. So while all of these folks dance and sing and lighten the hearts of poor Minnesotan children from the wellspring of their hearts, the rest of us sit in a cloud while half of John’s day off ticks away. I decide to make plans without those good-souled folk, and meet John at a coffee shop from whence he takes myself, Cornbread, and Navin on a quick tour of downtown, Northeast Minneapolis, and Dittyville (or whatever the latter district, near the university, is called). I’m quite interested in the University of Minneapolis’ writing and Italian programs, and my interest doesn’t wane because, though the campus is urban and often of a 1960s hospital style of architecture, it’s also full of the auspicious tangled chrome of Francis Gehry, the angular windows and topsy cubic levels in the style of Liebskind, while the sports center is simply epic
and drenched in their proud maroon and gold. The rest of the city that we see is bursting in color, from the omniscient grey monolith of its basilica to the rainbow neon and glass brick of its bars, all the way to the green marble and weathered brick of its grand old theaters (I’m told that the Twin Cities boast the country’s second-highest ratio of theaters per capita, second only to New York), and for all of its gentrification and its old Victorian homes smack in the city center, it feels both historic and warm, and modern and lively. Summer in Minneapolis wins, but the score for winter has yet to be taken.
We get word from Shmark that he and the girls are on their way back to the apartment after a stop at the grocer’s, so we head back and meet everyone at the pool. There are a few Bros (tattooed and bronzed, wearing backwards hats and white sunglasses in the water) around the common area, everyone splashing around calmly and quietly, but when we bus fellows get a glimpse of that tepid blue calm, we dive in without hesitation
. The sun cuts, and so we similarly charge through a case or two of beer, and after Shamrk grills everyone some delicious Hebrew Nationals, we start an impassioned game with Meryl’s football. As the calm weekenders sit with their noses in books, aiming for a little bit of calm, the Bros leaning coolly against the pool wall, cheering along, we struggle for at least two hours doing the same thing over and over; The Beard and Navin being the exceptions, the former having been determinedly trying to finish The Fountainhead
for a week now, the latter sunbaking in what must be his calmest day I’ve ever seen from him. The rest of us, then, get after it: John runs and jumps into the pool, throwing the ball to myself, who must quick-toss it off of a diving Tristan’s head, which must then bop it to Cornbread, who, also diving, must kick it through imaginary uprights, or to Shmark, or simply catch it before he hits the water. We do this, clearing the pool of probably a good foot of its water, and by now the girls are regretting inviting us at all, but it’s a far cry from the glory of calf castration, and we’re having a blast. Meryl and Evan, when they aren’t jokingly explaining us, in apology, to Meryl’s neighbors, are busy hoisting food into us like mother hens, and are, in their selfless kindness, are determined to make us love Minneapolis. So after chips and Top-of-the-Tater (a local dip made of sour cream and chives) and frozen Cosmopolitans (pink and yummy, youbetcha!), Navin and I take a hike to the nearest Trader Joe’s so we might be able to cook them a meal as a thank you
. It’s a good few miles down one of the city’s millions of bike paths (everyone seems to commute via bike in this city, and how cool is that), we return with an appetizer of prosciutto
and melon, that Tuscan specialty that Cornbread makes for us; I take an unnecessarily long time making some sort of caccaiatore
pasta out of bus leftovers and sundry (canned artichoke bottoms and mushrooms, onions, capers, white wine), topped with fried-then-baked chicken tenderloins. As I’m cooking, Bible Verse Barry and Evan keep me company in the kitchen and we talk about the usual differences between California (Evan had gone to school in San Francisco, then worked in San Diego for a spell) and Minnesota (Bible Verse Barry was born in Portland, had worked on a ranch in Colorado, but still subscribes, to some extent and as we all do, to the mythology of The West). As we do so, Navin manages to find a Nintendo 64 in the apartment and in no time, everyone’s fighting over Yoshii and Bowser, taking part in a wine-fueled Mario Cart tournament and I’m caught between adolescence and adulthood once again: I love it all.
The meal’s decent enough, but we’re out of the apartment by ten to a German restaurant called Gastof’s, lured by the promise of drinking beer from a boot and dancing the polka, just like in good old Berlin, but the parking lot is empty, the windows seemingly boarded up, and we carry our disappointment a short distance to a small linoleum bar that could have fit in nicely on the Drew Carey Show
. Turns out that the place is full of Meryl and Evan’s childhood friends and the place is a solid time, evident from the initial sight of the bartender, a gruff, fat old man with white hair and a white beard, who never minces words but always fills your glass full of Jack before even thinking about adding the Coke, then mumbles an absurd "$3.75" as he snatches your fiver then slams a buck on the weathered bar.
Since Navin’s leaving us in a day or so, we decide it apt to put in a call to our old mutual friend, Hiram Worbab, and we go back to the patio and sit in front of a TV showing the History Channel. I’m chatting away and Navin’s got one foot on a chair, Captain Morgan style, and he starts dancing back and forth. As he’s tearing his shirt off, licking his lips, I can only disrupt the conversation for it appears that our friend is seducing the narrator of Modern Marvels, but Navin knows a little more than I, for by the time he shares a few words with Hiram and we’re back in the bar, the patrons are all staring, bewildered, for all of Navin had been captured by the security camera and witnessed from inside. I’m on the phone receiving Nave’s striptease, complicit in of one his subtly constructed non-pranks; it’s an evening where laughter doesn’t quite serve the occasion justly.
Cornbread and Tristan then bump into an old college friend named Frank (that’s the only real name in this entire blog, and I don’t mind revealing it because he’s earned it) now living in Minneapolis, a pale, freckled guy with a head shaped like Lyle Lovett’s, and in no time he’s inviting us to his friend’s lakehouse for a weekend of who-knows-what. He’s stinking, reeking, absorbedly, profoundly, inanely, expertly mashed out of his mind, and when he’s not making remarks too lewd to repeat – which says something, as I revel in the lewd – he’s telling Evan she’s, “as beautiful as fucking shit,” and that he’d, “kill someone to marry a girl like her,” and when she responds gracefully and wittily, he’s so wounded as to say, “I don’t care, I’m known for how much play I get, so you can go to hell.” He’s on the edge in a big way, so marvelously entertaining that though the prospect of spending a weekend with him is interesting, it’s probably also a bad idea. We all say goodnight to him, see you tomorrow, and slink away as quickly as possible.
These take a taxi, wheeze take Evan’s car, and we all reconvene over graham crackers and vanilla frosting in Meryl’s den for a viewing of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth
, which might also be called “The Battle of The Bowie Bulge”. Our good friend Davy Jones has a great wig and some killer dance moves, while a teenage Jennifer Connoly is a heartbreaker, but it’s also 4am and we all wake up to the DVD menu by morning.
P.S. Happy birthday to Aaron Levin, who celebrated on the 15th!
DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: The mosquitoes are replaced in the city by a soupy humidity that leaves one waking in a smelly slosh of a pillow, and we're all up at a reasonable time to attack the day in this new city. We brush our teeth, a few of us sit beneath a suburban tree to read or write or reflect, and while John Henderson is up early – he’s taken this Friday off of work to hang out with us, which shows his colors as a person with his priorities in order – Shmark is with the girls at Meryl’s church. We’re scratching our heads, wondering where they are and why he hasn’t come to let us into the apartment, but instead he, with his supposedly eternal scowl that is deceiving to his real personality but very consistently true in the mornings, is dressed as a Town Sheriff, helping preschoolers learn bible verse through song. His kindness and generosity goes on with us unaware (when an attitude falls in a Church with no one to see it…?), along with the help of Bible Verse Barry, he who I had unfairly mocked previously, having caricatured without having met