MPLS

I have a few hours to kill before my flight brings me back to Tejas, so I’m sitting in Caribou Coffee enjoying a delicious Americano (my dad turned me on to this drink and it’s MUCH better than coffee). I hope this chain makes it to Houston. Seems like it has more soul than the typical Starbucks. I’m sure it’s just as corporate as the next guy, but it’s a little less obvious. Reminds me of Diedrich’s, RIP. That’s probably why I’m having such a favorable reaction.

In my six days in MPLS (yes, that’s how they abbreviate it), I’ve been struck over and over by the friendliness of the people who live here. Bus drivers tell you good bye when you get off at your stop. People who work in restaurants and coffee shops are patient and kind. Random people on the street are happy to give directions. I got some Mediterranean food to go, and the guy gave me a dessert for free because I’d been quizzing him about all the different treats in the glass case that were not familiar to me. What is the deal with these people? Does living in a place where you’re snowed in half the time affect your personality? Is it the large student population? The ridiculously great theatre scene? Does Target Corp, which is based here, pump Xanax into the water? No, that can’t be it because I’ve been drinking the water and am just as bitchy and short-tempered as always. It isn’t the good food. I’ve only eaten two decent meals here. One was a tuna melt at an organic coffee shop. The other was last night, and it was a super expensive restaurant (I wasn’t paying) involving lots of wine.

Having gone out many of the nights I was here, I will say there seems to be a lack of self-consciousness among the “younger” people. They hang out in old school, Fargo-esque bars and restaurants with no sense of irony or kitsch. And they like to get their drink on. Walking around the bar areas at night, even in the middle of the week, we saw lots and lots of drunk young ‘uns. Maybe that’s why everyone’s so friendly…it’s a town of drunks.

My favorite bar experience was Nye’s Polonaise. You enter to the sounds of old school karaoke. A guy at a piano surrounded by drunk people singing shitty songs. Or singing songs shitty. Or both. The piano player would occasionally sing back up, and that didn’t help matters any. The bartender and waitress were both in their 50s or so. The waitress had her hair piled on top of her head and was cracking on gum and saying “hon” a lot. As one of my companions said, it was like walking into a bar created by David Lynch. Terrific, in other words. I took a few clandestine pictures that I will upload when I get back home. Didn’t want to be too much of a tourist, so I put my camera in my lap and just shot a few frames.

When TCG announced that the annual theatre conference would be located here, I (and many others) wondered what the hell the deal was. I since have found out. Target is and has been for decades a huge supporter of the arts in this city, and other funders have followed suit. I can only attest to the theatre part of the arts. Wow. They have over SIXTY theatres here. Houston has, like, fifteen. Maybe twenty. I can only name about ten. I saw some really amazing productions while I was here, including Figaro at Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Jeune Lune did The Miser at the Alley last season, and I’ve been obsessed with seeing another one of their shows since then. And the “big” theatre here – the Guthrie – just got a new $125 million home. Such ostentation! I mean, it was really fun to wander around in, but seriously. It has this section called the Endless Bridge that is supposedly the longest cantilever of occupied space in the world. What does that have to do with theatre? Who the hell knows. It is cool, though.

I’m ready to get back home, though I’m not ready for the 95+ degree weather and humidity. It was great getting a break from the heat for a bit and even experiencing COLD. Today in MPLS is getting into the mid-80s, by far the hottest day of the past week. Maybe that will make it easier to come back to mosquito town.