Monday, June 3, 2013

Minneapolis Walkabout

What a day!

Cool and clear, after the thunderstorm in the night that got me up to unplug the computer.

Household projects ditched, we oil our chains, inflate our tires, and are off around the lakes. Orioles chirp from the cottonwoods, with vireos warbling from the lower story. Cool wind off the lakes, I veer left toward the muddy paths along Dean Parkway, forgetting the normal route along the Greenway. It’s been a long winter.

At Harriet we wander the rock garden, admiring the wildflowers. The blooms in the perennial garden across the road are more colorful and robust…but far less interesting. Swinging north past the band shell, we come upon a mass of school children surrounding the stage. (We’d seen them earlier in smaller groups, walking along the footpath with teachers and chaperones, happy to be out of the classroom.) It seems they’re handing out awards for Clara Barton School. One young man broke his own school record for pull-ups. Last year 21, this year 23. (I’d mention his name but I didn’t catch it.)

We cut across some parking lots at the north end of Lake Calhoun and find ourselves in front of Rustica Bakery. Naturally, we stop in for a baguette (and a couple of cookies). Riding back through the woods along the rail-lines to the car, I check my shadow from time to time to make sure the bread’s still back there. We're stopped by a train—it picks up steam as it heads into the city.

Lunch across town at Gandhi Mahal on Minnehaha and Lake. This is an interesting intersection, what with Mosaic (Great Bánh mì meatloaf sandwich), Midori’s Floating World (Japanese), Patrick’s Caberet, a flamenco workshop (or is that gone?), El Nuevo Rodeo, and the Harriet Brewery all in close proximity. I never met an Indian restaurant I didn’t like—Delights of India, Star of Indian, Taste of India, Dancing Ganesha--but maybe the buffet at Gandhi Mahal is a cut above. The mango lassi is also good. And a genuine atmosphere of “peace” prevails.

Overstuffed,  we head south along leafy Minnehaha Avenue in search of Moon Palace Books. There it is! Nestled behind Trylon Microtheater and Peace Coffee. A young man is sitting on the pavement outside the shop wrestling with an inky-looking bale of hay encased in an airy crate. He explains that they’ve been grooming the hay to support the flowers they’re going plant to brighten up the bouvelard.

Inside, we chat with the friendly, self-confident proprietress about Halldór Laxness and Edith Perlman as we peruse the shop’s small but well-culled selection. She looks vaguely familiar; I don’t know why.

“Are you from the neighborhood?” she asks at one point.

“Pretty close…Golden Valley.”

Yes, a good selection of books. In the end, I actually buy one! Notes of the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: Selected Poems of Anselm Hollo.

I couldn’t resist telling Angela about another book I was excited about called By the Way. “Here it is,” she says, having looked it up. “Essays on books and life, music, birds, gardening, food, firewood, and the great outdoors.”

“That’s the one.”

Back in the car with Hilary and Hollo, puttering across South Minneapolis, I say, “Read one. Just read a short one."
The one 
long hair in my beard
 makes me smile: 
 It's yours.
 "How about one more?" I plead.
The laundary basket lid is still there though badly chewed up by the cat but time has devoured the cat entirely.
On our way to the Institute of Arts we stop at ‘Lectric Fetus. Not only a record store but a beautiful institution. No, I’m not going to buy a poster or some incense or a hipster cap any time soon. But the Fetus is still the head shop and music mecca par excellence that it was back in the 1970s, when we biked over from the University, asking ourselves, “Why did they put it here?”

Nor has the neighborhood been gentrified much in the course of the decades. Franklin Avenue has a few more bakeries and galleries and clinics than it used to, but it’s as gritty as ever.

Of course, music downloading has taken its toll on the Fetus. I had heard that the jazz section was sorely depleted but find that it isn’t as bad as I’d feared. There are many more anthology CDs at very low prices of things I purchased on vinyl as a kid. I clutch a compilation of three early Ornette Coleman LPs ($11.99) for quite a while as I wander the aisles, but in the end decide to take the plunge on new and local material: Excelsior, Bill Caruthers, solo piano (recorded in Paris).

Our visit to the Art Institute, which is just around the corner from the Fetus, is further delayed by a detour up to 27th Street to see if our friends Dana and Mary are home. As we drive by I honk at a woman with hair blowing wild in the wind. She's wandering down the sidewalk. It’s Mary!

“Hi!” she says. “I was just going next door to see when the new clinic is going to open. This used to be an Ethiopian coffee shop. The sign on the door says it will open tomorrow. Huh? Written with a ball-point pen. Not very professional, do you think?”

Mary gives us a tour of their gardens—they hacked down the clematis this spring. Dana emerges from the “office” upstairs and we sit on the porch watching the world go by.

The show at the Institute, Art in an Age of Truthiness, sounded a little odd, but it proved to be well worth a visit. We entered via the “old” doorway, up the long flight of steps facing the park. I love going in that way. You're already on the second floor, only a few steps from the exhibit. Lots to think about inside. They were getting ready for a gala dinner, setting places and taping heavy wires to the floor between the tables.

The show itself? It was cool, diverse, trivial, mesmerizing. The premise itself is flawed, in so far as art is never “true,” strictly speaking, but quite a few of the installations were fascinating. I liked the Freudian Coney Island artifacts, whether real or fake; the photos of passing outer-space objects; the digital collage nature canvases of Joel Lederer, which are no different from any other landscape in conception; and the branding doll anime avatar (I don’t remember her name) who was given her freedom and vanished, leaving behind a three-minute farewell note. The best, however, was a luscious big-screen reenactment of what the characters who appear in Velázquez's “Las Meninas” were doing immediately before and after the scene we see on the canvas.




Dana McDill said...

Hey, Cool! That was a great day in town, one of 3 so far this year. I have a story about the naming of Electric Fetus, tell you later.

Anonymous said...

So what am I, not good enough for a visit when at Lake Harriet? Bummer, sounds like it would have been a fun conversation... Like your tour!!!