Thursday, June 29, 2017

You won't like Minneapolis!

When I tell people that I live in Minneapolis, the most common response is “Ooo, that’s a very cold place!”, accompanied by an exaggerated shiver.  It’s mainly people in the States that react this way, but a surprisingly large number of people elsewhere in the world have the same reaction.  I guess the word is out.

And truth be told, it can be cold – very, very cold.  The record low is -41˚C (-41˚F).  During the 2014/2015 winter, the temperature dropped below -20˚C (0˚F) on over fifty days.  In the broader context, the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state of Minnesota is −51°C (-−60 °F).  Brrrr.  BRRRR. 

When one takes into account the wind, the coldest wind-chill temperature ever recorded was -52˚C (-61˚F).  Another brrr.

Downtown Minneapolis from the Sculpture Garden

Iced lake

Hoar frost

Ice and snow

The cold doesn't stop people from being outdoors
So, why do I live here when I have the choice to live in many other places?  Why did I choose to move to Minneapolis from Illinois, when I could have stayed there?

There were two basic reasons I moved.  First, I did not like the weather in Illinois: summers were very hot and humid, to the extent that when walking down the street, I would duck into every other shop to get to the cool air-conditioning.  And winters, which I normally like, had little to offer.  The problem was that the temperature often hovered around freezing.  So, when it snowed, it melted during the day and then froze at night, leaving glare ice everywhere.  Cross-country skiing was impossible or very dangerous.  Ice storms were common, bringing down trees and power lines.  

Ice-storm damage
And, worst of all, one could go without seeing the sun for weeks on end.  I sort of resolved my need for sunshine by renting a small plane and flying around above the clouds for an hour or two.  Bliss.

Above the clouds
You may reasonably ask: “Why didn’t you move south rather than north?  To somewhere warm in winter?”

My rationale to move north was that I don’t like weather that is too hot – Minnesota summers are just fine.  And, even though the winters are very cold, the sun shines most of the time.  Also, of course, everything is designed to deal with the cold.  For example, the entire downtown area is connected by enclosed walkways.  So, one can walk around downtown without ever going outside.  Hence no bulky coats for the most part. 

Enclosed skyway
Stone Arch Bridge crossing the Mississippi

Summer in Minneapolis - downtown from Lake Calhoun

Summer in Minneapolis - canoeing the lakes
The second reason I moved was for what the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) offer in terms of culture. 

I think it was during the 1930’s, some of the big Minneapolis companies were having difficult hiring top management from the East Coast, largely because the wives said there was nothing to do.  So these companies, such as Pillsbury, General Mills, 3M, etc., created a foundation for the arts to which they contributed 3% or 5% of their pre-tax profits.  This money was used to create amazing cultural offerings.

Today, the Twin Cities boast two full-time orchestra, the wonderful Minnesota Orchestra and the delightful and adventurous St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.  Both are affordable – a friend
and I went to Mahler’s 2nd the other evening for $34 each.  Tickets to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra are often $10 to $15.

We have 76 professional theatre companies, including the remarkable Guthrie, whose productions are envied everywhere.  A ticket to Sondheim’s A Walk in the Park with George this last weekend also cost $34.  And I can walk to both Orchestra Hall and the Guthrie.

The Guthrie with its remarkable cantilevered viewing area

The Mississippi from the Guthrie
We have an excellent opera company and myriad art museums, both traditional and contemporary.

For those of us who write, The Loft is a remarkable writer’s resource, a guild really, offering courses, lectures, internships, and apprenticeships.

The city fathers of Minneapolis, probably also in the thirties, had the foresight to declare that all lakefront on the city’s many lakes was to be public.  Today, there are walking and biking paths everywhere.  I live a hundred metres from the Mississippi and can bike along it, through dense forest, for miles and miles.  It never ceases to amaze me that I can be in the middle of the city and see no buildings.

Running path around the lakes

Bike paths are everywhere.

Very much a biking city
And then there is fall in the Twin Cities - they are worth a vist for that alone!


Cruising the Mississippi
Who wouldn't want to bike?
For me another appeal to the Twin Cities is that people here are generally personally conservative and socially liberal, although this is changing somewhat.  People are very generous in their contributions to charity, and the cities have welcomed large numbers of refugees from Vietnam and East Africa, bringing welcome upgrades to the cities’ food scene.

For the sporting-minded, we have multiple franchises, mostly perennially disappointing, although the Twins have won the World Series twice while I’ve been here.  However, I don’t watch baseball very often.  Give me cricket and rugby any day.

We are very happy with what we have here ,and the real reason we tell stories about the ferocious winters is to deter people from coming and spoiling things.

My friends who don’t live here ask me the whole time how I can tolerate the winters as I get older.  My answer is simple: I live in Cape Town from November to April.


  1. Well I think I would like Minneapolis. I would wear a duvet. I confess that I had to look it up on the map to get exact bearings. I know it was in the upper right somewhere. It looks beautiful, and somehow the weather and the architecture go hand in hand.
    The detective in my novel was called Colquhoun in the first draft. Penguin told me to change it as nobody could pronounce it. So Stan, how are we pronouncing Calhoun.....

    1. I would pronounce it Cuhoon, but the locals say Calhoon. I had a history teacher in high school whose name was Colquhoun, so I would have enjoyed imprinting him on your detective.

  2. After all that bragging about how wonderful Minneapolis is in winter, I am glad you told the truth in the end, Mr. Endless Summer.

    1. As you know, where I live doesn't require me to shovel snow. And I have indoor, heated parking. So winter here for me is okay. What I don't like about it is that it can last 5 to 6 months. Most Minnesotans head to warmer climes for a vacation sometime during winter. That's what I do, just for an extended time!

  3. I lived in Minneapolis by Lake Calhoun for some years when I was younger, but moved another 250 miles north to escape what little riff-raff there was down there. I like the quiet even more than all the culture available.

  4. I forgot to append the upcoming events. The only one is:


    Susan Spann's next Hiro Hattori mystery, Betrayal at Iga, releases on July 11 from Seventh Street Books. 

  5. Very cool, Stan. (Brrr) I hear that another reason for the enclosed walkways between buildings in the downtown is prevent small children from being carried off by mosquitoes.

    When you say that the "personally conservative and socially liberal" aspect is changing, in what way?

    1. I forgot to note that the mosquito is the state bird! I suspect that what is happening countrywide is happening here to a lesser extent. There's a growing number of people who feel left out; that they are overlooked and not respected. They are more self focussed (understandably) than community focussed. Taxes are quite high here, but they don't feel they benefit from that. I first noticed a small shift when weird Jesse Ventura was elected governor. And a much bigger one with the current President and congress. Helping others is no longer on a lot of people's agenda. Sad. Very sad.

  6. Stan, I'm being pressed by she-who-must-be-obeyed into considering a move to Hawaii, but with your love letter to the Gopher State (a critter she is fond of) I might be able to geographically redirect her.

    Then again, there is that final sentence...

  7. I'm sure I would love Minneapolis, and I wonder if the reason everyone goes Brrrrr is folk memory of the opening of Rhoda - 'so then I moved to Minnesota cause I thought I'd keep better in the cold'.