Minnesotans’ Policies & Helpful Hints for Super Bowl Guests:

Greetings Outsiders – and Welcome to L’Étoile du Nord (Star of the North for the non-French-Canadian folk). We are really excited to have you visit (please don’t stay past the 5th, that’s the day after the Super Bowl). We take a great deal of pride in our part of the larger Continental U.S. (which is bigger than Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, combined [New York not included, because Yankees fans], just pointing that out) and would like to share some, not all, of our treasures (hands off the Jalapeño Spam). But before I get into the list of items that you are encouraged to try, buy, and tell your friends back East about, we need to address a few policies/rules that make this place what it is, which is pretty gosh darn good. As an aside, there might be one or two things in this post that prove to be less than 100% accurate, this should in no way dampen your enthusiasm nor make you nervous as you seek out the iconic places and delicious eats. Enjoy your stay!

First and foremost, everything you’ve heard about “Minnesota Nice” is, more than likely, wrong. Which is not to say we’re not nice—on the contrary, we’re extremely nice, we just have a different way of showing it. When we visit far away lands, like Wisconsin, or North Dakota, we make sure to buy a round of drinks for everyone, in whichever bar we happen to be sitting in, that’s how we show our Minnesota Nice (that’s really all there is to it, if you buy drinks for the whole bar, everyone will be really nice to you, it’s kind of a reactional type of niceness). When guests visit us here, we expect the same from them; and seeing as how you’re our guests this week, we expect to get a lot of free rounds… if you want the full experience of Minnesota Nice.

Second, we have a lot of bikers here (not Harleys) and they ride in all seasons (because we’re quite a bit tougher than the average American). If you choose to drive, keep your eyes peeled for them, and for the other cars that don’t see them until the last second and swerve into your lane. Your best bet is to hop on a Metro Transit bus or the light-rail, or hire a Sled (like Uber & Lyft & rickshaws but with sled dogs and a musher).

Third, the Vikings (not the ones that play football) are real and many of their descendants live in this area. As luck would have it, many of those descendants are fans of the football team. As DNA would have it, Vikings are rather large, on average, and menacing, sometimes, and don’t scare easy. This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice the art of Minnesota Nice.

And last, and maybe most importantly, we don’t have accents, you have accents. This is meant as a clarifying comment so you don’t accidentally make any snide remarks about the way we say “baaaygel“, or anything with an “ag” in it.

So, to review: 1) Minnesota Nice = buying drinks for your new friends in Minnesota. 2) Watch for bikers and/or download the Sled app (available on HP Palm only). 3) Vikings are large and strong and pretty nice, most of the time. 4) Accents are yours.

Super Bowl Weather in Minnesota

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk Minnesota Treasures. Unlike New England, we’re not known for just one thing (but I’ll admit, Legal Seafoods Clam Chowder is delicious); and unlike Philadelphia, there’s more to do than eat cheesesteaks while looking around Independence Hall. We’ve got a lot of unique places to visit (many include food) and products to sample. So get out your phone and take some notes.

Grain Belt: This company has been making belts, out of grain, for more than 150 years. Nearly all of the Minnesota regiments and batteries that fought in the Civil War used these belts for their uniforms (the exception being the artillery batteries, the belts kept catching fire). They have 3 belts in year round production (Weaved Wheat, Casual Corn, & Tri-Grain Mock Leather [rye, barley & buckwheat] for more formal occasions). They only have one storefront and it’s located across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (you’ll see the huge neon sign) just keep heading up Hennepin a couple blocks and it’s right by Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company (which makes the best sausages this side of Warsaw).

1st Avenue: I’m sure you’ve all heard of the iconic First Ave and have read about its storied history, but did you know that its actually on 7th Street? Yep, no lie. Its always been on the corner of 7th, across from the Target Center where the 4 time Champion Minnesota Lynx play their home games (between the Lynx and the Univ. of MN Gophers Women’s Hockey [6 NCAA Championships], we do pretty well in the team-sports world). Anyway, First Ave is legendary as a place that has witnessed the likes of Prince, U2, BB King, Björk, The Replacements, Pearl Jam, The Violent Femmes, A Tribe Called Quest, Emmylou Harris, Fishbone, and many many more. Also, it’s only 7 blocks to Eli’s Food & Cocktails, a seriously good local eating establishment.

Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll: It’s nougat surrounded by caramel and rolled in peanuts (Virginia type they say). And, Kemps (another local icon) makes an ice cream that celebrates the goodness of this delectable treat. Buy a few boxes and treat your friends and family when you get home.

The State Capitol Building: St. Paul has a lot going on: Winter Carnival, non-drinking Festivities, The Science Museum; Saint Dinette (don’t ask, just go), Minnesota History Museum, and much much more. At the center of it all is the newly refurbished State Capitol. It’s a gorgeous building and the people working in the State Govt love having visitors pop-in and ask “what ya doin’?” And when you’re riding the light-rail between the Twin Cities, jump off and eat at HomiBolé or Afro Deli, you won’t be disappointed.

Metro Transit Light-rail.

Cardigan Donuts: As a donut connoisseur (actually, a connoisseur of all food and drink), and having traveled far and wide to taste all manner of cuisine, sweet and otherwise, I can attest to the fact that Cardigan Donuts is one of the premier donutteries in America. We are spoiled, here in the City of Flour & Sawdust, with a plethora of amazing bakeries/patisseries: A Baker’s Wife, Salty Tart, Bread & Chocolate, Granny’s Donuts, Patisserie 46 & Rose Street, Angel Food Bakery, and more than a dozen others of the highest quality.

Dangerous Man Brewing: Craft beers are another thing we have no shortage of around the State. Nor do we have any trouble keeping them in business. Trying to name “the best” would be like trying to pick the best cheesesteak in Philly, so many different styles and people like what they like. That said, Dangerous Man Brewing is certainly amongst the crème, particularly in the colder months (which would be most of them in this neck of the woods). A few others that I would be remiss not to share: Fair State, Indeed, Tin Whiskers, Fulton, Lakes & Legends, Boom Island, Steel Toe, Town Hall, Flat Earth, & BlackStack. If you get through those, it means you’ve probably stayed past the 5th and it’s unlikely you’re ever going to leave… Welcome to the North.

Nye’s Polonaise: Maybe the coolest place to listen to polka— in the universe. It closed more than a year ago, but according to those who know, reopened a few weeks ago. It’s a gem.

Matt’s Bar: If you love bar food and have never tried a Jucy-Lucy, get ready for Heaven. Pro-tip: it’s cash only; and if the line is long, don’t allow the door to be held open. And you can get a beer from the bar and get back in line, as long as you’re not standing outside. And play the jukebox.

Food Trucks: The Minneapolis/St Paul Food Truck scene is wild and wooly and filled with great food. If you are only going to try one, go to Mid-Nord Empanadas, they’ll be stationed at 10th & Nicollet-NorthEast corner. These empanadas are so authentic you’ll swear you’re in Quito and wonder why it’s so damn cold. If you’re trying more than one, enjoy, our food trucks rock.

A few other tips and insights: we’re passive aggressive, sometimes, not always, whatever, it doesn’t matter, just don’t do anything stupid; you might hear someone say “What the Heck!”, they’re not necessarily religious, or a prude, it’s just Minnesotan for What the Fuck; Uff-da is not the sound made when sneezing, it’s Viking for “holy shit”; If a complete stranger (a Minnesotan stranger) offers you a bite of something, they’re not trying to poison you, we’re just good at sharing and we want others to try this new found dynamite dish; lutefisk & lefse are scandinavian staples, skip the lutefisk unless you fancy yourself an Andrew Zimmern type (he’s Minnesotan, he’ll eat anything).

And a few more locales and eateries to check out, some of them are off the beaten path but well worth a taxi ride (don’t use Sled for these places, too far, dogs will get tired). The Walker Art Center; Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA, not M.I.A.); Mill City Museum; & The Testify Exhibit at the Minneapolis Central Library.

Tilia; 112 Eatery; Pat’s Tap; Alma; George & The Dragon; Parlour Bar; Troubadour Wine Bar; Gyst; Quang; Gandhi Mahal; Gorkha Palace; Manny’s; Bar la Grassa; Hola Arepa; Dominguez Restaurant; Bull Horn Burger Bar; Town Hall Tap; Pizzeria Lola; Wise Acre; The Pig Ate My Pizza; Spoon & Stable; Freehouse; Kadai (in the Skyway); Dogwood Coffee; Key’s Cafe; Italian Eatery; Sonny’s; Sebastian Joes; Revival; The Corner Table; Cecil’s Deli; Crescent Moon (pizza); Broders Cucina Italiana; Sen Yai Sen Lek; Holy Land; The Anchor; & The Sample Room.

I’ve certainly missed a few places that deserve to be mentioned but that’s ok, you’ll be back, and when you visit next time, hit me up for new suggestions.

Congrats on making it here and as they say in NOLA, this time of year – Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler… & Skol!

Super Bowl Week is upon us

 

The Art of Failure

Minneapolis trainspotting
Minneapolis trainspotting

failure. a small word, relatively speaking. a word that evokes images of “losers“, “has-beens“, “never-will-be’s“, and their ilk. a term that reminds us of what we do not want to be, do not want to be associated with; that thing we wish to never experience. it is what drives us to, if not greatness, mediocrity, because mediocrity is not failure, for most. But the truth is, we all fail, daily. Some of us more than others. And that is not ok…

Failing is as much a part of our lives as sleeping, eating, and interacting with our surroundings. As surely as one gets out of bed in the morning, one fails. These failures can be related to money (made or spent), time (wasted or just lost), status (at work, in school, amongst family, friends, the Jones’ (notice the failed attempt at spelling “you’re”)), or anything else that consumes your thoughts for more than a few minutes a day. Don’t fret, you’re not alone, you’re part of a club with over 7 billion members. And, with each failure, a new opportunity to learn is presented.

This is where The Art piece comes into play (I’ll leave the science part to the neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, et al.). Life, like art, provides us with extraordinary opportunities to try something, repeatedly, until we get it right, or give up; the choice is ours. Each new attempt is practice, something Mr. Iverson broke down for us in 2002 (and A.I. was talking about so much more than just “practice”). Anyway, the idea of trying repeatedly should not be viewed with an eye on how many times we fail, rather we should see each new attempt as being that much closer to success.

And what about those who never achieve the goal they’ve set? Aren’t they failures? No, it doesn’t work that way. The person who tries to quit using tobacco 10 times and starts back 10 times hasn’t failed, they’ve simply made it more likely that they will succeed the 11th time, or 12th, whatever. And maybe they’ll never quit, maybe smoking is the one thing they have in life that is comforting in their extremely high stress job/life. Maybe having a cigarette keeps them sane when what they’d really like to do is take a baseball bat to their boss’s car. In this case, success is represented in the form of a Beamer without 30 dents and missing windows. We don’t know what people are going through, how their individual experiences have shaped them and how those events have affected their current state of mind.

The failures we experience are lessons to be studied. They offer advice on how to do better the next time—which is not to say that the next time will be any more successful; but the next failure may occur due to some other unforeseen circumstance, if you learned from the previous attempt. If  not, then the next failing will likely exhibit, not-so-surprisingly, familiar events and outcomes. This is true in any type of policy formulation and/or implementation as well, failures occur everywhere and on a continuous basis (we also see massive failures in the problem definitionagenda setting and evaluation stages). What is rare, and therefore celebrated, is success, in any arena.

Fairly successful paella (the failures were minimal)
Fairly successful paella (the failures were minimal)

Success, the opposite of failure, is almost never captured on the first attempt. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” is good for kids to hear but it might be better to tell them, “At first, you will fail; fail well, learn, and try again“. The failings are the very phenomena we need in order to figure out how to be successful. Success comes over time; the getting there part is not easy, quick, nor a particularly glamorous undertaking. And that is what makes It so much more satisfying when It is finally achieved.

Celebrate the tenacity of the Roses that grow from concrete. - Like Tupac did.
Celebrate the tenacity of the Roses that grow from concrete. – Like Tupac did.

Malcolm Gladwell studied people who had become masters of their professions and found that what many had in common (aside from greater access and opportunity (from birth)) than the average individual) was the number of hours they were able to dedicate to mastering a particular concept/field. As others have found, however, this theory rests, at least in part, on the stability of the particular profession, i.e. rules, regulations, static conditions, as well as the individual’s penchant for the work. Taken together, this leads me to believe that life, in it’s simplest form, is all about failure. The countless hours spent learning, enjoying the process of learning, which is to say learning from the failing, is what ultimately makes one successful. And so those rare moments, when we aren’t failing, are so out of sync with the rest of our routine that we have to stop and take notice, celebrate, dance, hoot-n-holler, and partake in all form of Tomfoolery. That is, if you are of this world. There are those who, practice aside, make their job look too easy, they mock us mere mortals by their very existence.

Back to The Art of Failing. Find new and unusual ways to fail (meaning try things in new ways). The more you are able to learn from each failure, the more quickly you are able to find A successful way, which is different from THE successful way. Very few activities have just one way that they can be accomplished. That’s the beauty of art and failure, we can each produce our own “works” that make sense to us (if nobody else), and which we can learn from because we understand our own methodologies, our own thought processes, better than we understand someone else’s.

Intentional misspelling to make a point?
Intentional misspelling to make a point? Plural of the obvious? Reference to the beach where the opium was burned?

In policy making, this idea becomes more difficult, some would say an exercise in futility. When multiple sects/groups (extreme or otherwise) are attempting to craft any policy, they should consider the effects said policy will have on the larger community (school district, city, state, nation, etc.), not just the intended recipients. Policy failures are not bad if the failure occurs prior to the implementation stage, where they can still be reworked. But once you’ve gotten to the point of execution, it means the policy has become law; and if mistakes/bad ideas are uncovered by those affected by the policy, the enactment will likely still go forward while people look for loopholes, end-arounds, and other ways to mitigate the bad policy that passed through the system (which is to say lots of meetings that are unlikely to produce much in the way of good ideas).

There are many examples of policies that are failures—were bound to fail from the beginning, and for all the good intention of those involved, their lack of  prior learning (first-hand knowledge gained by failing in the setting/system) led to the failed policy being implemented. The field of education is ripe with this type of failure. Too often, in recent decades, we’ve seen well meaning (always assume best intentions) politicians, with the assistance of lawyers, business folk, PhDs armed with literature reviews and in-depth research, and lobbyists, come up with new ideas to address students and teachers “shortcomings”. The primary issue that is almost always immediately apparent upon the policy taking effect, is the lack of teacher and student input concerning the new rules. Sure, they probably interviewed a teacher or two, from the “best” school in the state, to get their thoughts, but never considered talking to the educators who work in the schools where 95% of students are experiencing poverty, trying to learn in severely crowded classrooms with textbooks that are 30-plus years old and kept together with duct-tape, masking-tape, glue, and pixie dust. In these settings, students and teachers first priority is not a test score improvement or the closing of an achievement gap, but ensuring the students are not hungry, not suffering any form of abuse, physical ailment, mental health condition, and if so, finding them the proper professionals to help. Additionally, teachers are trying to ensure that their classrooms are safe spaces for all students; preventing bullying behaviors of LGBTQ, smaller, weaker, “different”, and those students who have been singled out for any number of reasons (all non-sensical) has become a priority that many schools are no longer ignoring. Beyond that, most teachers know that a test score means virtually nothing when it comes to finding success beyond high school. Understanding social mores, developing soft skills, learning how to adapt to the culture of a new work/school environment, these are the concepts most important for the more than 50% of kids who never attend a four year institution (and, these concepts are important to the students who do attend 4-year schools, but these students are more likely to get away without mastery of or competence in the aforementioned areas because of a variety of other factors, to include the utterly ridiculous, appalling, & repugnant).

Failing is something that is done both with and without intention. Like the Potter who is creating a vessel for aesthetic and functional purposes, she intends to make a unique creation and therefore tries new ideas/methods. Rarely does the new technique work the first time, but she tries again, and again, learning, relearning, perfecting the imperfections until…Voilà! So too is life a series of failed attempts that over time enable us to accomplish daily tasks and grand achievements (this is similar to what I do on a daily basis, literally and figuratively). Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the failure, use this new knowledge to reconfigure and move forward (the glass half full concept is good to remember, it means there’s room for more beer learning).

IMG_0912
Ducky (The Dutchess) posing for her Glam-Dog photo-shoot. A real Princess. This is a non-sequitir.

I fail, to my wife’s chagrin, a lot. I’ve got well over the requisite 10,000 hours needed for mastery of this non-professional profession. Every day, upon waking, I know I have already failed. My lack of height (Vikings are supposed to be at least 6 feet tall), lack of six/seven/eight-figure salary, my messy office space, my inability to grasp the ridiculousness of trying to do it all, and that’s just in the first few minutes of being awake.  I failed to take the Dutchess on short walks (going around the block routinely turned into an hour of lollygagging around the neighbor’s (a pizza joint) garbage can, the smell of pizza crusts, sausage, and pasta remnants emanating from its interior proved too strong a temptation to resist. And the list goes on, and on, and… But, for all of my failings, I have gained knowledge, great volumes full of all manner of wisdom and scholarship. And I’m not done, I’ll continue failing until I go to that big Beach in the sky, the one where dogs and cats are welcome, the two best beers, Cold and Free, are served on tap, and the failures of the past are no longer relevant.

And so, the idea of failing not being ok is still true—it is better than ok, it is wonderful, and great, and stupendous…and, necessary; because repeated failures often lead to the greatest success. Without failure we don’t advance, we don’t learn, we don’t move civilization to new heights (some would say this has been the model of the GOP recently, I won’t go that far but I do wonder if the word “progress” is in their dictionary). We get stuck and sit around waiting for somebody else to do something, just waiting on the world to change. Each new failure means we aren’t waiting on anybody, we’re doing it, we’re taking the reins for our particular situation and doin’ the damn thing.

Alejandro I (yucca tree), aged 17 years, failed to survive the winter of 2010-11, but Alejandro Jr. (from the same roots) is alive & well.
Alejandro Sr. (yes, he is a yucca tree) failed to survive the winter of 2010-11, but Alejandro Jr. (same root system) is alive & well.
Alejandro Jr.
Alejandro Jr., proving success is possible after a great failure.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career/ I’ve lost almost 300 games/ 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot/ and missed./ I’ve failed over, and over and over again in my life./ And that is why/ I succeed.

 Michael Jordan

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.