The unofficial visitor’s guide to the RNC: Part One


by Jeff Fecke, August 25, 2008 • Today’s Monday, August 28, the first day of the Democratic National Convention. But just a week from today, the other party descends on St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. As a service to my non-Minnesotan friends, I’m offering up this unofficial guide to the RNC and the Twin Cities. Enjoy!

I was moved to write this guide because…well, because you deserve the truth about the Twin Cities, the upcoming Republican National Convention, and the fact that we’re not your real parents. [1]

If you are reading this, you’re going to be attending the 2008 RNC. Maybe you’re going to do so as a delegate, one of those oh-so-lucky folks who get to pick a surly, bitter man to be your standard-bearer. Not since Bob Dole in 1996 have you had such a mix of anger and resentment.

Or perhaps you’re a protester, coming into the Twin Cities to declare to everyone, for all time, that you are certainly not going to be voting for George W. Bush in November, no sir!

Or maybe you’re a t-shirt vendor, police officer, pickpocket, or prostitute, coming into town to make a fast buck on McCain/Giuliani t-shirts, people protesting McCain or, for some reason, Giuliani, the contents of the wallets of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, or the “Full McCain/Giuliani,” (which is going to cost you another hundred, honey). Truly, the RNC should be a draw for capitalists like yourselves, and if you feel guilty, remember, you could work for Exxon.

Finally, you could be a Republican elected official in a closely-fought race. Just kidding; I know you won’t be within 1000 miles of here.

At any rate, whether you’re a plutocrat, a protester, a prostitute, or all of the above, the 2008 RNC is the most fun that you can have this side of the electric chair – if you know how to work it. And that’s where this guide comes in.

This guide will give you – yes, you – the straight dope on Minneapolis-St. Paul. Where to have fun, where to hang out, what bridges are due to collapse during your time in town, you know, the usual. On behalf of all Minnesotans, we are obliged under the Anderson Act of 1977 to welcome you to our state, and assure you that really, we want you to be here, and as long as you’re here, why don’t you have some hot dish?

Part One
An Introduction to Minneapolis St. Paul

So you’re very excited, I’m sure, to be coming to Minneapolis for the RNC. Minneapolis is, of course, a fine city, home to the Vikings, Twins, and Timberwolves, as well as the Walker Art Center and the internationally renowned Guthrie Theatre. It’s a center of economics and industry, whose name literally means “water city.”

Well too bad, binky, because the RNC isn’t going to be held in Minneapolis. It’s going to be held in St. Paul. Get it straight, or you’re really going to make the East Siders feel bad.

Seriously, how many of you have an older sibling? I don’t, but I can pretend I do to give you this analogy: don’t you just hate their freakin’ guts? Well, that’s how St. Paul feels about Minneapolis, except for the fact that Minneapolis is a little bit younger than St. Paul, but whatever. Point is, the good citizens of St. Paul feel a bit slighted every time someone like Katie Couric or Michele Bachmann or Gov. Tim Pawlenty goes on television to declare that everyone should come to Minneapolis for the convention. [2] Given that Minneapolis always seems to get all the publicity, all the love and attention, its pictures put up on the state refrigerator – well, it stings.

So remember, as you’re going to the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild, that you’re not in Minneapolis. You’re in St. Paul. And so if you see a local, make sure you complement them on the beauty of St. Paul. “Boy, St. Paul sure is lovely,” you’ll say, and the locals will smile broadly, and say, “Well, you know, yeah, I suppose it’s a nice enough town.” Which is practically a touchdown dance around these parts.

Of course, if you’re attending an event in Minneapolis, feel free to ignore all of this; Minneapolitans often forget St. Paul exists, and will look at you strangely if you bring the city up.

A Brief Note on Fargo

The movie Fargo was filmed on location in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and we’re all quite proud of it, especially the Coen Brothers, who are, of course, One of Us. [3]

But, well, while the Coens engaged in a little bit of joshing at the expense of their fellow Minnesotans, let me just say that the people of this state are really not very much like that. [4]

Oh, we’ve got all that can-do, Marge Gunderson spirit – heck, we all like Marge’s character just fine. But the William H. Macy character is all wrong. I mean, everyone knows that Minnesotans are just friendly and helpful; if he got in a jam, he just should have said something, that’s only right. And frankly, let me remind you that Interstate 94 does not go through Brainerd; I don’t know what those fellas were doing there, but it certainly didn’t make much sense, unless they wanted to head to the Mille Lacs Casino, and…wait, when was that movie supposed to be set, Sven? Did they have the casinos back then, or just the bingo halls? Well, okay, so they wouldn’t have gone to the casino; maybe they were gonna go to a fish house instead.

Anyhow, point is that Minnesota is nothing like what you see portrayed in the movies. We’re exciting, hip, with-it people, and just because we mix in a bit of lutefisk [5] now and then…well, that’s just our way of living dangerously.

Is Minnesota Nothing but Bland Scandinavians?

No, there are also bland Germans here. And bland Latinos, bland Somalis, bland African-Americans, bland Hmong…pretty much any bland ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic group you can imagine.

Why are we so bland? You’ve got me. Maybe it’s because we get all our entertainment putting professional wrestlers in charge of the state now and then, just to see what happens. That’ll keep you on your toes. Or maybe it’s just that in the winter, we’re too busy trying not to freeze to death to develop anything resembling a crazy, partylike atmosphere. [6] Or maybe the blandness is in the air. Perhaps the native Lakota and Ojibwa spiked the water with blanding chemicals when white settlers seized the land from them, knowing they were consigning their children to blandness, but accepting the collateral damage in order to get their just revenge. Frankly, it’s not a big deal if they did.

The Jewel of the Upper Midwest

At any rate, let’s just put our cards on the table: we’re no Indiana when it comes to excitement. But we’re a darn sight better than the NoDakers and the SoDakers, and unlike Iowa, we can read. (Which isn’t really Iowa’s fault; the University of Iowa had to close after they lost their book, and it’s been tough sledding for them.) Our only real regional competition is Wisconsin, and they’re too drunk to care.7

That’s why Minnesota is known as the Jewel of the Upper Midwest, at least among Minnesotans. And why you’ll have a mildly interesting time when you come to visit – unless you visit the Larry Craig Memorial Stall. But that’s a post for another day.

1 You were actually left on our doorstep by a crazed drifter, who told us only that you were the one who would open the seventh seal on the seventh day in the seventh year. Seemed odd to us too, now that you mention it.
2 All true.
3 In Minnesota parlance, anyone tangentially related to the state who’s ever done anything impressive. See also Dylan, Bob; Madden, John; Fitzgerald, F. Scott; et. al. Opposite of Johnny-Come-Lately, which is any non-famous person living in the state who was not born here, no matter how long ago they moved here.
4 Actually, we totally are, at least the white, Scandinavian-influenced folk who tend to hold a lot of influence around here. Under the Fargo Defamation Act of 1999, I’m supposed to tell you all the stuff above, about how we’re all enlightened and urbane, but we’re not. Frankly, we’ve got a serious sense of inadequacy (hey, you grow up a few hundred miles from Chicago, see how you feel. Even if you felt okay about it, Chicago won’t let it go). Another state would have seen the Coen’s masterpiece as a gentle love-letter to their home, but we don’t want anyone to think we talk like that, with the yah-sures and so forth. And I suppose that’s true; that’s really just the outstaters. The accent’s much more subtle in the Cities. And our senate candidates on both sides of the aisle have managed to avoid it altogether.

At any rate, the main point here is to be aware that a lot of Minnesotans are sensitive about Fargo. I’m not, but what do I know? I’m a Johnny-Come-Lately, my parents moved me here when I was five. I’m practically an immigrant.
5 Don’t ask. You don’t want to know.
6 Fast fact: 63% of Minnesotans think global warming’s a good thing for us, and another 30% are just too polite to say so.
7 Ask any Wisconsinite, they’ll tell you it’s true.