In 2002, I spent a memorable New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis. After visiting Brian’s family in Wisconsin and basking in the luxury of lefse and klubb, we ventured to the Twin Cities for the New Year’s holiday. Heading to a party that evening, my friends and I pulled up to an old craftsman-style house at 911 Fulton Street, parked, and stepped inside. As we walked inside the warm smell of radiant heat welcomed us in from the brisk winter air. There were sheets of plastic on the windows, and as we walked upstairs, heat continued from burly radiators lined along the walls. The Midwest was a new place for me, full of charm and pleasantly welcoming.
After a drink and a few introductions, we piled into cars and headed out to the Kitty Cat Klub to ring in the new year. Even the drive was memorable. We wound down River Road, the river on our left and the University of Minnesota to the right as we drove into then-still-mostly-historic Dinkytown. The mighty Mississippi called, peeping out to meet me from behind my memories of random band lyrics and works of literature.
Our friend Jim was bartending that night, and my new friends assured me the Kitty Cat Klub, with its cozy couches and chill vibe, would be the perfect place to be to ring in the new year. Giant windows in the back of the venue gave view to more lights and buildings in Dinkytown, the walls with exposed brick softened by strategically placed curtains and Victorian mirrors throughout. We claimed a square of couches in the back, and there we remained for the next five hours, talking and drinking, laughing and happy. I felt so at home; it was one of the best nights I could remember in quite some time.
I met some of the most painfully intelligent, wonderful people I’d ever meet again, and we talked through the night about philosophy and art, music and politics.
We were back on our way home the following morning. It was a beautiful New Year’s Day, and a beautiful start to my love affair with the city of Minneapolis.
A few months later, a terribly rough and busy patch at work had me itching for a little adventure. I booked a last-minute flight back to Minneapolis, where the Faint was playing that weekend at a venue called First Ave. I had seen the band recently in Los Angeles, and while the performance was great, the audience was subdued. Too cool to dance, I wondered? Why not gift myself a vacation to the city I’d enjoyed so much a few months before, but stay a little longer this time?
It was a good call. Chris, a friend I’d made during my New Year’s Eve visit, offered to host me for the weekend. We took the scenic route up from the airport, and—the ultimate tour guide—he pointed out bit by bit wonderful things about Twin Cities.
“That’s our light rail.” He explained, proudly: “They’re testing trains and timing right now, but the plan is for it to open next year.” We went to Minnehaha Falls. We drank coffee at the (old) Purple Onion. We ate french fries and drank milkshakes on the patio at Annie’s Parlour while we enjoyed the beautiful May weather. Another best night ever was budding in my newfound community of friends. We saw the Faint play at First Ave., and I was overjoyed to discover: Minneapolis kids dance! I slept in the cozy bed of a friend who was out of town that weekend and immediately felt like I had a home away from home in Minneapolis.
On my last night in town we returned to Fulton Street and hung out for a bit at our friend Jim’s, where I curled up on the couch with DRC, his three-legged lab. But the air was full of excitement, and none of us could sleep. So we decided to hit one last quintessential Twin Cities stop—we headed over to St. Paul for a 3:00 a.m. breakfast at Mickey’s Diner (where we saw a drunk local celebrity I dare not mention here).
And that was it. I was sold. I returned to California and Tigger-bounced into our crappy little apartment shouting to Brian, “Let’s move to MINNEAPOLIS!!!!!!” I was all in.
We came again to visit in July, spending a little more time investigating the city before making a final decision. I gave notice at my job, and we ended our month-to-month lease on that terrible spider-infested apartment. Breaking the news to my family when we returned was the only hard part.
I’m going to pause here for a brief note with a minispoiler: this story is not about that relationship. Much to our mutual though unsyncopated heartbreak, Brian and I eventually broke up, he returned to California, and I remained in the Midwest. That story, unlike this one, is a most excellent adventure filled with sword-fights, princes, giants, and swashbuckling pirates. (You’ll soon be able to watch the made-for-TV movie on FX.) But alas, this book is about Minneapolis, art, and nonprofits, so we now return to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
“Whatever made you decide to move to the Midwest?” “Why the hell did you move here?” Those are probably the most common questions I get whenever anybody discovers I’m originally from Southern California. As though Minneapolis is some sad, second-rate place to live. On the contrary, I think Minneapolis is warm, welcoming, and accessible. Of the good things that came from that relationship, finding my way to the Midwest and relocating to Minneapolis was one of the bigger ones. Did I miss my family? Without question, and I still do. But I’ve never regretted the move, not even the time I accidentally locked myself out of the apartment during a snowstorm.
This post is adapted from It’s Never Going To Work: A Tale of Art and Nonprofits in the Minneapolis Community with illustrations by Athena Currier. Post graphics by Jamie Schumacher. ©2018 Jamie Schumacher.
It’s Never Going To Work is a light-hearted, illustrated book that offers real-life insights on founding a community space and nonprofit. It provides tools, tips, resources, and camaraderie to community organizers and anybody attempting something new.