Monthly Archives: August 2008

A perfect midwestern day

Today was my last full “day” home in Minneapolis, MN. Tomorrow I fly east for the second half of my ‘holiday’ from both work and UK life. So it had to be today, the perfect Midwestern afternoon, that would send me on my travels feeling good about the trip here (however difficult) and the time spent.

I met my sister for lunch, Korean food in a tiny deli of the sort that you need to be told to go to because otherwise you would never notice it, but when you get there it’s packed. We then headed to our beloved nonagenarian grandmother’s house, where we played two pretty serious games of Scrabble and then did some crafts. Yes, I’m serious. My Gran taught me to crochet when I was about 9, and lately I’ve discovered that you can crochet out of wire and add beads and it starts to resemble jewelry. So me, my sister, and my aunt spent part of our afternoon crocheting bracelets out of colored wire and interesting beads, while Grandma looked on and marveled at the things we were doing. After 5 or so hours hanging out with the family matriarch, I headed back to meet a good friend and her not-quite-3-year-old daughter. I had not seen them in a year (a crime!) we did the thing where you can order pizza over the internet and just hung out with the pizza and a bottle of inexpensive red.

It was nearly a perfect day. My only sad thoughts come with the fact that every time I’m in town I set aside what seems like lots of time to spend with my Grandmother, and every time I’m here I wish I had ten times as much time to just sit around and eat Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches with her. Nothing is either more midwestern nor more home than a cheese sandwich at the kitchen table with Grandma. And this is why I come “home”.

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The Walker, Puck and Target

Today was the day I got to go to the new Wolfgang Puck Restaurant in Minneapolis with my beautiful and talented sister. We arrived at the Walker Art Center slightly early for our reservation at 20*21 so had time to get our gallery tickets and wander a bit before lunch. Our lunch seats on the window overlooking the city were great, the food was amazing and the amusing East-meets-Midwest cocktails (Sake with Minnesota’s own Prairie Vodka served in a martini glass with cucumber shavings) added to the experience. We tried to get into the art, but I’d have to say after my awesome experience at Boston’s ICA a few weeks ago, I saw nothing in either the visiting or permanent collections that left me excited. The building itself was more interesting than the art contained within:

It is, however, slightly disconcerting to see that this parking garage:

is all that remains on the site of the former Guthrie Theater, site of many childhood field trips (as sis and I were discussing today):

Having dismissed the art INSIDE the Walker, we walked out into the Sculpture Gardens where there is plenty of dependable, high quality art of the sort I love the most:

not to mention the iconic symbol of Minneapolis:

Thus satisfied with art and food, we headed across the epic footbridge:

into Loring park, my old neighborhood from my first post-divorce apartment:

We decided it was such a nice day, we would keep walking into Downtown, and go in search of Target, water and coffee, not in that order. We found iced lattes at Caribou, bottled water and did indeed have a nice time at Target. I have to admit, though, I bought no Cheez-its since my dear friend with whom I have been staying had acquired some for me prior to my arrival!

The last amusing scene I wanted to share from Downtown Minneapolis is the pub I used to go to when I lived here, far before I had ever stepped foot on English soil. Seeing all the flags in the breeze today gave me a good chuckle and reminded me that although life can be tough, and sometimes can make you sad, enjoy the ride and have a good laugh at the expense of my own younger self, who had no idea what a real English pub was like until I moved to England.

This is home

(For the soundtrack to this post click here)

The song, Home from Sheryl Crow, was featured in one of my favorite movies, No Looking Back. The movie has several things going for it (not least the killer combination of Ed Burns and Jon Bon Jovi) but also touches me deeply in the storyline, which I feel has some level of analogy to my own life. And it’s one of the hardest things about being “Home” in Minnesota this week. Sure, there is the elation of the Fair and the fun of catching up with family and friends, but it’s not so simple as a happy joy-ride through a happy past. To me it is more of a re-visiting of the past, much of which is somewhat melancholy.

Home is where my marriage broke up, where my ex-husband still resides. Home is where I lived when my beloved grandparents died. Home is where I spent time when my career path was unclear and seemed to be going nowhere. Home is where I have struggled with the fact that my views about the world have changed, leaving me sometimes out of place in my own family. Home is where the broken heart is.

I get this feeling like people are not supposed to talk about these things. Like we are supposed to treat home as a sacred place where all happy memories and feelings lie. I find when I am home, I need to pull away from all of the memory lane activities, pull away from the fun and bustle and have some quiet time and space to nurse my wounds. I suspect this is a good thing but it’s also a hard thing. It’s for this reason that I am taking a separate week off next week to recover from “Home” over at the oceanside where I can walk quietly on the beach and think about life and the way it develops.

I’m sorry to be a bit melancholy today. Having travelled a long distance at a significant expense, it’s hard to find that the “rewards” of the trip are not exactly as expected. As much fun as home can be, I think I know why sometimes people leave their home town and don’t come back. I don’t live here any more, and sometimes I get this hint that I don’t belong here any more either. Who says you can’t go home? Maybe they were right. Or maybe it’s just not home anymore.

Our state fair is a great state fair

I’m here in Minnesota, where the weather is spectacular and home is where the heart is. I got in Saturday night after a long two-stage voyage, London to the east coast and then on to Minnesota. Yesterday was, of course, the reason (excuse) for coming, the Minnesota state fair with my family. It was such a nice day, a few other people decided to go to the fair as well:

We enjoyed the local culture:

Ate lots of healthy food:

We saw some really high-brow “only in the midwest” art:

As a good reminder of my plans to not have children, we saw a 135 lb. calf come into the world, where the vets had ropes tied around its legs as they tried to drag the calf out of the mother by force. The result was:

There were plenty of things that the English palate would find unusual:

Overall, the day was a great example of:

B-U-S-Y!

I cannot believe how fast the last two weeks have gone by!  I have simply had no spare time at all.  I have no understanding of this concept, really.  There are 24 hours in every day, I’m lucky to sleep 6-7 and normally there’s a spare hour or two in the day to surf and blog and unwind.  But the last two weeks have been wicked and I’ve been mystifyingly silent.   It’s not like I’ve run out of things to say about life as an American in the UK…

Part of the issue was a US visitor for much of the last two weeks–I say issue but actually it was SUCH fun that I don’t want that to sound like a bad thing!  I just got out a bit more than usual, had some fun meals and did the tourist thing with her a bit.  That’s the best part of having visitors, you get out and see more of your town than you would if you were just living here, working a job.

So now I’m a mere 10 hours from being picked up in a car for my trip to MINNESOTA and the STATE FAIR!!!!!!!!!! (Link is to Lileks and his Strib column on the subject–the fair opened yesterday and I’ll be there Sunday, all travels going well, touch wood!  Lileks correctly pointed out that during the fair, we Minnesotans do Americana the best!)  Having drowned in paperwork the last four days, having been scolded by my junior colleagues for working too hard, not sleeping enough nor eating enough, I am heading “on holiday” the way the English do.  I’ll be away a full two weeks, one in Minnesota and one at the beach on the ocean, and during both hopefully blogging more and writing boring emails less!

In the meantime, for a brilliant time-waster, check out the Guardian’s gallery of odd-but-fascinating olympic photos.

Tacos as foreign food

At my grocery store today, there was a big display of taco ingredients.  Shells, although not a geometry with which I was familiar–more like little trays of food.  Jars of jalapeno peppers and salsa.  The shells I found today are actually packaged with taco seasoning and salsa to help educate the Brits about what to do with Mexican food–add “mince” and “condiments”.  I love this, of course, because I know how good tacos can be and I miss them greatly.  If international foods continue to infiltrate the local consciousness, I see nothing but goodness for British cuisine.

Movies need popcorn

I was appalled by the suggestion this week that movie theatres in Britain were considering eliminating the most important part of the movie: the popcorn. I go to the movies only occasionally–the SATC show was one, Once was another–and I admit that I still seek out an American food flavor when I go. The Brits may have the whole melted butter thing as a no-show, but still, how could I go to a movie without the popcorn? This is my snack, my theatre indulgence. I don’t want to hear “salty or sweet” — which just shows that the Brits are missing the point. And the point is butter. Or butter-flavored oil. We want this. We will pay 10 bucks for the ticket, just give us the opportunity to buy actual popcorn with real fake butter….