Saturday, May 30, 2009

Twin Cities: Cool as Hell (seriously, it gets cold here)

Mary Tyler Moore throws her hat in the air on Nicollet Mall; bystanders look on perplexed because they know she’ll need that hat.

There’s nothing that irks me more than people associating this iconic moment with New York City. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mary Richards abandoned New York for the snowy tundra of Minneapolis. She left her handsome, charming, yet suffocating doctor fiancé to pursue a career with a local television station. In 1970 (and even now), sticking with the doctor husband was the safe option, the beaten path, but Mary was a frontierswoman. Hence Minneapolis. It’s not about a girl making it in the big city. It’s about a woman making it her own way, counter to the norms.

Maybe I lived in rural Japan for way too long, but especially when I first moved here, I was bursting with appreciation for this city. I was in awe of all the food—international food, available everywhere! International food, international people, evidence of individuality: all things I’d been missing while in Japan. It was a good transitional city in that people here are extraordinarily polite. Polite in the Midwest looks different than in Japan—it’s warmer, friendlier, more communal. People seem to care about helping out random strangers, but still value personal space.

I’ve never been one to follow the mainstream, sometimes to the point of obstinacy. It seems like everyone goes to New York, and I noticed the same thing in Japan with kids wanting to move to Tokyo when they graduate. I can appreciate those places, but they’re for the masses (who like having an exorbitantly high cost of living), and I prefer the hidden gems. Minneapolis is a small city, but with a lot of per capita awesome.

I’ve lived here for about eight months now, and for some reason feel the need to share why I love this city to the people who know nothing about it. Really, I just like the feeling of being here, being able to walk down leafy streets and get to interesting places, because everything is so close. Not that I can ever afford to go, but I just realized there are at least four Japanese restaurants within a mile radius of my apartment. If I were regular-poor, then I’d probably take advantage of the sushi happy hours. But if you want evidence of some of Minneapolis’ per capita awesome:

Along with Seattle, it’s the most literate city in the country, and has a proportionately high amount of young people and educated people. And there’s culture, too. Minneapolis is only behind New York in per capita live theater seats, and follows Washington DC and Chicago in number of museums. We’re unpretentious urban cool mixed with farmy progressiveness. We have big city amenities but manage to be environmentally conscious, and have something like four farmers markets throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul (EDIT: Boy, was I wrong there. There are like sixteen farmer's markets). I personally don’t get that into the nature, but a lot of people dig the fact that we’re surrounded by lakes and parks. It’s just generally an attractive place to be. Did I mention that we have not one, but two roller derby leagues? Not only that, we have a thriving music scene, particularly indie and hip hop, partially thanks to being home to the best radio station ever (seriously, you should stream that shit). Oh, and fucking Prince lives here.

I’m sure life will take me to many other cities, but for now, I’ve got one I really appreciate. If only it didn’t get so unbearably cold.