This entry is for Friday! To view the previous five days, see May 13th, May 14th, May 15th, May 16th, and May 17th.
I warn you...this was a long and busy day!
My big fear about this trip was that I'd get so intimidated by the environment that I'd huddle away in my hotel room, reading books and watching TV, fearful of going outside and actually EXPERIENCING things. Fortunately that wasn't happening, and Friday especially was scheduled as a "do stuff day."
Breakfast at Hell's Kitchen again, but this time I tagged along with Joshua and Cindi. It turns out that Cindi actually has a well-worn list of funny things about Canadians, one of which was simply the word "hoser." I'd like to point out that the legacy of Bob and Doug MacKenzie got more mileage in the USA than it ever did in Canada, as evidenced by this band poster that I snapped later on in the day.
Other than the "pop vs. soda" and "pencil crayon vs. coloured pencils" thing, we also went over the well-travelled "about / ahbaht / awboot" territory. During this trip I finally got REAL opinions about what my "about" SOUNDS like: "sort of British," apparently, which is good because I'd thought I sounded either silly or like a bumpkin.
Joshua and Cindi had a playful debate about the role of St. Paul in all this. Cindi described Minneapolis as the good-time girl that never sleeps and St. Paul as the stoic career woman you end up marrying. Joshua didn't object to this but he stuck up for poor St. Paul, partly because he lived there.
South, south, south I travelled. I wanted to find the "cool shopping street" that Jamie and "Cleo" had pointed out to me the day before. Determined to explore, I took a new route to Uptown and got gradually more lost. I couldn't find the street they'd recommended, and I REALLY couldn't find Vera's Cafe again. I had broken all the rules and done what I'd been told NOT to do: I'd gone past K-Mart. Twice.
Walking along, looking in shop windows, I grew more and more aware of the "gun ban" signs. Tim had first pointed them out to me in downtown Minneapolis, but none of us had gotten around to actually asking anybody about them. You shouldn't trust anything a native says anyway, because they sometimes make sport of tourists by telling them -- for instance -- that all the stores are legally required to close when the temperature hits 20 degrees. The Lone Writer from Salt Lake City believed this story and told us all about it on Tuesday night. He'll never be allowed to forget it.
Anyway, The Mind Wobbles DID ask a concierge about those signs, and he said that such businesses were opting out of Minneapolis' concealed weapons laws. Did he offer any insight into the famous "20 degree" prohibition? We'll never know.
A schoolteacher carrying a potted plant finally directed me to Vera's Cafe, where I realized that I was sweaty and sunburned. Minneapolis had been sunny and hot almost the entire week, and even though I'd been changing my socks regularly...well, I only had one pair of shoes, and let's just say I didn't want anybody to get too close to my feet. I could feel a puffy burning in my face and that strange lethargy that comes from too much sun.
So I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where I'd still need to walk (a lot) but at least I'd get out of the sun...and it was free! Their statue of A Lady Who Stands on Wolves Before Slaying Them seemed a bit barbaric, though.
I'm not much of a museum-goer, I guess because I'm not a very visual person. I am awed by the STORIES behind artifacts but I'm rarely impressed simply by LOOKING at them.
But maybe I just hadn't spent enough time trying? I tested this hypothesis by walking -- gently, deliberately, slowly -- through random exhibits on the first floor. I enjoyed their collection of 19th century pencil crayon sketches by Native Americans, depicting historical battles in a traditional style. The fabrics left me flat. I was impressed by the breasts and hips of the Hindu goddess. I saw no mummified cats.
Their exhibition of Minnesota artists was interesting and I wish I'd taken a program...one room was devoted to selections by a "painting-a-day" artist who had a scrambled-eggs sort of style and a good sense of humour.
I was also able to get some context out of the pop artists. The psychedelic posters made me a little bit queasy, but for whatever reason the name "Country Joe and the Fish" has always annoyed me on a basic, primal level.
I was most impressed with Ruth Orkin's "American Girl in Italy." I find out now that it was part of a series called "Don't Be Afraid to Travel Alone." Significant indeed.
With swollen feet I returned to the hotel to prepare for another complicated night out!
10:30 pm - "Ground Zero." I deliberately extended my stay until Friday so I'd have a chance to see Ground Zero, which seemed to be right up my alley. I crossed the Mississippi for the first time and entered the bar, looking forward to dancing to SOME kind of music that I liked.
The bartender wasn't friendly. The small groups of people weren't friendly either, gathered in little pockets and looking furtively around. The music was dull and repetative...not even Fellini's "Satyricon" showing on the big screen could save the atmosphere. I decided to make a request, so I walked over to the stairway that lead to the DJ booth...only to see that the stairway was ROPED OFF. A little pad of paper was there for writing down requests. Well, screw that...if the DJ can't even be SPOKEN to, I'm gone.
Fortunately I'd run into Paul, who also wasn't having any fun. He assured me that "The Saloon" was the place to go. As anxious as I was to avoid ANY place called "The Saloon" I agreed that Paul knew more about it than I did, and I made him the designated leader of our little expedition.
But there was a problem: Paul had a bicycle with him. After wandering away from Ground Zero and waiting for a bus that never came, Paul pointed me to a cab and rode away, promising to meet me at The Saloon. When the cab drove right past me and left me on a deserted street all by myself, I got a little nervous.
Along came "Zippy" (for lack of a better name). He also had a bicycle, and looked exactly like Paul Bartel, except for the tiny shirt that couldn't stretch over his hairy belly. He wasn't wearing shoes. "A boy's just been raped and I think we should help him," he said. He couldn't pinpoint exactly HOW he knew the boy had been raped, except that he saw a kind of "look" on the boy's face.
I explained to Zippy that I'd be happy to help out if something definite was going on, but after the craziness of Wednesday night I was a bit wary about going on a wild goose chase based solely on somebody's unqualified hunch. I said I wanted to go to The Saloon, and Zippy said he'd show me a good place to get a cab.
So we started walking. It became obvious that Zippy was a little slow in the head. We passed the suspected rape victim on our way -- just a teenager sitting on a bench and waiting for a bus, as far as I could tell -- and before long we were crossing the Mississippi on a long, terrifying bridge with a tremendous wind blowing us around.
I was getting a little fed up with Zippy but I DID want a picture of myself on the bridge, so I asked him to immortalize the moment for me. I had that look on my face because Zippy had trouble figuring out my camera, and the wind was getting awfully scary, and my sunburn was starting to hurt.
"I hate this bridge," said Zippy as we continued walking. "I saw a guy fall off it, and another guy in the river who tried to get down the falls and fell out of his boat..."
Back on dry land we finally spotted a cab...a VAN, in fact! The driver was sure that we could fit the bike inside, but he hadn't figured on Zippy's limited spatial abilities. I had a terrible feeling of deja vu: I was frustrating a cab driver by trying to accomodate a difficult person. I pictured myself paying for torn upholstery. I convinced Zippy to drive his bike to The Saloon and meet me there. Sound familiar?
12:30 - The Saloon. Finally at the rendezvous and Paul was nowhere to be seen. The bar was certainly NOT a place where you expect to see a drag queen...it was very much a boy pickup bar. Twisty corridors with multiple smoking areas. Another guy wearing a diaper* in a cage. Boys on the make, everywhere, everywhere. And then me.
So I found myself a quiet corner and moped a bit. I practiced my "happy face." The Amazing Dancing Bartender cheered me up, and then two sweet guys (whose names I tragically forget!) hung out with me and made fun of my accent. The Amazing Dancing Bartender took this picture, and I look deshevelled because I had just walked across the Mississippi River in a gale-force wind. And I felt an enormous heat in my face.
After some much-needed down-time -- and a tearful reunion with Paul -- I decided to end the night at:
1:30 am - The Brass Rail, which was once again the PERFECT place to be. A fabulous DJ (who you could TALK to, by the way!) and bar-bouncer "Cleo" (that's us on the right), a bunch of people from Copenhagen (one of whom was named Helga), a request for Parliament fulfilled, and a big "Price Is Right" wheel that you could spin if you wanted to but you probably shouldn't.
A sweet, up-and-coming bar dancer offered to walk me home after the bar closed. We walked down Hennepin arm-in-arm, the night beautiful and warm, the people staring at us. My trip was wonderful. It was ALL WORTH IT.
* I'm just kidding about the diapers. These go-go dancers wore white underwear but were so endowed that they LOOKED like they were wearing diapers.