Double Act

Alllrighty, this one is a bit overdue. Sorry about that. With now only two weeks left and sixty-six days gone by since my departure from foggy Gatwick, the fatigue of the journey has been starting to hit home a bit. Although that hasn’t stopped me from my usual misadventures, it meant that after yesterday I simply wasn’t up to typing anything at all.

So here we go.

Taking the bus from Sioux Falls to Minnesota, I fast approached the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, sat brooding at one another like feuding families across the virgin Mississippi, which starts not too far north of here. The countryside I passed was almost entirely comprised of cornfields, broken by picturesque small towns where bible verses are printed on trucks and American flags form the backdrop for anti-abortion billboards. Heavy farm industry straddles the road almost all the way, to greater and lesser degrees. Here there might be a knocked-in shed built decades ago, half-hidden in a copse of trees, and there might be a towering all-metal silo with a legion of lesser buildings buried in its shadow. Any way you look at it, this is a decidedly rural part of America.

And then the Twin Cities kind of pop up out of nowhere. A comparatively rich history is matched with an equally comprehensive rivalry. Whilst fairly amicable now, aided by state-oriented, as opposed to city-based sporting teams, it used to be a fair bit nastier. For instance, soon after their mutual and simultaneous foundings around the mid-nineteenth century (that’s old, kids!), they each kidnapped one another’s respective census-takers so as not to cede a population advantage to their rival. Two seperate baseball stadiums were built for two seperate teams, the University campus was carved in half, and famously, St. Paul’s Cathedral (1915, not in London) was hotly followed by Minneapolis’s equally grandiose Basilica (1926).

It’s all calmed down a bit now, and the mutual history shared seems a source of pride for both. For example, the St. Anthony Falls area with its crowded banks of old flour-mills, or the fact they someone from here invented Cheerios.

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The two towns have a pretty distinct character each. St. Paul is more architecturally conservative, playing host to many of the older buildings and, rather to my delight, stubbornly refusing to use a grid system. On this side of the river are many more of the museums and other such things. Minneapolis, on the other hand, is regimented in its streets and adventurous in its skies, with a considerable array of skyscrapers and, curiously, a skywalk system so comprehensive that it is entirely possible to move around the bulk of the city without ever going outside.

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Minneapolis is also where the nightlife is (apart from the separate phenomena that is the ludicrously-named ‘Dinkytown’, a student accommodation hotspot), and we headed there on the first night to a club called ACME to see an open-mic comedy night. It was really very very good – I was informed that we struck lucky as it’s often half and half – but there’s that old Twain quote about frogs and jokes and you’ll just have to trust me when I say that Newton’s third law has never been so hilarious.

I was accompanied by, and have been staying with, Snappy, and am currently sitting in the lounge of her shared apartment wondering exactly how I’m going to wake up in three and a half hours. I have packing to do yet. Oh dear.

Yesterday (that is, the night before was ACME) I was pretty beat and decided to take the morning off, which became half of the afternoon off as well. I am sloth. Devleric came over, however, and metaphorically kicked me into action because I think he would have been upset if he had driven all that way to find me not there. We drove around St. Paul a bit, seeing the famous spoon bridge at the Walker museum…

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… then got lunch at an Italian place that was excellent, then wandered around the riverfront for a while before catching drinks with one of his friends, who was something of a historian and relayed to me a degree of context for my surroundings. The St. Anthony Falls, which is where we were, was the Mississippi’s only natural waterfall. It was tamed and harnessed into powering those flour mills I talked about earlier. One of them exploded a long time ago, and has since been made into a museum. Today in my wanderings around, I chanced across its entrance. The interior is impressive.

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The rest of the day I spent meandering somewhat randomly through the streets, stopping in Macy’s to see what the fuss was about and somehow walking out with a new jacket-like thing. Still not sure how that happened. I then met up with Snappy and Eric again and we went to an impressive Cuban restaurant (which made me two for two on quality meals today, as I happened to find the very worthy SpoonRiver for lunch), where inside and out, enthusiastic customers have left their scribblings. It was pretty enjoyable just to wander through for half an hour and stare at the walls.

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Lastly, just hours ago, we drove to the Mall of America, which can be summed up in two words: Wow, and Eek.

And that is all.

Tomorro- no, wait, today, I head to Iowa… in Iowa.

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6 Responses to “Double Act”


  1. 1 Arminas 17/09/2009 at 6:51 am

    You got to see the GREAT MALL OF AMERI-KUHHHHH! They wouldn’t let me see it when I visited last time. 😦

  2. 2 eric 17/09/2009 at 7:19 am

    ps it’s dev|eric (using the pipe key above the enter key) 😉 or just deveric or dev or eric

    😉

  3. 3 Renee 17/09/2009 at 12:53 pm

    “curiously, a skywalk system so comprehensive that it is entirely possible to move around the bulk of the city without ever going outside.”
    If you’ve ever been there in the winter, it stops being quite so curious. haha

    “Still not sure how that happened.”
    Chalk it up to the awesome power of MACY’S.

  4. 4 Renée 17/09/2009 at 7:31 pm

    Also, you’ve been too involved with Pokémon. You need an intervention.

  5. 5 PMAvers 17/09/2009 at 8:02 pm

    Man, I havn’t been to Minnesota in ages.

    True story, I was on a trip with the family, and we were doing some driving around in the small towns around the Twin Cities area.

    We were in this one town, and I couldn’t remember why it sounded familiar. Turned onto a road that ALSO sounded familiar. Looked out the window at one point and realized we were driving past the Best Brains studio.

    Needless to say, that basically made my trip. 😀 Didn’t have time to stop for a tour, though.

  6. 6 rayofash 19/09/2009 at 9:51 am

    Spoon river, wider than a mile
    I’m crossing you in style


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