Iâ€™m in Minneapolis for part of the summer, staying in a 400 unit condo complex that seems to be a cross between a retirement community and a gay cruise. Bitchy queens tanning by the pool while old ladies do lazy laps in water wings. They call it the Gay 90s â€“ either youâ€™re gay or youâ€™re 90.
Before I came here all I knew about Minneapolis was that Tom Waits wrote a song called 9th and Hennepin, and it was the home of Bob Dylan, Husker Du, the Replacements, and Prince. Prince always reminds me of the funeral where my friends hid out in the bathroom doing drugs. It seemed in particularly bad taste as Rik died of an overdose, so I donâ€™t listen to much Prince. I do listen to the Replacements, quite a lot in fact, and Bob Dylan is unavoidable.
These days this seems to be a big Jazz city. I have a solid and well-earned reputation for hating Jazz. Itâ€™s not that I donâ€™t get it, I get it, and I hate it! Iâ€™ve been known to run out of the room when the threat of a flute or squeaky saxophone becomes apparent, so the scene is pretty much lost on me.
So far the best music Iâ€™ve seen was at a place called the Polonaise. A place that looks like its been going strong since the 1940s. Red and gold glitter vinyl booths and mirrored bars. In one room, an ancient woman manned the piano framed by a circular bar with patrons bellied up and awaiting their turn at the mic. On the other side of the swinging doors was a polka bar with a trio billed as The Most Dangerous Polka Band on Earth crammed onto a stage about as big as a coffin. An elderly gentleman who couldnâ€™t sing was the singer, and an even more elderly woman rocked the house with an accordian, while a spry drummer no older than 65 kept a steady beat on the drums. The coolest thing was there weâ€™re people of all ages crammed into both of these bars. Drinking and singing and doing the Chicken Dance â€“ the fucking Chicken Dance. Iâ€™ve always thought of the Chicken Dance as something distinctly European, but it just goes to show the depth of the Midwestern cosmopolitan ethic.
Minneapolis is a liberal city, with lots of unpretentious hipsters and beautiful architecture.
There is however, an eerie glut of white people. After 18 years in San Francisco, and riding the Mission 14, Iâ€™ve gotten pretty used to being the only white girl within eyeshot. Iâ€™ve grown beyond comfortable and have to strain to even notice anymore. But being surrounded by people who look like me feels odd.
The saxophones and white people are outweighed by the theatrical weather. Weather that alternates between being so hot it feels like a bathroom hand dryer is pointed at your face, and radical summer storms what appear out of nowhere. A couple days ago I stood at the window and watched hail the size of golf balls, which I always thought was just an expression, fall out of the sky. The lawn was jumping with chunks of ice. Last night we watched an awesome lightening storm from the Hennepin Bridge. It was amazing, if you just stared into what looked like flat darkness and waited, a bolt would flash and light up layers and layers of clouds. Gorgeous.