mardi, octobre 24, 2006

The Case for Minneapolis; or: The Case Against St. Paul

I live in Minnesota, and, within that, I live in St. Paul.

Some time ago I was standing in the Philly airport after a whirlwind 20-hour visit to the city of brotherly love*. I stopped to by a CD for my daughter. You know, one of those personalized jobbers that mentions her name in all the songs. Luckily, they had TinyE’s name on file. Behind me in line, was a man from Atlanta who was buying a CD for his daughter Emma. He asked me where I was from. I answered “St. Paul.” He returned a blank stare. Then I said “Minneapolis” – and he knew exactly what I was talking about.

Later that night, Mrs. Duf and I went to see “The Great Gatsby” at the new Guthrie Theater. The play was just okay, but it featured the same joke. Early on, whilst out in West Egg and East Egg, Nick Carraway says he’s from St. Paul. Blank stares. Later in the play, he says he’s from Minneapolis, and he’s greeted by smiles and knowing recognition. People think he’s cool and handsome and smart.

Around here, there are at least two jokes about the sister cities.

Joke of the first part:

Minneapolis wants to be Chicago; St. Paul knows its Des Moines.

Joke of the second part:

Minneapolis is the girl you date when you want to have fun. St. Paul is the girl you take home to your parents**.

When I first settled in the twin cities in 1990, I chose Minneapolis as my home. I was going to school at the time and lived in Dinkytown, and area near the campus of the University of Minnesota***. In short order I moved to the bustling and fashionable Uptown area. I lived in Minneapolis until 7 years ago when, during a personal crisis, I took leave of my senses and took temporary residence in St. Paul.

My wife (though at the time she was just a gal I was digging) lived in St. Paul. Her house was bigger and had more furniture it than mine did, so I moved in with her in St. Paul. I’ve regretted it ever since.

Every time I’m behind some yokel driving 30 in a 35 with their tires right on the dotted lines, I think I’m going to have a fit.

Whenever a car turns from the driving lane, blissfully ignoring the turning lane and slowing down scores of cars, I close my eyes and dream I’m in alert and speedy Minneapolis.

St. Paul and Minneapolis are almost the exact same size (in terms of population), but the comparisons stop there.

Almost everything worth doing is in Minneapolis. If you have a top ten list of the best restaurants, 8 of them will be in Minneapolis, and one of them will be in Stillwater.

The Twins, the Vikings, the Timberwolves and every team associated with the University of Minnesota has its games in Minneapolis.

The Guthrie, The Walker Arts Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts…they’re all in Minneapolis.

St. Paul has the State Fair, but Minneapolis has the Uptown Art Fair.

The two downtowns, when compared, tell the whole story. One is a cow town, desperately clinging to its glory days, and thanking God that the state capital (and capitol for that matter) is nearby. At 5:00 it’s a ghost town – unless the Wild have a hockey game. The other is a vibrant, architecturally significant place abundant with nightlife, condominiums, entertainments, eateries, vice and sport (though not necessarily in that order).

And I’ll say it. In the ice-cream wars Izzy’s and The Grand Ole Creamery are very nice, but Sebastian Joes and Crema are better. There. I said it.

Minneapolis has an amazing chain of lakes – Calhoun, Isles and Harriet, that extend by a canal to Cedar Lake. The have Lake Nokomis and the Minnehaha Creek with the Minnehaha Falls. They have an amazing bike trail that connects the city to its western suburbs. The have two Pizza Luce restaurants. They have Electric Fetus record store.

First Avenue, the famous nightclub (featured in the Prince film “Purple Rain”)…well, it ain’t on First Avenue in St. Paul, let me put it that way.

St. Paul had this really cool jazz club called the Dakota. It was very nice, and close to our house. Yep. It used to be located in Dakota Square on Energy Park drive in St. Paul. Now? Oh, now it’s on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

St. Paul has Como and Phalen, fine lakes, sure, but (trust me on this) they have no where near the charm of the Minneapolis group.

Our beautiful new light rail system, runs from the Mall of America, along Hiawatha Avenue to beautiful, glistening downtown…

I don’t even need to finish it, do I?

To top it all off, Minneapolis is a better run city. They plow their alleys; they pick up trash instead of having private companies do it; residents get two vouchers a year to dump trash items for free.

And the cherry on top? Yep…it’s on top of a spoon in Minneapolis.

*Home of Aerenchyma, SK and (at one time) The Keez

**Yes, it’s a bit unenlightened, isn’t it? But the implication is that Minneapolis is sexy and cool and might pull you out of your comfort zone. Minneapolis is racy and complex and kinda dangerous. St. Paul is conservative and says all the right things.

***Go Gophers!