Minnesota politics: Say no to negativity

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I had planned this post a few weeks ago when I started the Minnesota theme, but I must admit it was a bit of a gamble. I had no idea whether I would be proud of what Minnesotans would vote for on election day or not. And there was a lot at stake.

Now, you might be scratching your head a bit. Minnesota has been in recent political news primarily from Republican presidential candidates Michele “Queen of Rage” Bachmann and Tim “Blandington J. Vanillaman” Pawlenty (and while we’re speaking of nicknames, we also had Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Governor from 1999-2003…oops). But Minnesota also has had the longest blue streak voting for president, due to the distinction of being the only state to vote for homeboy Walter Mondale in 1984. Even though Minnesota was mentioned as a swing state in this election, it never really seemed possible that Romney would win here.

Because in my state, 10 years after the tragic death of our beloved progressive senator, neighbors still put out their green Wellstone signs year after year. Paul Wellstone was elected to the senate in 1990 after being outspent at a 7-1 margin by incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. I was 4 years old then; it was over my high school PA system that his death was announced just 11 days before he would have been reelected to his 3rd term in the senate. So, for most of my childhood, I thought that the job of a politician was to do what Wellstone did: work for peace, healthcare, and the environment. He was an activist for anyone not in a position to otherwise have their voice heard–immigrants, the poor, those with mental illnesses. In short, Wellstone made me naive about politicians.

However amazing Wellstone was, he did have his faults. For instance, by 2001, he admitted he’d made a mistake by voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. If Wellstone were alive today, I can only imagine he would have ultimately championed gay rights, recognizing that as the next important battle for equality.

Though Wellstone is gone, the ideals of equality and fairness are just as strong with the citizens of Minnesota. This past Tuesday we had two constitutional amendments on the ballot: one to limit marriage to man+woman and one to require ID to vote. That’s not Minnesota nice. So we voted no. Nothing makes me prouder of my state.


Unfortunately, Michele Bachmann was reelected by outspending opponent Jim Graves 20-1, but the race was much tighter than anyone would have predicted. The good news is that the Governor, state house of representatives, and state senate are all democratic, so it’s quite possible that gay marriage actually will pass in the next two years here. That would be even more exciting than just shooting down a bigoted amendment.

Yeah, I’m pretty proud of Minnesota–there’s a lot to love here. Even Slate says you should move to Minneapolis. Not convinced by my past few posts? Watch Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak and his mom crowd surfing upon the news that Obama was reelected: Checkmate.


Curator of the soul

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To curate:

1. Select, organize, and look after items in a collection or exhibition.

2. Select acts to perform at a music festival.

See, now, I didn’t know that second definition until last December when a local hip-hop group, Doomtree, had a seven-night “blow-out” at Minneapolis’s famed First Ave. The first five nights, Sunday to Thursday, were devoted to one specific member of the group and his or her guests; the final two nights displayed Doomtree all together. I’m a Facebook fan of Doomtree’s sole female, Dessa, and thus was especially excited to see her announcement of which guests she was bringing in on Tuesday, the night she would be curating. Since Dessa is an extremely intelligent woman with highly creative diction, I thought her usage of the world was wonderfully fitting and inventive. Fitting yes, inventive no.

The origin of the word curator comes from the Latin curare, which means “to care for,” especially in the spiritual sense. I love this etymological clue as to the job of the curator: ushering forth art and music which is both of the spirit and to care for the spirit. In this sense, what else could a curator do? Perhaps curate ingredients in an exquisite dish? (A curry, of course). Curate a highly engaging lecture?

I’ll give Dessa the last word on this one:

How to be a sailor

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What you’ll need: a boat, a bottle of rum

Songlist: Come Sail Away by Styx, Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse

Further reading: The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway

I spent much of the Fourth of July at Lake Harriet, a beautiful lake right in the heart of Minneapolis. We’d brought books and a frisbee, but spent all our time lying in the shade and watching either the dogs on the path behind us (an activity I call dogling) or the sailboats on the lake in front of us. I was particularly impressed by an elderly man who jumped into the lake near us, swam through the weeds to his boat, hauled himself on board and hoisted the sails all in about twenty minutes.

I always loved sailing as a kid, and even went to a sailing camp at Lake Harriet when I was about thirteen (unfortunately, the weather was all over the place that week, and we ended up spending more time on tying knots than on the water). Knowing of my boat-love, my grandmother set up a sailing lesson one summer when I visited her in the Caribbean.

The lesson was with my grandparents’ neighbor’s son, Tim, a boy of nineteen, who’d recently fallen madly in love with my cousin (she had spent the previous month visiting our grandparents). Tim was then in training for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, so he seemed uniquely qualified to teach a lesson. However, this Olympian status coupled with his love for my cousin made me, sixteen at the time, even shyer around him than I would have been otherwise.

Tim picked me up in a red jeep and brought me to the St. Croix Yacht Club, where we got his Laser sailboat, which he’d picked up from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He explained the basics of sailing physics and boat-parts in the beach sand, gave me a life jacket, and we were off.

Buck Island, off the coast of St. Croix, USVI

Once we were out on the water, I immediately felt at ease. Tim let me man the jib and he took the rudder. Usually, he explained, he would do both–the laser is a small enough boat that it’s really meant for just one person. In fact, Tim had never let anyone on this boat with him before, a fact of which I was quite proud.

The wind picked up when we got further out from mainland St. Croix toward the tiny Buck Island. For a while we were really flying, and I laid back out into the waves with my feet stuck under the hiking strap. Every once in a while, Tim would yell out a direction. Mostly we just enjoyed the beautiful day.

And then he forgot to yell out a direction. He had to come round quickly, which meant the boom shifted position. This type of change was second nature to him, but I of course was not expecting the boom to come directly at my face, which it did. It caught me right in the mouth and knocked me back. Since my feet were strapped in, I didn’t just fall in the water–I brought the whole boat down with me. All I remember is seeing spots of bright blood on the white hull, and feeling utterly confused as to how I’d ended up in the water.

Hiking out on a laser

Tim was horrified, and couldn’t stop apologizing. He got the boat back upright while I hazily watched a manta ray swim along the ocean floor. We weren’t too far from Buck Island at that point, and we sailed over to a boat where a bunch of people were having a party. The girls at the party took pity on me and got ice for my lip, and a mirror to see the damage. I’d cut my lip and chipped a front tooth, but nothing that would require special dental attention. As soon as the blood stopped and Tim stopped feeling guilty, we got in his boat again and sailed back to mainland St. Croix. He remembered to give me directions the entire way back, but I wasn’t overly worried about the trip–I was having too much fun.

The local music scene, Twin Cities edition

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Stars painted on First Ave's wall

Most non-Minnesotans are surprised to find out that St. Paul and Minneapolis have a top-notch arts scene. We’ve got the Walker, a great modern art museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where my New Yorker grandmother gushed, “You have a Monet? A Monet?” The literary scene is pretty hot, with three great independent publishing houses–Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, and Graywolf Press–a bunch of awesome bookstores, and The Loft Literary Center, which offers hundreds of creative writing classes throughout the year. Minneapolis is also sometimes shortened to the Mini-Apple, in reference to the fact that we’ve got more theater venues than any other American city besides New York.

Our music scene is just as incredible. Prince is liable to jump onstage and jam with whoever is playing at our famous music club, First Ave, on any given night. Bob Dylan grew up here, though he may be loathe to admit it (except for when he revisited Highway 61). And we’ve got a breadth of current talent, from hip-hop stars Atmosphere and Doomtree, to indie rockers Mason Jennings and Jeremy Messersmith. One perk of dating a music writer for a local newspaper is that we get to at least three or four shows a month (and sometimes more). Between reading his articles and listening to our fabulous public radio station, The Current, I feel like I’m really starting to recognize the movers and shakers on the scene.

Here are some of my favorite local songs: