Summer Fun 2018

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Northern Spark begins, June 2018- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

It’s been a fun summer, but busy – but that’s another story. We didn’t get to go on as many fun adventures this year, but we did manage to attend a few favorites and a couple new ones, as well. As the Minnesota summer ends and the autumn, my favorite time of year, begins, I thought I’d review my summer in MSP.

We again attended the Pride Dabbler, which I always enjoy. As part of the exciting Twin Cities Pride Fest celebrations, it packs Loring Park with all manner of GLBT inspired beers and people excited to try them. Truly a worthy celebration of our state’s innovative brewing scene and strong GLBTQ+ community, it is the most fun and interesting of the beer dabblers, I feel. I always appreciate the chance to return to my old neighborhood for a bit as well. This year we enjoyed cool local all trans band 4thCurtis perform. Check out my account of my first visit here.  

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Pride Dabbler 2018- Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

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Stop on the Weird Nicollet tour, the – photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

After missing last year, we were excited to again experience The Northern Spark, among the Twin Cities most unique and always surprising art events of the year. This year, the spark took on downtown Minneapolis, at the Commons outside the ominous, looming form of US Bank Stadium (death bringer to birds, crowder of the train lines), and all down the newly renovated Nicollet Mall (finally!). While, unlike previous years, the festival did not stay out all night, the more compact location allowed participants to conveniently to experience more of the events and performances, though it also felt a bit more crowded than in prior years. My favorite was the super awesome Weird Nicollet Walking Tour, presented by a local urban geographer guiding us through some of the weird and lost history of Downtown Nicollet Avenue, from the largest gathering of tap dancers in world history, to the old skid row, to the first skyway.  I blogged about my experiences in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as well.

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Open Streets Hiawatha

We checked out a few of the Open Streets Minneapolis festivals we had not attended before; Hiawatha and Franklin. It was cool to go to two of them this year! These events are always fun, allowing pedestrians and non motorized vehicles to take to some prominent Minneapolis thoroughfares to experience the city and its neighborhoods in a much more immediate way, interacting with the community and environment up close.

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Open Streets- Lake and Hiawatha

Lake and Minnehaha was very cool, delving into the Longfellow neighborhood, and we began by enjoying a few drinks at the Longfellow Craft Beverage District. Right outside awesome local indie bookstore, Moon Palace, the local distilleries, cidery, and brewery Lawless, Du Nord, Urban Forage, and Arbeiter Brewing offered some delicious and refreshing libations.

After our enjoying our drinks (especially the cocktails from Lindsay’s favorite, Lawless), it was nice to wander down Hiawatha and check out some of the weird vintage and antique shops full of strange and bizarre items that have popped up along the avenue, ending with some interesting dumplings at Dumpling.

A few weeks later, we attended the Franklin festival, walking down Franklin in the heart of the Seward neighborhood and enjoying baked goods from Mon Petite Cheri, learning more about pedestrian concerns in Minneapolis, and enjoying the historical hidden gem of Milwaukee Avenue. Back in 2016, we explored the Lake Street Open Streets, and in 2015 I visited Central Avenue in Northeast.

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Open Streets Franklin

Finally, we returned to the Minnesota State Fair for it’s busiest day ever! In hindsight, maybe not the best choice. In spite of the oppressive heat, I had never seen crowds so huge, which crawled to a tangled mess whenever they tried to bypass the huge lines of people trying to grab one of this year’s touted new concessions food. Turned out the French Meadow’s “Earth Wings” were pretty good, but we were slightly disappointed by the smoked ice cream at Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. After riding, per tradition, the Old Mill (surprisingly not crowded) we went for some beers at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, before trying out a couple of state fair exclusive specialty beers at O’Gara’s. Busing back home, we tried to cool off and unwind from the hoards we squeezed our way through. My visit in 2016 can be found here

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our cornucopia of State Fair goodies, 2018- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

As the days and nights cool off, I’m looking forward to some autumnal adventures soon!

 

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Laborial Day and Trivia Mafia

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612: Brew in Northeast Minneapolis

The first Saturday in August this year, the 4th, marked the exact halfway point between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which is definitely an odd date to mark and one that had never occurred to me before. I think that, in future, though, I’ll definitely be sure to mark Laborial Day down on my calendar!

For the past year or so, my wife and I have gotten a little bit obsessed with the Twin Cities own trivia empire, Trivia Mafia. We’ve tried out a few of the local versions of bar trivia offered in the metro and have found it to be the best mix of risk and reward and have had quite a bit of fun at some of the many local establishments that offer trivia nights, officiated by some very funny hosts. Along with a group of friends, we’ve had some success, even participating in the annual winter invitational last March. Well, we didn’t do the worst, but Kitten Mittons has been known to pull a win on occasion, netting some free tickets to a local show or event or gift cards to one of the participating establishments. In fact, we won the tickets for last fall’s Adult Night at the Children’s Museum playing Trivia Mafia.

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Laborial Day Trivia Stop #1 at Sociable Cider Werks

However, Trivia Mafia offers more than trivia nights at venues across the Twin Cities and beyond. For the last few years, they have established a new tradition of Laborial Day, the halfway point between the two bordering holidays of summer. Yep, here in Minnesota that means that snow, so deep just four months ago, will be here in four more months as well, so participants wear black and white to symbolize the color schemes of each. While Trivia Mafia is generally free, a $5 admission fee gets you into the Laborial Day festivities, along with oreos (laboreos) and ice cream sandwiches. Of course, there is trivia as well, four special trivia quizzes each held at a different Northeast Minneapolis brewery for four entertaining (and slightly intoxicating) hours.

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Red River Foodtruck outside of Socialble

This year was a coolish day as we traversed the streets of Northeast, beginning at Sociable Cider Werks, an old favorite, before heading on to Able Seedhouse (a new favorite), 612:Brew (an established brewery I’d yet to have visited), and ending up at the stylish Bauhaus Brew Labs. Each an easy walk from one another, it was quite a blast to sample a different brew at each location and keep on trying to come up with answers. As with Trivia Mafia in general, each was based on a theme, and some were kinder to us than others.

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Laborial Day in full force at Able

Surprisingly, we did pretty well on the subject of Cleveland, Ohio (the 216 area code to riff off the 612 Brewing location) for a blog so obsessed with the Twin Cities. Still, it was perhaps better that we didn’t excel, since the prizes for each segment is a round of beer or cider for the winning team. If we were on fire, that could have proven a bit much, though perhaps those who succeed early may be at a disadvantage later. We never found out! All in all, one of the funnest days out of the summer and I would be excited to try our luck again next year.  

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“Use your noodle, not your google!” Mural at Bauhaus Brew Labs that seemed appropriate for Trivia Mafia’s slogan

 

Twin Cities Time Travel: 1800s

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Fort Snelling at night: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Last fall, I had the opportunity to explore a few remnants of the Twin Cities’ early nineteenth century history, survivors of more than a hundred years of urban renewal and change the dynamic region has experienced as it enters the 21st century.

A history buff with a master’s degree to show for it, I appreciate the changes that have led to a world where we might question the appropriateness of naming one of our most popular natural landmarks after one of the nineteenth century’s foremost proponents of white supremacy, restoring it to the name given it by the region’s original inhabitants, the Dakota. In the mid-nineteenth century Minneapolis and St. Paul were beginning to come to prominence as a major agricultural hub, feeding the world. At the same time, they relied heavily on investments obtained through the buying and selling of human lives and planned the wholesale destruction of the people who already lived here. Also the region became the destination for thousands of immigrants who would bring their own cultural and political ideas here, making it among the most heavily immigrant states in the country. As these tensions and contradictions became untenable and the continued presence of slavery in a nation founded on equality led to Civil War, Minnesota was fast to join the Union cause in spite of taking in so much slaveholding investment to found various state institutions, in particular the University of Minnesota. The relics of these times that still exist can provide a little time traveling to these fraught and interesting eras, and I do appreciate the chance to delve into the past.

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Waldmann Brewery

One such survivor was recently brought back to life in the up and coming West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul. Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery is housed in the oldest commercial building in Minneapolis-St. Paul, originally built in 1857 as one of the city’s first German immigrant lager saloons. Established by Bavarian immigrant Anton Waldmann, the saloon operated until 1863, and survived the next hundred and fifty years as a rental property before being completely renovated as one of the St. Paul’s most interesting new breweries. The drinking culture of German immigrants was, at the time, a controversial and dangerous aspect of these foreigners, though people did take quickly to the new German innovation of lager beer as it was thought to be a less alcoholic alternative to the Yankees’ ubiquitous whisky. So Waldmann Brewery’s authentic

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Some artifacts at Waldmann Brewery: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

recreations of 19th century German beer styles is particularly intriguing as they are both “old fashioned” to our current brewing techniques while being a “cutting edge” technology to the period.  A new innovation from this culture which was beginning to influence the current culture of the Twin Cities, and yet are also emblematic of the fears of immigration that always strike the country.

Visiting last fall, the little stone saloon was packed with people enjoying the painstakingly restored architecture and ambiance. With the wood burning stove, the flickering oil lamps, and the period decor, it really does feel like going back in time. It is quite a cozy place to enjoy some beer and comfort foods such as wurtz and smoked fish (if you are a meat eater), or pretzels and cheese, if not.

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enjoying our beers at Waldmann; photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

 

Just down West 7th Street is another nineteenth century survivor, the impressive home of Alexander Ramsey, first territorial and second state governor, completed in 1872. Ramsey was at the heart of the contradictions present at the founding of the state, being the first governor to pledge troops to the Civil War while also advocating the genocide of the Dakota people in response to the US Dakota War, started as a result of Ramsey’s and other white elites enforcing fraudulent and exploitative treaties against them.

Ramsey’s ornate home definitely reflects the Victorian splendor of the gilded age elite, with technologies that would be the top of the line at the time, including both hot and cold running water and steam heated radiators. Ramsey’s family willed the mansion to the state, along with ninety percent of its original furnishings, and it is maintained as a museum by the Minnesota Historical Society. Today, the MNHS hosts many educational and entertainment events in its lavish halls.

I had never visited the Ramsey House until last October, when my wife and I saw an MNHS “History Happy Hour” focusing on historical hoaxes, including nineteenth century “fake news.” Arriving after dark on a rainy evening, the old mansion definitely had a spooky ambience, an atmosphere not harmed by the oppressive Victorian opulence. It was definitely an interesting discussion, touching on historical falsehoods that, in the past as well as the present, reach fever pitch in the popular culture. The Happy Hours are held the last Thursday of every month, and are a good way to experience the house and learn some information about the Victorian period and other historical topics, along with a drink or two.  

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Fort Snelling; Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Of course, the most infamous and prominent historical building in the state is across the river at Fort Snelling, ground zero of these themes of oppression and site of many of the atrocities the state and federal governments were privy to; the genocide of native peoples as well as the enslavement of people throughout the United States. The site where Dred Scott was brought as a slave by an army surgeon who leased his work, leading him to assert his freedom only to be ruled against by the Supreme Court, and where hundreds of Dakota were imprisoned in squalid concentration camps before being driven from the state, it symbolizes much of the injustice of American history.

The fort was built in 1819 at a prominent and sacred location for the Dakota, near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers by United States forces to consolidate their power over the indigenous population of this formerly French territory, sold recently to them by Napoleon in order to fund his wars of conquest. It is an interesting example of how the confluence of global history can converge on a single location, and emblematic of the Euro-American quest for domination of the continent. Interestingly, and perhaps in part because of this conflicted history, by the 1950s only a few vestiges of the old fort survived, notably the Round Tower and the South Battery. By 1960, the MNHS performed extensive archaeological and reconstructing work, restoring the old fort’s appearance to that of the 1820s, making it one of their flagship historic sites. The site of many school trips and events, traditionally emphasizing it’s military history.

The MNHS is, however, currently working on a major revitalization project at the Fort, hoping to better serve the “many voices, many stories” that exist there, but there is still a dark, ominous feeling at the place. Not that I believe in ghosts or anything!

This feeling was heightened when Lindsay and I visited the site one late autumn evening after the sun had already disappeared, the moon was hidden behind dark clouds, and the winter cold had just begun to set in. I had not been since I was a kid, but we visited to experience one of the MNHS’ “CSI: Fort Snelling” events for the Halloween season, an interactive mystery based on a historical crime that actually took place in the fort. A crime unrelated, of course, to the matters of slavery and genocide that are centered there.

As someone who has been known to engage in a roleplaying game or two, and drawn to the idea of time travel, the idea of this event appealed to me. Time travel is, of course, a much more appealing thought for someone who needs not worry about their safety in the past. In spite of my knowledge of the horrors that took place here, it did not occur to me, in my privileged place, how inappropriate such an event in so fraught a place might be. As I discovered later, there was some controversy regarding the CSI: Fort Snelling event as people called out its insensitive nature and, in response, the MNHS will no longer organized the event in the future as they strive to serve a more inclusive mission with their revilization. Even when one is primed for such awareness, it is all too easy to forget, which is why it is so important to increase the acknowledgement of these aspects of our history. As it was, we set out to the fort curious about what this story might entail.

In this scenario, “The Musician’s Secret,” set in 1827, we would be portraying members a crowd of Scottish and Swiss refugees from the ill fated attempt at at settlement in the Assissinobine territory, near where Winnipeg exists today. It proved to be an atmospheric but crowded event. We arrived with a large group of tourists, bundled up for the cold, and were handed info sheets to get us caught up with who we were and the various personages we would encounter. Entering the walls of the fort, we found quite a few people milling around bonfires drinking beer and cider while listening to period fiddlers. Most were dressed in in street clothes, though a few came dressed as time traveling vampires.

Organized by the Scottish Lord Selkirk, the colony was plagued by disasters, flooding and locusts, and many prospective squatters, including “us,” who had plodded down the Red River ox cart road in an attempt to return to Europe. Stopping at the fort, hoping to board a steamship at St. Paul to return to the coast, we were supposed to have become entangled in the story of a musician and fellow former Selkirker who, it was said, stashed some gold nearby only to have been murdered by person or persons unknown. Given the information we were presented as we were guided around the fort, we were tasked with unraveling the conspiracy, identifying the culprit, and assisting with the trial.

The actors, costumed in their historically accurate garb and portraying various soldiers, servants, travelers, and professionals, were exuberant and earnest in that community theater sort of way, through the large group of people being led around did not really lend to too much interactivity, or much investigation or questioning as it was difficult to make sure everyone heard everything. While I did figure it out in the end, it was more my knowledge of the tropes of the genre than any clues I managed to garner over the course of the investigation. As an RPG aficionado, it also would have been better to have had more of a motivation in our “roles” as well.

However, none of this even acknowledges the stories of pain and injustice that took place at the fort, centered with its function as an outpost of the will of the invading colonial forces. As the MNHS struggles to make this surviving bit of our past reflect all of the viewpoints and tragedies that it’s existence created, taking stock of such uses of its history is important. In the end, I am not sad to see the end of CSI: Fort Snelling, though it remains to be seen how the stories of the cruelty of the state and it’s government will be told.

Look forward to more time travel adventures in the future as I write about some places in the Twin Cities that will bring you back to the 1920s and ‘30s and the 1950s and ‘60s, two interesting periods of 20th century history here.

This will be my last update of my adventures in 2017, and I’ll shortly be recounting some of the adventures of the first few months of 2018, including why updates have been so sparse around here of late!

Art-A-Whirl 2018

 

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Outside of Rogue Buddha Gallery

I’m excited to start up a new year of adventures here in MSP, after some long months of stasis. Before I wrap up some last favorites of 2017 and some of the reasons I’ve taken a writing break, I’d like to post about a fun new experience from this weekend.

After a long, cold winter that seemed to overstay its welcome by a few months, the warm temperatures of spring are sure to make any citizen of the Twin Cities look for some fun things to do outside. We look for any excuse to leave the skyways and our comfy winter lairs. Lindsay and I have been obsessed in recent weeks with tackling the walks featured in the book Walking Twin Cities; some of which we walked before the snow from the last blizzard even melted away.

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Art-A-Whirl venues in Northeast Minneapolis

This last weekend, we took the opportunity to check off the “Nordeast” walk, a 2.5 mile stroll through the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, which just happened to be the Art-A-Whirl, Northeast Minneapolis’ annual open studio tour, the largest in the country. Art-A-Whirl was always something I was aware of and interested in checking out sometime, but for whatever reason I never ended up going, so it was fun to finally experience it. In it’s 23rd year, there was so much cool stuff happening all throughout our walk, from local artists displaying their work to local bands performing at neighborhood restaurants, it was almost overwhelming! Here is a few of my impressions from our afternoon of walking the Art-A-Whirl.

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Some curing salumis in the Food Building

The day was perhaps not the most spring like, with a brisk wind and temperatures in the low 50s making it feel a little more like October, belying the sweet perfume of the blooming lilacs as we walked through the vibrant Northeast neighborhoods. Beginning near the Pierre Bottineau Library, built into the old Minnesota Brewery building, we explored the old brewery buildings, once packed full of bottles of Grain Belt, now filled with all manner of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other interesting things, and crowded with patrons of the arts. In the Food Building, we saw more artists amid the baking bread and curing salumis of Red Table meats and Baker’s Field Bakery.

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A few of the many whimsical creatures at Betty Danger’s (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Some of the local restaurants were also in on the festivities. We had lunch at Psycho Suzi’s, celebrating an Art-Thou-Luau and puppy pageant, enjoying our tropical drinks on the decidedly untropical porch with it’s view of the rolling Mississippi, and some cute dogs. Still, we were happy to be outside in spite of the chilly temperatures. A few blocks up the street, we indulged a little round of mini-golf at Psycho Suzi’s sister establishment, checking out more unique and interesting pieces along the way. I will discuss more about the kitschy and very midwestern sport of minigolf in an upcoming entry.

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Walking Twin Cities with the authors!

Heading down into the heart of the Art District, we stopped at a few interesting places, making our way through the crowds. At Rogue Buddha Gallery, we saw some spooky art by curator Nicholas Harper and other local artists, and then caught some more music behind the Sheridan Room and the 331 Club. As Lindsay consulted our copy of Walking Twin Cities, looking for where to turn next, we were surprised to bump into the author’s themselves, who were themselves surprised to see their book! So far, it’s been a great resource, as we learned a lot on our strolls, including how Northeast Minneapolis was once a national leader in casket production and it was fun to be able to show our appreciation in person.  

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The sun sets in Northeast Minneapolis (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

After our brush with literary fame, we stopped for a peanut butter porter at Dangerous Man as the sun began to set behind the looming clouds. Finishing up our walk, we went off the route to make our way over to Central Avenue for the finale for our evening, Har Mar Superstar at Bauhaus Brew Labs, part of the brew lab’s Liquid Zoo lineup. As among the most stylish breweries in the metro, as usual for events at Bauhaus, there was a bit of line to get in but once inside, it was a great venue for Har Mar’s brand of energetic, catchy dance pop. After a fun set, it was a long bus and train ride back to downtown St. Paul, encumbered with beer and art, but it was a great day and definitely worth the fatigue! Northeast Minneapolis is a fun, dynamic, and idiosyncratic area and I really enjoyed the chance to explore it up close.

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Har Mar Superstar performing at Bauhaus Brew Labs (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

2017 Highlight: Night in the Children’s Museum

This was a new experience!

Last September, Lindsay and I were playing our weeknight trivia down at Emmett’s Pub on Grand, one of Trivia Mafia’s many locales. We’ve kind of gotten a little obsessed with them over the last year, but that’s a topic for a future entry in MSP Adventure Time. That Tuesday, we happened to win third place and claimed our prize; two tickets to the first ever 21 and over night at the Minnesota Children’s Museum!

I have vague memories of visiting the Children’s Museum in St. Paul as a kid years ago, though by this time, I was more into the dinosaurs at the Science Museum of Minnesota or the dioramas at the Bell Museum than the early childhood hands on educational activities at the MCM, so I never really thought much of them over the years. As a childfree adult, there was no reason to, I guess.

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It was a very fun evening, in any case, and I really appreciated the chance to see the vibrant, cool space in downtown St. Paul, from it’s cozy outdoor play area to the rooftop, and just run around like I didn’t have anything to worry about, while enjoying some adult drinks, of course.

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Throughout the museum, there were cool things to look at, and it seemed the grown up, or maybe “Kidult” attendees were having a good time, thanks to such activities as a fun improv game from the Theater of Public Policy and arts and crafts brought to you by Can Can Wonderland (see previous entry). Lindsay and I definitely had a lot of fun with the latter, crafting our own really cool magnets we totally have on our refrigerator.

Keep an eye out, ‘cause they’re planning another one for this spring. Or you could take your kids any day and miss out on having as much fun yourself!

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Some cool magnets we made from vintage books and magazines!

2017 Highlights: Can Can Wonderland

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Hitting the links at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Just opened in 2017, Can Can Wonderland was one of the most fun, weird, and wild nights out I have gotten the chance to experience over the last year. Buried deep under an old can factory in the industrial zone in the Midway area of St. Paul, it is one of those new uses for decaying industrial infrastructure that is making the city so interesting.

After hearing about it early in the year, Lindsay and I were excited to finally make it there with a group of friends for my birthday last August, and it was definitely worth the wait. In this case, literally, as the place was so popular we had to wait several hours to get into the much anticipated artist-designed mini golf course the place is becoming most well known for.  From what I’ve heard from others, arriving the earlier the better is advisable to get checked in for minigolf, as we discovered as we were the very last group to make it through the links late one Thursday evening after getting signed up before seven.

On the other hand, there is plenty stuff to of keep you occupied while you’re waiting, including vintage arcade machines, a variety of tasty comfort food (I recommend the grilled cheese), and delicious, bizarre cocktails. The blue cheese infused gin “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” for instance, was a refreshingly creamy mix served in the gaping maw of a shark shaped mug, complete with fake blood. Wow! And, it is was quite tasty as well. Of course, Lindsay ordered me a wonderful Happy Birthday cocktail as well, a delicious birthday cakey drink which was served with a sparkler and a party popper let off by the bartender.

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Receiving a birthday sparkler from the bartender at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In addition, another new 2017 brewery, BlackStack Brewing, shares the same location, in on old warehouse upstairs from Can Can’s subterranean factory space, allowing you to sip a few pints of Punch Press Belgian ale or Spare Parts dark lager while waiting for your queue in the Can Can line. The comfy, low key brewery offers plenty of seating and board games, too.

As for the mini golf, it was well worth the wait. Now, I haven’t played much mini golf for a number of years, so I was a fair bit rusty when the time came to hit the course. To be honest, I ended up swinging wildly at the ball and didn’t get very far in terms of progress. Maybe the beer and the cocktails had something to do with that, but the elaborate and innovative backdrops certainly made even losing fun. In addition to the cool surroundings, the whimsical holes allow for any number of strategies for getting your ball through the obstacles- attempt a delicate maneuver to roll it right up the tongue of the Blue Toad, or try to knock it over the pond? Take the bridge or brave the tornado in the Natural Disaster? My favorite was trying not to get the ball lost under the couch in Gramma’s Living Room, packed full with kitschy bric a brac and vintage knick knacks. After all eighteen holes, I was pretty tired.

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Taking a rest on Gramma’s Couch at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Thankfully, we were responsible and came via Lyft, though on a less hot, muggy day, Can Can Wonderland is a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Fairview Avenue Station on the Greenline. I’m looking forward to making another expedition here.

Holiday Cheers

 

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Having a merry Christmas at Lawless Distilling

It’s back to work for many of us Americans on Boxing Day, MSP Adventure Time included, so hopefully everyone has had a warm and cozy holiday season so far. Now that the big ones are over and a subzero cold has settled over the metro, I’m going to reflect a little on some of the fun things we got up to this busy holiday season.

There’s always the crop of local craft fairs and markets, as I’ve written about every year, great for picking up a few last minute locally crafted gifts. A new one we checked out this year was the Hoppy Holidays Makers Market at Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, one of my favorite local breweries. Along with checking out some cool local craftspeople, we picked up a bottle of the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, one of Urban Growler’s limited releases. Not as much of a beer drinker, Lindsay has discovered a tolerable liking for the rich, sweet, heavy stouts and porters. That’ll be a great, heady libation for our New Years celebration.

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Urban Growler

Along with the craft fairs, we had another fun, energetic evening down at the Eagles Club in Seward, as I wrote about earlier this year. The 7th Annual Kinda Kinky Holiday food raiser was, again, a good time. The same Kinks hits performed with joy and energy by a roster of guests, it is always a cheery experience.

The highlight of the holidays was definitely the Miracle at Lawless, Lawless Distilling’s hosting of a holiday themed pop up cocktail bar idea originating in New York. Here, they’ve transformed their cosy and intimate but elegant space into a Christmas lighted extravaganza complete with themed drinks and the comforting, nostalgic scene of pine. It was packed when we arrived but we quickly got a couple of tasty drinks, a Gimlet Who Stole Christmas and a Sipping Hot Chocolate infused with fragrant Bittercube bitters. This has come to be one of our favorite spots in the cities for cocktails and it was a great way to get a break from the stressful holiday season. They’re continuing the miracle until New Years, so I’d really recommend stopping by for a festive and stimulating beverage.

 

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Miracle at Lawless

Hmm, I notice that a lot our holiday outings involve a drink or two…

In any case, for the new year, we will be writing a little about some of our favorite distillers here in the Twin Cities!  

 

 

 

Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul

Miracle at Lawless, 2619 S 28th Avenue, Minneapolis

 

2017 Highlights: Capitol Restoration

 

 

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June 2017

Last summer, to much fanfare, the Minnesota State Capitol building completed its long standing renovations and reopened in a cool celebration.

Lindsay and I had spent quite a bit of time gathering with large groups of people to voice our discontent with the way things were going in 2017, assembling before the impressive marble dome encased with scaffolding and trying to show that the people of Minnesota do not support the policies being enacted in our national capital or our state, from misogyny, to environmental destruction, to the white supremacy endemic in our state and nation. As “the people’s house” the Minnesota State Capitol is a natural location for protests, demonstrations, and other examples of the people making their voices known, even if those inside on occasion don’t see fit to listen.   

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So, after four years, when the $310 million restoration of the iconic Minnesota landmark was completed, the state invited the public to a weekend celebration with a lot of fun events scheduled. In spite of the busy summer, we made it down on the first evening as the sun set on the city of St. Paul, walking across the capitol grounds and checking out the festivities. There would be music performances celebrating Minnesota artists, local craft breweries sharing their products, and fireworks, but I just wanted to get inside.

20729439_10155590866479322_4458450447497533408_nAs I had not visited the interior of the dome for ages, the opportunity to explore the ornate interior of the capitol building excited us, and we took advantage of one of the free tours of the government edifice. The docents led us throughout the maze-like, expansive building and we enjoyed awesome behind the scenes views of the state senate, house, and supreme court (including the justices’ retiring room, rarely viewable by the public, which Lindsay was pleased to note had the exact same phone as the one in her state worker cubicle).   

 

IMG_3783Along the way, we learned many interesting facts of the 1905 Cass Gilbert designed building, including the fact that the Minnesota State Capitol’s unsupported marble dome is the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. Pretty impressive.

It was nice also to see the state responding to the concerns of people and relocating some artwork with stereotypical, historically inaccurate, and hurtful depictions of indigenous Americans  inside the capitol and, both the guide and the literature discussed the reasons for this change. In the end, we climbed up the innumerable stairs to stand on top of the capitol building, where we could observe the gold Quadriga sculpture up close as well as the skyline of both St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was a majestic end to a cool exploration.

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2017 Highlights: At Home With the Monsters and Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids

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The imposing doors leading to Guillermo del Toro’s traveling exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Last spring, for those interested in the weird, monstrous, and bizarre, two Twin Cities museums definitely had us covered, drawing in special exhibits from each coast. After the cold winter, it was fun to have such escapist fare to check out.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Art, an exhibition put together by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was featured, Guillermo del Toro: At Home With the Monsters. MIA was one of three lucky stops in North America for the fascinating, exhaustive exhibition of pieces collected by the idiosyncratic and innovative director, Guillermo del Toro. It was really kind of breathtaking.

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One morbid piece among many!

While I’m not a superfan, I have tended to be drawn into many of del Toro’s cinematic visions, working with horrific yet beautiful images, intricate and eerie, drawing deeply from mythology and literature. This is true especially of Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno). I was eager to check this exhibit out, and we were lucky enough to get in as part of one of MIA’s fun Third Thursday events, enjoying horror themed cocktails and the music of local band, Graveyard Club, before braving the ornate portals into the exhibition itself.

The collection was packed full of artifacts and works which both inspired Guillermo del Toro in his deep well of imagination, along with background information about the director, from his childhood in Guadalajara to the literary and artistic traditions he drew from. Divided into areas by theme, it seemed that at every turn, some new cool, disturbing, entrancing, or breathtaking discovery was to be found; eighteenth century models of diseased organs, vintage comics, props and full sized sculptures of some of del Toro’s more infamous creations.

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Encountering fandom’s racist uncle

A creepily life-like statue of H.P. Lovecraft, fittingly displayed among the monsters, startled many exhibit viewers with his intense gaze (if not his deeply disturbing personal views). Like del Toro, I too found myself drawn in by the author’s rich, eldritch writing but horrified by his philosophies, which I write about in more detail here. All in all, At Home with the Monsters was a richly rewarding and engaging exhibit, even for those new to the director (though those steeped in his creations were, of course, more engaged).

Across the river at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the special exhibit on Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids was also an interesting, informative exploration into the science behind the mythology of such legendary creatures. Put together by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, this one was a bit more geared for children but still had some interesting tidbits and bits of new information for adult fans of strange creatures, too. Organized around the creatures of the water, the air, and the land, coupled with huge, impressive statues, the exhibit detailed the biological, historical, and literary origins of such mythological beings, hoaxes and folklore, pop culture and high culture. All in all, it was a fun exhibit and a fun accompaniment to “At Home with the Monsters.”

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It’s a kraken! At the Science Museum of Minnesota

Now that the cold times have returned, staying at home and traveling through movies, books, and other things is definitely a smart way to survive a Minnesota winter.

Life Adventures: Highlights of a Busy Year

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Photo by Mauricio Ballestas

It has been some time since I shared anything here, which is, of course, not to say that nothing has been happening in terms of Minneapolis/St Paul times for adventure, but for the most part I’ve left my blog for dead.

Far from being dead, though, perhaps there has been too many adventures to do justice to in recent months, and instead of typing up lackluster accounts I focused on the actual experiences themselves. Well, that and the continual parade of horrifying news rendering even the most fun events rather hollow. Not to mention a healthy dose of procrastination. As the months have gone on, from my last entry back in bleak muddy March, my mind has often drifted back to what I could say on MSP Adventure Time once I could spare the time to put something together.

So, now it comes to my attention that it is the last month of the stressful, amazing year of 2017; to use that Dickensian cliche, it really has been the “best of times and the worst of times” for me. I’m not one to shy away from a cliche now and then. As the world seems to fall apart around us, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been. I wanted to get back into it as the snows begin to fall and buries our fair cities for another five months of cozy, frozen winter, sharing some of the highlights of the year and getting geared up for another one.  

In any case, as I reported last summer, during an expedition into the wilds of Wisconsin, my beloved and I announced our engagement. Last May, our painstaking, all consuming planning came to its amazing conclusion with our wedding thing at the Hennepin History Museum, surrounded by friends and family. A bit of a distraction!

Back in my entry on the HHM’s cute collections and casual events, this was the place I called “perfect for a first date,” and I had no idea of knowing how right I was. It feels so great to think back on this, our biggest adventure so far.

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Photo by Mauricio Ballestas

One early winter Minneapolis night in 2015, two people’s lives changed, suddenly and forever. Armed with a bike and a bag of cookies, I walked into the Hennepin History Museum and found my heart. Lindsay, a vision of loveliness from California entered my life, and I hers. As the city spun into the hectic holiday season, we spun into each other’s orbits.  It was a perfect evening.   

After history, cookies, and delicious cheese, our conversation flowed like Ice Houses’ cocktails. We entered enchanted with each other and left to a landscape being made new with a fresh layer of Minnesota snow. Since then, we’ve adventured, explored, and tackled life in each other’s arms, a full year of love and happiness through the winter cold and the summer heat. Whether cuddling with a book on a lazy morning, dancing wildly in the basement of a German cultural institution, battling mosquitoes deep in the woods, or jogging on a foggy evening along the Pacific, every day is something new. Every day, we fall deeper into each other’s rhythms.    

Some might call it a “whirlwind” romance, but to me, it feels more like a romance that had lain dormant, waiting for a meeting to fertilize the seeds that bloom into a garden of wonders. Officially joining our lives together is be a dream come true.  

Returning to the place that we met to get married was wonderful, and the Hennepin History Museum was a lovely venue for such a ceremony, totally secular and low key, just how we like it. It was fun to draw in visitors from across the country to explore the Twin Cities themselves. It was quite a good showing for the Minnesota experience, with snow earlier in the week quickly transforming to a balmy 70 degrees by our wedding day.

Over the past months, we’ve continued to spend our time trying out new things, keeping busy. After a honeymoon to Alaska and a jaunt out to California as well, along with job changes and just life, there hasn’t been much energy left over to post.

During the last few weeks of 2017, I’d like to post a few highlights of a busy year, which was packed with more than I could ever record. Along with new things never before experienced, and the perennial favorites, a few stood out that I’d like to share in the coming weeks to prepare for a new, and productive, 2018. First, I will return to a perennial favorite- the Minneapolis Institute of Art!