body imprint around a ridiculously placed hole hidden between the ‘neck’ and ‘breasts’. Those dual chasms doubled as hopeless water hazards that could’ve reduced Tiger Woods himself to wretched cursing if not for all the wee, impressionable ones standing around heckling (e.g. “Mommy, that man sucks!”).

The dreaded hand-crank step-thingiePutting out of the water-filled, reverse gazongasPedal backwards, play pinball and retort hecklers simultaneously

Some nights, mini golf/art fans queue up for 15-30 minutes for the pleasure of having their putting skills publicly critiqued by other people’s precious little angels. The wild popularity of the Artist-Designed Mini Golf was a given after the success of the first project in 2004. A heartening green/recyclable theme was once again evident, as well as wholehearted support of local artists. Per the Walker web site: “Designers range from independent artists and architects to members of established companies and design collectives. All are registered with mnartists.org, an online clearinghouse and resource for Minnesota artists of all stripes.”

Thankfully, the evening we played, with my death by malnourishment imminent, there was no waiting to get started and even with the bottlenecks at the more challenging holes, we were through the course in less than 30 minutes. It was a great outing for a beautiful Minneapolis evening and a friendly atmosphere where players freely helped/cheered one another. Quintessential Minnesota. Except for those good-for-nothing kids, who’ve clearly been enjoying too much South Park and too little fear of God.

Walker on the Green Artist-Designed Mini Golf
Through September 7th.
$8 one course, $14 for two, $6 for Walker members seniors & students, $4 for children
www.walkerart.org

Events, Sports | 7.07.2008 11:37 | 4 Comments

This is why I love the MONDO Jugglefest

jugglingoranges.jpgYou don’t even wanna know how badly I wanna just sit here and write 2,000 words about the unspeakable awesomeness of my new condo. It’s just so awesome (I still haven’t figured out where I packed my thesaurus). I’ve been here for a mere five days and I can’t get enough of it. I’m so happy that I’m seriously considering sending a body double in my place to Romania and Moldova for seven weeks of guidebook research this summer, so I can just sit here and soak in the awesomeosity. Sadly, there isn’t another travel writer on Earth with a body like mine, so I guess I have to go.

So, since I’m not writing about my effing awesome condo (Did I mention it’s connected to the Skyway? And I have a clear view all the way to the downtown St Paul skyline?), I’ve decided to write about something else that’s obscure, yet dear to my heart, the annual MONDO Jugglefest, happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 11th, 12th and 13th).

For those of you too busy to read my lengthy bio, you may not know that I’ve been a juggler since age 12. There was a brief moment in time during my teens when my skill and breathtakingly rapid development had people dropping my name as the next Juggling All Star. But then I kissed a girl and all my practice time was suddenly filled with other activities. I regret nothing.

So, while I’m not even remotely as good as the average, non-girl-kissing teenaged juggler these days, I’m still very connected to this rarified art (one step above mime, one step below dinner-table magician), which is why I am so excited to get to the MONDO Jugglefest this weekend, held at Concordia College’s Gangelhoff Center, just off Hamlin Avenue in St Paul.

What do people do at a juggefest, you ask? Well, juggle like maniacs, for starters. There’s workshops, demonstrations, vendors and games happening on all three days. Not to mention the indescribable, jaw-dropping scene of watching a sea of people spread out all over a field house deftly throwing and catching (and dropping and bending overing and picking upping) hundreds of objects all at once.

And it’s not just juggling. Unicycling and yo-yoing are equally well represented. On Saturday night we hold our public show, the MONDO Spectacular, at the Central High Theater, where dizzying displays of top-shelf juggling, unicycling, yo-yoing and more are packaged and presented for hardcore enthusiasts and curious bystanders alike.

If you don’t juggle (or unicycle or yo-yo), this is without a doubt the best place to learn. Formal and informal coaching persists throughout the festival. I can teach anyone between the ages of six and 75 to juggle in less than 30 minutes. That’s right, in thirty minutes you can be just a little bit more like me and who doesn’t want that?

Festival Hours are:
Friday: 5:00pm – Midnight
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
(Note: the Gym will be closed during the Spectacular, from 5 p.m. until the end of the show around 10 p.m.)
Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Gym passes, good for all three days, are $7 at the door. All attendees will be required to sign a waiver before admittance to the festival.

And for the ladies, juggling is perennially a lonely guy affair. Typically, the guy to girl ratio at a juggling festival is like 25 to one. If you’ve ever wanted to be in a safe, fun environment, where you can develop your dexterity and have your pick of literally hundreds of guys vying for your attention, this is the place. See you in the gym!

Events, Juggling | 10.04.2008 10:28 | 1 Comment