When Harry Met Betty

One of life’s great truths—one that we desperately seek to avoid with proverbs and catechisms and even magazine articles—is that beneath its surface lies complexity. Our beloved fictions of heroes and villains crumble with scrutiny, leaving only convolution, shifting meanings, and unstable realities. The same is true of things. Even the simplest object has its […]

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A People’s History of Circle Pines

Photo courtesy city of circle pines; An early brochure touts the cooperative, courtesy minnesota historical society The landscape of Circle Pines is bleak. Entering town off I-35W, drivers are greeted by a stretch of newly constructed townhouses in varying shades of fawn and ecru. The wayside scenery along Lake Drive, the main thoroughfare, is similarly […]

Daughter of God

Sometimes, Grace Kolenda Deters dreams in Portuguese. Ordinary dreams are of her daily life in Nevada, her home five hundred feet above Lake Tahoe, with its shore-to-shore views. Or scenes from past decades spent in Minneapolis: graduate school, therapy, her daughter’s ice-skating lessons, snow.   Less often, she dreams of lilies. Or of the boils […]

Gimme Grain!

At 9:28 a.m. thirty-one grain traders are milling around a trading pit—an octagon about the size of a pontoon boat, recessed into the hardwood floor—at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Steps are wide and lazy, chests are thrust outward. Several of the men (and they are all men) discuss the price of downtown real estate; a […]

"We went crazy for a decade."

On a chill December night last year, hundreds of artists and art lovers of a certain age poured into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to view a departed friend’s art collection. Dressed in eclectic attire, including one necktie that had formerly been its wearer’s ponytail, they milled about, hugging and shouting and laughing. They seemed […]

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The Sixties—Dead By Self-Inflicted Gunshot

The moment flickered past while I realized that the last of them was gone, the last of the sixties counterculture iconoclasts, those world shakers and rainbow revolutionaries: Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon, Abbie Hoffman, Edward Abbey, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Hunter Thompson—all gone, the last by his own hand. I […]

The Ruin

If you were seeking God, you probably wouldn’t think to look in Inver Grove Heights. The fast-growing St. Paul suburb is a good place to buy a fleet of used Cessnas, or a truckload of corn chips, potash, or mechanical heart valves. At the town’s center stands a massive petroleum refinery—a strange, stippled city of […]

Erased from Memory

A waiter hurries a tray of tall drinks toward a café table. A dapper trio sits there: A young man wearing a straw boater, a suit in candy-colored stripes, and a silk cravat is entertaining two beauties resplendent in crinoline, swathed bodices, and elaborate millinery. The dandy leans forward to finish the story that holds […]

Stand Down

Exit 127 off Interstate 90 doesn’t seem to go anywhere. There are no towns, no farms, no apparent reason to build an exit in the middle of the driest, flattest section of South Dakota, a desolate expanse of land. If you steal a glance at the right moment, though, you may notice a nondescript vinyl-sided […]

“It vibrates. But is it, y’know, a vibrator?”

I’d just been dumped by a guy when I first heard about the Bakken Museum’s vibrator collection. Minneapolis’s Bakken, for the record, bills itself as “The Museum of Electricity in Life,” and since my bulb had just gone out, I thought looking into the long history of self-satisfaction might be a pleasant diversion. I learned […]