Mikenastics: 50 Years and Tumbling

They don’t know what to expect, and why would they, they’re just passing by with dogs or strollers on this sleepy Coon Rapids sidewalk, and out of nowhere a stout bald man wearing nothing but cutoff jeans or tight shorts comes bolting down the side yard, throws his hands forward, leaps toward a padded sawhorse, […]

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Living Room Licks

Fifty twenty-somethings crowded into Two Pines, a dark living room in South Minneapolis, on a sweltering Sunday night, flowing into any space not filled by six musicians and their guitars, mandolins, and banjos. The singer, clad in drooping denim overalls, strummed a few chords of a Mazzy Star song and chuckled. “What does this song […]

Cardboard for Christ

Brother Finbar McMullen entered the Winona Middle School woodshop at just before seven on a recent Monday evening with several door-sized pieces of cardboard balanced on his arms. They were material for the eighty-three-year-old’s community education class on the least commercial, but perhaps most intriguing, of his varied pursuits: building furniture from cardboard. This is […]

Sweet Salvation

In January, when the Winona Pie Lady, aka Mary Zimmerman, baked her one-thousandth pie, she called up Governor Tim Pawlenty to see if he would accept it. She talked to someone in his office but never heard back. So the seventy-three-year-old great-grandmother phoned Representative Gil Gutknecht, the Republican congressman from Rochester. Gutknecht agreed immediately and […]

Planet(arium) Rock

On a recent Thursday evening, Courtney Tucker—a tall, blonde twenty-two-year-old art major at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse—stood behind a twenty-four-channel effects console in the school’s darkened planetarium, her face reflecting colored shadows from a baffling array of buttons and knobs. She tapped several of the buttons, and shooting stars showered down from the white […]

Diamond in the Bluffs

Wabasha is a mighty fine place to see an eagle. The city is a ninety-minute drive south of Minneapolis on U.S. Highway 61—yes, Dylan’s Highway 61—one of several old settlements wedged between the five-hundred-foot bluffs and the Mississippi River, built in deference to the commanding geography. Originally established as a fur-trading post in the 1820s, […]

My Blue Heaven

A disheveled man paced the intersection of Snelling and University avenues, waving his arms as he described to passersby how his car had broken down and he’d been sleeping at the nearby Catholic church. If somebody would spare some change, he promised, he’d be on his way. The man had plenty of pedestrians to talk […]

Dude, You Were Shredding!

The other day, customers entering the Office Max in St. Paul’s Midway were greeted by bold signs bearing an urgent message: “Avoid Identity Theft. Protect Personal Information.” Next to them were sprawling displays of home paper shredders, all bearing names intended to invoke fear, awe, and consumerism: The Sentinel. The PowerShred. The Paper Monster. Lynne, […]

The Minnesota Cell?

SHEIK OMAR ABDEL RAHMAN—THE BLIND SHEIKOne of fundamentalist Islam’s most exalted spiritual leaders; resided in Rochester between 1998 and 2002 at the Federal Medical Center prison. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for conspiring to blow up the United Nations, New York’s FBI office, and all the bridges and tunnels going into […]