Life Beyond the Eastern Seaboard

Making friends with the localsThis past holiday weekend, I traveled to the upper mid-west to visit some good friends whom I had not seen in ages.  Aside from having a great time, I discovered that the world beyond the greater New York area is not a cultural wasteland populated by toothless gun-toting rednecks and morbidly obese evangelicals who buy polyester by the yard rather than peruse the racks at Wal-Mart.  Rather, the great cities of Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN have wonderful summer weather, varied neighborhoods worthy of exploration, and excellent food to offer.  I recommend a visit, though I wouldn’t take my chances with their winters.

What follows are some highlights of my excursion.  Many thanks again to my lovely hostesses, both avid and appreciated readers of The Honestly Blog.  I look forward to returning the favor.

Now the moving walkway makes perfect sense…

Walking the concourses of no fewer than four airports on my travels, I was struck by the preponderance of dining options available to travelers.  Pizza, pastries, tacos, lo mein, heroes, and chicken nuggets are all there for the taking, not a stone’s throw from your gate.  That doesn’t include the numerous sit-down establishments in the terminals themselves.  Watching as people meandered from venue to venue, grazing like the migratory beasts of the Serengeti, I formulated a conspiracy theory that would have made my father proud: the fast food chains and the airlines are in collusion.  You know it’s true.  Think about it.  People are getting fatter and fatter, so the airlines take advantage of their cholesterol-clogged clientele by charging them for as many seats as it takes to get their rotund rears on the plane.  If you’re going to super-size yourself, they’ll super-size their charges.  And how do the airlines guarantee a steady flow of customers whose thighs wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin, let alone their bag of snacks?  By giving them every opportunity to gorge themselves, up until the very moment they step on the plane.  Hey, when I’m right, I’m right.

If the Weinermobile is there, it must be a big deal…

DSC00359By far the most amusing part of my stay in Madison was venturing out to Brat Fest with the intrepid Jesslyn.  Brat Fest is a three day celebration of all things bratwurst, the largest gathering of its kind on Earth.  There are concerts, games, rides, people in costume, celebrity appearances, and of course miles of bratwurst.  I must say that Brat Fest was the picture of efficiency.  The assembly line we traveled to get our brats was run with Soup Nazi precision, minus the unpleasantness.  They were every bit as wonderful as I hoped.  Jess and I meandered around the fairgrounds, taking in the sights.  We also enjoyed some legendary local ice cream.  I snickered immaturely at the stand, as I felt the flavor names were a bit suggestive.  “French silk”?  Am I on line for dessert or condoms?  (There’s a lot of jokes I could make to follow that line, but this is a family-friendly blog)

At least now I know what Central Park in the 80’s was like…

DSC00394In Minneapolis, Lauren and I took a drive a few miles out of the city to the lakeside town of Excelsior.  It’s a sweet little town.  Big dockside bars, a quaint main drag (complete with awesome ice cream shop and adorable two-screen movie theater), and a big park that stretches along most of the waterfront.  The citizens of Excelsior were out in force on Memorial Day, enjoying the weather by barbecuing, sailing, or playing assorted games.  As Lauren and I rounded the tip of the park and headed back into town, we passed a bunch of guys playing soccer.  Since our timing is always perfect, we soon found the ball rolling out of bounds in our direction.  Lauren, perhaps in a moment of clairvoyance, pretended not to see it.  I, aiming to be a good Samaritan, scooped the ball up and tossed it back to one of the dudes playing.  However, I forgot that I am cursed when it comes to returning soccer balls (I’ll tell that story another time), and sure enough, my throw was so off the mark that I would up hitting a total stranger with my lob-sided lob.  Lauren barely contained herself and put as much distance between us as possible, while I tried to apologize and make a graceful exit.  She laughed at me for the rest of our time in Excelsior, but I was undaunted.  Not only did I have an amusing story to tell, I could say that I nailed a guy in the park in broad daylight, and technically it wouldn’t be a lie.

Enjoy these pictures of some of the sights of Madison and Minneapolis…

The inside of Madison's Capitol Building
The inside of Madison's Capitol Building
Jess and I atop the Capitol
Jess and I atop the Capitol
Just your typical afternoon at Brat Fest
Just your typical afternoon at Brat Fest
Reunited, out on the town, and I'm obviously drunk
Reunited, out on the town, and I'm obviously drunk
The mighty Mississippi
The mighty Mississippi
Lauren: "This is the highlight of the trip for you, isn't it?"  Me: "No.  ....  Yes."
Lauren: "This is the highlight of the trip for you, isn't it?" Me: "No. .... Yes."
The most famous piece in Minneapolis' sculpture garden
The most famous piece in Minneapolis' sculpture garden
Downtown Minnie, seen from Lake Calhoun, near Lauren's place
Downtown Minnie, seen from Lake Calhoun, near Lauren's place

~ T

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