Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Third Stop: The Twin Cities

August 9–August 11, 2013

SKYWAYS in Minneapolis were the very first things that caught my eyes. The skyway system—being just over fifty years old—interconnects most of the downtown blocks, making the area accessible to the citizens during the hard winters.

But the downtown goes even farther than that: bringing pieces of nature and its music to the indoors, changing a busy mall into a massive living space.

Yet, this all doesn't mean people don't enjoy the sidewalks in the summer time.

After a few hours in the downtown, headed to the Uptown to meet my CouchSurfing host, Chris, in his place.

As I'm told, the cleanness of the city—the second noticeable characteristic of the city—is a whole another story: Lutheranism. Having a majority of Scandinavian immigrants, more people are strict in applying religion to daily life. Whether it's accurate or not, the outcome is noticeable on the streets.

The first day of this stop got more exciting when I found out that Studio on Fire, a design workspace and letterpress printer, is based there next to the downtown. What happened was that backing a project on KickStarter a few months ago (touch : the vista sans wood type project book), I pinned a star on their address in my Google Maps; then, that morning, I noticed that extra star in my map. Soon I emailed them to see if we can schedule a short visit, and they got back to me promptly, inviting me over for the late afternoon.

After a short bus ride, Les welcomed me to the studio. With years of experience in the printing industry, he's recently moved to Minneapolis and joined the team. Asking for his permission to take photos through out the tour and showing Les the Glass, I put it on and we started.

In the lobby sits the oldest one of the letterpress machines, which Ben Levitz started with it in his basement.

Then in the first (smaller) press room, there wre a few windmill and cylinder original Heidelberg machines and a new old blade cutter (being just installed), and later, in the second press room, a few more Heidelbergs, of which one windmill printing a small flyer. Also there's one machine that's being used as a source of parts by the maintenance team: a 81 year old German who knows these German machinery designs by heart, and the younger generation trying to catch up.

The new windmill Heidelbergs

The new old cutter

Another windmill Heidelberg letterpress

A cylinder Heidelberg letterpress

After the tour, we talk a little more on the history of movable type typesetting, the history of digital typesetting, and said goodbyes. Chris and I were supposed to meet back on the west side of Mississippi River in about an hour, enough time to walk there through the main campus of University of Minnesota and over the Washington Ave bridge.

We met at Acadia Cafe—motto: NO CRAP ON TAP—for an early dinner and a pitcher, with a background of college art students at first, and could-be-their-parents couples later.

Guthrie Theater and Mill Ruins Park were next, on the west side of Saint Anthony Falls, which used to be the only natural waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River some decades ago. The theater is built as a modern architectured space embracing the old culture of the town, the mills; and is created to be a resident acting company for the classics, without the commercial pressures of Broadway. The park covers the ruins of an old mill partly collapsed in an explosion.

And it was there right in the park that Chris told me about the many cycling routes the city has. In the next few days, I observed how this city is far ahead of any other town/city I have visited in my life in supporting cycling and walking—and did I mention Minneapolis is also one of the coldest cities in the U.S. and has hardest of the winters?

Mill Ruins Park

Washington Ave bridge

The East Bank

Lake Calhoun

Midtown Greenway, an exclusive bicycle/pedestrian way that travels the width of the city for more than 5 miles

 I was so beat, we headed home and went to bed soon, after watching a little TV in his neat apartment!


Staying only one block east of Lake Calhoun, I started the second day with a short walk and a 5K run around the lake, one of the three lakes Minneapolisans love to spend time by, year-round.

And the weather was almost perfect

A 3.2-mile run around Lake Calhoun #throughglass
(26 Minutes - Viewer Discretion Is Advised!)

In the afternoon, Chris took me to the Walker Art Center, one of the nation's big five museums for modern art. And walking there was a good opportunity to look around in a partly cloudy day.

The north wing—opened in 1971—designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes

The first exhibition was The Autoconstrucción Suites, featuring more than thirty sculptures, installations and videos from Abraham Cruzvillegas, a Mexican conceptual artist. Most of his work were well palpable for me.

The second exhibition: Painter Painter, focusing on emergent developments in abstract painting and studio practice. Most of these works were done in the past couple of years.

In this exhibition, I liked the following two the most: good balance of form and randomness.

And it was there and then that two of the attendees in the gallery asked me about the Glass and tried it on.

Lynn and Sam, two friendly attendees, trying on the Glass

And they took a nice photo of me #throughglass

The last exhibit was The Living Years: Art after 1989, “presented as an evolving installation, periodically introducing alternate works, recent acquisitions, and new means of interpretation”. Again, some of my favorites follow.

After the art center closed at 5pm, we had just a little time for a quick walk around their sculpture garden.

That was it for the day, culture-wise. I headed back to the Uptown to share a ride with Janos, a CouchSurfing (CS) friend, to a drive-in theater for a couple of Hollywoody movies.

We spent 30 minutes driving and another 30 minutes waiting in the line, until got the tickets. We talked about many things German, specially Mainhattan, the term used locally to refer to the Manhattan-style development and skyline of Frankfurt am Main.

Besides being our first drive-in cinema experience, our main intention was to meet other CS members and BBQ for dinner.


Sherrie, one of the couchsurfers we met at the drive-in, took us (two couchsurfers) to the biggest free Irish Festival of the country, the next morning. It was a 75 minute bus-ride to St. Paul downtown, and we spent a couple of hours in the park, which was much over my enjoying span for festivals.

And it was that time of day to have someone else try the Glass: Sherri and Dominic, who were again not feeling comfortable at first, but amazed with the technology after they tried it.

As it was the last day in town, and a Sunday evening, Chris and I went out for a dinner: Quang, a Vietnamese restaurant in their eat street.

Minneapolis Eat Street

Noodles, noodles, noodles

We talked a lot about our past and families, as well as the characteristics of the Twin Cities. Besides all mentioned above, Minneapolis is also called as the Design City. Although there are not so many architecture masterpieces in the city, for me it was pretty colorful and somehow playful with its inhabitants.

One of the Riverside buildings

I wasn't the first person mentioning that this building has some eastern theme in its design

That night, my ex-housemate sent me a message and I told him how much I'm enjoying the journey and I'm writing a travel log. Before I tell him any more details about this blog, he sent me this quote from Jack Kerouac, the author of On the Road, the novel.
But we lean forward to the next great crazy adventure beneath the skies.
In the morning, I would leave the city on a Jefferson Lines bus. Joe, the driver, told us that he prefers to be called by his name, not driver, and made it a fun ride with his continuous smiles. The day bus finally gave me the opportunity to take out my Kindle device and start reading the books I got in the past few months.

1 comment:

  1. Minneapolis looks nice. And now I know what those aerial tunnels were for that I went through during a layover there a few months back. By the way, you should see how bike-friendly Amsterdam is!