Do you know why the City of St. Paul choose Charlie Brown as it’s patron saint?
Yeah, me either.
Do you know why the City of St. Paul choose Charlie Brown as it’s patron saint?
Yeah, me either.
Not being all that big on nostalgia, I’m conflicted about the closing of Nye’s Polonaise. Like pretty much everyone who ever walked in, I love the place. If it was in New Jersey you could easily imagine a couple Joe Pesci-wannabes and their gumars hunkered in one of the banquettes. Slickly pompadoured dudes casually discussing whose skull was going next into the vise, while tapping their ring fingers to the polka music.
The vibe at Nye’s was/is “real”, as in earned, acquired and self-created. It exudes an emphatically male persona, which in itself is pretty nostalgic concept. There is no taint of being manicured, color and aroma-coordinated by some chirpy fashionista. What’s there, the red leather, the paneling, the carpeting and the bar was there before there “themes” were a prerequisite for opening for business. Nye’s pre-dates Irish-Asian fusion.
You walk in and the overwhelming impression is “authentic”. A sense that applies to the staff as well. Guys like bartender Dan (never learned his last name, nor he mine) make it feel like you were the guy he’s been looking forward to seeing for weeks, which worked well when you dragged in friends from out of town, or even a complete stranger, like the businessman from Phoenix we hauled over after a couple hours at Brit’s one deep January night.
I can’t make it sound like I live there. But the mere mention sparks a flood of memories. Christmas parties, mid-winter happy hours, going away cocktails, “business lunches”, (love the steak salad). The pleasantly boozed up sing-a-longs with Nordeast geezers and delighted U of M under-grads, half with fake IDs I’m convinced.
I actually believe the “authentic” vibe led to a better quality of conservation. Bullshit befits a bullshit theme watering hole. And it jars in a place that feels so genuine. But that’s just a theory. I’m still work-shopping that one.
It so happens Nye’s is currently owned by a shirtsleeve relative of mine, Rob Jacobs. He’s married to my cousin’s daughter. Nice guy. Only met him a few times, but I get his dilemma. The supper club era is over. The physical structure is kind of a mess and … there’s a fortune to be made in leveling it for a 30-story condo complex.
Apparently thought is being given to holding on to some aspect of Nye’s as the gilded tower rises on the site and fills with the sort of people who, well, advise developers and restaurateurs on what cultural imitation to ape next, what colors to paint it, what “active” music to pie in, how to dress the staff and where to stash cash flow to avoid taxes. But I doubt much will come of whatever they’re thinking other than a plaque in the lobby next to the condo concierge.
For a moment I thought it’d be worth trying the Manhattan trick of building over the joint. They pulled it off with a similar old bar, Reidy’s on 54th St in New York. And you figure it wouldn’t be so tough to yank out the banquettes and bar(s) and all the old photos and slap ’em back into a new space, that wasn’t a firetrap. But really, that’s nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. It wouldn’t be Nye’s. It’d be a calculated impression of Nye’s with as much visceral linkage to the Nye’s I love as a Six Flags arcade has to Dodge City of the Old West.
Not that nostalgia doesn’t sell. What is modern country music but a calculated nostalgia act? Simple guys. Simple gals. Simple truths. Ditto “classic rock”: Music to remind us of when we were young and on the prowl.
Likewise, what is the ceaseless stream of inane sit-coms on network TV but an appeal to nostalgia for an era (what era?) of uncomplicated, easily-sustained relationships? Or the dramas? Impossibly good-looking guys and gals solving twisty Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries in 42 minutes or less. And let’s not get too deep into politics, where every viable candidate is required to play a variation on June or Ward Cleaver. Or, God help us, organized religion, where nostalgia is cultivated and monetized by way of tribal fables two and three millennia old.
Point being, we’re practically drowning in nostalgia for things that either never were or were only briefly, and even then with little or no reality attached.
Still, a great bar is a kind of environmental device for pushing away the most intractable realities, if only for as long as it takes to knock back two or three drinks. And in that way I’ll celebrate Nye’s over the next few months, and then remember it with great fondness.
So Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is directing Minneapolitan social media mavens to tweet on over to #bragmpls to brag about Minneapolis, and run down other cities.
“When you go to their cities,” she joked, “talk about how disappointing they are compared to Minneapolis.”
I can hear it now.
“Yeah, New York City is nice and all, but frankly Central Park is a little disappointing compared to The Yard.”
“Chicago? I hate to be mean, but I was a little disappointed that the architecture was all so old, kind of like Minneapolis had before we had the good sense to demolish it, and replace with a fresh 1970s look.”
“San Francisco, meh. I looked everywhere to find a Culver’s, but was sooooo disappointed to learn that they haven’t arrived there yet. I couldn’t wait to get home.”
Okay, I acknowledge Mayor Hodges was making a joke when she talked about expressing disappointment in other cities. Still, the hashtag cheerleading campaign is no joke to Mayor Hodges and her public relations team. And to me, her public begging for hashtags is a wee bit #pathetic.
Of all of the contrived things about contemporary professional sports stage management, nothing is more inauthentic than the Jumbotron exhortations for fans to “Make Some Noise!” The piped-in artificial rhythmic clapping and the mind-numbingly chirpy D.J. Casper song “Everybody Clap Your Hands” fall into the same category. Inevitably these perky little pick-me-ups come when the bats are silent, the defense is porous, and the hometown ownership is starting to worry about meeting its beer sales targets.
But here’s the thing: Minneapolis’s bats are not silent.
In fact, Minneapolis is kicking some serious ass right now. Two new mega-expensive LRT lines are flowing through Minneapolis, and a third appears to be on the way. An iconic billion dollar football palace is rising out of the ground to replace the embarrassing Metrodome. The metro area has the lowest unemployment of any metro area in the nation. Minnesota has the second lowest uninsured rate in the nation. The city’s population is growing, driven by a remarkable residential housing boom in the downtown area. The Super Bowl, the most visible sporting event in America, is coming. And baseball fans from around the world are watching professional baseball’s All Star Game in one of the best ballparks in the world, with a rainbow framing it, right here in our Minnie Apple.
The applause is happening organically. So turning on the flashing “Applause!” sign and publicly waving the mayoral pom poms in the midst of genuine, unprompted applause constitutes stepping on your own applause line. Methinks we’re trying just a little too hard.
Note: This post was also featured on MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.
You may have seen the artist renderings. The drawings lay out a vision for The Yard, the planned four-acre urban park adjacent to the mammoth new Vikings Stadium. In the winter versions, the park is shown populated by happy, hearty Minnesota families skating, admiring ice sculptures, making snow angels and generally laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.
“When it snows,
ain’t it thrilling?
Though your nose
gets a chilling.
We’ll frolic and play
the Eskimo way.
Walking in a winter wonderland.”
That, my friends, is us. Minneapolis has the best park system in the nation, because Minneapolitans loves them some outdoor activities in all seasons. That’s why this little outdoor space has emerged as one of the more intriguing, unifying and endearing elements of the Minneapolis stadium area vision. It is a quintessential Minnesota kind of space being built on Minnesota’s most visible stage.
But the corporate types dreaming up the Super Bowl bid don’t see it that way. They promised the NFL muckety-mucks that they would replace The Yard with, well, The Pole Barn.
Well, technically, I guess it’s going to be a tent, but in the artist’s renderings, the ginormous grad party tent looks more like a poultry pole barn to me. To be fair, it does have a very snazzy Super Bowl LII logo on the roof, making it one of the more swank pole barns I’ve ever seen.
I understand what the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his merry band of corporate boosters are shooting for with this idea. They wanted to reassure delicate NFL billionaire owners who have heard nasty rumors about Minnesota weather that we are in possession of heat, and are prepared to pipe it in wherever the partying swells desire it.
But making The Yard into the The Pole Building is going too far. We don’t want the Goodyear blimp’s panoramic shots of Super Bowl LII to portray a generic Super Bowl scene. We want those shots to portray a uniquely Minnesota Super Bowl scene. We want to show the world happy, hearty Minnesotans laughing in the face of Old Man Winter.
After all, we are who we are, and we should be proud of who we are. We want to show the world that Minnesotans don’t just survive winter weather; we find ways to have fun in winter weather. Showing everyone skulking into an ugly heated tent paints quite the opposite picture.
To be clear, I’m strongly in favor of heat in February. By all means, heat the airport, taxis, buses, trains, transit stations, skyways, hotels, convention center, shopping centers, restaurants, bars, strip joints, water parks, indoor skating rinks, theaters, museum and, of course, stadium. Heck, I’d even be okay cranking it up a few extra degrees for those couple of weeks.
But don’t, repeat don’t heat, sterilize and corporatize the outdoor space that we are building to frolick and play the Eskimo way on the national stage. Super Bowl week or not, let’s let Minneapolis be Minneapolis.
Note: This post also appeared on streets.mn.
News flash: Minneapolis is a snobby city. This from Travel and Leisure:
To determine which city has the biggest nose in the air, we factored in some traditional staples of snobbery: a reputation for aloof and smarty-pants residents, along with high-end shopping and highbrow cultural offerings like classical music and theater.
But we also considered 21st-century definitions of elitism: tech-savviness, artisanal coffeehouses, and a conspicuous eco-consciousness (say, the kind of city where you get a dirty look for throwing your coffee cup in the wrong bin).
Minneapolis ranked 4th, trailing San Francisco, New York City and Boston, but edging out Seattle, Santa Fe and Chicago. The Travelers’ and Leisurers’ take on us:
Perhaps readers felt intimidated by these bookish, indie-music-loving, craft-beer-drinking hipsters, who also ranked highly for being exceptionally tidy. If these Minnesotans feel self-satisfied, is it any wonder? They also scored well for being fit and outdoorsy; you can join them at the Chain of Lakes, where, depending on the season, folks are hiking, paddling, or even ice-surfing.
Snobby? Really? Isn’t having interesting stuff in your community a desirable thing?
Of course it is. Having the option of experiencing something new and different that isn’t available just anywhere is a huge advantage of living in a great city like Minneapolis.
But T and L got it right. Minneapolis is a snobby city, because having new and different things is not enough for many Minneapolitans. They feel obliged to look down from their lofts and rooftop cafes judging people who don’t worship at the altar of all that is new and different.
For instance, God help you if you express dislike for Surly Furious beer inside the Minneapolis city limits. It’s perfectly reasonable that some people would enjoy the bitter taste of the hop-heavy local brew, and some would not. Preferences are preferences. But to hipster Minneapolitans, a distaste for the hops in IPAs is a clear sign that one is not sufficiently evolved.
The same thing applies to food and wine. If my God-given tastebuds just can’t distinguish between a ten buck meal and a fifty buck meal, does that really mean that I’m a closed-minded rube? Maybe it just means that I’d rather hold onto the extra forty bucks to buy four extra ten buck meals. Saffron and truffle oil? Can’t taste it dude. Hints of oak barrel? Even if I could taste it, why would I necessarily desire it?
I also plead guilty to wearing khakis and not possessing a single pair of skinny jeans. Why? One, BECAUSE I’M NOT SKINNY. (Neither, by the way, are many of you.) Two, because I still have khakis in my closet from the 90s that have more miles on them.
And then there are bicyclists. Minneapolis is thick with them these days, and I’m all for them. I support more bike lanes, bike racks, and people out of cars, if that’s what works well for them. But just because I prefer not to arrive at meetings drenched in sweat and expect bicyclists to obey traffic laws doesn’t make me a Neanderthal bike hater who doesn’t understand the profound awesomeness of Amsterdam.
The fact that many Minneapolitan hipsters equate rejection of a trend with inferiority is what makes them snobby. Trends are fine. Enforcement of trends is snobby.
It’s difficult for me to understand when snobbery happens in a city populated with folks who are largely transplants from small towns, suburbs and rural areas. Even most of the free spirits in Uptown and downtown lofts did not grow up in Soho or Greenwich Village. They are only a few short years removed from enjoying Folgers, Mogen David, Buckhorn and IHOP.
If those folks find that Peets, Pétrus, Surly, and Café Lurcat brings them more joy, enjoy already. But really, there is no need to evangelize and snigger. We hayseeds are perfectly comfortable, in all our glorious frumpyness.
Note: This post also appeared in The Same Rowdy Crowd blog.
There is something about Minneapolis that disproportionately irks Minnesota Republicans. A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that a strong majority of Minnesota Republicans loves them some Duluth, and are fine with St. Paul and Rochester.
But a majority of them just don’t approve of Minneapolis.
At first, I thought the obvious explanation is that Minneapolis is a DFL stronghold. After all, Hennepin County gave Barack Obama 65% of the vote in 2008, and I could see how that wouldn’t go over well at the country club or Tea Party rally.
But that explanation doesn’t really hold up especially well, because Duluth’s St. Louis County and St. Paul’s Ramsey County are as about blue as Minneapolis’s Hennepin. In fact, St. Louis and Ramsey gave Obama 67% in 2008, slightly more than Hennepin’s 65%. Moreover, Republicans didn’t express strong preference for GOP-friendly Rochester (Olmstead: 52% for Obama in 2008) over the DFL strongholds of Duluth or St. Paul.
So I don’t get it. Maybe it’s all of those descendants of Sweden, what with that nation’s despicable insistence on providing comprehensive access to education and health care to all its citizens. What a cancer that would be if it spread across the Minnesota motherland.
I’d sure like to think that it’s not because Minneapolis was named the Gayest City in America by The Advocate, or that it has the largest Somali and Hmong population in the nation, and the second largest Vietnamese and Ethiopian populations in America.
On paper, it would seem like there might be a lot Republicans would love about the City of Lakes. CNBC named Minneapolis one of its “Top Places for Business.” Forbes calls it one of the most innovative cities in America. Many rankers have listed Minneapolis as one of the best places to find a job and make a living, or start a small business.
Holy free market felicity, Minneapolis sounds like a Republican nirvana. What’s not to love?
I honestly don’t know what it is. But if you’re new to Minnesota and are planning a get together with a Republican friend, here’s a little tip: DO NOT SUGGEST MINNEAPOLIS.
Note: This post also was featured as a “best of the best” on Minnpost’s Blog Cabin feature.