Minneapolis: city of fakes

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We’re very proud of this town. We think it’s one of the cleanest, smartest and – at times – safest places in the country. We think very highly of how cultured we are. We look at the blue-collar humor that’s so popular across rural Minnesota and feel like we’re above that sort of thing. We don’t watch NASCAR here, we watch PBS. We don’t drink Budweiser, we drink imported beers from countries you didn’t even know existed. But is that really so? I say no! Not at all. This little “utopia” is just a Hicksville with a coat of fresh paint.

1 – Manners

Minneapolitans like to think that they can handle themselves in any situation. We see people going to the opera on TV and first of all wish we had any opera to speak of. Then, when they’re done lamenting the lack of any magic flutes in our local music halls, they think to themselves that they would know just how to behave at such a function. I’m afraid it just isn’t so. Minneapolitans often find themselves with chances to prove their mettle on the cultural stage, and what I’ve seen is not good. People show up at Orchestra Hall wearing shorts. They hoot and holler at the end of theatrical productions as if they were sitting behind home plate at a Twins game. I suppose that’s just it, isn’t it? Everyone in this city is so used to the echoing confusion of yells at the Metrodome that they assume that’s how it is everywhere else. I call out to you, City of Lakes – Orchestra Hall is not the place for your t-shirts and flip-flops. The Guthrie is not the place for foam fingers that say “#1” and it is not the place to tell the world just how much you love Shakespeare – at least not above a low whisper.

2 – Keeping Our Cool

Ask anyone to imagine Minneapolis and they’ll tell you about an idyllic scene at Lake Calhoun or a quiet evening of music at Peavey Plaza. Everyone likes to imagine the tranquility of Minneapolis as ever present. But we just can’t seem to stick with it. You’d think that a city with so many beautiful sights would provoke some kind of reverence in its people. But it isn’t the case! I’ve been all over the country and I’ve never known quite so many hotheads as I have in this little burg. Everyone looks to be going about their business, but so much as bump into someone on the sidewalk and be ready to receive a tongue lashing. This sort of thing never happens in the big cities. There people are far too busy to care about some minor slight from a stranger. But here people seem to have nothing but time to yell and scream at the slightest opportunity.

3 – The Fair

Minneapolis can’t claim the state fair. That’s St. Paul’s deal and they’ll never let us forget it. So what do we do about the situation? Well, aside from deserting the city for a week every year to go east and eat cheese curds, we turn every festival here into a painful mockery of the State Fair. Take the Uptown Art Fair for example. Once upon a time, it was devised as a way for local artists to sell their wares in an upscale bohemian sort of way. Now what has it become? Cheap reproductions, beer tents and corn dogs! You may as well be shopping in the duty free store at the airport. There’s about as much appreciation for art at the Art Fair as there is appreciation for Packers fans at the dome. All you see from end to end are people staring blankly at shoddy works of art, asking their friends “is this any good?”. These people wouldn’t know art if it ran up and stole their paper cup full of Miller Lite.

4 – Hypocrisy

If there’s one thing Minneapolitans can get together on, it’s insulting our neighbors. Whether we’re going off about how hard it is to get around in St. Paul, talking about how the people in the suburbs don’t know how it is “in the city” or pushing it a step further and insulting every state that borders us, we love to put everybody else down. Maybe that’s where this idea that we’re a cultural oasis comes from. Our own propaganda has worked so well that everybody around us sounds worse by comparison. Or maybe we’re just the ones yelling the loudest. We’re content to use the ultimate weapon of hypocrisy – “Minneapolis Nice”. It’s oh-so different from Minnesota Nice, doncha know? From ear to ear we smile as we tell people how quaint they are. We humor the outlanders from far flung places like Roseville and Minnetonka. We reinforce all of the best things about the city while we grind the dagger into their backs after they turn around. The whole city just can’t seem to get it through their heads that we’re no better than anyone outside our borders.

5 – Misplaced Pride

Lastly, there’s the worst of all. Sometimes the people in this town are just too far gone to recognize when we’re being made fun of. When someone from Minneapolis meets someone from another large city, they always get the same list of “things we know about Minneapolis”. Prince. The movies “Fargo or “The Mighty Ducks”. They tell us they know of these things and we just smile and say how happy we are to be involved in each one. Everybody in this city’s got a story about how they met Prince one time (I know I do) or how they were going to be an extra in “Jingle All the Way” or “Untamed Heart”. We gather up little factoids like, “did you know Mallrats was filmed in Eden Prairie Center? It’s true!” or “Did you know that the only American member of Monty Python is from Medicine Lake? It’s true!”. And are they impressed? Of course not! Would you be impressed by someone from New York rattling off all the celebrities who grew up near there? Probably not. And they’d be a lot more famous than Terry Gilliam. We like to think of ourselves as one of the classiest places in the Midwest, if not the whole country. And it just isn’t so.

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