A Near-Perfect Day in Minneapolis

6.12am, Sunday 18th April, Gate E10, Minneapolis St Paul ‘Lindbergh’ Airport, Minnesota, USA
I’m watching a blood orange sunrise in a wide open clear sky, the rental car is returned, the bags are through the X-ray and – like me – are destined for Canada – first stop Calgary. Hopefully we’ll both get there this afternoon at the same time!

Did I mention how much I like it up here in Minneapolis?

I was on track for almost the perfect day yesterday – apart from some weird stomach bug I picked up somewhere that struck with a vengeance early afternoon, and forced me to actually leave a baseball game early, and cancel out of the Link Wray tribute at Lee’s Liquor Lounge early evening, and a night out with a local band late evening. But that sort of thing is bound to happen somewhere along the way when you are out and about in as many germ incubators as I am most days. However now I do feel like I have unfinished business in Minneapolis, and I WILL be back somehow next trip.

Just a slot in the wall

So this is what my nearly perfect day started out like. The local drum is that you have to do breakfast at least once at Al’s Breakfast, which is just a slot (not even a hole) in the wall in Dinkytown. This is a neat historic and retro area over near the university and is well worth the visit. I was told to get there early, as the line is always long to get in. Well, they were right on all counts. The place itself is sanwiched between a couple of bigger buildings, and inside there’s the grill either end of a counter with 13 or 14 stools, and you get to hang your jacket on a hook behind you, slide in to the counter, order from either a VERY STERN waitress – no mucking about at all – or a lovely young bloke who looks like he just got out of bed smiling.

Guess which one I got!

I had the usual scrambled eggs with cheese and shattering bacon and one pancake – here they call that a “short short stack”. I don’t know what they did to it, but it just tasted tops! Like the delightful young lad sitting next to me (specialist plant breeder still studying a grad thing at uni – lots for us to talk about when I mentioned our grapevine nursery!) said. “There’s a reason why a place with this many seats is still going strong after 50-something years”. Absolutely correct.

Then I went along the river to check out the old flour mills downtown, one that has even been turned into a museum,before heading across to the Target Field area. I parked the car before everyone came in to the city for the day game between the Twins and the Kansas City Royals and wandered round the corner to get some photos of Lee’s Liquor Lounge.

It’s interesting how things go, as in the ’40s and ’50s this whole area, where Target Field, the Target Basketball Centre and the massive carparks and freeway are now, was where the light industry was. According to Louie (the owner of Lee’s) the bar used to be the hub for working families and travelling salesmen in the area. There used to be a coffee roasting plant, an ice cream factory, a massive sewing shop that made men’s suits, and a hotel for travelling salesmen. If you’re ever in that part of town, behind the Seville Bar, on the original brickwork, you can just make out the fading painted Seville Hotel sign, and the advertisement for weekly rooms in this “fireproofed” building. Then, from the ’70s through the ’90s, it was a bit of a dodgy part of town. Now that they’re not much more than a quarter mile from the new Target Field, Lee’s is a whole new deal. It’s the last old freestanding building in the area, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t disappear now that its land value has skyrocketed. Last time I was there, you could have lost a car in some of the potholes in the carpark across from Lee’s. Now it’s all paved. That’s progress, I guess. If you’re in Minneapolis, make sure you drop by whilst that piece of original Amricana still exists.

OK, I got carried away there, and we’ll be boarding for Chicago shortly, so I’ll post this, and pick the rest of the story up later. I’ve got about a three hour layover before the flight across to Calgary, so that will be no worries.

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