polar (vortex) explorations

(Mostly Written Last Thursday)

My fingerprints are still roaming around in some bureaucratic void, so I still haven’t had to go back into work. Yesterday I started exploring my new neighborhood. I put on thermal underwear, boots, gloves, hat, two coats, and went out. It was three degrees, but sunny. Our backyard is pretty big and full of now-bare lilacs and tall conifers. My housemate Karen is in the process of building a quinzhee out there, which is basically a snow hut, a cave dug out of a mound of packed snow. I trekked through the backyard and then out and around the neighborhood.

Photo Feb 04, 10 36 44 AMWe’re by a little park, with tall trees and benches (now nearly buried in snow), and the neighborhood is all old, interesting-looking houses, with stained-glass windows and carved wooden decorations above the front porches. Very aesthetically pleasing, really. I passed an older gentleman chipping ice off the sidewalk; when I said, “That looks like hard work,” he said, “Oh, it’s not too bad; I always do Sarah’s for her too,” and then started a ten-minute explanation of his work around the neighborhood – which wasn’t tremendously enlightening, as I had no clue who any of the people he referenced are, but I was delighted by this manifestation of friendliness.

Also nearby is a small business district with an odd collection of establishments: a small hardware store, a falafel place, a homey diner, a pro roller derby shop (who knew those existed), a vocal training center, a couple of vintage clothing stores, a bartending school, an aikido center, a yoga studio. There’s a pretty solid food co-op which is almost entirely volunteer-run; I bought a membership and felt like I was one step closer to being able to call myself a resident. (Later in the day I got a library card from the beautiful local library and that was one more step.)

Photo Feb 05, 10 35 25 PM

I bought a cup of coffee at the co-op and spilled a few drops out of the top – within moments they’d frozen solid. Fantastic.

Other things about my new town:

  • I live pretty close to the Como Zoo and Conservatory, so I went there and basically just walked around in the Tropics Room and the Fern Room and soaked up the heat and the humidity and a zookeeper pointed out a little poison dart frog just hanging out by the path. It’s like a sauna but full of plants and birds and you have to keep your clothes on.
  • Photo Feb 06, 5 16 56 PMI tried to go for a hike/walk the other day  along the St Anthony Parkway and after like half an hour I had to turn back because everything was frozen and hurting and my nostrils were frozen solid. But the sun was setting and there were trains everywhere, so that was nice.
  • There are shit tons of breweries here. So many. I’ve been to two so far (plus a Russian vodka bar, but I got beer there. I’m with Ron Swanson on clear liquors.) I have to say, Minnesota is making some pretty delicious beer.
  • At one of the breweries, the bartender complimented me on my earrings, which are shaped like Michigan’s lower peninsula. I said, “Thanks! Do you know what they are?” with like an arch to the eyebrows (that’s what I was going for anyway) and he was like – “Yeah! Wisconsin!”

Photo Feb 08, 1 20 44 PM

Finally, yesterday Jess (who is Alina’s old roommate) took me and her friend Emily on this badass little excursion to the frozen Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, which is this enormous waterfall that is frozen solid into gorgeous, blue and green and yellow ice formations. You can take a precarious climb up the slope (aided by some old ropes and an orange extension cord that someone has helpfully strung up) and explore behind the waterfall, in an eerily blue space full of intricate ice ferns and little windows looking down onto the stream. There were several people there and it was kind of a fun team atmosphere because everyone was trying not to accidentally go butt-sledding. I almost went sliding down the ice slope once and this stranger guy, out of nowhere, grabbed my snowpants and hauled me back up. He just sprang into action. My hero.Photo Feb 06, 4 33 21 PMPhoto Feb 08, 12 10 53 PMI am trying to follow my motto when moving to a new place, which doesn’t really exist in an articulate phrase, but is something like: dive in and try to do as much as possible with as many people as possible right away.

Shout out to Berry, who was in a ridiculously shitty car accident this week and I am so sosososo glad that he is relatively okay. Wishing him a speedy recovery and sending love.

I got to talk about Jeremiah Johnson and handmade fishing poles last night. (The best conversation topics. I think about these things all the time.)

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