Not too long ago, Simon Smithson submitted a brief blog entry, seeking ideas about the best way to write about place.  I had nothing to say about it.  I was curious.  I wanted to know, too.  I waited.  No one had much to say.

Then I left my place to go to my cousin’s place in Chicago where I met Simon and Zara, who were not in their places, either.

I love Chicago.  Stormy, husky, brawling.  I fit in there well enough.  I’m comfortable there.

Most of the rules in Chicago are the same as here.  It’s a lovable, dirty old dog in a fancy coat–not glamorous, and not really trying to be.  Chicago is at home in its skin.  In that way, it’s similar to the Twin Cities.  Nevertheless, it’s not home, and in conversation with foreigners in a place to which I, too, was foreign, I became acutely aware of it. 

I am proud of Chicago like I’m proud of my sister’s kids.  They’re great.  I love them.  I marvel at them.  But they’re not mine.

Unlike most people from the Upper Midwest, I have never been in any particular hurry to leave.  I see no problem with it.  I can’t imagine what other people have that we don’t–at least in reasonable facsimile.  I like it.  Wherever you go, there you are.

Nevertheless, it’s particularly difficult to write about a place like Minnesota.  No matter how excellent I think it is, to most of the world, I’m talking up an ugly sister to a hapless friend in the hopes that her charming personality will win the day if I can just trick him into being in the same room with her.

It’s practically a con.

A siren song to the happy oblivious.

Never mind the crooked gait, the missing eye, the shoddy public transport, the Iron Range.  She’s a lamb.

So I’m going to try to be honest, here.  No tribal supremacy, no maudlin sentimentality.  I’m going to tell it like it is.

Technically speaking, it’s flyover country.  Home of nothing but lutefisk, mosquitoes, and fat farmers.  But we are a blue state, so as far as most people who live on either coast are concerned, we at least have that going for us.  We’re a strange hue of blue, having our own democratic party of a type found nowhere else in the nation.  I expect Canada to invade any day.  We’re the closest you can get (except maybe the UP) without actually passing through customs.  We’ve been sticking our nipple into Canada for over 150 years.

The running joke about MN politics is that any given person is probably a card-carrying member of both the NRA and the ACLU, and we are happy in our habits.  For nearly as long as I’ve been alive, our habit is to elect democratic presidents, republican governors, one each conservative and liberal national senators…

You get the idea.  We’re not sitting on the fence; we’re straddling it.  We deal with a political climate of extremes the same way we deal with our weather:  Use what’s available to make the situation as tolerable as possible.

For the most part, much of what the coastal supremacists say is true.  Our winter cold is at once hypodermic and searing.  It can, sometimes and if you’re not careful, freezer-burn the skin right off your face.

We do, indeed, have fat farmers.

Our summers are oppressively hot, stormy, and humid, too.  That’s what happens when 10,000 lakes get sucked into the dry Southwestern air that rides in on the jet stream.  Manic depressive weather.  The land of 10,000 natural extremes.

We have a lot of corn.  And livestock.  And water.  Water everywhere.  The water turns to ice, and we drive on it to get from igloo to igloo or state to state. Or just to whip shitties.

Our main defense against all of these accusations is, “Hey.  At least we’re not Wisconsin.”

But also in our defense, I know from experience that many major metropolitan areas smell like piss.  The Twin Cities do not.  We are a proud, clean people.  Little Mogadishu sometimes smells like curry and nag champa, but that’s just how they roll over there.  There is a store there that is the size of most Aldi supermarkets, and it specializes in batik and incense; it has been there for 50 years or something.  The smell is in the sidewalks.

On the West Bank, even the dirt smells like a foreign country.

If I wanted to attribute a sound to Minnesota, I would probably mention how it is possible to hear snow and ice melting (literally true; snow “breathes” and ice “sings”).

I’m not sure what Minnesota tastes like.  Probably like something on a stick.

We are Germans and Scandinavians primarily–traditionally, I should say.  This is changing.  We have some of the largest Hmong, Somali, Sierra Leonian, and Liberian immigrant demographics per capita in the nation.

As I said, we are a clean people.  We like  for things to be nice–not fancy or ostentatious, which would be rude.  Just nice.  Look nice, be nice; don’t make a scene.  That’s the state motto.

Actually, the motto is L’Etoile du Nord.   It is evidence that we once had French people hanging around here.   They were voyageurs and other unsavory, unwashed characters, no doubt.  We shooed them all into Canada and slammed the door.

We shooed them politely, though, I’m sure.  Minnesota Nice.

Minnesota Nice is not actually about BEING nice.  It’s about acting nice.  It’s about showing that you know how to do it.  It’s not unlike French politesse.  It has a lot to do with not imposing on others.  Not shouting, not invading others’ personal space (a Minnesotan’s personal space is half again as large as any other American’s), not invading their auditory or olfactory space, not turning up unannounced, not showing any emotion that may be disturbing to others, not invading ego space with braggadocio, returning calls and correspondence in a snappy fashion, saying “excuse me” when you sneeze…you know…in case you might have grossed someone out, and saying “bless you,” if someone else sneezes, so he or she knows you were not grossed out.

There is a lot of apologizing involved.

Pardon my reach, excuse me, thank you, I don’t want to impose, which floor would you like, I’m sorry, excuse me, my mistake, pardon me, I’m sorry it’s so late, I’m sorry it’s so early…

And if you’re doing nice right, no matter how evil you are in fact, no one will ever, ever know about it.  Some people find this off-putting or problematic or unpalatable.  I don’t see what the difference is between actually being nice and only being nice as far as anyone you ever encounter knows.

I mean, the net effect is the same.

We are adept at getting along.  Feel free to cuss someone out behind his back, but make nice in person.  Do not upset things.  No one wants to deal with that.  Don’t make a scene.

Immigrants from Africa, however, struggle with this aspect of northern culture.  Many come from more outspoken, straightforward speech cultures and are widely regarded as rude or aggressive by Minnesota natives.  Cultural confusion.  Conversely, many Asian immigrants who come from more reserved cultures assimilate fairly easily in this respect.

Our accent–or alleged accent–is legendary.  Most Minnesotans, especially those living in cosmopolitan areas of the state, will erupt in clenched-jaw, terse-lipped, low-voiced, and inappropriately (however reservedly) offended derisions if you tell them that they sound like Fargo.

And rightly so.  The accents represented in that film are caricatures and, even then, caricatures of some of the most extreme accents in the state.  Nevertheless, I discovered that some things just aren’t fit for denial.  “Ya shuur” escaped my lips at least three times in the roughly eight hours we spent with Simon and Zara that weekend in Chicago.  I’d repeat it every time.  To myself, near myself.  To punish myself for having said it.

So, what has already happened, what has already been said, who has already been here?

James Wright, John Berryman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Patricia Hampl, Ray Gonzales, Winona Ryder, Judy Garland, Steve Zahn, That-Guy-Who-Played-Hellboy, Bob Dylan, Soul Asylum, the Replacements, The Suburbs, Husker Du, The Jayhawks, Bob Mould, Semisonic, The Hold Steady, Atmosphere, and The Artist Known, Then Not Known, and Now Known Again, as Prince.

These people all have formidable Minnesota connections.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

John Berryman died less than 2,000 feet from my cubicle at work.

No.  He did not die of boredom.  And not of polar bears, either.

F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in my hometown briefly.

A reporter in the 19th century once said St. Paul, our capital city, was “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.”  So we threw a street party and a parade in the dead of winter–and continue to, annually, without fail.

Fame and respect outside of Minnesota are hard to come by while you’re in Minnesota, but that’s changing somewhat.  The Twin Cities’ arts scene (performing, visual, and literary), which Minnesotans have been shouting about for decades, is formidable–in many ways ridiculous–relative to our population.  It continues to grow, maybe from the realization that, being where we are, talking funny like we do, we have to work twice as hard to  be considered even half as good.

Minnesota has a tradition of sharing its collections of stuff, be it art or animals, free of charge.

The animals.  The wildlife.  We have wildlife.

But in exchange for cursing us with the coldest major metropolitan area in the nation, The Guy has seen fit to grant us a few boons.

A major one is that Minnesota is 99.9% free of poisonous things.  It’s too cold here for poison.

We do have wolves, bear, puma, moose, and an inexplicably robust (suddenly resurgent) wild turkey population.  I don’t know if you know this, but wild turkeys are mean as fuck.

And stupid.  So stupid.  I wouldn’t normally shoot a living thing, but I might shoot a turkey if properly armed and even mildly provoked.

Come to think of it, our birds are pretty mean in general.  Bald Eagles and Red-Tailed Hawks, especially, may abscond with your Pomeranian or preemie if you don’t keep an eye on it.  Death from above.  For real.

A raptor ate your baby.

Okay.  They don’t take babies.  Please don’t go to your urban condo coastal dinner parties and make wide eyes at people over your martini, telling everyone you heard that the hillbilly Minnesotans sacrifice babies to the national bird.

It’s the June Bugs that take babies.

Another boon and, really, the bottom line:  Unlike our turkeys, our people are smart.  We are among the best-educated states in the country.

Suck on that, coasters.  Take that to your dinner party.

Our winter comes and goes, but your stupid is forever.

Er. I mean.  Um.  Sorry.

Pardon my braggadocio.

What I meant to say was:

  • Wi nøt trei a høliday in [Minnesota] this yër?
  • See the løveli lakes
  • The wøndërful telephøne system
  • And mäni interesting furry animals...
  • Including the majestik møøse
  • A Møøse once bit my sister...
  • No realli! She was Karving her initials on the møøse
    with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given
    her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and
    star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo
    Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst


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BECKY PALAPALA is the author of many unpublished poems, diatribes, and terse letters, which she holds captive in a homely tote bag in her bedroom. The poems that escaped can be found in online publication at Strix Varia, Paper Darts, and in other nooks and crannies of the internet. In 2008-2009, she served as a poetry editor for Ivory Tower. After an iliadic battle with higher education, Becky graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in the spring of 2010. She currently lives with her husband, daughter, and dog on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, where she pines for her rivertown home and attempts to befriend the rabbit that lives in her yard.

117 responses to “The Land of 10,000 Links”

  1. Slade Ham says:

    Careful with the nag champa hatred…

    Though I’m pretty sure I could forgive Minnesotans for anything as long as the Purple One walks the planet.

    In all my traveling the closest I’ve come to MN was a brief layover in Minneapolis. It’s one of the few states still on my list, unless I get to count the few hours I spent on a layover there one time.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I find that odd. I hear that our comedy scene is formidable, given our lowly locale. Cold weather breeds cynical, funny, angry people.

      I have a couple of friends who are stand ups. I’m sort of surprised you’ve never been.

      • Slade Ham says:

        There is a good club there that Dennis Miller’s brother books… but I can’t seem to make him like me for some reason.

        Aside from that though, I haven’t really tried. I’m afraid they’d book me in the winter, and I would most certainly die.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It’s not like EVERY day is 20 below. Only some days. Average winter temp is around 15 degrees F, I think.

          But that’s, like, the coldest it has ever been in Texas, right?

          No big deal. Nothing that a good hat and a pair of choppers won’t fix.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I was in Indianapolis in January 2009 when it got down to -21.

          Fuck. That.

          Never again…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Hahaha… you mark it on your calendar like 9/11. The great Indianapolis freezing of 2009.

          Was like ‘nam for you.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          You just didn’t have anyone to dress you properly. Come on over. We’ll suit you up and take you for a walk in -40 and you won’t feel an ounce of misery.

          You’ll be making snow angels and shit.

        • Cheryl says:

          Propaganda! Don’t believe her, Slade! There were not enough clothes in my closet to keep me warm through Chicago winters. Friends gave up trying to dress me correctly for the cold because there is no “correctly” – it’s just. Frickin. Cold. There is no way I would survive a MN winter.

          Becky, you don’t understand. 15F is not an acceptable average winter temperature. That crap might fly in Amarillo or Lubbock or some other godforsaken north Texas town, but in Houston and Austin, it gets down to 15F for maybe ten minutes about once every 12 years. And even then it is in the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, when everyone is snug and warm in bed.

          On the other hand, there is only one natural lake in the entire state of Texas. All the other lakes are man-made. I find that odd.

          I would love to visit Minnesota. It will likely be in the summer, though 🙂

        • Becky says:

          Well, there are some places in the cities where, if you played your cards right, you could live, shop, work, and play (even with many blocks in between) without ever going outdoors.

          The Minneapolis skyway system is the kind of innovation that only extreme cold could make reasonable.

          So if you do, by some cruel twist of fate, have to venture to the Cities in winter, just make sure your hotel is on it. Boom. Winter cold = defeated.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Nag Champa is lovely. Although, I also love the smell of Patchouli oil and I’m pretty sure that particular debate has been overdone in Listiland/TNBland. My point: I accept I’m the minority here. Nonetheless – Mmmmm…Nag Champa…

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, see? You and Slade can have your own little Nag Champa room at the commune. Just make sure to bathe thoroughly.

  2. Mel says:

    I want to do some whip shitties one day. But im not eating lutefisk

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Whipping shitties is good times.

      And no problem. I don’t eat lutefisk, either.

      Tried it once. Imagine fish-flavored jello.

      • Dana says:

        “fish-flavored jello”… well with an endorsement like that… You should get Cosby to do a commercial for you.

  3. Sarah says:

    I think I’d really like Minnesota. It sounds quite a bit like Maine except we don’t have a big city let alone twins to protect us from Big City people pointing and laughing at us. We try to build up Portland as a big city but it’s not and it’s not really Maine anyway, it’s more Mass-North. We like Boston sports teams but would rather be the laughing stock of the country and the last state picked for kickball than have a direct correlation made between us and them. Except in high school when it was everyone’s dream to get the hell out of this place and move to Boston. That passes quickly once we actually go there – not that Boston’s bad, I love it, but I appreciated Bangor so much more once I was away from it for a few years.

    Describing place is hard. It seems the easiest way to do it would be to use comparisons to places more commonly known but what to do when that place is unlike any other? I like how you used senses to paint the picture. I am now going to learn the smell of every new place I travel, just in case someone asks. If Minnesota tastes like something on a stick, then Maine tastes like something that includes the ingredients of three sticks of butter and the end result is dipped in melted butter.

    Snow and ice melting do make quite the noise. There is a river/stream outside my window and March was a loud month.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, you know, in either case, we labor away in obscurity. Portland or the TC, all anyone cares about is “How far is that from ______[Chicago/New York/LA]?”

      Sellout motherfuckers.

      I hope they all get pickpocketed.

      Talking about Chicago was much easier than talking about home. It’s rough. How do you keep the sap at bay?

      • Sarah says:

        The sap must ooze. It’s unstoppable. Having affection for and pride in your hometown is natural and wonderful and if nobody else sees the awesomeness in your town, then to hell with ’em.

        I’ve seen and listened to friends’ reactions when they’ve visited Bangor for the first time. Most of them having been born and raised in the greater Boston area. I’ve taken from their impressions and drizzled a little sap when I try to describe it now.

        Plus it’s not a far cry from Matt Groening’s Springfield minus most of the over-the-top aspects so at least I can lay out a good baseline description for people.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’m convinced that if I could actually get anyone to come to MN, they’d never want to leave. But getting them here is a bitch.

  4. Richard Cox says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Minnesota ever since reading the meteorological thriller The Weatherman about fifteen years ago. It was written by St. Paul-born bestselling author Steve Thayer. You forgot to include him in your list of notables.

    Seriously, though, I would live in Minneapolis for sure. Cold doesn’t bother me. It looks beautiful.

    Wait, why am I being nice to you?

    • Becky Palapala says:

      It’s okay. You’re only being nice because you’re taking pity on me for my pathetic advocacy of one of the most inhospitable places in the country. And because we have some fierce tornadoes.

      But the summers really are lovely.

      I wonder what the spread is, temp-wise, on the MN climate. It must be wild. 90+ in the summer, -20 or worse in the winter. Record is -75 with windchill, I think.

      Oh RIGHT! Meteorological thriller writer Steve Thayer! *google*

      Beautiful? Richard, did you actually click the links? I think you’re flirting with me.

  5. Richard Cox says:

    Fuck you, WordPress.

    All time temperature records:

    Minnesota: High 114F, Low -64F
    Texas: High 120F, Low -23F
    Oklahoma: High 120F, Low -27F

    Did you know Alaska and Hawaii’s record highs are the same? Exactly 100F. Hawaii is the only state with a low above zero at 12F. Utah’s low is -69F, colder than Minnesota.

    I clicked the link of flyover country, the lake. And I have a landscape architect friend who went to Minneapolis and loved it. I trust her judgment, so there.

    And no, I don’t flirt online. Not ever.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Utah has mountains. That’s cheating.

      And Hawaii has trade winds. That’s why it never gets too hot. Most of the homes in that state don’t even have AC, except for in Honolulu, and they only need it because of the asphalt.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Yes, but St. George is where the record is, one of the lowest terrain regions in the state at less than 3000 feet. Still cheating, but surprising anyway.

        The U.S. record for record temperature extreme is Montana at 187 degrees. Nevada is 186. North Dakota is 181. California and Alaska are 180. Minnesota is 179.

        Oklahomans are always going on about their extremes and this place is a paltry 147. Posers. Poseurs. Whatever.

        I was kidding about the flirting. Sometimes I do. Maybe. And I’m not even drinking.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      It’s true that Hawaii’s low is that high, but that’s because all the major airfields are at sea level. We do have low temps and sub-zero wind chills — because we have some high mountains.

      There was a thing running on PBS, I think, this winter. Some guy was showcasing the day when every state except Hawaii had snow on the ground, and pleading with somebody to photograph snow in Hawaii. I didn’t have time but I knew where, up on Mauna Kea, there would be at least a little patch of snow. I feel guilty about not having made it a perfect 50 state day.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, it probably WAS a 50 state day, he just didn’t have any proof of it.

        Everyone knows there’s snow on Mauna Kea. If he wants proof, let him hump HIS camera up the side of a mountain.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          True, but the problem that day was that no snow could be seen by the webcams and staff at the observatories up on the summit. And evidently nobody (that includes me) wanted to hike out to find that patch in one of the craters.

          What I think is an interesting weather-stats-you-can-use is the daily range, not the yearly range.

          This is going to be a interestingly-commented thread, Becky. Too bad I have to go over to Rochester (ours, not yours) and do tech support and score some plants in return.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I hope it’s interestingly-commented.

          I sure cast around enough.

          And no worries. It will still be here when you get back.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Don, according to the source, the 12F reading was taken at the Mauna Kea observatory. I assumed that’s why it was so cold in the first place, since it’s almost 14,000 feet above sea level.

          I’ve been fascinated with the island of Hawai’i ever since I visited there and landed at Kona. I couldn’t believe the landscape. Then I read the island contains 13 of the word’s 15 major climates. It’s truly most of the most alien and beautiful places on Earth…I find it far more interesting than, say, Maui or Oahu, though I would love to live on any of them.

          Also, I think we talked about this once, but Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell…wow. Quintessential otherworldly Hawai’i novel. I particularly love the post-post-Armageddon bit in the middle, where the future culture treks up Mauna Kea and finds the observatory.

          I think they also found The Guy up there.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          You should be here now, Rich. We’re at about 85 deg., 80% humidity, with wind all of a sudden and some red blobby army amassing to the northwest. Warnings in effect for the entire southern half of the state until 9 pm.

          They don’t look like too much on the radar right now, but Sven Sundgaard, our most comically Minnesotan weatherman (No shit. That is his name), says it’s only going to get bigger.

          Should be a fun ride home.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Dude, Richard. She just called you The Guy. Are you guys getting friendly all of a sudden? Cuz this is weird.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, I was too lazy to track down a post with an explanation of the guy, so I thought the author page was the next best thing.

          But if Richard prefers to think he’s the guy, that’s a-okay. I’m all about inflating egos. All the better to tear them down later, eh?

  6. David says:

    I have been to St Paul several times, and have always liked it. Been to Rochester and Duluth as well. I would think Minnesota is a much better place to be then say, North Dakota.

    I just spent the last two days in Wisconsin. While in Madison, as cliche as it is, I bore witness to an hour long conversation about cheese. This would never happen in St. Paul.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, no. Because any self-respecting Minnesotan would avoid sounding like a cheesehead at all costs.

  7. Matt says:

    I was in MN once, very briefly, nine years ago. It was the spring before I moved to New Orleans. I bought the cheapest ticket I could through Priceline, which meant I was routed from L.A. through MN before heading south. 8 hours in planes. I’ll get you for that one, William Shatner.

    I made a connection in whichever of the twin cities has the huge-ass airport. Would have been nice to at least step outside and experience a bit of the weather, but my incoming flight arrived late and I spent the entire 20 minutes I was there dashing like a madman from a terminal on one side to one on the other. All those lakes sure did look pretty from the air, though.

    Our main defense against all of these accusations is, “Hey. At least we’re not Wisconsin.”

    Best laugh I’ve had all day.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      We just have the one big airport. MSP. One guess what it stands for.

      Being twins, they tend to share.

      But technically, it’s not in either city. It’s in a suburb of Minneapolis. Bloomington, I think.

      Also home to the Mall of America and other shady places.

      • Matt says:

        That’s the one!

        Biggest damn airport I’d ever been to at the time. And I wasn’t kidding about the running part: sprinting full out, trench coat flapping behind me. I’m lucky that was pre-9/11, since these days that’d get me pounced on by Homeland Security in a heartbeat.

        Oh, and you’re right about the wild turkeys. I happened upon a couple while taking a tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Tennessee one time. I swear those birds had been in the stills, because they were downright hillbilly-drunk mean.

  8. D.R. Haney says:

    Prince was once asked why he remained in Minnesota, and he said, “The cold keeps the bad people out.”

    I’ve never been there, but I always associate it with the Replacements (whom you cite, of course, in the piece) and (don’t laugh) The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The latter is bound to have been an exact recreation.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I forgot about Mary Tyler Moore! How could I do that?

      And good for Prince. What a thing to ask, anyway. A bit rude, I think. Other acceptable answers would include, “I have enough money to make the moon hospitable.”

  9. Ryan Day says:

    I love Minnesota. I grew up in chicago (which I super maniacally love), but went to Minnesota most summers. My grandma runs a little store by Lake Superior. She said some disheveled old man was rummaging through her postcards one day. She thought he was a vagrant, but when he left a middle aged woman told her it was Bob Dylan. I love Minnesota.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Does Duluth even have vagrants?

      I always wonder how much Dylan actually comes back here. I had him pegged for the self-loathing kind of native; one of those who couldn’t get out fast enough.

  10. Don Mitchell says:

    Yea Becky! Nice links. This is a good read but I’ll have to return to chase the links.

    I like MN, having spent months there (but not recently). The last time I was there for an extended stay, I was just in from the South Pacific rainforests — and the St Paul summer seemed wickedly hot and humid to me.

    True, I was never up in the Iron Range. Maybe it’s not so nice up there, but the Twin Cities get a high grade in my gradebook.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      The Iron Range is gorgeous, actually.

      It’s got much of what’s left of the Great North Woods, in addition to about 8 billion tiny little lakes. And a ton of Lake Superior shoreline.

      Apologies for the Iron Range mostly have to do with the people, who are the source of about 90% of all stereotypes about Minnesota.

      And they’re nice people. Truly. They’re just very much the people that others are making fun of when they make fun of the state.

      Poor Rangers. Dylan is a Ranger.

  11. Greg Olear says:

    How refreshing, that you actually feel pride about the state where you grew up, and the city where you now live. New Jersey, my once and future home, does not inspire much in the way of…whatever the state equivalent of nationalism is. I remember in college, the first few weeks, people would boast about being from, say, Texas (“If you fold Texas at the top, the tip’ll touch Canada!”), and I’d be like, well, yeah, OK, you win.

    Little Mogadishu. There needs to be a movie named that.

    Your characterization of Chicago is very good, too, I think.

    But I must say, I’m surprised you wrote this whole thing without mentioning Jesse the Body.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh, Greggie Greg Greg…

      But I did.

      And now I know that you didn’t click the links.


      Yeah. I don’t know. I always get really uncomfortable when people trash their hometowns, talk about how their place is full of assholes and losers. Like, what does that make them? Escaped assholes? Rampant assholes? Assholes amok? It makes people sound pretentious and shitty. It’s really conspicuous and awful.

      I get a little tribal like that. I tend to have issues about loyalty. I mean, not everyone has a great, centralized upbringing to look fondly back on, and I understand that, but for the majority of the people in the country, things were probably pretty okay. How are they going to stand around and talk a bunch of fake shit about the place and the people who made them who they are? What a pack of lies. LIES, I say!

      It really, really…I don’t know. I actually do get mad about it sometimes. I haven’t really figured out why, in total, but I do.

      • Greg Olear says:

        In my defense, I read it on my iPhone, and it would have taken three times as long to click the links.

        I think it’s almost part and parcel of growing up to move away, see the world, and then (in my case, and the case of many others) return to the hometown. This cycle is captured beautifully in the Rush song “Subdivisions.” They are Canadian, of course, and grew up in similar climes to Minnesota.

        But this is changing. Apparently, people are relocating less than they have in quite some time. Partly due to the economy, but partly because people want to remain where they are.

        We’re moving back to NJ in August, and this inspires me to write about it when we do. I’ll call the piece “The Situation.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Alright. iPhone. I will accept that.

          I knew most people couldn’t be bothered to follow the links anyway, but you know…Easter eggs for the ambitious. There’s some cool stuff there.

          I’ve moved away and come back–not from out of the country, but from the South, which might as well be another country–and I have to say, I was never so happy to see Minnesota in my life.

          I don’t know. I just don’t have that chip, I guess. I don’t feel like Minnesota cheated me or deprived me of things or experiences or screwed up my mind or anything. I feel like I lucked out, honestly. I grew up on a river in one of the most gorgeous towns in the state and spent my summers camping and swimming and fishing–my winters snowmobiling and sledding. It was a charmed life full of nice people. I mean, it would be disingenuous to pretend to be disgusted with it. False. And sort of ungrateful.

          That’s just how I feel. There are a lot of benign things I’m able to get mad at, but Minnesota is just not one of them.

  12. Joe Daly says:

    Having lived in Chicago for a dozen or so years, I have grown to love the midwest like a high school girlfriend. I seem to only remember the good stuff, and from two time zones away, I now have a fond regard for those character-building temperatures that made my veins hurt.

    But going up to the Twin Cities was a special treat. Not only did you guys have savage food for a brat junkie like myself (I was a meat eater then), but the Twin Cities had a ridiculously good music scene in the mid-to-late 90s. The Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, Soul Asylum, and The Honeydogs were all staples on mix tapes I would make people back then. I remember being on the road with The Rugburns, when we hit The Cabooze one night. The crowd was exceptionally energetic, including one guy wearing nothing but overalls and boots (no shirt beneath; not sure about his boxer situation), which I thought fantastic.

    I didn’t make it up there nearly enough. Never made it to the mall with the rollercoaster. Never saw a Twins game. But if I make it back out there, you’ve given me a few sassy new things to add to my list. Rock on!

    • Becky Palapala says:

      The “boon” link is a pic of the boundary waters canoe area.

      I think it’s probably someplace everyone should see in person before they die. Little Alaska up there. I want to go, but haven’t mustered the courage for the hike-in-hike-out, portage and sweat and mosquitoes thing yet.

      I am a Minnesotan, after all. Not a savage.

      One day, though.

      Also Split Rock lighthouse and the Duluth/Lake Superior in general. That’s some big, intense nature up there.

      I forgot all about the Honeydogs and Run Westy Run.

  13. I’m envious of your state pride – of living where you’re from and loving where you’re from.
    I grew up in CT – nothing wrong with it – just don’t really have state pride.

    My people, well, on my Dad’s side, are all from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan – a town named
    L’Anse. And before that, it was Canada. When they came to this great country, it was literally by sled
    (as it says on my great-grandfather’s papers). My grandfather used to drive moonshine across frozen Lake Superior by car.

    I’ve yet to bring Greggie Greg Greggster there, but am dying to because it is super beautiful and there’s nowhere like it.

    How you describe Minnesota reminds me of the UP. Ay?

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I wonder if it’s more difficult in New England. To have state pride, I mean. Everything is so close together, I have to think there’s less of a sense of being unique or different from the places around you.

      I mean, in MN, theoretically, you could drive for 8 hours in a straight line and never leave the state.

      And up in this area of the country, the TC is really the only thing going on for at least 6 hours in any given direction. So we don’t have too much competition.

      Da U.P.! I’ve never been, but I’ve always felt a sort of camaraderie with the place. I’d probably feel pretty at home there.

      • Dana says:

        My aunt is a Yooper! From my childhood home (also in Michigan) it is about a 14 hour drive to my aunt’s home. (Ahmeek in Keweenaw County) It takes less time to drive to my home in southern Virginia. Heh. We don’t see her often, but it is really beautiful country.

        I have some state pride about Michigan – it has some great qualities. But frankly, the town I grew up in is largely charmless. And small and fairly remote. I don’t think I was meant to remain a Michigander.

        You make me want to check out your state Becky — at least in the summer time.

  14. Well, I think the other states do – Massachusetts seems to love itself
    and Vermont feels good (“I Lovermont”), New Hampshire does alright with its “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper stickers, Maine thinks it’s great with all of their lobstering and then there’s Rhode Island with all it’s Rhode Islandry.

    Connecticut, come to think of it, may very well have an inferiority complex
    for being quite blah in comparison to the other New England states.
    There’s just nothing to say about it. Everything CT has, other states have better of.

    Yeah, the U.P. in the summer is amazing – it doesn’t get dark until 11pm – you should go this summer.
    I’ll call on my cousins to hook a sister up with some pasties.

    • Becky Palapala says:


      I think Massachusetts is full of shit. That’s my stance on all that.

      I’m not even sure what they’re so proud of. Kennedy and the most oft-mocked accent in the nation. Harumph to them!

      My Dad is from Connecticut, actually. New Haven. My older sister was born there, too. I am the only person in my immediate family, as a matter of fact, who was actually born in MN.

      My dad’s accent is almost totally gone, but, having grown up with it, I didn’t realize until I was much older that he still says “farther” funny.


      I’ve been to CT a few times and always enjoyed it. Maybe its “blah” is its superpower. It’s a very comfortable place. None of that pomp and bluster and all that garbage. Laid back. And the few beaches I’ve seen were gorgeous.

    • Sarah says:

      See, now I can tell I have total state pride because the line, “Maine thinks it’s great…” almost pissed me off. It didn’t but it certainly made me go into my defensive mode. Maine is great.

      Connecticut is beautiful. I feel like it’s a state without a posse, without some back-up, that might make it seem a little blah-ish. It’s part of New England but identifies itself more with New York, which other New Englanders don’t like so much, especially when sports gets brought into the conversation. It also isn’t fully accepted by New York as it’s little sister state (NJ of course being the idiot younger brother who likes to burn the cat’s tail [sorry Greg]). So, yeah, I can see where it’s hard to get all emotional about CT.

      I also have to stick up a little bit for my adopted home of Mass, specifically Boston. It’s David to NYC’s Goliath plus a twist of a Napoleon complex. It has that 5’2″ bodybuilder attitude. If nothing else, it’s filled with unintentional comedy watching the little Irish white boys get all street and the too-long-in-the-tanning-bed bimbos try to be all Kardashian but are much more Snookie. And, as dwoz said somewhere out there, it still feels like a small town. It took me years to feel that way coming from an actual small town the way I did but my ex and I could go anywhere in Boston and he’d run into people he knew.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, I was being sarcastic about Boston. I’d like to see it myself. So no need to get defensive about that. But defend away on the Maine thing.

      • I didn’t say that Maine isn’t great – I said that Maine thinks it’s great – which doesn’t mean it’s not great. It clearly is – it’s Maine – for crying out bisque!

        And I think you nailed it with CT – it has no posse. It’s what I mean – there’s no
        CT pride. There’s the hockey team and that’s about it. And 1/3 of the people are
        Red Soxs fans, 1/3 Yankee and 1/3 Mets. We were the Mets fans people because my Dad,
        being from Michigan, could never be a Yankee fan. That’s what I mean – everything
        was so defaulted. And then I moved to NYC as soon as I could. Where I met Greg 10 years later
        the Jersey boy who vowed he would never move back to Jersey.
        And now, in two months, we will be doing just that.
        A state with definite pride. But I like Jersey – I love being near the shore. And Trader Joe’s.
        And in-laws who like to babysit grandchildren a lot.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Maine is a place where people retire to, so it needs no defenders. Other than against the mosquitoes, which, the time I went there, were bigger than the lobsters.

          The problem with CT is the same problem that NJ has — the urban centers are either ho-hum (Hartford) or flat-out bad (Newark, Bridgeport). CT and northern NJ are just part of the NYC metro area, which doesn’t make any sense. It should just be one state. CT also doesn’t have a close celebrity association in the way that NJ does — Sinatra, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, the Sopranos, and now these Jersey Shore peeps.

          But you’re right, Sarah — NJ is NYC’s idiot little brother.

  15. dwoz says:

    There are great things about Mass. Boston, for one. Boston is like few other cities it’s size, in that its really still a town. You might want to skip it though…not a big college town.

    NH is beautiful, but so are lots of places. I think the main good thing in NH is that there’s really a “lack of blight.”

    I agree about Connecticut. It just seems to lack any identity of it’s own.

  16. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Isn’t Michelle Bachman representing at least part of the state? Which means baby farmers as well as fat farmers? So maybe the babies are being raised to feed the raptors, I mean june bugs?

    And correction about the lutefisk. That’s *rotten* fish-flavored jello. Closest I’ve come is over Christmas with my Norwegian friend who had aquevit and lutefisk. I tapped a spot of the latter tentatively with my tongue. I got him back later by tricking him into eating kolanut.

    With love from flyover Colorado.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh yes. Ms. Michelle. One of our many political curios.

      I don’t know what Norwegian lutefisk tastes like–my family is of Swedish descent–but part of what I found so bizarre about it was that, really, it barely tasted like anything. And the texture…phlegmy.

  17. Irene Zion says:


    I left you a comment earlier, but it’s gone.
    Should I leave another, or did you delete it for some reason?
    I can’t remember saying anything you wouldn’t like, so I think it was just a glitch.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I didn’t delete anything.

      Must’ve been swallowed up by wordpress.

      • Irene Zion says:

        I’ve written FOUR times.
        Four times it vanished.
        I give up.
        I assume this one will show up, since it says nothing.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It’s because of the link. All four will hit the comment board while we sleep. It will be like you’re obsessed with the kayak lady.

          (By the way, the link came to my email, so you could post again without it and I bet it would work. But then 5 will appear in the night, not just 4.)

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Irene, if it had a few links in it, it’s probably progressing leisurely through the WordPress spam protection system. Yeah, that’s happened to me. You might want to wait a bit before re-posting, or it might be an eventual dupe.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Uche, Becky,
        I just tried my fifth time and I give up.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Why are my giving up comments showing up and not the comment comments?

          One. More. Time.

          Loved the way you described Little Mogadishu and the West Bank, in fact I loved the way you described the whole state.
          the sounds of snow?
          the sounds of ice?
          Beautiful job, Becky.

          I have a friend, Mary, who lives, I think in the “nipple” of the state. She has spent forever kayaking all the lakes in Minnesota and photographing the beauty around and in them. She’s coming out with a book that I’d bet you’d like. I’ll let you know when it comes out. Her photographs are glorious.

          If this one doesn’t post, I truly give up.
          On the other hand, if five other posts show up, please delete the ones of your choice.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Ta dah!!

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Irene, just remember that comments with any links in them can take hours to show up.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I didn’t know that.
          I say again,

  18. Lorna says:

    This put my A D D over the top. But it was fun!

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Lorna.

      Fun was the goal.

      Light fare, conducive to conversation. I’ll save the heavy stuff for when everyone isn’t in such a good mood. (Is it me, or have good vibes been skyrocketing lately? Maybe it’s just me.)

  19. jmblaine says:

    Br. I hate cold.
    i heard Prince lives
    there so he never has to wear shorts.

    I hate long pants.
    This made me
    good old Nashville.

    Watch out Ham!
    taking over the TNB!

    (I love your gravitar
    & can’t seem to articulate why.
    Do you know why?)

    • Becky Palapala says:

      My gravatar?

      Because I’m wearing a London Calling shirt, which you can’t tell at a conscious level, but your brain is picking up the pink lettering and filling in the blanks and filling your heart with tender feelings?

      Well, no one has to wear shorts ever, anywhere.

      But I strongly advise it when the temp is over 80 degrees. Like it is right now. And especially when it’s up in the 90s

  20. Tawni says:

    This was some fun and informative linky goodness. I clicked many.

    I liked Minneapolis when I was there for a night. I walked around and the vibe was good; the people were nice. I like nice people. I like polite niceties. I like door holding. I like saying hello to strangers. I like Prince. I like the Replacements. I like your writing. I like you.

  21. Darian Arky says:

    So, that’s what Fran Tarkenton (sp?) and the Vikings were doing all those times back in the 70s, behaving politely. Now it makes sense.

    My mom’s from Minnesota. From Alexandria. I’ve only met a few of her relatives from back there, but I’ve heard the stories. Wow.

    Finland has lots of lakes, and they spent a long time bordering a communist country as well. I’m not sure where I’m going with that one.

    I think all the teams that win the Stanley Cup should come from the North, and I’ve got much more respect for Minnesota than I do for Florida in that sense.

    Hubert Humphy seemed like a decent guy, but his voice made me a little edgy. He didn’t sound at all like the people in Fargo, though. (I thought that movie was about North Dakota.)

    Maybe I’m out of synch, but the first thing that pops into my mind when you say “Minnesota” (after the Vikings, my mom, Finland, hockey, and Hubert Humphry) is the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

    It’s nice (Minnesota nice?) that people in the flyover states take an interest in their territories and provinces while arrogant coasties cruise by. (I’m not sure I’ve ever flown that far north while flying from side to side, however.)

    I wonder where I’ve been that is “just like” Minnesota. It seems that everywhere I’ve been there always turns out to be at least one other place I end up in that is “the same”….

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, I think it would be difficult to be “just like” the whole state, whether in terms of people, architecture, landscape…anything, really.

      Mostly because MN isn’t, overall, uniform.

      I mean, the Iron Range is a lot like Canada, in speech and geography. Rocky and hilly and craggy and what not.

      The NW or central west is a lot like the Dakotas. Flat.

      Twin Cities and the SE is river country…

      The boundary waters are kind of fjord-ish.

      Climate-wise and abundance of water-wise, there are plenty of comparisons to be made to Scandinavia, which is part of the reason those folks came here…

      I have no idea. You’ve been more places than I have.

  22. angela says:

    great piece, becky. reminds me a lot of Annie Dillard writing about Pittsburgh in An American Childhood.

    like greg, i don’t know if i’d have as many good things to say about Jersey. the accents for instance. i have no defense for some of them.

    • Becky says:

      Thanks Angela.

      I’ve never been to Jersey, so I can’t say for certain, but there must be something. Aren’t there gardens or something?

  23. Jordan Ancel says:

    I’ve been to Minneapolis and really enjoyed the city. It has a great nightlife, which I didn’t expect. But it was soooooo cold!!

    I’ve also been to the Mall of America. That was regrettable.

    • Becky says:

      Yeah, I don’t know. Not sure why people think that. I mean, I guess they think that since it gets cold in the winter, people never leave their houses, hence, no nightlife.

      But the opposite’s true, I think. I think it just makes us more determined.

  24. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    “I mean, the net effect is the same.”
    (Until the bodies start piling up.)

    And isn’t Walter Mondale from Minnesota?
    Brief aside: I kissed Walter Mondale’s great-nephew after the TNB-LA event. Brad Listi is a superhero. He hooked me up with a fine man to kiss. Said fine man will be in Minnesota this summer, visiting Walter Mondale for a 4th of July family reunion. Obviously, Brad Listi wasn’t able to get me all the way laid, or I’d be much too busy shagging to have read this or gossiped. But it’s a fun coincidence, since Walter Mondale was the staunch supporter of the same Equal Rights Amendment that was not passed on Simon Smithson’s birthday.

    Awesome story. Your humor is always so right on.

    • Becky says:

      Yeah. I realized later I forgot a lot of historical figures/politicians.

      Mondale, Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr., Charles Lindbergh… (born in Detroit, grew up here).

      Brad should really get some kind of special merit badge just for wide variety of dreams he makes possible.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        Sometimes it’s better not to think too hard about politicians. That’ll take you to the land of ten million links — hard to reign in. (Insert obvious joke about word “reign.” Say, “no pun intended.”)

        Brad Listi needs a super-suit. I think I’ll call the designer who outfits The Incredibles. I hear she’s fabulous. I know, I know. In Minnesota, an understated merit badge would be the way to go. But this is L.A. It’s easy to get lost in this place. You know who stands out? People in super-suits. I saw a guy dressed as Spiderman on the Boardwalk yesterday. He was perched on a recycling bin. And I thought: Hey now! THAT is something special.

        • Becky says:

          MN motto: “Don’t make a scene.”

          L.A. motto: “Make a scene. Literally or figuratively. Or both.”

  25. Simon Smithson says:

    “Ya shuur”

    You said it! You know you said it!

    I still wanna come visit Minnesota. I know four people there, now.

    Also: thanks for the link!

  26. […] BECKY PALAPALA is a proud Minnesotan. […]

  27. J. Ryan Stradal says:

    I just came across this now, Becky.


    And I’m not just acting nice.

    J. R.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, J.R.

      MN represent!

      Also, this just in: Surly is the fastest-growing brewery in the country. So we’ve got that going for us, too.

  28. […] BECKY PALAPALA makes the case for Minnesota. […]

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