Monday, July 31, 2006

Five Amazing Twin Cities things, part 1: The Art Car Parade

There are good parades and bad parades. I saw one of each last week.

The bad parade: The Torchlight Parade for the Minneapolis Aquatennial. I’m still not sure what the Aquatennial is, but at this point, I’d prefer not to know. Coming out of a downtown restaurant Wednesday night, we heard music on Hennepin and walked down to see what was up. It was a parade, made up of an endless queue of queens and princesses from every Twin Cities suburb, waving in sync. I say waving, but mean doing Pat Morita’s immortal wax-on: three to the north side of the street, then turning and doing three to the south. This managed to be even more superficial-looking that the traditional elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist, used by Rose Queens, Queen Elizabeth II, and Michigan festival princesses. I’ve never seen so many tiaras in one place. There were easily thirty floats of princesses, punctuated by an occasional marching band or radio DJ in a speaker-topped conversion van. The message of the Aquatennial parade? If you aren’t 17 and wearing an evening gown, you don’t merit a ride on a float.

The good parade: the Art Car parade in Uptown, Minneapolis. The principle at work here is simple: put stuff on your ride, be in a parade. No tiara required. Cars covered with wine corks, bones, grass, plastic dinosaurs. A motorized couch. Jesus on a banana-shaped scooter. A woman in a Volvo wagon, talking on a cell phone with a baby in a car seat on the roof. A Delta 88 with a mural referencing Algernon Swinburne. Some cars throw candy to the kids, but one throws garlic. People hand out flyers for their bands, their candidates, the gallery openings, their plays, or their beliefs. Anyone with a creative bent and a set of wheels can get involved, and a little bit of anarchy is preferred over a lot of regimentation. Last year, a guy in an embellished pickup drove the parade route angrily screaming “I’m Happy!”, then got out and threw his shoes at a cop car. It was beautiful. The message of the Art Car Parade? No manifesto required. The definition of art is as long and as broad as the roads that belt the land.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Long Gone

Rest in peace, Syd Barrett:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why Minneapolis?

Minneapolis would never have occurred to me prior to last year, when I was offered a job opportunity so delightful I had to ask the human resources agent to repeat herself when she told me what it was. It came with a substantial raise, relocation expenses, good insurance and great work resources. This company, a retailer that shall henceforth remain nameless, seemed to be staffed with hip, intelligent, and uniformly competent people -- seemingly incomprehensible conditions, really. When I first visited, downtown Minneapolis seemed vibrant and safe, the antithesis of downtown Detroit. Grandmas shop there. People enjoy public spaces. When I flew home, Paul Westerberg was getting off the plane I was boarding. I took it as a sign. I’d been struggling with a love/hate relationship with the Detroit area for the better part of 20 years and decided it was time for the big break up. Goodbye Motor City.

I have a house in South Mpls built in 1920 with a nice garden. There is a veterinarian, doctor, bank, hardware store, cleaners, a bar, a bookstore, a movie theater, and scads of restaurants within two blocks of the house. There’s a bus stop with reliable service within a block. My neighborhood is racially mixed and safe. It's an urban planner's dream. I could ask for little more.

It’s been a year since the move and I’ve been so busy I have not done a great job of keeping up with friends. Blogging facilitates that…albeit feebly. With that, my apologies for my silence.