So here I am in Minneapolis. I’m visiting my friend Savannah from back at Grinnell. I only barely got to know her while I was there, but now we know each other a fair amount better. She’s here working with an environmental community-building organization. When she explains exactly what it is she’s doing, it seems very complicated to me, but the upshot seems to be this. A while ago a big Ford plant got closed down in St Paul. They want to use that space as a place to grow gardens and have the community get together. Meanwhile, they’re also figuring out ways to spread the buy-local movement to poor communities, where they need it most. And somewhere thrown in there, some people with her program (Grand Aspirations) are trying to get the Cities to switch to more sustainable electricity. Her part in the whole thing seems to involve lots of meetings, but she’s a no-nonsense get-stuff-done type, so I have to assume, against my usual judgement, that the meetings are actually doing something, or she wouldn’t have just signed on to stay past the end of the summer doing more and more of them.
I’m staying with her at the house where she and all the other people involved in the program stay, and it’s in an amazingly diverse neighborhood where half the store signs are in Spanish and you can buy Thai curry paste in the supermarket and there are Hmong vendors at the farmers’ market and there’s a mural just down the street from us that has birds painted in a Native American style, one saying “Konklareeeee!” and the other saying “Kyowk!” I got a ride there with a Cherokee woman who’s teaching Ojibway children at their elementary school on the St Croix reservation just inside Wisconsin; when I told her where in the city I was going, she said it was right by Little Earth, the Indian part of town, and when she dropped me off there, she said, “There’s an Indian now! You can tell because he’s got no butt! He’s an Ojibwe!”
Savannah and I fairly well toured the city yesterday. We went to three different farmers’ markets. At the first one I goggled and marveled at how many different vendors there were. “Wait ’til you see the big one,” she said. And we went off biking on some of the city’s many bike trails. There are heavily-used dedicated bike trails crisscrossing the whole city, all of them well paved and not loud with car noise and aesthetically beautiful. Again: “There’s nothing like this in Cincinnati!” We got to the next market, the Mill City market. It was huge! And while we were there she told me about the Mississippi River and flour mill history. There was a big flea market’s worth of vendors stretched down a street and down a long former train garage. And then it turned out that wasn’t even the big one! The big one was downtown, and was just closing as we got there, but that meant we could glean and get good deals. We got fresh fruit and free french fries. If I lived in the Cities, I know where I’d do all my shopping. (But what happens in winter?)
I guess what I’m getting at is that as far as I can tell Minneapolis is superior to Cincinnati in every way. Though I have yet to sample their local delicacy, the Jucy Lucy, which is a hamburger with molten cheese inside the patty. Sometime I’ll be sure to see how that stacks up.