Thursday, June 9, 2011

A love letter

My dearest M:
It is a whole seven months since I saw you last.  My apologies.  For a variety of reasons I could not leave Knysna in South Africa any earlier.  One of those reasons is that I was slowly falling in love there.  Or at least I thought so, because the moment you embraced me as I came through the doors from Customs and Immigration at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, my love for you bubbled up with such intensity that I am now totally confused.
Do you remember when we first became acquainted in 1979 – so many years ago – when I visited the Twin Cities to play in the annual Indian Summer squash tournament.  It was a long drive, nearly ten hours, from the University of Illinois, but well worth it, not only for the tournament, but more so because we met.  That was when my love affair with you began.  Do you remember having sushi at Kikugawa?  It was the best sushi I had ever eaten.  When we had dinner there the other night, did you not think how remarkable the food still was?  How often can one eat these days in a restaurant that is over 30 years old?
You were the main reason I moved north.  You and the fact that I couldn’t take any more summers (hot and humid) or any more winters (cold, humid, and overcast) in east central Illinois – at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, to be precise, where one could literally hear the corn grow in the sultry days of July.  So I headed north for cooler summers (normally true, although yesterday was about 40 degrees Celsius – well over 100 Fahrenheit) and colder, but sunnier, winters.  And I moved for you.  The choice was a good one.
Guthrie cantilevered observation deck
Rough water
Dandelions by the million

An old grain mill
The road to the Gulf of Mexico
A quiet spot on the Mississippi near my condo

The morning after I flew in last week, you were with me as I walked down the mighty Mississippi, which flows a few hundred metres from my apartment.  Although not flooding, it was very full and running swiftly.  Robins, grackles, and red-wing blackbirds called from the dense woods, and I could see large catfish sucking in food from the river’s surface.  The air was filled with dandelion seeds, like snow in summer.  I felt drawn to the river as I had been years before.  And you told me Ole Man River was part of your soul also.
A quiet spot on the river
A Mississippi lock, about 2000 kms from New Orleans
River bank art
 It was wonderful walking with you in the beautiful parks along the river, with remnants of flour mills and textile factories scattered about.  Famous names:  Pillsbury and General Mills.  How often have we biked along the river for miles and miles - often not seeing any buildings at all - surrounded by trees, bald eagles and osprey in the trees, as well as warblers in profusion as they migrate north.  And, of course, the pesky, aggressive, and dirty Canadian geese, which I despise, but which you embrace.
Mysterious tunnels under the city
I love it that you love diversity: the modern Federal Reserve building across Hennepin Avenue from the gorgeous old Post Office building, 1933 granite and stone Art Deco; modern condominiums next to the ruins of an old mill – now a museum; old grain grain silos standing next to the stunning Guthrie Theater, which Time Magazine called "a 21st century dream factory", with its 178 foot cantilevered ‘endless bridge’ overlooking the river.  Together we love the Guthrie, one of the best theatres outside New York.  And talking of theater, since I have been away, I have missed the other 60 or so theater companies in town, many of which we’ve frequented together. 

The new
The Mill Museum and modern condos
What makes you even more special, is that it was your forefathers who realized that to attract top people from the East Coast, there needed to be cultural offerings that competed with New York and Boston.  So they created an Arts Foundation into which the companies donated up to 5% of their profits.  The result has been staggering – the Minnesota Orchestra, arguably one of the top two or three orchestras in the country right now; across the river, the exquisite St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; the Minnesota Opera;  the Minnesota Institute of Art; the contemporary Walker Art Musem; the Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum at the university; the annual Fringe Festival.  The list goes on and on.  And you are the same as your forefathers – another reason I love you.  You are always trying to help people, make the environment work for everyone, look ahead, plan.
Gehry's Weisman Art Museum
And now you have wrenched my heart.  In many ways, I want to enjoy the peace and beauty and affordability of Knysna.  But now you are shouting, a voice from the past: “Not so fast, Stanley Trollip.  What about me?”
What about you, indeed?
What am I going to do about you, my old love, Minneapolis?

Stan - Thursday


  1. What are you going to do, you ask. Go where your heart takes you, of course. Let's have coffee in the Freight House Dunn Bros when you get here.

  2. I guess the best way to really appreciate something is to leave it for awhile.

    I was born in Boston and, although I don't live there now, I live a very short train ride away. it is harder to appreciate what the city has to offer when it is so familiar.

  3. Never been to Minneapolis - I'd love to go and pieces like this Stan make me want to go even more. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Take her to Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota. But get there early, for there's less than a dozen seats at the counter and a line all the way back to St. Paul.

    Great piece about a great City, Stan.

  5. Al's is a great place, Jeff. I hope we can share a breakfast there sometime. Or in Knysna - no Al's there, but the East Heads Cafe is great. As you can see my heart is torn - don't know where to live. how does Tim manage his two places?

  6. It's a deal, Stan. At either Al's or East Heads. As for Tim, I'm sure he sees similarities in both. But that's for another story.