Category Archives: St. Paul/Minneapolis

Walla Walla: travels to and from

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Thanksgiving evening on the side of the freeway in Grants Pass.

We spent Thanksgiving hitch hiking through Northern California. The night before we got a hotel room in Eureka. We were trying to get to Eugene but called it a night in Canyonville, after a trucker dropped us off at a truck stop near the casino. We made it to Roseburg the next day via a local bus and took Greyhound from there – Casper to Eugene and me to Portland.

Foggy mountain morning

Foggy mountain morning

It has been 15 days since we left Humboldt County. In those two short weeks we have seen a lot of extended family – me in Olympia, Seattle and Walla Walla and Casper in Eugene – and we are exhausted from the combination of transition, travel and visiting.

My parents reside in Walla Walla and I came home with them the weekend after Thanksgiving. Casper joined us a week later via Amtrak from Eugene.

That was four days ago. Tonight we board an Amtrak train headed east. Saturday morning my sister will pick us up in Minneapolis and yet another life begins. We will descend into yet another world.

And that is what we do, you know: we place ourselves over and over in new worlds. We watch and listen a lot; don’t speak as much as you might think.

And right now we’re thinking that we want to do more of that.

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On top of a parking garage in Roseburg, Oregon.

My mom will join us out in Wisconsin for Christmas, and a good friend of Jess’ (who we met when we visited her in Texas last year) is coming right after Christmas. She is house-sitting a little house in the same valley where we grew up and our own self-built house still stands.

Sisters are magical; I expect great beauty and growth for all present in the next three weeks. Also there will be a lot of really good food and my sister’s beautiful laugh which is contagious, particularly for me.

After Wisconsin – January? February? – Casper and I are flying to Mexico City! “Another white dash,” I think when I contemplate our latest leap of faith into a new world – and “once more with feeling”. Pack the bags. Reconsider your few belongings: what is now superfluous that last week was essential? what new items have taken top priority? We leave behind the ripped sleeping bag that was our only blanket this summer and trade out Casper’s threadbare backpack for a big duffel bag. I get to pack dresses, my paints and brushes, more than one pair of shoes. Every item we use regularly is re-examined for its worth in our new situation. Every possession is chosen.

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“Please understand I have been waiting to leave ever since i figured out there were roads willing to take me anywhere i wanted to go.”

In Mexico, we plan to live in Xalapa. We know what we want to do with our time and just need the space to do it so cheap rent and foreign culture beckon us. We are excited, though this morning our minds and hearts are caught up in the present transitions of leaving Walla and arriving in Wisconsin and the dreamy travel-time of Amtrak in between.

Oh, and I’m making solstice cards and I want you to want one. Send me your address in the next week or so for best results. <3

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: Before Sunset, Before Sunrise

From Before Sunrise.

The next morning, Casper was slightly hung over and we headed back to Andy’s. Casper slept while I went online. In the evening, we ate dinner with Andy’s family and then had a magical evening.

Awhile ago, I found this amazing quote on Tumblr that I promptly reblogged. Andy saw it, commenting that the movie it was from – Before Sunrise – was amazing. Andy also mentioned that Before Sunset, the sequel – released and set nine years after the first one – was equally amazing.

I hadn’t heard of either of them. I downloaded the first one and it sat in our to-watch folder for a few months. Finally we got around to watching it and it blew our minds! We highly recommend it to everyone out there. It’s exquisite.

We had the second one downloaded and ready to watch when we arrived at Andy’s but hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet. Per Andy’s suggestion, on our last night at his house, the three of us watched both movies, one right after the other.

It was the night of the lunar eclipse. Before starting the movies, we all three stood in the road and looked at the full, rising moon. Casper noticed that, since the moon was close to the silhouetted horizon, if he bobbed his head just right it seemed as if the moon was bobbling about in the sky. I dismissed this as nonsense, but then Andy started doing it and I gave into peer pressure and we all stood bobbing our heads, bobbing the moon.

The three of us settled down on the living room couch and watched Before Sunrise. In it, you get so invested in these two people’s lives, and it ends so vaguely. It ends with an agreement that neither the characters nor the audience are sure will be kept.

It made me feel like my idealistic and realistic selves were battling each other out, trying to decide what happens to these two people after the movie ends. Where is the line between cynicism and realism? Between romanticism and idealism? How do we ever know whether this time, this moment, is an exception to the rule?

And, if we decide that it isn’t, if we decide that our idealism is blurring into romanticism, how do we live with ourselves if, later, we realize it was an exception? That’s what the sequel is about.

Near the end of the second movie, I was readying my heart to break. People talk shit about fairytale endings, but, man, those apathetic-indie endings leave my heart a mess! I was bracing myself but then I realized the movie wasn’t going to break my heart. While relieving, this also meant that they had to end it sweetly and the only way to do that, I assumed, was sappily. I knew it was going to end well, but I was now bracing myself for disappointment instead of heartbreak. I was sure there was no conclusion in the world that could properly end such an epic, emotional, raw movie.

I was wrong. There is. Watch these movies. Seriously.

After, we stayed up about an hour more, talking.


St. Paul/Minneapolis: Ian

Casper and Salem enjoying a morning at Andy's.

The second day at Andy’s, we did a lot more lazing about. I feel kind of self conscious about how much time Casper and I spend sleeping/lazing/cuddling. I don’t think of us lazy or unmotivated. We just enjoy a hell of a lot of downtime. Mostly, I’m nervous about what our hosts – couch surfing and otherwise – will think of us. Anyway. That’s a mind-thing that I’m still working on.

We slept a lot, played chess on the deck, read to each other from The Intellectual Devotional (which I first saw at Andy’s and, by the time we left, had ordered my own copy online), spent time online, etc. The house was empty most of the day and we had a key. It was a really wonderful set up and we’re very grateful to Andy’s whole family.

That evening, we were hoping to meet up with Casper’s friend Ian, who just happened to be in town for the Netroots Nation conference. Ian is the pissed off gay blogger over at OneAngryQueer! We went into Minneapolis – about 20 minutes from Golden Valley – and then to St. Paul to visit the Mississippi Market, a natural food co-op that I had heard much about but had never been to. Growing up, our neighbors ran a CSA and their drop off spot was at Mississippi Market. It and the Hard Times Café was pretty much all I knew about the Twin Cities before this trip.

We did some shopping, played cards in the car, and then drove to Ian’s hotel. He was out and about so we waited in the lobby until he came back. We were all pretty sleepy, but he and Casper shared a (large) bottle of wine and stayed up past midnight. We texted Andy to let him know we would be staying with Ian that night – he was supposed to have a roommate in the hotel room (sponsored by the conference) but didn’t so there was a free bed.

And oh dear gawd it was comfortable.


St. Paul/Minneapolis: Andy’s

Walking to the Hard Times Cafe on a beautiful day.

After we drove Mar to Duluth and left our couch host’s house, we spent a lot of time at the Hard Times Café and slept in our car near a park about a mile away. We slept incredibly well – much better than we expected and much better than we had during previous car-sleeping attempts.

One morning, Casper and I spread out our blanket in the park on the top of a rise so we could look down on the lake. We did yoga and I said hi to all the dogs that passed by. Casper always does more yoga than me and I waited for him to finish by lying face down on the blanket for quite a while; that kind of stillness, peace, un-anxiousness is new to me.

Right across the river from the Café was an amazing head shop called the Hideaway. It’s in a funky little neighborhood, kitty corner to a laid back library and next door to an occult bookstore. Inside, there were more glass pieces than I have ever seen. Lighters, too, and cigars, incense, hookahs, jewelry, hippie clothes, and all the related paraphernalia. They had a good selection of herbal incense, too, at prices lower than anything we have seen in Cincinnati, Chicago, Madison, or Menomonie. We have become fans of the King Cobra brand.

The occult bookstore grabbed Casper’s attention and we visited twice. The first time, I wandered around with him and had us leave well before he was truly satisfied. The second time we went, I sat outside and worked on my journal while he spent a good half hour in there with books on esoterica that even he had never seen before.

After a few days living in the car, we drove to Golden Valley and stayed Andy, with a friend of mine from Camp. He lives with his family – a mom, a dad, two sisters, and an incredibly adorable pup named Brownie – in a cozy house that his parents have been in for over 25 years. I knew his sisters from Camp, too, and we warmed to his parents immediately.

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: The Hard Times Cafe

Casper at Hard Times.

I have long heard of the Hard Times Café in Minneapolis. One night, when I was ready to go to sleep in the car and Casper was feeling alert, he asked a gas station attendant about chill places open 24 hours in the area that we had parked. Someone recommended Hard Times, which I hadn’t realized was in our neighborhood, and we have since begun frequenting it daily. This morning, Casper walked in and the lady behind the counter knew his order.

Here’s the thing about this place: there is not one ounce of pretentiousness. I’m used to hip/cool/popular cafés being stuffy with expectation. Not here. It is never empty, but ranges from a couple of patrons in the mornings to chock full at midnight. It used to be open 24/7, but these days they’re closed between 4am and 6am. Casper, who read some stuff online about it, says the switch occurred after the café was the subject of a drug sting. The city wanted the hours reduced so they compromised by closing for two hours each day.

The art on the walls varies in style and the patrons do as well. I’ve seen houseless folks, straight up hipsters, granola crunchers, your average college student, straight-laced-looking men in their 50s and 60s, and traveling kids just in the few days I’ve been coming here. They have a free box with clothes and shelves for games and books. The board games actually get played, too. Chess in particular seems to be popular, but I saw a couple set up a game of Life today and two girls playing checkers.

The food is wholesome and reasonably priced. “Wholesome” feels like a corny word (no pun intended); what I mean is that the food hear makes me feel like my mom’s cooking does. Ok, that’s corny, too, but she doesn’t make, like, fried chicken or apple pie. She makes incredible vegetable soups, delicious stir fries, perfect biscuits. And she grows lots of the ingredients herself and doesn’t use too much sugar and always uses real butter. Etc. It doesn’t hit your stomach like a rock. It makes your veins feel more alive. It’s good fucking food.

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: The Duluth Adventure

I met Mar in high school, though he went by a different name then, and said hi to him when we crossed paths in college, but I’ve actually only hung out with him a few times. Yet, he feels like a good friend. He was headed to Duluth to help a friend of his mom’s move across the company. It was so good to see him. Casper and he immediately hit it off, too, which allowed me to relax socially.

Mar was hungry, having been traveling most of the day, so we headed to the Mall of America. It’s just a tram ride away from the airport and we already had our passes because we’d parked at a park and ride and ridden the train into the terminal. (So cool!) I had considered just taking us to our car since we had some food there but thought MOA would be easier and more fun. Boy, was I wrong.

Mar didn’t have too much luggage so Casper took my purse, I took Mar’s suitcase and he carried his backpack. Before going into the Mall, we smoked a couple cigarettes and he bestowed upon me the following:

The last few lines of Bukowski's "Alone with Everybody", the second poem of his I read and what convinced me to borrow the book.

We strode quickly through MOA searching for decent food. It was late – 8ish – and not much was open. All we could find were ice cream shops. At 8:07, we gave up and hurried back to the tram. We got on, but it just sat there for quite awhile before finally taking off towards the airport.

It felt like my birthday! At Peggy’s, I acquired a book of Rumi, too, so I am in poetry bliss at the moment book-wise.

Mar’s shuttle was scheduled to leave at 8:45. We arrived, after running up and down escalators in the airport, at 8:47 and the shuttle was nowhere in sight.

I had promised Mar that, if we missed the tram, we’d drive him to Duluth. It was no big trouble for us – we didn’t have any plans for the night, we love to drive, and it gave us more time with Mar.

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: Couch Surfing Awkwardness

Nomming on Casper's amazing garlic bread.

We left Peggy’s on the 8th, a day before the Twin Cities Couch Fest’s first event. Our first Twin Cities host was going to let us stay four nights. We arrived and the place was great: newly remodeled, lots of space, a private sleeping area, an air mattress. We sat in our host’s living room and chatted with her for awhile.

Casper cooked spaghetti and the most incredible garlic bread I have ever had and we shared our dinner with our host. Casper and I played chess (still no win for me) and then went to bed. The next day was the early bird kickoff for the Couch Fest. We left the house around noon, after a lot of much-needed cuddling, in search of wifi and a grocery store. We spent quite a bit of time online and, afterwards, drove to Joe’s Garage, for the kickoff.

We were some of the first guests to arrive, but within an hour the place was fairly full and we had made some friends. We spent a good deal of time talking to a fantastic lady named Roseanne. She just joined Couch Surfing and has yet to have her first guests. 2010 was a hard year for her, she told us, and she was ready to make 2011 a joyful year.

We also met a few other folks, two of which were from Philadelphia and around our age. I forget their names, but they encouraged us to come to Philly some day and we definitely plan to. After a couple of hours, we were peopled-out and needed to head to the airport to spend a few hours with my friend Mar, from Washington. He had just flown in from Seattle (via Phoenix) and had two hours before he needed to catch a shuttle to Duluth, in northern Minnesota. I promised him that we’d get him back in time for his shuttle.

But I didn’t. In short, he missed his shuttle so we drove him all the way to Duluth. Details on that adventure (because that, as most of my mistakes end up being, is exactly what it turned out to be) shall be told in another post.

It’s three hours each way to Duluth so we didn’t arrive back in the Twin Cities until 5am. We hung out at a coffee shop for a few hours before ringing our host’s doorbell. We had texted her the night before that our plans had gone awry and we wouldn’t be home until the next day. We also tried texting and calling her before doing the door ringing.

We had obviously woken her up but she didn’t seem too upset. I took a shower and then we went to bed immediately. We slept until 3pm. At that point, the awkwardness began.

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: Leg #3

I’ve been feeling burdened by this blog as of late and I blame that on forcing myself to write about weeks past, trying to catch up. I have a few more posts like that queued up for the next few days, but I’m going to focus more on writing about today, this leg of the journey, the here and now. ‘Cause the here and now is pretty cool.

Since leaving Peggy’s, I’ve felt a definite sense of this being the third leg of the journey. Arriving and being in Chicago felt like the first; our time in Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Madison, Downing – felt like the second; and now, in the past few days, we’ve made the transition to the third leg.

Mostly, the shift was caused by a really awkward (and crappy) couch surfing experience.

I feel more empowered than I ever have to create the life I want to have. Casper keeps encouraging me, telling me that people really do like spending time around me. I often need reminded of this, particularly regarding people who I want to be friends with. Until now, I’ve pretty much just had lovers and acquaintances – another example (and there are many) of how I rely far too heavily on extremes, black and whites. Casper and I keep a count of “friends” I have: people who I like, who like me, and who I have established these facts with. A friend (apparently!) is someone who I don’t have to feel like a burden to, who I believe enjoys my company and who I have respect for. So far, I have four “friends” and it’s exhilarating! And new and exciting and empowering and validating.

I mention this because another part of our Twin City adventures so far has been reconnecting with my friend Mar, in unlikely and slightly unfortunate circumstances.


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