My best friends from college – Deb, Amy, Brian, and Donna
We’ve started our road trip, Duluth to Key West. It’s worth noting that a road trip like this in the U.S. is pretty unusual for us. We don’t like cars and haven’t owned one in 10 years. The last time we bought a car was during Bill Clinton’s first term as president. But since we’re planning on spending several weeks in the country we figured we would rent a car and connect with friends along the way.
Our first stop was Minneapolis, an easy two-and-a-half hour drive from Duluth and one that I’ve done many, many times. I lived here for nearly all of my 20s when I went to college and had my first political job. The four days here were one of my favorite stops on this five-year adventure we’ve been on, a chance to reconnect with great old friends. That recognition – that spending time with friends after our visits with family in Michigan and Duluth is such a highlight – goes a long ways toward explaining why we’re thinking of getting a permanent home back in the U.S. If being around friends and family is what you want, maybe you’re done traveling the world on a full-time basis.
That’s Bill standing next to me and his girlfriend Jennifer next to Mark. We had dinner with them one night and then lunch before a matinée performance of “Familiar” at the Guthrie. We met Bill in Chile some years ago and have traveled with him in Korea, Panama, and Paris, and have plans to see him in Amsterdam this summer. This is the first time, though, that we’ve seen him in the U.S.!
At any rate, we had a great few days in Minneapolis. Lunch with an old college roommate, dinners with a variety of my oldest friends, a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a matinée at the Guthrie Theater, and just walking around a lovely city. How much fun did we have? True story: A month or so ago I emailed a group of college friends and said Mark & I would be in town, wondering if we could all get together. Amy invited us all to her house for a dinner party so five great old friends and five spouses came over. Lots of talk and catching up and all that along with a very nice meal. Brian’s cell phone rings and he steps away from the table because he thinks he knows what the call is about: his mother just died. She was fading and everyone knew it could happen at any time. He decided, though, that being with old friends was just what he needed so he stayed with us, telling stories of his mother and just drinking in the warmth of old friendship. That’s a helluva night.
Brian and Donna
Besides all that, two things stand out. First, I’ve long thought that I would like to move back to Minneapolis at some point. I know Mark doesn’t want to so it’s not going to happen, but it’s still something of a fantasy. In short order, though, two old friends separately threw quite the wet blanket on the idea. They each told me – one at lunch our first day, the other at dinner that night – that after living on the East Coast for 25 years and now traveling the world I’d be bored back in Minneapolis. Probably true. And sad.
OK, one other weird thing. Over the years when we’ve traveled in Asia people sometimes ask Mark and me if we’re brothers. We just laugh; presumably to them all us Westerners look the same. Suddenly though it’s happening with a lot more regularity and now in the U.S. It’s weird because, as Mark points out, we’re not even the same race. One night as we returned to our hotel in Minneapolis the guy checking IDs at the hotel bar asked if we were twins! We think it’s strange.
Our first stop was lunch in Minnetonka with my old college roommate Jeff
We stayed at the W Hotel downtown in the old Foshay Tower. Modeled after the Washington Monument, it was the tallest building in Minneapolis for over 40 years. Because the hotel chain likes us our room was in the very top floor with views in two directions across Minneapolis. If you had told me back in the 1970s and ’80s when I lived here that I would be sleeping in the top floor of the Foshay Tower, I’d have thought you were crazy.
There is a viewing platform at the very top of the Foshay Tower, along with a cute little museum about the building. Here is Mark enjoying the view.
Minneapolis City Hall, where I once worked for the City Council. This beautiful Richardsonian building was built in the late 19th century and was the tallest building in Minneapolis until the Foshay Tower surpassed it. The clock faces are bigger than Big Ben.
And while I’m on the subject of architecture, this is the Guthrie Theater, a great repertory theater that has been a Minneapolis mainstay since the early 1960s. This new building opened in 2006 and is a stunning addition to the Mississippi River area of the city. It was designed by Jean Nouvel, the same guy who designed buildings in Seoul, Doha, and Abu Dhabi that Mark & I have loved.
Here’s the set for “Familiar”, the play we saw on Saturday afternoon. We haven’t been to a play in years so maybe that’s part of the explanation of why we loved it so much, but we had a great time. Interestingly the play is written by Danai Gurira who is starring in “Black Panther” as Okoye. Quite the talented woman, apparently.
Besides friends and the Guthrie, the other big deal for me was a morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It’s a great collection with lots to enjoy, but this one stood out. It’s by Kehinde Wiley, the guy whose painting at the Detroit Institute of Art impressed me so much and whom I later learned painted Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait. I love learning about new artists (and by that, of course, I mean new for me…).
I liked the way it looks as if this Rodin – The Age of Bronze, a statue so lifelike that Rodin was insulted when people suggested he had cast it directly from a male model – has just punched those guys in the Wiley painting
Speaking of learning of new artists, the Minneapolis Institute of Art has a lot of local art, including several by George Morrison, from the Grand Portage Ojibwe band, a neighbor to my Fond du Lac band
Another George Morrison, this one titled “Lake Superior Landscape”
Just as I thought I was done with the Mia (as they refer to they call the Institute of Art), I came across an exhibit by Minol Araki, a Japanese artist born in China. I quickly fell in love with it.
Snow monkeys in one of his very, very large pieces
And finally, back to old friends. The top picture here showed five old friends. This is five spouses, also apparently having a good time. Note that Steve, standing next to Mark, was my RA when I lived in the dorm in my sophomore year and who was then on the City Council when I worked for a different (and usually competing) member. Strange but true.