When folklorists go to our annual American Folklore Society meetings each autumn, most of us try to avoid that melancholy post-conference refrain, “I never got out of the hotel the whole time.” Even in the midst of snow storms in Alaska or pouring rain in San Antonio, we find excuses to cut out of a conference session or two to experience some of whatever city we are meeting in. It is our professional duty, after all, to get a taste (literally, since most of the excursions involve sampling the local cuisine) of the city we are visiting, to honor its history and ethnic make-up, and to then compare notes of our adventures.
This year, we met in Minneapolis. Despite the fact that we had met there back in the mid-1980s, I had little memory or preconceived notion of the city. Consequently, I built in a pre-meeting day to explore and embarked on other forays during stolen hours.
My old friend Jean and I made our way via public transportation to visit another friend and colleague, Macey, in her eclectic neighborhood of Powderhorn Park. Why this neighborhood did not make it to the “local guide” that fellow folklorists had compiled for the meetings escapes me, because it was a fascinating mixture of ethnic businesses, a lovely park with a small lake or large pond which sparkled in the warm fall light, and rows of tidy houses and gardens. We had a fine walk around, and ate lunch in a sort of Latino mall featuring taco, tamale, and torta stands and small stores with clothing, jewelry, teas and spices, and miscellaneous other items.
Just down the street was Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian store, actually three stores adjacent to one another, with housewares, foodstuffs (including as many different herring products as I had ever seen in one place before and a fine selection of cod roe), and other goods. The same street had a Caribbean cafe, Halal meat markets, and other wonders. After some shopping, we bid Macey goodbye and returned to hotel life, which already seemed sterile and boring after our glimpse into Minneapolis Life Beyond.
Shorter jaunts outside the confines of the hotel included one afternoon exploring the waterfront along the river and canal with my friend Hanna. Features of this area include the bones of old mill machinery, grand views of St. Anthony Falls, which are featured in the photo at the header of this entry, as well as the historic Pillsbury A Mill across the river in St. Paul, and some other splendid architecture, old and new.
As for the best food adventure, the prize goes to a homey Tibetan restaurant that my food-savvy friends Lucy and Sue and I discovered on a mission to “Eat Street” (a stretch of Nicollet Avenue not too far from the hotel). The walk was a mile and half or more back, but we only briefly considered hailing a taxi. Besides the dumplings, homemade noodles and steamed bread with spicy beef we had to work off, we were in no hurry to return to the confines of hotel life. The fresh Minneapolis evening air, and the exhilarating feeling of discovery, buoyed us on. Another city, another AFS conference, another set of adventures. On to Buffalo next year!