Home > Vagaries > The Twin Cities (Day 1): Footsteps and Traces

The Twin Cities (Day 1): Footsteps and Traces

(The mid-term long weekend of Winter Term at Carleton. The Twin Cities are Minneapolis and St. Paul.)

I woke at 9:20 a.m. on Saturday morning – later than I’d intended to catch the 10 a.m. bus to the Cities. I’d not really packed, but then I’d planned not to really pack, so it worked out. I made it to the bus-stop in time, where I met some friends also on their way north, and so the trip passed quite quickly in conversation. What was surely the craziest moment in conversation was when I heard that my friend, who’s mainly lived in Minnesota and Florida, was a fan of Xiaxue. In perspective, though, it probably was as little strange to her as it was to me talking about Honey Boo Boo in my sociolinguistics class the week before.

The bus arrived in downtown Minneapolis at about 11:35 a.m. Most of the shops were still closed, I guess because it’s not much fun walking outside in Minnesota in winter. A very many of the buildings downtown are nevertheless linked by skyway.


I roamed around the downtown for a bit until I found a spot where I could consume the sandwiches I’d brought from Northfield. I settled in the indoor plaza of the IDS Center, which was quite pleasant. I didn’t get a good photo of the plaza, but I found one here:

It’s not totally clear from the picture, but the circular pad in the middle of the plaza is a water feature. There were a couple of families around, and the young children were (by what might be a law of the universe) drawn to play in it (as far as they were let).

After lunch it was time for a bottle-hunt. I had a short list, though I’d not checked in advance which were in season. I had, however, identified the bottle shop I’d intended to check out, so I was quickly on my way.

Zipps Liquors had a pretty great selection (probably the second- or third-best in the Cities), and I managed to track down a fall season imperial stout. I also picked up this year’s Rogue/Voodoo Doughnut collaboration, which was a chocolate peanut butter banana ale; we’ll see how that goes. It was good fun just browsing the aisles for the wonderful variety of agricultural produce from around the country, so I was there for a while.


After Zipps, it was about time to meet up with my friend Zhe Yu at a coffee shop in St. Paul (Kopplin’s Coffee), so I caught a bus across the magnificently frozen Mississippi.

I got to the coffee shop a little bit early, and before Zhe Yu arrived, I found myself talking with an elderly lady who’d been writing a journal while at the large table I’d asked to join. She’d observed me taking out my little notebook when I tried to jot down some things too, asked what I was writing about, and so we talked about places (she’d once lived in Santa Barbara, where I’d visited over the break) and writing.

Zhe Yu arrived a while later, and the lady left some time after. We ended up working (or otherwise idly jotting or reading on some electronic device, in my case) for some time in the shop. Zhe Yu was more industrious than I was:


Our dinner stop (Thai food) was some ways away – not the happiest fact, given that the temperature had been falling since the night before, and the roads and sidewalks in the city were treacherously icy. The walk from the dinner place was better than the walk to it, however, because of my meal of what was probably the spiciest fried rice I’ve ever had: the spice feels great in the cold. (I’d been warned that the spice-level the waiter requested wasn’t on a scale of typical American ‘spicy’, but I’d gone ahead with ‘hot’ anyway.) In addition to the ‘hot’- level spice of the fried rice, Zhe Yu and I had a heated debate along some of our classic themes (i.e. any of those contexts where ‘problematic’ is a true summary – not that we let things slide quite as easily).

We headed to Macalester after dinner, where Zhe Yu was due to visit some of his Singaporean school-mates. I’d heard that there would be pineapple tarts, so I was predisposed to be effusive, but really the major part of the fun was catching up about Singapore and mutual friends.

On a slightly more serious note, some kinds of conversation feel almost too easy to do sometimes. One thing I was conscious of at some point was having acquired the bad (or possibly not bad) habit of keeping a close track of these social relations; this is something I squarely blame on having gotten into the political/social life in the university in the manner I did during my first two years. I am being semi-serious with my use of ‘blame’ here, in that I don’t think it’s an objectively bad thing; my unease has more to do with the idea of ‘coasting’ through relationships and the things people say. Ultimately, it was a fleeting moment of self-consciousness in an enjoyably sociable conversation; but to this recently-minted sometimes-extrovert, the fact that I call this ‘fleeting’ when, as a teenager, my self-assessment would well have included ‘perpetually self-conscious’ is sign enough of a change meriting further introspection. (Which I, happily, still seem to enjoy.)

The knowledge I felt from tracing the day in writing was that this was a day very full of places (skyways, aisles, icy sidewalks) and conversation.

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  1. 23 March 2014 at 2:43 pm

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