Day 12: Minneapolis, MN, still

Thursday, September 10

At breakfast another guest at the B&B asked what my plans were for the day. She was going to borrow a bike from the garage and ride around the lakes. I told her I was going to catch up on work, and she looked surprised. A wave of shame washed over me.

Shaming voice: “You might never be in this city again, and you’re holing up in a room to work?”
Defensive voice: “But I promised people I would help them! I can’t just ignore everything. If you saw my inbox you’d be on my side.”
Forgiving voice: “You’re doing the best you can. It’s going to be fine.”
SV: “What’s the worst that could happen—people get mad at you? Can you seriously not deal with that? You’re pathetic. Go to a museum!”
DV: “If you just leave me alone I’ll get all of this done and then you’ll shut up and everyone will be happy, okay?”
FV: “Relax, everything will be okay.”
DV: “Oh, now I have to relax, too? Why does everyone need something from me? Why can’t you all just go away?”

Around and around. Sorting through this stuff—realizing the version of myself that pursues my own desires as the same version that chooses to help other people—wedding two modes of being that feel very far apart—is a long, tortured process. I wanted the trip to be an escape from people-pleasing Beth, but of course I can’t just up and escape myself. I think it’s possible, though, to reach a state where I don’t resent work and don’t have to switch into a different mode of self to do it. Maybe that state is Nebraska.

Many reviews of the bed and breakfast mentioned that John, the owner, gives a great house tour. I asked him that morning if I could interview him, and he said he’d give me a tour, and that the tour could be the interview. Fair enough.

It was a thorough and satisfying tour. John is extremely knowledgeable about Minneapolis, and the house—which is still being restored after having been converted to an office building—has a fascinating history. John invited every previous owner of the house (or their descendants) to come back and share their memories of the place with him, and everyone accepted the invitation, many of them bringing furniture or other artifacts from their era of the house with them to donate. He told me that all of the pillars from the front balustrade had been stolen in the 1970s, so they didn’t have a model for them when they renovated it. But a couple weeks ago someone knocked on the door, pillar in tow, saying she’d stolen it when she was a kid and had recently been feeling guilty. The renovation is a project of love, and it indeed seems that there’s a great deal of love in and around this house.

Exterior of the house, from

The house and its incorrect, but totally fine, pillars (Photo:


Staircase view from the third floor

The 1970s might have been a time of pillar plundering, but they also saw the creation of the Loring Greenway, an urban renewal project in which the government collaborated with private developers on a pedestrian walkway and corresponding apartment buildings, linking them to a nearby commercial district. Becca and I fell hard for the Greenway the first night we were here, and I passed through it again on my way to dinner that night to meet up with Adam, my next travel partner, and his brother Brian and sister-in-law Madeline downtown.

The Loring Greenway is a very well-preserved relic of another era of design, and it worked on both the “I get to pretend it’s 1978 for a few minutes” level and on the level of just being a cozy green and brown space to pass through, if you prefer for some reason to live in the present. It works because it offers variety within a cohesive theme, like a soothing Epcot boat ride through Mexico. I sensed that I was feeling exactly what I was intended to feel, walking through it—insulated, calmed—along with the bonus fantasy time-travel element.


Friendly lamp posts


Sitting pavilion


Decorative pyramids with gumdrop border

The Loring Greenway is just unabashedly itself, and I think we can all learn from it.

I passed through the Nicollet Mall, an eleven-block stretch of pedestrian space with shops and restaurants downtown. I’d eaten dinner at an Irish pub there the previous night, listening to a bunch of finance dudes whine about work and women. (They seemed too hostile for me to initiate conversation.) The Mall has no direct New York equivalent—it’s more subdued than Times Square, but more deliberate than anywhere else. Anyway, that Irish Pub was gigantic and I wrote sloppy emails on my phone while devouring a huge Cobb salad.

But let’s return to Thursday. Over the course of the walk I started noticing that people in Minneapolis, or at least downtown, weren’t fat, and I thought it might have to do with how bike-friendly it is. I decided to count obese people. I hope you don’t feel offended by this; it felt like a scientific study to me. My scientific results: four obese people out of maybe 200. That’s not bad!


But then at dinner Maddie and Brian talked about how everyone there is fat, or at least “soft,” so what do I know.

It had been four years since I’d seen Maddie and Brian at Andy’s and Adam’s and Maddie’s 10-year college reunion. It’s hard to believe it had been that long, and it’s crazy to think that the next one is next year. I am a vocal fan of those reunions. (P.S. HARVARD)

We ate at a great Japanese place. and their kids are adorable and charming and wanted to eat lots of edamame and dumplings. It was good to talk to Madeline and Brian, and it made me wish I’d tried to see them the night before instead of eavesdropping on the finance doofuses.

We headed back to their cozy Craftsman after dinner. Eddie, their six year old, had just acquired some classic books at either a sale or giveaway, I can’t remember:


I would happily read all of these

The kids were so wound up that they couldn’t fall asleep. Maddie and Brian stayed with them upstairs, working on coaxing them into bedtime. Adam and I hung out and drank a bottle of wine while we waited. We hugged the boys goodnight, and an hour later they came back down and we hugged them goodnight again. It was Proustian, and we of course talked about how it was Proustian. Eventually I left; it was late, and my cat allergies were flaring up.

Hotel Art of the Day

12-artRomantic Bathroom
Likely Oil, ~24″ x 32″
Eugene Carpenter House, Minneapolis
(I could probably track down this artist but I don’t feel like it right now)

Hotel Art Score

7/10. This painting of a bathroom lives in a bathroom that resembles it. The painting is better than the real bathroom, though, in that there’s no moldy shower curtain inside the clawfoot tub that touches your butt in a way you don’t like. The window in the painting is also nicer.

Art Art Score

6/10. In general I like interiors. This is fine. It’s nice. It feels like something a very talented student might submit for the AP Art exam as their example of understanding perspective. No, it’s better than that. But there’s a Colorforms aspect to it; it feels like all of the stuff has been stuck onto the background: tub, chair, mirror, urn, chandelier.